Liberia, a West African Americanized country, is unique in a couple of ways. It is about the oldest African Republic. It happened to be the global medical battleground against the deadly Ebola virus that swept through the country and the neighboring Guinea and Sierra Leone, killing thousands of people, mainly in Liberia. She made history by electing the first female President in Africa, Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf. From the late Presidents Joseph Jenkins Roberts, William Tubman and William R. Tolbert to the incumbent George Oppong Weah it has been centuries and decades of political implosion and explosion; a cocktail of war, famine, disease, rebellion and coup d’état.
Just two hundred years ago thousands of freed and free-born black people who faced social and legal oppression in the United States along with other Afro-Caribbeans relocated to Liberia landing triumphantly in Monrovia. Upon arrival the American-Liberian settlers did not relate well with the indigenous peoples they encountered especially the cave-men and women living in the more isolated interior areas.
Colonial settlements were often raided by the Kru and Grebo ethnic champions. With about twenty ethnic groups making up the population of natives the freed slaves are in the minority.
Earlier last week Liberia marked historically two centuries of the formation of the ‘Liberty Area’. In the presence of foreign dignitaries, guests and thousands of cheering Liberians President Weah delivered a passionate patriotic address. He stressed the need for genuine unity, reconciliation and coexistence among Liberians.
Some African Presidents graced the occasion. The junketing President Muhammadu Buhari of Nigeria was represented by his Vice, Prof Yemi Osinbajo. The bicentenary represented freedom from oppression and a glorious blast from the past.
Two centuries down the line Liberia had seen it all: the good, the bad and the ugly. The ugliest side to her tortured national history could be said to be a decade of brutal civil war with the worst atrocities in the African continent. Even the Biafran pogrom cannot be compared to it in terms of savagery and barbarism.
The late Master Sergent Samuel Kanyon Doe and his native army boys executed an audacious gory coup that overthrew the late President William R. Tolbert. Tolbert and a dozen of his aides were cruelly executed setting the stage for social tension and disharmony.
But ex-President Doe died a more vicious death as he was seized by rebels led by Prince Johnson inside the headquarters of the West African regional force, ECOMOG, in Monrovia as he went to lodge a complaint about a power deal. Doe was severely tortured and butchered to death as video clips went around the world depicting the horror scene.
During the protracted war the ECOWAS military intervention force (ECOMOG) tried in vain to bring about peace and reconciliation. The atmosphere was very charged with Charles Taylor, now incarcerated, leading a rag-tag army of drugged and alcoholic boys in an all-out military offensive against the late Samuel Doe.
It took the barbaric killing of Samuel Doe for the war to be brought to a relative end leading to the election of Charles Taylor as President. The damage done to the infrastructural facilities in Monrovia and other coastal cities are still manifest. The scars of the war are still visible to this day.
Taylor, the executive bandit, under intense pressure from the US, ended up stepping aside taking up residence in Calabar Nigeria. But justice still caught up with him as ex-President Obasanjo dutifully handed him over to the International Criminal Court authorities in The Hague where he stood trial for the diamond-for-arms role he played in the bloody conflict in neighbouring Sierra Leone.
Taylor was found guilty of supplying arms to the rebels in exchange for blood diamond! He was consequently jailed for fifty years! And now he still is cooling his heels in prison in the United Kingdom.
During the National Patriotic Front of Liberia rebellious madness two Nigerian journalists were murdered as they were doing their jobs. Krees Imodibe and Tayo Awotosin sacrificed their blood for Liberia to be free!
Today, even in a generalized atmosphere of peace and social concord, the tension between the original land owners, aborigines, and the glorified ‘invaders’ from Uncle Sam still boils over every now and then leading to conflict and loathsome rhetorics.
Liberia today enjoys relative peace and development under the former soccer star turned President, Weah. Yet it is not all roses! The country is not faring any better economically. Poverty is still rife and unemployment rampant much like what obtains in big brother Nigeria under Buharism.
President Weah himself has had to deal with a couple of presidential scandals. His son, George Weah Jr, based in Paris, France, had twice been arrested by the French police for some delinquent acts in a COVID-19 pandemic era. In the Paris suburb of Saint-Germain-en-Laye where the President’s son lives he often organized boisterous parties inviting his friends over for champagne, Jacuzzi, loud music and laughing gas, according to French police.
And a recent book chronicling the rise to the top of the retired football legend had revealed controversially why President Weah preferred his wife, the First Lady, to other women he had dated prior to his marriage. The authors scandalously revealed how Weah told them in confidence that he went for his wife because of her capacity in bed!
Liberia @ 200 ought to be a glorious moment of national unity and a fearless reminiscences of the bloody past; a glorious blast from the past! The mantra should now be: Never Again!
All in all, we recognize that things have indeed changed positively in Liberia. They can only get better with dedicated patriotic leadership. We extend our warm greetings to Liberians as they savor their epochal date with liberty.