Divisive Politics Centered on Ethnicity: A Result of Government’s Failure to Reconcile Liberians

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As Liberians prepare for presidential and legislative elections in October this year, divisive politics with the propensity to stir up conflict is overwhelmingly emerging. Partisans of the Unity Party are accused of allegedly preaching ethnic-based politics to influence voters in support of Joseph Boakai. Liberty Party supporters have it all on social media that Boakai’s supporters have taken the trend of ethnic politics to divide Liberians.

A few weeks ago, some members of the House of Representatives endorsed Boakai as the best person to succeed President Sirleaf. During the ceremony, the spokesperson, Representative Larry P. Younquoi of Nimba County District #8, stated on radio that a minority cannot rule the majority in a democracy, and since the natives are in the majority, they must be the ones to lead the country. Also recently declaring his support for Joseph Boakai in the upcoming election, Nimba County Senator Prince Johnson said they are going to launch a “Democratic coup d’état” to ensure that an indigenous man takes the presidency.

While the political leader of the Movement for Economic Empowerment (MOVEEE), Dr. J. Mills Jones, was speaking at the commencement program of the African Methodist Episcopal University (AMEU) last week, he emphasized that Liberia’s problem was not the ethnic divide, but the failure to institute good governance.

Why are all these sentiments of division coming up during election season, when we should be seeking a well qualified, patriotic and competent Liberian to occupy the presidency? One reason to point out here is the failure of the Ellen Johnson Sirleaf administration to attach seriousness to reconciliation after taking over a country devastated by years of war.

There are several historical factors which should have compelled the Ellen Government to pay serious attention to reconciliation. There are, for example, still people in Liberia who can give either eyewitness or oral accounts of the 1930s forced labor saga (Fernando Po Crisis) that led to the forced resignation of President C.D.B. King. This issue was a part of the long-term political and economic deprivation perpetrated by the True Whig Party in this country that exacerbated Liberia’s ethnic divide. After 133 years of rule, the True Whig Party government was toppled, President William R. Tolbert Jr. and several of his topmost officials executed.

As the 1980 coup leader, Master Sergeant Samuel K. Doe, well established himself in power as the elected president (in the 1985 rigged elections), tribalism became a national symbol, and anyone who was not Krahn became stigmatized. The Gio and Mano peoples of Nimba became a target for innocent killings. Most of the Gios and Manos, too, were always seen as party to any coup attempt on the president. This tribal collision led Charles Taylor to see Nimbaians as the disenchanted group to be used to fight in retaliation for ethnic killings by the Doe regime. In 1989 Taylor launched his invasion in Buutuo, Nimba County, enlisting several Gios and Manos, while the majority of AFL Soldiers were members of the Krahn tribe. Samuel Doe was killed under the command of Prince Johnson, a son of Nimba. The war resulted not only in Doe’s death. Nimbaians also slaughtered their own people on mere animosity and setup, Jackson Fiah Doe, Stephen B. Daniels, David Toweh, D. Gborboe Dwayen, Isaac Vaye and John Yormie being some eminent Nimbaians among the victims. Dr. Steve Yekehson, president of the University of Liberia, was also killed by fighters of the National Patriotic Front of Liberia. The United Liberation Movement (ULIMO-K), under the command of Alhaji G.V. Kromah, used chainsaws (otherwise known as power-saws) to kill a lot of people in Lofa, with their intestines used as checkpoints. Fighters of the Liberia Peace Council (LPC), commanded by George Boley, killed countless people in the southeast and raped countless women. The latest factions to go against the Taylor regime were the Liberia United for Reconciliation and Democracy (LURD) and Movement for Democracy in Liberia (MODEL) led by Seku Damatè Konneh and Thomas Yayah Nimley respectively. They too killed people and destroyed properties.

Amid this horrendous and tragic series of events, President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, whom Liberians and the world counted on to heal the country, admitted in her last Annual Message that she had failed to reconcile Liberians and also failed to fight corruption. It is one of the gravest of misfortunes for the poor Liberian people that their economic marginalization was exacerbated during her regime, as she gave an upper-hand to her families, friends and foreign businesspeople, including Lebanese and Indians.

Are these issues not enough to make any leader attach importance to reconciliation?

Nelson Mandela said, “Revolution without reconciliation is not a revolution.” The Daily Observer believes that as long as genuine reconciliation among Liberians remains ignored, and perpetrators of atrocities still boast of being liberators and intellectualizing their actions, divisive ethnic politics, tribalism and sectionalism will continue to dominate our body politic, and Liberia’s peace will continue to remain fragile.

