Liberia Mourns with France


President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, accompanied by several of her lieutenants, on Wednesday visited the French Embassy in Monrovia to express Liberia’s condolences and solidarity with the French government and people. The visit followed the horrendous tragedy in the French capital last Friday evening.

We consider this a most appropriate visit, to identify with a friend of Liberia—France—which has been deeply troubled by last Friday’s attack on innocent young French citizens. President Sirleaf aptly described this monstrous attack as “a senseless tragedy.” She declared that anyone who attacks a friendly country like France attacks Liberia, too. That is what friends are for—to rush to the side of a bleeding companion to show sympathy and solidarity.

Surely, on the morning following the tragedy, the Daily Observer Editor instructed its Presidential Correspondent, William Harmon, to be on the high alert for a reaction from the Executive Mansion, so that we would immediately place it on our website. We waited the whole weekend but heard nothing. We had been determined to list our President immediately among the world leaders who first poured in their condolences to the French government and people. We deemed this our national responsibility—to report that our President was among the first world leaders to react to what Ellen has now described as “a senseless tragedy.”

It is difficult to understand why Liberian officials, especially those responsible for Information and Foreign Affairs, are so slow to react to such incidents. It is surely not the President’s responsibility to come up immediately with a response, but her key Information and Foreign Affairs lieutenants. We mention Information first because that is our job—to keep our leader abreast of happenings on the world stage and by so doing, enable her to be on top of these happenings.

We recall that when on April 4, 1968 Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. was shot and killed in Memphis, Tennessee, President William V.S. Tubman was at the Waldorf Astoria in New York, on a state visit with President Lyndon Johnson. A young reporter covering the visit immediately rushed to his boss, Information and Cultural Affairs Secretary E. Reginald Townsend, to inform him of the tragic incident. Within two hours President Tubman’s messages of condolence were en route to Dr. King’s widow, Madam Coretta Scott King in Atlanta, Georgia, and to President Johnson at the White House. The young reporter strongly felt it would have been failure on his part had he not rushed to his boss, Mr. Townsend, to get him to do what he had to do—inform Secretary of State J. Rudolph Grimes and President Tubman about this tragic event that had just occurred.

Accordingly, President Tubman’s name was among the world leaders first to react to the announcement of Dr. King’s assassination.

French Ambassador Joel Godeau was appreciative of President Sirleaf’s visit to sign the book of condolence. We feel, however, that Information Minister Lewis Browne and Acting Foreign Minister Shoniyin should have made sure that President Sirleaf was among the first to express her shock and chagrin at the tragedy in Paris. It is one of those moments when an earlier response would have carried far more weight, especially for the leader of a small country like Liberia. A delay should have been out of the question.

Why did President Sirleaf describe Friday’s massacre as “a senseless tragedy”? Because it was. Surely, of course, the perpetrators of this heinous act thought otherwise. As all the other Islamic terrorists, the ones who launched this second attack on Paris believed they were acting “in the name of Allah.” One of the killers called that name during the massacre in the Bataclan Theatre. Is it really true that they are worshiping a being who would condone the mass murder of innocents in his name?

The world must now take all possible measures to ensure that such a thing never again occurs. We must first go to the root of the problem, first to destroy the murderous and destructive so-called ‘Islamist state’. The other is to confront head on all the other pockets of Islamist terrorism.

The world must also help fix Syria and Iraq and restore within them sectarian tolerance and harmony and good governance.

The world must also make decisive, sustained efforts to deal effectively with the Palestinian problem, in which Israel must be made to play its honest and sincere part.

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