By Syrulwa Somah, PhD (January 2nd 2006)
"... We cannot build a great nation with stubbornness to not wand corruption, nepotism, favoritism, false start, and change for the betterment. However, our collective or individual response to their error must never endanger the Republic....”
Pacing in the corridor of human history are warning lyrics of new nation building songs that echo---the genesis of any new government has not followed a smooth path if the vision is not shared. And a new government has not followed a smooth path, especially if one group is pit against another in the attempt to master them or if one kindred of the society or individual is favored over another for specific employment opportunity. For instance, Moses, the Hebrew lawgiver, the prototype of the prophets, led his people in the 13th century B.C. out of bondage in Egypt to the edge of Canaan , wanting the best nation for them. When the Hebrew decided not to be under God’s perfect law, Moses had more mundane problems to handle, but God provided food and water for the people while Moses set up judges to handle laws for the new nation. Moses met with God of Israel for the next forty days to map out the new roadmap and Constitution for the new nation on stone tablets, upon which were inscribed the Ten Commandments. But the people didn’t know what Moses was doing because he was the only person allowed to go closer to Mt. Sinai and its environs to speak to God. Only smoke, no fire, and thundering were what the Israelites could see while Moses and God negotiated for more than a month with the invincible Yahweh. To the Hebrew, Moses their most impeccable and commanding leader, more powerful than the Egyptian Pharaoh - the god - has vanished and they did not know when he was scheduled to come back and led them to the Promised Land. And if Moses has disappeared what were these recently freed slaves and petrified people under Pharaoh to think. We need another Moses was their request. Though they told Aaron to make them a god, but they really wanted another Moses, one who is a 'god of God'. God, however, alerted Moses to his people’s idolatrous behavior. It didn’t take too long, descending the hill, Moses saw the golden calf that his brother Aaron had constructed from the gold jewelry of the people (Exodus 32:2-6). It was this object that the people had been venerating. Moses was enraged. He smashed the tablets on the ground, destroyed the golden calf, ground it to pieces, mixed it with water, and made the impious drank it (Exodus 32:19-20). Moses went on a rampant killing and slaughter spree of more than 300 of his estimated 600,000 men came together with their wives and children, to over 2,000,000 followers.
Second, how establishing a new government or nation can be disastrous when the people are not a part of decision-making process, priorities setting, and vision not shared is manifested in the nonviolent revolution of India’s ‘Father of the Nation’, Mahatma Gandhi (1869-1948). History tells us that he was one of the world’s most famous pacifists and Indian nationalist leaders. Schooled in the philosophy of peaceful resistance, he developed politics of peaceful protests and began campaigning for home rule and the reconciliation of all classes and religious groups in 1914 to frame a new consciousness and nationalism. By 1919, Gandhi has taken on the leadership role in the newly created Indian National Congress Party, in an endeavor to form a new nation. In retrospect, Gandhi embarked on a campaign of non-cooperation to dissent against the British Empire salt tax and salt cartel, thereby parading thousands of men and women of India on a 200-mile trek to the shores of the Indian Ocean to make their own salt. Gandhi was convinced that India could never be truly emancipated as long as it remained a part of the British Empire , especially if India maintains its “giver” and “receiver” relationship with the British Empire . World War II ushered in a new demand for independence because British wanted the Indian people to fight side-by-side with its forces. Of course, to the Indians, it meant attaching a “price tag”----total independence. India got her inalienable desire (independence in 1947), just how God had agreed for the Hebrews to self-rule. But what Mahatma Gandhi and his followers did not realize was that while they were diffusing non-violent defiance against British hegemony, separate pressure group was making progress in their nation. For instance, Muslims in India were challenging for power sharing in government but their pleas felt on deaf ear because the “pot of prosperity” was “boiling” in the Hindu quarter. By virtue of the fact that the Hindus were in the majority and held most of the prestigious positions or political power, they felt the “kingdom has come.” Like Moses, Mahatma Gandhi’s triumph was tempered with frustration over the violent partitioning of the country into India and Pakistan (land of the pure). During what is considered the greatest or largest migration/boarder crossing in human history (millions of Muslims leaving India for Pakistan while millions of Hindus leaving Pakistan for India ), nearly one million people died in the riots that ensued between Hindus and Muslims. Mahatma Gandhi had always been against the partition as evident in this statement: ‘Before partitioning India , my body will have to be cut into two pieces’ (http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/50664.stm). But his efforts to achieve reconciliation between Hindus and Muslims eventually brought him death. Like Moses, he did not see the “Promised Nation, one people, one nation, one destiny he had envisioned. A Hindu friend, Nathuram Godse, who believed that Gandhi had defected the Hindu struggle, assassinated him at age 78 on January 30, 1948 . He was on his way to a prayer meeting when he was shot pointblank three times in the chest and died. As of this composition India and Pakistan are not only divided, but a “long-simmering feud over Kashmir ” (a land-locked region where a bit of Afghanistan , China , India , and Pakistan meet) has contributed to an estimated 30,000 and 60,000 people deaths (CBC News Online, 2005).
