Special Feature

Ethnic/Tribal Bigotry, African Racism & Ethnic Cleansing

Ethnic/Tribal Bigotry, the socio-cultural and political dogma of our (African)Traditional Society, grounded on fear, suspicion, jealousy, rivalry, discrimination/segregation, antagonism and bordering on hate, based on myths/superstitions, you-say, they-say, and I think is an unfortunate, traditional pattern of behavior still in our Modern Society.

In fact, this tradition permeates, almost, every aspect of our lives: housing, schooling, courtship & marriage, employment, job security & advancement, business & related relationships and interactions, etc., etc. Indeed, Ethnic/tribal Bigotry, an African Racism, has been developed into Ethnic Cleansing during our recent, fourteen-year tragedy, a’ la Bosnia and Herzegovina – Slobodan Milosevic, the Bosnian Serb forces and Srebrenica genocides.

The atrocities committed against selected, targeted ethnic/tribal minorities exacerbated and deepened the mind-boggling cruelty of plunder, destruction, human suffering and death by the rebellious, National Patriotic Front of Liberia (NPFL), uncivil war that spared no village, town and city in Liberia, with special emphasis, victimized the Krahn and Mandingo tribal peoples of Grand Gedeh County.

For examples, at gates or checkpoints in NPFL-controlled areas during the conflict, Krahn/Mandingo men, women and children were plucked out of fleeing, refugee lines and summarily executed; Grand Gedeh County, the ancestral homeland of the Krahn nation and many Mandingo People, was captured and occupied by force of arms; and when “Taylor’s Bloody War” (in Mr. Charles Taylor’s own words) finally reached the City of Monrovia, the NPFL “freedom killers”, gained unparallel momentum and, with thousands of converts, marched the streets of the city to the cadence of the famous (or infamous) refrain:

“Charlie (Charles Taylor) come, Charlie come

To eliminate the Krahn/Mandingo People

From the map of the Liberian Nation”

In apparent effort to give effect to this chorus, the NPFL announced a policy decision to annex Upper Grand Gedeh County to Nimba County, the county’s northeast neighbor, and Lower Grand Gedeh County to be annexed to a southeast neighbor. Therefore, had “Taylor’s Bloody War” succeeded as planned, Grand Gedeh County, home of the Krahn, would not only be wiped “from the map of the Liberian nation” as a social, cultural unit of society, but also, as a political, administrative sub-division of the nation and a naturally-endowed homeland, as we know it today.

During armed occupation of Grand Gedeh County, the NPFL forces unleashed a reign of terror – looting, plunder, destruction, rape and executions such that many citizens of the county fled across the Cavalla River into La Cote d’Ivoire; others into the Konobo and Putu forests; while others took refuge in the Republic of Sierra Leone. For, during the uncivil war years and after the NPFL Leader, Mr. Charles Taylor, became “President of this Nation”, two memorable events of attempt at Ethnic Cleansing took place, among many others.

First, during April of 1996, Mr. Charles Taylor of the NPFL, in collaboration with Alhaji G. V. Kromah (a Mandingo!!) undertook a deadly attack upon the late David Roosevelt Johnson, an effort designed to silence the-then military voice of the Krahn and some Mandingo people. Although the planned objective failed, fortunately, for the Krahn people, but the city of Monrovia was, on “April 6” (as the day was called and remembered to this day), an armed camp of brutality, human suffering and death; several homes and public buildings looted; and  many innocent citizens, including the wounded, fled the city and country on the famous Buck Challenge, a Nigerian freighter.

Second, after becoming President of Liberia, with awesome state power at his disposal and the declared policy of “jungle justice”, Mr. Charles Taylor continued his plan of Ethnic Cleansing.   On September 18, 1998, President Taylor ordered an all-point-bulletin of unprovoked, military attack, code-named “Surgical Operations”, upon the relatively Krahn-settlement/community, including residence of the late David Roosevelt Johnson, on Camp Johnson Road, Monrovia. Several, innocent civilians were shot and killed by military and security forces, and the arrest of several, ethnic Krahn citizens. Of the arrested group, 13 Krahn citizens were taken to “Taylor court” with the usual, “one-size-fits-all”, convenient, false, vicious and politically-motivated charge of “Treason/Sedition”; denied legal counsel of choice, tried, “convicted” and sentenced to 10 years in prison. Upon appeal, the Supreme Court did not only uphold the lower court verdict, but added 10 years, for a total of 20 years!!

Grand Gedeh County, Ancestral Home of the Krahn Tribal People

Indeed, the impact of an obvious plan for systematic destruction and “wipe-out” of the socio-cultural, economic and political fabric of Grand Gedeh County and its people is visible and painfully felt today. We note the following, prevailing conditions in the county:

1. Grand Gedeh County, among all other Political Sub-Divisions, suffered the worst, deadly and near-total destruction of its human resource, political and economic infrastructure.

