After 133 years of class system, nepotism and exclusivism at every facet of the Liberian society, a massescratic political institution was born to dislodge all forms of human indignity and defend the universal and ultimate rights of all Liberians and non-Liberians, especially students. October 20, 1970 became a turning point not only for Liberia, but Africa and the rest of the world as the awful semblance of academic inequality and social injustices was about to be dethroned by a revolutionary movement based on ideological precepts and dialectical concepts.
From the very formation of Liberia, a small group (about 5%) of over-powerful, super-wealthy and oligarchical totalitarians emerged as absolute rulers of the socio-economic and political system of Liberia. These oligarchs since 1847 up to the 1970s built a strong network of oppression and segregation with an utmost intention to enslave a larger portion of the population. They led a capitalistic and opportunistic agenda at the expense of poverty-stricken citizens. The mode of governance under the self-seeking rulership of these crafty bureaucrats and puppeteers of imperialism was not only inhumane, but counterproductive to the true meaning of an equal, free and just society.
Up to 1970, Liberians particularly indigenes were treated in an unjust manner by a small empire of autocrats. The era of oligarchy in Liberia was too unpleasant to an extent that most peasants had nothing to live for. They didn’t have the right to vote and decide their own destiny even though they were taxpayers. They didn’t have the right to own properties and serve in public offices. As marginalization and censorship crept rapidly in the public and private sectors, popular resistance against the dominance of oppression became apparent. The determination of the people to chart a new course was gradually gaining momentum.
The University of Liberia was one of the most intimidating environments where unkind treatments were given to native students and those who were not members of the old order. There was visible division between sons and daughters of the upper-class and the lower-class. The gap of academic inequality was too wide as though education was a privilege, and not a right. Academic freedom was never guaranteed at the State-run institution because oligarchs felt insecure and unsafe about a future of competition. They did all they could to prevent the huge admittance of the masses children by instituting unjust and divisive measures contrary to international best practice. In pursuit of higher education and other public benefits, some indigenous Liberians had no choice, but to change their original identity and magnetize themselves to pseudonyms and false characterizations.
As sexism and sectionalism grew so speedily at the nation’s highest center of learning, a small portion of university students (indigenes) who were constantly marginalized as a result of their social class and ethnic background had no option, but to endure plethora of academic injustices and all sorts of discrimination. The need for inclusive academic change was a matter of must as hatred and malice became obvious.
The difficulties were too many to withstand and every possibility to promote and protect academic freedom was unsuccessful as a small management team of oligarchs stood tall against any attempt to enlighten the minds of the indigenes. The year was fast approaching to challenge the status quo. The month was nearing to ignite a new beginning of social justice and academic freedom. The day to unite and resist an unequal and unhealthy atmosphere was looming.
It was time to fearlessly stand up against the power that be by demanding unconditional transformation at all levels of society, principally the University of Liberia. The wind of change was about to blow across Liberia. Nothing could easily avert the willpower and courage of few young comrades and compatriots whose dissatisfaction grew at a disproportionate rate.
An unrelenting revolution was imminent as progressive militants strategized to reshape an uneven culture of wanton suppression. The masses were ready to listen and redeem themselves from an ugly system of partiality and patronage. The oppressive hands of authoritarianism and absolutism were about to be amputated not by guns, but by collectivism and determination. The launch of a new political movement was impending.
Finally, on October 20, 1970, a revolutionary student-based political party was established to stand up for social justice, academic freedom and peace at all times and at all strata of the society. Through the persistent ingenuity, tenacity and bravery of ideologues and stalwarts with like minds, the Vanguard Student Unification Party (SUP) came into existence 47 years ago. The incipient of this great and progressive movement was a serious threat to unpatriotic elements and reactionary forces whose plan was to keep the masses in darkness and destitution.
It did not take too long for SUP to be well-known for its uncompromising posture in and out of Liberia. The spirit of massescracy was fast succeeding oligarchy. For the first time since 1847, a sense of self-respect and belonging returned to the masses. At long last, their hope for a brighter future was upheld with the formation of SUP. The struggle for equality and justice was an outstanding priority for all SUPISTS as they fought to promote an egalitarian State.
When no institution could stand up against societal ills, SUP stood. When no one dares to defy undemocratic tenets perpetuated by the moribund Trug Whig Party, SUPISTS courageously did. When everyone was afraid to call for inclusive change and stand up against exclusion, the tone of MASSESCRATS was very loud against all forms of human indignity. When there was no organization to question the True Whig Party about its system of bad governance and one-party system, SUP was alive to do so. Surely, SUP is our soul, sword, strength and shield.
The nation owes it to SUP. Yes, we owe it to astute comrades and martyrs like Michael G. S. Dolo, Frederick Gobawolee, Swanzy Elliott, Irene Nimpson, Benedict Garlawolu, Wuo Garbe Tappia, Tonia Richardson, Weewee Debah, and all fallen heroes and heroines who sacrificed to get us this far. If Liberians must celebrate any political institution for its consistent struggle in the best interest of the down-trodden, then they must do so by honoring the gallantry and legacy of the ever-potent Vanguard Student Unification Party. Surely, SUP is our soul, sword, strength and shield.