Third, how creating a new government or nation can be fatal when identified hopes and aspirations of the people are not shared is captured in Prime Minister Patrice Lumumba’s (1925-1961) demise. For 11 years he worked for the Belgian colonial administration as Stanleyville (now Kisangani) as a post office clerk. There he discovered the harmful effects of the colonization and the misfortunes of Belgian administration on his people. Like Ghandi, his moral conscious summoned him to duty, using newspaper articles and organizing local movements, he became the drum major for the Congolese independence from under the joke of Belgium Colonization. His clarion call for total liberation for his nation would lend him in penitentiary in 1955.
Armed with dynamic speaking ability not just in French but in several Congolese vernaculars, he became the ultimate president of the multiethnic political party, the National Congolese Movement (NCM). It was this position that didn’t only afford him the opportunity to attend the 1958 All-African Peoples’ Conference in Accra , Ghana but became touch-bearer for anti-colonialism and Pan-Africanism----a belief in the unity of all African peoples.
1959 ushered in a new campaign for independence that fueled a series of bloody riots which Lumumba was arrested and charged for inciting violence. As the result, Belgian plan for gradual process toward self-government to the colony quicken under the increase of Congolese pressure for immediate independence. Lumumba’s dream would be realized, released from prison, flown to Brussels ( Belgium ) for negotiations with other Congolese activists which paved the way for scheduled unconditional independence.
Lumumba assumed his nation prime minister position and Joseph Kasavubu as president on June 30, 1960 , when Republic of Congo officially became independent. However, violent chaos tore the country apart, and the United Nations (UN) peacekeeping forces were sent to Congo . However, stability was not restored, and Lumumba appealed for aid from Ghana and the Communist government of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR), present-day Russia (allrefer.com/encyclopedia/L/Lumumba.html). But the appeal only served to undermine his international reputation because western governments viewed him with distrust as a dangerous pro-Soviet radical, although he had never described himself as a Communist. The end result was ethnically-based militias, proxy militias, preying on ignorance, stacking police and army with ethnic kinsmen. The CIA immediately seized the opportunity to eliminate him under the smoke scream just how the CIA used the 1979 rice riots to remove William R. Tolbert for supposedly “stepping out of bound” during the Cold War (See Somah’s work Nyanyan Gohn-Mana: History, Migration and Government of the Bassa, 2003). Lumumba’s vision for a better Congo for all Congolese went with him to his grave. His assassination on that tragic year- 1961 - robbed not only Congo but the world of a great son and leader. As of this writing, fighting continues in the Congo where warring factions have killed more than 2.5 million brethren ( www.imdiversity.com/villages/global).
