What Is July 26 When Liberia Is Bleeding?

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Rejoinder to the US Embassy’s statement concerning the planned July 24 protest

By Daiba Tozay

Frederick Douglass on 5 July 1852 spoke to an audience of abolitionists in Rochester, New York, about the meaning of America’s great national holiday. Although the holiday was referred to as “What to a Slave is the Fourth of July?”, its proper title was “The Meaning of the Fourth of July for the Negro.”

Madam Ambassador, in your statement you said: “Ideally, events surrounding upcoming national celebrations should be devoid of partisan promotion or posturing, focusing instead on working together for the common good of the Liberian people.” You’ll agree with me that the operative word “ideally” means under normal circumstances. Liberia is not operating under normal circumstances.

By every economic and social indicator, the nation is failing. Mismanagement, violation of our Constitution and corruption with arrogance have become common place. Just a few months ago you co-authored an unusual diplomatic note asking the government to refund donor monies that have been misapplied. “Ideally” or under normal circumstances that diplomatic note would not have been written, but you, along with other diplomats were responding to an unusual situation. So too are Liberians gearing up to respond to the reckless and senseless governance of our country. The common good for Liberia this year is that the government use the funds allocated for independence celebrations on much-needed social services. Genuinely calling for reconciliation, nationwide prayer, peace and bringing Liberians together. The nation is bleeding and Liberians are dying slowly.

I’m also hastened to remind you of the massive women’s demonstration or protest immediately following President Trump’s inauguration. “Ideally” that should not have been a time to protest but to celebrate, given that America had successfully and democratically transitioned from one government to another. Every day in America, there are protests in front of the White House to express some sort of discontent over government policies. In fact, there were protests on 4 July 2019 when citizens of America expressed discontent over the the display of military aircrafts and tanks. I need not remind you that 4 July is America’s Independence Day.

This letter, Madam Ambassador, reminds me of the Birmingham Letter written by Dr. Martin L. King, when he was publicly criticized by eight white ministers calling for unity and asking that Dr. King not get involved in “matters far from his hometown of Atlanta”. The eight white ministers published their “call for unity” letter, which Dr. King considered out of touch. He said it’s interesting that “white moderates are standing idly by, telling black civil rights activists to “wait” and consider peace and unity but, for him and thousands of blacks, they cannot wait because this wait can never come. Dr. King in his letter told the eight white ministers and America that, “We have waited for more than 340 years for our constitutional and God given rights. The nations of Asia and Africa are moving with jet-like speed toward(s) gaining political independence, but we still creep at horse and buggy pace toward gaining a cup of coffee at a lunch counter. Perhaps it is easy for those who have never felt the stinging darts of segregation to say, “Wait.” Liberians are today feeling the stinging darts of bad governance.

For Liberians, what’s July 26, 2019 when corruption, lawlessness, mismanagement, violations and gross disrespect for the Constitution are the order of the day? What’s July 26, 2019 when US$1 million is taken to celebrate while the hospitals, schools and living conditions are very poor? What’s July 26, 2019 when sick patients have to purchase fuel to power-on the generator before they can get services at the local hospitals? What’s July 26, 2019 when government employees have not gotten paid for months? What’s July 26, 2019 when there’s no account for the missing $L16 billion, US$25 million, $US6 million, etc.? What’s July 26, 2019 when the rape of innocent girls and boys are on the increase? What’s July 26, 2019 when the killings of innocent children by unknown people are going with impunity?

The list goes on and on, yet we want to celebrate. What are we celebrating in this “sh*thole” country (using the words of President Tump)? Protesting is not bad and it should never be viewed as such, especially when the nation is bleeding. In the great United States, protests are welcome and organizers are not demonized. Liberians love Liberia and it is not unpatriotic if many Liberians are aggrieved with the current situation and call on their government, which they feel has neglected them and branded them as “Enemy of the State” for expressing themselves.

