Liberianlistener Tue, 07 Jul 2020 20:24:39 +0000 en-US hourly 1 The Three-Facedness of Ali Sylla – ALCOP, CDC, or UP? – Part 1 Tue, 07 Jul 2020 20:24:39 +0000  

By Martin K. N. Kollie

In 2014, young Ali Sylla had a golden opportunity to etch his name in Liberia’s political history. The Unity Party (UP) chose Sylla as its Senatorial Hopeful to contest in Liberia’s populous County, Montserrado. Young Sylla cheerfully chose to eat his lunch before recess period. This was a missed opportunity.

Even though Sylla was never the most qualified or the most competent candidate to contest on UP’s ticket in 2014 Senatorial Election, but he was preferred, through a democratic process, because the Unity Party thought that Sylla was a symbol of their party’s youthful future. The platform that UP gave Sylla was far bigger than his political stature and political capital.

Sylla had two (2) possible chances or options to his advantage:

  1. To maximize this unique opportunity in order to build his political profile and strategically brand himself by demonstrating loyalty, honesty, integrity, humility, hard work, discipline, and patriotism;

  2. To position himself as a “formidable political force” to reckon with in Montserrado County and across Liberia. Sylla had every opportunity to be like Senator Abraham Darius Dillon of the Liberty Party.

Pathetically, Sylla willfully chose to betray thousands of Liberians including diehard partisans of the Unity Party. Young Sylla chose cash over character. He chose self over sacrifice. The Unity Party (UP) was not only shocked by Sylla’s abrupt action, but embarrassed when he finally sold out to the richest candidate (Robert Sirleaf) even though Sylla could win more votes than Robert as a candidate on UP’s ticket.

Sylla’s only excuse for hurriedly withdrawing his candidature was based on “medical reason” and that “medical reason” remains unknown to date. Young Sylla finally backed off from the race at the ninth hour as the Unity Party was left to wonder and ponder over such unpredictable shift.

Young Sylla had no idea that he was selling or auctioning his political future for 30 pieces of silver. He abused an opportunity that would have made him a political icon in Liberia’s history. This tragedy has rendered Amb. Sylla a political wanderer for about 6 years now. This egregious dent or disloyal past of his may hunt him for decades.

This national urgency or imperative, which lies with us, hasn’t been felt with such deep sense of patriotism and nationalism. The Weah-led government is operating on borrowed time. Elements within its ranks are on crutches. Weah and his men are actually on life-support. I have chosen not to be a prey of those predators. Enough of this abuse of power! Either we struggle in unity or perish in cowardice. Unshaken and resilient with oneness of purpose and destiny, CHANGE is inevitable – a new Liberia of social justice and economic freedom is in sight.
Martin Kollie


Some political pundits have openly averred that Ali Sylla is “hustling” or he is a “hustler”. But I think that Sylla is involved with what is often described as “Political Prostitution”. And “Political Prostitution” is usually provoked by desperation and egotism. This syndrome “Political Prostitution” leads to “Political Polarization”.

Every time a popular election is nearing, this is when Ali Sylla becomes politically active. Most likely, he is looking for his next prey to predate on. Like Unity Party became a victim of his chicanery in 2014, ALCOP or CDC could be next. Sylla is not willing to remain in a political party to build it or to struggle with it. He shifts and swings between parties. Zero Loyalty – Zero Consistency – Zero Commitment – Zero Integrity. For Sylla, politics is more of a business (profit above service). Sylla seems to be a premier dealer in commercial politicking.

This mode points in the direction of political opportunism and carpetbegging. Is Sylla a political optimist or a political opportunist? The latter would suffice in my opinion. How will the next generation even trust our generation when most youngsters are not willing to sacrifice and struggle for an all-inclusive CHANGE? When did Sylla even become a “revolutionary”? Four months to 2020 polls or 3 years to 2023 polls?

Two (2) things have grabbed my attention of late about Sylla’s showboating:

  1. Sylla’s closeness or proximity to President George M. Weah and CDC;

  2. And his expeditious shift from UP to ALCOP ahead of 2020 and 2023 polls.

Sylla has a motive for doing this. I studied Political Science as my minor at the University of Liberia. I studied “Hannah Arendt’s Concept of Political Action” and the “Theory of Consequentialism”. All of these concepts deal with motives and/or behaviors in times of political action. Where is Sylla? Is he still with UP or with ALCOP or with CDC? Sylla currently has a “Triangular Identity” or a “Tripartite Phenotype”. Such three-facedness is collusive and corrosive to our body politics. Like I called out Madam Mary T. Broh a few months ago, Amb. Ali Sylla must also be called out too for his three-facedness.

Ahead of 2020 and 2023 polls, Sylla wants to position himself as a “Support Base” or a “Canvass Caravan” for President George Weah and CDC. The intent of Sylla is to use ALCOP as a vehicle and subsequently use the “Mandingo Community” or “Muslim Community” as his political base or comparative political advantage. I pose no objection to Sylla’s choice or right of joining any political party. It is his right.

But using “Tribal Sentimentalism” or “Ethnicity” or “Religious Bigotry” as a “Trump Card” to gain political capital is dangerous, obsolete, and anti-democratic. Liberia has passed this level. The new debate or national conversation should abhor these sentiments. Political contestations should now be based on the clash of ideas/philosophies and not seeking solace in tribal bigotry, religious sentiment, and egocentrism.

Sylla now calls himself “Leader” of ALCOP even though there has been absolutely no convention or congress held to propel his ambition to such height. Is Sylla fit to become a political leader of any party as he deceivingly attempts to hijack or arrogate unto himself such laurel/title? This style of leadership is undemocratic and has no place in the stock market of competitive political ideas.

Sylla has even appointed one of his kinsmen as Co-chair of ALCOP. Another kinsman is the Chairman of ALCOP. On whose power are they operating? The PEOPLE or a few? In case I want to join ALCOP, how will I think or feel about such an arrangement? This precedent should be discouraged in all political parties everywhere in Liberia. ALCOP, like every political party, should be open to all Liberians regardless of tribe, religion, economic status, or culture Geopolitical balance through tribal/religious tolerance at every level of our society, including in every political party, is crucial to building a strong democratic architecture and a peaceful climate in Liberia.

What is Sylla actually up to? In fact, where is Sylla? Is he with UP, CDC, or ALCOP? The inconsistency of Sylla has rendered him “Three-faced”. Is Sylla a political optimist or a political opportunist? In the latest Facebook post, Sylla is blasting at a group oppressed Liberians who recently burned a few tires in Monrovia as a way of protesting against the increment of charges on internet data/call.

Paradoxically and painfully, Sylla could not blast when our L$16 billion got missing and US$25m unaccounted for. I have not seen Ali Sylla blasting against the 4G acquisition of mammoth private estates and mansions being constructed by Pres. Weah and his cronies. I am seeing Sylla standing and smiling with Pres. Weah at his newly-built complex on RIA Highway. Who is Sylla then? Sylla is yet to even blast at the government for not doing enough to prevent RAPE and to reduce youth unemployment.

I have not seen or heard Sylla blasting about the continuous cut and delay in the salaries of civil servants. When Pres. George Weah visibly conspired to illegally impeach Associate Justice Kabineh J’aneh, I didn’t hear or see Ali Sylla blasting like he’s doing now. I along with Emmanuel Gonquoi and Carlos Edison had to organize a mass protest on the grounds of the National Legislature to resist this conspiracy against Justice J’aneh. Where was this so-called “revolutionary” in Ali Sylla when we risked our lives? Probably he couldn’t see or hear then. Huh…

Must we allow an opportunist like Sylla to pollute Liberia’s political corridors with such parochial agenda once more? No..No..No. We must be bold and honest about how we do politics or business in Liberia. The action of Sylla can only fit in the triangle of opportunism, egocentrism, and sectarianism. Since Pres. Weah along with his government has become so unpopular, Weah’s intent is to rig 2020 and 2023 polls.

To do this, he needs to re-solidify his political base against popular opposition political parties (e.g. CPP). So, Weah is building relationships/solidarity with smaller parties. Sylla is an emissary/conduit of this game plan. Weah intends to use this strategy as a pretext to steal votes. But it’s going to be an impossible and a tough pursuit that is eventually going to produce a dead end.

Additionally, Amb. Sylla should not even be actively participating in politics as an political appointee who currently has an assignment in Qatar, Asia. The action of Sylla is a violation of The 2014 Code of Conduct Law. But who is seeing and talking about this? We must be bold with the truth. Our political system in Liberia is very polarized due to disloyalty, inconsistency, bigotry, et al. Henceforth, our society must begin to deal with these unethical precedents. People cannot continue to abuse the doctrine of “free association” or “freedom to associate” to continue being disloyal, dishonest, and inconsistent.

Politics should be based on honesty and not disloyalty. It should be based on philosophical principles and ideologies that are primarily intended to deliver the people from poverty and misery. It should not be based on rhetoric and bigotry. Like I would do to anyone especially any public official, I am calling Sylla out. I hope he accepts this bold critique in good faith.

About The Author: Martin K. N. Kollie is an exiled Liberian activist and columnist. He is a former student leader in Liberia and an emerging economist. He can be reached via: martin


Main Photo: Ali Sylla

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The Path To Democracy Remains Elusive: A Metaphor Of Elegy And Eulogy Thu, 02 Jul 2020 23:21:01 +0000  


I speak to you all today from my heart and I hope you will listen to me very carefully and try to understand that the future of your children can be decided by the way you think and act now. Over the years, you have suffered a lot. Your country is destroyed; many of your friends and relatives died during years of war. Your children are looking into the future without hope. Many of your daughters are scattered across West Africa living a sorrowful and shameful existence. Many of your sons have fallen on hard times and taken to crime out of hunger, hopelessness and anger! Our people are not different from other people. The Liberian people do not love suffering. They want peace, happiness and the space to work, earn a decent living and bring up their children who will grow up to be hardworking teachers, marketer’s, carpenters, doctors, nurses, farmers, taxi drivers, police officers and soldiers.

The dream of all parents is to see their children become good citizens in a country where people respect others because they are all equal in the sight of God. A nation is made up of people who believe that they are one people because they believe in themselves, in the possibility of becoming someone if given the opportunity. A nation brings people together when the laws protect everyone and the wealth of the country is used for the benefit of everyone. A nation develops its culture from the everyday practices and activities of its people. The people see themselves as one when they feel satisfied that no one will beat, cheat and bully them without facing the law of the land. In order to bring a nation together, you must first bring the people together by letting them hope together, dream together and work together for the benefit of themselves and their children.

A nation cannot be unified and a people brought together when some people are above the law and do as they please in society. In a society where injustice is all around, there is anger, frustration and bitterness. In a nation where the people’s children are seen as cheap playthings for rich and powerful men and women, there is pain and this can be seen on the faces of those who suffer if you take time to look. In a nation where men and women are cheated and laughed at because they come from another group, tribe or clan, there is bitterness and you can see it from the look of hatred and anger—that is if you look carefully! But how many of us take the time to notice the pain, anger and bitterness of our fellow citizens outside of election time? How many of us are honest enough to say what we all know but afraid to express–that is that we have not built a nation?

After 158 years, we all know that there is a space called Liberia! We know that in this space there are many tribes—some with developed systems of human interaction. We know that in this space there has been a history of conflicts, wars and distrust. We also know that the history of this space reads like the history of conquest by one group over others. In this space, we have done horrible things to each other over the years simply because we have lived like strangers in this space. There are many of us who have not gone beyond our towns, villages and communities. Even when we move into the city called Monrovia, we are most often forced by necessity to go where our tribesmen live and we thus find ourselves in New Kru Town, Vai Town, Buzzi Quarters, Bassa Community or in places where the poorest of us gather—West Point, Clara Town, Logan Town, Newport Street, etc., etc.

Our idea of a nation over a century and a half has been formed by the small spaces we occupy in this large space called Liberia. This has been our major tragedy. After fifteen decades, we are strangers to each other because only strangers treat each other the way we have treated one another over this century and a half!

