A Liberian based in the United States during the Rabbi Prince Joseph Tomooh-Garlodeyh Gbaba, Sr., recently delivered a statement in Raleigh, North Carolina, the USA. See below the full text of Dr. Gbaba’s statement entitled: “Let Us Educate for Peace and Reconciliation and Provide Civic Education Rather Than Promote War and Lawlessness in Liberia”
Honorable and Mrs. Philip Krawlay “Eusebio” Klah, Sr., President-elect and First Lady Mrs. Vickie Blidi-Klah; my beloved wife and lifetime partner, Princess Ariminta Henrietta Porte-Gbaba; members of the Board of Directors and officers of the Liberian Community in the Research Triangle (LCOT); local community presidents and officers of Liberians and Americans in nearby cities in the Tar Heel State of North Carolina; Honorable Wilmot Kunney, President and officers of the Union of Liberian Associations in the Americas (ULAA); my fellow citizens of Liberia and the United States of America; state and local government officials of North Carolina and the Cities of Raleigh, Durham, Chapel Hill, and immediate environs; members of the clergy; citizens of the world; distinguished ladies and gentlemen:
While we are still standing, I would like us to please observe a moment of silence in loving memory of over quarter millions of our mothers, fathers, brothers and sisters and foreign nationals including five American nuns who lost their lives in the senseless Liberian civil war. Let us pray that light perpetual may shine upon them and thatthey and all the faithful departed may rest in perpetual peace through the mercy of the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. Amen. Please be seated.
Tonight, I bring you greetings from the residents and citizens of “Drugbor”, Montserrado County, my birthplace in Liberia. I also bring you greetings from the Vais and Mendes and the spirits of our forefathers in Lake Piso in Grand Cape Mount County. I salute you on behalf of the people of Lofa and Bong and Margibi Counties; and bring you warm greetings from the Klao peoples of Eastern and Southeastern Liberia—the Krahns, Krus, Grebos, Bassas, Sapos, Gbis and Deiweions, from Grand Gedeh, River Gee, Maryland, Grand Kru, Grand Bassa, Sinoe, and Rivercess, and Montserrado Counties. Tonight, I would also like to deliver warm felicitations from citizens of Gbarpolu, Bomi, and particularly the Seingben Clan in Nimba County from where I received my calling forty-one years ago as a playwright, theatre director, and actor.
What Is the Purpose of Our Gathering Tonight?
We are gathered at the Carolina Events and Cultural Center in Suite 146 located at 3209 Gresham Avenue, Raleigh, North Carolina 27615, for several reasons: (1) to listen to the message I have to offer as your installation officer and guest speaker; (2) to install a new corps of officers of the Liberian Community in the Research Triangle; (3)to listen to the platform or plan of action your President-elect, Honorable Philip Krawlay “Eusebio” Klah, Sr. and members of his administration would like to unveil to you as their constituents and electorates that elected them into office; and (4) to socialize with one another as people with one common history and hegemony.
In essence, our gathering here is to witness the turning of a new page in the history of LCOTto provide much needed basic community-focused social, cultural, educational, legal, and recreational services thatLCOT members may need from time to time. Furthermore, it is our expectation that what is promised us tonight by your illustrious President and his corps of officers in terms of their platform, shall be delivered in kind in the near futureto match their words with their deeds as a check and balance system.The check and balance system in my opinion is a very good way to run an organization in order to keep both the members and leadership in check. It is the surest way to make democracy a reality in our daily lives as demonstrated through the exercise of our franchise or right to vote. Further, democracy empowers us to make informed decisions that affect our lives—effective decisions that may land us in the right direction we wish to go if we make the right choices available to us. Or, it may empower us to ask our elected officials to resign or be impeached if they do not perform satisfactorily in accordance with the constitution and the mandate given them by the voters or constituents.
However, electing a corps of officers does not mean the rest of you should lay back, fold your hands and expect your elected officers to work magic on their own, without your active involvement. Instead, I would like to advise that in order to make your organization what you want it to be all members of LCOT have to come on board and help out in whatever way you can to make LCOT a successful organization. In other words, you can achieve through your “collective” efforts by engaging one another in a positive way for the common good of all. Therefore, the success of LCOT does not only rest on the shoulders of the President and his corps of officers but on the shoulders of all members of LCOT. I say this because the success of every organization, society, or nation, so to speak, rests upon the shoulders of all its members, residents or citizens and their leaders. For this reason, I would like for us to discuss a little bit about what leadership is from the postmodern perspective. Who is a leader and what is the role of a leader vis-à-vis those he leads?
