In its June 28, 2012 edition following the Liberian/Ivorian border attack, the In Profile Newspaper asked the question posed above. “After the arrival (in Zwedru, the County Capital) of the (nation’s) ‘Joint Security’ consisting of the Armed Forces of Liberia, the armed Emergency Response Unit (ERU) of the Liberian National Police and the Bureau of Immigration and Naturalization, the city (of Zwedru and environs) was transformed into an armed camp overnight . . . the white UN choppers landing to and rising from the (city) airport only enhanced the mood that something was happening”.
Indeed, something was and is happening! The question, however, should be Is Grand Gedeh County an Occupied Territoty? Here are the reasons:
Liberian, indeed African, tradition of a Real manhood/womanhood is rooted in the belief or concept of a man/woman who is one that is out-spoken, courageous, reasonable, fair, firm, helpful and prepared to “stand tall” in defending himself/herself and community, with patriotism and diligence, against any unreasonable adversity; and yes, a man or woman, who stands against and is free of unjust, external rule and domination, with liberty and justice, to make rational, decision choices affecting himself/herself and the community in which he/she lives.
This traditional notion of manhood/womanhood, imbedded in the ethos of the Krahn Culture of Grand Gedeh County, inherited by generations of Grand Gedeans from the legacies of such brave, fabled warrior-politicians-diplomats-statesmen of wisdom as the late, Honorables Beddah Beh & Deh Suah of Tchien Chiefdom, Mombli of Niao Chiefdom, Sharow Toe of Gbarzon Chiefdom, Blayee Jiddah of Putu Chiefdom, Thomas Ziah, Sr. & Kao Gbelay of Konobo Chiefdom and Bargblor of Gborbo Chiefdom, etc., is at play here, today.
In this light, it is necessary that we recall the unfortunate, devastating impact of our national tragedy of the recent, civil war – of ethnic/tribal bigotry, bordering on hatred – and the several, still prevailing, attempts at national reconciliation (“forgive, if not forget”) for healing of the wounds inflicted. We recall this impact, simply, because it is said that those who ignore the mistakes of history are likely to repeat them.
Elsewhere, we wrote “ . . . that when ‘Taylor’s Bloody War’ (Mr. Taylor’s own words) finally reached the City of Monrovia and the gates of the Executive Mansion, it gained unparallel momentum with new . . . ‘converts’ who, with NPFL ‘freedom fighters’, marched the streets of Monrovia and corridors of state power to the cadence of the (the-now) famous or infamous refrain”:
‘Charlie (Charles Taylor) come, Charlie come To eliminate the Krahn/Mandingo People From the map of the Liberian Nation’
“Thus, upon capture by force of arms and occupation of Grand Gedeh County in July 1990, the NPFL announced a decision to annex the northern part of the county . . . to Nimba County (its northeastern neighbor) and the southern part to its southern, neighbor counties, apparently, to give effect to its (NPFL’s) planned policy as expressed by the marching chorus above. It is reasonable, therefore, to conclude that had ‘Taylor’s Bloody War’ succeeded as planned, Grand Gedeh County . . . would have been wiped off the face of the Liberian Nation, ceased to exist as a political subdivision and a separate, distinct socio-cultural and political entity, as we know it today”.
In creating River Gee County in the south, the NPFL sliced off several, Krahn (Konobo) towns and villages (notably, including Paramount Chief Kao Gbelay’s town of Kaobli), Zabli, etc, and Gborlu, the last Krahn town before Palipo town of Gbarwia.
Today, approximately 22 years later, the critical functions of law enforcement (The Police - Arrest & Detention and Court Trial & Punishment - The County Prosecution) are now in the hands of, controlled and performed by individuals who are not lawful residents of the county. This condition is not only an insult to the professional reputation, standing and sensibility of the county, but also an indictment of the patriotic commitment of the county and, particularly, an apparent continuation of the NPFL, illegal occupation of the county.
Moreover, this condition is the continuation of the classic, historical, Liberian importation of police, court and related administrative functionaries into districts and counties in which they (functionaries) do not reside nor have historical roots. Historically, these imported functionaries were and are proven to be not only corrupt, but also biased, discriminatory, denied and abused, systematically, the civil and human rights of traditionally-vulnerable, rural citizens. Furthermore, the prevailing system of centralized, National Police and National Judicial Systems have proven, also, to be woefully inefficient, ineffective and patently corrupt.
That the citizens of Grand Gedeh County, particularly, the ethnic Krahns and Mandingoes, were specifically targeted, victimized and subjected to wanton brutalities, human suffering and death at the hands of the National Patriotic Front of Liberia (NPFL); that this was and is so self-evident nationally/internationally; and that it needed no proof then, as now. As a matter of fact, to be identified “Krahn” or “Mandingo” at an NPFL checkpoint, during the NPFL invasion, was instant arrest, torture and death. Indeed, during the heyday of the NPFL insurgency, Krahns and Mandingoes were described, nationally, as Liberia’s “endangered species”.