Why have we failed to build a nation—that is to bring the people together as one with a common destiny? The reasons are many and the historians have given different interpretations. But one fact stands out: a nation cannot be built when there are those who see themselves as masters and regard the others as servants and slaves. The history of South Africa demonstrates this very well! A nation is built by having all the people regard themselves firstly, as equal citizens; secondly, as equal partners in work and development and thirdly, as equal compatriots who succeed because of their talents and not because of birth, name or connections. Why did we fail to bring our people together after all these years? Maybe we have not honestly looked at ourselves and the way we have done things in the past.

The history of this space called Liberia has always been the history of those who ruled. This can explain the reason why people fight for power so brutally, cunningly and dishonestly in this space, thinking that by ascending to power, they are making history and creating for themselves a place in the folklores of the people. There is hardly any history of the working man and woman, of the rubber tapers, carpenters, farmers and ordinary people. There is no history of those who built the old frame houses; those who built the roads into the plantations; those who built the canoes for traveling and fishing. In short, there is no history of the people. What we have read since childhood is the history of those who ruled this space—whether gloriously or ingloriously. This history is that of a group, a segment and is not enough to forge the unity needed for the building of a nation.

In recent times—going back to the thirties—this was what Juah Nimley tried to express: the opening up of this space for the inclusion of all the people, their culture and historical experiences in order for us to create a nation of equal partners with our rich diversity in unity! Those who ruled then and wrote their history refused to listen!! And then there was Edwin J. Barclay who tried to open up this space by fusing the aspirations of all his countrymen. Again, they refused to listen.

Didwho is pronounced as DEE-WOO. “Twe was born in Monrovia on April 14, 1879 to Klao (Kru) parents. He was light in complexion, with a cicatricle on his forehead, a mark that distinguished people of Klao ethnic group from other indigenous tribes. [Welleh Didwho] Twe received his early education from the American Methodist and Trinity Episcopal institutions, as well as Patsy Barclay Private School. Also, he graduated from Cuttington Collegiate and Divinity School in Cape Palmas, Maryland (Liberia). In 1894, a US Congressman by the name of William Grout assisted Twe to travel to the United States to further his studies. During his stay in the United States, Twe attended several institutions, which includes, St. Johnbury Academy in Vermont, Cushing Academy in Ashburnham, Massachusetts, Rhode Island University, where he received his Master’s degree, and later studied agriculture at Columbia and Harvard universities” (Tuan Wreh, The Love of Liberty: The Rule of President William V.S. Tubman in Liberia, 1976, p. 48 & Dunn & Holsoe, Historical Dictionary of Liberia, 1985, p. 177).
D. Twe, Statesman, Politician
Then came Didho Twe, Nete Sie Brownell, Raymond Horace, David Coleman, T.R. Bracewell, Kollie Tamba, Du Fahnbulleh and again and again, they refused to listen! These men we mentioned wanted a nation, not a geographical space, but those who ruled dismissed the idea and aspirations.
This space called Liberia created a deformed culture in the process of exclusion. The dresses of our noble kings and chiefs were laughed at and considered uncivilized. Our traditional dances became spectacles of entertainment for city dwellers and visiting tourists instead of the deep cultural expressions of resistance and creative activities. Our traditional schools of spiritual reflection and enlightenment became associated with primitive living. While those who ruled condemned the cultural practices of the majority of the people who lived in this space, they went to the extreme and imported the habits of perfect strangers. The tailcoats and bowler hats, evening gowns and gloves became the dresses for state occasions. Do not mention the heat of the tropics and the inappropriateness of this kind of dressing!

They based everything on a kind of American influence, which in reality was deceptive. Let me clarify here. In America, the leading sporting activities are American football, baseball and basketball. We were too poor to buy the outfits for football and baseball and so we settled for basketball, which allowed one to even go half naked. In America, they love hot dog, popcorn and apple pie. Here, we could not afford any of these! So where was the American influence? It existed only in the imagination of those who ruled because their history was a sad portion of the history of those who ruled America.

This was the sad state of the space we called Liberia for over a hundred years. Here was a space with abundant wealth, hardworking people and fertile land, but we lived in poverty, hunger and backwardness. We lived like strangers because the roads did not connect our villages, but ran from the city to the plantations and mines. Even on the plantations and mines, we lived apart from the others—be they strangers from overseas or our compatriots from the city who had been privileged to attend the universities in the country or had attended others in Europe and America. At times, we could not identify our compatriots from the strangers from overseas because they behaved the same despite the skin differences!

We all called ourselves Liberians but we all had different interpretations of our Liberianess. In reality, the space we occupied had no sense of national identity, no togetherness of our aspirations and dreams; no combination of our hopes and efforts; and no cultural framework for national respect. Against this background, we shifted our identities depending on circumstances: Flomo became John; Yarpakro became Benson; Gumpu became Anderson and Tambakai became Tommy. We abandoned our heritage and turned to those who were themselves grappling with the crisis of identity to approve of our identity! This was the state of affairs in this space when some young men returned home from school in the United States.

They returned with a dream: that this space called Liberia could become a nation of equal partners and with its abundant resources; the people could develop together and share a common experience in nation building. These young men hoped that what they had learned in America could be put at the service of all their people and not at the service of only the rulers and their foreign friends. Theirs was a demand for a nationalism that would bridge the social divide and bring the people together to create a common history. This collection of young men and women constituted that group we called “the progressive forces.” These young men and women began their long march for the building of a nation by affirming their identity. This was the first step in the reawakening of our cultural heritage. They came back to Africa as Africans and carried within their hearts the dreams of the patrons of modern African nationalism. They reverted to that identity which could only be dynamic within the vibrancy of African culture. With this culture as a symbol of pride and not one of shame, they agitated for an Africa built by workers and enjoyed by workers; serviced by marketeers, carpenters, small traders, rubber tapers, taxi drivers and enjoyed by them; an Africa pushed into the light of knowledge and enlightened by teachers, students, scholars and the clergy and appreciated by all of them.

These young men wanted to build a nation in Africa, the same as those dreamt of by Patrick Lumumba of The Congo; Kwame Nkrumah of Ghana; Modibo Keita of Mali; Ahmed Sekou Toure of Guinea; Amilcar Cabral of Guinea-Bissau; Felix Moumie of Cameroon; Mallam Aminu Kano of Nigeria; Steve Biko, Chris Hani, Joe Slovo and Nelson Mandela of South Africa; Julius Nyerere of Tanzania; Didan Kimathi and Stanley Muthenge of Kenya; Gamal Abdel Nasser of Egypt; Ahmed Ben Barka of Morocco; ITA Wallace Johnson of Sierra Leone; Edward Blyden, Albert Porte, Wiwi Debbah and Wuo Tapia of Liberia; Agostinho Neto of Angola; Samora Machel of Mozambique—to name a few. Theirs would have been an Africa of resistance to merciless exploitation and social backwardness that have seen Africa slid down the scale of human achievements in all areas.

This was the essence of the struggle in this space called Liberia. We wanted to forge a nation of equal partners based on our common historical experiences like the building of trade routes between the tribal entities before the coming of the Portuguese; or the development of languages among the Kwa and the Mande-Mel people; or the similarity in sculptures, drums and dances among the various cultures; or the system of kingship and governance in all our cultures. In addition, the shared historical experiences among the settlers and the people in Grand Cape Mount, Grand Bassa, Sino and Maryland could have served us well with new interpretations! This was the basis on which we agitated for a re-examination of the history of our people. We also expressed our identity by upholding with pride the names of our forefathers and walking with dignity in the lappas and gowns of our people.

We came home as simple men not in search of jobs and wealth, but in search of a nation and a people. We found the outline of our nation by examining the history of resistance of those who refused to yield to the injustices in the society. We knew that in the history of resistance could be found the true history of the people who inhabited this space called Liberia. And so we went back to the history of those who did not rule but spoke truth to power! And what we found excited us and made us believe that it was possible to create a nation in this space. We spoke of the need to open this space and allow all the people to participate in the political process. We challenged the old stories of conquest, of domination, of rule by one segment of society.

This was the context in which we called for the abolition of the property clause in the old constitution, which had existed since 1847.

We knew that in building a nation it was impossible to exclude the majority of the people who did not have property because vast tracts of land had been taken away from the people in towns and upcountry.
We shouted to high heavens that it was wrong for public positions to be given to people based on names and family connections. We argued that a nation is never built when wealth is controlled by a few and the majority of the people in the space are forced to live in horrible places called West Point, Clara Town, New Kru Town, Vai Town, Smell No Taste, etc., etc. We shouted our lungs out that education is a right and not a privilege and that the people’s children should be given the opportunity to go to school and enlighten themselves. We pleaded that although the constitution had faults, yet it guaranteed certain rights and one such was the right to assemble and petition the government. We pronounced the declaration of independence in the old constitution that all men are created equal, endowed by their creator with certain inalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.

This was where we were when in April 1979, soldiers were brought out of the barracks to stop the exercise of a constitutional right—that which dealt with the right to assemble in a peaceful manner and petition the government for the redress of grievances! It was never understood by those who called out the army in 1979 that when guns become decisive in the settlement of political and economic disputes, then historical grievances will be settled by guns also! This was the tragic lesson that most people have still not understood. They want to bury their heads in the sand like the proverbial ostrich and blame the progressive forces by wrongly arguing that “they started it.” Did we now? Where during the decade of agitation for democratic rights did the progressive forces ever called on the army? We called on the people to seize their rights and build a future for their children! It was our right to explain to the farmers, the market women, small traders, teachers, rubber tapers and ordinary people that they had the right to live like human beings and to enjoy the wealth of this space called Liberia.

The army and violence were introduced by those who felt that they could continue making their history at the expense of the common people. They gambled that those who held the guns would continue saying “yes sir” as old. But things had changed! We did not know the army but the army had heard the cries for justice. The hardest of men with guns can be moved by the sight of dead students, weeping mothers and distraught fathers. In addition, they can feel pain and sadness at the sight of young students and lecturers thrown into prison for simply stating the truth that the beginning of slavery starts with the denial to the people of the bare necessities of life.

Let us ask those who have condemned the progressive forces all these years for the tragic history of this space. Were we wrong to demand justice for the majority of the people? Were we wrong to argue that in order to build a nation the people must be treated like human beings and not allow to waste their lives in horrible slums like West Point, Clara Town, Newport Street, Buzzi Quarters and all the terrible places which are not decent for even animals to live not to talk of human beings? Were we wrong to demand that the rubber taper’s sons and daughters, the market woman’s children, the carpenter’s daughters and the ordinary people’s offspring be given decent education so that they too could become leaders in their various fields tomorrow? Were we wrong to shout that Flomo, Korto and Yarpakro should be given equal opportunities like all the others and through merit occupy any position in the land? Ask yourself the question: why in 1980, after 133 years of independence, did it have to take guns to change the political landscape in this space and put the first son of the majority of the people in the Executive Mansion?

Why if you had a nation—which is a community with shared values and aspirations—did it take such violence over the years to bring to the political forefront the Mamadees, the Sayes, the Toes, the Flomos, etc., etc. Your national anthem says: “In union strong success is sure, we cannot fail….” But you failed and have produced a failed state. Why? Because you had no union! How is it possible to build a nation when some of us feel that we are better than others because of birth and family connections? How can we build a union when those from a particular background must always be standard bearers why those from other background are chosen as running mates? Why can it not be the other way round that for once you from a particular background accept to be running mates to others from other backgrounds? Is it right that you must always rule over a people you treat as strangers except during elections? Is it because we hold these views that you condemn us as those responsible for the tragedy that has befallen our people? Would you rather we had kept quiet and allow the injustice and mockery to continue? If we did then, we would not have been men and women of conscience.

HBF: It was my way of delineating social classes and their reactions to the questions of patriotism and nationalism in a situation of political crisis. Again, the attempt was to draw our attention to that facet of our history which some ethnicists were trying to deny after the coup: that there ever were progressive and enlightened members of that social group called Americo-Liberians. This perception was ahistorical and downright reactionary. There have always been enlightened and progressive members of that group as one could see from the works of Blyden, Barclay, Bracewell, etc. Joe Benson was a symbol of that progressive tendency within this group which had maintained power after Barclay, would have altered the history of our country in a very positive direction.
Dr. Boimah Fahnbulleh Jr.

