Liberian Journalists, Please Learn and Appreciate Your History

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Many Liberian journalists seem to have an antipathy (dislike, hostility) toward being frank, forthright and decisive. Some of this is based on fear, some on timidity. But we think that most of this antipathy is the result of the lack of knowledge of and appreciation for Liberian history.

What do we mean?

Many of our journalists, including most who are only passing as journalists, have little or no knowledge of Liberian history.

How many journalists have, for example, understood or appreciated the fact that they, the journalists, and Liberians as a whole, are the first independent citizens of Africa? But we are, for the simple reason that our country, Liberia, is the first independent Republic in Africa.

Yes, Ethiopia was an independent empire long before Liberia declared its Independence in 1847. However, the Ethiopian Empire was ruled over several millennia by an absolute monarch, just as England and later the British Empire, as well as most of Europe, was ruled by an absolute monarch. The beginning of the end of absolute monarchy came about in 1215, when the British barons
forced King John to sign the Magna Carta, the one document that set the stage for the end of absolute monarchy, the advent of parliamentary democracy and the rights of man—today we say the rights of human beings, to include our beloved mothers and sisters.

So because Ethiopia was an absolute monarchy, like the absolute monarchs of England (Queen Victoria) and France (Louis the 16th), Ethiopia’s citizens were not born with the rights and privileges as Liberian citizens after July 26, 1847. If you want to know why, go and read Hilary Teage’s Declaration of Independence proclaimed on that historic date. It says, for starts, “We recognize in all men, certain natural and inalienable rights: among these are life, liberty and the right to acquire, possess, enjoy and defend property.”

The reader of this Editorial will quickly notice that we are not talking about any of the great African countries, such as Nigeria, South Africa, Kenya or Morocco. Most of these countries were yet to be colonized by European powers; and it would take time for them to be introduced to parliamentary democracy. Most of these nations were still trapped in the chieftaincy syndrome, or what Dr.
Amos Sawyer called in an Oration in the 1980s “the cult of personality.” Go read about Shaka, the Zulu King.

Liberian citizens after 1847, on the other hand, were born free, equal and independent. This means that we were the first on the African continent to taste freedom and independence.

Yes, it is true that just as the slaves in America, Liberia’s indigenous majority were, for over a century, excluded from the body politic. Yet it was only a matter of time before they, too, became full-fledged citizens, “with all the rights and privileges appertaining thereto.”

The fact that black Americans, especially those in the deep South, were excluded from the political process, denied even the right to vote, or to sit anywhere on the bus, did not stop Rosa Parks from exerting her right as a free and independent citizen, a right guaranteed her by the American Constitution; nor Martin Luther King Jr. facing the raw brutality of southern white racists and their vicious dogs.

How many Liberian journalists have read Kenneth Y. Best’s book on Albert Porte, beginning at the young age of 23, challenging President C.D.B. King? Or the account of George S. Best who, only three years in Liberia from Trinidad, confronted President King and defied him to deploy Liberia Frontier Force troops against the angry Liberian crowds demanding King’s resignation over the Fernando Po scandal?

How many Liberian journalists, again, have read K.Y. Best’s narration of the Montserrado men and women who crowded the House of Representatives to boo President King as he delivered his final Annual Message? It was there that they demanded his resignation. Go read Mr. Best’s narration of the events, published in the Crozierville Observer, that in a matter of hours led to the resignation of King’s Vice President; and the following afternoon, December 3, 1930, King’s own resignation.

Remember that in that year, 1930, Kwame Nkrumah was only 21, and Nelson Mandela only 12.

So who are those Liberian journalists trying to restrict the Liberian media from endorsing political candidates because Liberia “is only a young democracy?”

The fact is that we in Liberia have a lot more experience in politics and political struggle than most Africans anywhere on the continent. And though Emperor Haile Selassie was overthrown in 1974 by a military coup d’etat, the people of Ethiopia, 42 years later, are still not yet enjoying full political freedom. Read the Daily Observer Editorial of this Wednesday, in which we called on the
Ethiopian government to end the marginalization of the Oromo and Amhara ethnic groups, the country’s two largest. For if that is not done, we warned, all of Ethiopia’s admirable development achievements will not be sustainable.

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