WE MUST NEVER FORGET
By Rufus Dio Neufville
We are in the Christmas season again. It was this same festive period 32 years ago when gunmen fought their way over the Liberian border and attacked Butuo, Nimba County. The dissidents were trained in Libya and the Po military base in Burkina Faso. Libyan ruler Muammar Mohammed Abu Minyar al-Gaddafi and some wealthy Liberians were their sponsors. The frontline commander for the invaders was Prince Y. Johnson (Liberian Senator under sanction by the US Treasury Dept. in keeping with the Global Magnitsky Act). The rebels fought their way through the defensive lines of the Armed Forces of Liberia. Charles Taylor called the BBC and took responsibility as leader of the National Patriotic Front of Liberia. He said President Samuel K. Doe and his officials were corrupt, building private mansions and riding luxury vehicles while the people suffer. President Doe called Taylor a thief and promised to fight to the last man.
Propaganda from the rebels resonated and the war became a popular uprising (or at least it seemed). Belligerent activities soon intensified and engulfed the fifteen political subdivisions of Africa’s oldest Republic. The tree of violence grew uncontrollably: INPFL, ULIMO K & J, LPC, LOFA DEFENSE FORCE, NPFL-CRC, LURD, and MODEL. By the time the war came to an end in 2003, an estimated 250,000 Liberians were killed either deliberately or in crossfire. Many Nigerians, Ghanaians and other peacekeepers also lost their lives. Various sources estimate that between two to three million people were displaced. The United States of America and the international community spent billions to restore peace.
Historians have given many reasons for the carnage. They have pointed to factors such as economic disparities, corrupt political system, rampant exclusion, nepotism, greed, and ethnic division. Dr H. Boimah Fahnbulleh Jr. and other progressives told the TRC that the oligarchs were insensitive to the anguish of ordinary Liberians and that set the basis for all kinds of socio-political and economic problems. I agree. These factors can be put into one basket – the insatiable desire of the predatory elites.
Liberia is not the first country to fight a war. Many countries went down that road. However, what sets Liberia apart is that we do not understand the historical implications of our conflict. We do not know why we fought. The level of hate is reaching boiling point again. Reconciliation remains elusive as if the Truth and Reconciliation Commission never existed. Some people even celebrate death news or medical problems of political opponents. Others want the system/government to collapse. We have become intolerant and arrogant once again.
Unlike Liberia, many countries learned from crises and transformed their societies. The American revolutionary war established the foundation for the abolition of slavery, separation of church and state, republican governments with written constitutions, and justice. Before the French Revolution, most land was owned by the Church or Nobility. When they were removed from power, the land was redistributed to small landowners. Taxes and tithes were reduced. The Russian Revolution ended the czarist rule. Workers and peasants had the right to interfere in Russian society. I could go on and list the benefits of the Glorious Revolution in England, the Haitian Revolution, the Cuban Revolution… I find it hard to do the same for my country.
If the Liberian war was just about taking power and money from one group to the other then it should be recorded as the stupidest crisis in human history. Yes! We must never forget!
The writer of this article is the Executive Director of the People Action Network, PAN-LIBERIA. He can be reached at email@example.com. Phone: 00231777477395.