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Liberia: Our Common Ground

An Address by Honorable Amara M. Konneh

Minister of Finance, Republic of Liberia

July 26, 2013

Thank you Miss Sharon, for the warm introduction. I am humbled by the many commendations paid me. It is an honor to be with you all here in the Great State of Minnesota. I must say I am especially honored to have been invited to serve as your orator for the 166th celebration of our country’s independence. I want to recognize the leaders who are joining us here today, including Minnesota State Governor Mark Dayton; Brooklyn Park City Mayor Jeffery Lunde; Brooklyn Center City Mayor Tim Wilson, City Council Members of the Twin Cities; The Organization of Liberians in Minnesota (OLM) Executive Director Mr. Wayne Doe; OLM’s Board Members; our religious leaders; our community leaders; members of the business community; my fellow Liberians:

Let me use this opportunity to express my thanks and appreciation to the Chairman and members of the Board of Directors of the OLM for extending me this invitation to serve as Orator of this auspicious occasion. I am deeply honored and humbled to be amongst few Liberians who have been called upon to perform this task.

I also want to extend special thanks to all members of Liberian community in Minnesota as well as those who travelled from various states to grace this occasion.

It would be unfair if I didn’t pay special thanks to our fellow Liberians who have taken up their time to assemble outside this building to raise their voices against corruption in our country. This is an important fight and we want to thank them for lifting the mantle. We are in clear solidarity with them, for a powerful coalition in required to win that fight.

Tonight, on this 166th anniversary of Liberia’s independence, it is incumbent upon us to reflect on who we are as a people, on where we’ve come from, and on where we are going. To do that, we must go back to the very beginning; and we would be remiss not to affirm the bond that Liberia and the United States of America have shared for as long as our two nations have coexisted. In fact, for better or for worse, this bond began well before Liberia was born, when some of our forefathers were slaves in these American fields. Having been sold into slavery by their own brothers, they bent their backs to build this nation, and it was lifted up on their shoulders to carry. Upon their emancipation, they drew upon the values enshrined in America’s Constitution – the values of equal rights, liberty and justice for all – and they braved the mighty Atlantic Ocean to build a nation just for them, in the Promised Land, where true freedom, dignity and prosperity would no longer elude them.

When they docked at Cape Mesurado in 1821, they were amicably welcomed by the ethnic groups that occupied the land. There were some conflicts between the two groups in the early stages of the settlement, but they were resolved, paving the way for the formation of the Commonwealth of Liberia in 1836 and the Republic of Liberia, in 1847.

The mistake the settlers made, in the years leading up to independence, was to repeat history and create a democracy as imperfect as the one they had left behind. They brought Christianity and democracy, education, economic growth and some development, which distinguished Liberia as a light on the dark continent of Africa. But they also made of Liberia another dual-society: they politically and culturally marginalized those of our forefathers who had never left the continent and, for a long time, denied them citizenship and an equal stake in the republic. A bitter seed was sown then that would bear fruit in 1980 with a bloody coup and, later, a protracted civil war that killed approximately a quarter of a million of our fellow citizens.

Each year, since July 26, 1847we have celebrated our proud yet troubled history as Africa’s first independent republic, and we have come face to face with our struggle on the question of unity and a common national identity. And each year, we gloss over that struggle, hoping that despite our disinterest, healing will come by default. Hoping that some noble generation will answer the hard questions for us, touch the sensitive subjects, say the politically incorrect, and at least begin to resolve that struggle. Just not us;just not now!

Well, my fellow Liberians, Liberia is of age. And I believe that our youthful and vibrant population at home and in the diaspora is that noble generation that is capable of changing Liberia’s story.

And each of us here today has a story of our own that reflects that struggle for unity. A story that makes us cling to anger and resentment. A story that challenges us to transcend social ruptures. A story that drives us toward the common ground that we can cultivate into the nation we all know Liberia can be.

Tonight, I want to tell you my story and about the soft issues that present clear and present danger for our Republic.

