By Bai Gbala ( September 6th 2005)
|"...It is said that perception is stronger and more pervasive than reality in shaping opinion, attitude and behavior. These gruesome acts are the results of the power of perception widely held, based on vicious falsehoods...."
In an article under the title above (“Rising From Ashes”, The Analyst, August 29, 2005), Reporter Gibson W. Jerue writes, and the founders and members of the National Democratic Party of Liberia (NDPL) concur, that Counselor Winston A. Tubman, now Standard Bearer of the NDPL, indeed “re-incarnates the NDPL”.
Since the murder of the NDPL founder, its first Standard Bearer, the late President Samuel K. Doe in September 1990, and the profound, humiliating and devastating defeat at the hands of former President Charles Taylor in July 1997, the NDPL has not been the same vibrant and promising, political party that it once was, until now.
Moreover, not only that Ambassador Tubman “re-incarnated” the NDPL, but he also re-introduced into and revived the Party nationalist enthusiasm with themes of national unity; dedication/commitment to competitive, democratic politics; and brought dignity and respect with his personal stature – training, academic/intellectual achievements; and work experience both on the Liberian and international, political scene.
Concerns and Disagreement
However, I take issue and disagree with Reporter Jerue, that the NDPL recruitment for party members and supporters was and is limited “…largely to the party’s traditionally dominant members who are of the Krahn tribe”. This statement, seemingly innocent in the light of witch-hunting and ethnic/tribal bigotry that characterize Liberian, indeed, African politics, is, in fact, a coded reference to the perception promoted mainly by the press and widely-held by many of our compatriots that “the NDPL is a Krahn Party”.
Because of this false and vicious perception which permeates the Liberian socio-political landscape, many innocent Krahn citizens, NDPL members or not, were and are being subjected to un-imaginable brutalities, human suffering and death; and to socio-political isolation, particularly during the NPFL, treasonable war against the Liberian nation and its people, and the murder of the Party founder.
In July 1990, Grand Gedeh County, the ancestral home of the Krahn People, was brutally occupied by the NPFL forces with a declared policy to annex the county to others, a policy designed to erase the socio-cultural entity and political community of the Krahn Nation from the face of the Liberian Nation-State. Furthermore, the villages, towns and cities of the county were subjected to massive pillaging, destruction of properties and atrocities. Chiefs, elders, men, women and children fled the county to neighboring Cote d’Ivoire; others fled to the Putu and Konobo National Forests for their lives; still others not so lucky, were summarily executed; all, simply because the county was the home of the NDPL founder who was the first elected, indigenous president of our country!!
During former President Taylor’s politically-motivated “Surgical Operation” conducted on the predominantly-Krahn community of Camp Johnson Road (Monrovia) on September 18, 1998 with massive arrests, only the 18 Krahn citizens (including the author) were later “tried and convicted” of “treason” and sentenced to 20 years in prison.
The Power of Perception
It is said that perception is stronger and more pervasive than reality in shaping opinion, attitude and behavior. These gruesome acts are the results of the power of perception widely held, based on vicious falsehoods.
In general terms, Krahn citizens suffered mind-boggling atrocities and socio-political isolation because the late President Doe was an ethnic Krahn. For example, in terms of the percentage of Krahn population nationwide, more Krahn citizens fled the Liberian nation than any other ethnic/tribal group due to socio-political persecution on the basis of another fallacious notion of “collective guilt/guilt-by-association” since December 1989. This phenomenon prompted me to ask, in an article elsewhere that: “if , for the sake of the argument, we accept the conclusion that Samuel K. Doe who happened to be an ethnic Krahn was a cruel, demonic, and dictatorial president of Liberia and adjudged guilty for his sins, then is Samuel K. Doe and the Krahn People one and the same? Of course not.
Facts of The Matter
Given the pervasive perception that the NDPL is a Krahn party, belongs to and for the Krahn people, what are the facts?
At a political function held in his honor recently in Monrovia on 30 March 2005, the-now Standard Bearer of the NDPL, Cllr. Winston Tubman told members, well-wishers and the Liberian people that his party, the NDPL, is a “party for all Liberians, not (has never been) only the Krahn-speaking people”, as some Liberians and the press would have us to believe.
In lending support to and emphasizing the views expressed by Ambassador Tubman, I wrote elsewhere that:
“…I speak for the founders and members … that, indeed, the NDPL belongs to all Liberians; for, despite press and some group perception to the contrary, the NDPL has shown and demonstrated consistent policy commitment to national inclusion, irrespective of “ethnic/tribal origin. The Ambassador’s pronouncement is an encouraging and politically refreshing outlook for the future of our country, coming (as it does) from one of Liberia’s enlightened political leaders who is (also) a descendant of a prominent Liberian, political family”.
