Charles W. Brumskine Delivers Liberty Party’s Independence Day Speech
Charles W Brumskine
Political Leader; Liberty Party
(July 23, 2015)
My fellow Liberians
As we mark one hundred and sixty eight years of the declaration of our nation’s independence from the American Colonization Society, we are grateful to God to be alive.
These times in which we now live, may well be among the most important times in the history of our country, because we are embarked on the task of remaking our country. I believe future generations of Liberians will look back on this period of our history and judge us by whether we measured up to the task of genuine nation-building in an effort to make Liberia a prosperous, just and fairer nation, or whether we continued with the “same old, same old” Liberian way; a path that has led us down the spiral of social and economic inequality, entrenched poverty, and unabated crises, which eventually led to a civil war.
As we grapple with the challenges of these times, the most salient question before us continues to be: how do we fundamentally transform our country in ways that ensure that the dividends of peace and the benefits of our pursuit of democratic governance are widely shared, transformative, and sustainable. In other words, how do we engender changes that will visibly and meaningfully impact the lives of all of our people for good, starting with this generation of Liberians and extending, with far reaching significances, to posterity? Nothing will define us—this generation—more than how we address that question, particularly in view of our recent history.
During these post-conflict years, how we interact with one another, how we manage the abundant resources of our country, whether we continue the mindset of the winner takes all in our political system, whether we allow the continuing of the cancer of public corruption to permeate every aspect of national existence, whether we allow elitism and cliquishness to remain the order of the day, whether we place Liberia first in all of our national endeavors, will all determine if the civil war was simply an interruption of the old and failed Liberia, or whether we have learned the lessons of the war and its causes, and are now determined to set Liberia on a new trajectory of genuine national Reconciliation, Reform, Recovery, and Rebuilding.
Now, like never before, is the time for us, as a nation and a people to unshackle ourselves from the many forms of slavery that have kept us underdeveloped—the lack of knowledge, economic servitude, poor health, and lack of accountability, among others—those things that have kept us divided and ever conflict-prone.
During the 2002 Liberia Independence Day Celebration in New York City, New York, USA, I spoke to a group of Liberians of the magnitude of the challenges that our country faced, and that we continue to face even as I speak. I said, in part:
“… our task today is by far greater and the challenges more daunting, than it was for the founding fathers. The challenge of twenty first century Liberia is neither to create a home for a certain group of people, nor to demarcate territorial boundaries, but to develop all groups of Liberians into a community of people, to build a nation we can all call home – a place where the rights of every individual are protected, and responsibilities of all are clearly defined.”
The fact that those challenges have remained unfulfilled and illusive is common knowledge. For more than a century and a half of our nation’s history, Liberians remained divided into classifications, such as, “Country” and “Congo,” with the use of misnomers, such as “Americo-Liberians” versus “Natives” or “Indigenous.” An attempt to address this divisive politics through the Military Coup d’état of April 12, 1980, created other problems that eventually led to a full-blown civil war; the civil war in turn aggravated our divisions and exacerbated our lack of a common national purpose and identity.
The country’s 14-year civil war turned neighbors into enemies, strained ethnic relationships, destroyed the country’s meager infrastructure, and left us a seriously wounded people. In addition to the nation’s historical divides, the war placed Liberians into new categories of victims and victimizers, cannon fodders and masterminds, and religious zealots. This national tragedy robbed our nation of the little progress it had made. Today, the majority of our people are less healthy and a generation of Liberians is still without the opportunity to obtain the education and marketable skills they need to make a decent living. For the first time in our history, parents are generally more educated than their children!
But the words of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. to his fellow Americans more than half a Century ago, are as applicable to us today, as they were to them then. He said,
“History has thrust upon our generation an indescribably important destiny–to complete a process of democratization which our nation has too long developed too slowly, but which is our most powerful weapon for world respect and emulation. How we deal with this crucial situation will determine our moral health as individuals, our cultural health as a region (and) our political health as a nation …”
That we need to remake our country cannot be in dispute. In fact, it was in furtherance of this goal that Liberty Party was formed. So, as we celebrate the 168th anniversary of our independence, it is only proper that Liberty Party once again publically expresses its commitment to work through a cohesive national policy process, inspiring and encouraging all of our people to work towards realizing the true greatness for which our country is destined; our better days are still ahead. We can and must build a truly unified and fairer nation, with liberty and justice for all; for it is in this that our potential for greatness lies.
