Paul Yeenie Harry ~ (September 30th 2005)
"...The whole thing is stupid, you know. My children who speak the Krahn language started killing their brothers and sisters who speak the Gio and Mano languages. It was horrible! But then, guess what happened! The children who speak the Gio and Mano languages came together and began to kill their brothers and sisters who speak the Krahn and Mandingo languages. Then the killing spread between the children who speak Mandingo and those who speak Lorma. It further spread between the children who speak Krahn and those who speak Mandingo. It became a killing game in which they became happy to participate, killing indiscriminately....”
"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
Part 1 || Part 2
You recall at the end of Part Two, Dr. Findings challenged Mama Liberia to reconcile her two positions: enumerating scores of problems that have made her poor while, at the same time, claiming that she is rich. I was a bit scared, as I listened to Mama Liberia mentioning the factors that have made her destitute.
“Why did Mama Liberia tell this man her deep problems? Why didn’t she only mention the good aspects of her life, just as politicians usually do?” I had questioned myself. Somehow, Dr. Findings thought our mother had made a great mistake by “washing her dirty clothes outside,” though I was convinced to a great extent that she knew what she had done. I could feel and see that Dr. Findings was cynically smiling, thinking that Mama Liberia had entrapped herself by not only admitting that she is poor, but also by listing those things that cause her to be considered indigent.
However, in the midst of my own little confusion and Dr. Findings’ misplaced confidence that he had “caught” our mother, this sagacious daughter of Africa, called Mama Liberia, began to reveal, in clear terms, her great riches, to the outmost surprise of Dr. Findings. This is how she proceeded.
Mama Liberia: You know, my riches are more than enough to solve the problems just mentioned. If only my children could make maximum and proper use of what I have, they would be named about the successful children of the world. (Mama Liberia pointed with a kind of voice that was devoid of doubts.)
Dr. Findings: So, tell us exactly what you have. Give us some ideas of what makes you think that you are rich. What do you have? What can you boast of? (Dr. Findings continued his tenacious questioning.)
Mama Liberia: To be frank with you, if I were to list all that I have, you would be here for days; however, because of the brevity of time, I will only mention a few of my possessions. I have natural gas, a vital component of the world’s supply of energy, and other hydrocarbon compounds. Natural gas is commonly associated with oil deposits. What does that tell you? I also have uranium, platinum, barite, silica, silver, clay, kyanite, kymbalyte, nickel, etc. I have iron ore. Have you heard about my different deposits of gold and diamonds? Don’t forget about my tropical rainforests, with various plant and animal lives? Think about my timber and rubber. Haven’t you heard that my climate is suitable for agriculture? Are you aware that I have abundance of water, about 15 different river basins? It is part of my genetic makeup; I will never experience drought. (After this last sentence, there was a complete silence for a few minutes. This caused Dr. Findings to presume that our mother had left the place.)
Dr. Findings (turning to me to inquire): It’s more than five minutes since she uttered her last sentence. Maybe she is no longer here. She might have left this place without informing us about it.
Paul: Who? Our mother? No way! She would never ever do such a thing. She’s one of the most well-natured women I have ever known about. For the behavior of some of her children, I wouldn’t put my neck on the chopping board but, for Mama Liberia, I can tell you that she is still here with us. (At the end of my statement, the melancholic voice went out.)
Mama Liberia: I am still here with you. It’s just that I am saddened by my children’s condition and, sometimes, a period of silence helps me. Why would they allow themselves to be without food? Think about the many food and food items I am already growing. I grow oranges, grape-fruits, sugar cane, mangoes, pineapples, corn, cassava, coco yams, yams, coffee, coconuts, cocoa, rice, eddoes, bitter balls, okra, pepper, cucumbers, papaya, guava, beneseed, plantains, bananas, sweet potatoes, avocado, egg plants, tomatoes, kola nuts, and many, many other items. I also produce palm oil, coconut oil, farina, and many other things. Don’t forget about other agricultural products such as cattle, goats, sheep, pigs, chickens, ducks, and so forth. I am already producing these things. Really, my children should not go hungry! (Right after this last sentence, Mama Liberia kept silent for a while, after which we began to hear a sobbing sound from Mama Liberia. Then, the sad utterance came.)
Mama Liberia: In West Africa, there are four of Africa’s daughters whose original names had the word ‘coast’ attached to them – Nigeria, Ghana, Cote D’voire and me, Liberia. Remember that Nigeria was known as the Slave Coast because of the slave activities taking place there. Ghana was called the Gold Coast because of the abundance of gold there. Cote D’voire was called the Ivory Coast because of the tusks from elephants, which was a major item of trade in those days, when West Africa had a huge population of elephants. Now, think about me. Do you know how I used to be called? (Again, there was a silence, and then she continued.)
