Emmanuel H. Payne jr ~ (January 22nd 2006)
"...Liberia may have no "oil' to attract America's interest in helping her ..but least they forget that the blood , sweat and tears of the african people..the descendents of whom founded Liberia...were the fuel used to start turning the wheels of American industries. Our indigenous forefathers manned the soil that the Americans used for war purposes and rubber cultivation . Americans have 'Americanized' every sector of the Liberian society including our culture ,religions , institutions ,etc thus causing a complication in our natural social growth and integration which would have been easier outside foreign interference....”
The very first time they came , a white man named Pedro de Cintra kidnapped an African man along the Bassa coast and took him to an unknown land. All of the historians in their books have only this to say about the poor black man "the fate of the man is unknown". His wife probably died of endless weeping ; or his little children of hunger Oh, what a sad fate it was for them all !
Then the white man came again ! This time in their numbers ! They burned villages and bundled our people across the atlantic. Here their lives wasted away. Their strength exploited on foreign plantations, while the African continent lay in ruins and misery.
The prime beneficiary of this inhumane exploitation of the african people was America.
Americans decided to come too. First they formed the national colonialization society of America which was later renamed the American colonialization society (A.C.S). This organization was not exclusively a private entity. Rather, it was a platform by the 'racist deportionists' to clear America of free negroes and a surreptitious venture by the American government to erect a foothold on the african continent for political purposes.
However , because America had just decades earlier broken loose from the shackles of british colonialism , she didn't wanted to be viewed in the context of a colonial master. But the formation of the A.C.S., its financing and operations were all done with the acquiescence and support of the American government. Men like house speaker Henry Clay , General Andrew Jackson , Senator Daniel Webster, Treasury Secretary William Crawford , and a nephew of a former president of the U.S., Associate Justice Bushrod Washington were all high profile personalities instrumental in the formation of the A.C.S President James Monroe used his authority to appropriate $100,000 for the A.C.S to actualize his long quest(even while serving as Governor of Virginia) to remove free blacks back to africa who clay described as the most " vicious" .
Really it baffles me to know that places in Liberia like Monrovia and Clay street have been named in honour of men who only major objective was to expel blacks from the U.S . Students of history would remember that Monroe was initially hesitant to recognize the independence of Argentina , Venezuela and chile until spain could conclude the sales of the Floridas to the u.s. in 1823 ,just a year after the founding of Liberia, Monroe would deal a major blow to european imperialism by issuing his monroe doctrine restricting europeans activities in the new world. This was a significant push for America's imperialistic drive.
In a nut shell , the Americans intention for the formation of the a.c.s and the subsequent founding of Liberia were glaringly two-fold : firstly , to reduce potential 'black' threats to the American society and secondly , to provide America a window in africa to monitor europeans activities on the continent .what other reasons could better justify America refusing to recognize Liberia 's independence for a whole fifteen years except that an independent Liberia signified an end to American imperialism on the west african coast.
But the Americans would come again , during the first world war. They asked Liberia to declare war on germany at the time the germans were Liberia's strongest business partners at home. The Americans needed an ally in Liberia to use her territorial waters to effectively counteract German's u-boat warfare. The Germans retaliated by shelling Monrovia. It was a British gunboat that saved Monrovians from the wrath of the Germans. America and her allies won the war but the Liberian economy shrank miserably paramountly due to the absence of German investors.
As Liberia struggled under the weight of a deteriorated post first world war economy , the Americans came again with 'the pen and paper' of one harvey s. firestone. Unfortunately , Firestone came to find a solution to the American economic crisis rather than providing a remedy for that of Liberia.
The 'Stevenson Plan' in Britain had affected the supply of natural rubber to America and so the Americans highly needed an alternative supply of rubber for the production of tires to meet up with the demand in a booming automobile industry . Hence , they encouraged President Charles Dunbar Burgess King to accept a deal with Firestone. On the other hand , Pres. King too was more eager for America's political support than reviving the Liberian economy. I'm sure he persuaded his secretary of state , to even accept a 999 years deal with Firestone , but thank God that the learned secretary of state Edwin Barclay could negotiate a 99 year-deal --- an almost one century burden of exploitation of our soil, mineral resources along with the labour of our poor indigenous people.
The Americans still came later. A major war raged on in europe which has been taken to the door-steps of America on sunday december 7 ,1942 at pearl harbour. Americans would become involved few years later and was desperate to prove her military supremacy.the strategic economic and geographic relevance of this small west african nation prompted roosevelt to first visit Liberia in january of 1943 ' as the battle of stalingrad raged on between the german and russians , before America could officially enter the war in 1944.the japanese had earlier seized Malaysia in far eastern europe which was the world's highest producer of rubber (a commodity compared to 'oil' in contemporary warfare) . So the Americans needed all of the rubber coming out of Liberia for her mobile war machineries ,vehicles and oxygen masks. Most importantly , she needed Liberia to declare war on germany again and avail her territory to be used as a spring board for military operations in the north african war theatre. Poor little Liberia assented to the Americans again. German merchants and doctors working throughout Liberia were expelled . The Americans used Liberian territory to execute a successful campaign against a fascist-nazis alliance in north africa which significantly contributed to their overall world-war two triumph.