Let us be reminded that we are not a people without a history. Our history has been long and complicated, influenced by the ethos of our founding in the 19th century and the legacy of international developments, including those of post-World War II Cold War. An independent Liberia proudly stood and assisted other African countries to free themselves of the yoke of colonialism, as the wind of change swept across Africa. Liberia welcomed and assisted the young Nelson Mandela, Joshua Nkomo, Kwame Nkrumah, and so on and on. Although Liberia played a significant role in accelerating the decolonization of Africa, beginning in 1957, with Ghana’s independence, it is how well we establish justice in Liberia and provide for the general welfare of all Liberians, that will tell the story of who we truly are.
Whether it was the formation of the defunct League of Nations, the United Nations, Organization of African Unity (now, African Union), the Economic Community of West African States, or the Mano River Union, Liberia was, in each case, a founding member. We worked along with our allies, to ensure victory in both World Wars I and II; we helped our great historic friend, the United States of America, win the Cold War; along with Ethiopia, we took the first step through the international legal system to dismantle apartheid and change South Africa; we supported the struggle of SWAPO and the right of self-determination for the people of the then South West Africa, now Namibia; and we were among the first to send peacekeepers to the Congo in 1960, the UN’s first peacekeeping mission. But it is how well we transform our country, and maintain internal peace and stability that will position Liberia within the community of nations.
Liberians are called to remember that we are a great nation and a good people! We must not allow ourselves to forever be defined by our immediate past—a war-ravaged country and a bitterly divided people. That period in our national life is not one that we are proud of, it is certainly a scar on our national image, but it was an aberration, and nothing more.
Nevertheless, we cannot afford to continue in the illusions of hope against the obvious and plain truth; we can no longer continue to be a people who have eyes, when we see not; have ears, but we hear not.
So let us also remind ourselves, as we celebrate these 168th years, as a sovereign nation, that the promise of our nation, at its founding, remains largely unfulfilled: the exercise of the individual freedom and the rights of the majority of our people remain constrained by ignorance; the promised pursuit of happiness is inhibited by abject poverty, and opportunities for the exercise and improvement of “those faculties which impart to man his dignity” remain but a remote dream for too many of us. The national bond of unity of purpose and singleness of mind, as a people, is not as strong as it should be for the building of a nation-state; our heroes and heroines, whose sacrifices and examples, should spur us to complete the work that was begun, remain owned and revered sectionally, not nationally. In short, we have much work to do to strengthen our oneness, as a people and a nation. But our experience from the Ebola crisis bears witness of the fact that we can do it!
The Ebola crisis gave birth to an attitudinal shift in our collective interactions, which must be continued in all of our national endeavors. In the midst of the fight against the deadly Ebola Virus Disease, Liberians roused a spirit of unity and advocacy in their communities; without waiting for aid, Liberians stood tall and collectively began to fight the common enemy with great success. We succeeded against the Ebola Virus Disease, because Liberians acted without consideration of one’s ethnicity, economic, social, political or religious persuasion.
Because Ebola threatened our existence as a people, the abating of centuries of cultural practices—hugging, hand-shaking, visiting each other unannounced—was not too difficult a sacrifice to make; because Liberians saw Ebola, as an enemy, whose mission was too dangerous to fathom, communities came together with a common purpose: to make our society whole again. It was this fortitudinous spirit—that Liberian spirit—which was mustered up by the various communities of our body politic, and made the difference in the fight that saw Liberia declared Ebola free.
What Liberians demonstrated during that difficult time—a sense of belonging and oneness, a determination to be selfless and work for the greater good of all—must characterize all that we do moving forward, beyond the 168 years of our existence. Whether the enemy is corruption or low self-esteem, indiscipline or procrastination, abuse of power or discriminatory application of the rule of law; we can overcome them all, and we will!
We must commit to creating a new society, where every Liberian can hope to enjoy the benefits of all the resources, with which God has blessed our country, believing, as we say in Liberty Party, that, “Everybody da somebody.” Liberia must take a new direction—a direction that offers the greatest hope of empowering the Liberian people; a national reform that will establish justice, ensure domestic peace, and promote the general welfare of all of our people.
In closing, I wish all—the President and her Government, fellow members of the opposition, and my fellow Liberians—a safe, reflective and joyous Independence Day.
“An ma Libiyan pepol, ma ’26 on yur, ho!”
Thank you, God bless.