Fellow Liberians, Africans, peoples of the universe: I bring you greetings from the heights of Mount Gedeh, the great pinnacle of our ancestral worship beneath which the great Oracle of Putu lived and interceded on behalf of the Klao people of Eastern Liberia. Mount Gedeh was not just a natural fixture in the wild but a symbol of God’s presence among our people and so worshippers from all walks of life (particularly the Krahn, Grebo, Kru, Bassa, Belleh, Deiweion, Gbi, Sarpo people) and other ethnic groups from faraway places traveled to Putu whenever they had problems to pay homage to the one and only Younsuah/Glaypor that they called by varied names in order to seek redress. I also bring you greetings from Mount Nimba where I received my calling from God forty-one years ago to become an Essene (a scribe, a playwright) of the culture and history of Liberia. In addition, I bring you good tidings from Mounts Bong, Bomi, and Wologisi where native Liberians from north, central, and western Liberia went on pilgrimage in ages past to pay similar homage to the one and only God (Kaimah) they believed in that brought them safely to the shores of what is known today as Liberia in search of religious and political freedoms.
The Purpose of This Conference
Today, sons and daughters of Liberia, Africa, and other peoples from various spheres of the universe (North America, South America, Australia, Europe, and Africa) are gathered in the historic city of Washington, D.C. in the United States of America, the world’s super power and a beacon of democracy, to attend the All Liberian Diaspora Stakeholders Conference that has brought organizations and personalities that are critical resources for progressive movement-building in Liberia. Against this backdrop, the proposed intent of this conference is to address the” theme of nation-building through civic education for social, economic, and political engagements, and to create networks across issues and/or communities; to promote home-grown leadership among groups that have been disadvantaged; and to contribute to a shared understanding of the problems of inequality and injustice; and offer a public space for the dialogue needed to identify common principles for genuinely rebuilding our beloved home [Liberia]—in the here and now!”
My Specific Task at This Conference Is to Sensitize and Engage You!
My specific task as a pedagogue and cultural consultant as per your invitation is to engage and sensitize you on the pivotal role of education and culture in nation-building. Education and culture are particularly important especially as we emerge from the ashes and trauma of a protracted civil conflict which resulted in the deaths of a quarter million Liberian citizens, foreign nationals and West African peacekeepers, as well as the total collapse and destruction of our national infrastructure for the following reasons: (1) education provides training and instruction by which we may be able to mold our citizens to value their own lives, their country, fellow countrymen and women and better appreciate and preserve Liberian history and culture; (2) appreciating our culture may provide us the national philosophy, values and refinement we need in order to live together as brothers and sisters and to preserve our heritage as Africa’s oldest republic so that we do not repeat the mistakes of the past.
In short, education and the appreciation of our culture are essential nation-building elements we lacked in the past because our educational system failed to efficiently provide these cherished values and mores, thus eventually causing us to self-destruct. Hence, while the guns may be silent, economic, political suppression of the masses in Liberia and in the diaspora still continues to span more than a quarter of a century without an imminent end in sight because we have not addressed our cultural and educational deficits as we should as a nation and people. That is also the reason why hundreds of thousands of Liberians are still lingering in refugee camps and host countries around the world due to the lack of self-knowledge and sheer neglect on the part of Liberian leaders to repatriate and resettle Liberian refugees who are dispersed in the diaspora. In addition, many Liberians are still suffering in refugee camps owing to threat of life and fear of persecution and a dysfunctional and broken down educational and cultural system. This is why I feel this conference is very important because it may afford us the opportunity to begin a dialogue that will serve as a precedent to a bigger forum for dialogue and reconciliation among all Liberians in the near future.
The Predicament of the Liberian People and the Fragile Peace Process
Further, Liberians are still in a predicament despite of the semblance of peace in Liberia because of a fragile peace process (the ECOWAS Peace Plan for Liberia) that has come to a virtual standstill due to the belligerence and refusal of principal players in the Liberian civil war to relinquish political power while the United Nations, European Union, African Union, Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), Mano River Union, and other world powers such as the United States, Great Britain, France, Germany, ignore the cries and request of most Liberians to mete out justice against perpetrators of injustice and atrocities committed against the Liberian people and humanity during the Liberian civil war.
