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From the Pages of Liberian Histories

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By Hun-Bu Tulay
Cell # +231-777-111-032/886-517-356; Email: ntevoma@gmail.com

We have watched the years flow in the passageway behind us like the tick of a suppressed BOMB about to be released. We were warned many times of what was about to happen, but we ignored the warning.
As the years tick down, it all seems to come down to the SAME BASIC QUESTIONS, “Are we writing the TRUTH about Liberia”? If the answer is YES, Does the current generation of Liberians have the CIVILITY AND DECENCY to take the TRUTH and RISE with it and not IGNORE THEM as has been done in the past? These are the questions, we should think about and find answers to them, if we truly believe in the first verse and fifth stanza of our National Anthem, which reads as follows: “In joy and gladness, with our hearts united, we’ll shout the freedom, of a race benighted, long live Liberia, happy land! A home of glorious liberty, by God’s command! A home of glorious liberty, by God ‘s command.” Have we as a nation and people lived up to these words? Let us review the historical facts of our country.
Liberia has a SCAR that is very deep. This SCAR is like a volcano that is passive and could erupt any moment. In fact, this volcano has erupted many times before and for now it is passive. We do not know how long, but such volcanoes should be monitored frequently to prevent the destruction of lives and properties. We Liberians are not monitoring the volcano. The last time it erupted more than 250,000 people lost their lives and billions of United States Dollars’ worth of properties were destroyed. We do not think about these things now because guns are silent. This generation has many 21st Century Robin Hoods and 21st Century Literates. In one of our features, we told you the meaning of the 21st Century Robin Hood. In that feature, we defined the 21st Century Robin Hoods as those who take from the POORS and to the RICHES and the 21st Century Literates those, who can read and write but refused to unlearn and relearn. These two groups of people are the greatest ENEMIES of any nation. If we do not wake up from our stumble, this country will have NO FUTURE and the present generation will be governed by foreigners.
Before we look at the SCAR that we bear as a country, we would like to remind you of the definition of History. History has many definitions, but for the purpose of this feature, we will define it as follows: It is an inquiry into the inevitable changes in human affairs in the past and the ways these changes affect, influence or determine the patterns of life in a society. The study of history helps us to face the challenges of the present and guides us to prevent those negative actions that might lead to conflict. From the above definition, it seems that Liberians, particularly many of our political leaders are not readers of history, and if they are, they do not comprehend it. We say this because of their actions. And we would like to say that those who do not know their country’s history cannot campaign for changes in that country and might find it difficult to develop or succeed. It seems that Liberia is such a society.
Falsehood or Lies

As a society/nation, we have lived over two hundred FALSEHOOD/LIES. And if nothing is done, we will go through another two hundred of the same types of deceit. We should no longer suppress the unpalatable Truth. The facts were glossed over in the past two hundred plus years; however, it is time to express them so that this administration and future administrations will not repeat the same mistakes.

