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Rebuilding Liberia After Election 2005

Speech Delivered before the National Muslim Council of Liberia

By Syrulwa Somah, PhD (September 2005)  


Sayon Town, Bushrod Island, Liberia September 9, 2005
Alhaji Ibrahim Fumba Sheriff, Chairman, Muslim Council of Liberia; .Alihaji Murphy Dolleh, Vice Chairman for Operation; Alhaji Ibrahim Y. Konneh, Chief Iman; Alhaji Tamba Yonda, Vice Chairman, Internal Affairs; B. Maxwell Massaly, Vice Chairman for Administration; Shekh Akibu Sherif, National Secretary General; Sheikh Omaru A. Kamara, Director of Education; Sheikh Sekou M. F. Nyei, Director of Islamic Affairs; Sheikh Ali M. Sessay, General Coordinator; Alhaji Mustapha Kuyateh, Senior Advisor; Alhaji Ismail Dukuly, Grand Mufti; Alhaji Amadou Golanyon, Youth Wing Chairman; Haja Fata Siryon Kemoh, President, Women Wing; Bishop Joseph Konah Garway, United Pentecostal Church of Liberia; The Reverend Father, Dr. Robert G. Tikpor of the Catholic Diocese of Monrovia and Board Member, LIHEDE; Mr. Benjamin Dorme Lartey, Liberian Council of Churches General Secretary; members of the Liberian Muslim Community; distinguished platform quests, fellow Liberians, ladies and gentlemen, As-Salaam-Alaikum (Peace be unto you)!

In the name of the Beneficent, the Merciful, I bring you peace and love from the Board of Directors, Executive Officers, and members of the Liberian History, Education, & Development, Inc. (LIHEDE). LIHEDE is only two years old, but as a literary, educational, and charitable organization determined to promote our unique Liberian culture and history, and promote socio-economic development, education, and the civil rights of every individual or group in Liberia, I believe we are making rapid headways. On this visit to Liberia, I will, on behalf of LIHEDE, be signing a memorandum of understanding with two Liberian universities to begin offering a Bachelor's degree in Liberian Studies. We in Liberia don't know our history and this is why some people are claiming that the Mandingo are not citizens of Liberia. We need to teach our children their true history so we can't treat each other as enemies when we are actually brothers and sisters.

In July 2005, LIHEDE hosted a symposium in North Carolina, USA on combating malaria in post-conflict Liberia. Dr. Joel Jones of the Liberian Malaria Control Program in Monrovia was there and he delivered a powerful speech on what the Liberian government is doing to stop the spread of malaria in Monrovia and other parts of Liberia. The symposium was so successful that we are now planning to hold a follow-up malaria conference in Monrovia next year to include the participation of Liberian traditional healers and health professionals. There are many good things that LIHEDE is doing to help improve conditions in Liberia, but I will leave out the details for another day.

Today, my brothers and sisters, it is good to be home and to have the opportunity to share my thoughts with you on the future of our country. As a non-Muslim, I am honored that you could invite me to speak with you. I am a very religious person, but I don't wear my religion on my head. I am not interested in this political division that Muslims and Christians are different people, or that Liberia was founded on 'Christian Principles,' so everybody ought to live by the Christian principles. I think such expectation is a cause for concern because my ancestors were neither Christians nor Muslims, as they didn't have to live by Muslim or Christian principles. They lived on their cultural and spiritual principles of respect for elders and the Ancestral deity. Therefore if all of us are now required to live by the 'Christian principles,' then what will happen to me and the people in my village? Are we supposed to be lost sheep in my own country' I don't think so, and this is why I believe the Muslim should be free to worship as a Muslim; the Christian should be free to worship as a Christian; the Buddhist should be free to worship as a Buddhist, and the atheist should be free to worship as an atheist. But it is very important that every Liberian, whether Muslim, Christian, or traditional, must work together as one group for the peace, unity, and development of our nation. At his point, therefore, I will now speak to you on the topic, 'Rebuilding Liberia After Election 2005'.

