By Lekpele M. Nyamalon
What more can a country take?
Stories of children that can’t live in peace
Treating each other like strangers from afar
The sons returning and the ones they met
Fighting for a space left by Mama
Excerpts from my poem, ‘Scars of a tired Nation.’
Liberia, the small west African Nation founded by the American Colonization Society for the repatriation of freed American slaves, has indeed come a mighty long way. By 1822, freed Americans of color beginning arriving in Liberia for the purpose of establishing a government of the people, by the people and for the people. Democracy in itself only thrives in a society with entrenched institutions of checks and balances. Such expectation of the establishment of Democracy which would become a model Democracy for the rest of Africa is, perhaps, still a wishful thinking.
From the coup d’etat of President E.J. Roye, to the election of Charles D.B. King in 1927 which is recorded in history as the most fraudulent elections in history, according to the Guinness book of records, to the resignation of King and his Vice, Allen Yancy over the Fernado-Po crisis to the violent overthrown of President William R. Tolbert Jr. and 13 of his cabinet members in 1980, to the capture, and brutal torturing in his undergarments of President Samuel K. Doe and the arrest and jailing of President Charles ‘Ghankay’ Taylor, the political circus of violence, misrule, gross ineptitude, manipulation, and inner fights have continued to characterize the theatre of Africa’s oldest Republic.
The Historic Republic of Liberia was one of Africa’s most ‘stable’ countries until the coup d’ etat of 1980 that exploded like a volcano eruption. In actuality, the ‘stability of Liberia was a farce as there were deep seated resentments building over time, forgotten cracks in the walls were finding traces and the world would rush to see the cracks we had hidden for ages as they broadened on the outside. Liberia was a disaster in waiting if the tension and undercurrents of the 1800s to 1980 were never fully settled.
Members of varying socio-political divides have tried, in vain attempts to control the pulse of history and the debate around the story of the Liberian nation. No doubt, Liberia had played progressive roles in the history of Africa, from a founding member of the Organization of African Unity (Now African Union) to the Economic Community of West African States, the African Development Bank. Liberia was a founding signatory to the iconic global institution the League of Nations (Now United Nations) with Liberia’s Angie Brooks Randolph as the first woman president of the UN General Assembly. Liberia’s role in the liberation struggle of the Southern African states and fight of many other African Countries to independence remains enviable. Liberia led many countries to Independence and became a ‘go to’ nation for consultation on issues of contemporary African politics. Liberia’s William V.S Tubman-the larger than life political god-father was then an influential African Statesman and his successor William R. Tolbert Jr hit the ground running as a neo-progressive African leader whose ideas were fit for today’s 21st century Africa rising.
However, Liberia, perhaps failed to identify the dagger that would sweep her in the tailspin of history. What happened? Today, Liberia appears to be finding her feet at almost everything from Agriculture, Healthcare, Education, and fishing, even her prized held prowess in Politics, Diplomacy and Negotiation. Her imprints are erased from Africa’s glossary, with her role in the formation of key institutions like the African Development Bank, the Organization of African Unity- ignored and perhaps unknown by members of the contemporary African Intelligentsia. The fastest way to demoralize a people is to erase their contributions from History.
Today, 39 years since the 1980 coup d’etat and 30 years since the 1990 Civil war, we’re still struggling with basic questions of the rights to assembly, how to constructively engage the holders of power, how to elect competent candidates during elections, how to conduct issues-based political campaigns, how to hold our leaders accountable, how to advocate for budget inclusion of basic social services, etc.
Barely one year since the 2017 Presidential elections in Liberia, a group of political party leaders assembled under an umbrella of ‘Opposition Collaboration’ to work together on achieving a shared political objective. The irony of such collaboration is that just under a year, none of the leaders of the ‘Opposition’ (save Benoni Urey’s All Liberia’s Party) endorsed the candidacy of Vice President Joseph N. Boakai in the run-off elections. Joseph N. Boakai and the Unity Party had morally supported the landmark election case of alleged election irregularities during the 2017 elections. The Liberty party Charles Brumskine had filed a petition to the National Elections Commission and eventually to the Supreme Court of the Republic of Liberia. Upon conclusion of the case and the Supreme Court’s ruling, Boakai was left to fend for himself in the run-off elections and the ‘opposition collaboration’ was technically over. Such political grandstanding only intended to satisfy short-term personal conveniences continue to undermine genuine democracy in Liberia.
34 years ago in 1985, aggrieved members of the opposition grouped themselves under the ‘Grand Coalition’ to protest against the election results of Samuel Doe NDPL- an election widely believed to have been rigged by henchmen of Doe. Perhaps, the amalgamation of opposition forces during the elections would have sent Doe over the cliff-who knows?
172 years coming and Democracy is still a charade of settling personal scores, political endorsement based on parochial benefits, political alignments based on shifting loyalties, political activism based on seating arrangement at the table of power, selective advocacy based on who’s in power and the amalgamation of political actors with visions that are miles apart. The scenario represents a colony of rats staring a cheese in a cage as comrades in arms; when the cage is broken, the marathon begins and the cheese is up for grasps. A classic game of survival of the fittest and the ‘camaraderie-pro tempore’ is over. A shared enemy breeds strange friendships; the reverse is a return to status quo-ante.
It’s been a long time coming and I’ll complete the lines of the poem:
1980-panic splashed upon the face of Africa’s oldest child
Bringing down the walls a century high
Building another 100ft higher
Shaking to shreds young old mama
Promising her a lie to leave her alone
What a tired country she has become
Standing alone on a continent she blossome
Left alone by countries she led to Independence
A troubled house is always lonely
Such a land she stands to be
Her place in history forgotten by men of time
Left to maggots and bugs to chew
And spit into history’s shredder
Her prints erased from the archives of Africa’s glossary
And left to wander- gathering crumbs
Couldn’t her sons keep her diary?
Of how generous a home she had
Giving a shelter for Africa’s neglected
Spewing hope into a lifeless continent
Doomed by colonialism and whisked by fear
She went in shock and comatose
For 14years her eyes couldn’t blink nor wink
Only ears of thunder and terror
With a sigh of relief to live again
Her candle is lit in a thunderstorm
The scars of a tired nation are eating up again
The face of EBOLA shatters the dream
To put together a wretched lonely life
Could this scar flip into a star?
And shine forever?
One day, perhaps.
Lekpele M. Nyamalon is a Poet, Author, Inspirational Speaker, OSIWA Poetry fellow and a Mandela Washington Fellow. He is the Author of the Book: ‘Scary Dreams’, An Anthology of the Liberian Civil War. He can be reached at [email protected].