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An Interview With Mama Liberia – Part Four

Paul Yeenie Harry ~ (March 27th 2006)  

"...My children are like fingers of the same hand; they belong together. A truth and reconciliation commission, for example, would be necessary in knowing what happened between the ethnic groups and what could be done to engendered reconciliation among them – as groups. This also applies to town versus town, village versus village, individual versus town, individual versus village, individual versus individual, family versus family, family member versus family, etc, etc....”

"Great men are not always wise: neither do the aged understand judgment. Therefore I say: Hearken to me; I also will show my opinion." Job 32:9,10


It had taken long since Dr. Findings and I entered the little cottage where Mama Liberia, one of the most fabulous daughters of Africa, was giving an unprecedented interview to the journalist. One of the most interesting features of the interview was that not only was our Mother, I mean, Mama Liberia, not short of words and ideas in responding to the journalist’s questions, but also was energetic throughout, except at the few instances when she was enumerating the sufferings she and her children had gone through.

You might still remember in the last posting, Part Three, after Mama Liberia had recounted the horrible crimes committed by some of her children, the journalist posed an embarrassing question to Mama Liberia, at least in my view. I believe it is reasonably perfect to start with Dr. Findings last question once more. This is how it went…

Dr. Findings: But I learned that you were conceived on Christian principles. How come your children did such cruel things to one another? Doesn’t Jesus say in Matthew Chapter 6 verse 44 that people should love their enemies and do good to those who hate them? Or maybe it is your own ways that your children have copied. Snakes cannot beget dolphins; neither can a donkey beget a lion. It might be that you are simply not a good mother.
(I was shocked when I heard this from Dr. Findings. I thought he was being rude to our mother, but I did not say anything. I wanted to hear what answer Mama Liberia would give in response to this strongly worded question. And for sure, as I had expected, Mama Liberia began to respond.)

Mama Liberia: It’s tantamount to saying that God must be an evil being since his creatures are involved in evil deeds.  Why would you want to propound such logic, my young journalist? Is this not what we call non-sequiter in the world of logic? Are you presupposing that because a created being does horrible things it must necessarily follow that the Creator is also horrible? Are you arguing that God the Father is deceitful and evil because Satan the Devil, a being created by God, is deceitful and evil? Is it not a known fact that children usually go against their parents’ will?
(At this point, I was confused as to whether these questions were rhetoric questions, or ones that were meant to be answered. I looked at Dr. Findings, and he looked at me. More were to come…)

Mama Liberia: My young journalist, haven’t you heard that the child of a morally upright person may turn out to be a miscreant? To disprove your faulty analogy, or, better, assumption, I will narrate a true story to you. Once, there lived a truly Christian father who did everything to inculcate the best Christian values into his children. His family, friends and neighbors positively talked about his decent Christian life. Not only did he teach his children decent values, he also lived them and encouraged his children, in every way possible, to follow his footsteps. He had three children. The all got married and started their own families. Later, one of them became a serious drug-addict, killed his wife, set their house ablaze and committed suicide.  In this situation, what logic would it be, if we were to conclude that he copied after his father?
(Again, there was a complete silence after the last question. After a while, Mama Liberia continued…)

Mama Liberia: The same applies to the truly great religions of the world, religions that base their existence and teachings on moral values, peaceful co-existence and love for one another. Would you hold the Christian Religion responsible, if one, or a few, of its members chose to live contrary to its moral values, or what the Bible teaches? A philosopher once said that it is no disgrace to Christianity if a hypocrite, a false Christian, chooses to commit wrong deeds. It is true that I was conceived on Christian principles. In fact, it is because of this fact that the region where my heart is located, which you called Capital City, was originally called Christopolis, meaning, the City of Christ, but political appeasement caused some of my children to rename it Monrovia, a name coined in honor of James Monroe, the Fifth President of the United States of America.

(At this point, my face began to beam with great delight, not only because Mama Liberia was ably responding to the question, but also because she was alluding to different disciplines in answering the question – from logic to ethics to religion to history, and so forth. I looked at Dr. Findings, and I realized that he was spell-bound. Had he been a little child, I would have teased him with the childish expression, “Whoe-pe-pe.” In fact, I almost laughed when I saw his face, but I held my peace, as I didn’t want to be considered uncouth. While this silent drama was going on, Mama Liberia’s voice was heard…)

Mama Liberia: Now, to be more specific, I will say this. I have always taught my children moral values, respect for the aged, love for one another, love for virtues, respect for the rule of law, peaceful co-existence, etc. However this, some of them sometimes choose to go astray. They do things that I don’t expect them to do, things they have not learned from me, nor seen me do. The saying, “You’ve born the child, but you’ve not born the child’s heart,” can reasonably be applied in my situation. It saddens my heart, but I love them and I am patient with them. Notwithstanding this, I sometimes punish some of them for their unacceptable behavior.

(This response also brought elation to my heart, as I thought Mama Liberia had forgotten to say something directly, as it related to her character and that of the contrasting one some of her children possess. While this thought was flowing through my head, another question was posed, this time, from the journalist.)

Dr. Findings: There is an important point you just mentioned. You say you sometimes punish some of your children for their unacceptable behavior. I have a question in this direction. Where do you stand on the issue of a war crime trial or a truth and reconciliation commission?

Mama Liberia: That’s an interesting question. Actually, both are necessary, at least in my situation. My children are like fingers of the same hand; they belong together. A truth and reconciliation commission, for example, would be necessary in knowing what happened between the ethnic groups and what could be done to engendered reconciliation among them – as groups. This also applies to town versus town, village versus village, individual versus town, individual versus village, individual versus individual, family versus family, family member versus family, etc, etc. The wars that were fought, and how they were fought, coupled with the various scenarios the war conditions created, took different dimensions and produced different rippling effects. They must be examined individually and pragmatically, and dealt with accordingly. Different illnesses not only require different medicines, but also different dosages. Having said this, I encourage all of my children not to condone any blind amnesty.

(Mama Liberia’s full understanding of her problems and how some of them should be dealt with were clearly seen in her response. I could not hold my peace, but nod in agreement. As I was doing this, she continued…)

Mama Liberia: On the issue of a war crime tribunal, I strongly recommend it. I am cognizant of the fact that it will be costly for my children and me, in many respects of the term, but it is necessary. Some of my children are so used to the culture of impunity that they think crime pays. A war crime tribunal is necessary to change the situation around. The warlords who masterminded and had oversight responsibility over the wars that saw my destruction, the death of thousands of my children, etc, must be held responsible for their role. As you may know, a war crime trial is meant for those who share greater responsibility in a war, and my children must do everything in their power, in collaboration with the justice-oriented international institutions and community, to bring to justice all those of my children who share greater responsibility in the war that wrecked me for about fourteen years. They should not be allowed to escape or circumvent justice.

(There was a pause. I realized that Mama Liberia’s voice was more forceful at this point. I was about to whisper something in Dr. Findings’ ear when the voice continued…)

Mama Liberia: Having said this, I wish to stress that if my children ignore my advise and choose to wink at the many horrendous crimes that were committed, if they choose to let the perpetrators war crimes and crimes against humanity not to answer for their crimes – whether words, deeds or passiveness – I will say nothing further regarding this. But, they should be willing and ready to accept the consequences of their decision and choice, whether in the short run, or long run.

(There was a long silence after this last point. Dr. Findings looked at me, and I looked at Dr. Findings. After a few seconds, something strange happened.)
Allow me to rest my pen for the next part.

About the Author:

Paul Yeenie Harry is a Liberian living in Poland, Europe. He can be reached at

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