SUP was the first progressive institution to demand multi-party democracy. The Student Unification Party deserves the crown for leading a dogmatic struggle since 1970. After 47 years of relentless advocacy, education is no longer a privilege, but a right. After 47 years of struggle, Liberians can freely speak and exercise other fundamental rights which are in line with constitutional values. After 47 years of fighting oligarchy, dictatorship and despotism, Liberians now have the opportunity to stand in long queues to cast their ballots without harassment and intimidation.
There have been three (3) critical stages in SUP’s history. Between 1970 and 1979, SUP stood up against and defeated oligarchy and oligarchs under the Trug Whig Party. Between 1980 and 1990, the party confronted and conquered military dictatorship and despotism under Master Sergeant Samuel K. Doe and his PRC/NDPL. Between 1997 and 2003, SUP was compelled to dethrone tyrannism and gangsterism under ex-Rebel leader Charles Taylor and his NPP. Today under President Sirleaf, SUP is combating soft dictatorship, domineering presidency and the mass looting of public resources by economic migrants.
After 47 years of long-standing sacrifice, native professors are found in classrooms empowering young men and women to mitigate emerging challenges and widening academic gaps. After 47 years of promoting democracy, Liberians can point to administrators of indigenous background at the University of Liberia and other public institutions.
SUP fought side by side with progressive forces (PAL, MOJA and SISSUKU) to ensure a system of multi-party democracy. The next 365 days are too insufficient to recount the unmatched successes of the Vanguard Student Unification Party. Truly, these great achievements by SUP have given young comrades and cadres sufficient inspiration to sustain an undying struggle. The blood of all fallen heroes and heroines remains a source of strength for Africa’s oldest student-based revolutionary movement. These martyrs in whose imprints all SUPISTS walk will forever be cherished and remembered. Surely, they fought a good fight with the sole objective to liberate their own people from an inhumane condition of self-pity, ignorance, illiteracy, disease, widespread poverty and political exclusion.
The political profile of SUP is unparalleled simply because it has led 47 years of successful struggle worthy of public admiration. The history of SUP is replete and it renews the courage of all SUPISTS to keep soldiering on. I have not seen any institution in Liberia with an organized political structure like the Vanguard Student Unification Party. SUP is so unique to an extent that every partisan matters. This revolutionary movement is borderless and goes beyond the walls of the University to defend the rights of all human beings.
In SUP, the interest of the party is above all other interests. No one is greater than SUP. The supremacy of this party surpasses everyone, no matter who you are and where you come from! This is what makes SUP the greatest political institution of all times in Liberia. Furthermore, this all-powerful institution has gone through some difficult moments in order to conquer tyrants and their despotic regimes. Some militants of SUP died while fighting for equality and inclusiveness, while others were severely flogged and maltreated. The infamous Bella Yalla can better narrate this horrific episode. A good number of SUPISTS sustained critical injuries and went to prison for protesting against rampant corruption, nepotism, elitism, and other unfair practices in public service.
Student leaders from SUP have been among the most prominent targets of political detention. Members of the Student Unification Party have undergone countless number of brutal repressions and afflictions. One of the disturbing instances of arbitrary arrest that all of us can never forget about occurred at the University of Liberia when six popular student leaders from SUP were arrested and charged with treason in January 1982.
Five of them were convicted and sentenced to death by firing squad. A day before their execution on January 29, General Samuel K. Doe of the PRC succumbed to intense international pressure and issued an executive pardon. Flogging was a normal routine for SUPISTS. Astute militants and ideologues of SUP had to spend some dark days at Belle Yellah, Monrovia Central Prison, BTC Military Barrack, the Post Stockade, and the Palace of Correction for crimes they didn’t commit.
As a means of strangulating SUP, the military government in 1982 put into place a dreadful measure to subdue critical voices. Degree 2A which abolished student politics and activism on school campuses was introduced. In the midst of all these complexities and contradictions, the Student Unification Party did not surrender to the throne of militarization and repression.
This unpopular strategy even made SUP stronger to revamp its method of engagement with military dictators. After consistently defending the rights of students, administrators, teachers, marketers, petit traders, taxi drivers, and public servants, SUP was considered an enemy by the existing authority. Members of the PRC saw SUPISTS as troublemakers and not as patriotic citizens whose primary objective was to jealously protect democratic principles.
It is important to always highlight one key incident of military crackdown at the University of Liberia. On August 22, 1984, a detachment of about 200 soldiers of the Executive Mansion Guard, acting on direct orders from Master Sergeant Samuel K. Doe, stormed the main campus of the University of Liberia to suppress a student demonstration aimed at preventing the arrest of Dr. Amos Sawyer who was charged with treason.
According to the investigative report released by the Lawyers Committee for Human Rights, more than 100 students were injured and an undetermined number of them killed.
Additionally, the soldiers fired at unarmed demonstrators, stripped students naked, flogged them with rattans, beat them with rifle butts, extorted money from them, raped female students, and embarked on a spree of looting and sexual abuse.
