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11.06.2017 Feature Article

When Two Brothers Disagreed: The Country-Congo Debate

Alphonso Nyenuh and I are good friends, and I consider him a brother. He is one of the few Liberians with credibility and integrity in the truest sense of these words. I also find sincere.

But we disagreed on the Country-Congo debate, not because we dislike each other, but because we share divergent views, perhaps on its impacts, history, and the circumstances before us.

Brother Alphonso says we should put the Country-Congo debate in historical context and that we should not sweep it under the table just like that because some people have lived it. True. No doubt about that.

But here is my response to my dear friend and brother, a man for whom I have the highest esteem.

Brother Alphonso Nyenuh, you raised significant and convincing points, and the facts remain that we cannot, and no one should negate history.

However, there is no legitimate history to reflect at this time in Liberia, especially with regards to the upcoming October 2017 presidential and legislative elections.

You and I are from the south-eastern region of Liberia, and based on historical tradition, we are 'Doede' or historical kinsmen.

You know and I know that when President Samuel K. Doe, Sr. was in power, despite his limited education, he and his colleagues were moving Liberia forward developmentally. The entire People’s Redemption Council (PRC) and government was comprised of the so-called native sons, and daughters.

The very people that formatted chaos in and amongst the PRC members were the same native people who posed as student activists and ‘progressives.’

Granted, Doe, Quinwonkpa, Podier, Weh-Syen and others were not educated, they got no help from their so-called power-greedy, wealth-seeking dishonest country brothers and sisters that made up the PAL and MOJA. Aren’t some of these same people in Liberia where bureaucrats make US$15,000 a month when our people don’t food to eat? In fact, some of them are part of the very government where public theft and inhumane are the order of business.

All that aside, we have had a century of inter-marriages such that there is no one in Liberia today that can claim to be 'Congo' and yet we are reduced to a non- existent reality or mental construct that have no place in the age of science, technology, engineering and math.

That too aside, look at the current Liberian government and please critically review the entire Liberian legislature ––the seat and mother of corruption, greed, lies, dishonesty, dysfunction, abuse of power and national disgrace–– and tell me how many 'Congo' people you find there .

President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf is not a Congo woman, she is Gola mixed with Kru and German. That means, like you and I, part of her is from the south-eastern region of Liberia. Her Vice President Joseph Nyumah Boakai (a decent and good family man) is not Congo. He is Kissi from Lofa County. The leader of the senate, Armah Jallah and the speaker of the House, are all not Congo people. These two are real country people from remote villages where there are no modern latrines, clinics, electricity, good schools etc. I bet some women in those villages died from childbirth every time, and kids there are exceptionally malnourished, and not in school.

The chief Justice, the minister of justice, and many other officials in the chop I chop administration are all not Congo people. By the way, the minister of justice and I from the same county––River Gee, previously lower Grand Gedeh, and we are Grebo. He knows and I know that there is no good road to travel there. No electricity, no safe drinking water, no good clinics, or hospital, not jobs, and no good schools. The county is one of the remotest in the nation, yet its son is the ‘Attorney General’ and minister of justice of the land where officials steal national wealth and they go basically unpunished.

The folks involved in the Sable Mining corruption saga, the lawmakers that wanted to sell the soul of Liberia to foreign criminals posing as investors, are not Congo people. Alex Tyler is from Bomi County. Few years ago, he couldn’t afford his rent, but today he is millionaire, not because he engaged some efforts in the private sector but because he became speaker of the House of Representative and he effective used that position to steal from the people he supposed to represent. As for Counsellor Varney Sherman, only God knows! We can leave it at that.

The Maritime’s chief, James Kollie of the now famous 'Kolliegate,' is not Congo man. In fact, like you and me, he is a damm country man in the real sense of the word. This guy comes from Zorzor, north of the country where the roads are terrible and food security and unemployment are severe.

Besides, this reduction to categorization is not just limited to the mental construct of de-classifying one another as 'Congo’ people and ‘Country’ people.

Here is why we hear frequently about this: mental de-orientation, a kind of unknown intellectual incapacitation. When incompetent people can't find a way out, they call other people aliens, such saying someone is non- Liberians or foreigner simply because those individuals have names that do not reflect what they want or are used to.

This is the situation here, and knowing what you represent and what your beliefs and value-system are, I don't think you and I should allow that small set of people that think backward in history to derail our country's prospects, especially so when Liberia is 380 degree behind in infrastructural development, social advancement and in the unleashing of human potential.

Those who are preaching this Country-Congo divide do not have the mental stamina to relate Liberia to the level of a global debate where everyone is talking about balanced budget, the use of solar energy to power a nation, and the creation of a knowledge-based economy etc.

There are people in Liberia who say other Liberians are Togolese, Sierra Leoneans, Ghanaians, Nigerians, Guineans etc. Labeling people to support their political comfort.

