Yesterday’s lead headline sounded a disturbing alarm concerning tensions brewing in our nation’s South Eastern region. Two prominent members of the Sapo tribe, a subset of the Kru, voiced the alleged desire of their tribesmen to form their own county. Their rationale: greater self-determination through freedom from the allegedly domineering Kru majority.
Speaking jointly, Mr. Romeo Quioh, Superintendent of Sinoe County, and Mr. Mobutu Nyenpan, former Sinoe Senator, pointed to fears among Sapos that the Krus would reclaim a key Senate seat currently occupied by a Sapo, in 2017. The solution: the establishment of a Sapo county, to maintain the tribe’s direct representation in the Legislature.
But is the ‘representation’ of Sapos really the point of this proposition?
Our nation was founded by black people determined to be free from oppression, underrepresentation, and economic distress. But, then, our forefathers turned right around, excluding and subjugating the indigenous peoples from the promise of freedom that Liberia offered. The result: nearly two decades of conflict. The same people, who kept the country to themselves for so long, ended up losing it and running right back to America, begging for green cards. And all because they saw our economy as a rigid, crusted pastry, instead of an expanding pie that grows exponentially when everyone gets a piece.
But, is that really the scenario at play between the Sapos and the Krus? We think not! In our view, the Sapos and Krus need no separate representation because their needs and desires are the same.
Every Liberian has a right to representation in government – on the basis of citizenship, geographical placement, and county population size. Not tribal affiliation. Because we cannot all participate in day-to-day governance, we elect officials to stand in our place, set the agenda and appropriate public monies according our priorities.
That is where voting comes in – rule by the majority – because a nation where everyone always gets what they want, simply does not exist. Anywhere. So (ideally) we celebrate our wins, accept our losses, and try to work with those in office to implement our development agenda.
And what is that agenda? For most Liberians, they are five simple words: agriculture, education, health, energy (God help LEC!), and roads. Simple.
Pray tell, is that any different for the Sapos? Are their priorities really that different from ours? Space travel, perhaps? No. The truth is that this great and beloved tribe is just being manipulated by two power hungry politicians!
Of course, this is no new tactic. Politicians, the world over, who lack the moral fiber to earn public confidence and votes, instead use fear, xenophobia, racism, sexism and religious prejudice to garner support for their ambition.
Therefore, the proposition of a Sapo county must be given no credence. Or else, such action would set a dangerous precedent, allowing Nimba – where similar issues exist between the Gios and Manos – to follow suit. And what about Montserrado? Should it be reserved for the settlers only? And what of the half of Liberia’s population that resides here?
If we allow this mad proposition, we would then have to double the number of counties, allocate the majority of our land to the most populous tribes, and then leave a small village to the smaller ones – which would incite them to anger.
This would tear our nation right back into shreds – this time literally as well as figuratively.
The thing to remember is that the Sapos and the Krus are one family, with one present and one future. And the solution for them is not separation, but unity around a real leader and a realistic agenda. Whether they elect a Kpelleh or a Mandingo representative is immaterial. What really matters is that their candidate actually works in the best interest of Sinoe, bringing human and infrastructural development (not destruction) to that impoverished county.
Meanwhile, we would encourage Mr. Quioh, who is in the employ of the Executive Branch, to exercise some professionalism and at least participate more quietly in county politics. You were hired to supervise development in your county, and to manage the just ended Independence festivities. You failed at that, and must be held accountable.
To Mr. Nyenpan: admit that you have failed both the Kru and the Sapos who elected you.
You both need to rebuild your credibility through service, not manipulation.