This is a two-part article. Part I deals with the Liberian elites’ “Divine Rights” to leadership and POWER in Liberia; while Part II addresses the “monkey work baboon draw” scheme used to hold onto power. More importantly, our generation is confronted with the pressing issue that must be addressed without which we are doomed, and will have no legacy to leave with the next generation.
However, I am reminded of of Frantz Fanon’s “The Wretched of the Earth.” It says: “Each generation must discover its mission, fulfill it or betray it…”
I will be 68 years old on July 22, 1947. And for almost 45 years I have worked tirelessly not to betray my generation. At this critical juncture of our country’s history, I am in the position to help my generation to discover its mission and have it fulfilled.
In this endeavor, I got a practical education of my life from my brilliant and farsighted nephew Titus, regarding the new geopolitical REALITIES. The Cold War is over; we have gained political participation, i.e., the right to vote, multi-party democracy, freedom of speech, freedom of press, etc. These are enormous achievements that we should be proud of. I confess, I am proud of these achievements until I will go to battle if anyone accuse us – the Liberian Progressives of the 70s and 80s of being the one responsible for the current state of affairs in our country.
However, the conversation I had with my brilliant and farsighted nephew Titus opened my eyes. The conversation took place on the evening of September 2, 2014. The exchange made me to take a second look at the statement: “You people are responsible for the current state of affairs in our country, and you’re not doing anything to solve the problems you caused.” What an indictment!
Thinking about the conversation I had with Titus, I revisited the statement after I read the foreword to Kofi Buenor Hadjor’s “On Transforming Africa: Discourse With Africa’s Leaders” (1987). The foreword was written by Dr. Togba-Nah Tipoteh.
Below is an excerpt from the book:
… Those Africans interested in transforming [Africa] were either thrown aside or turned into window-dressing critics. In the end, governing became a euphemism for technical administration and politicians adopted the language and mannerisms of superior civil servants. In most places inertia and complacency exhausted the vocabulary of politics, while the masses suffered and were robbed of their rights to participation in decision-making…
“Isn’t this is what taking place in Liberia today?” I asked myself the question. Then I began to think – the Cold War is over; we gained political participation, the right to vote, multi-party democracy, freedom of speech, freedom of press, what next? I find myself saying, “we have now become the ‘technical administrators’ and ‘superior civil servants’ managing the government for the elites while the masses suffered and are robbed of their rights to participate in decision-making, and denied their share of their OWN wealth.” The conversation I had with my young nephew, and the statement by Dr. Tipoteh led me do some soul-searching to critically assess the role played by the progressives in the Association of Constitutional Democracy of Liberia (ACDL); the National Patriotic Front of Liberia, (NPFL); the Interim Government of Nationality Unity (IGNU), National Patriotic Party (NPP) of Taylor; and now the Unity Party (UP) of Sirleaf.
Thank you, Titus!
Due to the above reasons, I decided to do a critical examination of the role the Progressives of the 70s and 80s played in both the Taylor government, and are now playing in the Sirleaf government. The title of my position paper is: “Brown Paper on Economic Governance: The Final Stage of the Liberian People’s Struggle”. The Brown Paper will take a critical look at Governance, Transparency, and Accountability (GTA). My position paper is called ‘Brown Paper’ because majority of the population in Africa are of brown shade; and they are the ones being exploited by our own elites and everybody else from everywhere. Let me give you the reason I chose the name – ‘Brown Paper’.
Sometime ago, I served on a Diaspora committee as coordinator to draft a position paper. The members of the committee were instructed to send their written contributions to me to compile the first draft. One of our comrades sent me his contribution, which he titled: “A White Paper: Our Position Statement Regarding the Justice System in Liberia.” His contribution was super, however, I had problem with the title – “White Paper”; therefore, I suggested we change the title to read: A Brown or Color Paper: Our Position Statement Regarding the Justice System in Liberia. When he got my suggestion, he was furious. His initial reaction was “Where did you get the idea of ‘Brown or Color Paper’ from? It has never been done!” My response to his question was, “Because it was never done that’s all of the reason we should do it; start our own tradition.”
It did not register!
