LIBERIA NEEDS A NEW GENERATION OF VISIONARY LEADERS: A PERSPECTIVE

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By Edmund Zar-Zar Bargblor

The legendary United States leader, John Fitzgerald Kennedy, was correct when he wrote: “It is time for a new generation of leadership to cope with new problems and new opportunities.”

His words still ring true today in contemporary times. Liberia’s new generation of leaders need to address the issues and problems of Liberia from its historical perspective; especially leaders who appreciate and understand the history of the republic since its inception as a sovereign nation in 1847, using the lessons of history as a conduit to foster national unity and reconciliation.

According to history, the settlement and founding of Liberia in the early 1800s was motivated by the domestic politics of slavery and race in the United States as well as by U.S. foreign policy interests. In 1816, a group of white Americans founded the American Colonization Society (ACS) to deal with the “problem” of the growing number of freed blacks in the United States by resettling them in Africa. The resulting state of Liberia would become the second (after Haiti) black republic in the world at that time (Wikipedia).
Prominent Americans such as Henry Clay, Daniel Webster, and John Randolph were among the   best-known members of ACS. Former President Thomas Jefferson publicly supported the organization’s goals, and President James Madison arranged public funding for the society. The motives for joining the society were vast and included a range of people from abolitionists to slaveholders who counted themselves members. On the other hand, many abolitionists, both black and white, ultimately rejected the notion that it was impossible for the races to integrate and therefore did not support the idea of an African-American colony in Africa. Still, the ACS had powerful support and its colonization project gained momentum (Wikipedia).

The first leaders such as Joseph J. Roberts, Stephen Allen Benson, etc., were individuals whose mindsets were rooted in the act of domestic servitude and not in the act of politics. They were not prepared intellectually and politically to set up a wholesome functioning political institution. They viewed politics from a narrow perspective that was not inclusive. As a result of this mindset, they proceeded to set up a government that created a line of demarcation between itself and the indigenous Africans. The indigenes were never a part of the political arrangement; they became integrated into the political realm after many decades. In fact, indigenous Liberians became integrated into the political realm around 1940, 93 years after the declaration of independence in 1847 (Wikipedia).

A new generation of Liberian leaders must help Liberians to learn from the lessons of the 1980s and the 1990s which produced unfortunate historical events. Yes indeed, said new generation of leaders must be able to reconcile these historical missteps and help all Liberians to develop a new frame of mind that will be reflective of the values and cultures of Liberia and develop a sense of oneness as an African nation.

The term “leader” is used generously these days to signify someone in a leadership role. But there is much more to being a true leader than achieving a leadership position. Every able-bodied individual has an opportunity to be a leader, whether he or she is working with clients, representing victims of crimes, providing pro bono legal services, or volunteering for community and charitable organizations.

There are different views on the attributes of a true leader, but Edward Pappas, an American writer, has identified the top ten: a true leader understands and listens to people; a true leader enlightens people; a true leader guides, but does not dictate to, the people; a true leader enables and empowers people; a true leader motivates people; a true leader inspires people; a true leader credits people; a true leader helps people; a true leader leads people by example; and a true leader serves his people.

In his book, ‘Toward a Meaningful Life,’ Rabbi Menachem Mendel Schneerson wrote: “A true leader should be judged not by what he has, but by what he has not— ego, arrogance and self-interest. A true leader sees his work as a selfless service toward a higher purpose…When it comes time to take credit, he makes himself invisible; but he is the first to answer at the time of need, and he will never shrink away in fear…A true leader wants nothing more than to give people pride, to make people stand on their own, as leaders. Instead of trying to blind us with his or her brilliance, a true leader reflects our own light back to us, so that we may see ourselves anew.”

Let us hope the people of Liberia will not be let down once again with the upcoming leadership that will eventually emerge at the end of the 2017 presidential and general elections. It is anticipated that the new leadership will perceive the Liberian presidency as an opportunity to be of service and a leader that will lead the people of Liberia by example. Yes indeed, Liberia needs a leadership that will engage the Liberian Diaspora communities by focusing on creative mechanisms through which they can contribute to political, economic and social growth; a leader that will embrace the concept of dual nationalities for all Diaspora Liberians.