My brothers and sisters, Liberia is at a serious crossroad. After 14 years of two brutal civil wars in which brothers killed sisters; sisters killed brothers; parents killed their children and children killed their parents, I think we will be fools if we go to war again out of greed for power. We need to rebuild the schools, churches, mosques, recreational parks, community libraries, highways, bi-ways, hospitals, radio stations, farms, and all the other cherished belongings and facilities we destroyed during the civil war. We need to improve security so people can travel freely throughout Liberia by day or by night without harassments at checkpoints or by unknown persons. We need electricity, pipe-borne water supplies, jobs, and decent homes to live in as opposed to refugee and internally displaced camps. These are projects and goals that required the cooperation of all the Liberian people.

These are projects that required good national leadership that will inspire and rally the people to work together rather than divide them on tribal basis, on party basis, on education basis, on political basis, or on corruption basis. In other words, we need patriotic people to lead Liberia for a change. We cannot have people stealing the money that belongs to all us just to buy expensive cars, build mansions for themselves and their families, and send their children aboard to the best of schools while the rest of us don't have a fitting house to live in, no farm-to-market road, no light and water, no telephone in our homes, no good hospitals and schools, and no roads to our villages. We have had these kinds of national leaders for 158 years, so it is time for a change.

But we must be careful how we ask for and go about seeking change. I think everybody knows the change that happened in 1980, in 1990, in 1997, and in 2003. Let me say that I am not here to blame anyone because all of these changes took place with our action or inaction. Some of us who had the opportunity to go to school, went back to our villages, to our elders, to our fathers and mothers, to our brothers and sisters, and to our friends and relatives to support one group or the other during the war. So none of us is innocent or blameless about what happened to us. But the Bassa people have a parable that says one cannot "step in the same water twice." That is once you stepped in any water for the first time (whether in the bathtub or creek), you will know exactly if the water is hot or cold. And if you are like me, you will definitely not step in hot water or cold water twice depending on the season. You know what hot water will do to your feet and you know what cold water will do to your health. But, again, may be your hot water is your friend so it won't do anything to your feet if you step in it over and over again. But the choice is yours.

However, I want to let you know that no human condition or no nation's condition can ever remain the same. If you have children or if you have children in your homes you know what I am talking about. Just look at the baby in the crate and look at yourself. Now, how many times have you asked yourself if you were ever small, helpless, and tiny as the baby you see in the crate? Well, at one point we were all as small as the babies and other children we see around in the community. But we have changed. We have grown up and we are now old enough to have our own babies. And I know some of you have more babies than you can handle right now. But that is another matter.

Similarly, I can bet you that the town, village, or city in which you were born is not the same today. The town, village, or city has also grown up for the better or the worst. So it is no secret that people grow, towns grow, cities grow, and nations grow. Liberia needs to grow as well! But Liberia has got a serious problem with growing up. After 158 years as a nation, Liberia is still like a young baby crying out for help. Many Liberians have lost faith in their own abilities to rebuild Liberia, so they now look up to the new boogeyman in town, the so-called 'international community.' These days everybody is talking about and counting on the international community to help Liberia while Liberians steal from their own people to give the money back to the 'international community.' This is sad but this is the difference between Liberians and people in the world today. Unlike the people in developed or peaceful nations, we continued to show our unwillingness or inability as Liberians to choose leaders who love Liberia; leaders who love us, and leaders who will do anything to protect Liberia. But we have continued in the last elections to elect leaders who will steal the money that belongs to all of us, and leaders who have no second thoughts in destroying Liberia. We need to change this habit on October 11, 2005 by choosing the right leader who can provide a spiritual map for the enfoldment of our national destiny.

