“Silence is argument carried out by other means.” – Che Guevara
The publishers must have been worried and desperately too about the stinging media war in the last few weeks. But the publishers, as media owners have been serving as conduit to vehicle the competing or combating messages any way. Some historically incensed folks within their ranks sought to look back at Williams R. Tolbert’s predicament marred by the attendant consequences that led to his demise. Doe was not very far from Tolbert in terms of similar Achilles’ Heels.
Interestingly, the opposition was looking on while the government was apparently sucking its own blood. Pretty bad precedence folks as the Inter-religious Council seemed dumbfounded. The Legislature thought its character and integrity had been dragged into the mud by some remarks the President was said to have made at her appearance before the Council for Foreign Relations.
We saw one press conference after the other being organized by the leadership of the Lower House on the one hand and another by Representative Edwin Snowe of Montserrado County. The trend of the media battle – in the opinion of the Publishers’ Association was not a healthy development for the country and resolved that the entire membership of the organization was prepared place a blackout on all politicians, organizations including so-called Civil Society Organizations (CSOs) who would seek to use the media for acts inimical to the stability of the country and injurious to the survival of the country’s infant democracy.
The Publishers also recognized the concrete gains that have been made towards restoring sanity in Liberia and promised to name and shame politicians and groups with malicious intentions to wretch the nation and hold its people to ransom. Importantly, this is a bit of touch talking by those who control and manage the outlets that gather, research, process, sift, analyze package and present the news to the news-hungry population.
There is something fundamental that we owe the Publishers’ Association a revolutionary salute about folks. This small West African nation has seen more trouble than ever before. What started 1979 in a riotous form over the increase in the price of rice – the country’s staple food did not just lay low. In 1980, President who failed to see the writing on the wall was brutishly killed in a military coup. It was a sad day for Liberia and the African continent. For those who opted to condemn Pan-African vision – it must have been good news. Comrade Mugabe wept!
Why was it a sad day for Liberia when so many – call them “the masses” were jubilating at the death of their president? They did not understand the dynamics of the picture that was compelling them to be driven by emotions to flood the streets and chant: “Country women born soldier; Congua woman born rogue”. They were not aware that our country had become psychologically dislocated. Those who knew better mourned tearfully in their hearts and wailed for Liberia.
Yes, the masses chanted and of course had to retire of the street-dancing and drumming – hoping that their “Messiahs” had come. The times were no longer normal, as curfew had to be imposed. The beginning of the nightmare the masses had to come to grips with minutes after the coup-makers had taken over was near. The saw guns in 1979 – at least to keep the peace after the riot. But when the military takeover occurred – the masses had come to see even more guns and bigger ones on their streets and communities.
Enforcing the curfew, the soldiers had to clamp down in the fiercest fashion commonplace to men and women trained in acts of war. There were beatings and floggings all over the place to ensure violators of the curfew were kept in check. The masses started dressing so early their wounds since the cheers and Hosanna in the highest slogans had calmed. The constitution was suspended and the military had to rule by Decreed. They made laws and the masses were obliged to follow. Political activities were equally banned by the junta. Power was concentrated in the hands of the rule People’s Redemption Council.
Inexperienced rascals had gone to occupy the Capitol Building but no one knew – the junta was going to be around for some time. Worst still, things started to fall apart. The coup-makers began accusing each other of coups and counter-coups and the revolution started to eat its own babies. The promise to turn the country over to civilian rule was a fiasco. Doe duped the Liberian people in fictitious elections he had organized. His exit was disastrous as he watched his captors slay him slowly in a beastly manner.
Soon, the push to remove Doe commenced belligerently. This time, the masses again thought he had to go because he was an excess baggage. Unlike 1979; 1980; and 1985 – the masses bore more than ever before the brunt of the madness that was intended to unseat Doe. But Doe’s disappearance ironically from the scene did not help the situation. We saw Liberians died of starvation, stray bullets, diseases, massacres, revenge killings, bomb blasts, grenade launchers, etc.
Our stability and the peace we knew had no meaning folks. The days came and passed as children died in the parents’ arms, young men forced and programmed into war machines became amputated, churches, mosques closed, schools shut down while health centers managed with scanty medical supplies. We saw quack ‘messiahs’ after the other preaching baseless propaganda messages – to a trauma-stricken population who had become dumb. The leaders of the warring factions were headed for establishing an old wild west – where survival the fittest culture was obvious.
Such gruesome reminders from our own history make it a test case for the Publishers’ Association to call for a retreat during which they decided to put our country’s interest first. This initiative on the part of the Publishers’ Association is well-thought out and deserves all the support from the various stakeholders of our country who want to see this country remain on the path of lasting peace, stability and unity.
Certainly, we can engage intellectually for the benefit of debating and analyzing reasonably various national issues but when our utterances become counter-productive to the peace, we should not hesitate to name and shame whoever is involved. We want to the thank the Publishers for their hindsight to ensure that our nascent democracy lives to see another day. This is the time to move forward – and we must stop the beating of war drums to the detriment of our country and its future.