Monday, April 27, 2009

Is Liberia actually free?

Bernard Gbayee Goah's message to Liberians living in Oregon

Written by Bernard Gbayee Goah

officially posted on Sunday, 27 July 2008

Mr. President, officials and members of Oregon Association for Liberians (Distinguished Guest present here today)Special Friends of LiberiaFellow Liberians from far and near,Ladies and Gentlemen

I deem it a special privilege to have been selected to speak to you on this auspicious occasion of Liberia’s 161st Independence Day celebrations. This day is been celebrated both in Liberia and in Liberian communities in the Diaspora.

Please allow me to express my appreciation to the authorities of the state of Oregon, and the Government of the United States of America for the kind hospitalities bestow upon all Liberians that dwell in this country.Permit me to also express my deepest gratitude to you all for your endless love for our beloved country Liberia. Fellow brothers and sisters, many sacrifices were made, many rights were wave. Many lives were lost, love ones were separated, as a result of some unwanted events that took place over the years in our country.

We are still alive today not because we are better than those that fell, but so that we will continue to press on and built on the good which they have initiated with their lives for the betterment of our future.

Please join me in a moment of silence in observance of the over 300,000 Liberians who lost their lives during the course of civil war and are unable to celebrate with us today.May their souls rest peace.
Each independence day I like to reflect upon how far we as a people have come. This year, as I was reflecting on my thoughts, I began to trace our Liberian history. I asked myself, “What point in time did we gain our freedom?” Are we actually free?

Liberia was born in a quest for human freedom. Our founding fathers of Liberia were guided by dreams of a nation that would ensure liberty and justice for all. Our Declaration of Independence says that every person has a right to institute a government of their own choosing – one that protects rights, life, liberty and property of all.Our Constitution of 1847 ensures the rights to religious freedom, to freedom of speech and to freedom of the press. And it commits the government to establish justice, to insure domestic peace, and to promote the general welfare of the people. However, the general welfare of people, extended only as far as to Americo-Liberians, for the indigenous population was not afforded the same freedoms. So I would argue that the constitution did not free us.In the late 1800’s the government of Liberia took out a loan for five hundred thousand, to build infrastructure. We as a people thought, Praise be to God, we will have schools for our children, our goods will be purchased, and we will grow and we will prosper. Alas, that was not to be, a mere 20% of the loan was spent on infrastructure. The rest went into the pockets of government officials.

Financial and educational freedom was so close, but did not come to pass.In 1934, under international pressure, Liberia instituted extensive policy reforms. These reforms were to address the oppressive nature of the government toward indigenous Liberians. Once again, we yelled “Freedom, thank you God.” Yet what did we receive in truth? Firestone developed more of its land, displacing more people and enslaving more workers. And many of you may not be aware about this, but we also received the Lansdell K Christie Company, which held a land lease for 80 years at 5 cents an acre. None of this improved the living conditions of indigenous peoples and this surly brought us no closer to freedom.In 1946, President William V. S. Tubman passed an act granting adult suffrage to all native hut owners who paid hut tax. Once again we yelled, Freedom, thank you God. We can now cast our votes. This act pacified many, but did not bring us Freedom.

President William R. Tolbert Jr. built schools, and we yelled “Thank you God, educational Freedom.” But with the monopolizing of the rice market by the Tolbert government and price of rice on the rise, our freedom was once again short lived and conflict was inevitable.In 1980, we chanted “In the cause of the people, the struggle continues.” Another spider story - Freedom was not ours, and perhaps might not be for some time. And we cannot forget Charles Taylor, who came with his freedom fighters to liberate us from our chains of bondage. Our voices strained, we hoped, and we yelled, Thank God, Freedom has come. Of course, this was yet another spider story.

In 2005, Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf told us “My people, you are free at last.” Again, we yell Thank God, our Old Ma is here; our Iron Lady will deliver us. Ladies and gentleman I ask you up to this date, where is our Freedom? Lack of government accountability, rape, armed robbery, embezzlement, poverty, and a lack of infrastructure has brought us no closer to freedom.

I do not recount these events to sadden your hearts, but to remind you of our past struggles and awaken you about our future. This Independence Day celebration, for me, is about the future. This day is about the Freedom I know, we will one day obtain.You might ask, “But Mr. Goah, how can you be sure that Freedom will be ours, when history has shown otherwise?”

I know freedom is obtainable because we are educated.Thousands of indigenous fled Liberia to take refuge in other countries. Did they sit by idly? No, on numerous refuge camps academic and trade schools were built and staffed. Children as well as adults flocked to these schools to obtain knowledge. Many of us left the country to receive higher education, and many have gone back to contribute to the rebuilding process.Many Liberians who would did not graduate from high school due to the war are now returning to school, regardless of their age. We should not feel shame, but rather feel proud. We are strong and determined.

We are educated in experience too. The civil War taught us many things about who we are, and who we don’t want to be. We are wise beyond our years, for war can do that to a person. We take our time; we make sure we are doing things in a positive way for generations to come.

I know freedom is obtainable because of what grassroots Liberian organizations are doing.There are hundreds of small NGOs and CBOs across Liberia. They are reaching out to communities all across Liberia, where the government cannot or will not reach. They provide education, healthcare, food, empowerment, safety, and a sense of community. They are giving a voice to those who would otherwise be silenced. They are giving ability to those who have been unable, and hope to those who have been hopeless. Oregon Association for Liberians (OAL) is one such community organization that should be acknowledged for its help in rebuilding Liberia. I am told that funds generated from today’s activities will go toward scholarship opportunity for young people in Liberia . That is why I am so proud your existence today. Please keep up the good work.