The question is: when are we going to stop these unhelpful tendencies that add no value to the global debate of job creation, advanced manufacturing, bio-medical research, and the unstoppable wave of industry and occupational changes going on due to information technology and advances in science and engineering?

Since 2006, the country has been run like a guinea pig race where few so-called native people became millionaires over night while neglecting to be true to common decency and basic moral values.

Decency requires that when one disagrees with something or a system then he or she should speak out, or quit. That's what being a man or woman of integrity means. But these people stay twelve years in this failed government that produce no collective benefits and result for Liberians except the privileged few and those who served in it. Suddenly, instead of accounting for what government has done and failed to do in 12 unbroken years, we are changing the facts to alternative facts––the Country and Congo debate.

For example, I had every conceivable opportunity of being a minister or a managing director of an agency in Liberia, but I felt unless the system had a focus, and champions integrity, I can't be a part, because doing so would be against my Christian moral values and social ethics. So, I chose to be out and help with some moral voice in my own weak ways. While that makes me a poor man, I believe it serves Liberia better. It means I put my country first.

All the people who are talking or engineering this outlandish divide (Country-Congo stuff) today praised this out-of-touch Unity Party's government and now some of them are talking about Congo-Country to escape the debate about transparency and accountability.

Who is Congo in Liberia? What is their population ratio? Where in Liberia are they located?

This so-called Country- Congo makeup is a myth. And it is a scary and costly error we are involved in, and will make as a nation. We are unconsciously designing a society of hate and mistrust; one of fear and a class system––one that may come back to haunt us and the future generation of Liberians.

Mind you, after this so-called Country-Congo tirade, the next thing will be tribe versus tribe, and by then it will be too late.

Are we going to wait until Lorna people say they cannot vote for me because I am Grebo, or you because you are Krahn? Are we going to wait until Grebo people say they can't vote for a decent and well-respected Liberian like Brother Tiawon Gongloe (a sound and tireless advocate for human and civil rights) because he is Gio or Mano? Are we going to wait until the Mandingo people say they can't vote for Isaac Vah Tukpah because he is from Rivercess County? Are we going to wait until the Lorna and Kissi people say they can't vote for Mohamed Daramay because he is a Mandingo man, even though he is very qualified and competent? Are we going to wait until a Kpelle man or woman who is a human resources director says he or she can't hire a qualified Bassa boy just because he is not Kpelle?

This is the unfortunate road we are headed and if we are not careful, we are about two and half miles away from getting there.

Is that the road we want to take? Is that the place we want to be?

We have been there before where Krahn and Mandingo people got killed just because they were Krahns and Mandingoes; where Gio and Mano people got killed and chased out of Liberia just because they were Gios and Manos. And now, we are gradually revisiting that playbook again.

As someone who works in labor market information and analysis at a global level, I am afraid for our country Liberia.

While other countries are bent on ensuring that their next generation becomes prepared and more competitive to enter the global labor market, we are talking tribe and some misbelief.

Drones are now delivering medical supplies in Rwanda; Kenya has just built a high-speed rail system connecting the entire country; Tunisia has completed and now has a medical capital city and we are sitting idle mentally, arguing about things that wouldn't help us.

The most dangerous officials anyone can find in that country are the so-called natives.

For example, most of the folks that run the justice ministry are natives, in fact, some of them and I are from the same county and tribe. We speak the same dialect. But when I took a project to Liberia to help the criminal justice system becomes helpful in giving skills training to inmates to reduce recidivism, the people that killed the idea were the same people that speak the same dialect I speak. They are not Congo people. That means they prevented a process for job creation in Liberia and in our county where perhaps the proposed Liberia National Correctional Enterprises.

This is a project that Liberia was never going to spend a dime on; all funding was going to be provided by foundations overseas. A similar institution does exist in the state of Maryland as seen in this: https://store.mce.md.gov/ .

In 2013, I also wrote a small business development and job creation project proposal and sent it to the Liberian government. The objective was to help unemployed Liberians become entrepreneurs, CEOs etc. in the private sector while creating jobs.

The people that administered the project secretly and misused the funds which now are leading to the "Kolliegate" are all native people

Moreover, history is replete with narratives of the danger of tribal and regional politics. It has never helped any society in the past and it will not help our country today nor tomorrow.

We are just digging a dangerous trap or hole for ourselves and the next generations of Liberians to come. We must stop this!

About the Author:
Jones Nhinson Williams is a Liberian philosopher (born in Pleebo, Maryland County but hailed from River Gee County) firmly educated by the Catholic Church. He is an American trained public policy, labor market information, strategic management, and workforce development professional with accomplished global experience in job creation and institutional governance.

Jones Nhinson Williams
Jones Nhinson Williams, © 2017

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

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