Of course the flimsy argument of the international community has been and continues to be that the establishment of a war crimes court is an “expensive venture” and that the request for the establishment of a war crimes court must first come from the government on the ground. Yet, for instance, Sierra Leone was able to establish a war crimes court with the aid of Great Britain and the international community in order to rid that society of war criminals and put its house in order. As a consequence, one of the main perpetrators in the Liberian civil conflict, Mr. Charles Taylor, is today behind bars not on the basis of the crimes he committed in Liberia but he was prosecuted and sentenced to fifty years in prison based on his role in the atrocities committed against the people of Sierra Leone. Ladies and gentlemen, are we saying that the lives of Liberians killed in the Liberian civil war are worthless and that justice should not be meted out against our perpetrators as it is done here in the West and in all civilized societies?
Rebuild Liberia on the Basis of Rule of Law and Social Justice and not on Jungle Justice
Unfortunately and contrary to international humanitarian and human rights laws, as well as civilized norms and values, the law breakers are the law makers in Liberia and they apparently have the implicit approval of the United States, the United Nations, African Union, European Union, ECOWAS, Mano River Union, etc. For this reason, the law breakers are as well the interpreters of the law and they execute the laws and are warmly received in the White House on state visits in complete contradiction of the ideals of democracy, social justice and equality–principles that the United States of America stands for and for which it is recognized in the world.
Accordingly, the nonchalant stance taken by the United States, Liberia’s ‘traditional friend’ and other world powers and the international community, sends a strong and misleading educational signal to the youths of Liberia, Africa, and the entire world, that terrorism is justified and that those who perpetrate terrorism against their people should be awarded with the Nobel Peace Prize, the Congressional Medal of Honor, and should be given a red carpet welcome to the White House. Additionally, it means also that the lives of Liberians or Blacks in general are worthless, and it sets the tone for perpetrators in African societies to commit atrocities and terrorize their victims while here in the West individuals who commit such levels of atrocities are prosecuted and imprisoned without delay.
Therefore, my question to all participants at this All Liberian Diaspora Stakeholders Conference that is being held in the world capital city of democracy is: in our efforts to rebuild Liberia, is that the type of education and culture we want for post war Liberian children and citizens— to educate our children to glamorize a lawless society where anything goes? Or, do we want to set a good example for our children by teaching them to rebuild Liberia based on genuine rule of law and order, social justice and equality where individuals are not judged on the basis of their tribe or ethnic group or “who know you” but on the basis of merits? Considering the stalemate in the Liberian peace process, are we saying that we should educate our children to be violent prone and support a culture of violence, mayhem and atrocities; or should we educate for peace and national unity and the restoration of sustainable peace and rule of law in Liberia?
Re-conceptualize the National Curriculum on the Basis of Inclusion and Not Exclusion
I strongly recommend rebuilding Liberia on the basis of rule of law and order, social justice and equality. And, in order to do this it means that our educational and political constructs must be re-conceptualized. By this I mean we must revisit our concepts of how we educate the citizens of Liberia in our schools. We must also rethink the way we live with one another by educating for peace, unity, understanding, and promote cultural and religious diversity and tolerance in various facets of our livelihoods. This means we must teach our new generation of Liberians about the history and culture of Liberia first and foremost before we teach them about the cultures and histories of other nations and peoples. We must teach our children about the fifteen political counties and subdivisions, about the various ethnic groups and their languages and must be proud to speak, and learn to read and write them in our schools and universities. We must produce our own foods and textbooks and promote our rich cultural heritage at home and abroad.
In conclusion, it is important to note that education and culture are the bedrock of every nation. This means that the educational curriculum must be restructured to meet the teaching and learning needs of the Liberian people. In this light, education should not be confined to theoretical knowledge but must also include technical and vocational components that will provide learners with the skills to construct, to invent, and produce, and become productive law abiding citizens.
By: Rabbi Joseph Tomoonh-Garlodeyh Gbaba, Sr., Ed.D.
All Liberian Diaspora Stakeholders Conference
Washington, D.C., U.S.A.
April 25, 2015