Authors

27 COMMENTS

  1. Go back in time. Find the root cause of DEVISIVENESS in Liberia. Then we will do better at solving our “PROBLEM” of “DEVISIVENESS”. It’s a complex problem; that requires COMPLEX SOLUTIONS…

  2. Great editorial! Thanks. If the president was able and willing, it wasn’t going to take up to two terms to yield the epic eruption of tribalism on President Sirleaf’s watch we are witnessing today! While the president’s hands may be tied, rendering her incapable of solving this problem at the 11th hour, the voters of Liberia, irrespective of their educational background, religion, ethnicity and social status are the only ones with the constitutional authority, capacity and will to bring about systemic change using their ballots. For these citizens, there is no America to run to when things chakla! The answer is Citizens Independence Initiatives, a democratic revolution that was born in Buchanan, Grand Bassa County and is aired every Friday 8:00AM on Magic 99.3 FM Tel: +231776000993 / +231777777993/+231776313160/. Take a listen to the voice of democracy from Buchanan, Liberia:( https://www.spreaker.com/user/8394121/06-09-17-cpp-democracy-empowerment ) Action speaks louder than words! People need to listen, share and join the movement because no career politician seeking to enrich themselves and their friends can bring change.
    Did you forget to mention the Truth & Reconciliation Commission in the editorial? This is the first step to national reconciliation. The top warlords and financial backers of the brutal war enjoy excessive salaries and benefits they set for themselves. Politicians who steal public money go unpunished. A significant number of Liberian citizens forced into exile have seen the doors shut so that they can never return home. Over 300 million ECOWAS citizens without families in Liberia are allowed into Liberia without visa but Liberians forced into exile who still support their families financially are denied visa waiver enjoyed by Nigerians. Democracy is being decimated with the appointment of all mayors, traditional chiefs, heads of public corporations, judges and heads of political sub-divisions appointed by the president. These policies make no sense. Even so, there seems to be a new movement to continue business as usual under the status quo, fueled by tribalism. Why are people supporting tribalism and systemic corruption that breeds ritualistic killings? It has worked for them for 170 years. The system is broken and needs to be changed! Replacing one manager of a corrupt system with another manager over the same corrupt system yields nothing but “business as usual.” We need to replace the old, broken and corrupt system! The first step is for those who believe in systemic change to come together and make a demand for change.

  3. For these citizens, there is no America to run to when things chakla! The answer is Citizens Independence Initiatives, a democratic revolution that was born in Buchanan, Grand Bassa County and is aired every Friday 8:00AM on Magic 99.3 FM Tel: +231776000993 / +231777777993/+231776313160/. Take a listen to the voice of democracy from Buchanan, Liberia:( https://www.spreaker.com/user/8394121/06-09-17-cpp-democracy-empowerment ) Action speaks louder than words! People need to listen, share and join the movement because no career politician seeking to enrich themselves and their friends can bring change.

  4. DAILY OBSERVER, until, you all have learned to hold accountable political parties, instead of promoting individuals even when the very individuals have been the decision makers within a government or ruling political party, as is the case with Joe Boakai who even the Daily Observer is capaigning for, “Divisive Politics Centered on Ethnicity: A Result of Government’s Failure to Reconcile Liberians”, SHALL BE THE REALITY!

    WHY TRY TO RETAIN THE UNITY PARTY FOR 24 YEARS OR MORE ONLY BECAUSE OF JOSEPH BOAKAI´S ETHNICIZED CROCODILE´S TEARS????? THESE PEOPLE HAVE FAILED, THEY MUST BE REMOVED!!! PERIOD!!!

    • K.Z; no one is imposing. Our system is a “DEMOCRACY” People have every right; to choose who they want as their President. Everywhere in the free World, News Newsmedia endorse their choice of Political Candidates. There must be a good reason why Hon.J.Nyumah Boakai is so much/well favored; to become the next President, Republic of Liberia.He is the most qualified. That’s all! JNB is not the only INDEGENOUS Presidential Candidate. After all, everyone in the race is claiming to belong to some ethnic group in Liberia. So be it. Brumskine, is Bassa. Alex Cummings is Grebo. George Weah is Bassa, Kru mixed… so what’s all the fuss about ethnicity; when it comes to our MAN, J.Nyumah Boakai?

      • Mr. Freeman,
        you see when people are losing, they will say all and any thing, so people are not looking at every body in the raise. People for get that we have Bassa, Grebo, Kru and other groups in the raise, so they will fuss and say any thing.

  5. Yes, the government has failed but so has other entities like media outlets. Instead of focusing on stories of people from different ethnic groups working together, all of you keep touting tribalism and tribal politics.

    • Mr. Patriotic :What do you consider tribalism? So when people come out and say they are grebo, and want to Support the VP are they consider tribalism, or if a gio man say he is supporting the VP because he is from Loffa, will that also be tribalism. The fact is that in any campaign, people will say any thing they want to say, it do not mean that it is coming from the head. Please Check your history, since Tubman how many country man have serve the country, were all of these people supported because of Tribalism, or because of their qualification? This man- Joseph Boakai is the best qualify person right now to take Liberia to the next level, and the people of Liberia will support him for who he is and not because of tribe. And yes the old man is not talking about tribe he is talking about what he will do with God’s help if he became president.

