Press Release - by Charles Walker Brumskine
Members of the Press
My Fellow Liberians
Happy New Year to you all. Indeed this is 2005, the long awaited year. May the “Alpha and Omega” of our country, and the “I am that I am” be with us all, as his perfect will is fulfilled in our country.
Five years ago, the turn of the Century found me in exile in the most powerful nation on earth, the United States of America. I was away from home, uncertain as to when I would return home. But I always knew that the cause I had championed, as leader of the Liberian Senate, was a just one. I purposed in my heart that no opportunity of moneymaking, whether as a politician or a lawyer, would have caused me to remain silent, as others suffered. No level of self-aggrandizement would cause me to stray from the purpose of God for Liberia. Instead, I chose to suffer the affliction with the people of God, than to enjoy the pleasures of sin for a season. And the Lord blessed me.
It was in the United States that I, by the Grace of the Most High God, began sharing the vision of the New Liberia. At the time I returned to Liberia many thought I was suicidal, but I had to come home to begin the process of ushering in the New Liberia. So, I trusted in the Lord and took the first step that commenced the process of Liberia’s renewal.
Today, we can glorify God that the second phase of the process has also been accomplished. That is, everyone now speaks of the New Liberia. I considered myself blessed in a very special way just to be alive and hear Liberians and foreigners alike, men and women, young and old, rich and poor, even those who did not know where Liberia was just four years ago, now talk about the New Liberia. What a blessing it is for us, as a people!
It was a leap of faith for my family and me, when I left the comfort of the great United States to return to Taylor-controlled Liberia. It is with the same faith that we must now move into the third phase of the process: the unveiling of the vision of the New Liberia. The vision of the New Liberia is of God, and is, therefore, revealed prayerfully.
This is the beginning of a series of chats with you, on the New Liberia.
Firstly, the New Liberia will not be ushered into existence by “Congo people” or “Country people”, by Bassa, Gio, Krahn, Mandingo, or any other ethnic group. Only Liberians, acting together under a principled and focused leadership, will usher in the New Liberia, which would be for the benefit of all. Secondly, regardless of how well intentioned the agenda of others may be, the New Liberia can be defined only by Liberians, as a nation designed by others is bound to fail.
Politicians and scholars alike have assigned various reasons for Liberia’s failure. One has written about “The Idea of Liberia as Design for a Difficult Predicament”. Others have said that Liberia has labored under a Western-oriented “national” culture while the majority of its citizens have remained on the periphery. Yet another has criticized the 1847 Declaration of Independence for failing “to give the Liberian indigenes the praise due to them for not only accommodating the immigrants, but also assimilating and amalgamating with them.”
Howbeit, today, we are called to root out, and to pull down, and to destroy, and to throw down, to build, and to plant. For together we shall build the old waste places: we shall raise the foundations of many generations. So that this generation of Liberians will be called The Repairer of the breached, The Restorer of places to dwell in.
Therefore, together, we will do a new thing. Through our collective effort we will fashion a national agenda for Reconciliation, Reformation, Restoration, and Reconstruction. Allow me to reiterate today that these “R’s” are the four pillars of the New Liberia.
These pillars are interdependent, none can be achieved without the others, as together they form the foundation of the New Liberia, and shall allow God’s purpose for our nation to be accomplished. There can be no genuine reconciliation without reforming our failed past. We will not restore the goodness and greatness of Liberia until reconciliation opens our hearts to appreciate our commonality. Reconstruction will be an exercise in futility unless reconciliation, reformation, and restoration take hold among us.
You will recall that a little over a month ago I spoke about the eviction of some Liberians from their homes in Grand Bassa. In the Old Liberia, which continues uninterrupted, such inhumane action is perpetrated at the behest of our government, without a word of dissension from others. But there can be no true unification and reconciliation in our country when the majority of Liberians continue to live on lands that their ancestors lived on before Liberia was founded, but which they do not own and cannot alienate. They are considered squatters, and may be driven from their homes at the will of the power that be.
This is a historical anomaly that has to be cured. There is no shortage of land with which to remedy the problem, and there can be no better time to do it than at the onset of the New Liberia. Land reform law in Liberia will give teeth to unification and real meaning to reconciliation.
Therefore, in the New Liberia, things will be different. Liberia’s land tenure system will be completely overhauled. We will institute major land reform policies, which will ensure, among other things, that Liberians living on public land within the interior of the country, whose affairs are still governed by customary law, will be issued fee simple deeds for the land on which they live. It is not only the right thing to do, but it is also necessary to give the majority of Liberians a stake in our country, make them more a part of the body politic, and empower them economically.
The land reform law will give rise to the largest single transfer of wealth in our nation’s history. Other benefits of a changed system would include the followings:
1. All Liberians, whether they live in urban or rural areas, under statutory or customary laws, would now be owners of land.
2. Every landowner would have the same rights of alienation as every other Liberian, such as inheritances and other lesser forms of ownership and interest, as mortgages and leaseholds.
3. More Liberians would acquire a stake in the Liberian economy because economic growth would likely occurred on their land, and not on some public land.
4. Rural dwellers will now be able to use their land to build family wealth—wealth that may be passed onto future generations thereby increasing the affluent level of Liberia.
5. Landowners may use their land as collateral for bank loans to finance their businesses, to build homes, or for other personal transactions.
6. Government would now have to exercise the power of eminent domain to take the property of any Liberian, whether she lives in Monrovia or Giana.
The land reform law will deal with many other issues not discussed today. They would include the designation of additional land for national purposes, such as resource conservation and national parks. The reform will also take into consideration the urgent need to resolve urban land dispute in an equitable and fair manner, based on a system of law which recognizes previous ownership of land, not present appropriation.
My fellow Liberians, changing our country for the better will not be an easy task, but I invite you to take comfort in the words of William Jennings Bryan’s “Cross of Gold”, as I have, “The humblest citizen in all the land, when clad in the armor of a righteous cause, is stronger than all the hosts of error.”
I thank you, and God bless.