Because of this condition, multitude of the citizens of Grand Gedeh County – men, women, and children – fled Liberia, their homes, and took refuge in the Republic of Sierra Leone, during February and March of 1990. Unfortunately, NPFL forces swiftly pursued the Liberian refugees (number now swollen to include, almost, all of the ethnic/tribal elements in Liberia) and inflicted atrocious brutalities and death upon them, in a foreign country. This incident proved to be one of the most memorable, critical, turning points in the history of the conflict.
For, at a meeting, somewhere in Eastern Republic of Sierra Leone, the refugees decided that they have had enough of the NPFL and that “we will run no more”. Thereupon, ULIMO was born and established to resist the NPFL “illegal” invasion of Liberia. The founding chairman of ULIMO was a Kru Tribesman, although the membership was obviously dominated by Krahn/Mandingo. LPC was found and established, later, in the same vein.
In their resistance, ULIMO partisans drove NPFL forces from southern/northern Liberia – Grand Cape Mount and Lofa counties, while LPC recaptured Grand Gedeh County and drove the NPFL from other counties in southeastern Liberia.
“Thus”, we wrote that “Mr. Charles Taylor and his band of ‘freedom fighters’ were forced, by actions of the Resistance Movements, to restrict their activities to the so-called ‘greater Liberia’, consisting, mainly, of Bong and Nimba Counties, and conceded to peaceful, political dialogue/negotiation on the conference table . . . for resolution of our political differences, rather than a clash of arms on the battlefield. This approach led to the many peace conferences held in many, foreign capitals with accords reached which, in turn, led to the final cessation of armed hostilities and the general/presidential elections of July, 1997”.
Significantly, the foregoing piece of our recent history is, indeed, necessary for reasonable interpretation of and reaction to the position of the Citizens of Grand Gedeh County, regarding the prevailing, apparent, “occupation” (of the County) which, we believe, demonstrates or symbolizes an irony of the recent facts of history of our civil war as indicated above.
Again, elsewhere, we wrote, based on the facts of that recent, cited history, that “It is very important . . . to note here . . . that if the ethnic/tribal people of Grand Gedeh County, in collaboration with other ethnic/tribal peoples of Lofa, Bomi, Grand Cape Mount, Montserrado, Nimba, Bong, Grand Kru, River Cess, Grand Bassa, Maryland, etc., etc. counties, as partisans of the resistance movements, had not spoken loudly, eloquently and acted bravely and decisively in resisting and ‘standing tall’ against the illegal and murderous insurgency by the NPFL, the course of our recent developments and history of Liberia would be different than it is today; in that, the relative peace, law & order, individual/collective security now prevailing in the country would not have been possible”.
Grand Gedeh County and Cote d`Ivoire Border attacks
This brings us to the situation in La Cote d`Ivoire for which the Krahn People of Grand Gedeh County, like the NPFL victimization, are now being accused.
The porous boundary between Liberia and Cote d’Ivoire runs from the town of Danane in northern Nimba County through Logatuo (point of NPFL invasion into Liberia) several villages, towns (of Gios and Manos) and Toulepleu in Cote d’Ivoire, to the point of the Cavalla, which forms the major boundary between Cote d`Ivoire and Grand Gedeh County in Liberia. From this point, Liberian (historically Krahn) and Ivorian towns on both sides of the river valley interact as farmers and traders (in fact, there are relatives) from the Toe Town area (Gbarzon, Gbarbo, Gborbo, Gorbo, Niao, Tchien, Tai, Gleo, Tuarbo, etc.) of the Krahns to the Greboes in River Gee and Maryland Counties.
According to the Liberian National Chronicle newspaper of June 22, 2012, quoting a UN official, “more than 13,000 people have fled their homes in southwestern Ivory Coast following attacks in which unidentified armed men killed at least 22 people, including seven UN Peace Keepers . . .”
“Residents around the (Liberian) town of Tai are ‘traumatized’ and in ‘constant fear and panic’ . . . we have recorded five attacks since the beginning of June, and given the rumors floating around, everyone is fearful of what might happen next . . . UN Peace Keepers and Ivorian soldiers are patrolling but . . . the densely forested Liberian border area needs to be secured further in order to protect the population and provide safe corridors . . .”
“The Ivorian government has blamed the attacks on former militia groups or mercenaries loyal to Ivory Coast’s former president, Laurent Gbagbo . . .” However, press reports places the blame on the Krahn people of Grand County and Liberian Government has arrested and holding some citizens of the county in detention, while there are now security forces in Gleo, Grand Gedeh County, with more arrests/detentions to come.