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07.06.2017 Feature Article

Make Archbishop Michael K. Francis, Albert Porte And D. Tweh’s Birthdays National Holidays

There is a reason why people are honored and honor in itself has many uses, all of them good when the recipients are deserving of them. If you are called a man or woman of honor, you are respected. If someone honors you, they recognize and award you for your achievements. The term honor has always been a word used to describe men and women of high moral worth or great achievements.

The late Archbishop Michael Kpakala Francis, veteran journalist Albert Porte and political leader Welleh Dihwho Twe were men of high moral worth or great achievements in Liberia. These deceased men are more than deserving to be honored in a unique and enchanting manner in Liberia, and by all Liberians. Therefore, we urge President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf to declare the birthday of the late Archbishop Francis as an observable national holiday, and the birthdays of the late Albert Porte and the late Welleh Dihwho Twe as optional observable national holidays. We also call on the Liberian national legislature to unequivocally support this move with unequivocal and immediate effect.

In addition, we urge President Sirleaf and the Liberian legislature (the Senate and the House of Representatives) to also rename the following streets in honor of these great Liberian patriots and moral conscience:

  1. Ashmun Street should be renamed the Archbishop Michael K. Francis Boulevard
  2. Camp Johnson should be renamed the Albert Porte Street
  3. Gurley Street should be renamed the Dihwho Twe Avenue

Archbishop Michael Kpakala Francis, born February 12, 1936 in Margibi County, Liberia was the Archbishop Emeritus of Monrovia in the Roman Catholic Church.

Francis became a Catholic priest in 1963 and eventually became Archbishop of Monrovia in 1981, but resigned the position for reasons of age and illness in February 2011. He was the first priest and bishop to institute the forefront advocacy group, the Catholic Justice and Peace Commission (J.P.C.) in Liberia. The commission was organized to defend human rights and civil liberties in the war ravish country under then President Charles Gankay Taylor who is currently in The Hague for war crimes charges committed in neighboring Sierra Leone. Prior, Archbishop Francis, as a priest and later on as a bishop and archbishop, spoke against abuses and corruption in previous Liberian administrations under President Tolbert, President Doe, Interim President Sawyer, and Chairman Gyude Bryant of the Liberia National Transitional Government.

Also, in a nation where moral conscience elapsed for decades, the Archbishop was the only hope and the moral pedestal for a lost generation. Directly and indirectly, he mentored and inspired a corps of Liberian civil society crusaders as well as human rights advocates and lawyers that include respected voices like Samuel Kofi Woods, Tiawon Gongloe amongst others. Also, among those he personally influenced include current Liberian chief justice Francis Kokpor, Monsignor Andrew J. Karnley, bishop of the Catholic diocese of Cape Palmas, Monsignor Anthony Borwah, bishop of the Catholic diocese of Gbarnga, and J. Nhinson Williams, a Liberian philosopher, moral conscience and an accomplished public policy professional.

Francis was a recipient of the Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights Award in 1999, given each year to an individual whose courageous activism is at the heart of the human rights movement and in the spirit of Robert F. Kennedy's vision and legacy. Archbishop Francis died on May 19, 2013.

Investigative Journalist Albert Porte, a political journalist born on January 16, 1906 in Crozerville, Liberia is regarded as the pillar of investigative journalism, media freedom, community psychology activism and social change in Liberia. Before his political journalism career, Porte was a public school teacher. He later served as executive secretary of the National Teachers Association, and edited a local daily, the NTA Bulletin.

Porte's political activist career began in the 1920s when he distributed pamphlets that took the True Whig Party single-party-state government to task for alleged unconstitutional use of presidential and legislative powers.

He published articles in the Crozerville Observer, as well as other Liberian print media and foreign press. His most famous publications are the leaflets and pamphlets Thinking about Unthinkable Things—The Democratic Way (1967), Liberianization or Gobbling Business? (1975), Explaining Why (1976), Thoughts on Change (1977) and The Day Monrovia Stood Still (1979). Porte was imprisoned multiple times, and harassed and hounded by the government from the 1920s.

In 1946, he became the first Liberian journalist to be imprisoned by the late President William V.S Tubman, a former Liberian dictator. The first major movement toward civil society in Liberia is said to be traced back to Porte's activities.

In the 1970s, Porte took aim at then Finance Minister Stephen Allen Tolbert, the brother of President William R. Tolbert and co-founder of the first Liberian-owned multimillion-dollar conglomerate, the Mesurado Group of Companies. He accused the minister of using his public office stature to advance his business interests, penning a piece called "Liberianization of Gobbling Business?" Minister Tolbert filed a libel lawsuit and won a US$250,000 judgment against Porte in a case presided over by Supreme Court Justice James A. A. Pierre, the father-in-law of Minister Tolbert. The resulting public outrage led to the creation of what is considered Liberia's first civil society organization, Citizens of Liberia in Defense of Albert Porte (COLIDAP). Porte died in 1986.

Political Leader Welleh Dihwho Twe born April 14, 1979 to Kru parents, is regarded as the bedrock of Liberia’s quest for democracy and participatory governance where the voices of the governed are heard and represented. According to historical sources, Twe, the first native Liberian to achieve pristine education from Rhodes Island University as well as Columbia and Harvard universities in the early 1900 (Wreh, The Love of Liberty, 1976, p. 48 & Dunn & Holsoe, Historical Dictionary of Liberia, 1985, p. 177) started his vision for an inclusive, transparent and accountable Liberia in 1912 when President Daniel E. Howard appointed him to head a special commission to investigate and settle an Anglo-Liberian boundary dispute in the western province of Liberia. Sources say, it was in this position that he gained first-hand experience regarding the treatment of African-Liberians by the ruling elite.

In addition, while serving as a member of the Liberian House of Representative from Montserrado County in 1927, Twe introduced several legislations (such as an act or law to “abolish the forced labor activities, the pawn and porter systems practiced by the government and the ruling class”) that were considered controversial by the ruling elite. Twe was also responsible for the League of Nations’ investigation of President Charles D. B. King’s Administration accused for its involvement among other things, forced labor practices in Liberia.

Twe’s actions and advocacy forced the resignations of President King and his Vice President Allen Yancy. Subsequently, Twe ideologically challenged all succeeding presidents of Liberia and is considered the architect of Tubman’s famous Unification Policy even though he had several fall-outs with Tubman because of his misrule.

In his quest for an inclusive nation, demanding the full participation of the grassroots and rural Liberia, Twe and others formed the first peoples’ political party called the Reformation Party of which he (Twe) was selected its standard bearer and challenged President Tubman in 1951-52. Twe is undoubtedly the beacon of political consciousness in Liberia. Twe died in 1961.

Prepared and Released by:
Moving Liberia Forward – An independent and nonpartisan Public Policy Action Committee for a better Liberia. Jones Nhinson Williams - for Organizing Committee

By “Moving Liberia Forward”
Jones Nhinson Williams
Organizing Committee -MLF

Jones Nhinson Williams
Jones Nhinson Williams, © 2017

This author has authored 38 publications on Modern Ghana.
Author column: JonesNhinsonWilliams

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