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This Independence Day

The TRC Final Report, although not perfect, is the best thing to have ever happened to the country as far as I can remember. I suggest that we especially in the Diaspora use this year’s July 26 commemoration to discuss and promote its prompt implementation. I hope we could suspend all fanfare, the IE and Barrole playfulness, and the other festivities that normally characterize Independence Day to engage Liberians and our friends in an effort to encourage the adoption of most, if not all, of the recommendations of the report.

Since the report came out on the eve of the July 4th week end, I have been immersed in this document and swept off my feet by the broad range of issues it covers. To me the prosecution of warlords, barring of their deputies, or “pardoning” of “remorseful” blood suckers are just a little tiny portion of why I thought the framers did a magnificent job in completing a very difficult assignment. Going back to the old days to point out the abuses, poor choices, witch crafting and mistakes of the past which for over a hundred years were festering underneath and advancing those necessary recommendations to right those wrongs and deter any recurrence, I believe is the strength of the document.

Looking at the way everything is structured presently in Liberia, it is hard to argue that the country belongs to all of us. This lopsided foundation puts almost every entitlement to the milk and honey of this land exclusively in the hands of a few mainly the settlers and their heirs. Our very foundation speaks of the founding of a country by “freed slaves” and therefore puts Liberia as having “originating” from the United States. If the “us” in our national motto is referring to Liberians, how can that include me whose fore fathers were living in a place collectively referred to as Dugbae Dey (beyond the Dugbae River) when the “love of liberty brought” them? How can I feel a part of the national capital when it is all about a mere 5% of the population? How can I live with them peacefully when the mass murder they committed against my fathers is commemorated and celebrated as national holidays while every national symbol excludes others?

For all these years, we have lived in the falsehood of being independent dancing our heels off every July 26 although we have never been told from whom we had gained this independence. Reading through the TRC final report, I suggest we use this Independence Day to reflect on all the abuses and witch crafting of the past which continued to boil until we had our hands full with the horrors of 1979-2003. If we can resolve the upheavals of those years as recommended by the TRC, then we can all have one independent day that will mark our freedom from the bondage of misrule, social and economic inequities, political witch crafting and ignorance. We all want to continue dancing to the Grebo band “coco gbalee” during these celebrations but not until we are on the same page where the “love of liberty” will not only bring them and their children “here” but also account for us the ninety five percent who already living “here.” [Reference to the Liberian national motto “the love of liberty brought us (Americo Liberians) here (Liberia).”]

Like some of us, the TRC final report does not put the start of the killing spree on April 12, 1980 neitheer does it lay all at the feet of Mr. Tylor who took us by storm on Christmas eve in 1989. Something gave rise to something which gave rise to something and that something gave rise to another … all of which were climaxed by the killing of over 400,000 (latest estimates) of our own people mainly indigenous Liberians. The TRC has made giant strides to trace the causes of our worst nightmares to other rights violations and robberies as far back as the 19th century.

For over hundred years, these violations and abuses have been swept under the rug and in some instances, the victims blamed for inviting fire into their own bosoms. Any attempt to make these amends has been dismissed as either untimely or against the spirit of peace and reconciliation. To the taste of the evil doers, we put forward all efforts to deal with the roots of our troubles so as to concentrate on so-called priorities. No doubt this same tendency is building to allow once again these bad behaviors to slide under the pretext of a fragile situation. This is yet another attempt to allow evil to gain roots again maybe for another century because we have to let bygones be bygones.

We have never had time to give back to the people buildings built with stolen money (some built with loans that we are yet to pay back) and rented to government as government ministries but we manage to find time for some silly stuff as the threshold bill in the midst of a displaced population. We have never thought that it would engender lasting peace and reconciliation to call for equal representation of all ethnic groups or political sub-divisions (qualify and competent) in government. Before we know it, we would be back at where we started where the gap between the haves and have not becomes an ever widening chasm. Let’s interrupt such pattern putting the core issues on the back burner on this Independence Day.

I am not naive to believe that our present government will shoot itself in the leg by adopting the TRC recommendations since the almighty president (by Liberian standards) is suppose to resign if those recommendations are followed through and some members of the national legislature will either be prosecuted in a war crime court or be asked to resign and barred from holding any other public office for 30 years. It is unthinkable to imagine that the one who holds the knife and holds the tuber of cassava will cut it at the place we want it even cut it at all. But at least we have a chronicle of the activities that led us where we are. We have written testimonies of their participation in the mayhem that destroyed the only country we have and plagued us for perhaps the next hundred years. At least we now know a path to righting our wrongs that even if they don’t endorse, some other government may stumble upon one day. Maybe not in our life time but a day of reckoning will certainly come when “justice [will] roll down like waters, and righteousness like an ever-flowing stream.”

Let this Independence Day make the difference!

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