      • Take it easy, my friend. All I am saying is that we all have to do our part to remove the division. We need to start discussing what brings us together.

      • This “best qualified” argument really doesn’t hold water, obviously Ellen is even better “qualified” than Boakai, so if she were allowed another term would all these supporters of Boakai using their “best qualified” argument vote for Ellen?

        • AW; that would be up to the voters. If they are comfortable with EJS, of course they would vote for her; just as they’ve done in the last two elections. As it is now, JNB is the choice. He is “MAN of the PEOPLE, for the PEOPLE by the PEOPLE”. That’s what matters most.

  6. Madness and Politics in Liberia, not just a political contest, but also a great moral struggle in modern times.. The Government, would have in fact encouraged open discussion of the most divisive political issues of the era. … and Within state, the retention or abolition of divisiveness in our body politics. But Since the presidency of the old ma, which remains a divisive political issue that is dramatized whenever legal processes are exhausted, … Who is now going to emphasize or seek confirmation of the genuineness or truth of restoring friendly relations among Liberians, when we see our so called leaders advocating divisiveness? The old ma, told the Liberian people these were going to be her priorities in government. But it has turn out to be inconsistent with her agenda, like allowing for transactions to begun but not yet completed. It takes work to resist the intoxicating temptation of our corrosive politics and those who are perpetrating harmful, illegal, or immoral act. These kinds of statements, by those perpetrators must be knocked back in our politics during the elections at the ballot box.

  7. An anonymous philosopher once said, “Our ego is our silent partner—too often with a controlling interest.”

    In this new Liberian political dispensation emerges a dangerous struggle for power by few unscrupulous individuals who have no unifying economic message. PYJ, Rep. Younquoi, and few self-centered politicians, with the help of Liberian news media, are spreading evils of divisive politics to boost their egos.

    For political expediency, these politicians are spreading evils of discrimination in Liberia: by resurrecting the old “divide and conquer” political playbook “Conqua vs Native”. Indeed, this political game reminds us of our painful history. A discriminatory political game that all peace loving Liberians have to fight eliminate.

    Not too long, we witnessed devastating results of discrimination in Liberia: be it tribal, be it economic, be it political, or be it religious; the result is, we lost approximately 250,000 Liberians including other nationalities in our civil conflict.

    All peace loving Liberians, let’s not repeat these evils of the past. Liberia is a small country. Our people are too interconnected: either through family relationships, religious relationships, political relationships, social relationships, tribal relationships, professional relationships, and overall through national identity.

    The president alone cannot unify the country! It is the responsible of all Liberians to treat one another with respect, to see each other as equals under the law, and to preach peace and unity for the love of our country.

    These lawmakers whose constitutional duties are to make laws are the same people who are violating the laws of our constitution under:

    CHAPTER II
    Article 5
    The Republic shall:
    c) Take steps, by appropriate legislation and executive orders, to eliminate sectionalism and tribalism, and such abuses of power as the misuse of government resources, nepotism, and all other corrupt practices.

    Not until we obey the laws by prohibiting discrimination in any form: on the basis of ethnicity, age, disability, sexual harassment, national origin, race, color, tribe, gender, religion, etc…etc.., then, the painful loss of 250,000 fellow Liberians in our civil war shall be meaningless.

  8. Typo Correction: six paragraph, 2nd sentence: It is the responsibility of all Liberians to treat one another with respect, to see each other as equals under the law, and to preach peace and unity for the love of our country.

  9. With all the condemnations being heaped on Boakai’s supporters for being “divisive,” I have yet to see one editorial criticising LP Brumskine for calling the late Senator Fahn a “Native fool” because he is a Congo man has great influence over all the newspapers. But we Native Liberians will not be frightened by anyone. We are going to continue encouraging one another to support Boakai to become the next President. Only with the election of Boakai will we Native Liberians end our continuing humiliation by the tiny Congo minority.

    • Not with the humiliation at the hands of your own natives that are getting fat, stealing upon stealing. You still talking about Congo people when your own native man can steal more than kitty. You are inferior because you feel inferior. It is not the Congo man making you feel inferior, it is all in your head. Let your native thieves in government continue to laugh at your stupidity while they ransack the Liberian treasury. In the main time, keep singing about native this and native that.

  10. HF, the right to an entity’s or an individual’s choice of endorsement is absolute. But a news outlet abuse of such a right is malodorous.

    As for qualification, this is our bone of contention with Boakai. He is just not qualified! A president should have the qualities of political leadership, even if he or she does not have the chrisma. And Joe Boakai has neither either!