I am a Mandingo man whose grandparents, like many of yours, migrated to Liberia and settled in Belequah in Bong County. The Mandingoes are migrants as history tells us, so too are the Kwa people, the Mende people, and all of the ethnic groups that now call Liberia home.

My grandparents traded in peanuts and kola nuts. Challenged by lack of roads, they walked several miles to bring their produce to markets. It was in Belequah that my Father, MamadeeKonneh was born.

In search of greener pastures he in turn moved to Firestone plantation, after he married my mother, and there they started a provision shop. They later moved in search of better opportunities, this time to Bassa Camp in the Weasua, Gbamah District, which is now in Gbarpolu County. That’s where I was born, on a mud floor in my mother’s kitchen; my mother was assisted by two wonderful women who will always remain treasured in my heart forever.

I spent a few of my early years living with my grandmother in a small one bedroom in a house on Camp Johnson Road that had no toilet, no running water and no electricity. Taking the white bucket every morning to a public latrine located near UN Drive was a daily routine. My grandmother sold snuff at the Rally Time Market at a time when it was called ‘Baker and Merry-go-Round Market.’ I was not so lucky to be enrolled when I became of school going age.  Therefore, I spent my days roaming the streets of Monrovia, riding old tires and playing football with my friends in the Buzzy Quarter Community. I would engage in the ninety-five cents business when we traded 95 cents from market women for a dollar bill from cab drivers and got a 5 cent commission on a dollar until my aunt, a passenger in a taxi, caught me right-handed one day.  I was quickly labeled a ‘Grona Boy’ and immediately returned to my parents in Bassa Camp.

I grew up in the Weasua area, manning birds and digging diamonds along with my father, uncle and brothers.  My brother and I would wake up at 5 am and head to the farm under the cover of darkness so we were there before the crack of daylight. In the West, this would be considered child labor to the core but in Liberia where we grew up, this is different. You see how context matters?

At ten years old, my parents enrolled me in primary school, thanks to the compulsory education decree imposed by the People’s Redemption Council in 1980. At age 14, I became more involved in working on the artisanal mines with my father to help support my family, while going to school. There was no guarantee I would end up where I am today; absolutely none. But my parents had hope that, in Liberia, their son would someday achieve what they could not.

But then, the unthinkable happened. First, my mother died of cancer in 1986, with limited access to healthcare. It devastated our family, because she was the glue that held us together. Then, in 1990, just after I finished high school, my father and three of my cousins were killed in the newly erupted Liberian civil war, all because of their tribal affiliation – a common feature of our senseless conflict. This was immediately after I had fled Liberia through the thick Belleh forest for the first time in my life and ended up in Guinea where I lived as a refugee for three years.

Being a refugee in the land of my grandfather taught some valuable lessons and accelerated my growth into adulthood. I saw that we were not always welcome by our hosts.  We had to build our own kitchens and toilets using mud. I saw hardships disintegrate and destroy families.  I saw how simple preventable diseases killed Liberians.  I saw fathers and mothers lose their dignities; my generation of Liberians became an endangered generation because after a few years of not getting proper education and doing productive work, people lose the talents, skills and work habits that make it possible for them to work productively. We risk becoming a lost generation, lost to our country, our communities and our families.

I later immigrated to the United States, like many of you here tonight, hoping to make up for lost time and secure a stable and productive future, in the land of opportunity.

I have seen the damaging impact of tribal and religious prejudice. I was raised in a diverse family; my grandfather married a Dei woman from Gbojay, Bomi County. And as a child I witnessed, with great displeasure, members of my community treating her harshly because she did not speak our language or share our faith from birth. The same is true for many other ethnic groups before and during the war, as people were ostracized, or robbed of their dignity, their limbs and lives, simply because of their ethnicity.