We cannot continue to complain about no work, no water, no light, no good school, no good hospital, no good road, and no good security and still choose or support the choosing of the same bad leaders from time to time. We need to change. We cannot continue to fool ourselves in electing the same cold-blooded leaders in the hope that they will change or bear sweet fruits for us to enjoy. My people a chick that will grow into a cock can be spotted the very day it hatches. So if we continue to elect the same heartless leaders, we will only have ourselves to blame for the evil that will fall upon us. And this is why I want us to make a change in our condition by electing the right kinds of leaders in the October 2005 elections. From the luxuriant Wologisi Mountain in Lofa County to the oracular shrines of Mt. Bee in Margibi County, cast your vote from your rolling hills and savannah villages for the man or woman who you think will help rebuild Liberia and lead us not into the temptation of bloodshed and poverty.

From Cape Mesurado to Cape Palmas, cast your vote for the person who you think cares for Liberia so much that he or she would rather die first before seeing another Liberian child, mother, or father die from malaria or hunger. Cast your vote from towns in Grand Bassa to towns in Grand Kru, for the person who you think will make all Liberians pride, who will wipe our tears, provide emotional armor when we are down, protect our traditional institutions (Poor and Sande Universities), protect our religious beliefs and practices (Christian, Muslim, Buddhist, etc,), protect our environment, our customs and traditions, and protect our indigenous songs and arts. Fellow Liberians, electing the new Liberian president is very crucial to national unity, peace, stability, and national development in Liberia, so we should be mindful that we elect the best candidate we feel is qualified to lead peace and reconstruction efforts in Liberia, without regard to tribe, fraternity or friendship. And one of the ways we can do this is to know and understand our history and contemporary issues with a depth and wisdom drawn from the experience of the past. Without understanding our history, our society share no common memory of where it has been, of what its core values are, or of what decisions of the past account for our present circumstances. Without understanding our history, we lack a collective memory of vital things, bond to lapse into political amnesia, incapable to understand what radio stations and newspapers are saying, to hear what is in or left out of in a campaign speech, or to talk to each other about nationalism and better Liberia.

I said earlier that some Liberians think Mandingo people are not citizens of Liberia. But this is not true because the Mandingo were present on the current Liberian soil long before the freed slaves came from America. Anyone knowledgeable about the true Liberian history will know that before 1822, the year the former American slaves arrived on the current Liberian soil, ethnic kingdoms such as the Mandingo Kingdom, Bassa Kingdom, Belle Kingdom, Gola Kingdom, Klao (Kru) Kingdom, Grebo Kingdom, Krahn Kingdom, Mende Kingdom, Sapo Kingdom, Kpelle Kingdom, Kissi Kingdom, Gbii Kingdom, Via Kingdom, Dei Kingdom, Gio (Dan) Kingdom, Loma Kingdom, and the Maih (Mano) Kingdom were thriving as multi-ethnic kingdoms that coexisted and traded together on a piece of land more than 177,000 square miles, which included a 600-mile costal region that extended to the province of Gallinas in the west (lost to Sierra Leone), San Pedro River Basin (lost to present-day Ivory coast}. These ethnic kingdoms flourished and not only became international trading posts but were also frequented by the Phoenicians and Egyptians as early as 600 B.C, and by the Carthagians in 500 B.C.

History tells us that the Mandingo whom Arab historians called 'Wangara' is a splinter or subgroup of the Mende-tan ethnic group. There are about 10 million people of the Mande-tan or Mande-fu ethnic group residing in parts of Guinea, Liberia, Ivory Coast, Mali, Senegal, the Gambia, Mauritania, and Guinea-Bissau. By linguistic classification, the Mende-tan consists of the Koranko, the Kono and the Vai in the south and the Soninke (Saragole) in the north. Collectively, they speak a Mandekan language of the Mande branch of the Niger-Congo family. The word Mandingo is used interchangeable with Mande, Malinke and Maninka. Another sub-group of the Mende-tan group, the Mende-fu group comprises many ethnic families such as the Soso, Mende, Kweni, Toma (Loma), Kissi and Mano found in Liberia, Guinea, Ivory Coast and Sierra Leone. Sundjata or Sundiata Keita is the cultural hero and ancestor of the Mande people. The Maninka are direct descendants of the people of the once great Mali Empire. One well-known Malian emperor who converted to Islam was Mansa Musa (1312-1337), whose flamboyant pilgrimage to Mecca with an entourage of more than 500 servants, 300 pounds of gold, and 100 camels made an entry in the Guinness Book of Record as the Black Continent's wealthiest-ever statesman.