Re-conceptualizing the Concept of Leadership from the Postmodern Perspective
There are various perceptions of the word ‘leadership’. Mainly, the concept of leadership may be cultural, political, despotic, benevolent, or motivational. Against this backdrop, the concept of leadership varies according to the day and age in which you and I live. In fact, it largely depends on the person called to lead and the people one is called to lead. It also depends on the environment in which the leader and his constituents reside.However, let me warn you that my definition or perception of leadership may probably not be the same as yours. Nevertheless, we can make some adjustments because that is what leadership and life are all about—making adjustments in order to cope with the dynamics of human life and society.Accordingly, leadership from thepostmodern context that I am about to present to you, may be in complete contrast to our usual traditional African definition of leadership, or what we may consider as being a ‘servant of the people’, when in reality that person in the Liberian or African context is ‘lord’ over the peoplethat voted him or her into office. As a consequence, instead of serving and providing services for those that elected him or her, the so-called ‘servant’ now becomes the ‘lord’ like a warlord behaves toward his waring faction, and expects the voters to serve at his whims and caprice.
For instance, in the postmodern context, he who is called or elected to lead his people is considered aservant of the peopleand not ‘lord’of the people that voted him into office.Thus from the postmodern perspective, it is also clear that a “leader” is one who serves and/or provides services by engaging all of his constituents to be forerunners of their own destiny. This engagement process between the leadership and the constituents is very important in effecting change in a community or society so that the people the leader serves may own up to and take full responsibility for the change process they desire or want to initiate.
Also, based on the tenets of democracy and republican form of governance, the leader or servant serves at the will and pleasure of the people who elect him or her. In this respect the people are the masters and not the servants,because the people have voting rights and powers to elect and remove their leader from office whenever the ‘leader’ does not perform to their expectation. Additionally, a leader may be asked to resign or be dismissed when he or sheabuses his or her leadership powers and position, or betrays the confidence reposed in him or her by the electorates.
Unfortunately, in the Liberian definition of a ‘leader’,thelatter automatically assumes‘lordship’ over those who elected him or herinto office, like a warlord does over members of his warring faction, and cruelly treats the electorates as his or her servants. This of course is the complete reverse of the postmodern definition of leadership.Hence, we could learn some life’s lessons from African fables and fireside stories like the examples presented as follows.
Teaching Life’s Lessons from African Fables and Fireside Stories
For an example, take the African fable in which when Monkey was chief of animal land and was charged with the responsibility of managing the fruit tree. Monkey used to shake the branches of the fruit tree so some ripe fruits from the fruit tree would fall on the ground to feed the other animals that Monkey governed and that lived under the fruit tree. However, when Monkey’s turn ended and he came down from the tree and Bamboo climbed up the fruit tree, the conditions of the animals changed completely in Animal Land. On the contrary, Bamboo was so very cruel that he never let one fruit drop on the ground but kept everything for himself. As a consequence, the animals under the fruit tree all starved to death during the reign of Bamboo, even though the fruit tree had surplus ripe fruits to feed millions of animals in Animal Land!
In the story above, instead of providing services as a ‘servant’ should for his‘masters’ as Monkey did for his constituents,Bamboo unlike his colleague Monkey became a ‘lord’ over the animals and did a disservice to his electorates and served at their displeasure. Now, Krawlay, pray tell me, my question to you is: will you be like Monkey that managed the fruit tree unselfishly in Animal Land so that all animals benefitted; or, will you and your corps of officers be like Bamboo that only sought his own selfish interest and made his constituents to starve to death?(Speaker asks the audience to join him sing the famous Liberian song: “Monkey Come Down and Bamboo Go Up”). To answer this rhetorical question, I would like us to advance to the next level of our discourse, in order to examine how civic education may empower individuals to make informed decisions that are pivotal to their existence as rational human beings.
Civic Education May Empower Individuals to Make Informed Decisions That Are Pivotal to Their Existence as Rational Human Beings!
The African fable I just narrated in a nutshell, coupled with the “Monkey Come Down and Bamboo Go Up” song we sang, is one paramount reason why it is really, really important that we educate for peace and reconciliation and provide civic education for all Liberians in the diaspora and in Liberia so that Liberians can wake up from their slumber and face reality.Also, providing Liberian citizens peace and civic education may help them grasp the true meaning of who and what a leader is; or should do or not do, in order to be aware of who they vote for during the 2017 electoral race. In addition, they may be able to evaluate each candidate’s track record and persist that those who want to lead them submit their platforms from which the electorates will be informed and empowered to make a decisive decision regarding who they prefer to be their leaders. This may also help us realize whether or not those coming into the race are coming to serve their constituents or whether they are coming to be served by the people.
