Today, August 22nd is not being marked by official ceremonies, neither does the significance of this date appear to have dawned on Liberians. Indeed it can be said through the passage of time, memories have dimmed and recollection of the single most important events of that date in 1990 slipped into unconscious memory.
It was on this day in 1990, just two days shy of the August 24th anniversary of the unfurling of the flag of the Republic for the first time since its declaration of independence only a month earlier; it was at this time in 1990 when the nation had virtually reached the nadir of its existence, having been ripped apart at its seams by a devastating, senseless and protracted civil war.
It was at a time when the nation, Liberia was being described as the “Killing Fields” with thousands of starving people desperately clinging on to hope for relief; thousands fleeing the land of their nativity into foreign lands; and with thousands lying dead most without identifiable resting places. Indeed it was at that time; Monrovia was besieged by belligerent forces and was on the verge of being overrun with the fate of thousands placed on the line.
It was on this day in August 1990 that troops of the West African Peacekeeping Force, ECOMOG landed at the Freeport of Monrovia under a hail of gun and mortar fire from besieging NPFL forces bent on forestalling, by force of arms, the intervention of ECOWAS aimed at ending the bloody conflict.
Had it not been for the gallantry of those brave men and women and the resolve of the West African Community, Liberia as a nation would have probably ceased to exist. Liberia had by then been abandoned by virtually the entire world community, save ECOWAS. Even the nation’s traditional and closest ally, the United States of America (USA), had turned its back, preferring instead to see the armed takeover of Monrovia by armed insurgents.
The USA, in response to the desolate and grim situation facing thousands of hopelessly trapped and hungry civilians in Monrovia and the open killing fields of Liberia, had dispatched a flotilla of troops, ships and planes to the coastal waters of Liberia. And while the nation burned, her flotilla of troops idled and watch in rather strange bemusement.
As one who led the December 21, 1990 invasion of Liberia and the eventual armed assault on Monrovia, President Charles G. Taylor would later remark that the Americans could have stopped the war very early on in its tracks, had the US simply put on a show of force and ordered the NPFL back to the point from whence they came and the war would have been over.
The veracity and accuracy of his statement would be proved much later when, in 2003, LURD forces, having fought their way to Vai Town, were poised to cross over into central Monrovia when they were ordered to retreat to positions beyond the Po River, west of Monrovia. The regional organization, ECOWAS, was to once again, in 2003, be the first to place “boots on the ground” to end the hostilities, separate and disarm the warring factions and hold democratic elections under the rubric of the Accra Comprehensive Peace Agreement.
In terms of resources, both material and human, ECOWAS paid the highest price especially in precious human lives. History recalls that thousands of their nationals were rounded up, held hostage and killed all on account of their respective countries’ involvement in the ECOMOG Peacekeeping operations.
Additionally, hundreds if not thousands of their troops fell on Liberian soil. Many of them lay in unmarked graves, remembered perhaps only by their families from which they came. Against this backdrop, it behooves all of us, especially our national leadership, to never ever forget their sacrifice in lives paid on our behalf only to save us from ourselves.
But how can we as a nation truly remember their sacrifice when we continue, without let, to indulge in the same vices that sent us careening towards the brink of disaster. Consider how, for example, corruption has bled and continues to bleed the nation. And, although successive national leaderships have made lofty promises to end corruption, signs are instead pointing the other way, signaling a virtual lack of interest and resolve at the highest levels to halt this scourge of corruption in its tracks.
As the nation prepares to celebrate the 171st anniversary of the unfurling of the Liberian Flag on August 24, 1847, this newspaper, the Daily Observer, finds it compelling to remind the nation that the celebration of National Flag Day of Liberia is intended to inspire patriotism and love for country. As patriots we are called to serve and not to be served. As patriots we are called to truth, justice and accountability without which our patriotism is meaningless.
The intervention by ECOWAS was undoubtedly driven by a call to serve suffering humanity which, by all accounts, was an act of Love. As the Lord Jesus Christ reminds us in John 15:13, “Greater Love has no man than he who lays down his life for his fellow man”. With this in mind, who can deny the fact that sons and daughters of ECOWAS laid down their lives to save the lives of sons and daughters of Liberia?
But their sacrifice would be meaningless should we as a nation fail to deliver justice to our people, the absence of which precipitated our slide into nearly two decades of conflict. Our key organs of national governance — the Legislature, Judiciary and Executive — are all corrupted and injustice stalks the land.
Rather than “let judgment run down as waters, and righteousness as a mighty stream (Amos 5:24), the nation’s judiciary has remained heedless to the admonitions of the Biblical book of Leviticus 19:15, which says, “Do not pervert justice; do not show partiality to the poor or favoritism to the great, but judge your neighbor fairly…”
And as if to warn us all about the consequences of perverting justice, the Biblical prophet Obediah warns in verse 1:15, “The day of the LORD is near for all nations. As you have done, it will be done to you; your deeds will return upon your own head.”
And to those officials, who in their unbridled arrogance, behave as if there is no tomorrow, the Prophet Obadiah in Chapter 1 verse 4, has these words of warning: “Though you soar like the eagle and make your nest among the stars, from there I will bring you down,” declares the LORD.
Thank God for ECOWAS!