Fourth, the challenges of forming a new nation bring us to Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. (1929-1968). He was one of the most visible advocates of nonviolence and direct action as a method of social change. He had a vision for a “new America ” as averred in the United Nations, ‘The Universal Declaration of Human Rights.’ The first article started with the line ‘All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights.’ But the era of legal segregation, commonly called the Jim Crow years (lasting from 1890 up to Brown v. the Board of Education in 1954), dimmed the hope of African-Americans to live freely. Throughout the South and the Nation, the barriers of segregation repressed and oppressed Black America. Dr. King’s dream of a land where one is judged not by the color of one’s skin but by the contents of one’s character picked up steam in May of 1963, when he led a quarter of a million people to march on Washington, D.C. Like Moses, Gandhi, and Lumumba he did not live to see the Promised Land. He was 39 years old when he was shot and killed as he stood on the balcony of the Lorraine Motel in Memphis in 1968. He was in Memphis preparing to join striking sanitation workers (Myers & Jerkins, 2004). He dedicated his life to love and justice for his fellow human beings, and he died a death that leaves bitter memories between Blacks and Whites of America.
I wish I didn’t have to comb through the epochs of human existence to bring right before our eyes an accounts of events that changed the course of other nations. I wish I didn’t have to comb through the epochs of human existence to bring right before our waiting feet an accounts of events that changed the course of other nations, but understanding human beings is a very complex commission so applying the conflict theory in diagnosing group behavior is a must in understanding human mindset. I really wish I didn’t have to comb through the epochs of history to bring right before where you sit or stand an accounts of events that changed the course of other nations, but the enemy is the entity who is perceived as frustrating or preventing achievement of a national development and the enemy may not even know he/she is being regarded as such, since the concept is one-sided. I really wish! But we cannot keep our tongue in cheek about the reality we face as a nation. We cannot pretend to be ‘intelligent’ when our conditions leave us behind the rest of the world. First, I am a Bassa. In Bassa culture, our elders would be downbeat and wouldn’t mince words in their reprimanding for a failure by any Bassa sons and daughters who fence sit and watch monkey “drop stick” in town without tapping the war drum for defense of the Kingdom. And, as a Bassa son, I would be committing a patriotic sin if I did watch the “town trap” by not letting our nation know in the spirit of true nationhood, “Long live the nation that is forewarned of pitfalls and changes its directions.” Here lies the purpose of this article. In fact, i n previous article Building New Bridges For Unity in Liberia http://www.liberianforum.com/articles/somah0019.htm, I narrated the Bassa legend about the “Strife Owl” or Giohgbohun sibling strife or bickering over every thing that didn’t only destroy their siblinghood but made the owl family the hunted of the wild. I narrated that they have good eye sight, but they never saw their enemy approaching. I narrated that they Owls have supersonic hearing, but couldn’t hear the sound of imminent danger approaching because the noise from infighting crowded their judgment. I narrated that t heir siblings’ rivalry only transformed when Minnaa, a black long tail bird revealed to them their real enemy ( The Enemy of their enemy was Most Commonly owls). I hope the chronological/historical account will make us think anew and produce an “Owl Effect”.
First, I introduced the Moses, Gandhi, Lumumba, and King’s experience to make a point about good leaders’ demise in their attempt to make their nation livable place for their citizens. I introduced the Moses, Gandhi, Lumumba, and King’s experience to make a point about recognizing clearly that wholesome deeds produce corresponding good results. I introduced the Moses, Gandhi, Lumumba, and King’s experience to make the point about doing the right things to end our nation unwholesome courses of action and deeds which has originated from the defilements of greed, hatred, and delusion. I introduced the Moses, Gandhi, Lumumba, and King’s experience to make point about our legacies of political killing, embezzlement, political misconduct, two-faced, slander, harsh speech, useless talk, cupidity, ill will, and false views to transform them into “spring flow” of virtuous qualities of generosity, good governance, morality, nationalism, patriotism, service, transference of merit, and rejoicing in the good deeds of each other. I introduced the Moses, Gandhi, Lumumba, and King’s experience to make the point that leaders are humans.
