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Progressivism in Liberia, abandoned not declining

By Patrick Nimely-Sie Tuon

Patrick Nimely Sie Tuon

In order to accurately describe the state of affairs of progressivism in Liberia, one must still be part of it, whether as an individual advocating for progressive change, or part of an institution embracing and implementing progressive ideas.

The activities of the Liberian progressive movement cannot or should not be measured based on the involvement of certain individuals. No one or individuals own the Liberian progressive movement. The Liberian progressive movement, like any other progressive movement can be on automatic pilot or be under the control of real pilots.

As long there is corruption, abuse of power, nepotism, cronyism, embezzlement, no rule of law, impunity and other kinds of inequities, including supporting and condoning destructive behaviors and perpetrators, the Liberian progressive movement will never decline.

As long Liberians are speaking and pointing to the various ills that have blanketed the entire Liberian society, and there is a government whose officials and supporters are insensitive to the plight of the people, progressivism will continue to thrive. Progressivism is driven by its desire to combat the ills of society; and is in no way based on the idea that certain persons must always be involved to determine its viability.

The fact that certain individuals once considered the vanguards of a movement or its set of ideas in the past are no longer active is by no means prove that those ideas or the movement have declined

According to an article in the News Pinnacle Newspaper, in its March 2, 2014 edition, under the headline, “The Decline of Liberian Progressive Activism”, seems to suggest that the Liberian progressive movement has declined because those who once advanced the progressive ideas are no longer active.

The newspaper article which, in its entirety, is based on an interview with Hon. Conmany Wesseh, current member of the ruling Unity Party, and also cabinet member in the current Liberian government, a government many Liberians describes as anti-progressive, said that the Liberian progressive movement is no longer active, and that progressivism has declined seriously which he blames on Liberia’s recent violent past.

Mr. Wesseh’s analysis seems to be based on the fact that some of the Monrovia-based progressive activists who were once the vanguards of progressive ideas in the past and are no longer active in any progressive activities,  has declined.

Progressivism by nature is always strengthened during chaotic periods, whether violent or not. Progressive movements around the world are known for standing up against violence. History is replete with how various progressive movements have thrived during violent struggles and succeeded in their quests. In fact, in most cases, it is violence or threats of violence that gives rise to progressive movements. So to say progressivism has declined because of violence has given rise to a hidden thought held by many Liberians as to whether Liberia ever had a real progressive movement.

Many successful progressive movements always undergo metamorphisms to adjust to prevailing conditions or circumstances throughout history. The notion that the Liberian progressivism has declined because of past violent episodes like the 1980 coup, and the Liberian conflict seems to contradict the universal premise upon which progressive movements are built; which is to protect and defend the people from tyranny. While the main objective of a progressive movement is to achieve its goals through peaceful means.

The true characterization of the current state of affairs of the Liberian progressive movement is not that it has declined, but rather being abandoned by some of those who were once the vanguards for progressive ideas in Liberia.

From the Tolbert administration to present, some of those who were seen as conduits for progressive ideas failed to distinguish themselves from those who falsely continued to promote themselves as our redeemers, patriots and democrats. The abandoning of the Liberian progressive movement and its ideas by its former comrades should in no way be construed as it being on the decline.

Such analysis perpetuates an emerging trend of thought that there are certain people, for example, who are capable of taking arms; so prosecuting them for war crimes is not an option for fear that there will cause for more violence. And also there are certain individuals who are the only ones capable of opposing governments, now that these individuals are in the government, opposition to government is no longer necessary. As such, we should live by the consequences of their actions.

Now we are being told that there are certain individuals, those who are capable of advocating progressive ideas, whose presence are needed to accentuate any progressive positions and activities. And without their presence, the progressive movement has declined.

The thought of progressivism declining in Liberia is not only to discredit the ongoing progressive activities among Liberians, but has the propensity of injecting a sense of defeatism in the movement. That line of thinking also strengthens the notion that certain individuals own the Liberian progressive movement and can shut it down at will.

Those who are currently following Liberian issues on social media will realize that most of the ongoing debates and ideas being expressed are progressively driven. Many of the positions currently taken by Liberians, old and young, who are pointing out flaws in this current Liberian government are doing it through progressive lenses.

Progressive ideas in Liberia now, unlike the past are reaching more Liberians, and are enjoying wider audience; thanks to the ongoing explosion of technology worldwide.

To measure the viability of the Liberian progressive movement based on past characteristics, behaviors and players will do injustice to ongoing progressive activities and those who have remained steadfast to progressive ideas, especially when the same ugly and selfish ideas once opposed by past progressives continue to raise its ugly heads worst than before.

The only difference now is that some of our past progressives are remarkably adjusting and tolerating these crooked ideas that seem to be strengthening the stagnation of progress in the Liberian society.

Many independent followers of unfolding events in Liberia who are old enough to remember some of the past progressive activities will also dismiss this idea that Liberian progressivism has declined. These individuals will rather see credibility problems and contradictions of what those progressives were opposed to in the past, and what are now being tolerated today by some of the same progressives.

Liberian progressives in 1979 had their profile raised when they challenged the-then ruling True Whig Party’s monopoly on the electoratal system; a system that allowed anyone nominated by the TWP as the automatic winner of local and national elections.

To end the TWP monopoly, the progressives put up a candidate for the Monrovia mayoral race. Among the driving issues in the mayoral race were property clause and the right for Monrovia residents to have a choice between more than one candidate. That campaign was in sharp contrast to what is happening now in Liberia, as some of our past progressives continued to remain conspicuously silent.

Right after the 2006 general and presidential elections, the Liberian Supreme Court under Johnny Lewis, sided with the Sirleaf government not to hold municipal elections because of the lack of money. Since then, President Sirleaf has been appointing city mayors around the country. In fact, the president has been appointing mayors who are supposed to be elected, in sharp contradiction of the Liberian constitution.

Many of our past progressives, some of whom are even serving in the Sirleaf government have yet to express concern regarding this issue, which they once championed in the past during the Tolbert administration.

Another example that speaks to the abandonment of the progressivism is the final report of the Liberian Truth and Reconciliation Commission.

Despite the fact that the law or act that established the TRC and its recommendations were progressively driven, the opposition against implementing the TRC report is led by some former Liberian progressives. It is former Liberian progressives who have been enlisted to serve as frontline commanders by the Sirleaf regime to destroy the TRC report, in order to deny the people of Liberia genuine reconciliation. The TRC report was so progressively driven that a conspiracy theory was hatched that accused the progressives as the “invisible” hands behind the report. The TRC report can simply be described as the Liberian progressive “manifesto.”

The two examples are among litany of contradictions that point to overwhelming evidence that debunks the notion that progressivism is not in decline, but rather abandoned by some of its original supporters.

Mr. Wesseh, to his credit, was quoted in the article as saying that the Liberian people saw the evils, so criminal and various destructed behaviors that came with the violent periods during Liberia’s recent past were part of the progressive movement.

Despite how deeply flawed Mr. Wesseh’s idea is, it is very difficult to dispel it due to the roles many former progressives are playing today or in the past by collaborating with the various corrupt, violent and undemocratic regimes.

Progressivism in Liberia is well and alive, but only going through a period of recalibration.  As long there are corruption, nepotism, cronyism, impunity, the lack of rule of law, the lack of genuine reconciliation and real peace, progressivism will always be around.

Patrick Nimely-Sie Tuon is a lifelong political activist and fiery progressive. He lives in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania (USA), and can be reached at 215- 276-2408 or at tuonagain@yahoo.com.

 

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