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“This Day in Liberia’s History – April 12th”: A Rejoinder

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Under the headline quoted above, a Mr. J. Keno posted an e-mail that states “On April 12, 1980, a Master Sergeant named Samuel Kanyon Doe; armed with a 4th grade education and a gun, along with 17 enlisted men from the armed forces of Liberia staged a military coup in the oldest African Republic”. This response is our attempt at an analysis, with interpretation, of the implied conclusions of Mr. Keno’s reference to and critical of the late, former President.


Although Mr. Keno identified himself, simply, as “J. Keno”, but his short and curt reference to the late, former President of the nation as “a Master Sergeant . . . armed with a 4th grade education and a gun . . . staged a military coup in the oldest African Republic” said it all, in terms of “where he’s coming from” (as the Americans say) and who he is, particularly, regarding education and the dynamics of politics, analysis and interpretation of the turbulent, past history of our country, its significance to the April 12, 1980 Event and and predictions for the future.

Firstly, we argue that education – college, undergraduate and graduate – is simply a predictor; that is, that possessing this level of education predicts the ability to apply the knowledge for the achievement of pre-determined, desirable goals; not simply the possession of this knowledge in and of itself, because one may or may not apply the knowledge for any number of reasons. In the domain of politics, one’s worldview, a function of the socio-cultural and economic environment in which is born or raised, plays a major role in the choice of political directions and/or activities. It is for these and related reasons that management theorists hold and/or place emphasis on demonstrable, varied experience in recruiting management executives, in addition to education.

Significantly, the late President graduated, cum laude, in Military Command & Control (basically, strategy, command and control) training offered by US Military Mission at our Military Academy, Todee, Liberia. It was on the basis of this training and experience that his colleagues, non-commissioned officers and fellow coup makers, selected him to lead the effort.

In response to Mr. Augustine Kollie (“April 12, 1980, Liberia’s Worst Day in History”: A Rejoinder, April 14, 2010), we held that “. . . the abiding quest for human dignity, . . . freedom and justice throughout history, and the continuing, human desire to perfect the democratic process, particularly, in this case of the overwhelming majority of the population of our nation, Liberia . . . the Desire to secure, protect and maintain human dignity . . . a desire epitomized by the founding of these United States of America in 1776; the bloody French Revolution of 1789; the very founding of the Republic of Liberia in 1822; the (deadly Czarist) Russian Revolution of 1905 in which millions, including the Czars, were killed; and the Russian (Bolshevik) Revolution of October, 1917, during which Vladimir Lenin died in exile in Switzerland – testify passionately, reasonably and convincingly to the righteous . . .  significance of April 12, 1980, including several, modern coup d’ etats and the prevailing Pro-Democracy, world movement. And finally, that the 163-year, turbulent history of the founding and governance of our country, Liberia, is particularly relevant for an insight based on analysis, interpretation, understanding and appreciation of the issues leading up to and including the events of April 12, 1980”.

Moreover, in a recent Response to Mr. Paul Yeeenie Harry (“The Nothingness of a Certain Name”: A Commentary, The New Democrat, August 23, 2011), we observed that “. . . the past, political history of our country . . . was characterized by . . . public policy contradictions, violence, ethnic/tribal, gender and socio-economic exclusion. For more than 150 years of our political independence, the founding fathers did not only arrogate all political/administrative power and full participation in political affairs to themselves, but also the citizenship of our nation; in that, the overwhelming majority of the population was denied, systematically, recognition as full-fledged citizens, integration into the nation’s body politic and legislative representation with full participation as equals, in the political affairs of the country”.

“This condition gave rise to the April 12, 1980 Event (an accident of history) led by (Master Sergeant Samuel K. Doe) non-commissioned officers of the Armed Forces of Liberia (A FL); an event, although tragic, but was and is consistent with and in response to humankind’s historic quest for . . . the dignity of the human person; for peace, freedom, justice, equality of treatment; and for national unity and recognition of the overwhelming majority of the nation’s population as full-fledged, tax-paying citizens, under the rule of law”.

“Let it be recalled”, we continued, “lest we forget, that these  AFL men, all young, average age of 25 years, were trained in the rigorous, extremely regimented, military science and culture of ‘obey, obey, obey’ and ‘duty before complaint’. Absent, also, from their training were the required, democratic notions of educated discourse – rational debate, compromise, disagree-to-agree, policy consensus, etc. Because of these . . . there were many mistakes, with policy contradictions, given our, Liberian, socio-political traditions, then prevailing. However, on average, we believe that the soldiers performed phenomenally well.  Here are the facts of our recent, political history:”

“First & foremost, the April 12, 1980 Event introduced an exciting and challenging, new Era or an Epoch into Liberia’s socio-political thought and practice, based upon and as close as possible, to classical, democratic principles by the Constitution of 1986. Though not perfect, but among the many, real, meaningful, political “firsts” (in Liberia) were the competitive, multi-party (we went to the polls with four political parties), pluralistic, peaceful, electoral, political process that provided a tenured presidency, on the African continent then notorious for one-party states and lifetime presidencies”.

“Second, although the April 12, 1980 Event was a national tragedy, because it resulted in the loss of many lives and brought pain and sorrow upon the nation and people, yet that tragedy awakened the nation’s political consciousness from more than a century of slumber; more importantly, the tragedy brought out and crystallized a new horizon for political, leadership challenges for change”.

“Third, the impact of the historic . . . profound significance of the April 12, 1980 Event upon the present and future of our country was and is not only the socio-political emancipation of the majority of the people of our country, but also the political redemption/emancipation of our founding fathers, the former, minority ruling group; for, some of them were and are poor, uneducated and politically-unconnected. Accordingly today, ethnic/tribal and gender inclusion or diversity has become national policy, based on merit. It has been and being argued, reasonably, that almost all of our social, political and economic ills of the past, including the devastating, national tragedy of the civil war and the current, ‘failed-state’  designation of our nation are traceable to the past, irrational policy of ethnic/tribal and gender exclusivity”.

“Fourth, the rights of the freedom of movement and association and the independent, aggressive, fair and impartial, newspaper reporting in the effort to inform, educate and entertain, all necessary requirements for a functioning democracy, have now become the rule rather than the exception, in Liberia”.

“Fifth, there a marked, vibrant increase in socio-political advocacy/activism, with courage and determination that grew from the encouragement of the 1980 Event; for example, powerful, political figures who were once regarded as ‘untouchables’ in the past are now the subjects of serious challenges for dishonest and other questionable, socio-political activities”.

“And Sixth, also, there is now an encouraging number of young, determined, energetic, idealistic and dedicated Liberians who have acquired and are acquiring the necessary education, training and experience in preparation to challenge the remaining elements or vestiges of the past and seek to perfect and transform our young, democratic process”.

Evidently, had it not been due to the courage, bravery, patriotism and sacrificial effort by the “4th grade-level education, Samuel Kanyon Doe” and his colleagues of the Armed Forces of Liberia, the April 12, 1980 Event, the prevailing multi-party system, courage to criticize the high and mighty, the awakened political consciousness and activism, including Mr. J Keno’s critical reference to the former President of the nation, would not have been possible!!

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