Paul, the Apostle, reminds us in Romans 3:23: “… all have sinned and come short of the glory of God.” So no human can boast of righteousness. Paul further reminds us that we are all in need of justification—by faith.
So who is fit to condemn a fellow citizen to death or exile, as has been done to so many of our compatriots?
As we pen this editorial, Heaven help us NEVER to wish any retribution whatsoever upon whoever is tempted, for any reason, to devour his or her fellow compatriot. Retribution is not our lot. We leave it to God.
We have been destroying our own people for a long time. We recall what they did to E.J. Roye in 1871. He was assassinated because of political differences.
What happened to our eminent historian and scholar, Edward W. Blyden? Yes, they say he had some personal problems, especially “woman palava,” but which one of the men who drove him into exile in Sierra Leone was perfect? Worse yet, the early fathers rejected Blyden’s 1880s advice that we blend Liberia’s indigenous culture with the settlers’ Western culture. That would surely have hastened the reconciliation we are still trying to fix after 169 years of independence.
Perhaps the only thing that will seal Liberian reconciliation today is the elimination of poverty, but can we ever get a leader who can harness our immense, God-given resources to make that happen? Or shall we continue to be cursed with leaders who look only after themselves and their families?
What drove Albert Porte into becoming a pamphleteer? The all-powerful True Whig Party (TWP), in an edict drafted by its chairman and presidential candidate, C.D.B. King, changed the party’s constitution in 1919 “to give the president control over partisans in the Legislature and to establish party control over government employment.” An executive committee was created and all TWP legislators were compelled “to vote for bills approved by the party caucus” or be punished “by the executive committee.”
That was the beginning of TWP dictatorship that culminated (climaxed) during the Tubman and Tolbert administrations. But already during the King administration, tremendous pressure was placed on the press; and no newspaper could dare publish anything against that administration.
During that period, at least one newspaper was forced into cessation. So when in 1929 Mr. Porte began, at the tender age of 23, writing his fiery articles critical of the King administration, he could find no newspaper to publish them. Hence he resorted to pamphlets, mimeographed, produced and sold by himself and his sister Lilian Best.
Think about how many budding Liberian writers were extinguished by that administration’s anti-media tyranny. It was only Mr. Porte’s raw courage and tenacity that caused him to continue his work. In the end, as the Crozierville Observer editor, Porte and his equally fearless brother-in-law-to-be, George Stanfield Best, helped the Liberian people to understand the full import (importance) of the International Commission’s Report on slavery in Liberia, that led to the resignation in 1930 of President King and Vice President Allen Yancy.
President William V.S. Tubman was more brutal in his repression of free expression and free press. Anyone who, true or false, was accused of criticizing him was immediately imprisoned. Albert Porte was his first victim, for opposing the 1946 Bomi Hills iron ore agreement. Next was C. Frederick
Taylor, editor of the African Nationalist, who spent nearly 15 years in jail. Then came Samuel Richards, publisher of The Friend, whose printing press was broken up by thugs loyal to Tubman. His only crime: asking in 1953, “Why a Third Term?”
Next came Tuan Wreh, assistant editor of The Independent, news organ of former President Edwin Barclay’s Independent True Whig Party of Liberia. Wreh was imprisoned in 1955 and treated so inhumanely that he almost went mad. Its editor-in-chief, American-born but naturalized Liberian Bertha Corbin, was deported back to America.
Liberian Age editor Stanton Peabody was also jailed in June 1964. Just think again of how many would-be Liberian writers were “eaten” by that regime. Yet, that is absolutely no excuse for Liberians’ failure to write about their history and culture. Fear should never be an impediment to progress in any direction anywhere.
During the Samuel Doe administration, the media suffered untold atrocities, including closures, imprisonments and even arson. And journalists routinely “disappeared” during the Charles Taylor regime.
The media and journalists have fared far better during President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf’s administration—until the recent fatal disappearance of Michael Allison and Harry Greaves. The vast majority of people do not believe either committed suicide. Yet, both were whistleblowers against government officials and institutions involved in economic and financial corruption.
The question remains: Who “ate” these two highly educated and intelligent Liberian professionals?
How are we ever going to build a great and prosperous nation when we continue to “eat” our intelligent people whose only “crime” is their courageous intelligence and determination to speak the truth and expose the same misdeeds that have for decades robbed our country of the possibility of moving forward?
True, Harry Greaves had his personal problems. But who among us is immune from those troubles?
Are we still being haunted by the C.D.B. King, Tubman, Doe and Taylor legacies—or worse?
In order to move our country forward, we must stop “eating” our intelligent and courageous sons and daughters; rather, encourage them to stand up for truth and justice—the sine qua non (something absolutely indispensable) of progress and development.