By: Augustine N. Myers – The Executive Director of the Liberian History, Education and Development, Inc. (LIHEDE), Dr. Syrulwa Somah, has given an independent and a historical highlight of the independence of the Republic of Liberia.
Dr. Somah who is also an Associate Professor of Environmental Health and Occupational Safety & Health at the North Carolina Agricultural and Technical State University in the United States, was speaking at a special gathering of citizens hailing from Margibi County, known as the Gibi District Development Associations [GDDA].
He spoke on the topic: “The True Meaning of Independence: Reflection of Our Yesterdays and Vision for Our Tomorrow”, at the well attended Program of Gibians, held on the Pipeline Road in Paynesville, on Tuesday, July 26, 2011 on the occasion marking Liberia’s 164th Independence celebration
Regarding the founding of the Liberian nation, Dr. Somah said the core problems faced at the infancy of the nation-building process should not be forgotten.
He devoted his presentation to five key six and one major arguments, with his first point that Pre-Liberia was a long-developed civilization and independent kingdom.
His second point is that some of the current social, economic, cultural, and political gaps in Liberia today are a direct result of the colonial past of our nation, especially tracing back to the U.S.-based organizations that started sending free blacks back to Liberia starting in the early 1800s.
His third point is that the Liberian nation came into existence almost by accident, because, according to him, it was not the intention of the American Colonization Society or ACS, state organizations and shareholders to create a nation that would embrace all the returning settlers and ethnic groups of Liberia.
His fourth point is that there was a major divide between the settlers that ran the first colonial government and the rest of the nation, which laid the groundwork for our continuing civil divides.
His fifth point is that even though Liberians were able to declare an early ‘independence,’ they never properly learn to defend their own democracy from their own failings.
He said taking the points into consideration, Liberians must realize that any efforts to bridge the current gaps in Liberian society must include Liberian studies to educate the people about ourselves.
According to him, when Liberians talk about independence, Pre-Liberia was indeed independent and had more than a 300-year-old Liberian (Melegueta, Grain, Paradise) Civilization that traded with the Egyptian Pharaoh Necho in 600 BC, and Hanno of Cathage in 520 BC.
Dr. Somah pointed out that the melegueta pepper was said to have been an extremely valuable trade commodity at the time for its culinary and medicinal qualities, so the name “Grain Paradise” or “Grain Coast” came about for the Liberian coast, as this was the principal item of the barter trade that existed during that era.
He further disclosed that Pre-Liberia was independent because Liberian forefathers traded with the Americas via ship and plied the Atlantic Ocean as far as 1500 B.C. He noted that this is known because records of Aggrey beads, bronze, metal tools, and the discovery of scaled hard brick clay burial pyramids and sphinx images, an image in the form of a lion lying with a man’s head, were discovered in present-day Paynesville City in the later part of 1972. This establishes a Pre-Liberia-Egyptian connection to global trade and travel, or in other words, evidence of a rich civilization, “the Liberian Historian said”.
In viewing Liberia’s history, Dr. said it is very importance to understand how Liberia was independent and never colonized, and how Liberians came to celebrate July 26 as their independence.
According to him, the Liberian nation came into existence almost by accident, because it was not the intention of the American Colonization Society (ACS) to create an independent nation.
He said the Liberian foundation was a non-monolithic philosophy in 1822, and there were actually three kinds of settlement agencies [ACS, Proprietary, and State sponsored] that populated Liberia.
Dr. Somah further disclosed that one way the nation-making of Liberia was unplanned was that the ACS, state organizations and shareholders never had it in mind to embrace all the returning settlers and the ethnic groups of Liberia.
He said Liberia had to ‘declare premature independence’ to the world due to lack of respect for the ACS, and European imposition of their meaning of independence.
According to him, Liberia had cause to celebrate because it was in the face of three colonial powers, such as Great Britain, France and Germany, the Nation became a united people, “imagining the bravery, courage and perseverance”.
Meanwhile Dr. Somah has questioned the true independence of Liberia, due to the Nation’s inability to do so much for itself.
He pointed out that six years after the civil war, the military of the Country is considered otherwise, headed by a non-Liberian general and unable to protect Liberians as a Nation.
According to him, being independence requires that Liberians do all within their reach to produce their own staple food such as rice, beans, cassava, eddoes, sugarcane, the four main crops of our nation.
He said, the key argument is that Liberians should be able to control their belly and stop the heavy dependence on outsiders for daily bread.
Dr. Somah said Liberians cannot call themselves independent people when all the Nation is seating on massive wealth but drowning in corruption and abuses because of mean spirited citizens surrounded our national president.
He said Independence simply means total emancipation that empowers the inner individual to shine and see Liberia in its full cultural, political, economical, and spiritual regalia, but noted that Liberians cannot claim independence when coup-leaders and failed politicians occupy the Nation’s higher officers, destroy the institutions, siphon the Country’s wealth, and force the people into refugee camps.
Dr. Somah further said, true independence and freedom can only exist in doing what’s right, seeing everything, and thinking our own thoughts and acceptance of a higher discipline.