By Weah Karpeh |
Liberia has been in the lead to form great institutions that currently steer world affairs. The United Nations, African Union, Economic Community of West African States, Mano River Union are few of the bodies Liberia played pivotal parts to set up. At the time many of the mentioned organizations were being thought-of, Liberia was the ONLY nation with organized art, culture and politics on the African continent. Except Ethiopia and Egypt perhaps that carried some enlightenment, the rest that go about with pomposity, treacherousness and hate for torch-bearer Liberia today were being suffocated by repressions, suppression and abuse by their colonizers they worshiped and still do with pride. Had Liberia remained idle taking no sensible, intelligent and practical actions to inspire liberation of the Continent, the suffocation would obtain unabated even to date.
In spite the crucial roles the Country played, little or no recognition is accorded it on the World stage to the extent that none of the bodies’ Headquarters situates in Liberia lest to mention of how very, very few of its sons and daughters work in the international civil service. Why so few is a matter prudent recruitment analysts must probe.
Historically, Liberia was key part of a group of forty-five or fifty nations that started the League of Nations now the United Nations. Today, Headquarters of the UN stands tall in New York while the body is dreamless about putting up a single continental or regional UN building in Liberia to commemorate or appreciate the Country. Instead, its representation in employable fields of the UN remains dismal and shameful. Why it is so is another subject equity oversight officer at the UN must investigate.
Recounting datelines of the formation of the Organization of African Unity (OAU) now African Union (AU) with little or no mention of Liberia’s leadership, is treacherous and a flat-foot. Researchers or writers on the Organization will be considered under-performers and equated to mere tellers of fairy-tales if they omit Liberia’s unmatched pivotal contribution to Africa generally.
Fact, Liberia pioneered formation of the OAU/AU. While overly ambitious Ghana’s Kwame Nkrumah pushed for a United States of Africa (USA) replica of America’s, Liberia’s illustrious, persuasive and diplomatic William V.S. Tubman cowed the house to settling for the OAU, and convened the first meeting of a group of Presidents who signed the formative papers of the OAU in Sanniquelli, Nimba County. Thus, the OAU Headquarters should have been situated and made Sanniquelli a metropolitan city to depict the birthplace of African unity and oneness. Instead, it has been planted and lives with the shame of distorted history at Addis Ababa in Ethiopia.
In fact, media colleagues Horatius Bobby Willie and Frank Sainworla at different meetings of media dons in Monrovia recently told disturbing stories about Liberia around the AU HQ. The first was of Horatius who said the portrait of William V.S. Tubman was absent from a stretch of portraits of Africa’s leaders – past and present while those of Sierra Leone’s little influential Siaka Stevens, Guinea’s subtle Sekou Toure, Ghana’s outspoken Kwame Nkrumah and so on, tightly lined the walls of the HQ’s conference room. So, on his return to Monrovia, he personally secured the President’s photograph, traveled with it and hung it in the conference room the next trip he made as part of a Liberia Government delegation. Thanks to nationalist Horatius Bobby Willie.
Frank’s part was about one of Liberia’s finest diplomats, Ambassador T. Ernest Eastman. He said the Ambassador had told a gathering in Monrovia that he noticed Liberia, lest to mention of Sanniquelli (birthplace of the OAU/AU) had been omitted in historical briefing notes on the AU intended for attendees of an Addis Ababa conference. Ambassador Eastman said, according to Frank, he became so furious that he literally confronted conference secretariat for the deviant act. Stunning reflections aren’t they? The HQ must return home to Sanniquelli, its birthplace. This is not a request but mandate to do if the OAU now so-called AU must survive. After all, the roots of the body still bear its meaning, spirit and intent which will not be realized until the HQ is uprooted from Addis Ababa and planted in Sanniquelli.
It is no debate that the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) is largely Liberia’s brain-child. Fact, Liberia’s President William R. Tolbert, Jr. spearheaded efforts to galvanize consensus to put the body in place. He and co envisioned ECOWAS would enable West Africans to equitably trade in goods and services, and by extension, exchange art, culture and politics. This goes on. How equitably, is a subject to investigate?
Intriguing, nonetheless, is the other fact that some overzealous nationalists thought the community’s Headquarters is too good to station in Monrovia thus, they outweighed Liberia to situate it in Lagos and later, Abuja, Nigeria. Also, it is there the community’s parliament, court and other outposts situate. It would be show of wisdom on the part of ECOWAS to relocate the Court to Monrovia for it is here one of the first leading law schools on the African Continent started. It is the University of Liberia’s Louis Arthur Grimes School of Law. The house of law studies was established in 1956. It trained black African liberation fighters to the legal implications of their struggles for freedom. The Liberia law education propelled the liberation fighters to triumph that today the Continent is entirely independent. In view of this significant contribution, there’s no justification to have any courts around African jurisprudence stationed any place than in Liberia.
