In the annals of Liberian history the month of April bears ill omens and is replete with tumultuous events beginning from the bombardment of Monrovia by a German submarine on April 18, 1918.
In recent and contemporary history, the 1975 plane crash off the coast of Greenville, Sinoe County in which Finance Minister Stephen Tolbert lost his life, was another of such tumultuous events occurring in April. The Finance Minister was a powerful political figure and his death came as a shock to the nation.
Sources at the time say Finance Minister Tolbert had a scheduled court appearance for a libel suit he had filed against veteran pamphleteer Albert Porte and was in great hurry to return to the Capitol to face his nemesis when he met his fate.
And then came the Rice Riots on April 14, 1979 which over 200 persons lost their lives at the hand of state security forces and left millions of dollars of public and private property destroyed.
And just about a year later, on April 12, 1980 the military struck, bringing down the Tolbert government and ending over a century of elitist rule under True Whig Party domination. Days later on April 22, 1980, thirteen (13) former government officials were publicly executed following a mock trial that lacked any semblance of justice and every element of the legal principle of “Due Process”.
Sixteen (16) years later on April 6, 1996, a bloody clash between rival rebel factions in Monrovia left over 5,000 persons dead and virtually the entire city of Monrovia ransacked and looted by rival militias
However, many seem not to remember that Sunday, April 12, 2020, marks the 40th anniversary of the military coup d’etat that ended over a hundred years of elitist rule and the True Whig Party’s domination of the political landscape.
Liberia has never been the same since then. Ten years of a brutal military dictatorship was followed by 14-years of bloody civil conflict, which included a 6-yr fascist dictatorship and then another cycle of violence that saw the abdication of President Charles Taylor from office in 2003, which raised hopes that the promised land was in sight.
But those hopes proved to be a mirage and the Liberian nation and people continued to wander in the wilderness filled with longing for a leader or a messiah, so to speak. Indeed, as the Bible says, “there shall be many false prophets in the last days”, so it came to pass that there emerged a leader anointed by the World Bank and the IMF to lead the nation to the promised land of peace prosperity.
Twelve years later, the nation found itself in even direr straits. At the end of the day, sixteen billion dollars of direct foreign investment(FDI) amounted to little or nothing and with nothing to show for it. Rampant corruption, charges used to justify the bloody execution of 13 former government officials flourished even more under the watch of one individual who, sources strongly suggest, was part and parcel of the cast of evil planners acting allegedly in collaboration with outside powers that hatched the plot to assassinate President Tolbert on April 12, 1980.
Unlike Moses who saw the promised land but did not live to lead his Jewish people there, our “Moses” dogged insistence on leading the nation to the promised land saw her rise to national leadership as an end in itself.
In other words, it was a license to repeat the mistakes of the past the culmination of which led to the murder of a sitting president and the unlawful killing of 13 prominent former government officials in 1980, exactly 40 years ago when current President George Manneh Weah was a mere toddler.
Forty years later, with the nation still wandering in the wilderness; and with rampant corruption apparently having taken center stage, questions are being asked whether our Moses’ choice of a successor was motivated by genuine concern for the people or was it motivated by grave concerns about hidden but corrupt secrets becoming exposed to public knowledge by a non-trusted successor.
Further, judging from the scheme of things, it appears as though 40 years of wandering in the wilderness have imparted no lessons at all from which the national leadership could draw on for guidance. For instance, the country’s judiciary is weak, corrupt and compromised. In similar stance also is the Legislature, many of whose members are hopelessly compromised by either by the receipt of brown envelopes from the Executive or by the promise and prospects of receiving brown envelopes, while the Executive yet remains perennially overbearing.
Just when and how the nation will emerge from this remains unclear. But judging from the manner and form in which this national emergency is being handled by officials of this government it appears that the health and safety concerns of the Liberian people is second stage to the political ambitions of a few individuals in national leadership.
Moreover, the question remains whether the pursuit of national development objectives can be achieved following World Bank/IMF prescriptions, especially its poverty inducing Structural Adjustment Policy (SAP) that demands deep cuts in social spending, thus creating poverty traps, increasing income inequality and further deepening the vicious cycle of poverty.
Indeed, after forty (40) long years in the wilderness and still wandering in search of answers and solutions to the perennial problems of high infant and maternal mortality rates, high incidence of teen pregnancy and mass illiteracy, mass unemployment, rising income inequality and their host of attending social ills, there is need for deep reflection on what the tumultuous events of the past forty years have taught us.
And so we ask: How long the wait — forty (40) long years in the wilderness and still wandering?