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Breaking The Political Odds: The Massive Participation of the Fulani in 2017

By Mohammed Salue Sy       

 

The late civil rights leader Martin Luther King Jr. said it right that the “greatest place in hell is reserved for those who remain neutral in times of moral conflict.” Rip Van Winkle, the Dutch villager is a victim of this widely quoted adage. There are fundamental points which at times serve as drivers behind neutrality, one of which is the inferiority complex.

The other might be the lack of gust to build self-confidence amidst whatever prevailing socio-economic and political sequence of events. But the bold truth is to call a spade a spade.

The case is with the Fulani ethnic group of Liberia. History has a
fascinating way of bringing memories to the present. An invocation of
previous events can truly lay the pathway for the future. On the contrary,
it becomes a tragedy if it is not religiously and rightfully followed. It
even tends to be the same pursuit to be ignored for bias decision making in
a society. Interestingly, Liberia could be cited as an appropriate instance
where the latter of this historical analogy unfolds.

In the minds of so many, the Fulani are considered to be a strange tribe in
Liberia. This label is a result of multiple reasoning permeating
from an unsubstantial fact that the Fulani are not part of the sixteen
tribes.

Two: The Fulani’s complete absence in the political activities of Liberia.

Three: Their concentration in commerce and no symptom of
inter-marriage towards the widely known sixteen tribes.

Another salient argument proffered by scores of intellectuals is premised on the mere fact that their voices are not heard at all in the public discourse; thus
clearly defining them as ‘strangers in the Land.’

Are these reasons genuine to be used as yardsticks against the Fulani as new comers in Liberia? Perhaps, it could be to a larger extent a germane justifications of branding them as new comers.

There are several accounts that are heralded by some Liberian historians. Joseph Saye Guannu’s and George Boley’s writings never mentioned the Fulani in their books.

What remains very plain is that these tribes migrated from somewhere in
Africa. For example, the vai and Lorma came from the Mali Empire, the Bassa
from Cameroon, the Kpelle, from Guinea, the Kisi too also have a root
there. The Mende from Sierra Leone, the Krahn from La Cote d’ Ivoire.

Also, historical accounts remind us that the first groups of people that came to Liberia are the Gbabo and Gblewe ethnic groups. The citation of these avalanche of historical facts is to demystify the false narratives of few people who believe in their little thinking that they are more owners of the land than any other tribe.

Historically, the Fulani are amongst the first group of Africans that came
to Liberia.

A typical reference for this is the Famous: “Prince Amongst Slaves”. This
book narrates the story about Prince Abdul Rahim Sori. A Fulani that
escaped the bondage of slavery in the Americas. Upon his search of land, he
landed in Liberia and had many children in the 1820s.

Should we still brand them as foreigners? They are not. We keep calling the
Fulani foreigners each time their names are mentioned.

This is absolutely wrong!!

In one gathering I remember when a Fulani was denied access to a
local scholarship, eventhough he met all of the requirements. One of the
criteria set forth was for the applicant to be a Liberian citizen.

The nationality of this Liberian was questioned by the vetting committee on
grounds that he was a Fulani. According to them a “Fula man is not a
Liberian.”

What a sad and heart breaking moment for me!

It really behooves me that the constant characterization of these people as
foreigners are even heard from the educated ones.

These divisive sentiments are heard in school yards, at the work place, and at public gatherings of high-profile personalities, which is based on prejudice and ignorance of history and the law.

The 1986 amended Constitution of the Republic of Liberia is clear about who is a citizen of Liberia.

Chapter IV of the 1986 Constitution, Article 27 sections A, B, and C as well as Article 28 reads:

“All persons who, on the coming into force of this constitution were
lawfully citizens of Liberia shall continue to be Liberian Citizens.
In order to preserve, foster and maintain the positive Liberian Culture,
values and character, only persons who are Negroes or of Negro descent
shall qualify by birth or by naturalization to be citizens of Liberia.
The legislature shall, adhering to the above standard, prescribe such other
qualification criteria for the procedures by which naturalization may be
obtained.”
Article 28
“Any person, at least one of whose parents was a citizen of the person
birth, shall be a citizen of Liberia, provided that any such person
reaching the age of maturity renounce any other citizenship acquired by the
virtue of one parent being a citizen of another country. No citizen of the
Republic of Liberia shall be deprived citizenship or nationality except as
provided by law; and no person shall be denied the right to change
citizenship or nationality.”

Even though I am not a lawyer, the explicitness of these articles can be deduced that a Negro descent can be a citizen either by naturalization or by birth. The Fulani are Negroes. Besides, one can also be a citizen of Liberia in the case where both parents were born in Liberia.

These two articles – 27 and 28 validates the argument set forth in my earlier
contention. So, the conversation of the Fulani not being a citizen must go
beyond the mere fact of the sixteen tribes.

In these times at which Liberia is at a crossroad, the Fulani has been
massively participating in Liberian politics, and have publicly endorsed the
three-top presidential candidates in these elections, in the persons of Vice President Joseph Nyumai Boakai, Montserrado County Senator George Manneh Weah of the Coalition for Democratic Change, and Liberty party, Charles Walker Brumskine.

Prior to the latest two endorsements, the first of which was welcomed with so much criticisms as the public wrongly insinuated that the entire Fulani community are lining their support to Joseph Nyumai Boakai.

Fulani-Liberians contributed significantly to the economic growth of our country, and the democracy we enjoyed in Liberia today. The 14-year civil upheaval did not link any Fulani national to the killings and destruction of Liberia.

Yet, few Liberians have vehemently refused to rise from the pool of ignorance and their little sophistry of branding the Fula man as a foreigner in their country. Should the man still be discriminated against as a foreigner when he is actively contesting for public office in the Land?

A laundry list of candidates include Ambassador Ruguie Barry, a die-hard stalwart of Liberty Party, District 1, El- Hadji Bella Diallo of the Liberian People’s Party, Aliou V. Bah, a former staunch supporter of the Coalition For Democratic Change now of the Liberian People’s Party.

The massive participation of these individuals in the Liberian Democracy movement is not only limited to these contested positions, but is just a validation to those divisive elements that they are not foreigners as propagated by the divisive rhetoric.

Moreover, there are fulani who also continued to champion national debates
in Liberia. Are we not fully convince that they are as citizens as you are? Certainly they are.

Archbishop Desmond Tutu of South Africa is right to have said that if you are neutral in situations of injustice, you have chosen the side of the oppressor. If an elephant has its foot on the tail of a mouse, and you say that you are neutral, the mouse will not be neutral.

In essence, the Fulani for too long have allowed the elephant to have its foot on him; but now he remains firm to break the foot of the elephant no matter how tough the circumstances.

The days of his neurality are over and so he now moves vigorously with the
“BADGE .”

I pledge allegiance to the flag of Liberia and to the republic for
which it stands, one nation, indivisible with liberty and justice for all.

 Mohammed Salue Sy is a student at the University of Liberia studying economics. Mr.Sy is a 2016 graduate of the Young Political Leadership School of NAYMOTE, a lecturer at Educate the Future Liberia(ETF Liberia), and the Chairman on Press and propaganda of the Indomitable Student Integration Movement. Contact mohammedsy952@gmail.com

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