“To any young Liberian between the ages of 18 and 35, please remember that you are both losers and winners in the protracted Liberian civil war that cost many lives. I want you to know that when you were four years old, your country was a tragicomedy and a pariah state. Today, with its imperfections, your country is an inspiring, uplifting drama. I want you to know also that you lost the war because when some of you were between 7 and 21 years old, you or many of your peers fought the war and committed some of the most unimaginable and gruesome atrocities,” Mr. Konneh, addressing a gathering of the Federation of Liberian Mandingoes in the United States of America (LEFMUSA) over the weekend, admonished the youths of Liberia.
“You became men and women in your teens at a time when you should instead have been developing your minds through education and directing your energy to sports and other character-building activities that would have solidly prepared you for adulthood and good citizenship. But you also won the war in that today you make up 75% of Liberia’s population and in your hands lies the power to decide who leads our country into a future full of opportunities. You have the power to demand that those seeking your votes give you the same dignity they have. Country and Congo will not give you dignity,” he continued.
“Deep down, neither you nor I believe that a life so dear and freedom and peace so sweet, can be purchased at the price of tribal bigotry, without there being dire consequences to any community that chooses to foster division and hate. It will backfire, as we have already seen in our nation’s history. You and I have the courage to say to our politicians, there is a price we will not pay. There is a point beyond which we will not allow them to advance their rhetoric. If their language is not constructive, then it has no place in our public discourse. This is how we must defend our freedom to live in a peaceful and progressive society,” Konneh noted, adding, each government must facilitate this process of nation building, and uphold the political and economic freedoms that our Constitution affords us.
“But it is the responsibility of each citizen to solidify those freedoms through our votes, our peaceful and constructive advocacy and public engagement; and, most importantly through our ability to value and support one another. That is the key to progress; that is the key to freedom,” said Konneh.
The admonitions of the former Liberian minister of Finance and Development Planning comes against the backdrop of increased tribal and ethnic vitriol from leading political parties and their stalwarts regarding who is now better positioned to lead the country given its past turbulent history of neglect and abuse by a privileged few elites over the impoverished majority.
Since the April 12, 1980 coup that toppled the century old ruling hegemony of the settler elites, the issue of tribal and ethnic politics continue to rear its ugly head, even as the former underprivileged majority who had maintained state power for decades, turned up lording it over their own class, thus plunging the country down into an abyss of civil war.
Many believe the October 2017 elections could be the defining moment for Liberia to finally regain its lost glory, devoid of tribal and ethnic persuasions; or get plunged back into the dark days of pariah statehood.