The Nimba Betrayal and the Infighting: A Way Forward to Reconciliation & Progress
By James D. Hallowanger
Over 200 years ago, the founding fathers of the great United States of America (USA), a group of predominantly wealthy plantation owners and business tycoons from Britain penned series of essential governing documents that effectively steer the affairs of the country to this day.
They were eight original founders including but not limited to George Washington, Alexander Hamilton, Benjamin Franklin, John Jay, Thomas Jefferson, James Madison and others.
The sagacious drafting of the American Constitution helped in the consolidation of not only peace and development but also participatory democracy in that country. This inedible positive move also strengthened and enhanced the already high sense of unity and patriotism among the American people and leaders.
In the same vein, the founding of Liberia, a West African State, was occasioned by the repatriation of freed slaves from the American Plantations and the Caribbean Islands by the American Non-Governmental Organization, (NGO) styled: “American Colonization Society (ACS)”, for, among others, self-governance and Christianization on the African Continent.
However, the founding of the Liberian state was characterized by controversy with the coercing of the tribal leaders or natives who were met on the ground by the free slaves, otherwise known as the Settlers, who were purchasing land from those (indigenous people) they met here, sometime times, at gun point.
However today, the land, known as Liberia, on the West Coast of Africa, comprises the settlers, also known as “Americo- Liberians” and about 15 ethnic groups.
Years ago, Liberia, which became an independent and sovereign state on July 26, 1847, was a Shining Star and a Safe-Haven for the oppressed in Africa and in the
liberation of many African nations from the yokes of imperialism and colonialism.
Mama Liberia has three Original Administrative Provinces, namely: Montserrado, Sinoe, and Grand Bassa.
Fast forward, the inclusion of more provinces which later became known as Counties, to the original three in Liberia by former President William VS Tubman (late), during his regime, led to enhanced and expanded administrative governance in which Nimba formally became a cardinalpart in 1964.
The word, Nimba, (“Neeba”) is a mountain from the Mano dialect, which is located around Yekeka that is currently being operated by Arcelor Mittal-Liberia, a steel company. The providence of Nimba was blessed to be a part of the political sub-divisions of Liberia in 1964 under Dr. William VS Tubman, 18 th President of Liberia.
Nimba consists of various ethnic groups including the Dan/Gio, Mano, Mandingo, Gbi, and Krah. Its past Superintendents include Gabriel Fahngalo, David G. Dwanyen, David Toweh, Jackson Paye, The late General Robert G. Saye , Edward Komo Sackor and the list goeson.
Before being a part of the political sub-divisions of Liberia, Nimba had some famous traditional chiefs such as Donzo, Tappeh, Gblorzuo and his father Toweh, Yonton, Tuazama, Weh Dorlaie Sr., and the list goes on.
Besides these legendary Chiefs, Nimba has had some well- educated and highly respected sons and daughters like, James Howard Mattaldi, Samuel Guazi Kpan, Judge Lewis Bailey, Thomas Quiley Harris, Jackson Fiah Doe, Hilary Gbublee, Keeper Dwanyen, Dr. Willie Gompa, Dr. George Gonpu, Martha Sendolo Belleh,Jaimama Kou Hallowanger Wollokollie , Madam Edith Gongloe and others.
During the middle of the 1970s when Liberia’s progressive forces were mounting intense political heat on President William R. Tolbert, and the then ruling Grand Old True Whig Party (TWP), for political renaissance, participatory democracy and inclusive governance, most of their loud-mouth supporters hailed from Nimba County which is situated in the Northern Region of Liberia.
Members of the Progressive Alliance of Liberia (PAL) from Nimba were, Dr Nyan. Wonkeryor, Dr Marcus Dahn,Weh Dorkliae II, Mr. Augustine Wehlah, and young Nimba students from the University of Liberia (UL), such as the now renowned human rights lawyer, Cllr. Tiawon Saye Gongloe, D.K. Wonsehleay, Moses Duopu, Harris Yuan , J. Holder Nuah, Anusmana Kromah and many others.
Nimba County also has the nation’s second highest voting population next to Montserrado County. Yet, after every election, the sons and daughters of Nimba are almost forgotten and sadly thrown into the garbage bin of history by those who are often ‘catapulted’ into state power.
The people of Nimba are always dumped into Political garbage, or what my pekin and talk-show host, “Prof. Key” calls “Zialatulay.” After their votes, the sons and daughters of Nimba are often left on the sidelines as succeeding governments turned their back and referred to Nimba citizens as “untrusted and self-seeking people.”
To put it succinctly, the fine sons and daughters of Nimba continue to be betrayed by succeeding Liberian governments. Historically, the betrayal of the sons and daughters of Nimba started with the late Jackson Fiah Doe. For instance, during the then True Whip Party (TWP) Convention in Grand Bassa County in 1974, Fiah Doe, a native son from Nimba, was favored to be the Secretary General of the ruling party, but he was denied this powerful and influential post.
