OP-ED: A Fresh Start for a New Liberia

With his hands free of the blood of innocent people, our popularly elected, athletic, and energetic President George Weah is the best president to heal Liberia’s wounds and give Liberia a fresh start, beginning with national reconciliation, justice, participatory democracy, and equal opportunities.

Thursday was April 12, the 36th anniversary of the 1980 military coup, when members of the Armed Forces of Liberia seized power in a bloody military coup that unleashed insecurity and violence which climaxed in the 14-year civil war.

Before Liberia’s descent into chaos, the chairman of the Organization of African Unity (now the African Union), President William Tolbert, was disemboweled and brutally killed. Thirteen top officials were publicly executed. The military declared themselves as the redeemers and felt they did nothing wrong and didn’t need to apologize or reconcile.

The feeling of self-exoneration didn’t start or end with the coup leaders. Since American settlers landed in 1822, deception, lawlessness, political violence, and hostilities have marred Liberia’s troubled existence, rendering Liberia a divided nation of winners and losers co-existing side by side.

The American Colonization Society not only recruited, employed, paid, and transported American settlers to West Africa, they also purchased land from native authorities for a settlement and made a treaty to live in peace. The short-lived peace was shattered by United States Navy Captain, Robert Stockton, who held a pistol to the head of King Long Peter and forced him to sign the deal against his will. Deception came to Liberia before independence.

The American Settlers who were employees of the United States Navy began encroaching on tribal lands by force of arms. Matilda Newport, a civilian employee of the United States used a canon belonging to the United States Navy to scale up the atrocities, killing hundreds of tribal protesters. Newport, who violated the Golden Rule felt she did nothing wrong because the dead were “savages.” Newport was honored with a Liberian national holiday.

Fast forward to recent players like Prince Johnson, George Boley, Alhaji Kromah, Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, Tom Woewiyu, and Charles Taylor, who took the law in their own hands and spilled innocent blood. Asked about their roles, they are unanimous: “I did nothing wrong.”

Who is going to lead Liberia out of the pits of hell and unite our country on the path to justice, peace and prosperity? For 200 years, we have waited in vain for presidents and lawmakers to lead the way out of hell, to no avail.

Recently, it dawned on me that democracy is not the outcome of an election; it’s a government of the people, by the people, and for the people. Perhaps we the people need to take bold steps within the confines of the law to advance the common good.

That is why we took civil action seeking accountability for atrocities against us. [Torli Krua filed a lawsuit against Ellen Johnson Sirleaf and others seeking damages for their roles in the civil war.] The lawsuit is drawing attention to new laws that bring perpetrators to justice.

In Liberia, people are suffering but our politicians are becoming overnight millionaires, skyrocketing unemployment is normal and human sacrifices have become characteristic of every election cycle. Asked to respond to her status as a defendant on our civil lawsuit, ex-President Sirleaf was also unequivocal: “I did nothing wrong.”

Nearly 40 years of hostilities and divisions have decimated our infrastructure, forced hundreds of thousands into exile, created skyrocketing unemployment, scaled up corruption to an all-time high, rewarded warlords and politicians with excessive salaries and benefits higher than American lawmakers and created alarming insecurity where barbaric human sacrifices are the new normal.

If we are to take a new direction, every Liberian at home and abroad must get involved. We must begin to grow what we eat and eat what we grow. But looking at the past and how we got here, it makes no sense to keep going in the same direction that was set for us in 1822.

We need a new foundation upon which we shall begin a fresh start for the new Liberia. Thank God, with his clean hands and humble beginnings President George M. Weah is the best person who can lead this nation in a new direction, beginning with a sovereign national conference and national reconciliation involving all Liberians at home and abroad.

Featured photo by Flickr’s jbdodane

Torli Krua

A pastor and human rights activist, Torli was instrumental in lobbying with US congressmen and policymakers to increase the quota of refugees from Africa being allowed into the US. He has also worked tirelessly in the New England region and beyond to champion the rights of refugees and immigrants. His organization, Universal Human Rights International, worked with thousands of immigrants from 38 different countries over the span of 20 years. He has been honored by the National Peace Corps Association and the Massachusetts Chapter of the National Lawyers Guild.

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