By Dr. Murphy Sirleaf Anderson
If someone were to tell you that I, Murphy Vatikeh Sirleaf Anderson, a son of a traditional Kpelle man and a former commissioned officer of the Armed Forces of Liberia would be standing before you at this historic 170th celebration of our beloved country independence, you would most likely be surprised and may think the one telling you was crazy. But, the reality is, exactly four days ago, in a friendly conversation with our President at a training exercise, she asked me to be the speaker at this event. Initially, I hesitated considering the time that I have to fully prepare a talk to address my fellow Liberians. So, I asked her to give me some time to think about her request. On my way home from work, I pondered over the idea of having this opportunity to directly speak to this audience, maybe for the first and last time considering this year ends two consecutive terms as Chairman of the Board of Directors of this noble organization.
“Fellow Liberians, it may seem too late to turn the wheels of history that have driven Liberia so deep into the oceans of underdevelopment, lack of creativity and innovations. But I have come to let you know that the University of Positive thinking, great opportunities, and creativity still exist. There are more rooms for new students and enrollment is opened to everyone. If anyone of you, Liberians under the sound of my voice is willing and prepared to enroll, the time is NOW!“
The Holy Bible teaches us that the number “7” means completion and recognizing that today is the 170thindependence of our nation, I was honored but yet humbled by the kind consideration of me by the President to address this audience. What a co-incidence! Madam President and members of the Executive Committee, I would like to thank you for affording me this opportunity.
My fellow Liberians, distinquished ladies and gentlemen,I have been asked to speak to you within the time frame of 20-25 minutes about three dispensations in the history of a Country that I believe each and every Liberian within the confines of this auditorium with the exception of our children born in this country have a particular, if not personal identification with. Liberia yesterday, Today, and Tomorrow,is a unique selection of a topic that encapsulates our existence as a country and as a people. 20-25 minutes may not be enough to fully take you on a journey through the history of yesterday, today and the hopes and dreams of the future of our country. Thank God that most of you are Liberians and are cognizant of the history and activities of Liberia. Therefore, I would not waste our time propounding on historical subjects but will do my best to highlight key events that left historical and indelible prints on Liberia and its people. My hope is to use these highlights to challenge all of us in becoming better and useful citizens of our republic. For those of you, our friends and well-wishers of Liberia, allow me to encourage you to do a little more research on this beautiful African country and its unique history. I promise you will be glad you did.
Fellow Liberians, Distinguished ladies and gentlemen, according to the Office of the Historian, U.S. Department of State, the founding of Liberia in the early 1800s was motivated by domestic politics of slavery and race in the United States as well as by the U.S. foreign policy interest. In 1822, The American Colonization Society (ACS) was formed for the purpose of relocating freed African slaves from America to the land of their forefather with the hope of giving them lasting freedom from their slave masters. On July 26, 1847, Liberia declared independence and Great Britain become the first country to recognize the birth of a new nation on the dark continent of Africa. Throughout “Liberia Yesterday”, the nation signed and entered bilateral agreements with other West African nations like the Mano River Union (MRU), which was initially formed between Liberia and Sierra Leone on October 3, 1973. The goal of the Union was to “accelerate the economic growth, social progress, and cultural advancement of the two countries … by active collaboration and mutual assistance in matters of common interest in economic, social, technical, scientific and administrative fields. On May 23, 1963 in Addis Ababa, Liberia became one of 32 signatories to the formation of the Organization of African Unity (OAU). Amongst the primary aims of the OAU, defending the sovereignty, territorial integrity and independence of African States and the co-ordination and intensify of co-operation of African states in order to achieve a better life for the people of Africa became paramount to member nations. “Liberia Yesterday” was once known for its relative peace and harmony in Africa and enjoyed a two-party political system: the Republican Party and the True Whig Party. Unfortunately, this lasting peace did not last forever; it soon became overshadowed by “Liberia Today”.
The introduction of “Liberia Today” was characterized by series of uncalculated and unthoughtful events that destroyed the socio-economic, education, health, human and infrastructural fabrics of the nation and removed Liberia from its position in the community of nations. Beginning with the “Rice Riot” of April 14, 1979 masterminded by few Liberians belonging to the Progressive Alliance of Liberia (PAL) to the overthrow of the democratically elected government of the late President, William R. Tolbert, Jr. in 1980 led by 17 enlisted men of the Armed Forces of Liberia. This was followed by the invasion of Liberia in 1989 led by the defunct National Patriotic Party of Liberia (NPFL) under the leadership of Mr. Charles Taylor. The aftermaths of these events have not only set Liberia farther behind other developing nations in Africa, but it destroyed Liberia’s dependable human capital.
