|Ambassador Winston Tubman|
LIBERIAN 163RD INDEPENDENCE DAY ADDRESS, BY COUNSELOR WINSTON A. TUBMAN. DELIVERED, JULY 26 2010, AT THE MALAWALA BALAWALA SPORTS FIELD ON GSA ROAD, MONROVIA, LIBERIA.
Many thanks to all of you for your presence here this Afternoon and for inviting me to make this short speech today. My heartfelt congratulations go to the President and all the people of Liberia, especially Nimbaians in whose great County the official celebrations of our country’s 163rd birth Anniversary are today taking place, in SANNIQUELLIE , the historic city where the idea of African Unity first began to take shape when the Presidents of Liberia, Ghana and Guinea met there with that objective in mind fifty years ago. One hundred and thirteen years earlier, in 1847, Liberia itself was born, not as an ordinary state but as a unique fore- runner country which aimed at extending liberty to the African Motherland, as its name, Liberia, the land of liberty, implies. Nimba County was also the place where the first shots in our horrendous Civil War were fired. Therefore, by returning to and focusing at this time on Nimba County, a place of momentous beginnings, the people of Liberia are signaling to the world that the time has finally come when the true liberation of Liberia and a more meaningful African Unity must be raised to a higher and conclusive level.
Many Africans and even some Liberians often ask: ‘what development of any kind can Liberia show for its many years of independence?’National Economic Development, in my view is the result, not of age but of investments such as were made by the colonial powers in their African colonies, comprising all of Black Africa except Liberia, at a time when nothing remotely comparable was happening in Liberia. It was Ghana’s President Nkrumah who once said that Liberia should be judged, not by the height which, on her own, she attained but by the depths from which she climbed. The founders of our country, and by this I refer both to those who came to these shores, as well as those who were here and welcomed them; they had to prove to a cruel, derisive and mocking world that they too were human beings and the equals of any other race of people, fully able to do any and all of those things, as they wrote in their 1847 Declaration of Independence: “which adorn and dignify man.”
All of the newer African states, standing as they did on Liberia’s shoulders were never humiliated by having to argue much less to prove that they too were human beings. And yet, some young Liberians of today have said to me with regret: ‘it was a mistake to get our independence so soon! We should have waited until we had been developed!’ But we were never colonized. What my young Liberian friends regret is precisely that of which Liberians of my own and previous generations were proud, even boastful: We were never colonized!
Today, ten years into the Twenty First Century, Liberians must prove all over again something no less necessary now than what the first Liberians faced: we are called upon to rise up to the stubborn challenges of putting tribal divisions and national conflicts behind us forever; we must also ensure that the prevailing peace in our country will not shatter after the UN forces depart. For these things to happen, we must make sure that in our critical elections next year, the transfer of state power from one democratically elected government to another takes place smoothly and peacefully. The US Secretary of State Hilary Clinton said precisely that when she addressed the Liberian Legislature last year. Since then, a few other Americans have made statements which some Liberian politicians self-servingly delight in misconstruing. Nevertheless, what Secretary Clinton said coincides, I believe with Liberia’s needs and the wishes of most Liberians.
It once seemed to some of us that the power transfer that Secretary of State Clinton spoke of might have been facilitated if our incumbent President had refrained from taking part in the 2011 electoral race, as she had earlier promised she would do. Instead, she could have played the unsurpassable monitoring role of the iconic, globally admired and respected leader that she has become. This, we now know she has declined to do, as is her right; and there is no need or use in crying over spilt milk. Therefore, the next best thing for Liberia, in my view would be for the opposition parties to consolidate and combine their strengths so that next year, a run-off, second round of elections does not become necessary. Run offs provide conclusion to elections but they do not produce unity among a multiplicity of competing political parties, whose leaders must now make personal sacrifices for the good of Liberia. Because the narrow initial base of support enjoyed by the eventual winner in a runoff is virtually the same base upon which that winner comes to power. No real shift of support occurs; with the result that when the full panoply of state power devolves upon the eventual winner, that winner, particularly if he or she is the incumbent merely adds new power on to their already garnered power accumulations to produce, and here I borrow a phrase: “ a formidable President”; thereby, planting seeds for the return and consolidation of a strong one party state that stifles free expression, fosters tyranny and sets the stage for violent confrontations between those in power and those constituting the majority of the population seeking irrepressibly to replace an often very corrupt minority government. Liberia cannot afford to go down that disastrous road again! Preventing a return to a one party state would be a greater gain for Liberia than any number of foreign funded projects whether resulting from grants or loans which we might soon again be unable to repay. Most African countries especially those like Liberia endowed with rich natural resources can easily secure such investments. But no other African country is today better prepared, with UN forces deployed here and the right proven leadership than Liberia to make the peaceful, sustainable democratic transfer of the already mentioned state power. Our success on this score would not only hugely benefit Liberia but it would also inspire much of Africa Just as our showing to the whole world that Africans are capable of governing themselves galvanized all of Africa to eventually win their independence too.
It is therefore not wrong to call attention to the mortal danger of Liberia’s return to a one party state; nor is it unpatriotic to do so. On the contrary, it is courageous patriotism of the highest order to point out looming danger on this our national day that is so close to next year’s elections when Liberia must seek to finally close the bloodiest chapter of our history.
The Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s Report, with all its undeniable flaws represents our best, Liberian efforts to bring closure to our long national nightmare of divisions and conflicts, and place our nation on a new path to durable peace, unity, security and development. The vile, shameful and abusive characterizations that some have been hurled against me and my innocent deceased parents; even inciting the public to attack me because of my support for the TRC deserve no response; but they show powerfully just how on target the TRC’s recommendations truly are. If those recommendations are followed; not all at once but through sacrificial leadership supported by all Liberians as would be the case, step by step over time; Liberia would be bound to soon become the shining country on a hill that by its example would transform and elevate the whole African Continent as was the evident intention of the Almighty when He granted us our independence 163 years ago today.