I know freedom is obtainable because I have hope and I see hope alive in you and so many Liberians.Before the civil war erupted in the Liberia, Lofa County had 100 health facilities, including four hospitals. All of which were destroyed. Today, the war has ended; Lofa has over 34 small health facilities. The county once had 260 schools, all of which were destroyed. But now there are over 30 schools providing education for our youth. If we did not have hope, why rebuild? Lofa is not alone, rebuilding is happening all over the country.

I know freedom is obtainable because we, as citizens, have taken charge of our own future.At no other point in our history have so many citizens been so involved in the rebuilding process. The private sector is growing. Individual citizens are taking the lead in self sustainable development. Our voices can no longer be silenced. We cry out for freedom, and our cries can no longer be ignored.

Today we are not only celebrating the independence of Liberia as a country. We are celebrating 161 years of never giving up. The resilience we learned while being oppressed has molded our country and our character. Today, this resilience does not just define the indigenous population. No. It defines all Liberian people. We are a strong people, a united people. Our future, our freedom, does not lie with the government, nor the paper on which our constitution is written. Freedom is in our minds, in our ability to see the future and what it holds for all of us, in our ability to question policy markers, in our ability to put Liberia first regardless of our tribes and our counties of origin, and in our ability to contribute to the rebuilding process. We will be free, because that is what we see for our future.Happy Independence Day and may God bless Liberia.

News Headline

Inside Liberia with Bernard Gbayee Goah

Everyone is a genius

Everyone is a genius. But if you judge a fish on its ability to climb a tree, it will live its whole life believing that it is stupid. – A Einstein

Drawing the line in Liberia

Crimes sponsored, committed, or masterminded by handful of individuals cannot be blamed upon an entire nationality. In this case, Liberians! The need for post-war justice is a step toward lasting peace, stability and prosperity for Liberia. Liberia needs a war crimes tribunal or some credible legal forum that is capable of dealing with atrocities perpetrated against defenseless men, women and children during the country's brutal war. Without justice, peace shall remain elusive and investment in Liberia will not produce the intended results. - Bernard Gbayee Goah

Men with unhealthy characters should not champion any noble cause

They pretend to advocate the cause of the people when their deeds in the dark mirror nothing else but EVIL!!
When evil and corrupt men try to champion a cause that is so noble … such cause, how noble it may be, becomes meaningless in the eyes of the people - Bernard Gbayee Goah.

If Liberia must move forward ...

If Liberia must move forward in order to claim its place as a civilized nation amongst world community of nations, come 2017 elections, Liberians must critically review the events of the past with honesty and objectivity. They must make a new commitment to seek lasting solutions. The track records of those who are presenting themselves as candidates for the position of "President of the Republic of Liberia" must be well examined. Liberians must be fair to themselves because results from the 2011 elections will determine the future of Liberia’s unborn generations to come - Bernard Gbayee Goah

Liberia's greatest problem!

While it is true that an individual may be held responsible for corruption and mismanagement of funds in government, the lack of proper system to work with may as well impede the process of ethical, managerial, and financial accountability - Bernard Gbayee Goah

What do I think should be done?

The situation in Liberia is Compound Complex and cannot be fixed unless the entire system of government is reinvented.
Liberia needs a workable but uncompromising system that will make the country an asylum free from abuse, and other forms of corruption.
Any attempt to institute the system mentioned above in the absence of rule of law is meaningless, and more detrimental to Liberia as a whole - Bernard Gbayee Goah

Liberia's Natural Resources
Besides land water and few other resources, most of Liberia’s dependable natural resources are not infinite, they are finite and therefore can be depleted.
Liberia’s gold, diamond, and other natural resources will not always be an available source of revenue generation for its people and its government. The need to invent a system in government that focuses on an alternative income generation method cannot be over emphasized at this point - Bernard Gbayee Goah

Liberia needs a proper system
If Liberians refuse to erect a proper system in place that promotes the minimization of corruption and mismanagement of public funds by government institutions, and individuals, there will come a time when the value of the entire country will be seen as a large valueless land suited on the west coast of Africa with some polluted bodies of waters and nothing else. To have no system in place in any country is to have no respect for rule of law. To have no respect for rule of law is to believe in lawlessness. And where there is lawlessness, there is always corruption - Bernard Gbayee Goah

Solving problems in the absence of war talks

As political instability continues to increase in Africa, it has become abundantly clear that military intervention as a primary remedy to peace is not a durable solution. Such intervention only increases insecurity and massive economic hardship. An existing example which could be a valuable lesson for Liberia is Great Britain, and the US war on terror for the purpose of global security. The use of arms whether in peace keeping, occupation, or invasion as a primary means of solving problem has yield only little results. Military intervention by any country as the only solution to problem solving will result into massive military spending, economic hardship, more fear, and animosity as well as increase insecurity. The alternative is learning how to solve problems in the absence of war talks. The objective of such alternative must be to provide real sustainable human security which cannot be achieved through military arm intervention, or aggression. In order to achieve results that will make the peaceful coexistence of all mankind possible, there must be a common ground for the stories of all sides to be heard. I believe there are always three sides to every story: Their side of the story, Our side of the story, and The truthBernard Gbayee Goah


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