In this election therefore, Liberians must elect an individual who reflects their African-ness, values, their culture and rich African heritage. Liberians are crying out in the wilderness for a leader that will awaken their African-ness both mentally and psychologically. Yes, indeed, this election must produce that special leader – a leader that will have the fortitude, the resolve and imbued with the sense of service. Said elected leader must demonstrate in his/her actions that employment opportunities will be awarded to those Liberians with the requisite qualifications and skills, irrespective of their tribal or sectional persuasions. Liberia needs a leadership that will help her people to review the mistakes of her past, and critically reassess the status of Liberians’ misguided historical mindset, and from a sociopolitical perspective.

Liberia needs a leadership that will help her citizens to address and eventually eliminate the ‘Congo-Country’ divide that has engulfed the nation for over 150 years. And finally, Liberia needs visionary leaders that will curtail the influence of corrupt practices by government officials and employees in public or private institutions.

History, according to a western writer, cannot give us a program for the future but it can give us full understanding of ourselves and our common humanity, so that we can better face the future.

As the leader of Rwanda, President Kagame, once said: “African countries need a new kind of leadership – one that has a vision for the country and a passion and commitment for its rapid development, as well as the wellbeing of its people.”

About the Author: Mr. Edmund Zar-Zar Bargblor is an educator. He is a graduate of Cuttington University, Liberia; Howard University, Washington, D.C.; and the Israel Institute of Technology, Haifa, Israel.

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12 COMMENTS

  1. Stranger Father and stranger (Natives & congau divide. When it was fine then,it should be fine now.Group identity can not be eliminated.For me,the word congau is just a social status because some Liberians who have college degrees called themselves congau. For example, Bassa congau. The social mobility class in Liberia see themselves as congau or the educated ones.

  2. Quoting racist slaveowners while disparaging everything Liberian without any critical thought about who imposed the last three regimes to bleed Liberia – people and land. Go back to school you fool.

  3. My brother the man has propounded his view on the issue of some of our political groupings pushing the Country into yet another period chaos by preaching divisive politics, you either accept it or reject it. There is no need to be abusive on this social media.
    You could provide the pieces of information you have on the Country to the public for consumption but the true of the matter is that the key issue the brother is discussing is the division of our sweet land of liberty into tribal, sectional, religious or some ethnic line, which is not in the best interest of mama Liberia at this juncture in the history of our Country, owing to the fact that, this is what actually dragged us to the civil wars of the 90s and early 2000s; leaving thousand of our citizens dead in cold blood and thousands to languish in displace homes and refugee camps around the world.
    Liberia actually needs a leader who will put behind the spirit division, though this may seem difficult to do owing to the first law of nature “self preservation” in this case where the man is to feel secure only with those of his/her kind but again considering the attributes of a good leader as listed above by the brother and being mindful of our not too distant past of the civil conflict which has caused a serious set back for this generation and generations yet unborn, I stand by those who are saying no to the Congou/Tribal divide.
    This has a serious propensity to rekindle confusion amongst our people who are recovering from the fourteen plus years of set back.
    Against this background, I think Liberians need a leader who has the desire to do away with favoritism, sectional/ tribal, nepotism and above all to fight corruption to the later so that we the citizens of Liberia can see and feel the worth of our resources.
    In fact looking back at the two terms of the Ellen Sirleaf led Government I challenge any Liberian to tell me that the natives/country whatever and however you may called it were marginalized in Government.
    During the two terms both houses of the National Legislature were dominated by our Native/Country brothers and Sisters and about maybe 75% of our Line Ministries and Agencies were occupied by this same group. So who were marginalized here? Who enacted laws that were not in the interest of our people? Who signed and approved concession agreements without regard for the plight for those directly impacted by the concession’s activities and refused to provide information to the people after stating in those concession agreements that they will be produced into hand bills for public consumption and acceptance before implementation?
    I liked to put it bluntly that the issue of leadership in Liberia is not about tribe, section, religious affiliation or which group dominates but it is about a sincere, God fearing, passionate and a true spirit of nationalism, regard for all ill respective of social, economic and political back ground and ensuring equal distribution of the Country resources that matters.

