Paul Yeenie Harry ~ (September 16th 2005)
"...think about the fourteen-year war, when those whom you call statisticians were either running for their lives, or begging charity organizations for bulgur wheat, or eating “rock-your-jaw,” or digging “patanko.” When last did they conduct any accurate census, if it is ever possible?...”
"Great men are not always wise: neither do the aged understand judgment. Therefore I say: Hearken to me; I also will show my opinion." Job 32:9,10
The country is Poland. It was the winter season, something you hardly hear about in Liberia – a freezing season in which snow fall in Poland like manna from heaven for the children of Israel in the wilderness, a season in which 5:pm can be as dark as if it were 9:pm. It was on Monday night, 24 January 2005. Not only was the night silent, but also gelid. The temperature had already dropped to negative 17 degrees Celsius before the clock struck 10:pm. At 10:pm, I peeped through the window and saw flakes of snow falling silently. Suddenly, a nostalgic feeling overwhelmed me.
I began to miss the hot weather of my home country, Liberia, where the temperature was plus 31 degrees Celsius that same night. I deeply swam into the sea of nostalgia for about seven minutes, left the window and lay on my bed prone, as I tried to relieve myself of the thoughts that had overwhelmed me a few minutes earlier.
While going through this period of transformation, Sleep, the second natural thief, stole me away. But it was good, not because its touch is much better than the first natural thief which we call Death, but also because that particular night, it revealed to me an unforgettable scenario in a dream which means a great deal to me and, I believe, to my compatriots.
It was an unusual, but eventful, dream. In the dream, a journalist came to interview my Motherland, Liberia. It happened that I was sitting at the entrance of a little cottage, waiting for a heavy down pour of rain to stop so that I could find my way home. As soon as the heavy rain ceased, a man appeared, who only introduced himself as Dr. Gboenmuin Findings. He then asked me if I would be willing to be with him during the interview with Liberia. I was flabbergasted, but I chose to remain silent.
“How in this spherical world would a journalist use such an expression?” I thought to myself. “Did he mean Liberians, or a Liberian? I kept pondering over the expression: “… during the interview with Liberia.”
He passed me by and knocked on the door of the little cottage. The door opened and, before going in, the man gestured to me to join him. I unhesitatingly obeyed, not because I had understood his expression, but because I was curious to know who or what was in the little cottage, and why he was so determined to go in.
We entered the cottage, he first, and I second. The door closed automatically closed behind us. There were three vacant chairs properly disposed in the center of what looked like the meeting place of some tribal chiefs of the hinterland of Liberia. There were two chairs on the left side and one directly opposite them, at a distance of about 10 feet from the two chairs. The place was so quite that if you dropped an inflated balloon, you would hear the sound. I curiously, but bemusedly, took a round of careful look at the interior of the cottage, wanting to do my own investigation, not with questionings, but with my eyes. There was no one in sight. “Oh, my God, has this my brought me here to secretly kill me?” I thought to myself. I then began to think about how to apply the “God-give-me-my-last-strength” tactics to subdue Dr. Findings in case he had planned to kill me. As the different thoughts ran though my mind like the blood circulating through the body, a distinct and dignified voice was heard.
“Welcome, gentlemen! You may be seated.” The voice came, from a person who I could not see, but whose presence was felt and could not be denied. “Paul,” the voice continued, “I am happy you came, my son.” The voice came from a person who was undoubtedly mature, relaxed and ready to say something important. Notwithstanding, I was scared stiff, especially hearing the voice of a person who could not be seen, but recognized me by name. Had the door been left opened, I would have run back outside, but it closed behind us as soon as we entered. Frighteningly, I took my seat first, with a sigh of confusion and anxiety. Then, Dr. Findings took his seat (on my left), took out a very portable recorder and began the interview.
Dr. Findings : Hello, Liberia. I am Dr. Gboenmuin Findings, a journalist from Country Watch International. As indicated in the mail to you, I am here to interview you on a number of issues. Thanks for accepting our request to interview you. (Following the introductory remark, there were some murmurings from all corners of the cottage, but those doing the murmuring could not be seen. I faintly heard the saying of the word “disrespect,” and then the murmurings subsided.
Mama Liberia : If age means anything at all, in spite of your professional and academic achievement, don’t you think some respect should be accorded me? You introduced yourself as Dr., but you addressed me only as Liberia? (I then went to Dr. Findings’ right ear and whispered, “If she’s Liberia, apologise and address her as Mama Liberia.)
Dr. Findings : I am sorry, Mama Liberia. It was an oversight.
Mama Liberia : Ah, there you are. It’s part of your practice. You broadcast or print some information that isn’t correct, and you later say sorry and try to give the correct version under a term you call “erratum.” (Mama Liberia said jokingly) Anyway, I forgive you, but be careful next time.
Dr. Findings : Thanks, Mama Liberia. To start with, how old are you?
Mama Liberia : Well, it’s a two-way scenario. Firstly, if you are referring to my natural existence, then I will tell you that I am as old as Earth. I have been in existence since the event of “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.” On the other hand, if you are asking about my modern political birth or existence, then I will tell you that I am almost 158 years.
