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Liberia kicks-off Bicentennial

As U.S Amb. McCarthy recommends historic quarter to generate revenue

By Lincoln G. Peters 

Monrovia was a place of jubilation on Friday, 7 January 2022 when the National Bicentennial was launched to celebrate the founding of Africa’s first republic.

Students lined up and marched from the hill on Johnson Street to Providence Island where hundreds of Liberians and officials of government, members of the diplomatic corps and foreign residents gathered for the launch of the Bicentennial program.

National traditional chiefs and elders, religious institutions and civil society groups, women organizations and student groups and citizens trooped to the historic island to grace the program in grand style.

The yearlong celebration commemorating Liberia’s 200 years of existence is being held under the theme: “Liberia: the Land of Return.”

Historical facts in materials and symbols of Liberia’s cultural heritage of art and craft were displayed across the island to demonstrate and portray the true identity of the country named Liberia. 

During the ceremony, there were performances comprising of traditional, cultural dances and the dramatic incubation of the first freed slaves from the United States of America when they arrived on Providence Island here.

The Friday’s ceremony was part of a series of programs commemorating what occurred 200 years ago, on 7 January 1822 when a group of freed black slaves from the US arrived on the Island after a difficult life journey across the Atlantic ocean.

Speaking at the program, President George Manneh Weah termed the day as a day of memories.

He used the occasion to rally Liberians to come together and strengthen national unity even as the country recognizes and celebrates diversity. 

He spoke on the theme: “National Unity and Reconciliation.”

President Weah said the choice of the topic for the occasion was appropriate because the bicentennial must redouble Liberians’ efforts to promote unity among all Liberians wherever they may reside and encourage all to make meaningful contributions to the nation-building task of the country.

“In Liberia, national unity and reconciliation is the cornerstone to all national development efforts and it is the basis for combating all forms of discrimination and exclusion,” he said.

“As a country which has emerged from a divided past and recent civil war, it is our only option for survival and continuing as a nation,” President Weah suggested. 

He continued that Liberians must continue to embrace the tenant of national unity as they move forward together towards becoming a reconciled country that demonstrates a nation whose citizens are at peace with themselves, their neighbors and the world.

Delivering a speech at the bicentennial launch, US Ambassador to Liberia Michael McCarthy said it was an honor to be standing on Providence Island – exactly 200 years after the first wave of free Black Americans arrived at this hallowed location.

Amb. McCarthy called on the Government of Liberia to extend beyond Providence Island and consider the establishment of a “historic quarter” consisting of the Palm Grove Cemetery, President Roberts’ executive mansion and other preserved government buildings on Ashmun Street and the historical Churches.

He suggested that resources be allocated for the preservation, beautification, and identification of these landmarks and the neighborhoods that connect them.

According to him, these areas have the potential to attract visitors from across the world and spark a boom in the tourism economy of Liberia which will bring revenue for the government.

Amb. MacCarthy further indicated that the preservation and beautification of those historical sites will most importantly ensure that the next generations of Liberians are well-informed and proud of their one-of-a-kind shared history.

“I would like to quote Liberian author Cyrus L. Gray, Jr., who wrote three years ago, “Although Liberia today is not the same as Liberia in 1847, “The Love of Liberty Brought Us Here” is still a fitting synopsis of the purpose of Liberia, if we establish some context.

Amb. McCarthy continued with the quotation: “Liberia still clings to its name, paraphrased “Land of the Free,” without reservation from any sector of society.  “Us” in the maxim denotes the collective estates of all blacks and “here” represents the Black Nation, in contrast to a place.  By this definition, the “love of liberty” brought all black people under the umbrella of the first African nation-state, in an era of western domination.”

The US top diplomat to Liberia indicated that the preservation initiatives and the joint year of action to renew democracies is a worthy tribute to recognizing the ambitions of “our forefathers and foremothers, each of whom envisioned a republic based on the inherent power of its people.”

He said there have been so many incredible individuals over the last 200 years who built the relationship between the United States and Liberia.

Amb. McCarthy said he was humbled to be the one to mark this historic day on behalf of the US government, saying “we should celebrate the fact that one of Liberia’s treasures is its tremendous diversity.”

“And looking beyond 2022, we can work together to make Liberia more attractive to both visitors and investors alike. There is such a compelling story to tell.  One that we should not forget is rooted in Liberia’s unique journey as a democracy,” said Amb. McCarthy.

“We like to say that democracies, by their nature, are a constant work in progress.”

In commemorating the bicentennial, Amb. McCarthy stressed the importance of having a robust, scholarly debate about the historical decisions and actions taken by “our ancestors, so as to inform future generations and bring about a mutual understanding of what happened and, importantly, why it happened.

He urged that “We must live with this history and learn from it,” adding that Liberia – like the United States, like every country – has both a difficult past and many generations of citizens who tried to correct those previous wrongs, creating what we believe is a better nation today.”

He indicated that not every country has a physical space as emblematic of its history as Providence Island. 

Earlier, Monrovia City Mayor Jefferson T. Koijee welcomed Liberians from the diaspora, as well as Liberians at home and foreign residents.https://thenewdawnliberia.com/liberia-chiefs-lead-pres-weah-to-plant-cotton-trees-on-providence-island/–Edited by Winston W. Parley 

NewDawn

The New Dawn is Liberia’s Truly Independent Newspaper Published by the Searchlight Communications Inc. Office is located on The UN Drive in Monrovia Liberia. The New Dawn is a bilingual (both English & French).
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