During his 470 B.C. expedition to West Africa, the great explorer Hanno of Carthage documented what he described as the 'great Mandingo civilization.' It is said that the Mende-tan ethnic group that left Mali Empire to Nyanja or Niani, present-day Ivory Coast in the 1500 to 1600s included the Mandingo and their kins, the Vai. From Nyanja, the Mandingo established the Mandingo Kingdoms or Condo Confederacy along the former Grain Coast in areas of the present-day Liberia. By this time, the Mali Empire had succumbed to the Songhai Empire. Between four hundred and five hundred years ago the Maninka or Mandingo reached present-day Liberia and established one of the first Mandingo Kingdoms in Bopolu near the Mano River. According to Benjamin Joseph K. Anderson's 'Journeys to Musadu', (1870, 1912, 1971), a narrative of Anderson's Liberian government-sanctioned expedition to Musadu, 'In 1868 and 1874, the Liberian colony sent a delegation to Musardu or Bopulu, about 100 miles, northwest of Monrovia, to negotiate trade and national security treaties with King Sabsu, the head of the Muslim state. Sabsu agreed to supply the Liberian state with cattle, rice, and ivory, but refused to end war with the Golah and Dey nations in the south.' Anderson recalled during his hinterland visit, especially the Masurado Plateau, he came in close proximity with the Sissi kingdom of King Ibramhim Sissi, the great chief of the 'good Mandingo' as A. Dories-Banks Henries referred to the Mandingo of Sissi Kingdom in her history book, 'The Liberian Nation - A Short History' (966).

Liberian historians generally agreed that it was during the expedition or visit of Anderson to the hinterland of the then emerging Liberian nation under President Daniel Bashiel Warner (I815-1880) that the Mandingo Chief wrote up a treaty in Arabic, 'officially agreeing to place his country within the limits of Liberia and to use his influence to oppose slavery.' By the middle of 1830 the Mandingo-populated town of Bopulu had 3,000 people and the Sissi Kingdom had more than 10,000 citizens, including Vai, Lorma, Belle, Gola, Mandingo, and Kpelle peoples. The Mandingo called the town of Bopulu, "Bokoma," as the name Bopulu (behind the hills) came from the Lorma and Belle people of the Kingdom. Even today, the Mandingo have a district in the Bopolu-Suehn area of Bomi County called Mecca, an area for which Varfee Sirleaf served as Paramount Chief during the Tubman Administration. In Monrovia, oral history among the Bassa people indicates that Sohnniwhen, the now polluted creek that divides Monrovia in halves, derived its name when Mandingo horse owners who brought their horses to the creek to wash them. The word 'soh,' is a Bassa word for 'horse' and 'nii,' means 'water,' hence Sohnniwhen.

In deed, while some Mandingo people currently in Liberia may have emigrated from any of the West African countries populated by Mandingo, it is clear from these historical accounts that Mandingo is a legitimate ethnic group in Liberia, and there are citizens of Liberia called Mandingo. I do therefore believe the claims that Mandingos are not citizens of Liberia result from inaccurate information. Most of us in Liberia don't know our history, so we are quick to oversimplify and distort issues. The lack of authentic Liberian history and Liberian Studies program reinforces the 'Mandingo are foreigners' myth and perpetuates old stereotypes and biases against the Mandingo people.