Like I always do in situation like this, I went on say to him: “Have you ever thought about the reason the British named their position statement ‘White paper’? Have it not occur to you that it was done this way because the British are White people! Since we Africans are not White people, I don’t see why we should practice a tradition that we do not belong to. This is my point!” This is the problem with many of us so-called ‘educated people’ (BIG BOOK PEOPLE); we do not value our own culture because our minds are contaminated with the beliefs that ours is not valuable because it is from the so-called Dark Continent and we buy into these LIES. I had difficulty convincing my American educated comrade. The position statement was written with neither topic. But I promised myself then that whenever I got the opportunity to write my own position paper, I would title it: A Brown or Color Paper: Decolonizing the Minds of My Liberian Comrades. Now you know!
‘Give us political independence and everything will follow.’
‘Give us political independence and everything will follow’. The statement was coined during Africa’s fight for independence. Today, we find the statement to be WRONG. African countries have gained political independence, yet, everybody who is not Africans have gotten wealthy from our minerals and natural resources except us; we are still ‘dirt poor’. Since the Cold War ended, and we gained political participation, the right to vote, multi-party democracy, freedom of speech, freedom of press, we continued to provide services for multi-national corporations (NGOs), and governments chosen and blessed by our former colonial masters. Here lies our problem. We, the Progressives are still stuck in advocacy work, and the leaders chosen by the so-called international community are controlling the wealth of our nations, while we served them as ‘professional technicians’ with only BIG TITLES. You need to watch the movie, “The Spook Who Sat By The Door.” You can find it on You-Tube.
It is about time the Liberian people, especially, the Progressives that are assisting these leaders and NGOs take a closer look at why nothing has changed; the masses are getting poorer, while ONLY A FINGER-FULL are getting RICHER. To do so, I propose we play key/active role in the economic activities of our respective countries. By key/active role, I mean in the day-to-day decision making activities. There is no if and but about this! My proposal is; we make Economic Governance, Financial Transparency, Accountability and the RESPECT for the Laws and Constitution of our countries our NEW DISPENSATION, which is the final stage of the struggle. Let me tell you the reason! Let’s for a moment take a trip on memory lane of the economic activities of Liberia starting with the Firestone Rubble Company (1926).
To do so, first, let’s examine what Malcolm X said about history: “Of all our studies, history is best qualified to reward our research.” There is no disagreement here!
The ‘Monkey Work Bamboo Draw’ System
The economic activities of our country have always been and continue to be the system of ‘Monkey work and Bamboo draw.’ As the result the elites/leaders get rich and richer while the intellectuals/Progressives and the peoples of our countries get poor and poorer. This is what has happened and continued to happen in Africa and by extension, the Republic of Liberia.
In economic terms, one who controls the land controls the wealth. This has been proven over and over in history. Land was basis for the Berlin Conference and the control of oversea territories of indigenous inhabitants. Liberia is no exception! The first conflict between the Settlers and the indigenous people was the dispute over the issue of LAND. In Liberia, regarding traditional land ownership, the ruling elites gave the indigenous peoples’ land to foreign companies without their consent and approval. In some cases, these companies intrude and invade traditional property (LAND) with impunity.
When Liberia became an independent nation, the ruling elites took over the ownership of the LAND. Where did this concept originate? Now, let’s take a look!
Maintaining Colonial Practices in Post-Colonial Africa
For example, why should a President sign land deeds? The law that gave the President of Liberia the power and authority to sign land deeds is outright wrong and outdated. Have any of you thought of the reason why there is a Land Commissioner, yet, the President is responsible to sign and approve land deeds? This practice is unique to Liberia! It started with the Settlers (Americo- Liberians) from the very beginning of the republic. This practice got started by the European and American imperialist colonial powers. It was a scheme designed to take over the native populations’ land by fraudulent means. This was done to Natives (Indians, so named) in North America.
The belief that an individual’s behavior is influenced by his/her environment came true in the practice of the Settlers in their newly found land – Liberia. When the Settlers came to the Green Coast (now Liberia) they brought this practice along, which is being practiced today by the Sirleaf Administrations in Liberia without question.
How did this fraudulent land grab get started? Based on the history of the Settlers (Americo-Liberians) from the cotton plantations of antebellum south of North America, Blacks were property of slave masters; therefore were not allowed to own land. So when the great scheme was hashed by Thomas Buchanan and his associates to have them removed from the United States; the first thing they thought of doing in Liberia was to replicate the system of land ownership of the antebellum southern plantation.