  1. We were taught in grade school that this nation was founded on Christian Principles. Is this really true? Christians are those who follow the two greatest commandments that our Lord Jesus gave his disciples. In Mark 12:30 – 31, one of the disciples asked Jesus this question. “Teacher, which commandment in the law is the greatest?” Jesus answered as follows: “You shall Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the first commandment. And the second is like this, “You shall love your neighbor as thyself”. According to these verses, a Christian is someone that upholds the teaching of Jesus and lives the Christ-like way. Not because the Declaration of Independence was signed in a Church that means the nation was founded on Christian principles. We will look at the actions and the relationship between the settlers that came in 1822 and those they met on the shores of present-day Liberia. These were the people who welcomed them with open arms.
    a. When the forefathers sailed from the shores of America two hundred plus years ago to Africa (present day Liberia), their reasons were: (i) they were shut out from all civil offices; (ii) they were excluded from participation in government; (iii) They were taxed without their consent; (iv) comply to contribute to the resources of a country which give them no protection, education and freedom of worship, and (v) they were made a separate and distinct class and every avenue of improvement was effectively closed to them.
    b. They came to Africa (now-Liberia) to establish a state in which none of these evils would have been experienced by its citizens and all those who reside in said territory.
    c. In 1847, they established a government based on democratic principles. But unfortunately, according to history, their definition was just a Theoretical definition. Democracy for them was the constitutional exposition of the principles of freedom of speech and equal rights reserved for one category of people even though the Greenleaf’s Constitution of 1847 gave citizenship to all people of the Negro Race at the time of its adaption. Let us examine some of their actions. (I) According to Judge Stewart who visited Liberia in the late 1850s, he wrote in his Diary the following: “These American Ex-slaves treat the African Freed men as if they had no RIGHTS, which is worthy of RESPECT. They are defrauded, beaten with stripes, made to feel like inferior beings, excluded from churches, schools and given back seats at camp meetings and made to enter their homes from by the back doors”. This description of Judge Steward contradicts Christian’s principles. Hence, they were not Christians but Church GOERS.
    d. Former President Daniel B. Warner warned his constituents regarding the devaluation of Africans and their institutions in 1866 in a speech he delivered. Among other things he said as follows: “But these chiefs and their subjects undoubtedly have certain rights both natural and political, which should be highly respected by this government and people. And when this is done, and the natives are not provoked by us to the commission of lawless deeds or instigated by dishonorable men and foreigners to insubordination, there will subsist between us and them a permanent good understanding and the greatest cordiality of feeling”. Even the British and French operating in current day Sierra Leone, Guinea Conakry and Ivory Coast did observe these evil treatments. They instigated the natives to go against the Liberian Government from 1856 up to 1935. They provided arms and ammunition to them to fight the government. This was what the former president warned about in 1866.
    e. In 1907 the Supreme Court of Liberia commented on such treatment in the case Ditchfield vs. Dossen. In this case, the Chief Justice read the court opinion. Justice Dossen said thus, “The Organic and Statutory laws of Liberia in all legal matters put every man on equal footing in securing to himself the rights guaranteed not only by the law of the land as such, but by international treaties with the nations of the world.
    f. At some points in time, it was forbidden for a native African to hold certain positions in government. When Momolu Dukuly was appointed Acting Secretary of State in 1955 after the death of Gabriel L. Dennis, he received threats from some members of the society. The President was pressured to remove him in 1958, giving room for a young man (Joseph Rudolph Grimes) to serve in that position. When President Tolbert wanted to nominate Judge Frederick K. Tulay as Associate Justice to the Supreme Court, many advised him not to because he was the one presiding over the case Republic of Liberia v. Anderson and others in Harper, Maryland County. Anderson and others were found GUILTY and SENTENCED to DEATH. This case has been on the docket for ten years, no Circuit Judge had the COURAGE to assign it for hearing because of Anderson’s father. His father was GRAND MASTER of Mason and later Chairman of the Grand OLD TRUE WHIG PARTY. These two institutions ran Liberia for over 100 years, and nobody wanted to be on the wrong side of its leadership. Unfortunately, Judge Tulay was not a member of the party and Mason. Like Justice Dossen, he believes that JUSTICE was BLIND and did not consider status or RANK or MONEY, but the law put everyman on EQUAL FOOTING before the LAW. The same thing happened to Dr. Edward Beyan Kesselly in 1973, when he was appointed Minister of Information, Cultural Affairs and Tourism. He received numerous telephone calls at odd hours. Some of the callers informed him that that position is not for men like him. The President finally re-assigned him to the Ministry of Post and Telecommunications two years later. In 1985, a presidential candidate asked the people of Liberia this question. “Do you want a Mandingo Man to be President of Liberia?” This presidential candidate was referring to Dr. Edward Beyan Kesselly. Indirectly, this candidate was telling Liberians that Mandingos are not citizens of the country. In 2019, the President openly said, “NO UREY can win an election in Liberia. The President was referring to Telia J. Urey. The list goes on.
    The main players were changed on April 12, 1980, but the evil practices continue even today. President Boakai, if you do not carefully navigate in the Liberian Political culture, you will be caught in a web.
    Violence Past