We took a position over two decades ago that it was possible to build a nation, united in dreams and aspirations because we are all equal and believe in liberty and justice for all! We have been disrupted from laying the foundation for this nation of equal partners by coups and counter-coups, wars and the rumours of wars, rebellions and counter-rebellions, but we have remained firm in the conviction that a nation can be built in this space. Due to the fact that we have held on to the conviction that we will fight for justice wherever and whenever, some have called us re-cycled politicians. We do not run away from accusations. We explain why they are made against us and let our people be the judges. If injustice is re-cycled from one regime to another, then we are re-cycled because we will fight against injustice wherever and whenever! If the exploitation of the people is re-cycled then we are re-cycled because we will struggle against exploitation and man’s inhumanity to man!! If the poverty of the people is re-cycled from one government to another then we will always be re-cycled because we have made a pledge with our conscience to struggle against poverty and the abuse of the African people.

For any people determined to build a nation, it is necessary to have men and women who are re-cycled in the cause of justice, liberty and dignity. These men and women must be identified and must be followed for the common good. And this is why we pray in the words of Josiah Gilbert Holland:

“God, give us men! A time like this demands
Strong minds, great hearts, true faith and ready hands;

Men whom the lust of office does not kill;
Men whom the spoils of office cannot buy;
Men who possess opinions and a will;
Men who have honour; Men who will not lie;
Men who can stand before a demagogue
And damn his treacherous flatteries without winking!

Tall men, sun-crowned, who live above the fog
In public duty, and in private thinking;
For while the rabble, with their thumb-worn creeds,

Their large professions and their little deeds,
Mingle in selfish strife, lo! Freedom weeps,
Wrong rules the land and waiting justice sleeps.”

Compatriots, come join us to build a nation. Let us empower the people and their children by allowing anybody to be standard bearer of any party and not just certain people from certain background. Let us engage the people in debates and enlighten the young minds so that they do not just follow anybody, especially those they are smarter than! Let us open the economic space which would allow the farmers, the small traders, the market women, the ordinary people and the teachers to make a decent living through hard work and own property in the land. This would give them a stake in the new nation. Let us decentralize power by decentralizing wealth which would make farmer Kollie a millionaire through hard work just as it has made businessman “Hashim” and “John Peters” millionaires. It is not power which is centralized in our society. It is wealth. There is power in the schools, the churches, the mosques, the villages, the communities and in the separate branches of government. But it has made no difference to the status of those who hold it if they are poor.

One thing is certain: rich men and women do not easily yield to injustice and bullying. Poor people do! Let the people be economically empowered in order to feed their families and get respect from their children. Let men and women find the means to live decently and they will stop selling themselves cheaply.
Young people, this could be the beginning for you and your children tomorrow. Stay in school, learn and understand the world around you! The teacher who teaches well plants a seed. The student who stays in school, learns and develops the skill for nation building is the one who harvests the bountiful resources of the land. This is the way it should be! Knowledge is power and in the political arena, a people succeed when they entrust power to knowledge. Power without knowledge is a very dangerous thing. Knowledge without power can still fertilise the minds of men and make them dream great dreams of future progress and prosperity.

This is our message to you our people—especially the young ones. Listen to us—the progressive forces. We who carry within our hearts the tragic history of our people—listen to us for once! We can build a nation together—one founded on brotherhood, equality and justice. It is not too late to trust us and to hope. It is said that the greatest darkness comes before dawn. You have seen this darkness that brought with it the harvest of the locusts and with it the misery of the people. Now the dawn of justice begins with you by our side. Let us together begin the march of the common people into a future with justice and liberty for all.

The above speech was delivered by Dr. Fahnbulleh to partisans of the Alliance for Peace and Democracy at a convention in 2005,

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I might have been better on a hilltop in Nepal Thu, 02 Jul 2020 22:19:33 +0000 Introduction: Dag Walker is an amazing writer traveling the world, who currently finds himself in Quito, Ecuador, where he enjoys the beautiful weather far from his own home– in North America. In the mountains and hills of his current residence, he finds time, and solace to contemplate writing and structuring his thoughts as he pound ideas we need in a world that seeks to self destruct, writing that he is “hopeful”! Walker wrote this short essay as— a reflection of what writers go through before they get published, but also as an admonishment to the quiet, lonely ,long nights and days at his writing desk. His essay is also penned for writers both young old trying their best to see their manuscripts in print, not to give up.   —- Cherbo Geeplay, poet

I know almost nothing about the man sitting at the next table on the rooftop here in Quito, Ecuador. I can’t claim to know much about the world. I know myself only slightly. Any opinion I might express about anything is practically worthless. I could live on this block in this city for a hundred years and not know much about my neighbors. It’s time to accept that I just don’t know much, and then to move on to live my own private life.

In a day or so, my tenth book might finally have an Introduction. I await the fifth draft of this short essay. My “three week novel” is now past three years and eight months in the making. It is about the state of our world. I might have been better off using that time to bonefish in the Florida everglades. I might have been better to have sat on a hilltop in Nepal

As soon as the introduction to this novel is finished, off it goes to Dionne Pelan for her to complete the final steps on the way to publication. The final result is likely to be the same as that of the previous books I’ve published.

I have some hope that my writing efforts will satisfy those few who read the work. I find that I really don’t know much, but that I write about the world in the hope that I know something more than nothing. It’s just one book, like one grain of sand that in its small way adds to the beach of literature. One grain missing or added means not a thing to the whole. Still, one lives with the givens of life. Life is private. Whether we know the life of the man next to us or not, it is still a life to live; in ignorance or not, it is still of some value. I hope this novel, small as it is, will be of interest, a grain of almost nothing or not.

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Africa doesn’t need charity, it needs good leadership Sat, 27 Jun 2020 01:07:16 +0000


By Sam Adeyem


There is an ongoing discussion on the effectiveness of foreign aid in helping the economic development of Africa. One thing is obvious: the results are not exactly what Africa’s development partners have expected, and the reasons are not far-fetched. Dambisa Moyo, global economist and author, contends in her book Dead Aid that while foreign aid that addresses humanitarian needs caused by drought and conflict is helpful, most of the aid given to African countries is rather harmful. The OECD provides comprehensive statistics on the kinds and volume of aid received by the continent up until 2015. Moyo lists the problems enhanced by aid to include corruption, civil conflict, shrinking of the middle class, and the instilling of a culture of dependency. All of these combine to make Africa unattractive to global investors.

It has become obvious that it is politics that drives the economies of nations. Acemoglu and Robinson assert in their seminal book Why Nations Fai’ that the major difference between developed countries and developing countries is in their political evolution. Developed countries have political and economic systems that are inclusive and offer opportunities for most people to create wealth.

However, most developing economies have political and economic systems that are extractive. Those in the ruling class have a strong hold on political power, and use it to channel economic resources to benefit themselves and those close to them. Foreign aid, when channelled through such extractive systems, almost never reaches the most vulnerable in society. We need to rethink the form of aid Africa needs and the platforms for distributing or offering it.

Also, globalization is the reality of our day and age. There is increasing economic, social, technical, cultural and political interdependence between nations. People are more inter-connected now than ever before. The availability of worldwide communication systems through rapid improvements in communication technology and the internet has led to more international trade and cultural exchange. But globalization does not appear to be hastening Africa’s development. The problem is also rooted in the political structure and the leadership culture prevalent in Africa.

The problem is leadership

Some years ago, I had a discussion with Donald Duke, former governor of Cross River State in Nigeria. I commended his vision for a plan to attract large numbers of tourists from around the world, impacting positively on the economy of the state and the nation. I observed that a large number of leaders in Nigeria can’t envision Nigeria as a developed nation, and talk more of mobilizing citizens to actualize the vision. He replied with an illustration: Nigeria, he said, is like an aircraft that is being flown by pilots that did not go to flying school. He added that when the plane crashes, everyone blames the pilot. The question therefore is: where are Africa’s leadership “flying schools?” How and where do Africans acquire sophistication in the leadership skills required to guide the continent into development?

Children return from school in the mid-morning, in Ikarama village on the outskirts of the Bayelsa state capital, Yenagoa, in Nigeria's delta region October 8, 2015. Tensions are building in the swampland of the Niger Delta as an amnesty that aimed to bring stability to Nigeria's volatile southern region is due to expire at the end of the year. While the region's towns and cities are mostly calm, local residents say kidnappings and armed robberies are on the increase in the mangrove swamps, where most oil wells are located. Former military ruler and Muslim northerner President Muhammadu Buhari said in his inauguration speech in May that he might
Image: REUTERS/Akintunde Akinleye

The cultivation of leaders with exceptional character and skills is critical to Africa’s development. Africa’s development partners should recognize that it is too late to teach someone who occupies a high position in government how to lead during side talks at global events. They should also bear in mind that there has to be alignment between the sense of identity of the leader and that of the followers for leadership to work.

Incompetence in leadership in most African countries is not only the problem of people who occupy positions in government; it is a reflection of the leadership culture. We’ve had different leaders with the same results for decades. The power distance that exists between leaders in government and citizens is also reflected in organizations and families. In such a structure, leaders don’t serve; they are served, because occupying leadership positions make leaders superior and unaccountable to the people they lead. Africa needs leadership development systems, and it is incumbent on development partners and global leaders to understand how cultural differences affect these.

Wanted: effective leadership development systems

Opportunities for developing leaders have never been greater in our increasingly complex world. Diagnosing leadership development needs, especially in Africa, requires an assessment of the entire leadership culture. For example, the GLOBE project, conceived of by Robert J. House of the Wharton Business School and conducted on organizations and middle-level managers around the world, describe countries in sub-Saharan Africa as scoring high in power distance and in-group collectivism, but low in performance orientation. Leaders do whatever it takes to produce results in such a leadership culture, and they usually position themselves and their cronies above the law. Most of the citizens have leadership potential, but several factors inhibit their leadership development, such as bad governance, poverty, corruption and religious bias. Most young people in Africa are hungry to learn and to realize their potential. They seek respected mentors and resources to help them navigate the complex life challenges they face. However, there is a dearth of institutions and curricula to help them realize such desires.

A broader view of leadership development provides insights into why some initiatives are more successful than others at generating change in individual behaviour. To have an impact, the capabilities being developed in the individual need to mesh with the leadership culture in which the leader is embedded. Most of the leadership development curriculum developed in Western countries may not particularly address individual situations, especially youth in developing parts of the world, who have little education as a foundation, and who are distracted by the struggle for survival occasioned by rampant poverty.

According to the GLOBE studies, emerging leaders in some developing countries approach foreigners cautiously; that’s because they’re not used to participative styles of leadership, and prefer bold, assertive styles of leadership. The notion of fear is high due to the conservativeness in the culture, and most people have not been trained to be independent thinkers that are willing to step outside their ‘boxes’ unless directed to do so by leaders. They have developed a learned state of helplessness, with the overwhelming feeling that they cannot change their circumstances. The culture is permission seeking. Unfortunately, the ruling class is not interested in granting permission for the mass of the people to be admitted into its cadre. In such a culture, the community dominates the individual, and women are hardly empowered.

Change is possible

Africa’s large youth population presents a great opportunity to influence the emergence of a new generation of leaders. The reality, though, is that the elite class on the continent tends to appropriate the existing curriculum for leadership development in expensive executive education programmes in business schools, whose fees are beyond the capabilities of the major part of the population. There is a need to democratize the leadership development process in the developing world. The high rate of infusion of mobile technology could be an advantage. This will make formal and informal leadership development an inclusive process that will reach people at all levels of society.

Africa needs cultural change agents that will leverage both business and non-profit platforms to offer leadership development training to a large proportion of the population. Such agents must have experienced a change in their own mind-sets. Development partners around the globe who genuinely seek Africa’s transformation should appreciate that the extractive leadership structures in that part of the world will not allow the intellectual, material and financial resources they distribute to create any meaningful and lasting change on the continent. They should cut down on the volume of financial aid, while partnering with cultural change agents who are democratizing the development of leaders at all levels, enhancing the evolution of inclusive political and economic structures.