    We do not waste our time on this lazy talk of country vs congau childishness and deception.

    I am a raw Gola from Senjeh Clan in Bomi County, but if the CDC George Weah was not in the race and it were only Boakai and Brumskine I would of course vote for Brumskine because he is qualified for political leadership,,!and Boakai is simply not, despite the fact I do not personally like Brumskine because of the role he played in the Edward Gberie murder case in the 70,s

    Liberians at home and abroad shall be stunned to realize that CDC HAS WON THE ELECTION IN OCTOBER.

  11. Zoedjallah, what do mean, precisely, by “Political Leadership” and why do you think VP Boakai does not possess it? I am tempted to assume that by Political Leadership you mean the penchant for talking plenty since Hon. Boakai does not mince his words? But if by your utterance that Boakai does not have Political Leadership you mean he is not tall, consider Mahatma Gandhi of India and Mwalimu Julius K. Nyerere of Tanzania. Or Napoleon Bonaparte of France. All of these great leaders were short men. Leadership is the ability to lead, but Political Leadership is the ability of a leader to transform himself into the symbol of the aspirations of the people he leads. And on the basis of that, VP Boakai has proven himself as Political Leader after successfully transforming himself from being a mere Presidential Candidate to being a symbol of the burning aspiration of Native Liberians to become the masters of their own country. Zoedjallah, come on! Uncle Boakai loves you.

  12. Congratulations to all participants: An impassioned conversation on the hot button issues is better than secretly planning a destabilizing commotion, or revolution. Of course, jaw jaw will get us where war war can’t!

  13. Mr. Zoedjallah,
    I am taking aback by your statement…”I do not personally like Brumskine because of the role he played in the Edward Gberie murder case in the 70’s.” What do you actually mean; what role did he play? He played no role; your comment is misleading. Brumskine was not even a lawyer during the Gberie’s case. Where did you get your information from? Let’s be fair and factual. I believe you to be an intelligent person (Mr. raw Gola man). I dare you to prove me wrong! This is also a Gola man whose maternal grandfather was Chief of Sasstown, Bomi County. “In Union strong success is sure!”

  14. Charles Wordsworth, thank you. I’m also interested in learning more about Edward Gberi”s murder and Charles Brumskine’s possible involvement from Zoedjallah, although for quite a different reason.

    Then to you my question is: WHY IS IT THAT NONE Of THE CONGO Presidential Candidates is willing to publicly admit being a Congo? Although Charles Brumskine’s father, Philip Brumskine, was a member of the House of Representatives at a time when even well educated Native Liberian could not be appointed to the position of director, because of being a Native, he continues trying to mislead people that he is a Bassa man. Even his uncle, Hannable, was Executive Secretary to President Tubman. But now here you come, a Wordsworth, an obvious supporter of Brumskine, to tell us Brumskine is a Gola!

    Why is no Congo Presidential Candidate willing to publicly declare himself a Congo man and ask people to vote for him?

    Because it will be the equivalence of a political suicide, considering the cruel and unjust treatment of Native Liberians by their Congo oppressors. But we are not stupid. We are going to use this election to change the course of Liberian history by electing VP Boakai as the next President of Liberia.

  15. Mr. Saingbe,
    How did you arrive at the point that I was “an obvious supporter of Brumskine”? Please reread my comments. I never mentioned that Brumskine was a Gola man. My point of contention is that Charles Brumskine was not a party to the Edward Gberi trial. I do not have to support an individual in order to show objectivity. It is just intellectual decency to be factual and fair.

  16. Mr. Wordsworth, I do not intend to disrespect you by leaving anything unclear. In fact, I do not let anybody dirt to leave on me, although you were not addressing me directly.

    You write: “I never mentioned that Brumskine is a Gola man.”

    Then, read yourself further: “Brumskine was not even a lawyer during the Gberie’s case. Where did you get your information from? Let’s be fair and factual. I believe you to be an intelligent person (Mr. raw Gola man). I dare you to prove me wrong. This is also a Gola man whose maternal grandfather was Chief of Sasstown, Bomi County.”

    Brumskine, and not you, the writer, remains the subject throughout the quoted material, obeying the theory of consistency in writing, thereby proving that you are intentionally, mischievously, and deceptively, referring to Cllr. Brumskine, who is a Congo bigot, as a Native Liberian.

    Your last problem, Hon. Wordsworth, has to do with the geography of Liberia.

    In Liberia, where is Sasstown, in the Southeast or West?

    Had you obtained your education in Liberia, you should have known that Sasstown is in the Southeast. But at the expense of Liberian Native taxpayers, you were educated abroad as a Congo man.

    VP Boakai has promised to have all officials of government send their children to public schools in Liberia, when we, Native Liberians, and perhaps a handful of honest Congos, elect him as our next President on October 10, 2017 – indeed a date to be remembered!

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