The County Capital City of Zwedru, former capital of the-then Eastern Province, one of the most developed, highly-populated and thriving cities of the Southeast, lay in ruins, including several towns and villages, after the nightmare of the uncivil war. In per capita terms, Grand Gedeh County leads in the number of its citizens displaced and living in self-imposed exile in several, foreign countries, today.

2. Is Grand Gedeh County Occupied Territory?

In June 2012, we asked this question in response to the military activities in the County (“Has Grand Gedeh County become a Frontline”, by Ilmari Kaihko of Mats Utas, June 26, 2012) and (The In Profile Daily, June 28, 2012) that “Recent weeks in Grand Gedeh following the cross-border attack in Ivory Coast have been interesting. After the arrival of the “Joint security” consisting of the Armed Forces of Liberia, the armed Emergency Response Unit (ERU) of the Liberian National Police and the Bureau of Immigration and Naturalization, the city (of Zwedru, the county capital) was transformed into an armed camp overnight. While not a new phenomenon, the white United Nations choppers landing to and rising from the airport only enhanced the mood that something was happening”.

“A police officer stationed in Zwedru spoke his mind about the new forces sent from Monrovia: he was concerned about the possibility of these forces harassing local citizens, which could lead to serious problems due to reasons found in the recent history of the country. Everybody in Zwedru remembers how the security forces of the now imprisoned former President Charles Taylor harassed people in Southeastern Liberia. On the second day following the arrival of the joint security there was already the sound of wings of history to be heard: the new security was referred to as Taylor’s Anti-Terrorism Unit by people calling the local community radio to complain about harassments”.

3. Today, vestiges, remnants or reminders of the NPFL occupation are present and visible in the County.

In creating River Gee County in the south, the NPFL sliced off several, Krahn (Konobo) towns and villages (including, notably, the late Paramount Chief Kao Gbelay town) of Kaobli, Zabli and Gborlu, the last Krahn town before the Palipo town of Gbahwia, in River Gee County. A look at new Map of Liberia will confirm this action.

Today, approximately 22 years after the NPFL occupation, the sensitive, critical functions of law enforcement – of the Police and the county attorney for prosecution – are now in the hands and control of individuals imported into the county.  This condition is not only an insult to the professional reputation, standing and sensibility of the county, but also an indictment of the patriotic commitment of the county and, particularly, an apparent continuation of the illegal occupation of the county, including the classic, historical, Liberian tradition of the importation of police, court and related, administrative officials/functionaries into counties and districts in which they do not reside nor have historical roots. Historically, such imported officials/functionaries have been proven to be not only corrupt, but also biased, discriminatory, denied and abused, systematically, the civil and political rights of traditionally-vulnerable, rural citizens.

Today, the county is conspicuously isolated with no access – safe roads/highways – while there are new roads and bridges built and being built around the county, including the new Fish Town, River Gee County to Harper, Maryland County, including several, developmental aid assistance.

For years, a number of Grand Gedeh County citizens have been held in detention and subjected to endless trials, motions, etc., etc., with charges and counter-charges of jury tampering and bribery in return for guilty verdict. Defense attorneys are frustrated with a system of court proceedings without end. It is said that “justice delayed is justice denied”. What is justice in today, at least, for the citizens of Grand Gedeh County?

4. There are numerous articles on the internet and the nation’s newspapers critical of former President Doe and the Krahn People –  that Samuel Doe this, Samuel Doe that and that the government, at the head of which he sat, was a Krahn government.

Indeed, criticism, under our law, is a right; we recognize, grant and support the exercise of this right. However, there are rules governing the process. There are, also reasons, human reason, the profound gift of nature that motivates and guides human action in such cases, throughout human history. This criticism, basically, by human right activists, journalists and politicos, some of the prevailing criticisms/arguments of today, lack reason (rationalism), comparative facts of our history – past and recent past – and the relevant rules of the game.

Arguably or apparently, therefore, these critics are deeply consumed by ethnic/tribal bigotry – that Doe was semi-literate, corrupt, a dictator, murderer; that the government was a Krahn government, because Doe was an ethnic Krahn; guilt-by association; ethnic/tribal profiling; character-assassination, etc., etc.

We welcome, in fact, invite a debate or exchange of views – candid, unrestrained, open, cordial, civil and relevant – of the facts of history of our past, recent past and the critical challenges for the future. The past is essential; in that, it is said that those who ignore the lessons of history – successes and failures (especially the failures) – are likely to repeat them.

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