By Atty Philip N.Wesseh (PNW)
It can be recalled that following the April 14 rice riot in 1979, the late Albert Porte in his version of that violence, wrote in his visual pamphlet, “THE DAY MONROVIA STOOD STILL”, giving an account of what transpired during that rice riot during the administration of the late William R. Tolbert. It is more than 34 years ago when the city was engulfed by violence. However, this time around, especially this weekend, Monrovia will stand still for hours, not because of another violence; it is about the celebration of the home-going of the venerable Archbishop Michael Kpakala Francis, as thousands of mourners and sympathizers are expected to turn out on Broad Street at the Sacred Heart Cathedral to pay homage and last respect to this fallen hero and pillar during his funeral services and it is also expected that there will be foreign delegates.
Predictably, I can say that the mammoth of people who will turn out will cause a serious traffic jam and movement of people in Monrovia, a city that was established without consideration for parking spaces. The fact of the matter is that the church’s late Archbishop headed has a large following and that it is expected that Catholics, including their various fraternal groups such as the Knight of St. John and Marshall, as well as other movements, will indeed turn out in their numbers.
Additionally, let me not forget that the National Muslim Council of Liberia, headed by Sheikh Kafumbah Konneh, who recently attended the birthday service of the then aiding Archbishop at the Sacred Heart Cathedral will also be there to pay what we usually say, “LAST RESPECT” to this great son of the soil for his role in fearlessly advocating against the ills in the society.
Even during his year of illness, he was not forgotten as many visited him and, acknowledged his services to the Liberia nation. At one point, President Sirleaf, following a visit to his home in Sinkor, described him as “The CONSCIENCE OF THE LIBERIAN SOCIETY,” as his advocacy was all geared towards the building of a better society for the rule of law, justice, peace, freedom of speech, freedom of the press, religious tolerance, equitable distribution of the nation’s resources and peaceful co-existence.
Since his demise, much continue to be said about his role in the Liberian society. Already a book of condolence has been opened, in which I know those who are signing are inscribing about the Archbishop’s role that impacted lives of Liberians over the years. But as it is said, “no amount of tears and weeping will bring him back to life.” What matters now is to translate these eulogies, tears and weeping into action to give him a befitting funeral. The first challenge is how to manage or handle the number of persons expected to turn out this weekend, especially for the funeral services at the church.
Considering the number of persons expected to turn out for this funeral the organizers should consider the use of the Executive Pavilion and Centennial Pavilion on Ashman Street to accommodate some of those who will turn out for the services. These buildings can be prepared with appropriate devices to relay the service live on screens from the church for those who will be in those buildings. Although the church is spacious, it cannot cope with the number of persons expected to turn out.
This could be something the government of Madam Sirleaf should consider. The President had had high regard for the late Archbishop hence this is the time to concretize the admiration of the role of the Archbishop Emeritus by making sure that these facilities are made available to assist with the seating capacity.
I am happy that the Catholic Archdiocese of Monrovia since last week has issued the funeral announcement far ahead of time and that President Sirleaf, accompanied by some of her officials has signed the book of condolence since last Wednesday. My suggestion about dealing with the issue of accommodation, might not be a hundred percent solution to the expected huge turnout, but will, to some extent, alleviate the issue of seating for those who will attend the funeral this weekend.
Lest we forget that the state has its role to play in these kinds of activities for this great fallen citizen. Also, I do believe that the state will make available the Armed Forces of Liberia (AFL) marching band for the cortege for the removal and the burial, as the Archbishop deserves such for his unmatched role in advocating for a better society for the collective good of all and the country itself. Besides, those responsible for traffic should begin to do proper planning before those two days’ events to avoid anything that would pollute the air of solemnity that usually characterize such celebrations.
Indeed, let everything be done to give him a befitting funeral. Hence; let us give him his last respect in dignity and orderliness.
Rest in peace, Archbishop; you have left an indelible mark in the annals of Liberia; you have left your footprints on the sand of time.