“Furthermore, the founders of the party came (or originated from all over the nation) from Maryland and the neighboring counties of the Liberian south-east; Bong and the surrounding counties of the Liberian north-south, central heartland; and from Lofa/Grand Cape Mount and the neighboring counties of the Liberian north-west and south-west, a mosaic of ethnic/tribal membership that made and continues to make the NDPL the party of true national character”.
“In politico-philosophical terms, the (NDPL) founders believed then, as now, in the liberal, progressive, democratic tradition: change for the better; freedom (of speech, the press) of the individual, justice and equality under law; and…protection for and respect of the human person – all persons, not only the Krahn-speaking peoples”.
“Firstly, the party “…founders’ notion of and commitment to national inclusion, irrespective of ethnic/tribal origin, was demonstrated in practice by party administration: the founding, national chairperson came NOT from the Krahn-speaking people, but from the Gbande/Mende-speaking people of Lofa County in northwest Liberia. As a matter of fact, succeeding national party chairpersons came from non-Krahn-speaking peoples of our nation’s various counties…with no Krahn-speaking person as national party chairperson of the party up to this day, since its founding”.
“Secondly, the second most-powerful policy-making/implementing position of the party – the vice national chairperson – was held only once by a Krahn partisan…since the founding of the party…(and)Thirdly and similarly, the third national executive position of the party – the position of national secretary-general – was held only once by a partisan of the Krahn tribe”.
“In the organization of the national, party government of the NDPL, ethnic/tribal, national inclusion was the most important pillar of national policy. Appointments to cabinet and sub-cabinet positions…were primarily based on ethnic/tribal diversity and merit…”. A research study of cabinet and sub-cabinet appointees done prior to the NDPL national convention held in Gbarnga, Bong County, confirmed conclusively that, indeed, diverse, ethnic/tribal elements (Congo-, Indigenous- and Americo-Liberians, including women) dominated important, policy-making/implementing portfolios of the national government. Thus, the conviction of the NDPL founders was demonstrated that “…ethnic/tribal diversity in national affairs, particularly political leadership, will be and is critical to the success of our 21st century Liberia”.
“Today, because of the practical application of this policy (now with the election of a non-indigenous citizen as national standard bearer, contrary to fierce and vicious opposition), the NDPL boasts, rightly and reasonably (and proudly), a real and true national character, lacking in many Liberian, political party quarters”.
Political Party Formation & Membership
Political theorists/analysts tell us that formation of political parties is a function of or depends upon what is known as “shared” or “common beliefs”, said to be defined and
grouped in three basic categories, namely:
a) Right – Socio-economic and politically conservative; holds on to past or tried experience; abhors change.
b) Center – Socio-economic and politically moderate, but nevertheless conservative; seeks the best of two worlds – Right or Left.
c) Left – socio-politically liberal and progressive; actively seeks change to better the “human condition” by trying new ideas, plans and programs; a risk-taker.
In the Liberian political context, however, we have added a new dimension: Ethnic/tribal. This is so, perhaps, because the Liberian President, throughout our history, had been and is permitted awesome, unquestioned socio-economic and political power with complete control of the other two branches of government – Judicial & Legislature – such that through illegal and unwholesome practices, he (the president) had been and is able to divert state resources to his own personal use and that of his ethnic/tribal and/or political associates. In this way, in a poor and largely un-informed political community such as ours, ethnic/tribal unity and support, now tied to economic gain, became and is a requirement in the formation of political parties and partisan politics, without consideration of “beliefs, principles or philosophy”.
Some Liberian “politicians”, for example, organize political parties to become “standard bearers” (even if his/her support is only his/her wife/husband and kids) and later president, in the effort to vandalize the state treasury to enrich himself/herself and associates, ethnic/tribal or otherwise.
Generally, membership in or of a given political party, for the “rank and file”, is a decision influenced, almost entirely, by the problem of “bread & butter” or “soup & rice” for the Liberian. The rank & file care less whether or not the party or its standard bearer is socialist, communist, capitalist, thief, or dictator, simply because (a) he/she is un-informed; and (b) very poor and needy. He/she is primarily concerned not with policy and philosophical finesse or refinement, but with the problem of economic survival.
And finally, may I warn that political party analysis - especially by those who seek to inform and educate, as well as entertain, particularly party formation, leadership and membership – is concerned, inevitably, with the forces of economics, principles of politics and socio-cultural dynamics and their complexities; they require years of concentrated study as well as years, also, of hands-on observation and reporting for clarity of thought, interpretation and reporting. Simplistic analysis/interpretation and reporting tend to fail its goal of information and education, thereby confuse eager students of politics, foreign to the given socio-cultural setting.
Bai Gbala is the Co-founder & Director of Political Affaire of NDPL