By Alfred P.B. Kiadii
The oozing of the pungent odour of tribal revanchism displays all the sick symptoms of the stagnation of social history in the homeland and the violent reversal of minimalist progress made on the unity front. The Weah administration, in the service of reactionary politics and, typical of a government basking in the worst form of backward proclivities, represents a throwback to the Dark Ages when the nation was a lock, stock and barrel in the cul-de-sac of political sclerosis. Unable to govern the polity, shuddering at social contradictions sucking the life out of the impoverished masses, the descent of the regime into the tribal gutters is to distract attention from all its worst pitfalls, its marriage to the form of indecent accumulation. This pivoting on sectarian lines has always been the last scene in the drama of farce, especially from a political regime which has lost legitimacy and is living on borrowed time. A political regime stoking the flames of tribal animosity is nothing novel in the political history of Liberia. But it is just a leaf out of the playbook of reactionary realpolitik.
If there is any society in Africa which understands the catastrophic ramifications of the spectre of tribal conflict, Liberia is one such. The Liberian people have scars from tribal conflicts on their bodies. They have paid hugely with the deaths of some of the most majestic and remarkable of compatriots. One of the key triggers of the civil bloodletting was the sectarian division of the impoverished masses of our people on tribal lines by political forces. Historically, alien political forces locked in the intra-elite battle for power and domination over the national spoils went to work and pushed their tribal folks into the frenzy of hatred. The net effect of this drift was a form of political degeneracy which triggered a civil war not to redeem the society from the clutches of the dictatorial regime but to execute the short-sighted agenda of revenge.
Since the inception of this government– conceived in fraud and delivered through a stolen election–it has shown its insatiable predilection for reactionary politics and its sadistic indifferent to the plights of the vast sections of citizens on the margins. Instead, the Liberian people have been treated to the regulars of scandals, the brutal crackdown on free speech, the collapse of democracy, and the emergence of black fascism. The trajectory of the administration is very lucid: it is utterly disinterested in an agenda that elevates the interests of the people on centre stage. The stark reality is that, for a government lacking even the rudimentary conceptual paradigm about moving the needle on fundamental questions of economic disparity, social inequality and the development of underdevelopment, the turn to the tribe as the new historical battleground is its short-lived strategy for a respite.
Unabashedly, we are alarmed by the action of a smattering of citizens of Grand Gedeh, egged on by the worst forces in the current administration, to prevent Mr Alexander Cummings and Yekeh Kolubah from having a peaceful stay in the country. That an insignificant cache of individuals insisted on the delegation of the opposition leader to prematurely leave the county makes a ghastly mockery of political pluralism and erases every pretence that they are not echo-chambers amplifying the rabid position of local officials whom due to political correctness could not mount barricade to articulate such a position. Thus, it was left to these thuggish individuals to vomit such demand in the most abhorrent fashion.
Their action was not only illegal but a clear announcement that the country has drifted into the era of micro-nationalism: regionalism and tribalism and not progressive nationalism and patriotism! More importantly, the act of lawlessness perpetrated by loyalists of the regime in Grand Gedeh has a deeper connotation: it represents a peak in political repression to gag opposition forces to a limited space in the geography. But what happened yesterday is not without historical parallel. It marks the export of violent arbitrariness from the core of Montserrado County to the periphery of the countryside. For the sake of historical context, let us name a few acts of violence that have attended our politics under this kakistocracy regime: the campaign of violence and terror against Telia Urey in the by-election of District #15, the brutal beating of scores of opposition supporters by the paramilitary shock troop of the regime in the by-election of District # 13, the criminalization and repression of dissenting voices, the vicious attacks on partisans of the Liberty Party at their headquarters by bandits of the CDC youth league, the killing of Matthew Innis by operatives of the regime, the very beating and abuse of Jestina Taylor, the criminalization and crackdown on political dissent—all these are shocking examples that provide a profound insight that what happened in Grand Gedeh is not isolated, but a coordinated escalation of dark orchestrations by the Weah administration to rip off the democratic consensus.
When George Weah was announced President of Liberia, we rightfully posited that the Republic had gone to the dogs and we foreshadowed that the country was moving in the direction of black fascism and the most vulgar form of indecent despoliation. All the kindling were visible for the keen observers to see. Almost three years into his term, we can conclude that George Weah will go down in history as a man who promoted tribal bigotry, criminalized dissent, and advanced the most despicable form of unbridled pillage of national wealth in the Liberian polity. He will be remembered for turning the presidency into a pathetic joke deserving scorn and contempt and lacking in political legitimacy and dignity. A crime party rules Liberia while a political dwarf dons the robe of the presidency. Howbeit, we could have avoided this terrible chapter had Ellen Johnson Sirleaf and her cabal not shown so much contempt for the people and betrayed them to protect their ill-gotten fortunes and maintain a firm grip on the politics and thus eroding any attempt at transforming the hellish condition of the common masses.
Meanwhile, Liberian progressives and forces for democracy must know where they stand in this moment of great trial and reaction. The struggle for a better Liberia, the quest for a progressive itinerary, the agenda for transformational politics are neither tribal nor religious. Nowhere in history has the fundamental struggle between the haves and the have-nots ever been fought on the tribal turf.
The historical tension in society has always been a battle between indecent forces who want to perpetuate the ghoulish agenda of the minority against the forces who seek to disable the engine of reactionary politics and advance a progressive agenda with and for the common people. We must always hold dearly that this is a class struggle, and only when we put the socioeconomic question of the day on this framing will we understand that this battle is between the oppressing classes and the oppressed classes or the exploiting strata and the exploiter strata. The people looting the country are united by class interests and not by tribal or religious affiliations or any sectarian atomization. The oppressed strata should be united on a common agenda of social emancipation and popular politics.
In society, the rabid brand of tribal animosity has been peddled by political forces who have benefited from the politics of division, hatred, and exclusion. The raw spectre of tribal division is a threat to the future of our nation and the collective humanity of the despoiled masses. In this era of decadent and decay, our duty is not to swallow the bait of the reactionary class enemy throw at us but to oppose it, expose the criminality of the regime, and stand in solidarity with everyone suffering the criminal siege laid on the country by the political imbeciles. This is our political position, this is our historical context, and the banner for the struggle for the masses to ‘mobilize and seize history and make the future in their own name.’ This we must do for all who have struggled and given their revolutionary blood for a better society. Therefore, let our mantra be—no to tribal division. Forward to a new Liberia of social prosperity! Down with tribal division!