Who can ever forget Shaki Kamara, the West Point youth who, during riot there in the midst of the Ebola epidemic, was gunned down by Armed Forces of Liberia soldier. He was left to bleed to death at the Redemption Hospital in New Kru Town.
This incident shook the nation and provoked widespread outcry. It led the President of Liberia, in distress and anguish, to visit Shaki’s mother and grandmother.
But most of us Liberians worship a God who is full of merciful surprises.
Alas! Out of the same deprived, decrepit and desperately impoverished community has come another youth, this time, thankfully, not in tragedy, but in triumph!
On November 9, Seventeen-year-old Abraham Keita, in the presence of the world press in The Hague, the Netherlands, received the International Children’s Peace Prize. The Prize was presented to him by Liberian Nobel Peace Laureate Leymah Gbowee. It was, she said, a great honor to award the Prize to a “very special and inspiring Keita, [who] already at such a young age, demands that perpetrators and would be perpetrators be held accountable.” She described him as “a true change maker fighting to end the extreme violence against children.”
In September, Keita was nominated by Nobel Peace Laureate Desmond Tutu, the Patron of KidsRights and the International Children’s Peace Prize. Others nominated were youths from Afganistan and Puerto Rico. Keita also played a leading role in the Liberian Children’s Parliament, where he successfully lobbied the Liberian Legislature to adopt the Children’s Law to Protect Children’s Rights.
In a brilliantly written essay on Abraham’s victory, a talented young Liberian writer put it this way: “The red, white and blue flag of Liberia was once more flown far above Pakistan and Puerto Rico by a nationalistic icon whose passion for change has shifted global attention to this poverty stricken nation. With a standing ovation, everyone . . . in the Hall of Knights in The Hague had to ‘HAIL LIBERIA!’ There was total silence afterwards as a new story was about to be told by a Liberian futurist.”
Young Kollie, acknowledging the worldwide media reportage on Keita’s noble achievement, quoted the Mail and Guardian News Service that proclaimed, “From the land that was hell for children: Liberian teenager wins International Children’s Prize.”
Kollie’s impressive analysis of Keita’s achievement is worth further quoting in this editorial. “As we celebrate this award nationwide,” he said, “I encourage all children . . . to learn the following lessons from young Keita:
1) Success must never be kidnapped or hijacked by your current location, condition or association;
2) Courage, confidence and consistency breed greatness and unforeseen ends;
3) Education, discipline and honesty are hallmarks of growth;
4) Non-violence in advocacy is an indispensable agent of positive change; and
5) Pessimism must never override Optimism.”
We consider this a truly brilliant summation of what Abraham Keita’s achievement truly means. Especially cogent (convincing, strong) is Kollie’s highlighting of the importance of non-violence in the struggle for change, and his insistence on the supremacy of optimism over pessimism.
Who says that because one grew up poor one cannot rise to greatness? As a poor boy from Foya in far away Lofa County, Joe Boakai had to work his way as a janitor through the College of West Africa before earning his high school diploma. He went on to become Agriculture Minister and today he is Vice President of Liberia!
Abraham Lincoln was born in a one-room log cabin in Kentucky in 1809. His poor family later moved to Southern Indiana in 1816. His formal education was limited to three brief periods in local schools, as he had to work constantly to support his family. But good old Abe went on to become America’s greatest President!
Where were you born, and under what conditions did you grow up? No, you did not have to have a silver spoon in your mouth at birth. With God all things are possible. You only have to behave yourself, study and work hard, stay optimistic, and the sky is your limit!
Mark you, Abraham Keita has only begun his rise to greatness. But it is a wonderful and promising beginning!
All Liberia’s young people should follow his example.