Main Photo: African Leaders gathered at the AU, Pambazuka News

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Berlin 1884: Remembering the conference that divided Africa Sat, 27 Jun 2020 00:36:51 +0000

135 years ago, European leaders sat around a horseshoe-shaped table to set the rules for Africa’s colonization.



On the afternoon of Saturday, November 15, 1884, an international conference was opened by the chancellor of the newly-created German Empire at his official residence on Wilhelmstrasse, in Berlin. Sat around a horseshoe-shaped table in a room overlooking the garden with representatives from every European country, apart from Switzerland, as well as those from the United States and the Ottoman Empire. The only clue as to the purpose of the November gathering of white men was hung on the wall – a large map of Africa “drooping down like a question mark” as Nigerian historian, Professor Godfrey Uzoigwe, would comment.

Including a short break for Christmas and the New Year, the West African Conference of Berlin would last 104 days, ending on February 26, 1885. In the 135 years since, the conference has come to represent the late 19th-century European Scramble and Partition of the continent. In the popular imagination, the delegates are hunched over a map, armed with rulers and pencils, sketching out national borders on the continent with no idea of what existed on the ground they were parcelling out. Yet this is mistaken. The Berlin Conference did not begin the scramble. That was well under way. Neither did it partition the continent. Only one state, the short-lived horror that was the Congo Free State, came out of it – though strictly speaking it was not actually a creation of the conference.

It did something much worse, though, with consequences that would reverberate across the years and be felt until today. It established the rules for the conquest and partition of Africa, in the process legitimising the ideas of Africa as a playground for outsiders, its mineral wealth as a resource for the outside world not for Africans and its fate as a matter not to be left to Africans.

From the very start, the conference laid out the order of priorities. “The Powers are in the presence of three interests: That of the commercial and industrial nations, which a common necessity compels to the research of new outlets. That of the States and of the Powers summoned to exercise over the regions of the Congo an authority which will have burdens corresponding to their rights. And, lastly, that which some generous voices have already commended to your solicitude – the interests of the native populations.” It also resolutely refused to consider the question of sovereignty, and the legitimacy of laying claim to someone else’s land and resources.

Uzoigwe notes that: “Bismarck … stated in his opening remarks that delegates had not been assembled to discuss matters of sovereignty either of African states or of the European powers in Africa.” It was no accident that there were no Africans at the table – their opinions were not considered necessary. The efforts of the Sultan of Zanzibar to get himself invited to the party were summarily laughed off by the British.

American journalist Daniel De Leon described the conference as “an event unique in the history of political science … Diplomatic in form, it was economic in fact.” And it is true that while it was dressed up as a humanitarian summit to look at the welfare of locals, its agenda was almost purely economic. Few on the continent or in the African diaspora were fooled. A week before it closed, the Lagos Observer declared that “the world had, perhaps, never witnessed a robbery on so large a scale.” Six years later, another editor of a Lagos newspaper comparing the legacy conference to the slave trade said: “A forcible possession of our land has taken the place of a forcible possession of our person.” Theodore Holly, the first black Protestant Episcopal Bishop in the US, condemned the delegates as having “come together to enact into law, national rapine, robbery and murder”.

The outcome of the conference was the General Act signed and ratified by all but one of the 14 nations at the table, the US being the sole exception. Some of its main features were the establishment of a regime of free trade stretching across the middle of Africa, the development of which became the rationale for the recognition of the Congo Free State and its subsequent 13-year horror, the abolition of the overland slave trade as well as the principle of “effective occupation”.

The author

Though the attempt to create a free trade area in Africa and therefore keep the continent from becoming both a spark for, and a theatre of conflict between the European powers, was ultimately doomed. The principle of “effective occupation” was to become the catalyst for military conquest of the African continent with far-reaching consequences for its inhabitants.

At the time of the conference, 80 percent of Africa remained under traditional and local control. The Europeans only had influence on the coast. Following it, they started grabbing chunks of land inland, ultimately creating a hodgepodge of geometric boundaries that was superimposed over indigenous cultures and regions of Africa. However, to get their claims over African land accepted, European states had to demonstrate that they could actually administer the area.

Often, military victory proved to be the easy part. To govern, they found they had to contend with a confusing milieu of fluid identities and cultures and languages. The Europeans thus set about reorganising Africans into units they could understand and control. As Professor Terence Ranger noted, the colonial period was marked “by systematic inventions of African traditions – ethnicity, customary law, ‘traditional’ religion. Before colonialism Africa was characterised by pluralism, flexibility, multiple identity; after it, African identities of ‘tribe’, gender and generation were all bounded by the rigidities of invented tradition.”

That first-ever international conference on Africa established a template for how the world deals with the continent. Today, Africa is still seen primarily as a source for raw materials for the outside world and an arena for them to compete over. Conferences about the continent are rarely held on the continent itself and rarely care about the views of ordinary Africans.

The sight of African heads of state assembling in foreign capitals to beg for favours is a re-enactment of the Sultan of Zanzibar’s pleading to attend a conference where he would be the main course. Despite achieving independence for the most part in the 1950s and 1960s, many African countries have continued along the destructive path laid out in Berlin. Former Tanzanian President Julius Nyerere declared: “We have artificial ‘nations’ carved out at the Berlin Conference in 1884, and today we are struggling to build these nations into stable units of human society… we are in danger of becoming the most Balkanised continent of the world.” Ethnicity and tribalism continue to be the bane of African politics. “The Berlin Conference was Africa’s undoing in more ways than one,” wrote Jan Nijman, Peter Muller and Harm de Blij in their book, Geography: Realms, Regions, and Concepts. “The colonial powers superimposed their domains on the African continent. By the time independence returned to Africa… the realm had acquired a legacy of political fragmentation that could neither be eliminated nor made to operate satisfactorily.”

Now, 135 years after Berlin, it is perhaps time for introspection. While it is impossible to turn back the clock, Africans would do well to reflect on what has happened since. Teaching the real history of the subjugation of the continent would help counter the myths of “ancient hatreds” that are said to fuel the conflicts on the continent. And Africans could decide to get together on the continent to debate and decide on the relationship they want with the rest of the world rather than always having that dictated to them from abroad.

The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect the views of Liberian Listener. This piece was first published in Aljazeera, in Nov. 2019 

ABOUT THE AUTHOR Patrick Gathara is a communications consultant, writer, and award-winning political cartoonist based in Nairobi.

Main Photo: Cartoon,
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The Liberian Election Of 1951: A Witness To History Wed, 24 Jun 2020 23:49:48 +0000  


By Dagbayonoh Kiah Nyanfore ll


The presidential election of 1951 in Liberia was one of the interesting events in the country’s electoral politics. I was five years old during the election. I write about what I witnessed and what I later learned and understood through research. The race was between sitting President William V.S. Tubman and his challenger Didwho Welleh Twe pictured above with Tubman on the right.

Tubman knew that Twe would easily win the election because of Twe’s native background. Twe was the first Liberian native to seek the Liberian presidency. The country was ruled and dominated by the self-named Americo-Liberians, descendants of Black ex-slaves from America in 1822. To overcome the challenge, Tubman branded Twe a tribalist, a divisive figure, an inherent traitor, and a sophisticated bigot. Tubman went further, informed that Twe was from Settra Kru, a low section of the Kru tribe, Tubman maintained that Twe was not a real Kru and did not have the support of the majority Kru people.

Certainly, the Settra Kru or sometimes called Nana Kru is in Sinoe County and is considered among some Krus as less important and has less educated people. Tubman began influencing well known Kru people from the established Kru sections, including Grandcess, Picnicess, Sasstown, and Sanguine. They are the sea coast Krus with many educated people, most of whom were desirous of government jobs during that time. The government then and now was the main employer in Liberia.

Tubman was successful in the above strategy as many educated Krus began denouncing Twe. They may have felt that Twe as a lesser Kru did not deserve to be President. Apparently, they believed that the quest for such a position should have come from one of them. They also may have feared that a Twe administration would give power and influence to a low section of the tribe and could affect them. The late Dominique Nimley, a Kru from Grandcess, indicated in an interview in 1997 that many educated Krus did not support Twe but supported Tubman largely because of Twe’s low ethnic background.

Tubman’s strategy to divide the Kru majority against Twe failed. Tubman then decided to use the political machinery against Twe. The True Whig Party regime in July 1950 denied Twe’s party, the United People Party (UPP) from registering, stating that the new party did not have the required number of members to register. At first, Senator R.F.D. Witherspoon of Sinoe County challenged the probate of the party articles of incorporation and stopped it from becoming a legal organization. The government arrested Twe in August 1950 on a sedition charge after the rejection of his party registration in July that year.

However, the government released him in consideration of his request to travel to the US for prostate surgery. But upon his return after the operation, the government arrested him again stating that while in America he criticized the True Whig Party regime and disseminated propaganda information against the government. Yet, the UPP appeared not to be deterred.

The United People Party then joined the Reformation Party, an existing party whose membership included former members of the True Whig Party. Richard Holder, a former cabinet official of the Barclay administration, in 1949 founded the Reformation Party and was positioned to head the party in the 1951 election. Though he criticized the Tubman regime, a few days to the party planned convention, he met with Tubman and withdrew from the race. He may have sensed that he had inadequate support from the aborigine Liberians whom the party depended on for a victory. Twe had emerged as a suitable and better qualified to lead the party after his return from America. Twe had gained support from Diasporas Liberians and contacts in the US.

On April 10, 1951, the party held its convention and nominated Twe, from Montserrado County, as its standard-bearer and Tyson Wood, from Grand Bassa County, as the vice standard-bearer. The selection was strategic. Both counties were among the original three counties that founded the Republic. Also, the selection of Thorgues Sie, Sr as national chairman of the party was a plus. He was a well-known son of Grandcess, which was part of Maryland County and it entailed the Southeast section of the country. Another factor that was in Twe’s favor was the passage of women’s suffrage. This proclamation granted voting rights to women in the 1951 election year, thanks to Tubman. Besides natives constituting the majority of the Liberian population, the adding of women to the electorates was important and significant. The election provided the Liberian native majority the constitutional right for the first time to vote for president of the nation. Twe was popular among the natives. He was liked in the Liberian hinterlands as a commissioner and had children from different tribes. So he had a good chance of becoming Liberian first president of tribal background in a fair and peaceful election. But neither the opposition party nor its candidates were put on the ballot. Only the True Whig Party and its candidates were to be voted for. The government alleged that Twe and his party failed to register more than 60 days before the election as a candidate.

When the Reformation Party complained, the government security operative called then as “You Too Late”, began harassing and arresting leaders of the opposition. Actually, “You Too Late” was a song and propaganda of the True Whig Party saying that the opposition party was too late to officially register and therefore the party lost its chance to participate in the election. It sang like this. “You too late, you lost your chance”. It turned to a death squad, killing people. As kids, we were told to stay indoors at night. To frustrate and stop the opposition party from registration on time, the election commissioner in charge was said to have left town and could not be located. He returned after the close of the registration. On May 1, 1951, the election was held without the participation of the opposition. On May 10, 1951, True Whig Party partisans jubilantly paraded in the streets of Monrovia celebrating their electoral victory.


The True Whig Party came into existence in 1869 as an opposition to the Republican Party. The ruling party had controlled national politics and had ruled the country since 1847. It was the party of the light-skinned settlers, mostly the mulattoes, who were the children of slave masters. They were the products of house slavery in America. Their ascendency to power was due to the American Colonization Society (ACS), which sponsored and brought the settlers to Liberia in 1822. ACS was established in the US in 1817 as a philanthropist organization to send Black ex-slaves to Africa. Many of the supporters of the society were rich slave masters who wanted their ex-slaves, particularly their slave children, to be taken good care of in Africa. Hence, the society put the light-skinned settlers in positions of authority in the administration of the colony leading to the independence of the country.

The dark-skinned settlers, on the other hand, were the field slaves in America. In Liberia, they engaged in commerce and shipping and left the running of the country to the light-skinned settlers. This condition continued until 1869. In that year, the dark-skinned settlers saw it necessary to participate in politics and founded the True Whig in Clay-Ashland, a settlement in Montserrado County established in 1855 and named after US Senator Henry Clay of Kentucky and after his town Ashland. Clay was president of ACS.

