Many of the current students of the University of Liberia were probably not yet born when, on August 22, 1984, Head of State Samuel K. Doe ordered Armed Forces of Liberia (AFL) troops to raid the UL campus and “move or remove” students or anyone in sight. But most of them must have heard about that terrible day and time.
The heavily drugged contingent was led by Defense Minister Gray D. Allison, who was seen on television licking his lips like a hungry lion and entering the campus gate across from the Capitol Building, from where Doe gave the order.
Eyewitnesses said some students and female faculty members were raped, others killed and most faculty and staff stripped stark naked.
Students who were rushed to nearby hospitals, especially the old Maternity Center on Capital By-pass and the John F. Kennedy Medical Center, were pursued by soldiers and security officers and taken to unknown destinations, many not seen again.
C-I-C (Commander in Chief) Doe was angry with the students, who had been staging a week-long demonstration protesting against the detention of their professor, Dr. Amos Sawyer, whom Doe had accused of instigating “a socialist plot” to overthrow the government.
Now the UL students are threatening the same violence Doe used against their school 32 years ago. This time, they are threatening violence over a modest tuition hike of US$4 per credit hour.
The day following the 1984 raid, the Daily Observer newspaper took great risks to publish the story. Our Editorial headlined a quote from Shakespeare’s ‘Hamlet’: “Bleed, bleed, poor country—Great Tyranny!”
Many who were familiar with Doe’s previous attacks against the newspaper wondered whether we were inviting more attacks! If not, why on earth would we dare to publish so graphically the news of the previous day’s events at the UL campus?
Have the current UL students not yet realized that violence does not pay? That the violence of April 12, 1980 led to more violence, to 10 years of terror and on to the civil war?
The UL students are behaving like so many Liberians, including ordinary ones, who do not seem to want development in their country. Take some of the people on Somalia Drive, who are stealing the crushed rocks being used to build the four-lane highway. The Japanese government is building that corridor from the Free Port of Monrovia as a gift to Liberia to transport goods from the port far into the interior. Other Somalia Drive residents attempted to obstruct the work because they say it is slowing down traffic!
This shows that our people do not understand that there can be no progress without pain. If a country must make progress of any kind, the people must be prepared to make sacrifices. For example, if a student wants to make good grades, he or she must be prepared to sacrifice sleep, and burn the midnight candle.
Have the UL students ever heard of this quotation, which some of us learned in elementary school?
“Lives of great men, rich and kept
Were not attained by sudden flight.
But they, while their companions slept,
Went toiling upward, onward through the night.”
Were the Liberian government giving to UL at least three fourths of the US$29 million it requested for 2016/17, there would be no need for the slight increase in tuition. Also, many UL students are on government scholarships, but the scholarship money is largely not forthcoming. We urge the government to make good its pledges to UL and to education as a whole in the country.
We are compelled, in this connection, to ask what is the UL doing for itself? Why, for example, has Dr. Emmet Dennis, the UL President, not moved the students into the dorms erected by the Chinese over five years ago? What a waste of resources! It would be much easier on the students were they to take all their classes right on the Fendall campus where they live. And there is surely enough space on that campus for the construction of more dormitories.
However, amid the scarcity of funds, it seems to us that it was better for the UL administration to propose a slight increase in fees to keep the university open rather than to bring it to a screeching halt due to the lack of money.
We urge the UL students to find creative ways to solve problems. Their proclivity (inclination) to resort to violence every time there is a problem is counterproductive, for the money that would be needed to replace the broken infrastructure could well be used to ease the students’ plight.
In calling on the students to be creative, we urge them to remember how the Lebanese, Indians and Fula come here with nothing and become rich within a few years.
One of the suggestions we at the Daily Observer made to Dr. Emmet Dennis early in his administration was to develop an entrepreneurial program to help students and graduates start businesses.
It is not too late to embark on such a timely and worthy initiative.