Editor's Note: Despised, hounded, massacred and having suffered ethnic cleansing at the hands of Taylor's rebels, National Patriot Front of Liberia, and his currentdemocraticallyelected government, Liberians from Grand Gedeh County have unfairly carried the burden of collective guilt because of their ethnic (Krahn) affiliation with dictator Samuel Kanyon Doe, Liberia's former Head of State. But Mr. John Collins, Sr., a Liberian meteorologist, says that despite all the suffering Grand Gedeans have endured, they have survived and have cause to celebrate. Mr. Collins made the remarks when he served as keynote speaker during the Inaugural ceremony of the Grand Gedeh Association in the Americas in Providence, Rhode Island, this past Labor Day weekend. The full text of Mr. Collins' speech follows below:
Let me, firstly, extend my profound gratitude to the Inaugural Committee for my preferment as the guest speaker on this occasion, marking the ushering into office a new corpse of officers of the National Administration of the Grand Gedeh Association in the Americas.
Looking back just a decade into the existence of Grand Gedeh Association, the time of our own involvement with the organization, I must say we have come a long way. With ever growing challenges and our desire to incessantly pursue the goals for which this organization was born, no topic is more appropriate to me at this time of our journey than that which relates to our wellbeing. I will therefore speak to you briefly on the topic: CAUSE FOR CELEBRATION.
What is there to be happy about, not to mention celebration and festivity when everything about us and around us at home seems to degenerate morally, socially, economically and politically, one may ask the speaker. To answer this question, a parallel must be drawn from where we were just a little over a decade ago, to where we are now and where we hope to go. In doing so, I shall reflect on some past events of indelible memory, not with the purpose to refresh the wounds that were inflicted upon us, nor to recite the calamities that have caused us much pain and suffering but to cherish the courage, steadfastness and resilience of a people, the Grand Gedeans.
At some point in time during the administration of President Samuel K. Doe, a Grand Gedean, it was common knowledge in the street and elsewhere, that the people known as Grand Gedeans and their county would, sooner or later, be 'history'; that is, of the past and in oblivion. Amidst confusion and nonchalance, there were many interpretations to this repeated public utterance. Some took it to mean redrawing of future political map and demarcation and geographical re-distribution of population. For others, it was street talk and absolute nonsense, at least, we thought! But within three months following the outbreak in 1989 of what is to be known today as a brutal civil war, it was obvious not only to Grand Gedeans, but also to all Liberians and the world that a genocide was underway against an ethnicity non other than us, the Grand Gedeans, particularly the Krahn people. Thus, by providence we reacted in a manner consistent with survival when an unorganized exodus of fleeing people from our homeland and elsewhere in Liberia entered neighboring countries as refugees. Those who remained in Liberia, paid dearly with their blood, as villages and towns were being destroyed by our pursuers. That was the situation and this is where we were.
Today, as we speak, not only have we survived the war but also, Gedeans have begun to gradually return to our homeland. In spite of the loss of a sizable portion of our county to a new county, Grand Gedeh County remains and continues to be an integral political subdivision of Liberia. In addition, our presence here today in these halls and on this occasion is indicative that we, as a people, refuse to be victims but masters over evil and adversity, a great CAUSE TO CELEBRATE!
Generally, the Liberian civil war is said to have lasted seven years, from 1989 to 1996. For us Grand Gedeans, it seems to be ongoing, as we witnessed the Camp Johnson Road incident in 1998 when hundreds of innocent Grand Gedeans were massacred and the continuous imprisonment of prominent Grand Gedeans by a government they helped to put in office in quest of peace, not to mention the harassment, intimidation of citizens and the havoc being perpetuated by the government security forces in the county. The good news is, the ability of that government to continue to abuse us and make mischief is being curtailed by the pressure from us and from within, climaxed by UN sanctions. A CAUSE TO CELEBRATE!