From ECOWAS’ armpit came ECOMOG (Economic Monitoring Group) in 1990. It was not an economic but a military body of soldiers drawn from virtually every West African country to intervene in Liberia’s bloody civil war. The Group tremendously kept the multiple warring factions apart at the detriment of deaths on its side. Otherwise, there would have been more and more casualties than the 250,000 we quote today. We memorialize ECOMOG. It has an admirable place in the onus of history. Nonetheless, ECOMOG’s proponent (ECOWAS) is yet to reason that Liberia allowed it to test its idea to raise a sub-regional defense force and therefore, must set up the High Command Headquarters of the region’s defense forces in Liberia.
The future of ECOWAS Radio formally UNMIL Radio is at stake. In fact, it is the quagmire around it that particularly prompted this review of how come Liberia is not home to any headquarters of international organizations it fervently helped to form?
Fact, the broadcasting house is the only material remnant of the Liberia peace process. Everything about the process is mental-physical. The Radio was among the first Units of the United Nations Mission in Liberia’s (UNMIL) Public Information Section put in place in 2003. Ten (10) years plus, the house aired 24/7 messages of peace, reconciliation, recovery and later development until it recapped to ECOWAS Radio in 2017. Actually, Liberians ought and must cherish and protect the outfit come what may. Unfortunately, the ECOWAS’ member countries including Liberia demonstrate little or no will to fund the station to the extent the Government of Sweden through the Swedish International Development Agency has provided a two-year funding which is expected to end in September, 2019. It would be a good thing if the Swedes renewed or re-committed additional money.
Amid the quagmire around funding, impeccable sources confide some ECOWAS countries are clamoring to lift the broadcaster to their shores. The Francophone, for example, prefer to host it but language (English, French, Portuguese or Arabic) to broadcast in remains the storming block it is unlikely to remove. Then, the Anglophone is said to be vigorously pursuing moving ECOWAS Radio to Ghana, Sierra Leone or The Gambia. But Nigeria, the region’s super-power supports it remaining in Liberia yet the country is unforthcoming with its quota to back its support of Liberia.
All that Nigeria looks forward to see happen is to replicate the UN, AU, ECOWAS, MRU and many other international organizations who according to their protocols, aren’t supposed to produce heads of the organizations they host. For example, the United States is unlikely to forward any of its best to serve as Secretary-General of the UN by virtue of hosting the body’s HQ. This goes without mentioning of hosts of the AU, ECOWAS, MRU, etc. So, while Nigeria presses for the regional broadcasting house stationing in Liberia, it expects non-Liberian expats preferably, a Nigerian to head. Indeed, the lucrative expat post would leverage the would-be Nigerian to exert influence when it comes to what or not gets on air.
With Ghana’s Robert Kojo Mensah Chief of UNMIL Radio almost throughout the ten years of peacekeeping of the UN, materials that partly promoted Ghana got ample space on the peacekeepers’ radio. Liberia’s students of sociology must find the foresight to research into the impact this had on the population. As the loudest call is about ECOWAS Radio remaining in Monrovia regardless of support or not, Liberia and its Government needless sit idle. They must declare a position on this matter.
There is a lot Liberia will gain if the Radio remained as this other headquarters would not leave our shores. Its upkeep need be apolitical, but nationalistic. The broadcaster’s presence will largely increase LIB’s visibility, create new jobs especially as it expands programming in English, French, Porturgees and Arabic – the four ECOWAS languages of business. Further, professional or ethical standard among Liberian reporters will increase as the output of their non-Liberian counterparts will pressure them to improve or abscond, the noble field. Communication & journalism study programs will strengthen when some of the Radio’s expats and/or interns provide tutorial services to help sharpen the skills of students. Crowning all this is that the tourism sector will ram up, and boost the economy. This is why Liberians shalln’t let ECOWAS Radio go.
Weah Karpeh is CEO of ‘Media Hub Liberia’, Media/Public Information & Diplomacy Professional who has had stints with the Liberia and Ghana press, International Committee of the Red Cross, JOE KARPEH CIVIL RIGHTS INSTITUTE, United Nations and the European Union Delegation in Liberia. He can be reached: +231 776 386 913; +231 881 735 446.