The Forbidden Marriage

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By Timothy A. Lorkolon (0886-472-834/0775-953-445)

As I retrospect Liberia’s history and how it was written, it becomes imperative that I join the call for Liberia’s history to be rewritten because of its misplacements of chronological events and inaccuracies in its social and political settings or recordings that characterize the existence of the nation and people, something that continues to serve as a contributing factor to the tendency of divisiveness widely spread among Liberians nowadays.

Moreover, contemporary historians have incongruously exacerbated the situation by repeatedly making guess analyses of Liberia’s historical upshots as well as on the basis of imagination about how the nation was established and its original people or inhabitants.

But in the wake of observation I do not intend to discuss the stray of the historical facts, but to highlight a major issue that is of most concern to me and maybe the larger populace. I believe this is one of the baselines for our social disintegration and perhaps, discrimination.

The issue on my mind is the “Forbidden inter-marriage(s)” among members of the Mandingo tribe and other ethnic groups of Liberia.

According to history, Liberia has sixteen indigenous tribes but one of them (Mandingo) was considered foreign until the late President Samuel K. Doe declared its members bonafide citizens. However, the declaration did not meet the consensus of the vast majority and was therefore met with indifferences among some tribes. But despite the aftermath of indifference, no one dared disagree or challenge the decision.

But, what triggered the belief that the Mandingo tribe was foreign? According to oral stories narrated by some members of other tribes who lived along the borders of Guinea and Sierra Leone with Liberia, several reasons marked the belief, some of which I would like to consider in this discussion.

Accordingly, the Mandingos, whose original home is Guinea, were petit traders that crossed into Liberia on trade expeditions. It is said that their goods and services addressed the provisional needs of the people and provided relief to the population that lived along the borders and even beyond. This trade link took them deep into Liberia. As a result of the flourishing trade, the traders are said to have asked chiefs of Liberia living along the borders for some pieces of land to crouch, and they were graciously offered. The traders, however, used the gesture as an opportunity to establish permanent homes along the borders as their number swelled and need for settlement arose. The trade linkages bolstered the economic lives of both sides and they mutually enjoyed the cordiality that accompanied the commerce.

However, the gesture of the aborigines reversed when the squatters (Mandingoes) introduced the Islamic religion and practiced religious, political and social segregation or discrimination. Even though there could have been other inexplicable or undisclosed religious reasons at the time, the Mandingoes are said to have classified themselves as sacred creatures. They sternly warned their siblings to stay out the ways of other tribes because according to them, other tribes were ‘Kafir’ (meaning pagan, religious insolence, etc.). This was the beginning of a major controversial co-existence.

Thus, while it is true that the road of life has many detours, the other tribes envisioned the action as a system of apartheid and the practice as that of foreign ideology and therefore classified them as foreigners.

It is unimaginable that today in Liberia, and in this modern religious dispensation and preaching of religious tolerance, the practice is still visible as a female belonging to the Mandingo tribe dare give her hand in marriage to any male member of other tribes, while males of the Mandingo ethnic group proudly marry females of other tribes and brag about their relationship without any qualms from other tribes. Today in Liberia, the Mandingo tribe forbids inter-marriage between other tribes rather than their own. If unfortunately a Mandingo female was found in relationship with any other tribe member, that female risks her life and is considered an outcast in her family. The female is cursed and the consequence could be madness or lethal. This issue has lasted for centuries and continues to be implanted in the psyche of the female Mandingos by repeated warnings. They dare not venture!

But what I observe beyond the horizon and in the wake of the sanction is that some charismatic and influential members of other tribes are infiltrating the divide by secretly engaging the Mandingo females in love affairs, but it must be as hidden as a treasure. Why should it be this way? In fact in this contemporary era, hospitals are being built to provide exclusive medical treatment for Muslims or their affiliates. Why should this vicious circle of discrimination remain unabated? What’s the fear?

In view of this and if Allah or God is one and all His creations in like manner, why the marginalization that persistently exists against other tribes when the need for oneness among all Liberians is becoming imperative? The teachings of the Holy Bible and the Holy Quran emphasize oneness of mankind, so, why should anyone separate people on the basis of religious beliefs or norms, or of ulterior motives? This is highly chauvinistic, and those systematically conducting the practice must end the social divide for the purpose of improved co-existence.

So, as I conclude, the so-called social barrier must be removed if oneness of purpose is to be fostered and sustained. My urge, therefore, to the Mandingo tribe is to discourage the forbidden marriage, brake the social divide, so that the chips can fall where they may. As I pen down, I am patiently watching the social changing weather under which the manna must fall and the water be turned into sweet wine.

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