Dr. Findings : Wow! Interesting! Actually, I am interested in your modern political existence. So, if you are almost 158 years, then it means you are the first independent country in Africa. Am I right?
Mama Liberia : No, you are not right. My older sister is called Ethiopia. She is the first independent country in Africa, and I am the first independent republic in Africa. There is a difference between the two, but I see most of you journalists and writers make mistake on this simple fact. I have always had a republican form since I was politically reborn. However, when my sister got her independence (2000 BC), she had something like a monarchical form. Remember that every independent republic is a country, but not every independent country is a republic. It is also important to point out that being the first independent republic in Africa, it follows that I am the first black republic in Africa, but not the first black republic in the world. I am the second, actually. The first is Haiti (She got her independence on 1 January 1804).
Dr. Findings : So, when did you gain your independence, exactly?
Mama Liberia : Well, it seems perfectly reasonable to me to clarify a point at this juncture, before answering your question. Realistically, I did not GAIN my independence; I DECLARED my independence. These are two different situations that must be fully understood. When I was founded, I became independent at that moment, but most people did not really know about it, or better, refused to know about it or recognize the fact that I was. As a result of this ignorance and disdain for my status, some of them carried out ill treatment against me. When this was discovered, I officially announced, or better declared, on 26 July 1847, that I was an independent woman and, still, I am. Unlike my other sisters like Nigeria, Ghana, Guinea, Sierra Leone and Zimbabwe, I did not have to gain independence because, in the first place, I did not lose it. They had to fight to gain their independence because they had lost it to some cousins, some of the children of one of our mother’s sisters. Actually, our mother has six sisters – Europe, Asia, North America, South America, Australia and Antarctica – and it was the children of Europe who took away their independence. I hope this point is clear!
Dr. Findings : Thanks for the clarification. Are you proud of yourself, being the oldest independent republic in Africa?
Mama Liberia : Of course, not only because of the respectability it offers, but also because of the responsibilities that go with it. For example, being independent afforded me the opportunity to fight for the independence of my sisters. Moreover, I fully participated in the formation of internationally and regionally reputable organizations like the defunct League of Nations. I am also a founding member of the United Nations. I spearheaded the formation of the Organization of African Unity (OAU), now the African Union (AU). Think about the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) and the Mano River Union (MRU). I was also able to sign many internationally protocols and agreements. Remember, also, that I contributed peace-keeping troops to Congo in the 1960s. Besides, I, along with some of my sisters, took the Apartheid government of South Africa to the World Court in The Hague, to account for its misdeeds against the children of my sister.
Dr. Findings : If I may ask, how many children have you had altogether?
Mama Liberia : I have had more than Five million children. Some have died and some are living. At present, I have about four million children. They are scattered all over the world.
Dr. Findings : That’s interesting! So, how many grandchildren and great grandchildren do you have?
Mama Liberia : I have not, not because I don’t understand the difference, but because I do not demarcate in this sense. What you call grandchildren or great grandchildren, I consider children. I give birth to each one of them. They are all mine.
Dr. Findings : Let’s go back to something you said a few minutes ago. Statistics show that your population, which you call your children, is actually less than 3 millions. Notwithstanding this, you are claiming that you have about 4 million children. Who is telling the truth, you or the statisticians?
Mama Liberia : Don’t you know that population count is never one-hundred-percent accurate? A census is never true the day before, the day on, or the day after, it is made public. Changes, especially the unexpected, happen every second. For example, when some of my children are visiting my other sisters, that is when, what you call census, takes place. The last national census took place in 1984. Since that time, it’s more than twenty years. Then think about the fourteen-year war, when those whom you call statisticians were either running for their lives, or begging charity organizations for bulgur wheat, or eating “rock-your-jaw,” or digging “patanko.” When last did they conduct any accurate census, if it is ever possible? I who have my children know exactly how many there are. I know the exact number of those who died at birth. I know the exact number of those who were killed by their brothers and sisters. I know how many are out there, visiting other sisters and aunts. I know how many have died and how many are still alive. So, your question about who is right about the exact number of my children, which you call population, I will conclude by asking you a question based on common sense. Who knows exactly how many human beings there are on earth, God or man? (Dr. Findings laughed and went to his next question.)
Dr. Findings : We have observed that since you were formed as a nation, your children continue to suffer. There have been no improvements in your entire life. People recognize and talk only about your great age, but not your great achievements, simply because you do not have any. You are named among the poorest of Dieu’s creation. Aren’t you ashamed of yourself in that, as old as you are, you have done nothing to better off your children? (Before Dr. Findings could end this question, Mama Liberia had already had her index finger pointed at the journalist, poised to point out something essential.)
Mama Liberia : Do you realize that you have just committed three crimes on both what you have said and how you have said it?
Dr. Findings : No, I don’t see how I have committed three crimes in what I have said, or in how I have said it. Could you point out my first crime? (At the end of Dr. Findings’ challenge to Mama Liberia, she laughed and …)
For now, allow me to rest my pen, but watch out: the dream continues in the next part.
About the author:
Paul Yeenie Harry is a Liberian; he lives in Poland. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org