The Settlers became the new masters; they developed a system patterned after that which they left behind in North America; illegally took control of everything in their new found home. Land which is considered or serves as the engine of economic activity became their number target. The new masters enacted laws that gave exclusive power and authority to the President. This is how the ‘Cult of the Presidency’ got started! That’s how the President of Liberia has to sign every land deeds in the country; no land is sold without his/her signature.
Rumor has it that there exists a signature stamp of the late President Tubman, and after his death, those who got hold of the stamp used (back date deeds) it to sign deeds for their fraternity brothers and sorority sisters; which we called “society people” in Liberia. The land apportionment is one of the most abused systems that exist today in Liberia.
Since the President has the exclusive power and authority, the natives’ lands were given to members of the ruling class as their farm land with no compensation to the original owners. This too, is Liberia’s Indian and Settlers’ story – the basis of the many wars between the Settlers and Natives. The victims in these wars, the natives are portrayed as “war loving, savage natives versus the Pioneers”. Liberians being noted for turning serious matter into joke, referred to the word – PIONEER as: “People, In, Our, Nation, Enjoyed, Equal, Rights.”
The practice of the President signing deeds is wrong and should be abolished. The power and authority should be handed over to the Land Commission with straight and transparent enforcement practice consistent with the Property Law of Liberia.
Classic Example of Lost Land in History
There is an official apology made by President Barack Obama when he signed the 2010 Defense Appropriation bill in December 2009. It reads: “To all native peoples for the many instances of violence, maltreatment, and neglect inflicted on Native peoples by citizens of the United States…” This means the people whose land they took were not even considered citizens. This same practice took place too, in LIBERIA and is taking place now in Liberia; there is no prior informed consent obtained from the indigenous people of Liberia respecting their traditional property.
According to the story written in the National Geographic told by Alexandra Fuller:
Around 1700, the Sioux tribes of the prairies of western Minnesota hunted buffalo on foot, by the mid-1700s various tribes had gained access to horses, and by the turn of the 19th century the Oglala Sioux and other Plains Indians had developed a way of life that depended on mounted buffalo hunting. After gold was found in California in 1849 and the Black Hills in 1874; prospectors, merchants, and settlers streamed into Sioux territory. The culture clash led to a series of broken treaties and unfavorable legislation, which confined the tribes to an ever shrinking area. Meanwhile, the newcomers had all but exterminated the buffalo.
In 1980, the Supreme Court ordered the U.S. government to pay for its appropriation of the Black Hills. With interest, the amount is now more than a billion dollars, but the Sioux won’t touch it. They want their land back. (Alexandra Fuller, “In the Shadow of Wounded Knee” – August 2012 edition of the National Geographic).
The adoption of similar practice in Liberia is no accident of history! This practice can be traced back to the antebellum southern plantations, where the Settlers were once held as slaves. On these plantations, the land and the slaves were owned by white slave masters. In addition, the slave masters were involved in polygynous relationship. For example, a slave master could have any slave woman he chose to have because slaves were considered his property. While he was engaged in this practice, he also had his Caucasian wife in the ‘Big house’. The children produced out of the polygynous relationship were considered his properties and not part of his main family. Whenever he needed money, he would sell these women and their offspring.
The Americo-Liberian Settlers carried this practice to Liberia. The Liberian experience was such that the offspring that an Americo-Liberian male produced out of his relationship with an African-Liberian female (native or country woman) were not considered legitimate children; instead, they were referred to as “outside children,” whereas the children of his westernized (monogamous) marriage are considered the “legitimate” and “inside” children. However, there were some exceptions, but in most cases this was the accepted norm in Liberia.
In many cases in the interior, the “countrywoman” lives on the farm of the Americo-Liberian, and in the urban areas, a house was built or a room rented for the “countrywoman” and her children. Social and economic opportunities as well as certain privileges were reserved for the westernized (who is referred to as civilized woman) wife and her children, while the “countrywoman” and her children to some extent depended partially on the man and the rest she had to provide for she and her children.
Based on President Arthur Barclay’s plan, an indigenous person had to meet certain requirements before he or she was accepted as citizen of Liberia. These requirements were:
…The willingness of applicants to qualify for Liberian citizen by adopting the Christian faith, Western living conditions, and Western standards of conduct, dress, and general appearance. An African, in effect, would have to detach himself from his own customs by completely accepting the Americo-Liberian set of values. Citizenship and voting rights might then follow (Yekutiel Gershoni (1985), Black Colonialism: The Americo-Liberian Scramble for the Hinterland, pp. 37-38).
