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Why There Was Not The Usual Clapping During July 26 Independence Oration

By Atty Philip N. Wesseh (PNW)
Since I was not invited as a national honoree to this year’s Independence Day activities, I decided, like others would do, to rely on the media to monitor activities marking this year’s celebrations at the Samuel K. Doe Sports Complex in Paynesville. As I was listening and watching religiously, I was disrupted at one point by someone who wanted to know why there was no clapping as the National orator, Leymah Gbowee, was delivering the oration.

Frankly, all I told the person was that there was no clapping because the address was “Objective” and that it highlighted the prevailing ills in the Liberia society. Perhaps, the person was reflecting on past celebrations where sometimes, speakers, because of the presence of certain individuals, failed to point out the truth.

Frankly to say, I have covered and monitored Independence Day celebrations over the years, but this oration was quite different as this women advocate fearlessly or courageously pointed dots to the ills in the Liberians society by distinctly defining them into three different kinds of groups that are responsible for the backwardness of the country.

In other words, Madam Gbowee did not, as we say in Liberia, “pick or choose’ or ‘eat crab with shame,” in dissecting the problems confronting the country and those categories of people or groups responsible for this. Her oration reminds me of the days of Catholic Archbishop, the late Michael K.
Francis who called a “SPADE A SPADE.’

On the theme for the celebration, “Together We Are Stronger,” Madam Gbowee raised some fundamental questions. She questioned’: How can we be stronger together, Leymah Gbowee, in the presence of very harsh economic conditions? How can we be stronger together when corruption is still at its peak? How can we be stronger together when individuals who were poor yesterday are now living in mansions and driving cars that costs enough to fund good schools for our children? How can we be stronger together when women are still dying in the hundreds during the process of giving birth? How can we be stronger together when there is a serious war on the bodies of women without any legal recourse in many instances?”

She went on; ‘How can we be stronger together when there is a prevalence of selective justice? How can we be stronger together when political appointment is based not on competence but party affiliation? How can we be stronger together when our educational system is a huge challenge? How can we be stronger together when we can’t feed ourselves? How can we be stronger together when interests are never national but individual? My 13-year-old, very intelligent friend asked, “How can we be stronger together when too many wrongs are never corrected and are allowed to continue from one regime to the other?”

Furthermore, she noted that the country cannot be stronger together when the country is divided in three parts; the Ruling Position, the Opposition and the No Position and that each comes with rhetoric and hate messages that are worse than the war rhetoric?

On the first category, ‘No Positions,” she said among other things that “They are the ones that suffer the most in our society. Their children are the key recipients of the messy education system. They are the ones who suffer the poor health care system. Justice for most; they live in abject poverty and can barely afford a meal a day. They are the everyday Esau’s: their political alliances and choices are never developmental driven but driven by stomach infrastructure. They fail repeatedly to look at the plans or even ask for plans from politicians. Rather, they take cash, t- shirts and bags of rice. I agree things are tough. Life is hard. People are hungry. But if we fail to ask the hard questions when we have the power, why are we surprised when we elect SGGs: “Steal, Grab and Go…’

On the second category, the “Opposition,’ Madam, Gbowee indicated that “These are a bunch of recycled politicians or wannabe politicians. They claim to have all the answers for our national problems, including peace and reconciliation. Opposition suffers from a severe case of amnesia. They refuse to acknowledge that they too have contributed to our national crisis. Opposition is often so desperate for power that they are willing to align with murderers, criminals, con artists and just about anyone to achieve their goals. One interesting thing about the opposition is that their enemies of yesterday can easily be friends of today and critics of yesterday can quickly become praise singers of today. The Opposition, in most instances, operates from a place of intense irrationality with no room for common ground…”
n the third group which is the “Ruling Position,” she said, “It often has misplaced priorities. Their development agenda is nicely written on paper but implementation is basically their private projects. The Ruling Position, like the Opposition, also suffers from a severe case of amnesia, forgetting their actions and reactions when they were opposition. For generations, we have lived in this vicious cycle of Opposition and Ruling Position. When Opposition becomes Ruling Position, too often they adopt the same practices that they used to critique. When the roles shift, the situation remains the same or is exacerbated. While Ruling Position and Opposition continue to argue about who is right, our country is gripped by many vices…”

In all fairness, considering the holistic nature of her oration by dealing with various groups, it is axiomatic that one does not expect her speech to be punctuated with applauses because it dealt with the cause of the country’s backwardness after 172 years of existence. She did not focus on one group and leave out the others. She dealt with all. That is, she did a fair assessment of the broader problems for being where we are as a people and nation. As such, the usual clapping or deafening applauses were absent. As I monitored, the only time I heard some applauses was when she said,’ Mr. President, I will address this to you directly. It is not acceptable for us to have only two women in cabinet. I, Leymah Roberta Gbowee, Nobel Laureate challenge any Liberian to tell me that the men in this country are smarter than the women; hence the men should be given prominence in jobs and elected position. I believe that it is high time that the women who fought through tears and blood from the founding of this country to the bringing of peace to this nation should be given positions of leadership based on their competence. As a self-declared feminist in chief, you are being called out to walk your talk. It’s time to stop the old boy’s network…’

To conclude, let me thank the orator for dealing with all of us. What matters now is for us, as a people and nation, to make a change for the better. Let us work to move from backwaters to prosperity, by doing away with those vices and ills she highlighted.

Conversely, we cannot “Together be Stronger,” if these vices persist or things remain business as usual.

I Rest My Case, by saying, BRAVO, MADAM GBOWEE for hitting the nail on the head.

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