A Critical Look At Josephus Moses Gray’s Instructive Book on Liberia’s Emerging Democracy: The Role of Women and the Media

Written By: Jacob T. Newton
Contact; +231-777913353/ Email: newtonj26@yahoo.com

A Liberian respectable diplomat and former acclaimed journalist, Mr. Josephus Moses Gray’s recent Instructive book on the Role of Women and the Media in Liberia’s emerging democracy is a thought provoking piece of work that must be read by all who have interest in Liberia. As a reminder here—one of the highly rated and respectable Presidents of the United States of America the late John F Kennedy, in his famous inaugural address delivered on January 20th 1961 in Washington, D.C. once said: “Ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country.” Hence, as a matter of another critical reflection, the world chief diplomat, Ban Ki-moon, Secretary-General of the United Nations, a month after his election to run the affairs of this challenging and dedicated office, was filled with praises when a 27-year-old Indian presented a copy of his book on conflicts resolution.

Ban Ki Moon said: “if the world and others can join this gentleman to devote their times, energies and resources to conduct research on vital subjects, and have their findings made published to enlighten and educate the larger society, the world would be a better place to live.” For others, he said they have developed an infamous habit of condemning and undermining, these people he said are always troubled by certain people’s progress and accomplishments. These two world leaders’ famous and inspirational words have motivated me to firstly commend Josephus Moses Gray for his determination to stand up to the daunting task for such a unique publication and secondly to review in detailed Mr. Gray’s informative book on democracy. He is the first Liberian diplomat over the last 15 years to publish  a book; he has written dozens of instructive detailed articles on journalism, diplomacy, human rights issues and politics, resulting to several accolades
 from the independent media and society organizations.

In the spirit of doing justice to Mr. Gray’s undertaking, let me now turn my attention to the instructive book, rightfully titled: “Liberia’s Emerging Democracy,” the Role of women and the media, which contains ten essential chapters detailing and analyzing Liberia’s embryonic democracy: the indispensable contributions of Liberian mothers and the major role of the local media in the peace building process. Going forward, it essential to note, that the author of the book, Mr. Gray, is also a former Liberian journalist and an ex-Assistant Foreign Minister for Public Affairs. He presently serves his country in the Foreign Service, as Political Counselor at the Embassy of Liberia in the Republic of France where he is also undergoing his doctorate studies in international relations and public Policy.

The Role of Women and the media in Liberia’s emerging democracy to say the least is a fascinating and compelling eyewitness account of the author and does gives true insights of Liberia’s dark days, especially, the country’s 14-year turmoil and the amazing role of Liberian women and the local media in the attainment of genuine peace and the restoration of the rule of law. The publication also highlights the immense contributions of ECOWAS, UN, AU, USA and the enormous sacrifices made by peace-keepers and loses sustained to bringing peace and stability to Liberia.

The publication covers a wild range of issues including the current status of democracy in Liberia and does catalogue the key role of three of the nine Economic Community Monitoring Group (ECOMOG), of the Western Africa sub regional security forced, established initially to bring peace to Liberia, and the Force Commanders, particularly three courageous Nigerian Generals: Maj-Gen. Joshua Dogonyaro, Brig-Gen. AdetunjiIdowu Olurin and Brig-Gen Victor Malu. These three generals according to the book left an irreplaceable mark on the history of Liberia. Mr. Gray, in his research, discovered how several women resorted to fight to protect themselves from abuses such as rape, violence, murder and a harsh labor regime while other war affected women were also held hostage and used as ‘combat-wives’ of warlords and fighters against their will.

 The book also highlights Liberian women as actors—  not merely victims of conflict even though true to say so, but does paid tribute to their gallantry; it also, hence discusses the strategies the women used effectively and points  their role in building bridges across society through grassroots reconciliation initiatives in bringing former warlords to the peace table. The book also shows how Liberian journalists performed a critical role in bringing mayhems and atrocities committed during the heat of the war to light but also document how the media paid a great price for being outspoken. The book launched in January 2013 at the headquarters of the Press Union of Liberia (PUL) is a reservoir of timeless gem from a historical perspective as far as Liberia’s recent history is concerned.