But 'the white' men still came again. The Americans needed our support in yet another war some years later. This was the war of words or cold war raged on in the absence of such modern satellite communication devices as we have today. Liberia would provide the base to combat the spread of socialist-communist ideology on the african continent.they asked Liberia to close down the embassies of the russians and Libyans. Again Liberia conceded to the Americans. Doe received high political and financial support from the Americans the latter unsurpassed by any previous regime. Unlike Tolbert would sought and pursued an independent course for Liberia's foreign policy by for instance advocating for the independence of palestine and severing diplomatic ties with the israelites , Doe was a loyal American cold war ally even accused by most socialist oriented african governments of being an American stooge...such an alliance would serve as a recipe of hatred and isolation for Liberia by other african states especially considering her history of dormancy in the african liberation struggle.
Indeed , Liberia's position in the cold war was for her 'a bone too big to go down her small throat '. The cold war ended in 1989 and so again was America's strategic interest in Liberia thus leaving her exposed to the fury of powerful socialist governments in africa with all the money and political will to effectuate a power change in Liberia. Taylor and his men seized this opportunity to launch their bloody rebellion against the dictatorial doe's regime.
Liberia was abandoned in a 'bitter cold of neglect' by the U.S. immediately after the cold war when Liberians needed her most.
in 2003 , as the American government dragged its feet to respond to the desperate cries for help by embittered and embattled Liberians who displayed their wounded and dead in front of the heavily fortified American embassy , an aggrieved contributor to an online discussion forum made this assertion about U.S. Liberia relations : " Liberia is a nation burdened by it's past ; America is a nation with no memory or conscience at all " .
That assertion seems a sad truth. America always seeks strategic interest. But what other 'interest' should they continue to search for before helping Liberia after all that they have benefited from Liberia . Liberia may have no "oil' to attract America's interest in helping her ..but least they forget that the blood , sweat and tears of the african people..the descendents of whom founded Liberia...were the fuel used to start turning the wheels of American industries. Our indigenous forefathers manned the soil that the Americans used for war purposes and rubber cultivation . Americans have 'Americanized' every sector of the Liberian society including our culture, religions, institutions, etc thus causing a complication in our natural social growth and integration which would have been easier outside foreign interference.
Worst of all, Americans never see the development of Liberia as a payment of 'reparations' for the tragedy of slavery or as a remedy for its tragic consequences. Liberia remains a synopsis of the bitter legacy of this inhumane trade--- the level of under-developement , poverty and social incoherence attest to the evil of slavery. Modern day Liberia like most african nations is strangulated by the web of burden inherited from the trans-atlantic slave trade and colonialism in all its form while the great America , her 'disguised' former colonial master , looks on without chagrin and promotes her personal interest as a prerequisite to offering any help.
So why has the 'white men ' come again ? Why has the president of the world's most powerful nation, the united states of America, sent his lovely wife and daughter to a nation just emerging from a cannibalistic and gruesome war and especially so at a time when America is at war with a global network of terrorists ? So why will most ofthe Americans leave the comfort of Washington for the pothole-filled , dark and mosquitoes infested city of Monrovia ? Is it that Laura is coming to collect some laurels for Mr. Bush for sending his troops on an 'excursion' to Monrovia in 2003 ?
Or is it simply to witness the historic inauguration of Africa's first democratically elected female president ? Of course Liberians are proud of this too ...but what more ? Is America coming to find new ally in the war on terrorism ? Possible..because America once came doing the war against nazism, fascism , communism .....
Or is America coming to express genuine repentance and sympathy for the lackadaisical manner in which it had considered Liberia or simply coming to see us in our plight .... ?
Have 't'he white men' come to use this occasion to admit that they owe us an obligation to help us rebuild and rise up .
This is not an indictment but a "call to conscience and memory'".
This is what the dying voice of our brothers and sisters slained at carter camp , Duport road ,Sinje, Toe's town said "oh...where are our friends the Americans ..why God..why have they abandoned us !!!!"
This is what the cries at the embassy gates echoed in 2003 "Americans help us "..
This is a message from those dead in 15 years of bloodshed.
This is the concern of the impoverished survivors.
" Now that the white men have come again "
About the author:
Emmanuel H. Payne jr. is
a Liberian writer and a student advocate