Inside Independence Day Celebration In Kolahun – The Good and Bad

Written by: Paul Kanneh/paulkanneh5@gmail.com

Visiting government officials receive petition from Kolahun District Commissioner

Though the environment was wet, but the weather was stable as scores of citizens from the three administrative districts trooped into Kolahun to welcome and hear the good news that their children had brought from Monrovia, the seat of government. It was fascinating as country masked devils of all kinds roamed about the hilly yard of the administrative building.

All these while, invited and uninvited guests were anxiously waiting in the long council hall. As usual, guests were seated as per their portfolios. Of course, the arrangement of the hall itself showed great distinction as to who belongs to what seat. The euphoria was on, as members of the fourth estate mount their gadgets before the podium-with scores of traditional singing and dancing groups entertaining the already seated guests.

“All of them looking young in their government positions”, some were heard whispering. “But majority, except one or two are strange in Kolahun, I wonder what is their mission here on July 26”, many were heard wondering about the visit of their children. On the other side, were partisans of the ruling CDC in their usual emotional mood of battle cry. The police commander and another officer were there, ensuring security at the entrances of the council hall.

“But is 10:30am, and they guests are not yet seated”, a skinny looking man believe to be member of the opposition questioned the timeliness of the CDC officials. “You will stay long inside”, a diehard Cdcians instantly reply.

As if the visiting CDC officials heard the exchanges between their supporter and an opposition member, in split second, the long waiting participants roused to the erudite voice of traditional Sasa singing group descending from the administrative building unto the council hall. In front of them were young and energetic, but timid looking guests in persons of Augustus Janga kowo, Comptroller General of Liberia, A Varfee Tulay, Deputy Health Minister, Morris Saryon, Assistant Commerce Minister, Joseph Roberts, Assistant Transport Minister, Lassana Sanoh, Deputy Director, Roberts Flight International, Musa Fofana, Head of Project Finance Management Unit (PFMU), and scores of others.

The chiefs and elders of the Gbandi Kingdom lauded their children for visiting in such a huge number on the occasion marking the celebration of Liberia’s 173rd Independence Day. They described the visit as unprecedented, and a beacon of hope for reconciliation and peace. The excitement among citizens on the visit is still being discussed among residents of the District. The chiefs and elders however, encouraged their children to continue such visit as a way of keeping in touch with their background.

But the visit, which was perceived as the beginning of reconciliation and peace initiative was soon greeted with ill-feelings, when the public noticed that the MC for the indoor program was Vannie Kamara. Mr. Kamara is considered as one of the most controversial individuals among the current generation of young people in the Gbandi Land. He is at the center of serious social and political divides in the newly created Wanhassa District. He has been recorded of fueling conflicts arising from the suspension of Paramount Chief of Wanhassa District, and the selection of Bolahun as District Headquarter, a place he obtained his high school education.

How can an individual who is part of a conflict be selected to master a ceremony comprising of his opponents is the question that still lingers on the minds of many, including conflict resolution experts. For political pundits, they believe that the selection of Vannie Kamara as master of ceremony was seen by many observers as an act of formal endorsement of the conflict by the visiting guests. Hence, it would have been better for a neutral person to play the role of an MC, if the visiting guests meant well for their people as proclaimed in their opening statement.

As people queried Mr. Kamara’s selection of MC, he soon proved to the public that he is indeed controversial. As MC, who should be playing middle role, Vannie sharply and indirectly reacted to statement made by a proxy of District #3 Lawmaker, Clarence Massaquoi who was absent at the program. He indirectly threw jabs at William Varney who proxy for Representative Massaquoi. “Representing a leader at a particular  program doesn’t mean you are given seat at such program”, Vannie Kamara is quoted as saying following statement delivered by William Varney who spoke on behalf of his boss.

The statement from the MC provoked laughter among guests and other participants at the indoor program held on July 27, 2020 at the Kolahun council hall. Political observers believe that the statement from the MC was a slap in the face of Representative Clarence Massaquoi who was being represented by William Hina Varney at the program. As MC, pundits believe Mr. Kamara had no right to respond to any speaker whether directly or indirectly. But in any case, Vannie Kamara, as a Cdcains was the preferred person to serve as MC for a program that was 60% CDC oriented, contrary to original information that the ceremony was geared towards peace and reconciliation.

Pledges/promises

Following presentation of petition by the three districts, the visiting guests pledged to construct withholding center/unit at the maternity center in Kolahun hospital. The project, according to them will be completed and turned over in December 2020.  Deputy Health Minister, Varfee Tulay made the disclosure on behalf of his colleagues. According to the Deputy Minister, the withholding unit project was their own way of contributing to the fight against maternal mortality/delivery complications. The pledge put smile on the faces of the already tiresome participants, some of whom wanted to vanish in thin air because they did not want to see Vannie Kamara mastering the ceremony. In a separate interview, Assistant Transport Minister, Joseph Roberts pledged 100 bags of cement towards the completion of school building project currently ongoing in his hometown, Savalahun. Minister Joe Roberts told news men that he will continue to be in touch with his people from now on, adding, there is nowhere like home.