Of particular interest notes Mr. Gray are the contributions of women activists Madame Mary Brownell, a respectable woman of society by all accounts, classroom teacher and peace campaigner. Her search for peace he said has gone beyond national borders, and have greatly impacted humanity, Angie Brooks Randall, the first female president of the General Assembly of the United Nation, and Senator Ruth Sando Perry, former Chair of the Six-man Council of State.  Sando Perry is credited for her efforts in helping to restore law and order and improving the overall conditions in the country during the transitional period and Roberta Leymah Gbowee, peace campaigner and a joint winner of the 2011 Nobel Peace Prize who led the women’s movement to help end the war in Liberia.

The book further detailed Mother Suakoko of Bong County; her role in the fight against injustices while President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf, Africa’s First female democratically elected president contributions in restoring the nation’s image abroad.  According to the book, the struggle of Liberian women for place in the body politics of Liberia have proportional historical significance, more significantly Juah Nimene of the Kru ethnic group who headed the Sasstown resistances against injustices by  Liberian government forces.  Past history analysis has not accorded these events their fair share of narratives, as per these two indigenous major actors, either for selfish reasons or lethargic accommodations, The Role of Women and the media in Liberia’s emerging democracy, pays tribute to a flouted Liberian past and the role of these brave women whose struggle has gone largely unforgotten, but not in Mr. Moses Gray’s accounts.

The 480 page book is a well-researched publication; the book further discusses the 2005 and 2011 Presidential and Legislative Elections, unlike the 1997 ‘special election’ which brought former President Charles Taylor to power. It is worth mentioning, however, that despite the significant progress in adhering to the tenets of democracy, there are still serious unsettled challenges which threaten the sustainability of peace and democracy in the country as argued in the book. The book also discusses the doctrine of the “separation of power” which actually means “division” of the state‘s power rooted in the three branches of government detached of interference.

The book also detailed the brutalities and maltreatments journalists suffered at the hands of warlords and their unruly fighters, often leaving the hapless journalists dead while others were faced with life time injuries and sanction. The book shows how Liberian journalists performed a critical role in bringing mayhems and atrocities to light but goes further to document how the journalist paid a greater price. The book, however, indicts some of the local media for biased reportage by siding with the status quo, treating some candidates who contested elections with favors while giving less coverage to others. Ironically, in Liberia, those in the mainstream media who reflect the ideological views of those in power are too often accepted as being “objective,” while the rest of their colleagues who challenge those views are simply dismissed as “ideological” or “biased.”

The book further exposed how death threats were regularly used by warlords and fighters to silence the independent media, forcing media houses to close down while state security actors on several occasions victimized media personnel and vandalized media institutions in the name of protecting the security of the state. Under the sub-title: “To Hell and Back”, the book also gives a personal account of the author’s experience during Liberia’s uncivil war when author , Josephus Moses Gray on three different occasions during the heat of the war saw death but  survived through the mercy of God. The author pinpoints to pains, death threats, agony, tortures and mayhems that he experienced at the hands of rebel fighters of Charles Taylor’s National Patriotic Front of Liberia (NPFL) and George Boley’s Liberia Peace Council (LPC). Sadly, he recounts how his father, Abraham K. Gray and 26 others from the Kru ethnic group were tied and buried alive in the
 Hoffman River in Harper City, Maryland County on April 5, 1995 by fighters of the LPC.

The underlying factors of the war and its foundation as aforementioned are highlighted, while it briefly delves into the crisis and examines the political participation and the NPFL invasion and several attempts by peace brokers to end the conflict. It looks at the various peace agreements including the most famous Accra Comprehensive Peace Agreement, the role of the international community and zeroed in on the contribution of the UN through its peace keeping mission, UNMIL. It also highlights the meaningful contributions of the United States government, various UN Agencies and African Union as well as other world bodies and countries which Liberia maintained bilateral ties with in ending the war. The book also pinpoints how any quick withdrawal of UNMIL peacekeepers would exacerbate the fragile security situation in the country which would subsequently affect Liberia’s emerging democracy and peace. Enough attention is given to the traumatized youth,
 most of whom are former fighters and are vulnerable and could be assimilated into violence and political disorder should UNIMIL withdrawal becomes eminent.