It was based on these requirements that the indigenous population were allowed to become citizens in their own country.
Citizenship was extended to the indigenous population in 1904. Why am I restating this? It is at the root of the Liberian palava. Many of you do not know; especially, ‘those of you who were born the other day’. These issues were not written in the Settlers’ History Books referred to as “Liberian History”. I called it Settlers’ History because we who ‘The Love Of Liberty Did Not Bring There – instead MET There, gave them the LAND, NOT SOLD, were never part of the History (there story). The History was written as if we (the natives) had No History. This is the reason why I am going through this exercise to bring you up to date on the Liberian problem and the symptom you are used to.
On April 29, 2011, then Chairman of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC), Cllr. Jerome J. Verdier addressed the President of Liberia, the Joint Congress and the Liberian people on the topic titled: “Issues of Transparency and Accountability in Government and Public Resource Management”. Excerpts from it read:
…The right to information, the right of the people to know is a constitutionally guaranteed right which strives to promote transparency and accountability in public service, thus ensuring that there is probity and integrity in the procurement of public concessions and contracts and the participation of the people in these processes that
impact the efficient management of the economy and public resources. Absent this, the government is acting alone-without the consent of the people just as it did in its 2011 Referendum processes- without the participation of the people in a less than transparent and accountable manner when disposing of public franchise, resources and properties.
Article 7 of the Constitution of Liberia, states: “The Republic shall, consistent with the principles of individual freedoms and social justice enshrined in this Constitution, mange the national economy and the natural resources of Liberia in such manner as shall ensure the maximum feasible participation of Liberian citizens under conditions of equality as to advance the general welfare of the Liberian people and the economic development of Liberia.
Access to information, prior to, during and post execution of contracts and concessions is a right of the Liberian people which should not, in the least, be denied by the withholding of information regarding the public interest. In the absence of a code of conduct for public officials coupled with the haste, secrecy and lack of transparency and accountability attending the execution of most, if not all, of these public concessions and agreements, your actions are viewed with much suspicion by the public including foreign partners and contractors and concessionaires themselves to be bordered on corruption and self interest…
Economic Governance, Financial Transparency, Accountability and the RESPECT for the Laws and Constitution of our countries are violated with impunity by the current administration. It is ‘business as usual’. We can say with pride that we have made some progress in the areas of political participation: i.e., the right to vote, multi-party democracy, freedom of speech, and some level of freedom of press, etc. but more needs to be done in using the wealth of the nation to benefit everybody not a select few.
Let’s start with the example of Firestone. Firestone Rubble Company Conducting Business in Liberia Since 1926.
During this period, the leaders (elites) appropriated land to their families and friends – the people’s land, only to have the displaced owners to work for them on the land that was once theirs.
On the elites’ new acquired land, Firestone planted rubber trees; the elites employed the people (country people) as laborers, pay them ‘chicken change’ (peanut wages); have children by their young native women – some of them between the age of 12 or 13; these women, their children and relatives were required to attend to farm work of the elites. The children these young women gave birth to are considered ‘outside’ children, while the elites’ children with their married wives are looked upon as ‘inside children’ (so-called legal). This practice was brought over from the cotton plantations of North America.
Force Labor and Hut Tax
The indigenous people (commonly refer to as country people) where conscripted – forced to build roads, tote loads, carried government officials on their shoulders in hammocks throughout the territories and counties. Since most of the indigenous people were not involved in the money economy, they were practically forced to seek work from Firestone, to earn money to pay their
Hut Tax. The government established a scheme by which laborers were forcibly recruited to work on Firestone Plantations.
The novel, Red Dust on the Green Leaves by John Gay, epitomizes this reality:
The soldiers had come again every year to get taxes and men to work at Firestone. Flumo [Flomo] still was not sure what Firestone was, even though he knew that men who went there had to clear the ground and plant rubber trees. He also knew that when Saki went to Firestone, he did not make farm but would come back after six months or a year with little other than new clothes and gifts from the coast.
These schemes were not limited to Firestone; they were also carried out at Bomi Hills and Lamco Mining Companies.