Second, I introduced the Moses, Gandhi, Lumumba, and King’s experience to make a point that until we as a nation and people emancipate ourselves from the sweat and heartache of a lifetime of unrewarded toil of self-destruction, we cannot build a great nation. Until we as a nation allows no one's spirit to cry out under the tethers of oppression and disenfranchisement, we cannot build a great nation. Until we as a nation, we fire the imagination of our children that they can serve in any capacity of government regardless of their ethnicity, we cannot build a great nation. Until we as a nation and people realize that all Liberians are the “apple of God's eye”, divinely created in God’s own image, endowed with potential ability, we cannot build a great nation. Equally important, we cannot build a great when it is hard to picture an enemy when you realize the enemy of your nation is you but refuse to change. We cannot build a great nation with stubbornness to not wand corruption, nepotism, favoritism, false start, and change for the betterment. However, our collective or individual response to their error must never endanger the Republic. In other words, the lessons from Moses, Gandhi, Lumumba, and King’s experience must liberate our mind from the umbilical cord of colonial linkage of military and political violence. Therefore, I want to make it clear, as clear as I can, that I have not I introduced the Moses, Gandhi, Lumumba, and King’s experience as a lightening rod . Nothing, whatsoever warrants their demise. It is saddened that the hearts of the hearers were closed to their message of these great men of the world who became victims of perception.
What Other Leaders/Nations Have Done
We are informed that Joshua faced similar problem. However, Joshua and his people succeeded in abating their common enemy because they saw themselves as Israelites. There was no “countryman Israelite” vs. “kwi Israelite”. All Israelites were one people, one nation and one destiny so the kept their eyes on the enemy. In other words, Joshua, the leader knew their enemy so he had a vision workshop under the themes of good governance, competitive economy, fair and equitable distribution of the nation wealth, income and health, food security, human resource development, vibrant culture, socioeconomic infrastructure, sustainable environment with justice as the emblem of power. Joshua’s leadership quality rallied the Israelites to patriotism, nationalism, and self identity. But Joshua the leader didn’t stop there. He called on God of righteousness for wisdom because he knew crooking, cheating, infighting, and refusing to does the right thing are not only human own enemy, but wouldn’t have save him and his people. It was Joshua frankness that caused God to go head of him and his people. Obviously, when the leader is sincere and leader of all people not just a group, God goes before them to fight their battles and give them victory (Joshua 10:8). For instance, when the battle between Joshua people and Ammonites their common enemy started and saw victory in their grasp, but time was running out, they knew what to do. Joshua had a plan so darkness will not come because five strong kings had peopled the wilderness with their armies to fight Joshua and his people. The good news was that Joshua had the enemy on the run and he did not want them to get back to their fortified cities. Surprisingly, more time was needed for his troops to catch the enemy. To prevent the enemy return more daylight was needed. Hence, the wisdom men and women of the nation of Israel asked God to lengthen the day. If he didn’t conquer the enemy before dark, they would regroup and attack Israel the next day. Knowing his people were on his side, his whereabouts, and vision shared, Joshua asked for a one time favor that worked. And, God, his God’s power, and his God’s promise, he called out to the Living God for help, and in the presence of all Israel , he commanded the "sun to stand still" to defeat their common enemy once and for all.
The second bloodiest conflict in history was the Taiping Rebellion of 1851- 1864 in which 50 million people got killed. It all started when Imperial China forces clashed with the followers of Hakka, a self-proclaimed mystic name Hon Xiuquan who not only converted to Christianity, but said that he was the new Messiah, the younger brother of Jesus (see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Taiping_Rebellion). But China regrouped as a nation and people and molded themselves into an economic and military superpower on the verge to leave the rest of the developed world, including the USA behind.
