Written by By Josiah Joekai, Jr. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org Mobile Phone: 0776-258-265
Tuesday, 07 August 2012 01:37
I remember back then in late 1988 when I was just a school boy at the Bassa Teenage Junior High School now the Bassa Community School when news started to filter in about an imminent attack on Liberia by an unknown group of people. It was not however clear as to where the attack was expected from and its accompanying dangerous effect on the Liberian society as a whole. One thing that remained clear nonetheless was that an attack was in the making.
By then I used to live with my uncle in the Wood Camp Community in Paynesville where I used to walk from every morning to board the coastal bus from Red Light to Vai Town. The fair at that time was 10 cents. From Vai Town to the Capitol By-Pass, that used to be sorted out on foot in the company of friends attending other schools in Central Monrovia like Demonstration, Monrovia College, College of West Africa, etc. Our company used to be very interesting, discussing school hours activities including our journey back to Vai Town to board the bus for Red Light after school. I remembered quite well the center of attraction used to be crossing the Gabriel Tucker Bridge, a moment we all used to dream about and anxiously wait for while in class.
The school calendar (March –December) unlike today was also very favorable as ushering into the dry season became a good reminder of nearing the end of the school year. That was always a good time andwelcomingto us because we knew that school was about to close, and that we would soon join our other family members in various parts of the country for three solid month long vacation where waking up in the morning, walking long distances, boarding the famous coastal bus and crossing the Gabriel Tucker Bridge would be a mere dream for a while. Then came the biggest one “CHRISTMAS”, a time to eat, dance and play in the loving and friendly weather.
In the month of October, 1988, I woke up to get ready for schoolone morning but to my surprise my uncle was up also for the first time and said to me as of today we will leave for town together. Right there I knew that my sweet company with my colleagues was in jeopardy. Even though we will all be together walking, and boarding the bus together, but our conversation will be restricted.
We went for the first time and I realized that I was not the only student coming along with a parent. My colleagues were also marching toward the bus-stop with their parents and surely, conversation on the bus change dramatically. We were all silent and our parents were the only ones doing the talking and got very insensitive to our presence. Predominantly, their conversation centered on security issues such as the sharp increase in crime, secret killings around town, the news about war, particularly rumors about an impending attack on the country. These conversations on the bus and during our strolling time with them were never positive for the rest of the school year.
We could see that our parents became worried, we too became worried, our conversations were no more, walking together and particularly crossing the bridge did not have meaning to us anymore and so was it…everyone felt insecure.
All of these security uncertainties resulted to my father and uncle taking a decision to relocate me to the Lutheran Training Institute (LTI) in Salayea, Lofa County from Monrovia for the next school year. According to them, they needed to study the security situation in the country and once it improves, they would take me back to Monrovia. Though I was unwilling to accept the relocation plan, I had no option but to consider the decision of my parents for my own security because the rumors that spread a year when I left Monrovia certainly became a reality; Liberia was invaded from the Ivory Coast through Butuo in Nimba County.
This attack did not however take place by accident. History tells us that the leader of the defunct rebel National Patriotic Front of Liberia (NPFL), Mr. Charles Taylor now a war crime convict, on a number of occasions roamed the Mano River Union (MRU) sub-region (Sierra Leone, Guinea and the Ivory Coast) seeking the support of sub-regional leaders and their governments to grant him support to launch his rebel incursion in Liberia.At one point in time, it was reported that Mr. Taylor was arrested in Sierra Leone, jailed for some time and released but with serious measures taken to prevent him from using the Sierra Leonean soil to wage war on the people of Liberia.
Folks, we need to come to the realization that good neighborliness is key to guaranteeing sub-regional peace and security.This brings into perspective the gruesome death of A.B. Tolbert, the son of the late President William R. Tolbert, Jr. and its consequences on Liberia. The l980 coup makers' arrest of A. B. Tolbert at the French Embassy in Monrovia and his mysterious death in prison served as a fundamental support base for Mr. Taylor’s rebel invasion of 1989. AB as he was affectionately called was the popular son of PresidentTolbert.AB was a young man very popular among the young people. At age 38, he was determined, his popularity in his country coupled with his wealth and contact in the outside world especially, the French gave him such determination and potential.
The death of President Tolbert and particularly his son, AB, triggered an interminable crimony between Liberia and the Ivory Coast under President Felix Houphouet-Boigny. Boigny's foster daughter, Daisy, was AB's wife and most of the Tolbert families and friends were among several hundred Liberians who had taken refuge in the Ivory Coast following the April 12th coup d’état. The Nimba raid and the Quiwonkpa invasion increased the Gio and Mano exiles in the Ivory Coast, which runs along Liberia's Nimba County border. They highly embraced the decision of Liberian dissidents to invade Liberia from that country (The Ivory Coast) for obvious reasons.
In essence, the Ivory Coast became a fertile ground for Mr. Taylor to use as a corridor to invade Liberia, particularly during the regime of President Boigny who became extremely bitter with the Doe regime in every shape, form and manner. Gen. Robert Guei who was Chief of Staff of the Armed Forces of the Ivory Coast under President Boigny was also yakuba (Gio) and understandably, was in solidarity with his fellow kinsmen many of whom who crossed into the Ivory Coast from Liberia during the two separate failed invasions of the late Major Gen. Nicolas Podier, one time second man in the Doe government and Gen. Thomas Quiwonkpa, respectively to support their endeavors of bringing down the Doe regime. Besides, it was clearly implicit that the Boigny regime saw as a duty to provide such support to Liberian dissidents seeking to remove the regime of the late President Doe in revenge for their special friend, the late President Tolbert and their in-law, AB Tolbert.
In spite of the lukewarm relationship that existed between Liberia and Sierra Leone, and then Liberia and Guinea, these countries denied Mr. Taylor and his operatives from using their territories for such unwholesome and unacceptable acts.
Conversely, there was total bitterness between Liberia and the Ivory Coast during the ten-year rule of the late Samuel K. Doe. Though President Doe attempted on a number of occasions to pacify President Boigny, but the sullenness was so deep that it became endless thereby leaving President Boigny with no alternative, but to grant Mr. Taylor permission and support to use his country to launch the rebel incursion.
Today my fellow compatriots, another build-up (Border Dispute) is in the making once again between these two historic neighboring countries, Liberia and the Ivory Coast. There are claims and counter claims about the cause and perpetrators of the death of UN Peace Keepers and civilians in the Ivory Coast along the Liberian Ivorian border.
From all indications, this situation is worrisome, particularly, claims that are being made that the perpetrators are from Liberia. We are aware that lots of diplomatic efforts have been made by the governments of the two countries to improve their relations so as to engender sub-regional economic development cooperation. These efforts have to continue in good fate, and our government in particular, with a President, Madam Ellen Johnson Sirleaf considered the mother of the sub-region has to ensure that genuine and true African brotherhood exist between Liberia and the Ivory Coast.
Many persons do not see this recent development at the Liberian Ivorian border to be a future potential threat that could undermine the peace and security of the sub-region. For me, it does because remember that Liberians were killed by Liberians, Ivorians became very bitter as result of their relations and connections with those killed, and as a nation, we faced the consequences and harsh realities. Today, Ivorians and other nationals were killed and Ivorians believed strongly that Liberians are responsible. Come to think about it! Our government must act fast, constructively and timely to safe the future of our children and country.