During this period, the economy had grown, but the population did not benefit. A study conducted by Clower et al, 1966; a group from Indiana University referred to this period as “Growth without development.” There were enough money to build infrastructure and improve the standard of living of the masses, instead the elites used the money on themselves, their families, relatives and friends. With some of the money, they built one-lane roads to their farms and sent their children and relatives to school abroad, specifically, America and England. Some of these children started from kindergarten (where they should have learned their language and culture) through college. Almost all of these activities were paid for by the Liberian people’s tax dollars, which the Hut Tax paid by the country people under unusual circumstances was a part. What do I mean by unusual? The Liberian Frontier Force (LFF) soldiers disrobed; beat Paramount, Clan and Town Chiefs in the presence of their wives, children and subjects. That’s how humiliating these practices were.
Misused of Public Corporations’ Money for Personal Use
Funds earned by Public Corporations such as Liberia Petroleum Mining (LPMC), Liberia Electric Corporation (LEC), and Maritime Corporation are diverted to personal use and are NOT part of Government’s revenue. These corporations have ‘select employment’ practices; by this I mean, they employ families, relatives, friends and wards; and pay them HIGH salaries – more than what they are worth. These same corporations and the Government officials give scholars to their children, families and friends to study abroad, and jobs are secured for them before they complete their studies – without work experience. A classic example of total disregard for qualification involved the late Bai T. Moore who was at the time one of the most qualified employee of the Ministry of Information and Culture Affairs. Mr. Moore never became the principal Minister up till the day he died. The highest position he attained was Deputy Minister of Information for Research in the People’s Redemption Council (PRC) government. This is a man who had almost fifty years of experience on the job. The sad thing about it is, even President Doe continued this tradition.
Am I angry, of course I am; this is the reason I will fight along with my nephew Titus and other like-minded individuals to have this practice changed in our life time. You see, being one who tells the truth and at the same time is a journalist who seeks to report the truth – it is not a sacrifice to be taken lightly. My father and mother died and I could not go to Liberia to have them buried. When my mother was sick she instructed my sister Menia Jugbeh Nyanseor that should the Lord call her to Glory, I should have my junior brother Sarkpah F. Nyanseor go to
Liberia instead of me for her funeral; all due to my activism in the US against the ills of the Liberian society. It is every child’s dream to be present when their parents are sick to care for them, and when they died to be there to bury them. I was cheated of all of this because I chose to speak truth to power. Oh, how I wish I had been home to bury my parents! I have not been to Liberia since 1981. My father died 1981 right after I left Liberia when the Doe regime was going after Tipoteh and certain members of the Movement for Justice in Africa (MOJA). My mother died before December 24, 1989 – the start of the Association for Constitutional Democracy in Liberia’s (ACDL) sponsored insurgency – the civil (evil) wars.
The insurgency was a circulated revenge strategy well put together by remnants of the True Whig Party (TWP) and some of their indigenous benefactors who blamed the People’s Redemption Council (PRC) for bringing an unexpected end to their political and economic dynasty. The insurgency was a way of reclaiming it. Who did they use to reclaim their so-called loses and power? The poor masses and the so-called educated African-Liberians. They used the old Machiavellian strategy of The Prince.
Business as Usual
It is business as usual in President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf’s administration. The difference is, she continued this practice with impunity – to which one observer made the following remark: “They (elites) displayed the attitude: “I can do what I want, how I want it done, and all I have to do is, present them with their own money in envelopes from me and they will even kill for me. That’s how stupid they are”. According to this observer, that’s how most of the ruling elites feel and behave. The same observer said to me, “Sam Roberts that’s the reality”. At one time, Sam Anthony Roberts, III was my name. Some old acquaintances call me by that name – they still considered me as one of them. It has its benefits – I am told things that they won’t dare tell a ‘country person’; therefore, I don’t mind.