The book also discusses the nation’s dangling political history in the context of the struggle for participation and battle against barriers which denied the natives from broad-based decision-making which started long before the 1990 rebel invasion. The author in a telephone conversation told me that the officially the final editing has been concluded since April 30th this year. The book he said as of July 1, 2014 can be purchase online for a reasonable price. The book he said has gone under lots of editing and layout before being approved for printing.

In appreciation the author effort, the Assistant Director-General for Africa Development of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), Madam Lalla Aicha Ben Barka has praised Liberian women essential role in peace building, while several ambassadors in France have praised Mr. Gray for the publication which they described as informative and unique and speaks to Liberian ugly past and progress made so far, while the Nigerian Ambassador to France lauded Mr. Gray for what he described as an unique research and publication especially the chapter on his country Nigeria role in the obtainment of peace in Liberia. Other commendations came from members of the Liberian media, journalists, members of Liberia writers association, professors of universities, ministers and heads of government ministries and agencies, students group in the country and the general public. The book has attracted interests from the reading
 published in Liberia with hundred of persons requesting for copies.

In an official communicated to Mr. Josephus Moses Gray, dated 7 January 2013, Madam Aicha Ben Barka said President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf being elected as the first women President of a Republic in Africa and, 2011, the Nobel Prize winner for her 'non-violent struggle for the safety of women and for women's rights to full participation in peace-building works.' She said Liberia clearly holds dear the importance of women in Africa's development and in building of peace on the continent, and added that: On behalf of the Director General, I wish to thanks you Mr. Gray for your letter of November 27 2012, by which you transmitted a copy of your book entitled "Liberia's Emerging Democracy: the Role of Women and the Media". The UNESCO Assistant Direcor for Africa Development further indicated in the letter that Mr. Gray's book is very instructive on the recent history of Liberia and the peace process that has emerged; the book underlines the prime importance of
 women in building peace, as well as the one of independent media."As you are aware, UNESCO supports both, particularly in conflict and post-conflict situation", the letter with reference ADG/AFR/CEP/12/L. 8094 concludes.

.  Meanwhile, the author in a brief telephone conversation told me that the final editing works on the book has been officially done. As of the 31st of August the book will be on Amazon Publishing House website where copies can be ordered for a reasonable price while in October hard copies of the book will be placed in the various super markets and book stories in Monrovia. The book has gone under lots of transformation since it was formally launched in 2013. The author of this book holds a BA Degree in Mass Communications with emphasis in Print Journalism and a Master Degree in International Relations from the IBB Graduate School at the University of Liberia. He is pursuing his doctorate studies in Diplomacy and International Relations in France where he works at the Embassy of the Republic of Liberia as a Political Counselor. He formerly worked at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Liberia as Assistant Minister for Public Affairs. He is
 a 2006 American International Journalism Fellow and a graduate of an ICFA Global Journalism Program in Washington D.C., USA.  He holds dozens of certificates and post-graduate diplomas in Journalism, International Affairs, Communications and Diplomacy.

The author of the book, Josephus Moses Gray formally practiced as a journalist for 18 years with devotion, receiving dozens of accolades, his firsthand accounts therefore has weight and news worthiness. He has authored several journals on national and international contemporary issues that border on foreign policy, international affairs, often with political and economic undertones. Josephus Gray has also written extensively about the Practice of diplomacy and the balance of power, and the dire role of the Liberian media in enhancing political pluralism in modern Liberia. I suggest that for further enquiry and concerns; please contact the author of the book, Josephus Moses Gray directly via his email:jmoses1970@yahoo.com

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