bad roads liberiaOp-ed 

Countering the Faulty Narrative of ‘Southeasterners Dominance’ in Liberia Politics

.. The focus should be on how we correct this historical injustice against the people of the Southeast and not the peddling of this divisive politics because of the desperation for power.

By, Harry ConwayThere is a faulty narrative that appears to be gaining traction in Liberia body politics that needs to be countered to lay bare the historical exclusion and marginalization that has plagued the Southeastern Region generally and particularly River Gee County and Barrobo District, Maryland County.

This narrative rests on the premise that the current President, Speaker, Deputy Speaker, Senate Pro Temp, and incoming Chief Justice are all from the Southeast. Therefore, all political power rests in the South East and they are dominating the politics of Liberia. As a result, the South East is disproportionately benefitting from the resources of the country. Despite this narrative, the realities and hard facts on the ground show otherwise.

Southeastern Liberia comprises five counties – Grand Gedeh, Maryland, River Gee, and Sinoe. These counties do not enjoy equal access or representation at the apex of the country’s political hierarchy. For example, River Gee and Grand Gedeh are not represented. The President is from Grand Kru; the Speaker and Deputy Speaker are from Maryland and Grand Kru respectively, and the Senate Pro Temp is from Grand Kru, as well.

The incoming chief justice is from Maryland. Further, there are four ethnic groups (Congoe, Greboe, Krahn, and Kru) making up the South East. The President, Deputy Speaker, and Senate Pro Temp are Kru. The Speaker and Chief Justice are Greboe (Seaside Greboe or Nyanboe to be specific). The ‘Interior’ Greboe, often derogatorily referred to as ‘Bush Greboe’ from River Gee and Barrobo District in Maryland are not represented. Krahn is also not represented.

It is therefore disingenuous and unfair to lump up the entire South East into one when it is glaring that River Gee and the Greboes in the interior of River Gee and Maryland are not represented in the apex of the Liberia Government. River Gee has never ever been represented at the apex with the exception of the late Cllr Chea Cheapo who was removed by the late President Doe for standing for Justice. As a matter of fact, the ‘Interior Greboe’ people have continued to endure historical exclusion and marginalization in national affairs. They do not proportionately benefit from national development projects in the country.

Historically, the people of the Southeast generally, and River Gee and Grand Gedeh in particular, were only good to serve as ‘house’ boys and girls, and ‘Hewers of wood’ and ‘Drawer of water’ for the elites in coastal towns and cities. They were good to be tappers on the Cavalla Firestone rubber plantation in Maryland County. Hence, they were denied the development of every form including health, education, and roads.

The very bad roads today in the South East and deplorable schools and lack of good hospitals in River Gee are testaments to this historical injustice and exclusion. Such injustice extends to urban towns like Monrovia where these people live in the slump communities of New Kru Town, Logan Town, Clara Town, and West Point. They are condemned to menial jobs. For example, the women hawking coconuts on the streets of Monrovia.

This historical marginalization continues to this day in the formation of successive Governments of Liberia where educated sons and daughters of the South East, in particular, River Gee are not considered for senior-level cabinet positions. If by good fortune or the grace of God, one is considered, it is Deputy Minister, as in the case of Seyma Cyrenius Cephus at the Justice Ministry, and Dr. Forkpo at the Agriculture Ministry. And thanks to President Weah because at least he gave River Gee sons, a Deputy Minister position.

Under the immediate past regime, no River Gee son was appointed assistant minister let alone deputy minister. Despite the fact that you have qualified and competent sons like Cllr. T. Negbalee Warner; Dr. Taiyee Quenneh; Dr. Chris Dugbe Nyan and Dr. Johnson Geply from the County. This is no surprise since appointments are based on how well connected you are amongst the Monrovia-based elites. Unfortunately for the sons and daughters of the Southeast, specifically River Gee, they do not know people in the Monrovia-based social circle, and therefore are continuously denied equal representation in Government.

The foregoing suggests that the political narrative should not be about ‘South East dominance’ of the helm of political power in Liberia now, but how to correct the historical injustice that has been meted out against the South East, especially the Greboes of River Gee and Barrobo District in Maryland County.

The debate should be ‘how do we ensure these people catch up with other regions in terms of development and representation in the national government?’ It should be about affirmative action as is the case with addressing the injustices of racism in the United States; apartheid in South Africa and ‘Untouchables’ in India. It should be about formulating policies that will ensure people from historically excluded regions of Liberia catch up with coastal areas. For example, Nigeria has an education policy called ‘The Educationally Less Developed States’ (ELDS).

This policy aims to promote an increase in the education level in states that lag behind in terms of tertiary education. By this policy, a child from an ELDS would be admitted to university based on a minimum score in the Joint Admission Matriculation Board (JAMB) exams compared to a child with a similar score but from a state that is educationally developed. In other words, a child from Katsina State in Northern Nigeria would be admitted with a lower score compared to a child from Lagos State in the South because Katsina is less developed in terms of education compared to Lagos. This should be the thinking and debate in Liberia.

How do you bring Gbarpolu, River Gee, and River Cess counties that are marginalized development-wise up to speed with other counties rather than this twisted ‘South Eastern dominance’ of power narrative? A dominance that sadly is bringing no tangible benefits to the people of the region.

The Southeast of Liberia has been one of the most marginalized regions in Liberia. Therefore, it is unfair and unjust to use a broad brush on the entire region when it is an established historical fact that the Greboes of River Gee and Barrobo District in Maryland County are out of national development and meaningful participation in the government of the country. The presence of a son of Barrobo District as Minister of Finance today has not brought the isolation and neglect of Barrobo to an end.

Thus, the focus should be on how we correct this historical injustice against the people of the Southeast and not the peddling of this divisive politics because of the desperation for power. The sons and daughters of the Southeast, especially River Gee and Barrobo District would stand by idly, and watch the historical injustices perpetrated against their forefathers continue.

We will not allow this historical injustice to continue. Any Government that wants to be taken seriously and mean well would institute policies that bring places like River Gee, River Cess, and Gbarpolu on par with Bassa, Montserrado, and Maryland.

 

Main Photo: The Southeastern region of Liberia is noted for deplorable road conditions during the rainy season

Author:

Harry Conway is a son of River Gee and Maryland based in the United Kingdom.

Editor’s note: The position expressed in this commentary are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of the Listener.

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