In 1870, the party gained power in the election of Edward Roye as president of Liberia. Roye, a freed slave from the State of Ohio and a descendant of the Igbo Tribe of the land now Nigeria, became the first dark-skinned settler president of Liberia. Unfortunately, his presidency did not last long. He was forcefully removed from office the following year and jailed for alleged corruption. He died a mysterious death after. His Vice President, James Smith, a medical doctor, succeeded him in 1871, but he too left office within a year.

The Republican Party regained power in 1872 by returning former presidents Joseph Robert and James Payne to the presidency in 1872-1876 and 1876-1878 respectively. Robert was Liberian first president and Payne was the fourth. Both presidents were mulattoes. But in 1878, the True Whig Party bounced back and recaptured the presidency by electing Anthony Gardner. Thus from 1878, the True-Whig Party dominated the presidency up to the time of the 1951 election and beyond.

The flag of any nation is a symbol of pride and unity. A nation’s flag can also be a symbol of disunity. Liberia is such a country whose flag it has been argued in many quarters is misrepresent instead of uniting its people. The Liberian flag is a symbol of what I referred to as “misrepresentation”. By misrepresentation, I mean its so-called national colors – red, white and blue (horizontal stripes of red and white and a blue field with one star) are a copy of the American flag plagiarized by Susannah Lewis who thought she was Betsy Ross, who is credited with making the first American flag. This irritation represents only a segment of the Liberian society and excludes the rest. And as such, the symbol doesn’t arouse the united front of the Liberian citizenry like the American flag.
The flag, adopted by Liberia’s founders

The Congos first arrived in Liberia in the mid-1820s. The majority, about 1400, entered the country in 1860. They were pure Africans, non-English speaking people from the Niger-Congo delta that now includes Nigeria, Niger, Benin, and Congo. They were slaves re-captured from slave ships traveling to the West Indies and were sent to Liberia under the sponsorship of the ACS, thanks to the US government. In the late 1820s, America helped implement a law forbidding the transportation of slaves on the Atlantic Ocean. Slave ships caught on the sea were taken to Liberia.

The ACS put the Congos under the tutelage of the American settlers and gave regular and additional ration to the guardians. The Society had thought it wise to put all its settlers together for efficiency. It may have viewed also that the Congos would benefit from the environmental experience of the American settlers. But the US ex-slaves mistreated the Congos and made them servants doing farming for the caretakers. Jehudi Ashmun, agent of ACS, expressed disappointment in the behavior of American settlers. Consequently, the Congos left and started their own communities along the Montserrado River banks or suburban of the county. They also settled in the area now called Congo Town in upper Monrovia.

Although the Congos were Africans, because of their relationship and intermarriage with the Americo-Liberians, they felt superior to the Liberian natives and joined the top hierarchy of the social order of the country. The indigenous Liberians were at the bottom of this order. But by 1843, the Americo-Liberian population declined due largely to a high death rate while the Congo population remained at least stable. In fact, the population decreased by 60% from 4571 to 1819.

By the turn of the century, the Congo population had surpassed that of the Americo-Liberians. In later years, the settler population was generally referred to as the Congo people. Nevertheless,

the Americo-Liberians controlled the economy and politics of the nation run by twenty-five families, including the Coopers, the Dennises, and the Tolberts.

Additional emigrations to Liberia followed, entailing the arrival of more people from the West Indies, especially Barbados and people from other African countries. The new settlers came to Liberia willingly and most were not ex-slaves. They included the Barclays and the Grimes from Barbados, the Wilsons from Togo; the Kings, the Sawyers, the Coles, the Jacobs, and the Brights from Sierra Leone. Others who came from Togo changed their names to Tubman. The immigrants became Congos and received opportunities over the aborigine Liberians.

All settler groups became members of the True-Whig Party after 1880. To keep power, they utilized the established institutions, such as the Masonic Craft, the church, the schools, and the political party. For instance, the Grand Masonry, a secret cult, decided who to become president of the country. They used the pulpit and journalism as stepping stones to politics. They also placed their children into key government positions.

For example, Tubman’s father was a preacher and speaker of the House of Representatives. Tubman’s son, William Tubman (Shad Tubman), was a senator. Likewise, Tubman’s Vice President William Tolbert’s father was a pastor and the House speaker. The son was a Baptist minister and a member of the House before being VP. The vice president’s son A. B. Tolbert and brother Frank Tolbert were senators. Shad Tubman married the VP’s daughter. This too shows the interconnection of the ruling class. See Gus Liebenow’s Liberia: Evolution of Privilege for further reading on this subject.

While the True Whig Party instituted a dictatorial and repressive regime, some observers and previous opponents admired its courage and determination not to have given up after the embarrassing administrations of Edward Roye and John Smith. Moreover, beside former President Joseph Cheeseman, Liberian presidents up to Tubman had paid lip service to the Native-Congo divide. Tubman attempted to close the gap.

The year 1951 was tensed, and we the children did not understand what was happening. Sometimes, the churches were used as meeting places for Twe’s supporters. In the churches, the Kru people sang; “in the future when we take our rightful place, no one would defeat us but God”. It was a religious song in Kru but it was a battle cry of the opposition. I sang it as a child and I still remember it.

In the election year, the True Whig Party government saw the need to vigorously enforce the hut or head tax law on Twe’s supporters, the majority of them were hut dwellers. This law, passed during the Charles King administration of the 1920s, compelled the head of a hut household to pay tax to the government. Those who failed to pay were put imprison. In New Krutown in 1951 many heads of households were arrested. My uncle Pa Menti had to leave the house early morning to hind in the bush and returned home late at night to avoid imprisonment. I used to wonder why he was leaving so early. Of course, I knew later as an adult why.

Twe’s life was endangered. He flew into exile to Sierra Leone where many Kru and Bassa people had migrated. The government supported the arrest of the opposition. The jailed members included Thorgues Sie, Nimene Botoe, Bo Nimley, Doe Bopleh, Robert Slewion Karpeh, and Teacher Jugbe. Sie, a former student leader in the US, left his family in America to help run Twe’s candidacy. He was a high school classmate of Tubman in Maryland County. In the US, he was a leading member of the African Students Association of America and Canada with Kwame Nkrumah, also a member.

Nkrumah arrived in the Gold Coast on 14 November 1947. He immediately assumed his secretarial duties, offering to work without pay after he realised that the party had no funds to pay his monthly salary. Eventually, the leadership prevailed on him to accept a fraction of the salary. Nkrumah immediately drew up a detailed, radical plan which he presented to the leadership of the United Gold Coast Convention. He suggested that the party set up branches in every corner of the country and embarks on demonstrations, strikes and boycotts to press for independence.
Nkrumah, center for panafricanthought

In their jail cell, members of the opposition asked among themselves why were they arrested and imprisoned. Apparently, they asked considering their rights as citizens to form a political party, canvass, vote, and complain against any unfair and unlawful election practices. The government in court charged them with sedition, alleging that the party wrote President Tubman, the UN, the US government, and other international bodies complaining about the election; and in so doing, the party invited foreign entities into the domestic affair of Liberia intending to destabilize the country and government.

Certainly, the party wrote the president and the entities named to inform them of the denial of the constitutional right and the violation of human rights in Liberia. The president was the father of the nation and was obligated to defend the constitution and protect the rights of all Liberians. Moreover, Liberia was a founding member of the UN and America was considered the God Father of Liberia considering the historical ties between both countries.

The prisoners denied the charge, indicating that their effort was to complain and that they were not committing sedition or treason. However, the court found them guilty and sentenced them to multiple years. Although they appealed to the Supreme Court, the high court in 1954 affirmed the ruling. In the 60s, President Tubman released many of the prisoners, including Sie.

In 1966, I met Sie in New Krutown where he was residing. He was old then. His health had declined after years of harassment, intimidation, and imprisonment from the Twe incident. He died after 1966. In the early 1960s, Tubman pardoned Twe, allowing him to return from exile. Twe died in Liberia shortly after.

The 1951 election brought ethnic division among the Liberian people. The country was split into two; the Congos on the one hand, and the natives on the other. Within the two were splitter groups. Some Congos supported Twe with their membership in the Reformation Party. Likewise, some natives backed Tubman. But the division was deeper among the Kru. Those Kru who supported Tubman were viewed as regime collaborators and traitors to their tribe while those for Twe were considered real Kru.

Most of Tubman’s Kru supporters were government employees or wanting government positions. They felt that supporting Twe would jeopardize their government employment and would make them anti-establishment in the eyes of the regime. Their feeling was justifiable: the True Whig Party government viewed Twe’s Kru supporters as tribalists, troublemakers, hardheads, and un-Liberians and those for Tubman as true patriots. Consequently, some of Tubman’s Kru backers denounced their Kru ethnic identity and discouraged their children to being Kru.

Meanwhile, those Kru and other permanent natives who supported Twe were stigmatized and blacklisted from government work and opportunities even after the election. Some migrated to neighboring countries. “Young Kru men in the cities were stereotyped as “Babi”, describing them as stupid, troublemakers, and mere fighters, though Babi, among the Kru, means big brother. The Kru-government confrontation started years ago. The election just intensified it. But the division among the Kru continued until Tubman’s death.

William V.S. Tubman

Tubman came from Maryland County. The area was founded as a legal entity by the Maryland State Colonization Society of the US, which sent and sponsored Black former slaves from America to Africa. Maryland County became part of Liberia in 1857. It was the land of the Grebo tribe. It was one of the last counties that joined Liberia after the country became independent in 1847.

Tubman, born in 1895, entered the national government at a very young age. He was elected senator from his county at 28. The national legislature refused his election because of his age, but the people of Maryland maintained their stance and demanded his sitting. His father, Alexander Tubman, and grandfather, William Tubman, came to Liberia in 1844 as former slaves from Georgia. In Liberia, Alexander became a Methodist minister and speaker of the House of Representatives as stated earlier. His son William was to follow the father’s footsteps as a pastor. Young Tubman was a semi-preacher; he read law and was known as a poor man lawyer. In 1937 President Edwin Barclay appointed him a Supreme Court judge.

Dr. John Cummings, former chairman of the African Studies Department of Howard University, stated that Tubman’s grandfather was originally a Cummings who took the name Tubman, an ex-slave who died on the ship that brought the settlers to Liberia. The deceased was a former slave of a wealthy plantation owner whose widow promised to support the ex-slave in Africa. To benefit from the generosity of the slave master, Cummings, also a passenger on the ship changed his name to Tubman upon arriving in Liberia.

But there is no further documentation thus far supporting exactly the above assertion. It has been documented, however, that philanthropist Emily Tubman, the widow of Tubman’s slave master, sponsored the trip of her husband’s slaves and upon their arrival to Liberia they took Tubman’s name. A biography of President Tubman by Wikipedia discusses below Emily Tubman and gives some support to John Cummings’s expression.

Tubman sought the help of her friend and mentor, Henry Clay of Kentucky, president of the American Colonization Society. .. Clay assured her that sending her former slaves to Liberia would be a safe and suitable option.[3] After arriving in Liberia, this group of freedmen took “Tubman” as their surname and settled together.

When Barclay’s presidential term was about to end, he selected Tubman as his successor. Barclay was from Montserrado County that dominated the Liberian presidency. Key Montserrado County politicians, who named themselves the “Rock Town Boys”, opposed the selection. They had hoped that Barclay, who was one of them, would have picked one of the boys and not a foreign individual. James F. Cooper was one of the Montserrado politicians who wanted to become president. He was a rich man in the county with a big farm called Cooper Farm in Monrovia. In the 1943 election, he opposed Tubman under the ticket of the Democratic Party. In that election, he received 3,107 votes and Tubman got 245,364 out of total votes cast of 248,471. Further, Barclay was faced with another issue. Other counties, particularly Grand Cape Mount County, have complained of being overlooked in the presidency and wanted consideration.

