By Lawrence S. Tuah
It is often said the civil war spoiled Liberia and reduced it to nothing, and that the progressive class must be blamed for everything that is wrong with Liberia, that is how the conservatives want us to interpret the history of Liberia. But, is that how things really are, that the people shouldn’t consider the objective conditions and systematic straitjacket put in place by the establishment before 1980 that inevitably precipitated the outburst of the crisis, absolutely no! In this month of April which brings important moments of Liberia’s pastimes, it is very cogent we dig deep in the revealing accounts of our country as we continue to search for the real causes and backgrounds of the fourteen years of civil unrest in Liberia.
Firstly, the indisputable fact is that the crisis didn’t come as a result of any cosmological or mysterious happenings. The country seems ready for a possible uprising given the type of living conditions that the majority of Liberians were subjected to before 1980. Liberia before and after (April 12, 1980), and remains the Principle Contradiction in our quests to obtain substantive facts that led to the period of wars and instability. The conservatives had ruled Liberia for 133 years since Independence, which gave rise to the military coup which saw the fall of the First Republic- that subjugated the poor masses to forced labor, slavery, and ethnic division.
Unfortunately, sharing power amongst their privileged class and lulling the country as a puppet territory, Liberia was annexed for neo-colonial operations in Africa. The moribund True Wing Party and their actions were similar to the Pharisees and hypocrites of biblical times, they preached Christianity but were not God-fearing. They governed the republic with the sole purpose of enriching themselves at the expense of the state, dominating the politics, and leeching on the resources of the country.
We know these contradictions, how oppressed peoples and their oppressors in many parts of the world have faired; in Kenya, for example, the Mau Mau had to play it role, in South Africa, the uMkhonto we Sizwe which was the Militant Wing of the ANC preserved the posture of the South African Liberation movement after the Sharpeville massacre, etc. We can go on and recount that oppressors have never given up their privileges unless taken; the exploited people must always gain the courage to fight for their freedom and rights, and in such fight, the urgency and the typed of the institution being fought will dictate to the people what method to use.
The Liberian scenario to this component of history has its own explanation: its successes and failures, its highs and lows and its thick and thin, but one thing that remains certain are that the lunatics of the ruling class in Liberia past and today, unfortunately, believe that the people are going to dwell in perpetual silence and suffering.
The Military: Armed Forces of Liberia and the Liberian Frontier Forces
One question I have for the conservatives, is why will a Government even recruit people into the Army who were still at elementary and Junior high levels? This was the same military that had just executed a mandate in Monrovia and painted the capitol with blood just a year before ( April 14, 1979) under the directives of the Government that was panicking ( April 12, 1980) by the same monster it had created. You see, the Army and police were used to settle the crisis of rice and rights in Monrovia on April 14, 1979, and this same Army later settle the crisis of exploitation a year after the rice riot by deposing its masters and employers. Both the Liberian Frontier forces and the Armed forces of Liberia had been used to brutalized the Liberian people, was it surprising when they turned their guns on those who used them for such brutality?
From the words of Dr. H. Bioma Fahnbullah Jr.,” we are told that “when political circumstances are resolved by the guns it is more likely that historical circumstances will be resolved by the guns.” Such was seen in Monrovia on April 12, 1980, but let’s stick to the purposes of this topic, however.
Indigenous Liberians denied citizenship for 100 years
it was about 100 years after independence that indigenous Liberians gained the right to vote in the 1951 elections. Imagine those times when the people could not have a say in the Leadership and political process and functionality of the state. They were reduced to tatters and flights. This has been eternalized by the minority who thought that Liberia was their cooperate enterprise.
But this was not the only issue, imagine in the Declaration of Independence of the Republic of Liberia these lines were written: ” We the people of the Republic of Liberia were originally inhabitants of the United States of North America.” This was penned down with utter disregard for the indigenous masses whose lands had been taken, and settled on. This action suggests that from the early point, Liberia was founded to only work for the handful of settlers supported by the ACS with the motivation to disparage the people and instigate discordance amongst the original natives of Liberia. Even today, most of the treaties and methods used to acquire land from the indigenous chiefs are debatable.
Howbeit the perpetuation of forced labor, slavery, ritualistic killings conducted by President King, Allen Yancy in a deal, and the deal with Firestone Liberia and the Spanish Island of Fernando Po, shows how poor and powerless Liberians were violently recruited and sold as slaves for the purpose of financial gains by the sitting President of the Republic of Liberia. The Christy Report of 1930 says a lot to this effect. These were the decadent and despotic manners in which the country was being governed. Even in the hinterland, the Government sitting in Monrovia carried out many summary executions not supported by law, as it encouraged the Liberia Frontier Force to harassed the population. Chiefs and their peoples who usually disagreed with the dictates of the dictatorial conservatives in Monrovia were subjected to instant deaths with no trial. Young Girls were raped and villages looted by LFF, as the army was protected by the central government in Monrovia and there were many reports of ritualistic killings by govt officials who were rife in the country especially that were never investigated or tried by law.
It is no doubt that the country has never been a country free for all. What it was, was a hegemony where the elites fought amongst themselves for the spoils based on the color of their skin (the Roye Era in Liberia’s history is a clear reference). Ignorantly also, I have read many diatribes from the conservative camp that berates the Progressive class as those who destroyed the country. To me, this is symptomatic of people suffering from temporary insanity or bitterly induced with jealousy and hatred, for the gains and heroic sacrifices of the progressive class. Those who have read the Truth and Reconciliation Documents will understand in the most clearer terms, that unmatch emphasis was placed on the following as the causes of the war: a complete distrust in the judicial system of the country, long term subjugation of the people of the hinterland, racial and ethnic discrimination instituted by the ruling Amearico Librarians ruling class and the PRC junta headed by Samuel Doe, and the civil war actors, wanton Unemployment amongst Liberians, lack of educational opportunities and the perpetuation of gross human rights violations. How can one argue that all these were not the tenants of the True Wing Party misrule, all instigated by it, which legacy still afflicts Liberia and Liberians progress?
Remember, Blyden had to flee the country after the election of Roye, because he wanted an inclusive country that was opposed, add the rice and rights riot of April 14, 1979, and many more injustices perpetrated by the ruling class that against the majority that are violent footnotes in Liberian history and which has set the stage for the conflicts that were to come in succeeding years.
As we all must anticipate and embrace National Healing and Reconciliation, this can only be achieved when all our citizens regardless of class status put their hands together, admit the wrongs of the past and heal the nation. We can never achieve peace and justice when the real doers of the wrongs want to shield under the vile of arrogance and are unapologetic. The Liberian people have endured more than a century of suffering and indignation, they were kept in shanty towns and used as miscreants in their own country. The people over time were only useful for paying taxes ( hut tax for example, without representation), forced labor, slavery, errand boys and girls, and backwater hustlers, by Liberian authorities in both pre and post-1980, eras. These long periods of inherited sufferings of the people from one generation to another set the country on the path for the explosions we have seen.
About the Author: Lawrence S. Tuah is a youth and student advocate. He is a student at the University of Liberia and a Militant of the Student Unification Party (SUP). He can be reached through these means: email- email@example.com, cell-0770563002
Main Photo: President Tubman, Tubman, dailyasinage.com
Main Photo: President Tubman, Tubman, dailyasinage.com