The Liberian nation has faced many challenges in its 167-year history.
But it started long before 1847 when our Declaration of Independence was proclaimed.
Remember Elijah Johnson? After the first shipload of Pioneers were denied landing at Shebro Island, Sierra Leone, the rest of the group said, “Let’s go back to America.” That is when Elijah Johnson made his historic statement: “For two long years I have sought a home. Here I have found one, and here will I remain.”
That inspiring, forthright utterance stopped the ship from turning back. It sped southward to an island at the tip end of the Mesurado River, and that is where the pioneers finally landed.
In thanksgiving to God who mercifully led them there, they named it Providence Island. Scarcely a mile up the hill the pioneers found another spot on which they built their first church, naming it Providence Baptist Church. It was in that church, exactly a quarter century later, on July 26, 1847, that they signed the Declaration of Independence. A nineteen year-old Liberian genius, Edwin J. Barclay, reminded us in his immortal “The Lone Star Forever,” that it was this Declaration of Independence that proclaimed “to Afric’s sons and sires” and to the world, “the birth of liberty” on the African continent!
Then there were the settler-indigenous misunderstandings over land.
These included the trouble in faraway Maryland between its settlers and the Grebos. But all of these were eventually settled, and Liberia continued to expand its territory. They reached as far as Nimba and Grand Gedeh–long before the French colonialists got there. But because our “Mother Country”–the United States–turned a blind eye to the naked aggression of British and French colonial encroachments, we lost half of Nimba, Lofa and Bong, more than half of Grand Gedeh and Grand Cape Mount counties.
The French, in negotiations with the Liberian delegation in Paris in 1958, were close to giving us back some of that land when Sekou Toure said “No” to President Charles De Gaulle’s French Association of African States, and declared Guinea an independent Republic.
President Tubman immediately withdrew his delegation from Paris because, he argued, the disputed territory was “no longer French, but African, owned by the newly independent “Republic de la Guinea.”
Malaria and other tropical diseases also decimated the small population of settlers and their indigenous siblings.
It was amidst this dwindling population scenario that President Daniel B. Warner, author of our National Anthem, sent a delegation to Barbados in the West Indies asking for “new blood” to help repopulate the diminishing Liberian population. The result was the 1865 Immigration that brought Edwin Barclay’s ancestors here. His cousin, Arthur Barclay, later President, came on that ship as an 11 year-old.
Then came World War One, when Germany gave an ultimatum to the Liberian government to close the French Cable at Front Street, Snapper Hill and expel the French operators. President Daniel E. Howard refused and the Germans bombed Monrovia, killing many citizens.
President Howard immediately called on all the churches to toll their bells, and the people to their churches to pray for God’s protection amidst this international crisis.
That, too, passed.
Then came 1930 and the Fernando Po Crisis, when European powers attempted to “mandate” Liberia, meaning colonizing the country. It was President Edwin Barclay and Secretary of State Louis Arthur Grimes who, through their defense of the nation before the League of Nations in Geneva, saved Liberia’s sovereignty.
Then came World War II when Liberia declared war on Germany, our main trading partner, plunging the nation into economic and financial crisis. All Germans, including the doctors, had to leave.
Then the various political crises, beginning in 1951 when D. Tweh fled to Sierra Leone; and Ben Freeman suddenly died a few hours after the True Whig Party Convention nominated him as Tubman’s vice presidential candidate. The political crisis of 1955 followed, with the murder of David Coleman and his son John, the arrest of most partisans of Edwin Barclay and Nete Sie Brownell’s Independent True Whig Party and the the mass arrest of its partisans; followed by the untimely death of President Edwin Barclay.
Then the 1980 coup d’etat, the HIV Aids epidemic and the 14-year civil war.
We have survived all of these. Who says we cannot survive Ebola, too?
We can and by the grace of God, we definitely WILL. Let us simply do what is required by acknowledging the epidemic and taking all preventive measures to fight it off.
And this, too, shall pass.