Wednesday, January 19, 2011


"We cannot afford to continuously deceive ourselves into behaving as if we are one people while simultaneously engaging in ethnic politics".
Written by Johannes Zogbay Zlahn

As we approach the 2011 general and presidential elections in Liberia, the question remains as to whether or not we will vote in the national interest or on the basis of ethnic identity and connection. The answer to this question is, in my opinion, extremely important since the route we choose will have a lasting negative or positive impact on our nation and determine whether our nascent democracy will endure. How we answer this question is also crucial not only because it will define who we are as a people and nation, but also because it will serve as evidence of whether or not we are keen on building a truly unified country in which our ugly past will be buried; a country in which a brighter future for our children and their children will be ensured; a country in which patriotism and nationalism will reign supreme; and a country in which sectionalism and ethnocentrism will become relics of the past. As evidenced by corruption in both the public and private sectors in Liberia, nationalism and patriotism are not part of the Liberian lexicon; for a true nationalist or patriot will not pilfer the country’s resources for the benefit of himself or herself to the detriment of his or her fellow citizens and the country as a whole. A true nationalist or patriot is more likely than not to seek and protect the collective interests of the country as a whole. But as endemic as corruption is in the country, the most destructive and pernicious vice, in my opinion, is division on ethnic lines, which in many instances lead us to make decisions or take actions not on the basis of what is good for the collectivity but on the basis of what is good for our particular ethnic group. That ethnic divide in many instances, also, leads us to support or follow political figures not because of ideas and policies espoused by them, but because they happen to belong to our particular ethnic group. Because of this ethnic divide, many demagogues have arisen on our political scene and misled many of our fellow citizens to the detriment of the country.

While it is understandable that people should prefer members of their own ethnic group who vie for political offices, that neither entitles people of one ethnic group to have antipathy toward members of other groups nor to support members of their ethnic group solely on the basis of being members of their group, especially where such members lack well-defined policies aimed at improving the nation as a whole. Hence, as we go to the polls this October to elect the next leaders of our country, we should vote in the national interest—that is, vote for leaders with the best ideas and policies for improving the conditions of all of our people as opposed to casting our votes for individuals simply because they happen to be members of the ethnic groups to which we belong. I have argued elsewhere and argue here, that we should consider ourselves Liberians first and every other thing second. If we consider ourselves to be Liberians first and foremost and every other thing second, then it does not matter what group an aspirant for public office belongs to, as long as he or she is best suited to lead the country. This being the case, the only basis for casting our votes for a particular candidate will be his or her ability to effectively and efficiently administer the affairs of the country.

In my opinion, the extremely vicious nature of the Liberian civil war stemmed from the fact that it was fought mostly along ethnic lines and as such, became a conflict of “us against them.” Accordingly, members of one ethnic group were perceived as being “different” from members of another ethnic group and were therefore dehumanized to the extent that their destruction was considered a necessary and noble thing to do. Even members of an ethnic group who were found or presumed to be sympathetic towards other ethnic groups or who associated with members of different ethnic groups were destroyed by members of their own ethnic group because they were deemed to be traitors and therefore presumed to have forfeited their membership in that ethnic group. Had we considered ourselves to be Liberians first, it would have been difficult, although not impossible, for us to have so easily destroyed our fellow citizens without remorse or second thought. Who, in their right mind, destroys his brother or sister? Who, in their right mind, goes to bed filled while his brothers and sisters go to bed hungry and feels good about himself or her self? A nationalistic or patriotic citizen neither engages in any of these acts nor condones thee acts. It therefore behooves all of us to ensure that our country becomes and remains unified, by abhorring ethnic politics and embracing the politics of national unity, bearing in mind that we have more in common than our petit differences would lead us to believe. This process of national unity begins with the upcoming general and presidential elections. We owe it to ourselves and our children and grandchildren to ensure that this country remains unified and that the mistakes of the past are not repeated. We cannot afford to do any less; for to do otherwise will bring us back to where we came from.

I deemed it prudent and necessary to write this article at this time because we are already seeing some aspirants for public office “drawing the line in the sand” or I should say in the jungle, in some political subdivisions of the country. What I found even more frightening than the pronouncements by the aspirants for public office is the willingness of some of our fellow citizens to support such unpatriotic and divisive act. In my humble opinion, were we to cast our votes for particular candidates on the basis of ethnicity as opposed to our evaluation and acceptance of the ideas and policies espoused by a candidate; the candidate’s ability to deliver on those ideas and policies; the candidate’s ability and willingness to serve as a unifying symbol for the country; and the candidate’s ability and willingness to bridge the ethnic divide in the country, we are likely to repeat the painful mistakes of the past. This, of course, is not to suggest that one should not cast his or her vote for a member of his or her ethnic group or that anyone who casts a vote for a member of his or her ethnic group is being ethnocentric or unpatriotic. The point of my argument is that ethnic identity or connection without more should not be a decisive factor in the casting of our votes; it should be one of many factors, including those stated in this article.

We cannot afford to continuously deceive ourselves into behaving as if we are one people while simultaneously engaging in ethnic politics. Viewing Liberia from an angle of “us against them” has gotten us nowhere and will get us nowhere, except to the valley of destruction from which we are barely creeping; that is why we need to conduct a 2011 election which is devoid of ethnic and religion sentiments so that a true nation can emerge in spite of what we believe are our differences. We cannot continue to deceive ourselves into believing that we are one when we have sinister feelings towards and about each other; when we still see ourselves as “we” and the others as “them.”

Johannes Zogbay Zlahn is an attorney-at-law

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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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