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Mandingoes Born in Liberia are Liberian Citizens

By Tewroh-Wehtoe Sungbeh                    

The truth is: Mandingoes born in Liberia to a Mandingo parent or parents are Liberians, period! So what’s the debate about, and where’s it going? Intellectual or “jawbone” exercise?

That Mandingoes who were born in Liberia, grew up in Liberia, and attended public and private schools there are not Liberian citizens? Are these individuals who are spewing these venoms in the name of discourse are also saying that even if a Mandingo was born in Liberia, but attended school and grew up elsewhere is not a Liberian citizen?

The same way Liberians living overseas expect their children who were born there, say, in the United States to be American citizens, is the same as other nationals who gave birth to their children in Liberia.

Does it have to be in the Constitution as some are insinuating? Is it written in the Liberian constitution when the indigenous names of native Liberians who once lived with the Americo-Liberians were changed to reflect the western heritage of the freed slaves from the United States?

Is it written in the Liberian constitution to arrest innocent people seen walking when the Liberian flag is being hoisted in the morning? Ok, is it also in the Constitution when Liberian police officers stakeout the streets or highways to harass motorists for bribes? The truth is, not everything is in the Liberian Constitution.

Is it right to hate, discredit and attempt to uproot hundreds of thousands of Mandingoes and their children who grew up with us, went to school with us, played with us when we were growing up, and whose ancestors toiled the fields and also called that country home? Let’s be serious, folks, where are we heading?

This is not the time to hate anybody, Mandingoes and other minorities in Liberia. Whether it is about land dispute between Mandingoes born in Nimba County and the Gios and Mano people in that county, and Gay rights, the right thing to do as human beings and as Liberians is to speak unequivocally and be on the side of justice, equality and fairness.

Remember now that indigenous Liberians were once despised, enslaved and hated by the Americo-Liberians because of their heritage. Do we also have to hate others to prove our patriotism?

However, as political activists, community activists and human right activists, are we not supposed to advocate and respect the individual and collective rights of all? Are we not supposed to embrace those that don’t act and live like us?

The recent hiring by President Sirleaf of the impressive and highly qualified Amara Konneh as Minister of Finance, and the hiring of other prominent individuals of Mandingo descent to play a leading role in her administration has certainly elevated the hate-filled rhetoric in Liberian chat rooms, as if Mandingoes are sub-humans who were picked from outer space to occupy a space reserved for those Liberians living somewhere here on Earth.

Where were these critics when Amara Konneh was appointed by President Sirleaf to serve the same President Sirleaf during her first term? Did she have any problem with him then? These critics are not only suspicious of Mandingoes making a mark on the national political scene, but are paranoid that their “Motherland” is being invaded by people who are as educated as they are, and are contributing significantly to a nation we all called home.

It is not that Amara Konneh is unqualified to occupy the government position he was appointed to fill. The problem derives from his heritage, which is not a reason to attempt to disqualify him from accepting a presidential appointment, especially if it is proven that he is a Liberian citizen, and not a criminal or a warlord.

One would think Liberians would learn from their past – the bloody and shameful past that continues to define whom we are; knowing the rugged roads our loved ones and our beloved country traveled over these years to be where they are today.

The long journey that turned a once quiet and upward bound country into a broken one; and totally transformed its people – our people, friends, loved ones and neighbors into beggars, and made them to look older and sickly as if they are from another planet, should be a lesson for all.

It is bad politics when we turn our nationalism into hatred and intolerance, and also unproductive when Liberians who claimed to be so patriotic are not in the forefront of working together, or working with others in a constructive way to effect the change they want so much for their people and country.

With the vestiges of the civil war still haunting a once vibrant people, and a country also struggling to rise to its pre-civil war era of resilience and tolerance, are reasons to avoid the reckless and divisive politics that continues to keep our people and country in a perpetual mode of poverty, division and backwardness.


Category: Editorial

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