  4. D.B; thanks! This is our RENAISSANCE, the rebirth of our beloved Nation, Liberia. Under J.Nyumah Boakai’s LEADERSHIP, Liberia will become more HOMOGENEOUS. You bet! It will be, One Liberia; One People…

  5. Beautiful article, I enjoyed reading it. It seems that most of our brothers in the diaspora are not wasting their time in the area of education. This is an informative article. Davidson Barlee, thanks for the analysis on Mr. Bargblor’s article. I am embarrassed by Liberianist’s comment posted June 21, 2017 at 2:25 am. Thanks Mr. Bargblor for the wonderful article .

  6. Many years ago in Monrovia, a Kru man called Swen and his family lived next to a powerful Congo family. One day, the Congo man son viciously raped Mr. Swen’s underage daughter. Not being a timid man, Mr. Swen decided to at least go public since he could never obtain justice against a Congo person in Liberia. But first to appeal to Mr. Swen to keep quiet were his neighbors, because, they said, going public would have ruined the reputation of the Congo family and the career of the culprit. Then his Church advised him to keep quiet. Then his supervisor at the Department of Public Works advised him to think twice and behave himself. Six months later, Mr. Swen suffered a massive stroke and died. His wife followed him after his funeral.

    In all of its ramifications, Congo Rule in Liberia is evil; it is humiliating; it is dehumanizing. Not surprisingly, no one can dispute this. So, what the Congo people and their surrogates are doing is exactly what Mr. Swen’s neighbors did to him. They want to silence us because an honest discussion of Liberian history during this all-important election cycle will cause Charles Brumskine to lose badly to VP Boakai.

    Mr. Swen kept quiet and died of frustration. Every time he looked at his daughter he cried because he felt unable to help her.

    Congo people will always oppose references to Liberian history because Liberian history is an indictment against Congo people. But Native Liberians should never allow themselves to be intimidated into silence.

    The issue in this Presidential Election is not building roads and ports but the unequal distribution of wealth and power in Liberia. Why should the Congo people always be the President?

    The Congo people constitute only 3% of the population but have produced 22 of the nation’s 24 Presidents; whereas, Native Liberians constitute 95% of the population but have produced only 2 Presidents.

    And as a result of the Congo minority’s undemocratic monopolization of the presidency, they control 90% of the total wealth of the country while Native Liberians wallow in filth and squalor.

    We nationalists are not opposed to reconciliation. All we are saying is, as part of the National Reconciliation process, the next President of Liberia should be a Native Liberian – VP Boakai. Is this divisive? No!

    • Bro. Saingbe – I understand your frustration because I am an indigenous but two wrongs doesn’t make things right. Remember these brothers and sisters we called congo are really no different from you and me; they are our blood brothers and sisters if you think hard about it. The only difference is that some were born in privileged homes and others were raised in those homes as well.

      What happened to Mr. Swen was wrong then and it is wrong today; so writing the wrong is not by doing to them what they did to Mr. Swen. Rather, it is by embracing and showing them their wrongs so that we all can be on the same page.

      This is where you exposed the weakness in your argument for the congo/country. Vote for VP Boakai because he has the leadership attributes just expounded above and the fortitude, and not because he is a native man. In fact you seem to be insinuating, which is a disservice to him, that the only reason you are voting for him is not because he meets the leadership qualities expounded above, but simply because he is a native born Liberian. I am sure this is not what you meant, but is exactly what you are saying, which I think is not the case because VP Boakai indeed possesses those qualities, and so are some of the other candidates.

      • Very good analysis John. Mr. Saingbe has made it a habit to blame an entire group of people for the criminal behaviors of few individuals from that group.I wonder what will be his explanation for the more than 900 innocent unarmed people including children who were murdered in the Lutheran Church in Monrovia at the start of the civil war.Most of those killed were from the Mano /Gio ethnic groups. Does Mr. Saingbe personally bear responsibility for the atrocities committed by the Lofa Defense Force during the war since he hails from Lofa? These atrocities are well documented by various Human Rights Groups.

  7. Mr. Bargblor – you’ve done it again…good article! It’s all about true leadership; not literally but one who lays down his life for the good of his people.