We need to educate our children to know our history, to understand the greatness of our people, and to appreciate how Allah or God brought all of us together on this blessed piece of land called Liberia. We cannot profess to be God's children and reject our brothers and sisters out of ignorance. Of course, if the Mandingo population in Liberia were declining, then the notion that Mandingo are not citizens of Liberia would be a mere "academic" problem,' but the Mandingo population has grown over the years to more than 30 percent, so we need to educate our children to embrace their Mandingo brethren as brothers and sisters before we run into another serious conflict in the future. Perhaps, a possible solution might be to ensure the timely registration of new births throughout Liberia by establishing a Bureau of Natal Statistics branch in every county in the 4th Republic to record new births, deaths, and other Natal statistics. Just a thought.

Ladies and Gentlemen, in Bassa we have a parable that says, 'Ji niwa mue ji eh kpah,' meaning 'a leopard doesn't crack another leopard's bones.' In other words, because we are all citizens of Liberia and none of us is going anywhere soon, we must learn to live together in peace and prosperity. We saw the potential dangers that may result from ethnic rivalry during the civil war and recently during the shooting incident at the Paynesville Red Light involving a Christian and a Muslim. We don't ever want to see that kind of situation developed in Liberia. And thank God for the timely intervention of the leaders of both religious groups, the situation did not get far out of hand, even though someone did die. LIHEDE was among those that condemned that attempt to put Christians against Muslins. The truth of the matter is that the greatness of a nation begins with its people, especially when they bind together to each other like two people attached to the same umbilical cord or lifeline. Never in our history have we heard about the outbreak of Muslim-Christian violence, thereby causing our nation to order an immediate dusk to dawn or round-the-clock curfew. Never in the history of our forefathers and mothers have we seen plumes of black smoke ring forth from our nation's churches and mosques. But thanks be to God or Allah we have passed that stage.

My dear brothers and sisters, we cannot unite our efforts in peace and reconciliation if we do not know our history. And this is why we need a good leader, a torchbearer, to guide us in learning about ourselves and in rebuilding our shattered nation. Our nation (Liberia the beauty) and its institutions are crying out for a true son or daughter to be our nation's next president. We need a visionary leader that will completely embrace multiculturalism. We need a leader who will preach and practice unity and not division. We need a leader who will create a condition for all Liberians to contribute their talents to the rapid growth and development of Liberia without classifying people as Congo and County, educated and uneducated, and citizen and non-citizens. We are all one people and we must act like one people. Everybody does not have to possess a college degree, be able to read and write in English, or speak good English before contributing to Liberia. We need the cooperation and contribution of every Liberian in the rebuilding of Liberia regardless of economic status, ethnic background, social status, political background or educational background. The Liberian society should be able to make use of the talent of every Liberian without much formality.

And this is why we need to go to the polls on October 11, 2005 to elect a president who will concentrate on the total development of Liberia and Liberians. We need a leader who will bury the false class systems in Liberia and treat every Liberian with respect by making employment and other opportunities available to all Liberians based on individual talents and qualifications. We know from a spiritual perspective that the main purpose for leadership and education is the honorable use of power. A good leader must seek to instill a sense of patriotism and nationalism in his or her people for maximum individual and group productivity. If you have lived in Liberia or out of Liberia in the last 15 years you have acquired enormous education from sight and experience than you will ever gained in a classroom. God gave us eyes sight as our window to education; so don't let anyone fool you that you have to go to the University of Liberia, Cuttington, Harvard, Howard, Princeton and other colleges for you to be educated. If you know how to bake bread you are educated in baking bread. If you know how to use herb to cure diseases you are educated in over the counter herbal medicine, which is 1.5 billion dollars business in America today. Of course, I am not saying you should not go to college. I went to college and I am enjoying the fruits of my education today. But that is what I wanted to do. But you can do anything you want to do once you put your mind to it and learn it. And there are many ways we can learn, so learn the best way you can based on the opportunities you have right now. Don't put off learning until you can get to college, this is what I meant.

