We would hope that the signal sent by the attendance of U.S. First Lady Laura Bush and Secretary of State Dr. Condoleezza Rice at the inauguration of President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf was a clear indication that America will not fail Liberia as it did after the 1997 elections.
In her interview with BBC, Mrs. Bush said that the Liberians felt a special attraction to Ms. Rice. What she failed to say is that of all of the nations in Africa, Liberia should feel a special attachment to the first Black woman to become the Secretary of State for the United States. The Secretary of State sets the foreign policy and Liberia needs to know that a descendant of Africa will be sensitive to the needs of the Liberian people.
Liberia’s attraction to the Secretary of State is because they are descendants of those slaves that America tried to do something with in her dilemma, by forming the American Colonization Society in 1816. America sought a solution to send freed slaves back to Africa. This did not happen specifically because there was a Quaker movement, which was totally against slavery, but this was because there were so many freed slaves in the North.
It was feared that the growing population of freed slaves could potentially create a problem for the United States. Once those slaves who had experienced freedom became too numerous, their consciousness would affect the slaves who were still held in bondage in the rest of the country. Even though eight years prior, in 1808, America had made the trans-Atlantic slave trade illegal, the population of slaves had grown tremendously. In fact, most historians know that slaves were brought into America until 1859, when the last slave ship docked in Mobile, Ala.
The connection between the people of Liberia and America is long-standing because, in reality, Liberia is America’s baby. However, for those who have paid close attention to Liberian history, it is clear that America failed Liberia after they led the international community in calling for fair and free elections in 1997. They did this in order to stop the perceived humanitarian crisis of Charles Taylor and his armies’ attempt to seize Liberia’s capital, Monrovia.
Liberia’s history is long and painful. It would take too many articles to write about the movement of Black people from America in 1820 to Liberia, which became a Republic in 1847. This history flows to the Reagan years in 1980 after Sergeant Samuel Doe overthrew the government of former president William R. Tolbert Jr. and killed him in the executive mansion, along with 13 high-ranking members of Pres. Tolbert’s family and government in a public display on the beaches of Liberia.
Sergeant Doe had the support, money and backing of America during the Cold War years from 1980 to 1990. Not only did he not have any skills in leading a government, but he was also considered illiterate. Yet, America backed him when he sought the extradition of Charles Taylor, who was being held in an American prison at Sgt. Doe’s request to the Reagan administration. The administration knew that Taylor’s would face certain death upon his return to Liberia. The story of Charles Taylor’s escape from jail is another story for another article.
One of the most balanced reports that you can read is in a book entitled, “The United States Policy towards Liberia, 1822 to 2003: Unintended Consequences?” (ISBN-10: 0-9653308-8-5). The book is difficult to find, but you can access it at www.ahlpub.com/Promotions.html. If we want to understand where Liberia stands today, this book is a must read.
Liberia has the chance to rebuild its infrastructure, i.e., water supply, electricity, sewage systems, roads, schools and hospitals, all of which are in a critical condition and should be given immediate attention. If Liberia is to be rebuilt–and America has to be in the lead in terms of its resources to help rebuild Liberia–I suggest that the obvious choice of persons who should be involved is members of the African American community. We need to be involved in every level of rebuilding in Liberia–from teachers to physicians to helping child soldiers heal from the trauma that they’ve suffered.
Note the psychological damage of the soldiers returning from Iraq. The young men and women, who mostly are between 18 to 45 years of age, have reported various types of emotional and psychological damage. However, the child soldiers of Liberia started fighting and killing at 10 and 11 years of age. They both have been traumatized in a way that they cannot get a grip on their own lives when they return to society. We must consider the help that these children need. They need the type of help that I personally feel African American professionals can offer. We need our contractors and construction communities to be included on whatever funding is sent to Liberia for rebuilding.
The only way this can happen is that the leaders in Liberia must say to the United States government and the international community that we are descendants from Africa. We were shipped to this country by America. America has a responsibility as France feels a responsibility towards Cote d’Ivoire (Ivory Coast) and other former French colonies throughout West Africa. America should feel the same sense of responsibility. Halliburton and other major American and European companies should not receive the lion share of all the contracts to rebuild this beautiful and potentially rich country. The opportunity should go to the descendants of Africa. This could be the beginning of utilizing the skills that we have acquired in the West for the rebuilding of societies in Africa.
Instead of America and the United Nations pressuring President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf to extradite Charles Taylor from Nigeria and spend $27 million on a court in Sierre Leone, this money could be utilized in helping to save lives and rebuild Liberia. The young Liberians need to see the concern, involvement and sincerity of the African American community to connect with Africa in a meaningful way. America must not fail Liberia for a second time.
(Please forward any questions or comments to Akbarseven&aol.com.)