But Tubman was Barclay’s in-law. Tubman married Barclay’s relative named Antoinette Louis Padmore. A compromise was reached in which Tubman would be president but must select a man from Grand Cape Mount County as a running-mate. Tubman thus selected Clarence Simpson, a notable son of Grand Cape Mount and secretary of state. In 1944, Tubman became president of Liberia.

The military officer who replaced Pres. Tolbert, Sergeant Samuel K. Doe, would have been the last man MOJA would have ever thought of as a Presidential material to rule Liberia, for all the reasons that everybody already knows. I once met Pres. Tolbert, as part of a delegation comprising of Dr. Tipoteh, Dr. Sawyer, and Dr. Mary Antoinette Brown Sherman, I was privileged to attend a meeting with President Tolbert in his office in 1978. He had invited us after being told that we, SUSUKUU, were training guerrilla forces in the Putu Forest of Grand Gedeh County to overthrow the government. Instead, we had an agricultural project in Putu. Many years later, everybody now admits that Dr. Tolbert was one the best Presidents of Liberia. But what they do not add is the fact that President Tolbert was also one of the most educated, if not the most educated, President, of Liberia. And the example of Tolbert convincingly proves that to be a successful President of Liberia, one does certainly require a higher and formal education. Higher education gives a leader higher vision for his country and leadership.
William Tolbert www.pininterest

In Tubman’s second term, he dropped Simpson and named Representative Ben Freeman as running-mate. The selection met the approval of the Rock Town Boys because Freeman was one of them. He came from Careyburg, a suburban and a key district of Montserrado County. The area, owned by the Kpelle Tribe, was established in 1856 as an experimental interior location by John Seys, a Methodist pastor who brought immigrants from the US and the Caribbean to Liberia in the 1850s. He acquired the land from a Kpelle chief and named it Careyburg after Rev. Lott Carey, an early settler. Many Liberian presidents came from Careyburg. But Freeman died on the eve of the inauguration of the administration. Tubman then picked William Tolbert, Jr., son of Pastor William Tolbert, Sr., as vice president. The son was a member of the House of Representatives.

His father was the Speaker of the House and chairman of the True Whig Party. The Tolberts were also of Montserrado County. The selection solidified Tubman’s presidency among the Montserrado elites having them in his pocket. Moreover, Tubman became popular with the Liberian natives especially through the enactment of the unification policy, which allowed native Liberians into the legislature and other major political positions. He was acclaimed nationally for this policy. Under it, he constructed a ‘Native Mansion’ in Monrovia for the temporary staying of visiting chiefs from the interior.

One chief praised Tubman, calling him a very good president, who brought the country and civilized people together. “We the tribal men can now mix up with civilized people freely and nobody is looking down on us. We can eat at the same table, shake hands and dance with the civilized men and women”. The chief ended by calling on Tubman “to be president until you die”.

The chief’s admiration was a factor of co-optation, a goal of the ruling class for support of the natives. US Ambassador to Liberia, Edward Dudley, in a confidential report to Washington on the 1951 election observed this strategy.

When aborigines become civilized through social contact and interaction with the civilized elements, their political concepts are conditioned by that group of which they become a part. Thus, such aborigines have become loyal True Whig Party partisans due to their dependency on the government as a source of employment.

He reported that “previous election returns have shown evidence of corruption and unfairness”, that an unofficial vote count in the 1951 election gave Tubman 155,792 votes in an unopposed election. Interestingly, that number was far less than the 1943 election votes with challenger James Cooper. While it was said that Tubman received “between 75 and 80% of the potential voters” in the 1951 election, it was noted also that many ineligible people voted. This account could mean that in a free, fair, and transparent national election, Tubman would have lost.

The reported additionally pointed out that since 1923, opposition to the True Whig Party had been carried out by men considered financially independent from the government. But their financial strength was out weighted by the financial power of the ruling party. The True Whig Party had made it mandatory for all government workers to monetarily contribute to the party whether or not they were partisans. Further, government funds were also used for campaign purposes. This put the opposition at the disadvantage.

Even though Twe was considered wealthy, he was the only one in his party able to finance the campaign. Nevertheless, what he had as a native was the number as previously discussed. Hence, Twe’s challenge to Tubman, though difficult, was considered an audacity, defiance, an affront to the rule of the settlers. To them, that boldness must be dealt with drastically.

The US government and other international entities appeared not to have interfered in the election, despite the desire of the opposition to have the entities expressed concern of the violation of human and constitutional rights. The Tubman administration had a good and cordial relation with America. Tubman and US President Harry Truman knew each other when Tubman and American President Franklin Roosevelt met in Washington in 1944 before Tubman became president. Truman was vice president under Roosevelt then. He succeeded Roosevelt. It was indicated that foreigners in Liberia during the election preferred continuity for fear that a new government would change the status quo. This feeling may have been the result of the propaganda of the True Whig Party that the opposition was a communist operative and would bring communism to Liberia.

Didwho Welleh Twe
D. D. Twe, commonly called, was a national hero. In fact, he was viewed as the greatest of all the native or Kru political giants. Little is known of his parents except that he was named after his mother Welleh. As a young man, he assisted Plenyo Gbe Wollo, a Liberian from Grandcess and the first African to graduate from Harvard University. Twe was a member of the American Political Science Society and was nationally and internationally known. At first, he worked as a district commissioner, traveling to the interiors of Liberia. He was involved in settling boundary disputes between Liberia and neighboring countries of Sierra Leone and Guinea.

He became a representative in the Liberian Legislature. “(He) had a distinguishing mark on his forehead, culturally identifying him as a Kru”. The Kru ethnic group is one of the African major and famous tribes historically. The Krus taught Europeans how to navigate the sea, according to D.L. Chandler of Black History Fact. They used the mark for identification particularly during the slave trade. They rather kill themselves than to become slaves. But they and other tribes have been accused of participating in this trade.

Didwho is pronounced as DEE-WOO. “Twe was born in Monrovia on April 14, 1879 to Klao (Kru) parents. He was light in complexion, with a cicatricle on his forehead, a mark that distinguished people of Klao ethnic group from other indigenous tribes. [Welleh Didwho] Twe received his early education from the American Methodist and Trinity Episcopal institutions, as well as Patsy Barclay Private School. Also, he graduated from Cuttington Collegiate and Divinity School in Cape Palmas, Maryland (Liberia). In 1894, a US Congressman by the name of William Grout assisted Twe to travel to the United States to further his studies. During his stay in the United States, Twe attended several institutions, which includes, St. Johnbury Academy in Vermont, Cushing Academy in Ashburnham, Massachusetts, Rhode Island University, where he received his Master’s degree, and later studied agriculture at Columbia and Harvard universities” (Tuan Wreh, The Love of Liberty: The Rule of President William V.S. Tubman in Liberia, 1976, p. 48 & Dunn & Holsoe, Historical Dictionary of Liberia, 1985, p. 177).
D Tweh, Statesman, Politician
Because of Twe’s advocacy in the Fernando Po matter and his position against other injustices in Liberia, he was expelled from the legislature in the early 1930s. He founded the United People Party that became the Reformation Party. In a speech delivered on an Independence Day celebration, he spoke about the settler-native divide and the need to give a native similar constitutional right to seek the nation’s highest office. Further, in his party presidential nomination accepted address, he predicted a democratic change coming to Liberia from the East. He talked on the theme, “Nothing is Permanent”. He said that empires in the world had come and gone and as the night changes to daylight so will Liberia change. Twe then called onto Tubman saying, “If you know what I know and see what I see, you will not hesitate to grant me the presidency”. That was bold!

Tubman did not take the convention address kindly and responded negatively, stating:

Mr. Twe and his adherent complain that for a hundred and four years of the independence of this country, no aborigine had had the honor of being president. (Who) does he call aborigine, he and his dangling group of a fifth of the Kru tribe? I protest! I contest his misconceived notion. HRN Johnson, Daniel Edward Howard, Charles Burgess King, Edwin Barclay, and William S. Tubman are all aborigines and indigenous people of this country, for we were born, bred and reared here.

Twe was a skillful politician. He did not publically and prematurely expose himself without first having the basis: before entering presidential politics, he was a wealthy man, owning many acres of land in the area called then and now, “the Twe Farm” in Duala, Monrovia. As a student in America, he was sponsored by US Congressional Representative William Grout, Senator John Morgan of Vermont and Alabama respectively and by American great writer, Samuel Clemens, literally known as “Mark Twain”. He was educated at a prep school and graduated from Rhode Island University. He also studied agriculture at Harvard and Columbia in America.

Twe was without fault or contradiction. In a Matilda Newport Day celebration oration, he praised the settlers and the brevity of Newport. Matilda Newport, originally called Matilda Spencer, was a settler. She married Ralph Newport, an army general in Liberia. She was said in 1822 to have lighted a cannon by her pipe and caused the defeat of the natives in the Battle of Fort Hill between the settlers and the aborigines. Factually, however, there is no historical evidence supporting the heroism. Her action was considered a myth to belittle the natives and glorify the settlers. Perhaps Twe was unaware of the inaccuracy of Newport’s deed, but critics pointed out that even if the incident were true, he did not have to compliment a heroism that was controversial and nationally divisive. Tubman was also blamed as the national leader to encourage the act commemorating an event of division. Matilda Newport Day was abolished in 1980.

While in exile, many of Twe’s supporters believed that he would return with submarines and gunboats to liberate the natives. That was wishful thinking. To most, he was a hero for his stance on the settler autocracy and on injustice. Kru elders told his story to the young and children gathered at night for folk stories of old and of legends.

Tubman and Twe were distinguished gentlemen. They were friends. Twe is said to have supported him in Tubman’s first term. Some observers credited Twe to have advised Tubman to implement the Unification Policy, a declaration also uniting the descendants of the Ex-slaves with the natives of the land. This policy became the milestone of the Tubman administration. Further, Tubman’s open-door policy brought in foreign companies to Liberia. Both men married the same woman. Twe married Tubman’s first wife Arminta Dent.

During their days of friendship, both men related to each other well and respected one another. In an interview, it was revealed that Tubman purchased some shirts for Twe while the president was on a foreign trip. Twe had asked him to make the purchase and would pay him back. Tubman, upon return to Liberia, brought the shirts and gave them to Twe but as a gift. Though Twe appreciated the purchase, he insisted that he pay for them as a matter of principle. Tubman respectfully accepted Twe’s position.


The 1951 election represented an event of injustice and denial of constitutional rights. The governing regime violated the rights of the opposition. Key members who backed Twe and stood up for their rights, principle, and pride suffered severely. As others have observed, the government harassed and hunted them in a Gestapo fashion by its security operatives, specifically Deputy Police Commissioner Tecumbla Thompson, a Kru. The victims were jailed, even though their party was denied participation in the election, and even though their leader was forced out of the country. Thompson and Cummings Seyon, another Kru, were said to have reported them to the government. Seyon was from Picnicess, and he became a representative in the House. The Supreme Court, composed of True Whig Party appointees, disbarred the defendants’ main lawyer and therefore denied the accused with proper legal representation.

Many of Twe’s key supporters suffered; some were killed and others died from frustration during their struggle for justice. Particularly, Twe was hunted furiously. His security guard, Juah Wesseh, moved him from one hiding place to another at night to keep him from arrest. Many times, he dressed him as a woman to disguise him, according to sources.

In a 1973 interview, Twe’s daughter Tarloh Twe Patterson narrated one of her father’s sufferings, stating that on one occasion, the government soldiers were on their way to arrest him at his residence. There was no good place to hide him so the family dug a hole and buried him alive temporarily. Unfortunately, the sands fell in the little opening made for his breathing and the sands got in his eyes. He was in severe pain but yet he could not express the harm. The soldiers searched the house and left. Twe was unearthed after the soldiers departed. “His eyes were red and swollen. I felt sorry for him. Daddy suffered a lot”, Tarloh said. Tarloh married Mr. Patterson, who served as Twe’s personal secretary and kept most of Twe’s private papers.