Today, after all the sufferings we have experienced in Liberia, especially in the last 15 years (well, Allah has come to offer us something better), on October 11, 2005 we have the chance to elect the president, vice president, senators, and representatives we want. Even if you don't recognize it yet, the tender mercy of Allah is as true as the Liberian soil that you and I sit or stand on. In fact, it is truer than the Liberian soil because Liberia is standing on God's truth. Therefore, we need to be very careful whom we choose so as not to make the same mistakes we made in the past elections. October 11, 2005 must be the day that God has designated for you to liberate Liberia from the dungeon and yoke of 158 years of self-destruction to the highest pinnacle of emancipation. October 11, 2005 is here so that out of these ashes of war and massive human sufferings we can hire the best and brightest sons and daughters of Liberia to lead the efforts to rebuild our nation. You must vote your conscience to elect the person who will give power to other Liberians, and you must shun any person who doesn't trust his or her own ability to lead the Liberian people toward a decent way of life but prays trusteeship. We have suffered, we have been terrified and affrighted, and we have continued to suffer as a nation and people, and you the voters of Liberia must not choose any person for leadership who lacks vision for uniting and rebuilding Liberia after the elections. Look, the leader we choose on October 11, 2005 will determine, brothers and sisters, our national capacity to achieve and develop. Do not build the 4th Republic with old and broken sticks because the foundation won't be strong enough to withstand the force of those Liberian political termites who seek leadership in Liberia only as a stepping-stone to instant riches. All that is required for political termites to prevail is for good sons and daughters of Liberia to take their vote for granted. The object of voting is not to elect exploitive leader but to elect the leader to be a good servant of the people.

In Liberia, there is a general misunderstanding about being servants of the Liberian people. Every person who ever sought power and authority in Liberia in the past had always believed that he or she was master of the Liberian people instead of their servant. But every leader is a servant of the people because without the people one cannot be a leader. A leader is chosen by the people so he or she can serve their best interest and not to work against their interest. We have had the worst of time and are sick and tired of those who refused to grow-up but find joy in lamentations. Now is the time that we need a servant of the people to lead us in rebuilding our lives and our country. But there is one honorable thing that we must do for our nation and that is to elect the best leader on October 11 based not on friendship but based on the person's leadership ability and development platform. Do not let anyone tell you that you cannot take these old guard politicians, warlords and their functionaries off Liberia's back by demonstrating a true nationalism with your vote. Remember you are the ones who are armed with the voting power to free our nation by making rational judgment of all the presidential aspirants' personal traits. Use this judgment and critical mind to elect someone who knows sleeping hungry is not a normal thing; who knows what it means to be jobless; who knows what it means to sleep in what the Bassa man calls kounkondyah (a single door, tank-like) home, and who understands the social, cultural, ethical and political underpinnings of the Liberian nation and people.

My fellow Liberians, we enjoy relative peace at the hands of the international community. They sent 15,000 troops to our nation to help us stop fighting among ourselves; they donated some money to support our nation, they have promised to help rebuild our nation if we produce good leadership. These people do not owe us anything except to respond to our cries for help. And as the Mandingo proverb says, 'When somebody is helping you to wash your back, you should help yourself by washing your own belly.' In other words, as a nation we cannot keep borrowing and begging from the rest of the world. I read the other day that there are 450,000 educated Liberians (Liberians with college degree) who are employed in many professions in many countries around the world. We are only 3.5 million people, so if nearly half a million of us are educated, then I don't see why we can't develop our country. But I think you know that Mr. Corruption and Ms. Corruption are our main problems in Liberia. We need to get rid of Mr. Corruption and Ms. Corruption so we can rebuild our country. Let us therefore try and solve Liberia's problems on October 11, 2005 by electing the right builder who will help rebuild our country and bring home all these educated Liberians scattered all over the world. The challenge, my brothers and sisters, rests in your hands. Our people deserve the best so elect the best candidates for president, vice president, senator, and representative.