When I look back eleven years ago at the circumstances under which my family and I entered this country and the difficulties we encountered in our struggle to adjust ourselves to a new society and environment, I am filled with ecstasy and exuberance for the opportunity I have had to educate my children for a better future. Undoubtedly, many of you if not all, have had varying experiences and are sharing similar feelings. Besides overseeing the education of our children, there are many, many Grand Gedeans among us, who have made great strides for professional advancement. One of such a proud example is our president, Mr. William Nyanue, who has come from a displaced refugee to a practicing civil engineer in the U.S., not to mention our vice president, Mr. David Gbortoe, who has also come from a struggling student to a dedicated quality assurance representative for a major manufacturer. Many others are achieving great successes in medicine, education, business and law, to mention just a few. This is where we are now as Grand Gedeans. A CAUSE TO CELEBRATE!
The depth and duration of our celebration will depend largely upon
where we go from now and how we arrive at our destiny. My message to
you therefore is, to choose the path of a nation building together
with other Liberians. We can do so only with open minds and with the
spirit of reconciliation and forgiveness. In speaking about
forgiveness in a recent Independence Day speech delivered here in the
City of Providence, Counselor Charles Brumskine said, and I quote:
Even those who killed our people during the civil war are
victims, unquote. The truth cannot be any further from this, given
the prevailing level of ignorance in our society and the fact that,
the notorious child soldiers, the killers, were drugged by their
abductors, makes them victims, who too must be forgiven.
Where we feel unwanted and rejected because of collective guilt by
public opinion, let us dispel the misconception through demonstration
of positive attitude towards those who disdain us. When the Negroes,
now African Americans were faced with similar situation and complained
that they were being stereotyped and despised by the white man, George
Washington Carver, the great Negro advocate said to his people:
know to our advantage that the white man likes to eat eggs and drink
milk. Go therefore and raise chickens and cattle. When the white man
comes to buy your eggs and milk, he will not only speak to you but
will call you sirs and madams. Like Carver, I say to you, let us
encourage and empower our people in the villages to return to the soil
as a means for self-sufficiency and economic independence.
Let me also seize this opportunity to challenge you, Mr. President and officers to include in your program of actions, a campaign to bring pressure to bear on the Taylor government to halt the destruction of our forests and wanton exploitation of our natural resources. No crime against humanity besides the deprivation of life and liberty is greater than the denial of the citizens their future. We cannot successfully build a nation without guaranteeing to children, our children's children and succeeding generations we call posterity, access to all of our resources, natural and acquired.
I am proud; Mr. President that the new administration has begun to put the right foot forward. The recent press release, demanding, as it is our right to do so, the unconditional release of all Grand Gedeans and other Liberians now lingering in the prisons of Liberia on charges that are reminiscent of political repression. This is a manifestation that you are indeed about to work on behalf of our people. The freedom of every Liberian, be it Grand Gedean or not, is the freedom of all of us. If one Liberian is not free, our freedom as a people is at stake.
Regrettably, while many monumental tasks lie ahead of us, our progress is at a snail pace, because with our energy, our zeal and determination to succeed, we lack a central element - UNITY. I see us as good crisis managers, not as a united people. We seem to show concerns for one another only when we are in crisis and our backs are against the wall. We fail to understand that when we are united, we can prevent many of the crises. We capitalize on petite jealousies, individual differences and imaginary grievances. All of these facts point to one thing: We have an enemy in our midst and that enemy is ourselves.
Fearful and much disturbing is, Grand Gedeans spying on Grand Gedeans and other Liberians as agents of the current government of Liberia. Credible sources in Liberia reveal that the government of Liberia spends more money from its ill affordable revenues on agents in the City of Philadelphia than any other city in the United States. We fear not because we have something to hide. We fear because when there is nothing to report, these agents of destruction, will ultimately result to lying on innocent citizens to appease their employers and to justify their upkeep. Our message to those individuals is clear and simple: Amend, otherwise you will have no place in the new era.
My fellow Grand Gedeans, during the past few minutes, we have attempted to lay out the map of our journey - our past, our present and our future, with the hope to create a better understanding and appreciation, in our desire to rebuild our country and county. The bitter past we must remember only as guidance against recurrence of our mistakes. Otherwise, we must put it behind us and move forward. The present, we must embrace with courage to meet the challenges and the future, we must together begin to build the bridges to a new destiny and a new Liberia, reserved not only for Grand Gedeans but also for all Liberians. I thank you.