According to the World’s Bank 2015 Report, Liberia’s economy has stagnated over the past three years, representing an average annual growth rate of 0% over the period 2014-2016. However, prospects for growth are much better in 2017 as GDP is projected to grow by more than 2%. Over the medium term, economic growth is expected to increase to 5.0% on average, due to a recovery in mining and improvements in infrastructure, particularly in energy and roads, and higher agricultural productivity. In health, the recent outbreak of the Ebola virus disease in Liberia, Guinea and Sierra Leone, affected the health and social wellbeing of the entire country and took the lives of hundreds of Liberians. On June 9, 2016, the World Health Organization (WHO) declared the end to the virus. Since that declaration, Liberia continues to make progress in its health sector. Human rights abuses and challenges in Liberia remain a major concern to other countries, especially the United States. According to the U.S. State Department 2015 Human Rights Report on Liberia, the most serious human rights abuses in Liberia were those linked to deficiencies in the administration of justice, official corruption and violence against women and children. Others include, police abuse, harassment, and intimidation of detainees and others, arbitrary arrest and detention, violence against women and children, including rape and domestic violence, human trafficking, racial and ethnic discrimination, etc.
“Liberia Tomorrow” faces greater challenges than the previous two dispensations. For Liberia to overcome the pass and succeed in the future, it must embrace the following which, I term the bedrock of nation building:
2. Infrastructural and Human Resource Developments
4. Good governance AND
5. The cultivation of a patriotic spirit of “Nationalism”
Fellow Liberians, Distinguished ladies and gentlemen,Theodore Roosevelt once said and I quote, “the future belongs to those who believe in the beauty of their dreams”. It is imperative that the future of a Liberia that all of us envision for ourselves and our children cannot, should not, and will not be built on the shoulders or by the hands of weak-minded, corrupt or purposeless individuals who are constantly devising ways to divide us and enrich themselves by exploiting the capital and human resources of our country. I would like to draw you attention to an initiative that was taken by one of the brightest sons of our continent that has transformed and set on the paths of progressive investments and developments of his country and people, at least in my view. In 2001, Flight lieutenant, Jerry J. Rawlings, former President of the Republic of Ghana envisioned that Ghana would become the gateway to Africa, especially West Africa, if the citizens would “Think Big”. Not only did Jerry Rawlings envisioned the idea of thinking big, he exemplified his believe in his vision, led the cause to galvanize all Ghanaians to believing that Ghana could reach the pinnacle of its existence, if its citizens work together in fostering and achieving a common goal irrespective of their differences.
It is evident that Ghana has not reached the pinnacle of its existence that Rawlings envisioned initially, however, the paths that have prevented Ghana from climbing
those mountains to achieving that vision is becoming much clearer in sight than it was years ago.
My fellow Liberians, distinguished ladies and gentlemen,allow me to remind you, especially for those of you who share the same faith like I, that the God of our ancestors does not make mistakes. He has not stopped blessing those who seek him with gifts that can be used to transform our ways of life. In his letter to the Church in Rome, the Apostle Paul wrote and I quote, “Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be yea transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is–his good, pleasing and perfect will. I may sound envious of the success story of Ghana, but I am not. Liberia and Ghana seem to have walked similar paths in history. Our struggles with tribal wars, military leadership, socio-economic hardship, health, education, and infrastructure developments during our formation seem almost similar, if not the same. No reason is found to convince me on why the 21st Century seems more promising to Ghana and other African nations than it is to Liberia. For a better reason, I am mostly intrigued by the progressive socio-economic and infrastructure developments that have and continue to occur in that part of West Africa while Africa’s oldest republic lingers behind. I am convinced, if God has blessed Ghana to move forward from the shackles of poverty, tribal strives, and economic hardships, he surely has blessed Liberia but we are yet to position ourselves to receive and benefit from the blessings as a Nation and people.
