BY Dr. Samuel E. Vansiea
“My own convictions are that Heaven has great things in store for Africa, to be conferred doubtless through the instrumentality of Liberia.” -President Joseph J. Roberts
July 26, 2020 makes Liberia 173 years old. What a beautiful thing. No other African country can boast similarly. Liberia has witnessed and participated in the struggles of almost every country on the continent, a claim that no other African country can make. It was that Lone Star Country that coached the rest of the continent into the civilized reality of independence and self-governance.
Liberia has gone through lots of terrible challenges and perhaps still going through some today. But with each struggle that seems unsurmountable, divine Providence has always, as heretofore granted some reprieve. For example, the harsh realities of World War II nearly crushed the young republic when she refused to be a pawn in the hands of European imperialism. Again, Providence provided a way out and the nation survived in high colors. Belief in God, the dignity of black people, the integrity of self-governance, and the future of the nation were more essential to the hearts and souls of leaders in those days than the passing shadows of cash and pleasure.
Liberia suffered some internal wounds too. For example, rebellions against the assaults of the settlers by the Grebos (1910), the Krus (1915), the Golahs (1918), and the Joquelle Kpelles (1920), just to name a few, caused more bloodshed than could be imagined (Black Imperialism by M. B. Akpan). Of cause the events of the 1980s and 1990s are too familiar to be mentioned now.
The country has had some good times as well. Notable among which are, The “Integration and Unification Policy” of President William V. S. Tubman which galvanized the strength of the Republic and introduced Natives into chambers of national leadership. Those on the fringes of history began to see the light. The “Total Involvement, Higher Heights” theme of President William R. Tolbert was celebrated as the nation’s hope against the odds of old. It moved some folks from “Mats to Mattresses.” The “Back to the Soil” movement of President Samuel K. Doe was opening the door to innovation, productivity, and economic recovery.
But more than all that is the unique, but often forgotten blessing that the Good Lord, The Grand Architect of the Universe, designed for the country. On the entire continent, the only place left unoccupied by European colonial aggressors was that small piece of land between the Cavalla River and Shebro Island out of which Liberia was carved. Why did the Good Lord preserve that land for centuries? Why and how did Providence empower tribal natives to withstand and ward off white supremacy domination over that land till the arrival of the settlers in the 1800s? What spirit inspired the settlers to forge a black nation-state when the entire continent laid helplessly surrendered to European domination?
We may not know all that happened in the north and east to ancient Egypt, Ethiopia, Libya, etc, when they lost their lights of freedom. But certainly, when lights of freedom were put out in the north and east, Providence had preserved a place in the west wherein to plant an enduring light that will usher the nations of Africa into a new era of modern civilization, freedom, and independence.
We still may not understand the reason behind the intent of God to so bless Liberia. But we can have hope in the midst of uncertainties—as Africa’s first elected president, J. J. Roberts put it:
“Liberia is evidently designed to a glorious future; and that it is so, her past history seems clearly to indicate, for we find there so many evidences of Divine favor we are forced to the conclusion that Providence has not done so much for nothing.”
God Bless Liberia!
Note: Quotations by President Joseph J. Roberts taken from Speeches by Joseph Jenkins Roberts, 1809-1876 by Dr. David Smith, Jr.