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.