    It is indeed true that leaders that exhibit those attributes expounded above are readily noticeable by the results of their work. Do we still have such leaders among us? You bet we do. We just have to look hard…

    The country/congou divide (which I vehemently denounced) which has been a major stumbling block has gotten us nowhere but where we find ourselves today. It is high time we put an end to this absurdity, as it is self-destructive. Only those that have nothing constructive and meaningful to give but distraction and self-aggrandizement would continue to advance the country/congou divide. A leader must be elected based on the attributes just stated above, regardless of country or congou affiliation.

    Like D. Barlee eloquently stated, for the sake of argument, the majority of our lawmakers are indigenous and yet most of the laws enacted by them disproportionately favor their self-interest. The indigenous have done the same level of damage to the nation in just a short span of time as the congou had done in over 100 plus years. So, what’s the difference? The point is our leaders should be elected/appointed not based on their tribal/congou affiliation, on the above attributes; things that are deliverable…

  8. Mr. Barglor your narrative seems to be interesting. But is Wikipedia a credible source? I think scholarly sources would have been credible.

  9. First let me say that I’m an African American in the US. So I’m on the outside looking in. However, I have visited and studied this history, but I don’t claim to know everything. So forgive me if I’m inaccurate on any facts. Ok, with that said…..

    Unfortunately we cannot get away from some form of discrimination. The very basis of its concept is to bring the other down, while building yourself up. This is not limited to Congo vs. Country. This is a sad part of humanity. Yes, we African American’s returned home and did the same thing to native brothers that was done to us. Sad.

    But lets take race out of it for a second. If it’s not the White man hating the Black, or the Black hating the Asian for their skin color, we would find another reason to hate them. This tribe will hate that tribe, and this religion will hate that religion. Look at Serbia and Kosovo (whites), or Rowanda or Liberia (blacks). All people of the same country and same skin color killing each other. FOR WHAT, because you are this, and I’m that. When will it stop?

    Now, we can’t have a rational and logical discussion about Congo vs. Country without the discussion of the west African Slave trade. See, this was the root cause of the discrimination issues we face today. I will argue that had native Africans not captured us, and sold us to the white man for us to be brutalized and dehumanized for 300 years, we would not have had the racist mindset of out slave-masters when we returned.

    So what the natives ( I don’t’ call them Liberians because Liberia was created by Americans while natives were already here) endured at the hands of the African American congos was sad, wrong, unjust and shameful. But so was the selling of your own people to white Europeans. And that 100 years of injustice by the congos , doesn’t compare to the 300 years of brutal slavery we endured because you sold us.

    I say this to make it clear that EVERYONE is at fault for this situation, condition and mindset of the Liberian people (Congo and native). What do you expect ex slaves to do? Exactly what they have been taught for 200 years. All they knew was the role of being a slave or being a slave master. Not a co-habitant. And you know he don’t want the role of slave anymore. So he takes the role as the slave master and white elite. This is all they knew! You can’t blame a man when he returns home years later acting like the farther you sold him to as a baby.

    I hate the fact that his is still a festering problem, because I would love to return there and live with my people. But as an African- American I can easily stay here and be HATED by the white man, than come home and be hated by my own brothers and sisters.

    I speak for African Americans when I say… STOP BLAMING US for everything. You wanted the Congo out of power, so you killed them and got them out. You took over the government then what? Where did that get us? In the process you destroyed our country. In the 50’s -60’s Liberia was the second fastest growing economy in the world ! Now it’s one of the slowest and poorest. Gandhi and MLK proved that liberation and equality can never come from violence. Liberia had to learn that the hard way. And if you guys don’t stop hating each other admit our mistakes and move forward, it will happen again.

    As some point both sides must sit down and apologize to each other. The Natives must apologize for selling us to the White man, and the Liberian Congos must apologize for their mis-treatment of the native Liberian people. All sides must accept this apology, accept our cultural differences, and plan to move forward together as one nation. Otherwise, we waste another 40 years, fussing, fighting wars and pointing the finger. While the whole world will be watching and laughing while they take our oil, diamonds, and gold.

    Some of the hate I hear in these posts are very said. One guy said never a mason, another say never a congua. I say, whoever does the best for the county, knows how to run the country properly, honest with the people, while treating everyone equally, is the person for the job. Forget Tribe. The is only one tribe the LIBERIAN TRIBE!

    Love and Peace

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