The wounds of Pol Pot’s administration (1975 to 1979) are still fresh on the world stage. For instance, an estimated two million Cambodians were killed and the whole nation was destroyed. Blinded by their own philosophy, friendship-based employment, and silencing all “loyal oppositions” who dared to speak out to give them constructive criticism, Khmer Rouge in Cambodia became one of the worst regimes in recent history (www.mekong.net). But following the United Nations-brokered elections in 1993 after, the new government went to work and created a government of national unity based on the “merit system” with individuals been employed to serve were qualification-based, corruption–free status, politically astute, good human rights records, among others. With d ecentralization and reclaiming power from provincial governors, they have created a more cohesive system of government. In the scheme of things, 2001 ushered in the election of commune councils, which focused on meeting immediate community needs and developing trust between citizens and the government as a first step in decentralization. In retrospect, one of the many traits for the need for a genuine changes in Cambodia was the newly elected government traveling to developed nations and recruiting their most qualified citizens who “waged war” on their historical legacies that had impeded development of the country. Corruption and failed politicians were dealt with to the “lowest degree”. Today, Cambodian economic, image, governance, factories have improved. Cambodia ’s decentralization is so fruitful and unique so now they are reaping the fruit of democracy.
For decades, apartheid, a moral battle against something profoundly evil caused the death of thousands of thousands of Africans who were tortured, executed, butchered & scattered because they dared stand up to apartheid that claimed dominion over their nation. But on April 27, 1994 , South Africa 's first democratic elections took a strong root. With Nelson Mandela, first black State President and FW de Klerk as Deputy President, a government of national unity buried the ugly legacies apartheid . Today, the new South Africa is not only inclusive, apartheid sent in the dustbin of human history, but brotherhood between Blacks and Whites flourishes. Thanks to the vision of Nelson Mandela because when he took office he didn’t employ only qualified Africans and leave out qualified Whites. In essence, it was forgiveness time, a choice to let go of resentment and bitterness. And with the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC), “business as usual” or “old guard of apartheid” was yesteryear phenomenon. Today the people of South Africa are enjoying the fruits democracy.
What can we learn from the events of past to build the 4th Republic? First and foremost, Liberia is not the only nation to have fought civil wars. Other nations went through difficult days, but recovered, transformed by making informative decisions. The r eformed nations wanted one thing: avoiding making the same set of mistakes twice. Like Joshua, our nation has the choice and better option not to repeat history deadest mistakes just how Joshua didn’t with the Ammonites. Like Cambodia , our nation has the choice to avoid historical pitfalls to not continue to power/wealth regardless of how it is earned, hunt for pleasure no matter where it is found, chase power and fame regardless of the cost to our personal and nation integrity. T he evidence is before the limelight. Like South Africa , our nation has the choice to deliver on promises and be not mere talker who deludes. Like China , our nation has the choice and is better informed to cross the truss or rickety bridge of spiritual corruption. Indeed, we are in a better position because it was just yesterday that we fought the civil wars because as a people we didn’t have the magic wand to abate our divides for nationalism and the political will to defeat our common enemy. The evidence is before the limelight. Liberia is in a better position because it was just yesterday---literally overnight, our cities, towns, and villages were depopulated. The evidence is before the limelight. Liberia is in a better position because it was not too long ago our homes and families were destroyed, but every aspect of our lives was suddenly dictated by factions, warlords contributing to an aggregate lives loss over 400,000 of our brethren. Indeed, we are in a better position because it was just yesterday our property was not only destroyed, resources looted, money worthless, nation’s coffer became the personal property of Charles McArthur Taylor who is now residing in the Federal Republic of Nigeria. And we are in better position because It was just yesterday that our common enemy peppered our nation for the lack of good governance, self-love, education opportunity, competitive economy, fair and equitable distribution of our nation wealth, justice, food security, human resource development, vibrant culture, and socioeconomic infrastructure.
Our enemy is right before us. No clear difference between make-ups of past administration and incoming administration has been our apartheid, Ammonites, divides---we must change and follow the footprints in the sand that lead to total political dispensation. Now that we know our enemy, leader must work hand-in-hand with the people to regenerate Liberia to be self-reliant. We must change to follow the footprints in the sand that lead to national unification. Now that we know our enemy, Liberia must be able to feed its people by sheer force of handwork and by applying technology to farming. We must change and follow the footprints in the sand that lead to self-sufficiency. And now that we know our enemy, Liberians must embrace our traditions, norms, culture, mores, and eschew all alien concepts that have not worked for us. We must change and follow the footprints in the sand that lead to renaissance. And n ow that we know the “ Ammonites” are on the run, Liberia must prevail!
