By Othello B. Garblah
The birds sang in unison, as the trees clapped their hands, amidst a chorus of sirens as the nation bid farewell to one of its illustrious son-Dr. Amos C. Sawyer on Saturday, April 2.
The military also added color to the farewell as they gave the mortal remains of Dr. Sawyer a full military escort in a paraded style from the Samuel Stryker Funeral Home in Sinkor through the Tubman Boulevard to the Centennial Pavilion on Ashmun Street where final farewell speeches were made.
Dr. Sawyer, the country’s first interim President during the deadly civil war here died in the United States on February 22, 2022, from cardiac arrest. The burial on Saturday ended weeklong funeral activities that brought together high-profiled dignitaries including former presidents.
President George Weah led an array of Government officials including Vice President Jewel Howard Taylor, Speaker Bhofal Chambers, Chief Justice Francis Korkpor, members of the Legislature, cabinet ministers and heads of autonomous agencies.
Former President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf and other past officials of the government were well in attendance on Saturday at the Centennial Pavilion.
Also present at the funeral were leaders of political parties including former Vice President Joseph N. Boakai of the Unity Party and Mr. Alexander B. Cummings of the Alternative National Congress.
Members of the diplomatic corps were also in attendance at the Pavilion, visibly among them was US Ambassador Michael McCarthy and a host of foreign dignitaries. Former Nigerian President Goodluck Johnathan was also present at the funeral.
The casket adorned in national colors was rolled in the Pavilion by members of the Armed Forces of Liberia led by clergymen.
Delivering the funeral discourse, Rev. Dr. Bombo Sellee, Bishop Co-Adjutor elect, Episcopal Church of Liberia admonished leaders to be careful how they dispense power.
“Be careful how you use power, you are not the source of power, your power derives from my God all mighty. Power is transient. Today you can hold power and tomorrow you lose it. Be careful how you use authority and power. Use your power to serve the people and not to suppress the people,” He warned.
He also spoke on other prevailing issues affecting the nation including the increasing wave of rape and gender-based violence that are prevalent in Liberian society.
“We need to address the issue of the rising rate of rape cases in our society. Our children are being destroyed by heartless men around the country. We thank our president who declared rape a state of emergency and promised prosecution for violators but rape is still an issue in the land. Violence against women is all over society, even in the city and we as a people must work together with the president to address this issue. We must work together to address the issue of women in our society”, he said.
There were many tributes among them an eulogy from Prof. Dew Tuan Wleh Mayson, cousin of the deceased and a long time comrade.
He said he knew Dr. Sawyer throughout his life and from the beginning it was clear to him and all his colleagues that Sawyer was destined for greatness. “He was brilliant and well-liked by all of us. He was up to his death, very generous, generous with his time and generous with his resources. He was never one of those with open mouths with closed wallets”…
There was also an official gazette from Ministry of Foreign Affairs which recounted Dr. Sawyer’s life history with emphasis on his contributions to imparting knowledge to young people of Liberia at the University of Liberia where he taught for many years and rose to the position of Dean of Liberia College before his dismissal in 1984.
Dr. Sawyer’s service to the nation was also remembered. Prominent among his services to the nation was his service as Interim President of the Interim Government of National Unity from 1990 to 1994 and as Chairperson of the Governance Commission from 2006 to 2018.
A proclamation was also made by the government renaming the College of Social Sciences and Humanities, formerly Liberia College, as the Amos Claudius Sawyer, College of Social Sciences and Humanities.
Former President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf who had worked with Sawyer over the years spoke highly of her late colleague and friend: “I can recall on some events and occasions when we listened, we learned, we shared values, we took action with him, as a professor, the historian, visionary leader and a true public servant. He exemplified a strong belief in the rights, anticipation and power of all, the high-ups and the ordinary ones among us because he was a people’s person. And now our mentor, our friend, our national hero and conscience have left us. I am glad that in Amos’s last days we were able to do more, to talk to him a bit more, to appreciate him a bit more, for what he was, and no one else has risen to the stature that he exemplified in our country.”
Tributes also came flowing from the international community practically from the sub-region- the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) and the Mano River Union (MRU).
The Special Representative from ECOWAS described Dr. Sawyer as a man of peace and a strong believer in democracy and good governance. He said Sawyer’s footprints will remain in the archives of the regional body and will inspire good leadership among member states.
Mrs. Medina Wesseh, Executive Secretary of MRU echoed leadership role of Dr. Sawyer and the role he played during the country’s civil war.
A high power tribute came from the Elders of ECOWAS, a group of eminent persons who are former leaders in their respective countries of which Dr. Sawyer was a member. Dr. Goodluck Ebele Jonathan, former president of Nigeria spoke on behalf of the group.
He extended his deepest sympathies to the Government and people of Liberia and the bereaved family for the passing of Dr. Sawyer. He described the fallen leader as a great statesman and an uncommon leader whose contributions to advancing the democratization process in Africa have been outstanding.
“We are all sad and it is an unfortunate situation. Africa lost a role model, West Africa lost a voice, Liberia lost a leader and the family lost an icon, a father, a pillar and a guardian”, he said.