Twe had complained of injustice in Liberia before he campaigned for the presidency. His stance on the Fernando Po issue is one. In an article in the journal of the American Political Science organization, he told the world that Liberia was a US responsibility and America must do something to fight constitutional injustice in Liberia. In their quest for justice in Liberia, the opposition was left to fight on their own. Their complaint fell on deaf ears and the regime operated at will. The True Whig Party government saw the opposition’s fight as sedition and a treason giving reasons to harass and arrest. This condition continued in subsequent elections and advocacies before 1980.

The dark-skinned settlers, who worked as plantation field slaves in the US, engaged in commerce and shipping in Liberia. They were initially excluded from the leadership of the new nation. Less than 10% of the Americo-Liberian settlers were literate, according to Tom Shicks’ emigration studies. Majority of that percentage constituted the mulattoes. The balance percentage were uneducated. On the other hand, the Congos were pure Africans, non-English speaking people from the Niger-Congo delta, which included Nigeria, Niger, Benin and Congo. They were re-captured from slave ships traveling to the West Indies. The ACS put them under the tutelage or guardianship of the Americo-Liberians. The Society saw it fit to group all its subjects into a single unit. The ACS also felt that the Americo-Liberian settlers, as first arrivals, would help the Congos adjust to their new environment.
William Tubman

The perpetuation of injustice in Liberia during this election was born out of the thinking by the settler group, the Americo-Liberians and the Congos, that the native population had no right for leadership of the country, that the right to rule Liberia was the birthright and entitlement of the settler minority. The foundation of this thought was the notion by the settlers, as former residents of America, that they were better than the African natives, that the natives were uncivilized, inferior and should be ruled. However, this sense of superiority was faulty: with a slave background, the settlers were at the periphery of the American civilization and society. Tom Shick’s study of emigrants to Liberia from 1820 to 1843 shows about 70% of the American settlers were uneducated. With the Congo settlers, the combined illiteracy rate of the settler group would increase by over 90%. According to the 1962 census, the Americo-Liberians constituted “less than one percent of the total population”.

The settlers’ determination to rule and to stop any opposition blinded their eyes from safeguarding and enforcing constitutional and human rights. Indeed, the Liberian native majority was excluded in the declaration of independence of the country. The nation was created only for the settlers. Citizenship of the country was not extended to the natives until 1912. But the voting right was not granted to them either until 1946, certainly over 30 years from the time of gaining citizenship and 99 years from independence. The election of 1951 was a test of the constitutional right to freely canvass and vote for a candidate of choice. Regrettably, as indicated, that right was grossly violated.


Tubman easily won the election unopposed. He became the longest-serving Liberian president. Liberia remained a one-party state until 1980. In 1971, he died in office from prostate cancer. His Vice President William Tolbert succeeded him. In April 1980, noncommissioned soldiers of native background overthrew the regime and ended the True-Whig Party rule. The soldiers killed Tolbert, his son, and 13 other officials of the government. The overthrow, which was considered a revolution, paved the way for multi-party democracy in Liberia. Moreover, the Liberian people honored Twe. His prediction came to pass after 29 years.

Disclaimer: “The views/contents expressed in this article are the sole responsibility of the author and not necessarily Liberian Listener.


Main Photo: President Tubman, African Orbit

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Gbarpolu Celebrates as Comrade Alaric Tokpa declares Senatorial Intent Wed, 24 Jun 2020 22:51:55 +0000  


After weeks of declaration of intent for senator in one of the most “underrepresented and developed” counties, Gbarpolu, citizens of this part of Liberia have started celebrating the desire of Dr. Alaric Topka to context for the position. The decision comes after a long period of “cries” from citizens in the county calling on the professor to take on the senatorial position in the county.

The declaration of intent which occurred on Sunday, 14 June in Fallah Clan of Gbarpolu County brought together chiefs, elders, women and youth groupings from towns and villages to join Dr. Tokpa and team in cerebrating the start of “a new Gbarpolu”. This comes with great excitement that is now gaining momentum among citizens in the country.


It has been under the watchful eyes of the residents that the county is not represented “even with senator Ama Jallah leadership as pro-Temp at the senate and up to present time”. According to the chiefs , elders, women and youth, the county has been left over as little or no impacts are being felt among them as Liberians because of the “inability of the county leaders to make the difference”.

In an interview with these Liberians now in KMTV News Possession, the residents named deplorable road condition, uneasy access to health, education as major issues that are posing serious challenges in their livelihood. with a long in-sensitiveness from the county leaders especially lawmakers, the people of Gbarpolu have started to emerge their undivided support to Alaric Tokpa.

Their decision according to them, is on the basis of Dr. Tokpa willingness and capability to transform the county for the better. They believe the Liberian high code Professor workings in the county over the years are tangibles that should lead him at the Capitol Building to lift the county “since nineteen whu-whu”.

“le way he na start doing something for us then u think wen he go there he will not do more”, a local dialed voices of hope the people have had for Dr. Tokpa. During the declaration of intent in Fallah Clan, Gbarpolu County, the Liberians in the area pledged their support and promised to take Dr. Alaric Tokpa at the senate.

“We doing le tin yeh because we na seing anything for us in ley place yeh and we suffering and our leader nen there enjoying our sweat”, they told KMTV News . In their words ” former Pro-Temp Senator Ama Jallah and others are people of self-centered interest and will not bring anything on the table as long as they remain in leadership” .

Residents in Gbarpolu County current decision projects a flashback to past general elections when about 95 percent of lawmakers left the Capitol Building on the basis of unsatisfactory note from their respective constituencies.

The situation in the county is now bringing to light the sensitive approach of the county dwellers to unseat anyone who is/will not proffer the expected deliverable. On the other hand, like the Chief of Fallh Clan , other traditional leaders have started mobilization in the county to allow Dr. Tokpa serve them at the national governance level.


Fruitful conversations with leaders and dwellers in the clan of Fallah , Gbarpolu County speaks volume to his optimism which comes from the unwavering support and courage emanating from many residents in the county to contest the senatorial position. According to them, a personality of a positive nature should serve in the public space so as to give hope and aspirations to the Liberian people. Story, Zac Tortiamah/KMTVSherman

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Alarm Bells Over Partisan Appointments National Elections Commission By Weah Fri, 19 Jun 2020 21:55:48 +0000  



OVER THE PAST SEVERAL weeks, there has been a lot of wrangling over the nominations of chairperson and commissioners at the National Elections Commission.

BACK IN MARCH, the largest civil society group which oversees electoral matters out-rightly rejected President George Weah’s picks to the NEC.

THE ECC expressed concerns that the President’s nominations lacked broad-based consultations with stakeholders.

WHILE IT REALIZED that the President has the power to appoint, ECC took serious exception to the nomination of Cllr. Ndubuisi Nwabudike, a Nigerian-born who had already been appointed twice by the President, first at the Governance Commission and later to the Liberia Anti-Corruption Commission.

ACCORDING TO ATTORNEY OSCAR BLOH, Coordinator of the ECC, Nwabudike was morally conflicted and lacked the credibility required to exercise neutrality over an independent body that is supposed to decide Liberia’s president and other elected officials.

IN THE END, the Senate concurred and rejected Nwabudike’s nomination.

NEXT UP was Floyd Sayor, the President’s nominees as one of the commissioners at the NEC. Sayor was the most problematic and controversial, still haunted by his misdeeds of the District No. 15 Montserrado County Legislative Elections to fill the void of the late Adolph Lawrence.

ALTHOUGH SARYOR,  told the Senate Committee on Autonomous Agencies and Commissions during his confirmation that public perception about him have been wrong, many who felt disenfranchised by the outcome of the District No. 15, are still upset at the role Sayor played in the irregularities which marred the results.

AS DATA DIRECTOR at NEC for nearly a decade, Sayor has always come under public criticism of manipulating data at the NEC against certain individuals who for some reason felt cheated in every electoral process.

IN 2017 SAYOR was made to appear before the court as an expert witness in the case of Liberty Party versus The National elections Commission. During his confirmation hearing, Cllr. Abraham Darius Dillon, in an attempt to question the Sayor’s integrity at the NEC and whether he has been investigated by the NEC for electoral malpractice (es), the nominee denied being investigated by the NEC.

TO THE CONTRARY, a report from Cllr. Muna Ville, NEC’s hearing officer ruled in the case Telia Urey versus the NEC as a result of an election dispute between her and Mr. Abu Kamara, where he ordered the Investigation of Mr. Sayor.

IN HIS DELIVERY OF THE VERDICT, Cllr. Ville said the chief reason for calling a rerun of election in all the quarantined polling places was because the director of the NEC data center director, Floyd Sayon compromised the integrity of the District #15 polls by failing to obey instructions from his immediate boss, to quarantine ballots from the polling places where irregularities were said to have occurred and withheld the inclusion of votes from those areas from the final tally until all such complaints had been addressed.

DESPITE NUMEROUS objections and public outcry, the Senate Committee confirmed Mr. Floyd.

THIS WEEK, PRESIDENT Weah made two more appointments at NEC, naming Davidetta Browne Lansanah as Chair, replacing Cllr. Jerome Korkoryah whose tenure expired in March, and Cllr. Teplah Reeves as Co-Chair.

ALREADY, THE nominations are generating some concerns.

ATTORNEY BLOH of the ECC told FrontPageAfrica Wednesday that the nominee to co-chair NEC, Cllr. Reeves has strong ties to the ruling Coalition for Democratic Change because she contested on the party’s ticket in the 2017 elections as Representative Candidate for River Cess County.

MR. BLOH said the appointment of Reeves to such non-partisan institution has the propensity to undermine public confidence in the NEC and increase uncertainties on the Electoral body’s ability to hold free and fair elections in the not too distant future.

ALL THIS suggests that the ruling CDC is going all out to find nominees that are sympathetic to them to ensure victory in both the Mid Term elections this year and the 2023 Presidential elections.

WE HOPE THIS IS not the case and strongly urge the ruling CDC to do the right thing simply because it too had been down this road before and knows where it is bound to lead, chaos, uncertainty, and violence.

LIBERIA HAS ENDURED  so much over the last century that it deserves nothing short of peaceful and orderly elections and transitions from one government to the next.

IF THE CDC really wants to avoid losing the next elections, the formula is simple: Do the right things, put a stamp on corruption, exercise transparency and accountability and address the bread and butter issues facing Liberians and Liberia.

LIBERIA HAS NEVER been the same since the rice riots of April 14, 1979, it turned even worse a year later when Master Sargeant Samuel Kanyon Doe ended decades of Americo-Liberian rule on April 12, 1980, in a bloody coup d’etat which disrupted what was once one fo the most peaceful nations on planet earth.

THE NEXT DECADE saw Doe failing to come to terms with the realities, engaging in corruption, human rights abuses, killings, and a disputed 1985 elections which marked the beginning of the end of Liberia’s political debacle.

AN EVENTUAL CIVIL WAR ruined lives, infrastructures, and separate families, friends, and loved ones. Others lost their lives in a senseless war born out of greed and dissatisfaction.

LIBERIA HAS COME too far to return to its ugly past.

PRESIDENT WEAH and the CDC must ensure that the elections on the horizon are free, fair, and transparent. Appointing partisans or sympathizers to what should be a neutral body is totally wrong.

SADLY, SOME OF THOSE elected as Senators and Legislators are just too blind to see. Others, benefiting from the spoils of bad governance will defend it to their deaths – or until the apples stop falling from the trees.

SECTION 2.5 OF THE FINAL AMENDED Elections Law of Liberia regarding Party Affiliation and Oath states: “No Commissioner, election officer or any employee of the Commission shall be a member or an affiliate of any political party, or of an association or organization; nor shall any Commissioner, election officer or any employee of the Commission canvass for any elective public office directly or indirectly. Before assuming office, each Commissioner, election officer and every employee of the Commission shall solemnly subscribe to an Oath renouncing allegiance to, and severing all connections, affiliation and relationship with his/her own, or any political party during his/her service or tenure with the Commission.

