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Toting The Ethnic Kinjah

I must admit, “toting the ethnic kinjah” is not the best title suited for what I am about to say. And off the back, I apologize for any ethnic reference that may have any unfavorable connotation or unpleasant perception. With no pun intended, it makes perfect sense for members of the Ethnic ethnic group to carry their own kinjah.  So there is nothing wrong with “toting the Ethnic kinjah” per se.  After all “if you don’t tote your own kinjah, who is going to carry it for you?” But the problem comes when you begin to take a common issue that affects everyone else, appropriate that problem to just you thinking it is exclusively yours and begin to suspect everyone else is culpable or don’t care about your suffering. That is the closest I can get in describing the thread-bare Liberian parlance of toting kinjah. It will become clearer, I hope, by the end of this piece of writing.

It is becoming increasingly clear that some of us who abhor the championing of exclusive ethnic causes or the “you offend one person of a given ethnic group, you offend all members of that ethnic group” mentality and what I call "toting this ethnic kinjah" represent the interest of the country especially after a somewhat tribal  war has just ended. My heart curls with a violent force inside my rib cage when I see many persons of a given ethnic ethnic group jump all over those who actually or perceived to step on the toes of their ethnic group and begin to even threaten full scale war. For example, some members of the Mandingo ethnic group would say “We have now arrived” with a touch of pride, “and no one can do us what they did before.” By this, they are making reference to subjugation, marginalization, discrimination, etc. against their ethnic group by other Liberian ethnic groups and the extortion of money from business people of the Mandingo origin by security and custom officers. To them, Mandingoes were exclusively targeted for these crimes and that the Liberian Uncivil War became an epitome of hatred, jealousy and exclusion towards Mandingoes. Implicitly or explicitly, they want us to believe that these were vices exclusively towards those of the Mandingo ethnic group while the rest of Liberia became perpetrators, conspirators, co-conspirators or acquiescent bystanders of such devilish acts. To that effect, whatever crime against humanity that is carried out in the interest of self-defense of their ethnic group is not only heroic and ordained but a justified evil, collateral damage or necessary natural occurrence. From the same token, anyone associated with this perceived redemption of their ethnic group must be canonized if not deified. That is the real problem and a threat to a peaceful  co-existence with other Liberian ethnic groups.

I have mentioned either publicly or in private that these issues are not exclusively one ethnic group issues. From 1847 till 1980, the economics and politics of the country were dominated by a single tribe and till this day, the vestiges of that century long domination are visible everywhere even outside of the country. Throughout our history, belonging to any of the native tribes (Kru, Krahn, Mandingo, Lorma, etc.) was not all that honorable so we made effort to be kwii or “civilized. Our military and law enforcement officers  instead of protecting lives and properties have been endangering lives and properties. Extorting money from anyone who has money become the norm even till this day! Mandingoes and Fulas happened to be business people in Liberia and were involved in trading –buying and selling goods here and there throughout the country and even beyond. Ungodly custom and immigration officers at borders and other security people at checkpoints inside the country feast on those doing business regardless of tribes or nationality. One of the tool they deployed and I have experienced travelling through West Africa is to first charge you with a crime. One of those crimes is “your papers are not correct” even if you provided documents from Heaven. Then the war came when every evil ever imagined thrived for more than a decade. Those with guns deployed every imaginable reason to kill, loot and rape.  One rebel, as I heard, killed a woman because as he put it, the woman never used to “dash” him whenever he bought food or “cold bowl” from her. NPFL was the first group and their overt targets were President Doe and his government officials, members of his Krahn ethnic group, members of the Mandingo ethnic group because as some rebels told me, Mandingoes were pointing out their positions to the government soldiers. It just did not end there. Rebels had no ways of knowing so they took every Kwa person as Krahn and every tribe that was perceived as closer to Mandingo as Mandingo and therefore targeted as well. The Gbandis, Lormas, Vais, etc. were part of that group. Also educated people were targeted and those perceived as “enjoying.” My sister nearly lost her life because she pronounced the “th” sound in three.As per the rebels, Sister Doris sounded like a Ghanaian, one of the groups targetted after ECOMOG came to intervene in our madness.

We all know the story of the many rebel groups that were formed to avenge, revenge and “protect themselves against annihilation.” The list of massacres as a result of these killings and counter killings is long, even longer than what we heard in the news. ULIMO came and fractured into ULIMO-K and ULIMO-J. They too had their own target groups. Anyone (including tribes) perceived of being an NPFL fighter or supported suffered their wrath. The exact actions of the two ULIMOs in the North and west were being replicated in the Southeast by another demonic group awkwardly named as the Liberia Peace council. My home town of Doodwicken was completely burnt down and the Jeadepo (minority Grebo) were one of their prime targets for “supporting Taylor.” Papah, Yee, Teacha Cartor, and other beloveds were among the many casualties. How then does it make me feel if someone “toting the Ethnic kinjah” averred that I did not suffer losses as much as him or that his/her ethnic group is victimized the most compared to another ethnic group? Sometimes they go to the extent of accusing whoever is does not wear their lenses as participating in the killings of or conspiring against their ethnic group? This is not just my story but each and every one Liberian has their own horror story. And that is exactly my point that by “toting this ethnic kinjah,” you don’t only isolate your ethnic group but you make it difficult for any joint effort in championing what are truly Liberian issues. Liberia has a lot of challenges that are not tribes specific and so all hands on deck are needed. Any sector you pick, you will realize that the issue are the same all over the country.

  • War crimes court, TRC recommendations or blanket pardon for all perpetrators-Liberian issue and not an exclusive ethnic issue
  • Law, order and governance - Liberian issue and not an exclusive ethnic issue
  • Extortion at border crossings and other forms of corruption - Liberian issue and not an exclusive ethnic issue
  • Marginalization of minority ethnic groups in various counties - Liberian issue and not an exclusive ethnic issue
  • Beefing up tribal exclusivity and tension for political gains - Liberian issue and not an exclusive ethnic issue
  • Bad roads that make the transportation of goods and services almost impossible - Liberian issue and not an exclusive ethnic issue

These are just a few of the issues that we, regardless of ethnic, social, economic or political backgrounds that we can all work on. Any slight assertion that only one ethnic group (Lorma, Krahn, Gio, etc) felt the greatest pinch and that others have something to do with, is a sure path to worsening inter-ethnic tensions and an eventual national disaster. "My tribe felt more pains than your tribe" is therefore a silly statement and an example of "toting the ethnic kinjah."

I am not a historian but I remembered Dr. King and his civil rights movement He could have made it an exclusively Black issues or he would have "toted the blacks kinjah" but no; instead, he championed civil rights issue and as a result peoples of all races got on board. Greboes, Krahns, Mandingoes, Gios, like other ethnic groups should quit “toting the ethnic kinjah” and champion issues from that same mindset as Dr. King because if the underlining root causes of those issues are fixed, it is fixed for all ethnic groups plus everyone of any given social or economic classe.

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