To buttress the point regarding the attitude of the ruling elites, let me share with you of a story I was told. It involved Kollie, a cleaver Kpelle boy in Monrovia and a Bigshot. The story goes like this: “Kollie, you native people are slow to learn”, says, the Bigshot. “Kollie, you remember you were the dux (valedictorian) of our graduating class of 1962 that was supposed to receive the scholarship ward after graduation?” Kollie replied, “I do!” The Bigshot continued, “It was given to a cousin of mine. The same is true with the foot soldiers that died fighting the civil wars we started to regain our lost properties and our leadership positions – your did it for us”. He continued, “After the civil wars, with our civilized names, international connections and with the assistance of your so-called native educated men and women, we got back all that we lost the fateful day of April 12, 1980. We became millionaires OVER NIGHT; we owned the communication network, and have you educated country boys and girls working for us as our employees; that’s how stupid and naïve you people are! That’s making use of THE MASTER PLAN we inherited from our ancestors and parents!”
This story left me speechless!
President Sirleaf has perfected this system very well. Today, all concessions in the country have partnership with the Liberian government; certain upper and lower management positions are reserved for Liberians – the elites’ children, family members, relatives, friends, and wards (native
children loyal to their cause). Some of these things, Vice President Joseph Nyumah Boakai is not privileged to nor have any knowledge of how it works or what’s going on around him. Today, some of their benefactors are living abroad, yet they are allegedly on the payroll of company like Mittal Steel. I mean they are making plenty, plenty money; and they don’t have to be qualified as the native men/women. Yet, the qualified native men/women are going around begging them for jobs in order to survive; some of the women and men engaged in immoral practices just to earn their living.
Serious Conflict of Interests
Another system that has been in practice in Liberia for quite a while is – our officials, particularly, Representatives and Senators who are lawyers served as legal counsels for most of the foreign concession companies doing business in the country. One such case involved a Lebanese merchant who choked his Liberian employee to death for allegedly stealing a piece of candy. The merchant was represented by the law firm of the Speaker of the House of Representatives, Richard Abrom Henries. The merchant was either set free or escaped.
Today, the Unity Party Chairman, Cllr. H. Varney G. Sherman’s law firm, is a ‘big time firm’. It represents major corporations in the country.
These elites follow the script that is believed to be inscribed somewhere in the Executive Mansion that reads: “Remember the Pioneers’ Children.” I added, and their WARDS. Opposition or no opposition, they protect and help one another! The President ‘made way’ for opposition Liberty Party (LP) leader, Cllr. Charles Walker Brumskine to serve as legal counsel for Mittal Steel and ECOWAS, where his law firm makes almost million dollars a year as alleged. No wonder Senator Varney Sherman (UP-Grand Cape Mount County) and chairman of the ruling Unity Party spoke against calls by some senators to review agreements entered between the Government of Liberia and concessionaires operating in Liberia. See (‘No Need For Review’: Sherman Dissents Over Concessions, FPA – July 15, 2015).
A Practice Enforced by President William V.S. Tubman
Prior to William V.S. Tubman becoming President of Liberia, he served as a lawyer for Firestone. When he was President, there were workers’ strikes in 1961.
…Strikers from the rubber plantations marched on the Executive Mansion to demand government action against alleged discrimination in pay and promotions. On that occasion Tubman had consented to meet with representatives of the strikers, serving them refreshments and calling in the police band to entertain them. The president promised to look into complaints that better jobs had been denied to qualified black employees but turned aside another demand that foreign concessions be phased out. Tubman cautioned the plantation workers that if the foreign companies left Liberia, the jobs they had created would go with them. The demonstrators disbanded, apparently both chastened and appeased. The government subsequently alleged that the rubber workers’ strike had been communist inspired. (Liberia: A Country Study (1985) American Colonization Society).
In addition, to ensure that the Liberian government officials would solve labor disputes quickly, Firestone would stop purchasing rubber from the Liberian petty bourgeoisie until labor uprisings are solved. In the village of Bonoway, the Government of Liberia provided a public court, a prison and a military barracks inside the Firestone Plantation to make sure there were no labor uprising. (Niels Hahn (June 2, 2008) “The experience of land grab in Liberia”).
Stay tune for Part II: This part will address the “monkey work baboon draw” scheme used by the ruling elites and their wards to hold onto power, and what patriotic Liberians must do to change this practice for the benefit of all Liberians.
Elder Siahyonkron Nyanseor is Chair of the ULAA Council of Eminent Persons (UCEP), Inc. He is the historian of ULAA; a founding member and the 11th President (1986-1988) of the organization. Elder Nyanseor is an ordained Minister of the Gospel. Also, he is a poet, Griot, journalist, and a cultural and political activist. He can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org