What Would Baccus, Did whoTwe Say, Seeing Manneh Weah from UNGA?
Analysis by Sherman C. Seequeh
Back in November 2008 when the curtain burst up and a lean black gentleman, along with his wife and two teenage daughters ascended the podium to react to the announcements about his victory, it was a tearful moment for legends still alive watching history being made. One of them was Rev. Jesse Jackson, an iconic veteran of black people’s struggle for civil rights and equality. Asked why he cried, Jackson, who had run for president in 1984 and 1988, said this: “I saw President Barack Obama standing there looking so majestic. And I knew that people in the villages of Kenya and Haiti, and mansions and palaces in Europe and China, were all watching this young African-American male assume the leadership to take our nation out of a pit to a higher place. I thought of who was not there… the martyrs whose blood made last night possible. I could not help think that this was their night. If Dr. Martin Luther King could have just been there for a second in time, it would have made my heart rejoice. And so it was kind of duo-fold—[Obama’s] ascension into leadership and the price that was paid to get him there.”
Liberia’s revolutionary narratives may not be very identical to the struggle for racial equality and freedom in the United States. But they also do intersect at the border of commonality espousing socioeconomic and political equality for all, particularly fighting to elevate a long neglected people—the impoverished majority placed on the margin of society. And the two struggles also share the history of legends and martyrs.
The likes of Gabriel Baccus Matthews who took solid lashes on his bare back and DidwhoTwe who endured bodily persecution and had to die in exile—for the purpose of establishing the space of democracy, freedom and equality in which power would leave the elites and bigots to the ordinary people—were not as lucky as Jesse Jackson to testifyof their hard-won struggle.
A prototype of marginalized people for whom both iconic freedom fighters fought and died has returned from the United Nations where he made the case of the poor masses of our people in no uncertain term, people in West Point, Clara Town,Sacleapea, Palala,Sinje,Foya, etc.
“I see opportunities to make things better, and to bring permanent improvement to the lives of all Liberians, as we devise policies and programs that will have a lasting and positive impact on the lives of our citizens,” President George Manneh Weah, a consummate embodiment of the masses of the people, declared eloquently in New York during the United Nations General Assembly’s 73rd Session.
“We want to build a harmonious society, based on the goal of economic empowerment, especially for the underprivileged. Our Pro-Poor Agenda is therefore designed to give power to the people, promote economic diversification, protect sustainable peace and encourage good governance.”
Baccus was of the settler stock—the tiny minority that dictated the course of national politics and the economy for more than a century and quarter. But Baccus’ sense of fairness broke him away and he began tochampion the cause of the marginalized majority.
Gabriel Baccus Matthews’ compassion for the ordinary people, his zest to give power to the overlooked and marginalized, which put him at loggerheads with his elitist establishment family, took him to be the lone iconic progressive leader to join George Manneh Weah and his then mischaracterized Congress for Democratic Change during the 2005 elections. In his life time, Baccus was deeply bruised many times. Even while on his deathbed, Baccus was not forgiven by the offshoot of the reincarnated old order. He was left to die of curable illness because he couldn’t be ferried out of the country for better treatment.
DidwhoTwe was of the Kru extraction and made himself a fierce campaigner for political and economic liberation for all Liberians seared by the scourge of exclusion and subjugation. His fight for equality against the establishment—including his advocacy against force labortriggeredthe Fernando Po investigation and led to the resignation of a Liberian president and Vice President.
A fellow Kru, ForkyKlonJlalehGbakugbehTarpehTanyonohManneh Weah, was last week standing tall and bold before the United Nations, the successor of the League of Nations, the world body D. Twe wooed to probe the cheat and scandalmeted out against the Liberian people, making the case of the long marginalized masses.
And because of D. Twe’s redemptive moves against the intellectual, economic and political elites, not only was he treated like a pariah in his own country, but his entire Kru tribe and moderate tribal people of Liberia were rounded up and massacred or imprisoned in faraway lands. Certainly, it would be a tearful moment if D. Twe had seen ForkyKlonJlalehGbakugbehTarpehTanyonehMannehso standing at the rostrum of the United Nations, being gazed at by rich and poor, intellectuals and illiterate around the world.
Both Matthews and Twe would have tears to shed. They would have a testimony of their struggles to give as ForkyKlonJlalehGbakugbehTarpehTanyonohMannehWeah disembarked at the RIA and paraded to Monrovia from the world stage.
Certainly, D. Twe would say, as he did in his famous July 26, 1944 Independence Day Oration: “As the sun rises in the east and sets in the west, so the great revolutionary forces which have influenced the progress of mankind have always come from the east and marched westward, but never from west to east, nor from the north to the south.”
He would put his hands on Weah’s shoulder and say, “My son, the establishment I fought is still alive and well. Their scam is to make you not achieve the dream of the masses to get liberated from poverty and political isolation. They are a cabal of vicious enemies that believe in the philosophy, as we say in our Kru dialect, ‘Say-dee, Say-dee’ (if I don’t eat, you will not eat). They will fight to death to tear you down. They did it to revolutionaries who came after us in 1980. But my Spirit and Spirit our poor, illiterate Liberian masses, living and dead, are with you. Keep your focus in tight. Appease our ghosts by sharing power with the people, connecting cities and towns with good roads and providing social services to the remotest villages. The elites would not like it. They will obstruct you. But you will win.”
Gabriel Baccus Matthews would say in his usual pragmatic and philosophical tune, as he did in a speech on September 5, 2002:
“There is no permanence in nature. King Solomon, in his wisdom, is said to have given a ring to the chief architect of the Temple of Jerusalem when work began on that monumental edifice. The ring bore the inscription, ‘This, too, shall pass away’.By the late 1970’s, it was clear that change had become an inevitable necessity. Change had to come to make reconciliation possible. I, today, call on all Liberians to reconcile themselves to the inevitability of change. To everything under the sun, there is a season.”
And putting hand around the waist of President Weah, as he did during a session during the 2005 elections: “The whirlwind of change blowing across this country has settled on the name of only one person—this young man from Grand Kru and from Gibraltar—who is no doubt the person in whom the long suffering people of this country see themselves, their long unsettled plight and their emancipation.”
D. Tweh, Baccus Matthews, WuoGarbeTappia, Tonia Richardson, Weewee Debahand other martyrs of the struggle for “rice and rights” might not be around to receive the product of the struggle returning from making the case for the impoverished majority for whom they fought and died. But the masses on Sunday, September 30, 2018, trooped in their droves to the Roberts International Airport where they received Tarpleh Manneh Weah. The stampede of joy and celebration took Margibi County and Monrovia by storm. West Point, New Kru, Clara Town, Sinkor, Unification City, Harbel and many other communities emptied themselves in the street and the highway to RIA to give him a benefiting triumphant reception on behalf of all pro-poor veterans dead and alive. And that is worth it.