Fellow Liberians, on May 25, 1961, President John F. Kennedy announced before a Joint Section of Congress that he envisioned that America would compete with the Soviet Union by being the second nation in the world to send a man to the moon. “Wow’!I would like to think, some Americans said and good leadership, others may have thought also. I would like to believe that President Kennedy’s vision to send a man to the moon was not intended to establish for himself a legacy that would impress Americans and the world about his leadership and the country he belonged, I don’t believe his intent was to advance his political agenda and set himself apart from presidents before him, neither do I want to believe that his intent to send a man to the moon was to position himself for re-election to the presidency. I am convinced that President Kennedy’s vision to send an American to the moon in spite of the risk and economic cost to his country was intended in large part to position America to becoming the World’s greatest country ever on the face of the earth.
Ladies and gentlemen, I do not need to convince you further because the evidences are crystal clear and history can testify to my conviction.
I believe when Nelson Mandela and the African National Congress (ANC) rose up against apartheid in their native land, endured the sufferings and injustices and sat between the walls of his prisons for 27 unbroken years, he knew that one day the dark clouds of oppression and indignation that had captivated his people for years would eventually come to an end. I don’t believe Nelson Mandela and the ANC purpose for standing up against apartheid was for self-promotion but for the common good of all South Africans.
Distinguished ladies and gentlemen, I believe Dr. King and the civil rights movement endured the struggles for equality so that all Americans including you, and I, and our children may enjoy the immeasurable freedom that their struggles have blessed us with. I believe they struggled and died not for their personal benefits but that their sacrifices would ignite a fire in every American and citizens of the world to perpetuate the fight and protection of human dignity, freedom, and equality amongst us and around the globe. I believe if Liberia will become a successful nation in Africa, meet the challenges of the 21st Century and play a prominent role within the community of nations, there has to be among us J.J Rawlings, Nelson Mandela, J.F. Kennedy, Martin Luther King, Jr and many more who fought to change the ways of life of their people and respective nations even at the peril of their individual lives.
* It was not by mistake that Liberia is Africa’s oldest republic.
* It was not by mistake that Liberia elected Africa’s first female President
* Neither was it by mistake that today we celebrate 170 years of our existence as a nation. However, it would be a mistake if we, Liberians
· Leave Liberia worse than how we received her from those who fought and died to save her.
· It would be a mistake if we choose to become a disgrace to our heritage rather than promote the rich cultural and ancestral values upon which the foundation of our nation was built.
· It would be a mistake, if we ignore the desperate need to become nation builders by investing and contributing to the socio-economic and infrastructural developments of Liberia.
A preacher once said, “God is not interested in renovating our past, he is interested in brightening and securing our future”.
Like the Ghanaians or Americans, if we the people of Liberia are to enjoy a prosperous nation and secure a future for ourselves and our children that is free of corruption, indignation, injustices, immoral and unethical values, poverty and diseases, ignorance, illiteracy, laziness and disingenuous behaviors, tribal divide, hate, and intolerance, the time is now for us to change who we are and how we perceive the world around us. We must act now in order to position ourselves and our nation to compete in the 21st Century.
Fellow Liberians, it may seem too late to turn the wheels of history that have driven Liberia so deep into the oceans of underdevelopment, lack of creativity and innovations. But I have come to let you know that the University of Positive thinking, great opportunities, and creativity still exist. There are more rooms for new students and enrollment is opened to everyone. If anyone of you, Liberians under the sound of my voice is willing and prepared to enroll, the time is NOW! We may secure a better future for Liberia, if we:
1. Invest in the education of ourselves first and our children
2. We may secure a brighter future for Liberia, if we cultivate and nature a patriotic spirit of nationalism.
4. We may secure a safe society in Liberia, if we resist ignorance and embrace our cultural heritage and values.
5. We may secure a promising future for Liberia, if we invest in the development and protection of the nation.
These challenges do not belong to one particular family, society or county but to all Liberians. Let me remind you, fellow Liberians, “Education allows us to exhibit our humanity but ignorance forces us to demonstrate our stupidity. Get educated TODAY!
Before I take my seat, let me leave you with a “piece” that I wrote,
The Elisabeth, a symbol of our heritage”.
IF GOD IS WITH US, THEN THE IMPOSSIBLE SHALL BE POSSIBLE!!!
(Murphy V. S. Anderson is Chairman, LICI Board of Directors, Columbus, Ohio, USA)