By Maj. Gen. Daniel Ziankahn (Rtd), Minister of National Defense
Dimly or clearly, we all should know what right looks like, but more often than not, we tend to ignore the glittering reality. There’s a price that one has to pay whenever you deliberately turn your face from the rights and embrace the wrongs in the forms of violence, hypocrisy, greed and deceits. We have paid a huge price when we treaded such path decades ago. Liberians were taught some valuable lessons but we seem to forget those life and death lessons so soon. I have lived over two scores therefore, I have witnessed some of the cherished and regrettable moments in the history of our beloved country Liberia. I have not only lived through the good, bad and ugly days, but I have also come up close and personal with the narcissists, the valiants and the sadists.
That said, I am deeply constrained to speak to the consciences of peaceful Liberians both at home and abroad to choose the path of nonviolence and in the same vain, strongly warn the power-hungry politicians and trouble makers about the dangerous cliff to which you are dragging our country. Irrespective of our social, economic and political positions, we are all Liberians first before assuming our respective positions and sides. Let us not forget or pretend to forget what we have all been through over the last four decades. From the 1979 rice riot that saw Guinean troops on our soil, to the landing of ECOMOG and UNMIL due to our civil crises. Between these two periods, we experienced the following: the 1980 coup, the 1985 Quiwonkpa invasion, the Nimba Raid, the 1989 Rebel incursion, and the introductions of various warring factions during the first and second Liberian Civil Wars (ULIMO-J, ULIMO-K, LPC and LURD). Let us not forget or pretend to forget about what happened during these periods. Some may pretend, especially the perpetrators that they have forgotten but history will never! I find no pleasure in reminding you about these ugly dates and events but I have to. To the victims, I truly understand the physical and emotional pains associated with such reminder and do apologize, but I have no regrets for the perpetrators. Nobody deserves to be reminded of such traumatic pasts especially when most of the perpetrators continue to show no compunction and remained unapologetic. I can surely guarantee the victims one thing, sooner or later, justice will be served.
The international community is busy finding solutions to her own problems and therefore, won’t care much to extinguish any unnecessary or self-destructive flames on our soil. We were blessed if not lucky to have been rescued by the precious blood of peacekeepers from ECOMOG and UNMIL. Am quite sure that thousands of individuals across the sub-region, widows, widowers, orphans and love ones of those peacekeepers who laid down their precious lives while saving our country will regret the sacrifices of their love ones should we slip back into civil crisis. We may not be lucky this time around to get the international community coming to our aid in a timely fashion.
Be reminded that, the United Nations and ECOWAS are engaged in resolving problems in the Democratic Republic of Congo, Mali, Sudan, Cyprus and Western Sahara, just to name a few. Troops Contributing Countries (TCC) that once contributed troops in Liberia during our crises are presently facing some economic, political or security issues. For instance; Nigeria, Chad and Niger are combatting Boko haram and other violent extremists in the Lake Chad Basin. The G5 Sahel countries (Burkina Faso, Mauritania, Chad, Niger and Mali) are coordinating their efforts to fight terrorists within the Sahel. There seems to be what I termed a triangular flashpoint (Liberia, Guinea and Ivory Coast). Our immediate neighbors, Guinea and Ivory Coast are politically charged due to constitutional issues which could potentially snowball into military crises. In fact both countries are due to hold presidential elections this year which makes it more worrisome. Given all of these developments, we will be left alone to tote our own cross if we are not mindful of our careless actions. Sub-regional, regional and international organizations mostly will pay little attention to civil conflicts except there are some geopolitical dimensions to it.
Our country is polarized at every level more than ever before. It will be in our best interest to reconcile our differences and rekindle our compassionate Liberian spirit instead of tearing down each other. Not one political party or leader, business tycoon, religious leader, civil society group, activist or individual Liberian etc, is bigger or greater than LIBERIA. Those of us who are privileged to be in positions of authorities and stakeholders (political leaders, religious leaders, youth groups, civil society organizations, journalists, activists, etc.) or vying for one, should rethink our actions and inactions. A vast majority of our illiterate and impoverished population look up to us for directions.
If we continue to openly violate the constitution, break established rules, disrespect constituted authorities, negatively use the social media, make incendiary statements, use invectives without regard to our status, incite violence and threaten the national security of the state, the unspoken message we are sending to our followers is loud and clear, “you are telling them to do the same because it is ok”. No one should be fooled for a second that they can satisfy their thirst and greed for power by leading innocent and helpless Liberians to the gas chamber instead, they themselves will end up in it. We should be smart enough to see and recognize the familiar signs and bold writings of crisis on the walls. The recognizable tipping points that brought us to where we were few years ago as well as the flashpoints are visible. We cannot afford to revisit our dark and bitter past. Our country has gone through a lot. A big chunk of the population is still licking their wounds and do not want to go through the same motion again. We as security actors will not sit idly by for our National security to be threatened and allow our country to go down the drain once more. Therefore, we will act decisively and accordingly irrespective of your positions and affiliations. To the trouble makers and would be trouble makers, take heed and govern yourselves accordingly. Remember! An ounce of prevention is better than a pound of cure. May God bless and save the state.