We have all seen or heard of the ethnic biases with which some employers recruit personnel, both in government and in the private sector. We have each witnessed the resentment of someone close to us when a person of a certain tribe comes to prominence. On a daily basis, I feel the pressure from members of my ethnic group to hire all Mandingoes; they resent and badmouth me when I resist. I am told on a daily basis that my colleagues with whom I work will undermine and betray me because they are not Mandingoes. We’ve all heard the words ‘Congo`’ or ‘Country,’ used in less than affectionate ways, or used those words ourselves, in private conversations.

You’ll be interested to know that, in as much as your community here has its tensions – which are normal – it will be a whole different ball game when you get back to Liberia. Because, as a Krahn man or woman, for example, your American accent, nice clothes, respectable car and personal affluence will out  of a sudden earn you the label of ‘Congo.’ Because the term is no longer used only to describe African American settlers; it is now used as a blanket label for all those who have risen to a certain income bracket. It is especially used, now, on those of us who have lived abroad for a certain length of time.

You will also find, on coming home, that any job you get will be seen as one less job for the average Liberian who braved the war, never having made it to the great United States. You will be resented, even hated, by some, just because of the opportunity you had and the advantage it gives you.

For those of us who are proponents of dual citizenship for Diaspora Liberians, know that you have few supporters back home. Because, once again, many feel that we are robbing them of opportunities they deserve.

So, you see my friends, while we are harboring old tensions due to religious, ethnic and political differences, a new class struggle is raising its head; because the fact is people will always have an excuse to disagree and to choose a negative perspective on other people, issues and events.

This is not to trivialize the resentment harbored by many Liberians, which is not entirely out of place. People are struggling to make a living. Our youthful population is hungry for opportunities, anxious for productivity, and restless from the lack of jobs that pay a living wage. They are angry and impatient, understandably, for the hope they placed in this government to be realized in a relatively short period of time.

And the challenges are well known. They include: strengthening our fragile peace, enhancing security and the rule of law, fostering reconciliation and national unity; laying durable infrastructure to foster equitable economic growth, while promoting financial transparency to build the confidence that Liberians should have in their government, and to attract larger investments from within and outside Liberia. Now, we have paved the Monrovia-Buchanan highway, reducing travel time by four hours and providing farmers access to market and to the port of Buchanan; and the sick to healthcare facilities. We are also currently paving the road from Paynesville Red-light Market to Ganta and then the Guinea border, Nimba County; and the Zwedru-Fish Town highway; we are well advanced in our energy program that is expected to bring close to about 100 megawatts of cheap electricity over the next four years not only to Monrovia but to eighteen rural communities from Ganta to Harper for the first time in the history of our country; and we anticipate that agriculture sector entrepreneurs will, in turn, be able to improve the standard of living for their families, expand their activities and contribute substantially to growth.

Well, it’s true that we haven’t brought about every change important to the conscience of every Liberian, but we can take a great deal of honest pride in what we have achieved. Tomorrow, during our town hall meeting here in Minneapolis, I want to talk about just how far we’ve come and what we need to do to win further victories for the Liberian people.

Fellow Liberians, what we’ve accomplished these last six years wouldn’t have been possible without a desire for peace and a solid foundation, one painstakingly laid by all Liberians. And much of that work was done by men and women who were content to make their contribution knowing their names would never be enshrined in history;  individuals who don’t make noise on radio and in the chat rooms; and individuals who wouldn’t make the clips when the documentaries about Liberia’s resurgence are made.

If there have been any hindrances to our work, they have not only stemmed from a lack of capacity in the public and private sectors, or from the lack of financing; but also from the divisions and lack of proper coordination within the government that delay the progress that the Liberian people so anxiously await. Again: disunity.

But I have also seen the great promise of Liberia in action, as women of all ages, tribes and creeds put aside their legitimate differences and concerns, and stood together in prayer and fasting; crying out to God for an end to the war, and demanding warring factions to put down their weapons. It was God’s grace, and their unity in prayer and in action that brought us where we are today, as we celebrate a full decade of peace in Liberia.