Hang your clothes where the sun shines

Deputy Health Minister, A Varfee Tulay, in a much more relaxed and deliberate tune urged his fellow citizens to “hang their clothes where the sun shines, noting that this is the best way to benefit from a ruling party. He cited the philosophy of the late and former Lofa county senator, Kekula B. Kpoto. Of course, the deputy minister’s assertion is a tendency of ruling parties in Liberia, which is why individuals in government often benefit than majority of citizens and the very government they serve. Earlier, the controversial MC, Vannie Kamara openly declared that this is CDC time, noting, True Whig Party and Unity Party came and left.

Damage control-Assistant Commerce Minister restores sanity

As a man who understands the local Gbandi politics because of his day to day involvement, Assistant Commerce Minister for Industry, Morris Saryon, in his short speech quickly delivered a resounding speech-calling for total peace and reconciliation and religious tolerance. He told the people that reconciliation and peace is the only way forward. “All we are doing/promising here today can only be realized when we embrace peace and reconciliation and invest in farming activities like before”, Minister Saryon declared. He pleaded with his people to place religious tolerance at the top of the district leadership, adding, a divided house cannot stand alone. The speech by Minister Saryon brought excitement among participants, with scores of them cheering the minister for delivering what they termed was a heart-touching speech.  At one point, Lofa County Senatorial Aspirant, Cllr. Joseph K. Jallah who was in attendance, was seen nodding his head as the young minister elucidated-indicating a sign of endorsement of the Minister’s speech.

Gowning competition-CDC Kolahun District’s Office wins

As a customary practice, the three district leaderships decided to gown their children. The locally designed country clothes were in variety of colors. It is interesting to know that, the three district leaderships were unable to sew the gowns intended for their children. So, they ended up offering each, one roll of country cloths as gown. Speaking on behalf of the chiefs and elders, Kolahun District Paramount Chiefs, Jalla Manjoe pleaded for forgiveness for not being able to sew the gowns, citing time constraint as reason for their failure to sew the gowns. But contrary to such excuse, political observers believe that the three districts leaderships did not have the needed finance to design the gowns for their children.

Interestingly interesting, the CDC Kolahun local office gowned their national leaders with beautifully designed locally made Country clothes, confirming “hang your clothes where the sun shine’s statement made by Deputy Minister Varfee Tulay. It will interest you to know that while local government officials could not sew/design gowns intended for their children in government, CDC local office did afford to sew/design gowns for their national leaders. “But this is common in Liberia where ruling party is sometimes able to mobilize resources than central government or local government”, a curious participants intoned. Indeed, this is a normal practice in Liberia, where ruling party swims in luxuries than the government they serve. This was also seen in the case of past ruling parties, where resources for party’s programs were quickly mobilized than government.

Rationale behind gowning questioned

Many people who attended the program questioned the chiefs and elders for gowning their children. For them, gowning someone with country clothes of such nature means, that person has made significant contribution to his people. They wanted an explanation from the chiefs and elders on why they chose to gown people, they (political observes) believe had done less or nothing for their people back home. They described the chiefs and elders as sycophantic-noting, their chiefs and elders have turned the royal traditional Country clothes into political commodity for people who they believe do not deserve it. “Usually meant to recognize individuals who have rendered invaluable services, country clothes has been commercialized as political gifts or favoritism for government job”, some were heard criticizing the gowning process.

Political pundits further argued that some of the honorees are being accused of fueling conflicts, dividing the Gbandi land, while some had gone to bluff as beneficiaries of the ruling party. According to them, some actually went back home to familiarize themselves with issues on the ground so as to inform them of future development challenges facing their people. “Even though the visit is historical, but on the over all, observers say the special gowning ceremony was just a political gifts orchestrated by CDC partisans in top local leadership”, critics were heard lamenting.

But contrary to widely held belief by oppositions, supporters of the ruling party and the visiting guests said, their leaders deserve such honor, as they have worked tirelessly to bring development in the district in a short period of time. Some of their supporters said even the decision to visit in such a large number for the first time is something worth acknowledging. Well, whatever the case maybe, it is good for both parties to live with their perceptions and let the public be the judge between them.

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About Cholo Brooks 14259 Articles
Joel Cholo Brooks is a Liberian journalist who previously worked for several international news outlets including the BBC African Service. He is the CEO of the Global News Network which publishes two local weeklies, The Star and The GNN-Liberia Newspapers. He is a member of the Press Union Of Liberia (PUL) since 1986, and several other international organizations of journalists, and is currently contributing to the South Africa Broadcasting Corporation as Liberia Correspondent.