No wonder why our leaders today in Liberia are not servants but warlords and that is the reason why they do not provide services for their constituents because they are not servants but warlords. And, as warlords, obviously the warlords look up to the people that vote them into office to supply their wants and needs while the constituents of Liberian warlords perish in ignorance, poverty, and disease.
Furthermore, the discourse regarding the provision of peace and civic and voters’ education for all Liberians should also help us better understand why we should not so easily cave into political and economic pressures from world powers that create or impose wars on peaceful nations by planting puppets that are not qualified in terms of being productive and serviceable leaders to represent us on both the national and international fronts. Most of the time some powerful western countries perpetrate atrocities and heinous crimes against poorer nations and their citizens by simply capitalizing on the high illiteracy rate and ethnic rivalries that exist in illiterate and underdeveloped nations as we have experienced in the Liberian civil crisis. And, after western puppets have destroyed lives and properties, they are rewarded with Nobel Peace Prize and Congressional Medals of Honor for raining terror on their own people!
Therefore, educating for peace and reconciliation and providing civic education to postwar and traumatized citizens of Liberia at home and abroad is an effective proactive step to take in restoring rule of law and sanity to a society and people bombarded, exploited, abused, and held hostage by their own native sons and daughters. Beware also that most leaders of underdeveloped nations work at the displeasure and against the interests of their electorates in cohort with international criminals parading as ‘peacekeepers’ in the conflict ridden underdeveloped countries. Consequently, this delayed ‘divide and rule tactics’ prolongs the suffering of the masses because the ‘humanitarian’ assistance western powers provide come with double standards and interest rates that suck the life blood out of a struggling nation and people engulfed in prolonged economic and political warfare. That is why we should beware the type of government we would liketo organize, and as well, be mindful of wolves in sheep clothing with respect to who is going to manage the electoral process, and how the process will be clearly explained to the electorates to empower them make the right political choices during the 2017 elections in Liberia.
Beware That Democracy as a Political Construct Is a Foreign Ideology to Africans
Just so you leave this gathering tonight with a clear message, please permit me to share one other African fable with you—an African children’s reader book I wrote and titled: “The Frogs and Black Snake in Frogsville”. In this story, democracy, the rule of law, and voters’ education are central themes discussed against the backdrop that democracy, or “the rule by the majority” is a foreign political ideology when it comes to African politics. African history informs us that for many centuries untold, our forefathers governed themselves through the monarchical form of governance, or through the rule of an elder council political framework, instead of a republican democratic government structure. Therefore, there is even a greater need to educate Africans on how democracy or a republican form of governmental structure can be made culturally and politically correct and relevant to the African setting.
According to this traditional Liberian fable it is no hidden secret that black snakes prey on frogs. So, even though the Frogs (Toad, Bull, and Spring) constituted the majority of the population and that Black Snake was in the minority in Frogsville; yet, Black Snake won the chieftaincy election in Frogsville because unfortunately the frogs were not united. They were not at peace with one another. Hence, this is a classic case where the majority may not necessarily be victorious when they are divided, for a house divided among itself cannot stand. For this reason, the Black Snake capitalized on the disunity of the frogs (as do Liberian warlords in cohort with international ‘peace negotiators’ and Nobel Laureates’) in order to win a landslide victory over the masses in Liberia. Therefore, in order for a decision to be considered “informed” and independent or free of molestation;and, in order for 2017 elections to be free and fair, it means voters have to be properly educated on what their rights are. They have to also fully understand the procedures and rules governing the electoral process. Further, voters need to know more about their candidates in order for them to weigh all sides of the issue/s under consideration, and also in order to come up with a better choice from among the options available to them.
This is especially crucial when about 90% of the voting public in Liberia are illiterate, unable to speak, properly understand, read and write in the official language of communication (English in the case of Liberia). But yet, democracy is being shoved down the throats of Liberian/African voters who do not fully understand how the voting process works. In this respect, making an informed decision as electorates is very pivotal and interconnected to the existence of voters and theoverall success of the voting process; as well as the peace, security and stability of the society in which the democratic process takes place. In other words, everyone has to be very cautious of those we elect to public office, since as a matter of fact, life is basically hinged on, or is about the cardinal principle of self-preservation. Against this backdrop, civic education may empower individuals to make informed decisions that are pivotal to their existence as rational human beings, particularly and specifically as it relates to the democratic process in Liberia.
There Are Consequences for Our Actions when There Is Law and Order in Society!