Mama Liberia: Besides being called the Pepper Coast because of the Malaguatta Pepper that I also produced, I was actually known as the Grain Coast by the first Portuguese explorers that saw me. This name stayed with me for a long time, even after I was given the name Liberia in 1824. Why do you think I was called the Grain Coast? Would a woman not able to feed herself and her children be given such a name? I tell you the truth: my children should not go hungry! (Again, there was a pause, a situation which was becoming a modus operandi of this particular section of the interview. Dr. Findings was not perturbed by it, neither was I. We all understood that Mama Liberia had a message to send out, a message which she had never before divulged to any one, not even to any of her children. We were sure that after every pause, no matter how long it took, Mama Liberia would continue. And, for sure, it happened.)
Mama Liberia: How I wish my children, especially those who have the means, could invest in the soil by getting involved in agriculture. Sooner than later, they would become self-sufficient to the extent that they would begin to export food. The land is there, the climate is suitable and the laborers are available. (At the end of this, there was another pause for a few minutes, and then the voice went.)
Mama Liberia: If only my children could establish a well-managed park in the form of a safari, where thousands of tourists could come every year, as the children of Kenya and South Africa have done, think about how much they would generate in income. I have elephants, leopards, chimpanzees, monkeys, mongoose, pygmy hippopotamus, boa constrictors, short-horned buffalo, which is called bush cow by most of my children, antelopes, anteaters, porcupines, alligators, different types of crocodiles, anteaters, different kinds of birds and many other types of animals. The illegal and wasteful killing of these animals, compounded with the lack of vision for the tourist industry, as well as for the conservation of these animals, is adding to the poverty and unabated suffering of my children. I really love my children and mean well for them, but … (There was another break in what Mama Liberia was saying. After some moment, she continued, but with a dispirited voice.)
Mama Liberia: … my children are not doing enough to help themselves. It saddens my soul. Also, think about the blessing of the North Atlantic Ocean, which I stand on. There are many different marine lives. Can my children boast of a strong fishing industry? How about the many ships that fly my flag? I am not a land-locked country. As you may be aware, the Atlantic Ocean provides my children with a coastline of about 560 km, which is about 350 miles long, providing too many sandy beaches. How I wish my children could take care of these beaches to attract international tourists, a scheme which would not only make them earn millions of dollars every year, but also help to provide employment opportunity for them. Instead of thinking about these things, some of them are using these beaches to commit crimes, while others use them as an open field to toilet and to throw trash and other disgusting substances. It hurts me, you know, it really hurts me. My children have to their disposal the necessary things which can make them spring from the poverty-stricken condition to a better place. Instead, they blindly stand on these things, or destroy them, and sit in the open with their hands wide-open, crying poor mouth, year in and year out. They unknowingly bring disgrace to themselves and to me. This stupid attitude, generally on their part, really annoys and shames me. They usually do stupid things.
Dr. Findings: Mama Liberia, I can see that you are becoming emotional, to the extent that you have started insulting your own children. Why call your children stupid?
Mama Liberia: What do you expect from a frustrated mother? Do you expect me to eulogize them? Do you want me to sit them on my lap and sing paean to them, after seen their many stupid actions and inactions that have brought disgrace not only to me, but also to them? It is my parental right to reprimand them, even if it requires harsh or emotional language. These are things that usually happen between mothers and their children. Having said this, remember that I have not said that my children are stupid. I said they do stupid things. They exhibit stupid attitude. By doing stupid things does not necessary mean that they are stupid. An act of mistake could be considered stupid, which does not categorically mean that the person committing the act is stupid.
Dr. Findings: Ok, let’s touch on another thing you just said. By saying “What do you expect from a frustrated mother?” presupposes that you are frustrated. Are you are frustrated woman?
Mama Liberia: Oh, yes, I am. I am frustrated. But why shouldn’t I? Would any woman, in my position, not be disturbed and frustrated, considering the plight of her children whom she so dearly loves? May the gods come to my rescue! I am frustrated and will continue this period of frustration until my children can start during mature things that will take the disgrace away. I feel hurt more, talking about these things. I have not even discussed with anyone before. When I think about the condition of my children, tears are my food for months. (Again, there was a silence, but not a complete silence, as we could hear Mama Liberia weeping. It was not about “But women like to cry.” It was really about a mother weeping because she was touched by something that hurt her soul. I think it had reached the point where she could not control her true feelings about her burden – the unfavorable plight of her children and, by extension, her own body.)
Dr. Findings (turning to me): Do you think I could console her? I see she is going through a period of immense grief!
Paul: You may, but even if you did, I believe she wouldn’t be consoled. Remember she is not crying; she is actually weeping. Women are not like men. Trying to console them, especially when it has to with something that gravely affects their womanhood and inner soul, it is like trying to carry water in a sifter – the consolation will have no effect. As I listen to Mama Liberia and imagine the great sorrow she is going through, my mind goes to the woman called Rachel, whose condition is described in the Bible book of Matthew 2:18, which says: In Rama was there a voice heard, lamentation, weeping and great mourning, Rachel weeping for her children, and she would not be comforted, because they are not. (At the end of my words, Mama Liberia began to speak again.)