Remember that a person who is not a leader will not be a leader after being elected. The Bassaman says 'Doosua kpah kohohsua pin', meaning the old gofer tree falls on the branch of an old Kohoh tree, such that whenever there is a storm both trees collapse because they have no tap roots to sustain them in the time of storm. In other words, we don't need a leader who lacks vision and initiative in unifying all Liberians to rebuild Liberia. Now, I want each of us to look in the mirror to look at ourselves and see if we can make a change by voting for the right person or persons on October 11, 2005. We need to rebuild Liberia so we must find the leader on October 11, 2005 who will be able to get along with everybody; the person who has the vision to unify and rebuild our nation. Of course, while in the voting booth, don't forget to ask yourself these questions before casting your vote:
· Can the person I elect help to eliminate abject poverty in Liberia through education, agriculture, tourism, technology and rural development'
· Can the person appear as a moral force that will emphasize good governance, fiscal responsibility, financial accountability, and transparent leadership in all 15 counties of Liberia?
· Can the person provide the kind of leadership that would bring about rapid development in Liberia, promote peace and reconciliation, and ensure public service appointments are based on qualification and not friendship alone?
· Can the person fight corruption in the public service by enacting appropriate laws to deal with corrupt persons, including property confiscation and financial restitution?
· Does this person have a plan to use our national resources to pay government employees well and on time and avoid the temptation to steal in order to make ends meet?
· Does this person have a plan to build schools, hospitals, and roads throughout Liberia and to take care of government employees when they retired or get old?
· Does this person respect and love himself or herself and will he or she love and respect me?
· Does this person have a plan to open the door to those who dwell outside wealth of our nation?

If you answer 'yes' to these questions, then when you wake up on October 12, 2005, the Allah of our forefathers and mothers would be pride of you and a sudden shame will not come over your face when you see the face of the 'President' you have elected on the front pages of Liberian and international newspapers. Brothers and sisters, angels, sons and daughters of the new dawning Liberia, let us rise up and greet the new Liberia not by electing 'freeloading-politicians' but by electing the true custodians of tomorrow with faith in deeds not empty words. If Sundiata Keita, as a child, could neither talk nor walk but overcame his adversities to lead and transform Mali into a powerful kingdom; if a small nation like Singapore was able to move out of third world status to first world status, Liberia has enough resources to do the same. We cannot continue giving excuses.

We need to be very honest with ourselves because our self-enslaving traditions of friendship and inaction are continuing to kill us and reduce us to beggars. I hope we can use the democratic system in place to change the nation for the good of all of us. We need a good and competent leader to be the captain of our boat. October 11, 2005 is the day to make that change and reward high morals. Now I ask you to go back to your village, town community, and kingdom to make up the bed that you want to sleep on in this new Liberia. Be the instrument of the change you want to see in post-conflict Liberia. If we do not come together to build this nation, only in a matter of time, we too will be destroyed. And whether you believe it or not, the Bassa, the Mandingo, the Kru, and all Liberians are here to stay so we must unite now and elect our national leaders. May Allah accept my words, the voices and teachings of our Ancestors, our prayer, and our Du'aa, Amen! Thanks for listening and peace be unto you.

Syrulwa Somah, Ph.D., is an Associate Tenured Professor of Environmental and Occupational Safety and Health at NC A&T State University in Greensboro, North Carolina. He is the author of several books, including, The Historical Resettlement of Liberia and It Environmental Impact, Christianity, Colonization and State of African Spirituality, and Nyanyan Gohn-Manan: History, Migration & Government of the Bassa (a book about traditional Bassa leadership and cultural norms published in 2003). Dr. Somah is also the Executive Director of the Liberian History, Education & Development, Inc. (LIHEDE), a nonprofit organization based in Greensboro, North Carolina. He can be reached at: or

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