Ladies and gentlemen and citizens of the world, please understand that there are consequences for our actions when there is law and order in society. That is why it is only right that you and I do whatever we can as patriotic citizens of Liberia and of the world to provide civic education for our citizens so that they may know or discern the difference between right and wrong rather than to promote war and lawlessness. Hence, when I speak of “civic education” I mean providing the citizens with basic information regarding what their rights and privileges are as citizens of a particular nation or society. It means making them aware that there are laws that govern every society and that any breach of the law has its corresponding consequences for breaking a particular law. For instance, if you murder a citizen and are found guilty, you will be sentenced and sent to prison based on the law concerning such cruel human action. In this light, civic education provides us with the tools and understanding that no one is above the laws of the land and that everybody is equal before the law.
However, when someone commits murder and you allow the person/s to go free or to roam the streets of Gbarnga or Gbelleh-dru with impunity as if the lives of the human beings the murderer destroyed were worth nothing then you are promoting lawlessness, and this is absolutely against both the will of God and the laws of every civilized society. And, to be “civilized” in this sense is to be able to live with others in peace and harmony and to tolerate one another’s cultures and beliefs, as well as to be able to celebrate our differences. Therefore, it is a barbaric act and a criminal offense for any man or woman to take the law into his or her own hands and yet be allowed to go unpunished with impunity, especially with respect to and in contravention of the Constitution of any given civilized nation such as ours—Liberia. Let us not forget that Liberia is the first independent republic on the continent of Africa that set the pace and confirmed the glorious notion that the Black man was capable of self-rule.
Let Us Rebuild Liberia on the Solid Foundation and Principles of Democracy and Rule of Law
Yes, indeed, it is good to forgive but forgiveness must fall within the confines of the laws of society because no society can exist without fixed laws to govern its inhabitants. That was why Yousuah provided Moses with the Ten Commandments to make it categorically clear to the children of Israel that we should not: (1) steal; (2) bear false witness; (3) kill; (4) worship any other god besides him; (5) commit adultery; (6) covet or be jealous of one another (7) have or worship false gods; (8) swear in the name of the Lord; but we must (9)obey our fathers and mothers; and(10) keep holy the Sabbath.
In conclusion, I want to appeal to you, Mr. President, and members of your administration, including Mr. Charles S. Roberts (Vice President), Ms. Evelyn Kayee (Secretary), and Ms. Elizabeth Barkon (Chaplain) to be instruments of peace and reconciliation in the Liberian community in the Research Triangle in North Carolina. Also,you will observe that here in the United States, the law is executed to the fullest extent possible and that those who breach the law in the United States and other countries in the western world are not awarded Nobel Peace Prize or Congressional Medals of Honor. Instead, culprits are charged, tried and imprisoned when found guilty. I believe the same should obtain in the Liberian society if we want to upkeep our hegemony as Africa’s oldest republic.
Against this background, I vehemently condemn the clandestine role played by the United States in the Liberian civil crisis that has cost us so much grief and economic and political devastation and self-destruction, especially taking into consideration that the United States is supposed to be our ‘traditional friend’. In view of the foregoing,it is imperative that we ourselves must work together to repair our broken country’s infrastructure through the process of educating for peace and reconciliation among ourselves, as well as providing civic education rather than to promote war and lawlessness in our homeland—Liberia. This is the way of life of acivilized people and nation—because to encourage lawlessness, corruption, and atrocities as an acceptable way of life is indeed barbaric!
Dehkontee Artists Theatre, Inc. (DATI) is willing and prepared to collaborate with LCOT and all other U.S.-based Liberian community organizations, as well as those in Europe and on the continent of Africa, to provide civic education and promote peace and reconciliation among Liberians at home and abroad through the performing arts. Therefore, we urge you to make good use of our offer and willingness to collaborate with you in providing culturally relevant education for our children and grandchildren who are born in the diaspora so that they may be culturally aware of who they are. On behalf of the management of DATI I would also like to seize the opportunity to invite all of youto our debut performance of “The Frogs and Black Snake in Frogsville” that goes up at the Bowie Center for the Performing Arts on January 9, 2016 in Bowie, Maryland. Please visit our website: www.dehkonteeartiststheatreinc.com or our facebook page for more updates about our activities.
Mr. President, Mr. Vice President and officers and distinguished members of the Board of Directors of LCOT, thank you very much for your preferment of me as your guest speaker and installation officer. I also want to thank members of the Planning and Entertainment Committees, including Ms. Eva Diggs, Laura Kennedy, Martha Dargbeh, Chester Woyee, Pastor Moses Bee, Kama Sherman, as well as many other wonderful and hard-working male and female volunteers in the Triangle area that made my homecoming to North Carolina a memorable and worthwhile experience. My wife and I thank all of you from the depths of our hearts and wish you success in your endeavors. I thank you.