This shows how heartless the soldiers were. Fear and Pandemonium gripped the campus for about three hours from 3:25pm to 6:30pm as soldiers launched a vigorous search in pursuit of students who were in hiding. The atmosphere was gloomy as revolutionary comrades of SUP tactically retreated to remobilize, restrategize and rearm.
As students endured physical abuses, the soldiers began to sing “You have your Ph.D.; I have my M-16.” These ignorant dissidents and quacks masquerading as soldiers were too brutal to a group of armless civilians. Interestingly, CIC Samuel K. Doe dismissed the entire faculty senate and university administration without any realistic reason after the saga. The death of comrades during this unfortunate encounter even made SUPISTS more fearless to resist martial rule.
Historically, the Vanguard Student Unification Party is the trendsetter of political consciousness and democratic inclusiveness. Progressive Organizations like PAL, MOJA, SISSUKU, and others got their impetus from SUP. This student-based political party was the first most organized progressive institution to challenge the status quo and demand multi-party democracy. Up to date, SUP remains cognizant of its overall mandate to ensure social justice, academic freedom and peace. It serves as a mirror for existing and emerging institutions whose ideological manifestos are in line with classless tenets.
The impact SUP has made in and out of Liberia is immeasurable. The Party has trained great men and women who have gone through thick and thin. The Party has produced and built the minds of thousands of notable Statesmen, Business tycoons, Lawyers, Politicians, Diplomats, Civil Society Activists, Journalists, Scientists, Economists, Accountants, Engineers, and other professionals who are today contributing meaningfully to global development. Besides, SUP has provided opportunities for thousands of students through scholarship, mentorship, entrepreneurship and leadership. The Union Building, Palava Huts, Student Center, etc. are all projects implemented by SUP. Surely, SUP’s contribution to societal growth is beyond measure. No doubt, SUP is our soul, sword, strength and shield!!
After 47 years of consistent struggle, SUPISTS can now look back and soberly reflect on an uneasy, but yet a glorious past. It was not all bread and butter, and it promises not to even be, but through it all, the Vanguard Student Unification Party has triumphed. The major question now is “should the struggle for an equal and just Liberia end?” Oh No, Oh No…! It must not end during our lifetime. As long as we are alive, SUP must live to accomplish its purpose of finally emancipating the masses.
As the struggle for economic inclusiveness and decentralization intensifies, the road to good governance in Liberia is yet to be made plain.
After 170 years of nationhood, corruption and nepotism are still permeating our country, but SUP will remain restless until transparency and a system of merit are visibly cultivated in every sector. We must never allow intruders to distract our focus and oneness. It is time to unite and move forward. The people’s agenda must transcend above self even during these difficult moments.
I humbly call on all SUPISTS and loyal comrades to put aside their differences and reconcile with each other during this critical epoch, especially as our nation proceeds to October 2017 run-off election. It is only a united SUP that can eliminate capitalistic autocrats and oligarchs. With a united SUP, all of our people can once more find a space to exist. It is only a united SUP that can revive broken hope and break the chain of corruption and all forms of pubic dishonesty. It is only a united SUP that can make Liberia a better place for all. The current generation of SUPISTS must do everything possible to preserve the great legacy of fallen comrades. The promise of massescracy must never be betrayed!
As we celebrate more than four and the half decades of existence, there is no turning back. We must confront our common enemies with collective energy and a spirit of oneness, remembering that our strength lies in the tenacity of devoted partisans who fought till death. As SUP turns 47, it is a matter of necessity that I ask all of us to observe a moment of silence wherever we are in remembrance of all compatriots and ideologues who are no longer with us.
We must remember and pay homage to Michael G. S. Dolo (founding Chairman of SUP), Frederick Gobawolee (first Standard Bearer of SUP), Irene Nimpson (a member of the women wing, killed during April 14, 1979 street protest against the increase in the price of rice), Benedict Garlawolu (member of the Central Committee), Wuo Garbe Tappia (former Chairman and Standard Bearer of SUP killed on August 17, 1990 by government forces on the Capital Bypass), Tonia Richardson (murdered by rebel forces in Fendall), Weewee Debah (the great writer of SUP who was killed by government forces on Ashmun Street in 1990).
We owe it to these fallen massescrats, martyrs and all other revolutionaries who were at the frontline in the crusade for change. They lived a life worthy of public emulation, honor, and respect. Their legacy will always remind us about an unbending struggle. The emblem of SUP will forever fly sky-high as partisans, sympathizers, well-wishers, and all Liberians commemorate the 47th birth anniversary of this revolutionary Party. Certainly, SUP is our soul, sword, strength and shield. SUP was, SUP is, and SUP will forever be.
It is often said in Latin “pari modo ac societas inquisitio materia necessitates” meaning “the quest for an equal and just society is a matter of urgency.” Long Live SUP – Long Live Massescracy – Long Live Social Justice, Academic Freedom and Peace – Amandla Awethu!
About The Author: Martin K. N. Kollie is a Lux-In-Tenebris Scholar studying Economics at the University of Liberia. He is a loyal stalwart of the Student Unification Party (SUP) who currently serves as Chairman on Press and Propaganda. He can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org