In 1978, Fiah Doe was again rumored to succeed James E Greene as Vice President of Liberia. That job was again given to Methodist Bishop, Bennie D. Warner, an Americo Liberia. In 2005, it was widely rumored that Harry Yuan who was Madam Ellen Johnson Sirleaf’s closed associate, and a political confidant, and a son of Nimba was to be her Vice Presidential pick.
Again, Harry Yuan’s name is now history as he too was denied by Madam Sirleaf for reasons best known to the former President who is also known as “Iron-Lady.” During the Unity Party Convention in Saclapea, Nimba County, in 2005, Prince Y. Johnson, who was vying as a senatorial candidate for the Unity Party (UP) in its primary, was cheated and labeled as a “rebel.”
Quiet recently, in the 2017 elections, the Chiefs and Elders of Nimba introduced two sons ( Senator Thomas Grupee and Minkentee Tinkpa) to the Unity Party (UP’s) Standard Bearer , Ambassador Joseph Nyumah Boakai, for one of these fine Nimba sons, to serve as his Vice Standard Bearer.
We are told Oldman Boakai went to Nimba more than once and yet denied the people of Nimba this rare opportunity. An ordinary Liberian man says “Ah mehn, what kinda bad luck is des? Chey!” Presently, I am told that influential Nimbaians are doing their underground work for their son, Tiawon Saye Gongloe, to go with Joseph Boakai. Gio/ Dan man says: “Quala yeh” which means we will see. Mano man says: “Kala lahb Ghee which also means “Your can see my people?” It is generally said in Liberia that “a House divided against itself cannot stand.” So it is with the people of Nimba County.
There is always a controversy among Nimbaians.
The two predominantly ethnic groups believe that the County belongs to each of them. The Dan/Gios and Manos think they must hold the biggest cake when it comes to the way politics goes in the county. Furthermore, the politicians have managed to further divide the people of Nimba by saying: The Manos are more educated than the Dan/Gio people. It is not clear theyardstick they often use to determine this belief.
Moreover, these so-called predominant tribes of Nimba made up the bulk of the erstwhile fighting forces of the defunct National Patriotic Front of Liberia (NPFL) in the 1990 to remove the erstwhile dictatorial government of Samuel Doe from state power. Accordingly, Dan/ Gio were mostly recruited than the Manos. They held senior positions in the NPFL fighting forces for the liberation of their country from an oppressive and ‘dog-eat-dog regime’ in the 1990s.
As the saying goes, “when a Nimba man dies, Nimba man killed him.” So was the sad situation in the 1990s. As fighting intensified, then, many Nimbaians were alleged to have been behind the killing of their own kinsmen including
but not limited to followings who were killed. Prominent Nimbaians who were killed included Jackson Fiah Doe, David Gborwoe Dwanyen, Louis Bailey, G Moses Duopu , David Bartuah, Lewis Bailey, Stephen Daniels, David Toweh.
Today, Nimba County is currently divided as a result of the heartless and coldblooded killings of these distinguished sons of Nimba. However, my candid advice to Nimbaians is that we must come together and reconcile our differences.
There is no problem that cannot be solved. The elders of Nimba should gather all former so-called “Special Forces” to a reconciliation meeting where they will be persuaded to seek forgiveness for their individual and collective wrongdoings during the Liberian war era. Representatives of all ethnic groups in Nimba should be part of this meeting by giving their input, for all of us to move forward with peace, unity and development and with malice against none.
At that meeting, let the controversial land ownership issues be amicably settled and we must all recognize that all ethnic groups in Nimba are one people with a common denominator. It must also be realized by all and sundry that the Liberian war was a Revolution, or a Civil War, for which the Gios/ Manos should not be ostracized or marginalized in any form or manner or unduly called all kinds of maligning names.
Indeed, such ugly behavior against Gio, Mano, Krahn or Mandingo is counter-productive to sustaining the peace and stability that Liberia currently enjoys. Moreover Krahn and Mandingo ethnic groups, especially those who participated in the Liberian armed conflict as combatants should be forgiven in the best interest of peace and reconciliation as the Liberian nation moves towards the fortress of development and progress.
In the same vein, administrative positions such as Superintendent and others of Nimba should not be given to Gio / Dan and Mano alone. I strongly believe that when all these things are accomplished, Nimba will stand to be one of the best counties in the Republic of Liberia.
Just my take!! About The Author: James D Hallowanger, is politician, Security Expert, Diplomat who hailed from Nimba County. He can be reached via Email: Jdhallo@yahoo.com Mobile phone number: 1314-3989580!!