    The country called Liberia has been wrecked by violence since its infancy (1822). This portion of the feature has been the most challenging to write. In discussing the feature with some friends, they suggested that we delay the feature and carry out additional research on the violence that has taken place in the country. We thought otherwise. We write it in a way that will challenge the readers and they will do their research. We hope you are up to this challenge. We will instead give you the readers the time and places the violence took place and you may follow up. You may start your research at the University of Liberia Library (Africana Section). We spent many hours researching materials there before the Civil Crisis and we have been informed that some of the materials are available in the Africana Section of the Library even today.
    Most of the crises in Iberia before 1980 were either on land Grab (encroachment by the settlers) or Custom Duties or Hut Tax. There had been between eighteen and twenty internally deadly conflicts that transpired from the founding in 1822. The first was the Dei-Settlers War (1822) and last was the Kru-Government War in 1935. In between the two periods, there were many such conflicts, but we will focus on the Grebo-Government (1856, 1875 and 1910), the Kru-government (1910, 1915, and 1932), and the Gbandi-Government 1910. In Maryland the Grebo opposed encroachment of their land, custom duties, and hut tax. These conflicts caused the Grebo the execution of their chiefs, women, and children. In Walobbo, seven chiefs were executed in front of their wives and children. In Sass town the Kru opposed encroachment of their land, Custom Duties and Hut Tax. For six years they fought the government. In 1916, they were invited for a Peace Talk. All the chiefs totaling 75 arrived for the Peace Talk. They were rounded up and executed according to Juah Sayon Nimene. In 1932 Juah Sayon Nimene led warriors of Kru fighters against the government. They fought for three years and with the help of the American Government Chief Nimely and his group were subdued. He and thirty of his chiefs were arrested and brought to Monrovia. It is alleged that Edwin James Barclay’s Government executed the 30 chiefs at the same spot the 13 government officials were executed on April 22, 1980. Hence that spot was not randomly chosen by the People Redemption Council for execution. Between the periods 1843 to 1935, the American Government dispatched four gunboats to the shores of present-day Liberia. In 1843 she was dispatched to the USS Alaska with seven hundred Marines under the command of Mathew Perry. Commander Perry executed Chief Ben Krabo and some of his men after they surrendered. In 1854 she dispatched USS John Adam; 1875 she dispatched USS Birmingham, and in 1915 she dispatched USS Chester with Arms and 500,000 rounds of ammunition for the Government of Liberia. At this point, the American Government got physically involved in the conflicts. Women and children were killed. Children were cut into pieces and thrown into burning huts. Hence the cutting of children and burning them did not start in 1989.
    In Kolahun, Lofa County, the government of Liberia, using arms and ammunition from the American Government, the soldiers executed seven chiefs and carried out atrocities in Kolahun. The great grandchildren of these chiefs bore scars of the actions even up to today.
    What do you think about American involvement in the Liberia conflicts? Should she be held responsible for some of these atrocities? Do you believe that the 1989 Civil Crisis would happen if Mr. Charles G. Taylor was not released from an American prison?
    We suggest that President Joseph Nyumah Boakai constitute a committee to identify the grand and great grandchildren of these chiefs and apologize to them for the acts of the government in these various areas of the country. Equally so, the government of America should apologize to the Grebo, Kru, Dei, Gola and the Gbandi people.
    Land dispute in Liberia will be the next deadly war in the country. Many of you remember the Senator Roland Kaine and Charles Bennie Land dispute in Margibi in 2008. Fourteen persons were killed. Over the past 20 years there have been land disputes in eight of the fifteen counties (Nimba, Grand Bassa, Bomi, Grand Cape Mount, Sinoe, Bong, Margibi, Gbarpolu and Montserrado). Some of these disputes are between individuals, concession companies and the communities and two counties. Land disputes will continue to be a nightmare for the government for a long time to come if the government does not take the appropriate measures. Double land sale is the center of most of the land disputes.
    We believe most of the land cases are caused by the Probate and Monthly Courts around the country and the surveyors. These courts give letters of Administration and Decree of Sales but do not keep proper records. Some families only have 150 Acres. This family gets a Decree of Sale for 50 Acres; this implies that this family now has 100 acres. The Administrators died, the family writes the Probate, and the court appoints new administrators. When the new Administrators apply for a decree to sell a portion of 150 Acres, the court grants the decree to sell for say 75 Acres. Here, this family has sold 125 Acres, hence only 25 Acres remain. Few years later another set of administrators were appointed. They apply for a Decree of sale to sell 60 Acres. If you do mathematics, the court has given this family authorization to sell 185 acres total. Some Probate Courts do not even keep records in their courts. We recommend that the Supreme Court of Liberia engages Court inspectors to visit these probate courts semi-annually to ensure that records are properly filed in these courts. We also suggest that the presidents constitute a committee to identify land disputes and submit to him an innovative approach to prevent future conflicts. This committee should be composed of Lawyers, Engineer, Surveyor, and Civil Society.
    Watch Out For Part Two
    As you wait for Part Two, we wish to challenge your intellect. We would like you to answer three simple questions. During the Medieval period, a young king was confronted with three questions and called all the wise men and women of his kingdom. When everyone was gathered, he posed the three questions as follows:
  2. Who is the most important person to please?
  3. Where is the most important place to be?
  4. When is the most important time to do anything?
    We would appreciate your answer by next Wednesday, May 29, 2024. These questions will be answered in Part Two.

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