Since Flag Day is upon us, tomorrow, August 24, we will answer this question quickly: We truly may not have too much to show in terms of economic, social and industrial development, but we have one tangible thing to show.
It is that we, Liberia, were the beacon of light and hope in Africa because it was, according to Edwin Barclay, from “Montserrado’s verdant (green) height” that FREEDOM rose its “glowing form” in Africa.
Remember how Prime Minister Kwame Nkrumah, standing before hundreds of thousands of Ghanaians at Independence Square in Accra on that joyous day, March 6, 1957, shouted as he ended his first Independence Day Address, “FREEDOM!”
For this reason, 19-year-old Edwin Barclay, one of Africa’s early geniuses, could well have written, “When Freedom raised her glowing form,” not from “Montserrado’s,” but from Mother Africa’s “verdant heights, set within the dome of night, Midst lowering skies and thunderstorms, The star of Liberty!”
For at that point in time, July 26, 1847, the continent of Africa was distinctly dark and green, covered with rich, thick, vast forests, verdant (green) indeed.
Remember, too, that in that great anthem, by any standard a poetic and musical masterpiece, all composed by 19-year-old Edwin Barclay himself, he wrote in stanza II, that the unfurled Lone Star “proclaimed to an expectant world, The birth, for Africa’s sons and sires, The birth of Liberty!”
Kwame Nkrumah made his triumphant shout, “FREEDOM,” not just for Ghana, but for Mother Africa he so dearly loved and wanted to see UNITED, for he rightly believed that in unity there is strength.
Thus Ghana ignited the light of Freedom in Africa’s post-colonial period on that hot day in March, 1957. Three years later, a series of African nations began declaring their independence. These included Somalia, July 1, 1960, Senegal, August 2, 1960, Burkina Faso, August 5, 1960, Ivory Coast, August 7, 1960, Togo, August 27, 1960, and Nigeria, October 1, 1960.
Today we can proudly say that Liberia’s 19th President, William V.S. Tubman, patriotically and passionately raised his hand of welcome to Ghana and all other African nations coming into independence, by declaring each Independence Day a national holiday in Liberia.
Remember, too, that Liberia was the first African nation to welcome Prime Minister Kwame Nkrumah of Ghana on an official visit in 1951. In 1958 President Tubman was the only African Head of State that attended the first Conference of African States, convened by Prime Minister Nkrumah in Accra, Ghana. There, the President was accompanied by his two erudite diplomats, Secretary of State J. Rudolph Grimes and T. Ernest Eastman, Director of the Afro-Asian Bureau. We should also remember that the following year, 1959, President Tubman convened the Sanniquellie Conference attended by President Sekou Touré of Guinea and Prime Minister Kwame of Ghana of Ghana to lay the groundwork for African Unity.
That meeting was followed by the Monrovia Conference (1961) and the Lagos Conference (1962), leading to the momentous Addis Ababa Conference, May 1963, where the Charter of the Organization of African Unity, based on the Liberian Draft, was signed, creating the Organization of African Unity (OAU-now African Union-AU).
We recall that when Liberia declared her independence in July 1847, most of Africa was still not colonized. But slowly, the light of modern civilization dawned. But unfortunately, those who helped bring that light, the Europeans, were selfish, raping the continent of its vast resources, most especially its minerals and forests. That is how much of Central and Northern Africa became the Sahel, with their forests ravaged by Western imperialists, precipitating the rapid advance of the Sahara Desert.
Next came the Cold War that followed World War II, when the brutal struggle for power between the world’s two super powers, the United States and the Soviet Union, that halted or delayed Africa’s development.
In the case of Liberia, however, we can say with certainty that we delayed our own development by corruption, greed and shortsightedness. As early as the mid-1940s we discovered iron ore, and more of it in the late 1950s; while as early as 1926 it was learned that Liberia was a great place to grow rubber. Unfortunately, we allowed Harvey Firestone to shortcut or delay our industrialization, by shipping all of the rubber to America and Europe to make tires and other products, which they sold back to us at exorbitant prices. Meanwhile, Tubman’s absolute rule denied freedom of speech and of the press; so all Liberians could do was to praise Tubman and totally all the missed opportunities.
So here we are today, at the bottom of the economic, social and industrial development ladder. And despite the more missed opportunities of the past 12 years under Africa’s first woman President and all the international goodwill that could have caused Liberia to bounce back from a terrible war, we strongly believe that all is not lost.
President George Weah, even in this pro-poor environment, has an opportunity, with focus and resolve, to move Liberia forward. We still have the abundant resources—gold, diamond, iron ore, massive acreage of fertile land, great waterways and rainfall, plus rubber.
As President Weah and his team prepare to visit China this weekend, he must know that this great Asian country is able to assist us in many, many ways, towards agricultural development, industrialization, manufacturing, roads and railway systems.
We pray that President Weah and his team will make the best use of this visit to lift and advance our long suffering country and that all our people will seriously join him in this noble and long overdue endeavor.