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The Stupidity of the So-called Tribal Line Charges

I really hate it when political hopefuls and their surrogates throw around the charge of tribalism when for instance a Kissi man stands with another Kissi man or someone from Grand Gedeh becomes a surrogate for his/her fellow Grand Gedehian. I find absolutely nothing wrong with that. Even when a Bassa man says they prefer a Bassa President or the entire Kpelle ethnic group advocating for a Kpelle Commander in Chief. This is not tribalism or tribal bigotry. As long as in the quest of a president from their ethnic group they do not infringe on the rights of or discriminate against others, I am cool with it. All over the World, people vote based on who they think have their best interest. Identifying with one’s own ethnic group or siding with someone who happens to come from the same ethnic group or county as you in any (political) competition like in the case of elections is fair game. Those who lampoon such rational behavior are the tribalists or take their ethnic group to be inferior to others. Anyone saying they want a Kru President, Nimba vice President, Native President or Congo Chief Justice is not in error at all. They only prefer someone who they believe will represent their causes or “put oil on their beans.”

Over a decade ago, those some sentiments were expressed in the 2005 elections. Excerpts from an article I wrote in response is below.

During these electioneering days, tribalism has NOT taken a different meaning but a brand new form and shape. It has been thrown around to match its original Liberian meaning. This is why there is much condemnation about people voting "on tribal lines." If anyone following these elections, may not find it strange or traumatic to notice how the airwaves are filled with the pronouncement or allusion that it is okay for an Americo Liberian to vote an Americo-Liberian/Congo but at the same time unhealthy for democracy and the new Liberia if a Kru man casts his ballot in favor of another Kru person or Bassa for Bassa. It is also politically correct for an upper class to canvass for another upper-class person to become president but stupid and backward for a slum dweller to prefer another slum dweller for the presidency. These individuals ignore the proximity theory just to match prior disdain about being tribal or "uncivilized."  Read the article in its entirety by clicking here.


We as a country has not done well in building institutions that will protect the right and advance the causes of the masses including the minority and the most vulnerable in our society. In some instances, law makers are looking out for themselves and even the Supreme Court does not seem to have the back of the ordinary citizen. We have seen instances where the army and law enforcement officers seem to endanger lives and properties instead of protecting them; those elected or appointed who swear to protect and defend the constitution trample those laws under their feet in their endless quest to satisfy their own appetites for public money. To add insult to injury, ordinary citizens are forced to compete for the attention and handouts from those who treat the public coffers as, in the words of Dr. George Klay Kieh, “eat-all-you-can-eat buffet.” In light of those circumstances, it becomes natural for citizens to gravitate towards their ethnic groups as the only reliable base to look out for them. They have seen how Harper became developed under President William Tubman; they have seen how Bensonville got renamed after the Tolbert family as Bentol as the capital city of Montserrado; they have seen how Tuzon became littered with modern structures under Samuel K. Doe. So why will, for example, the Kissi not want a Kissi president or the Bassa people a Bassa President to develop their areas too? 

For these reasons and more, I believe the “voting on tribal line” charges being thrown are just stupid. Period. Until we are able to develop institutions that will defend and protect the rights of all and at the same time ensure equal opportunity for all regardless of ethnic, religious or social lineage, allow the people to seek refuge in their ethnic affiliations not as a platform to promote hate, discrimination and bigotry but simply as a basis for running to a big brother or big sister to give you a push when all others fail.

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