By Nvasekie N. Konneh (February 13 2006)
|"...Mr. Kromah has the right, just like the others above, to freely express himself. I don’t see anything wrong with Kromah’s comment. For anyone to suggest that "Mr. Kromah’s demand for official appointment based on religious affiliation could be a recipe for disaster" is an exaggerated statement.... "
Recently, Prof. Alhaji Kromah was quoted to have said that he sees discrimination in the appointments in President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf's administration. According to the same article, Mr. Kromah is said to have called for "a balanced political environment where all Liberians, irrespective of their religious affiliation, are represented.” In his rejoinder to that article, "Prof. Alhaji Kromah Misses the Mark Again," my good friend, Theodore Hodge, among other things, criticized Mr. Kromah for suggesting that President Johnson-Sirleaf considers religion when making her appointment.
I want to weigh in on the issue to inform not only Mr. Hodge but the reading public about some erroneous assertion Mr. Hodge made in his response to Mr. Kromah. Hodge is one of my favorite commentators on Liberian issues but sometime we all unintentionally say something that may not be correct. According to Mr. Hodge, "Mr. Kromah refused to vote for Mrs. Sirleaf (in keeping with his Islamic beliefs) simply because she’s a woman and Islam does not allow female leaders?" What I want to make clear here with regard to this assertion is that Mr. Kromah not supporting Mrs. Johnson-Sirleaf has more to do with politics than religion. While it may be true that Islam, like many other religions, may not be supportive of women becoming leaders, it’s also true that not all Moslems follow that as a doctrine in political decision making.
This is the case with both Pakistan and Bangladesh, two Moslem countries that have elected female prime ministers long before Liberia could set that record for Africa with Mrs. Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf as the first elected female president. The two well-known women, Mrs. Benazir Bhutto of Pakistan and Mrs. Kaleda Zia became prime ministers in their countries. Both countries are former British colonies with parliamentary system of government. In the British parliamentary system, the king or president is a nominal head but it’s the prime minister that campaigns to be elected and he or she forms government and runs the day-to-day affairs of the country just like the president does in a republican system. Although there are many conservative Moslem countries, which may not support women becoming president or prime minister, both Pakistan and Bangladesh are two examples to the contrary.
Mr. Hodge went on to say that, “Neither the Bible nor the Qu’ran is fair to the fairer sex; as a matter of fact, they are staunchly hostile to their rights. Women are generally regarded as inferiors.” The fair thing to say is that we live in the male dominated world where men have got used to being in control and they use any mean to maintain their dominance and control. They interpret the religions in their favor. Women have not fair well in society in general, and that has more to do with the patriarchal nature of the world we live in. Even in the western world, women have not always enjoyed equal status with men, otherwise there would not have been feminist movement that challenged male dominance in America, Europe and elsewhere. America is much more progressive than most countries in the world when it comes to democracy but she is yet to elect a female president. The two Islamic countries mentioned above can even boast of giving women the shot at top leadership than America.
Alhaji Kromah’s comment is part of the general complain from different sectors of the country. Before Mr. Kromah made public his view, others have expressed similar sentiments. A Gio group feels that all those appointed from Nimba County are Manos and Mandingoes. Some Mandingoes on the other hand feel that their group is not well represented at the ministerial level and they consider this as being bias. They cite Lusene Donzo as an example for their grievances. Imagine Mr. Donzo is a qualified engineer who used to be a cabinet colleague of President Sirleaf when they both served under President Tolbert. How can one explain why she choose Mr. Willie Knuckle, who has not been a minister proper in any previous government, to be minister of Public Work when he has no engineering background and made Lusene Donzo a deputy to him? Those critics feel President Sirleaf is promoting political patronage at the expense of technical competence. There are also others who are complaining that they remained on the ground catching all the hell under Taylor and during the war and now Mrs. Sirleaf is appointing people from the Diaspora to fill positions that should be their just compensation for staying on the ground. Others have accused Mrs. Sirleaf of practicing what they consider to be nepotism and cronyism. Nimba County Junior Senator, Mr. Adolphus Dolo charges President Sirleaf of what he considers a “nepotistic tendency.” Senator Dolo cited “the appointments of Messers Fumba Sirleaf, (foster son of the president) and Momo Johnson (another relative) as Director of the National Security Agency and (NSA) and Deputy Immigration Commissioner as well as Brownie Samukai as Defense Minister. The Senator expressed fear that this might create another tyrannical rule, which led to the country’s 15 years of bloodbath.”
Even though I don’t agree with everything Mr. Kromah says, Mr. Kromah has the right, just like the others above, to freely express himself. I don’t see anything wrong with Kromah’s comment. For anyone to suggest that "Mr. Kromah’s demand for official appointment based on religious affiliation could be a recipe for disaster" is an exaggerated statement. His comment is no different from those that pressured President Sirleaf to fire Paul Mulbah from her transitional team. Just because Mr. Kromah is a defeated candidate does not mean he does not have the right to free expression. During the campaign, he was candidate Kromah. Now he is citizen Kromah who could also be critical of the president of his country because President Sirleaf, like any president in the past is not above criticism. President Sirleaf was in opposition and she was very much critical of other leaders. Why should anyone expect the rule to change now because she is president?
The whole thing is like an on going debate between those who feel Mrs. Sirleaf is contradicting herself on the issue of competence, qualification, and character and forming government of national inclusion and those who feel she’s doing the right thing and let all the critics shut the hell up. If no one has any subversive intent, I don’t see any reason why the debate should not continue.
On whether Alhaji’s comment is a cause for alarm, I will say that many a time when Christian Liberians make inflammatory bigoted statements, it doesn’t cause any alarm in the country. There will be no widespread condemnation. But every time a Moslem says something either as a reaction to someone or a mere comment, critics will blow it out of proportion. The fact is that some people see Liberia as a “Christian nation” and as such Moslems and people of other faiths should just accept and live like second-class citizens. Every time a Moslem says something, the so-called “Liberia-was-founded-on-Christian-Principle-believers” feels challenged and threatened. They want to pacify the others to believe that “this is our world and you are just living in it; shut the hell up and be happy that we even allow you to be here.” If we have to build a nation based on equality for all, this bigoted notion must be dismantled. Christian Liberians will have to disabuse their minds of this bigoted notion.
Nvasekie N. Konneh is a Liberian writer, and nine year veteran of the United States Navy with his last years in the navy on board the USS Dwight D. Eisenhower , an aircraft carrier based in Norfolk , Virginia . Nvasekie Konneh is the author of the book of poetry, “Going To War For America .” He’s working on his second book, “So Far Away On The Distant Sea .” He is also the Future Editor of the Limany Web Publication, www.limany.org . He can be reached at KonnLove@aol.com ; or Nvaskonn@netscape.net .