WHICHEVER WAY the tide breaks – or wherever the cooking crumbles, one thing is certain, it is Liberia that matters in the end. This is why each and every well-meaning Liberian must stand up and raise a red flag on anything resembling the ugly past of Africa’s oldest republic. Culled FPA

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In remembrance of the Soweto Uprising on June and 16, 1976 and African youth day. Tue, 16 Jun 2020 23:55:08 +0000 By: Jusu Kamara

We appreciate the history of resistance and the role played by African men and women who took the risk of protesting to honor the race and restore their people’s dignity. It is with this understanding that we join conscious men and women in the world and Africa in remembrance of the heroic struggle and sacrifice of the Soweto Uprising, and the commemoration of The African Youth Day. History has taught us that on this day, African school going students from the bantustans and native reserves of South Africa rose in objection to the Afrikaans Medium Decree of 1974, which forced black schools to use Afrikaans and English in a 50–50 mix as languages of instruction instituted by pernicious Apartheid regime.

This backward draconian decree which was passed by the white minority govt in South Africa was meant to perpetuate white supremacy and domination but met strong resistance from the student community in that country. It was premised on this the students hastily established the Soweto Students Representative Council (SSRC) making Comrade General Teboho “Tsietsi” Mashinini the head in an effort to lead the campaign of resistance. And it was not only the students of Soweto that resented this decree. Noble Peace prize winner, Archbishop Desmond Tutu did oppose, and the South Africa Students Movement of struggle icon Steve Biko had objected too. On the National square, The South African Communist Party of Comrade Joe Slovo and the African National Congress had done the same.

The students did come out in their hundreds of thousands in protest to show the world, the inequality of a system that imposed her foreign language on them with great respect for their African Culture and its tenets. They came out with their bare hands and opened chests willing to pay any price to defend their dignity. They were prepared to shed their last blood. And they paid the price that day. They died in struggling for their rights as the martyr Comrade Hector Pieterson lost his life. It is estimated that over 176 people died on the day while over 700 people died in the resistance that lasted for almost three months. The world wondered what kind of system would unleash dum dum bullets on students for rising up against injustice.

What kind of system would suppress people in such brutal form by exploiting a country and leaving them to wallow in the cesspools of penury, destitution, and political marginalization? This brutality didn’t frighten nor falter the people from resisting an unjust system. For them, the blood of innocent people spattered by the system were the catalysts and enzymes that would foment the path to liberation and build an egalitarian society. Every life taken was a heroic sacrifice to solidify their persistent struggle, meant to disentangle themselves from the shackles and chains and the agony of injustices.

They were clear about their struggle in preserving a scintillating future for their generational descendants in that they would not live on the kneels of their homeland. Today this history has made it possible for Africans in South Africa in that, they can now go to schools and live peacefully with equal rights and privileges without discrimination. They can serve in leadership positions, own and run businesses in harmony despite the economic inequality of the neoliberal capitalist system and the continuous labor exploitation of the people who work on the mines and plantations owned and operated by white monopoly capital.

These are the fruits of the heroic struggle of the Soweto Uprising and the people determination to achieve a resplendent South Africa through permanent struggle. The historical antecedents of this day is a tribute to the Soweto Uprising inspired by a younger generation on the African continent, must remind us to always not tremble at the indignation of injustice anywhere but to rise up to the demands for better welfare and the advancement of our given rights. With our right arms up, we give red, green, and black salutes to the memories of the heroic student and the general masses of South Africa for the role they played in crippling imperialism on the African soil. To the commemoration of the African youth day, this occasion should not just be a mere jamboree of fine speeches and flattering activities. We must struggle to lift Africa in a new era and to new beginnings!

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‘COVID-19 and State of Emergency: implication for freedom of expression in Liberia’ Tue, 16 Jun 2020 01:30:40 +0000  

By Urias Teh

The surge of the global COVID-19 pandemic has provided a compelling reason for States to impose restrictive measures, some in the form of health protocols to beat back the spread of the deadly disease.

These measures have provoked debate, essentially around the nature and scope of these restrictions vis-à-vis the protection of human rights. While limitations for public health reason is legitimate, there have been concerns that the outbreak is opening a window of opportunity for some States to further entrench repressive measures and far overreach the limits in place under international human rights law on their powers during this crisis.  Reports of restrictions on free expression and information and limit on public participation are becoming increasingly common.

Under international and regional human rights laws, derogation of certain rights is permissible during an emergency. For public health protection, the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights -ICCPR and the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights (ACHPR) permit the following restriction:  the right to manifest or practice one’s religion; freedom of movement; freedom of assembly; freedom of association and freedom of expression. However these restrictions must be proportionate to the crisis; be necessary for protecting the nation and responding to the threat; not discriminate on the basis of race, color, sex, language, religion, or social origin; remain compatible with the state’s other international law obligations, and last only as long as necessary.

For example, Article 19 (3) (a) and (b) of the ICCPR provides that restriction of the rights to freedom of expression can be limited: a. ‘for the respect of the rights or reputations of others; b. for the protection of national security or of public order (ordre public), or of public health or morals.’  Additionally, Article 27 (2) of the ACHPR provides that ‘[t]he rights and freedoms of each individual shall be exercised with due regard to the rights of others, collective security, morality, and common interest.’

As the restrictions occasioned by the COVID-19 emergency has become a global development, the Government of Liberia in April announced a state of emergency (SOE) consistent with articles 85-88 of the 1986 Liberian Constitution.  The President on 8 April informed the Legislature that the SOE was consistent with the Constitution of Liberia and the Public Health Law of 1976. However, the declaration failed to take into consideration Article 86 (a) of the Constitution which states that ‘the President may suspend or affect certain rights, freedoms, and guarantees contained in this Constitution…’ Similarly, the Legislature in its Resolution authorizing the State of Emergency did not establish a scope for the exercise of the emergency powers regarding the suspension of rights that conflict with the health exigencies.

Besides, Article 4 of the ICCPR, which Liberia ratified in 2004, provides that whenever a State suspends rights during a crisis, they are obliged to inform other State Parties to the Covenant through the intermediary of the Secretary-General of the United Nations in respect to the reason for suspending rights under the covenant and those specific rights they have derogated to accommodate the emergency as well as on the date on which the derogation terminates.

The fact that the President or the legislature did not announce the suspension of rights that will be affected by the health crisis did not mean that restrictive measures are not in place. For example, free movement, association, assembly, and certain aspects of religious worships have been severely restricted. It is worth mentioning that when the State of Emergency is officially declared, it is relevant to notify international institutions like the UN about measures that derogate from some of their human rights treaty obligations. Notification, many human rights scholars argue, reflect a country’s commitment to legality and normalcy. It also has the positive effect of taming the emergency powers by constraining the State to articulate their emergency measures under the terms of necessity, proportionality, exigency in the situation, temporarily, and a commitment to human rights as a framework for legitimate emergency measures.

While the failure of the Government to fulfill the ICCPR requirement of the notification may not explain some of the excesses of the State functionaries in the enforcement of the SOE (INCHR press statement 28 April 2020), there are growing concerns that freedom of expression has been unlawfully restricted and that a deliberate policy of media censorship institutionalized.

For example, on 29 April, the Solicitor General of Liberia, Sayma Syrenius Cephas, threatened to seize the equipment and revoke the licenses of media outlets publishing or broadcasting “fake news.” Individuals spreading lies on social media, including Facebook, would also be hunted down and prosecuted during the state of emergency.’ Hon. Cephas claimed that the SOE declared under article 87 of the constitution curtailed basic rights including the right to free speech and freedom of assembly. The Solicitor General issued these threats after it was rumored that President George M. Weah had been tested positive to Covid-19. The rumors went viral on social media (Facebook) a few days after several senior officials reportedly tested positive. They included the Minister of Information and Justice who had recently been in close contact with President Weah.

Additionally, in early May, the Deputy Minister of Information for Press and Public Affairs, called for the immediate withdrawal of all press passes issued to journalists in accordance to an MOU signed between the PUL and the government at the time when President Weah declared a three-week state of emergency to fight the novel Coronavirus. Appearing on a local radio station Prime FM, on 7 May, the Minister threatened that any journalist who refuses to obtain the new information Ministry pass will be arrested for gross insubordination. The Press Union of Liberia (PUL) reacted and termed the Minister’s statement as an attempt to undermine the role of the journalist in the fight against the COVID-19.

The Secretary-General of the UN has called for the ‘‘greater protection of journalists who are providing the ‘antidote’ to what he characterized as a pandemic of misinformation surrounding the COVID-19 crisis.”  The Secretary-General has urged the Government to protect journalists and others who work in the media and to uphold press freedom. While acknowledging that temporary restrictions on movement is useful to defeat the virus, these restrictions he urged must not be abused and raised as an excuse to crack down on journalists’ ability to do their work. Also, the UN Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of the right to freedom of opinion and expression has echoed that ‘independent media has been an essential level of public information, revealing stories of government deception while also helping people everywhere to uncover the nature and scope of the pandemic.’

Similarly, the Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Expression and Access to Information in Africa has underscored the importance of the media in reporting science-based information on the threat of COVID-19, role and impact of the measures adopted in preventing and containing the virus, precautionary measures to a member of the public and on the scale of the spread. Furthermore, the UN Human Rights Committee has cautioned States Parties to use objective and nondiscriminatory criteria in their accreditation schemes, consistent with Article 19 of the ICCPR ‘taking into account that journalism is a function shared by a wide range of actors.’ The African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights has also stated that ‘[t]he right to express oneself through the media by practicing journalism shall not be subject to undue legal restrictions.’ The Commission further enjoins States ‘to take  measures to prevent attacks on journalists and other media practitioners, including murder, extra-judicial killing, torture and other forms of ill-treatment, arbitrary arrest, and detention, enforced disappearance, kidnapping, intimidation, threats and unlawful surveillance undertaken by State and non-State actors.’

For example, Article 19 (3) (a) and (b) of the ICCPR provides that restriction of the rights to freedom of expression can be limited: a. ‘for the respect of the rights or reputations of others; b. for the protection of national security or of public order (ordre public), or of public health or morals.’  Additionally, Article 27 (2) of the ACHPR provides that ‘[t]he rights and freedoms of each individual shall be exercised with due regard to the rights of others, collective security, morality, and common interest.’
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In the wake of these developments, independent media, especially print media have incurred huge financial constraints. Reporters without Borders have called on the Government of Liberia to provide financial assistance to the country’s print media which had to suspend production. Nevertheless, the Publisher Association of Liberia (PAL) has committed to continue publication online to keep their many readers, clients, and advertisers informed of the ongoing COVID-19.

The role of the media at this critical juncture of the campaign to end COVID -19 is crucial to address the mountain of related challenges such as incorrect news which has been dubbed as disinfodemic. A term adopted to describe the falsehoods fuelling the pandemic and its impact. This viral load of potentially deadly disinformation has also been described by the UN Secretary-General as ‘a poison, and humanity other enemies in this crisis’

Article 32 of the ECOWAS Protocol on Good Governance provides that good governance and press freedom are essential for preserving social justice, preventing conflict, guaranteeing political stability and peace and for strengthening democracy. The instrument to which Liberia is a High Contracting Party, charges State Parties to give financial assistance to privately-owned media through an independent national body or a body freely instituted by the journalists themselves.


The Constitution of Liberia expressly provides the right to freedom of expression without limitation during a state emergency. Hence, the Government of Liberia must take concrete steps to safeguard this right. More than ever, this period demands critical journalism particularly in relation to monitoring government action, especially when it comes to measures that the Government has taken prevent and respond to the pandemic.  The Government must take steps to protect the work of journalists, not criminalize their efforts when they provide essential information to the public on the COVID-19.

As it is always the case, emergency powers risk being abused sometimes for political purposes such as stifling freedom of expression. It has been argued that when a State is spellbound to this strategy, it stands to derail gains made in the protection of human rights before the State of emergency and therefore recalibrate downward in the human rights protection. It is more the reason, it has been suggested that in some respect States are enjoined to handle crises through normally applicable powers and procedures and insist on full compliance with human rights even when introducing new necessary measures to address pressing social needs created by the pandemic.

Overall, the Government of Liberia must tread cautiously in dealing with COVID-19, because Liberia is State Party to many international human rights instruments that require accountability. Liberians and the world are watching.

Atty. Urias Teh Pour holds a Master in Laws (LLM) in Human Rights and Democratisation in Africa from the University of Pretoria. He can be reached at

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