The Way Forward
First, realizing that 2005 election has given our nation an opportunity to have the enemy on the run, there must be equal representation of all Liberians in the new government. To move forward we must keep our eyes and know our enemy. I believe our common enemy is bad decision that breeds corruption, which gives birth to visionless politicians who milk, pillage or corrupt our nation dry for themselves and other nations. I believe our common enemy is our conspiracy of silence when things are in our favor. I believe our common enemy is our lack of institutional memory about ourselves. And I believe our common enemy is our inability to create a durable launching pad or springboard for a socio-economic and political development to facilitate a Liberian renaissance. I believe our common enemy is our re-cycling and reemergence of the old guard principles since our nation’s earliest days. From our nation’s earliest days, as long as the “pot is boiling” and we are the benefactors, collectively we play deaf ear and careless who sleeps on “empty belly”, unemployed, and denies justice. From our nation’s earliest days, as long as the “pot is boiling” and we are the benefactors, we play deaf ear and careless who we eliminate to get employed. From our nation’s earliest days, as long as the “pot is boiling” and we are the benefactors, we play deaf ear and careless if the nation’s vision is not shared. And as long as the “drinking gourd” is replenishing” and we are the benefactors, we not only play deaf ear and careless to those whose “throat is dry,” but we cease being the voices of the people, the “seasoned journalists”, advocates of the massive. The end result, elitism has done more than portray elitism. It has designated collective humanity and standing, and what rights and privileges each Liberian is afforded in our nation. To move forward, t he frustration and sense of deprivation suffered by the masses must be channeled into re-education to promote nationalism with the upshot of liberating us from the shackles that have destroyed our nation.
- National prayer for the “ Liberia mind” to avoid unwholesome undertaking but to develop wholesome nation
- National prayer to finally snap the fetters of greed, hatred, and delusion which have held our nation for so long in bondage
- National prayer for Liberia to be happy, successful, and secure, by first learning to see ourselves as one people
- National prayer for our leader to do the right thing first, all always and all the times
History is not like going to the “market ground” and picking what you want, pay for them and leave out your dislikes. History is the total sum of a collective people, nation and their relationship to world. History is not told to rally the people to revenge. We look to history for laughter and for our heart to beat again . We look to history to see how far we have come, grown, and better prepare for our next joining. We cannot afford to forget the past. To know the future, we must first know the past, and if we forget the past, we have lost both the past and the future. It is historical knowledge that sustains the children of Israel .
Like the children of Israel , our best chance is all Liberians are one people, one nation, one destiny. Like the children of Israel , our best chance is all Liberians are to keep their eyes on the enemy and take a Joshua-like decisions- rally our people for a soul-cry to the God of our forefathers, and request a one time favor so that the sun can stand still so we can defeat our enemy. Like the children of Israel , our best chance is for all Liberians to make sure the enemy is not hired and put in higher place of decision-making. Like the children of Israel , our best chance is all Liberians shouldn’t allow darkness to set on Liberia and let the enemy retreat for re-enforcement in the wilderness. Like the children of Israel , our best chance is all Liberians must defeat the enemy once and for us. Only such a brave act of leaving out the tainted characters and turning to the youth, technocrats, new faces, the best and brightest of Liberia regardless of ethnicity, kinship, and friendship will we not repeat the historical pitfalls of building a new nation. Like Habakkuk, my God enable the feet of Liberia to climb "New Heights" of glorious mountain tops because the election between of 4 th Republic has given us an opportunity or feet like that of a dear – to climb to new altitudes never experienced before! Happy 2006!
About the author:
The author, 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: firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com