It is good to celebrate national holidays and national celebrations should be devoid of partisan promotion or posturing but, to infer that calling for protest “conveys a lack of commitment to national development…” is an oxymoron. We protest because we love our country. I think depleting the national coffers to celebrate while the citizens are dying from common cold is lack of commitment to national development.

What the Embassy should do is call for nationwide dialogue, help this President see that he’s the President of Liberia, not CDC (party/partisans). Help him realize that Liberia is for Liberians and when people are hurting and aggrieved, they need to be heard, not demonized. Liberians want the best for Liberia. Liberians love their President and want to see him succeed, not fail. The pride of Liberia will depend on the success of the presidency and it will take one Liberia “devoid of partisan promotion or posturing…” to accomplish that.

Finally, Madam Ambassador, your statement today only emboldens the government and removes some of the pressure needed to ensure that the government does right by its people. If that was not your goal, then I hope you find time to provide clarification.

6 COMMENTS

  1. For more than 100 years (since 1847) you guys ran Liberia loaded with resources. For example; Land, Iron Ore, Gold, Diamonds, Natural Rubber, Maritime Funds and Taxes. During those years, you celebrated July 26 in grand styles. But in 2019 Liberia is rated the 4th. Poorest nation in the world. Liberians are dependent on imported food for living. Safe drinking water is lacking. No Electricity to speak of. No Health delivery system to speak of. The Educational System is a great mess. The National Government is operating out of rented facilities. Road connectivity is just beginning.
    What were you celebrating? What are some of the benefits of your celebration of July 26, over the years?

  2. How did your elaborate celebration of July 26 for far more than 100 years benefited the average Librarian, who have continued to live on less $100 a day?
    Liberia at some point was the second fastest growing Economy in the world at about 14% per year. What can the average Librarian point at, as a benefit?

  3. Daiba Tozay’s rejoinder above is quite in place. The Ambassador was totally out of line making such a public spectacle. As noninterference in the internal affairs of nations is a generally accepted diplomatic principle, she could have opted to invite the COP leadership to the Embassy for a private informal meeting at which to consider her views on the timing of their upcoming protest march. Besides, seizing upon the success of the first march, the Ambassador should long ago have offered some friendly advice to the President to pay heed to the people’s demands, realizing that he is (as Ms Tozay puts it) “the President of Liberia, not CDC (party/partisans)”.

    In any case, now that the COP leaders have yielded to the Ambassador’s suggestion and have rescheduled their protest march to July 31, one can only hope that Weah will not see this relaxation of pressure as some kind of victory that emboldens him to continue ignoring the plight of the Liberian people and engaging in all kinds of two-by-four governance and corrupt practices. That would be a huge mistake.

  4. Tozay, Kortuwah, you make no sense. Visit FPA on this identical issue, and see the massive REBUTTALS against your very silly and cynical thoughts on this matter.

  5. Good evening Daiba: after reading your article, I must say you well addressed the issue. I’m not certain if we will one day come to realize that America don’t really care about us; nevertheless, if we develop to becoming self-reliant that will be the breaking point for us. Whenever the USA shows concern, one should be aware of hidden agendas.
    What if our forefathers such as: abolitionists like Nat Turner, Sojourner Truth, Harriet Truman or activists like Dr King had been contended with slavery and segregation? Conditions for us would had been the same.
    So, I commend you for addressing this concern, and I thank you.

  6. Miss Daiba Tozay’s rejoinder makes interesting reading. However, while staging a protest is a right of citizens under the Constitution of Liberia, I believe the Embassy’s statement was made against the background of the delicate political and economic climate in the country, and was not intended to support whatever act of “corruption, lawlessness, mismanagement, violations and gross disrespect for the Constitution” by the Government of Liberia, as alleged by Miss Tozay. I think, with all due respect to Miss Tozay, having another protest barely after one month of the first protest, when the Government is working along with the international community to mitigate the economic problems in the country, appears a bit bizarre and portrays an act of adventurism.

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