Mama Liberia: Do you think I feel good about my children’s condition, being the first independent republican woman of my mother? You stated earlier that people only talk about my great age, but not my great achievements. Is that anything to make me happy? I am worried about my children’s conditions. If illiteracy is a disease, then it means that more than 75% of my children are sick. Is that anything to make me happy? How can I be happy when hundreds of thousands of my children live below the poverty line? How can I be happy when, for fourteen years, my children were killing one another, as if they came from different parts of the universe, and not from the same mother? How can I be happy when thousands of them are either displaced or are refugees, begging for relief food and sleeping in horrible places and getting terrible treatment? How can I be happy when my children, instead of being united, are so divided among themselves? How can I be happy when scores of my children, though at the working age, cannot find any jobs to do? How can I be happy when, because of my condition, some of my children leave and refuse to return, forgetting to know that I give birth to them? With all that I have gone through, and still going through, you ask me if I am a frustrated woman? (Again, there was a long pause, after which she continued.)
Mama Liberia: How can I be happy when, though I am Mother Africa’s oldest republican daughter, I am referred to as a failed woman, pariah woman, poor woman, war-torn woman, etc? How can I be happy when other people have to come to my rescue continually because of my children’s stupid deeds? Think about what my children did to themselves about the rice issue in 1979, when Sister Guinea had to intervene to stop a bloodbath. Some of them lost their lives. Again, in 1980, some of them came together and planned a scheme for the elimination of some of their brothers and sisters. This stupid act took the lives of some of their siblings. My other son, called Tolbert, who was in charge of me, was brutally killed on April 12 of that year, without any remorse on the part of my other children who killed him. (There was a complete silence. Then she continued.)
Mama Liberia: In the midst of all this, one of those who killed him, one of my sons called Doe, declared himself as the person who would take care of me. He did not do any better. In 1983, he sent a group of his closest brothers and sisters to Nimba to kill some of his other brothers and sisters in what is now called the Nimba Raid, believing that they were his enemies, instead of his own siblings. In 1985, one of my sons, called Quiwonkpa, got angry and put some of his closest brothers and sisters together and came to revenge on my son who had earlier engineered the Nimba Raid. This stupid act also killed many of his brothers and sisters, including he himself. Why should they continue to do this to one another? (Again, there was a pause. Then, she started.)
Mama Liberia: Think about what happened from 1989-2003. Brothers killing brothers! It all started when one of my sons, called Taylor, came to kill his other brother who was taking care of me. I tell you, the killing my children did to one another was so uncontrollably massive and brutal that one of the sons of Sister Gambia called me a slaughterhouse. His name is Sir Dawda Kairaba Jawara. He took care of Sister Gambia from 1970-1994. He had to hurriedly put people together to come to my rescue. The rescuers, called ECOMOG, arrived on August 24, 1990. However, on September 9, 1990, some of my children, led by my other son called Prince, still arrested my son Doe who was in charge and brutally killed him on the 10 th of September, again, without any remorse on the part of those who killed him. This did not even stop the killings. In fact, more killing groups were formed. (At the mention of this, again, Mama Liberia paused for a while before continuing.)
Mama Liberia: The whole thing is stupid, you know. My children who speak the Krahn language started killing their brothers and sisters who speak the Gio and Mano languages. It was horrible! But then, guess what happened! The children who speak the Gio and Mano languages came together and began to kill their brothers and sisters who speak the Krahn and Mandingo languages. Then the killing spread between the children who speak Mandingo and those who speak Lorma. It further spread between the children who speak Krahn and those who speak Mandingo. It became a killing game in which they became happy to participate, killing indiscriminately. Can you imagine this, children of the same mother killing one another, as if they did not have a common background? I don’t even want to mention the gruesome manner in which they did their killing of one another. (There was another period of silence and, then, the response continued.)
Mama Liberia: It is unbelievable and disgraceful. But, after a while, my children somehow decided to stop killing one another for about three years. During this period, my son called Taylor was somehow chosen to take care of me. The first rescuers were asked to leave in 1999. The same 1999, other children of mine regrouped themselves and came to violently remove Taylor who was taking care of me. The killing and suffering continued unabated until a new rescue team, called UNMIL, came in 2003 to save my little ones and me. So, the killing game came to an end in 2003 but, before this, hundreds of thousands of my children had already died, some from bullets, others from hunger and diseases. Would such a situation not make a woman frustrated? How can I be happy in the midst of all this? (I could see that Mama Liberia was happy that she had the opportunity to make her frustration known. She wanted to tell her story.)
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 our mother 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 …
To you, my brothers and sisters, in and out of Liberia, it is a pity you did not have the opportunity to have listened to the woman called Mama Liberia. Our mother really cares about us and desires the best for us. From what I saw and heard during the interview, I can only strongly urge all of us to put the past behind us and move ahead, for the sake of our only mother. No matter what we do, where we go, where we desire to stay and how long we desire to stay there, she is the only mother we have. We can never ever have another true mother; we can only be adopted children. Let’s pay attention to our mother!
For now, please allow me to rest my pen, but watch out: the dream continues in Part Four.
About the author:
Paul Yeenie Harry is a Liberian; he lives in Poland. He can be reached at email@example.com