If we have faltered as a people my fellow citizens, that lack of unity has undeniably been at the root of the problem. From our founding to our present, unity has eluded us. And we can see the effects of this challenge nearly two centuries later, as Liberians, tired of a brutal and protracted civil war, now strive to deepen the still fragile peace while still grappling with a sense of ‘us versus them.’ Only now are we finally listening to our mothers and fathers, our historians and elders, reminding us of who we really are: a nation of diverse peoples, all of whom were strangers to this land and came from somewhere to the West African green coast, later called Liberia.

In fact the beauty and uniqueness of Liberia is not only found in our common colloquial tongue, or in our exquisite cuisine, but also in that our ethnic and cultural makeup is representative of all of Africa and of the entire black world. To give a few examples, the Bassa ethnic group which is concentrated in the central region of Liberia, can be found in the Congo as well as in Cameroon. The Kissi ethnic group, who are revered as uncles to the Lormas and Kpelles, can also be found in Kenya and other parts of East Africa, where they are called the Kissimus, and speak the same language as our uncles do today in Liberia. In fact, they maintain the tradition of filing their teeth in a V shape, just as their brothers do in Lofa County, as one of many distinguishing factors that set a leader apart from the rest of the community. The Mandingos and Fulanis, as you know, are spread across West Africa. Our population is denser in other countries such as Guinea, Ivory Coast, Senegal and Mali – that’s why we are not considered Liberians. But equally so, the Lormas and the Kpelles, Krus and Krahns are regional groups. In fact, there is a much stronger Lorma presence in Guinea than there is in Liberia. And yet we are proud of our tuborgee and we can’t get enough of it.  In fact, all of Africa is made up of regionally dispersed ethnic groups; and the territorial borders that define our lands are arbitrary colonial lines that do not by any means reflect our cultural and ethnic affiliations. If you were to cross the borderat Voinjama into Guinea, you would see identical villages and peoples on either side. The same is true at any border crossing point.

Yes, we have our differences, but today, Liberians at home and abroad are beginning to embrace our proud heritage and rich culture, which can never be shot down or bombed or smashed to the ground. We are taking concrete steps, through our national reconciliation roadmap and through a wide range of development interventions across Liberia, to ensure that no Liberian feels left behind in this march of progress. But these steps must be matched with our willingness to face the hurtful stereotypes and biases, and put an end to them now.

Fellow Liberians, this year marks the 30th anniversary of our second Constitution, and no cloud will dim the shining light of our remembrance. Also this year, we will be celebration a decade of peace. This year we rededicate ourselves to the shared values and the common purpose that have given our nation a new beginning. We hear the cynics, but pay them no mind. We pass by the pessimists and the doomsayers, knowing that they’ll always be with us, but confident that they no longer can hold our country back unless we let them. We see before us a future worthy of our past and a tomorrow greater than all our yesterdays. If there’s any message that I wish to convey today, it is: be of good cheer for our common ground. Our beloved Liberia is coming back and coming back strong.

Our confidence flows not from our skill at maneuvering through political jumbles, not from our ability to make the right deal at the right time, nor from any idea of playing one interest group off against the other. Unlike our opponents, who find their joy in momentary political leverage, we nourish our strength of purpose from a commitment to ideals that we deeply believe are not only right but that work.

Throughout our beloved nation today, and throughout the world wherever Liberians reside, we are coming together, all dressed up with our venues decorated in our red, white and blue, just as we are here tonight. We celebrate the very essence of Liberia and reflect on the true meaning of who we are as a people and as a nation. Today, all over Liberia, families and friends are reuniting to renew relations, enjoying each other’s company, and celebrating our Nation’s birth. And as we celebrate in our uniquely Liberian way, we are reminded that our Declaration of Independence, our example, made us a beacon to Africa, inspiring our African brothers and sisters to demand their own independence from European colonial powers, and to strive for statehood. And, even now, as we rise from the rubble of war, Liberia still shines with the light of freedom – freedom for women and girls who now live in a nation that supports their socioeconomic independence; protects their dignity; defends their rights to land and education; and cares for their health and that of their children. They now live in a world where the publicly elected office, the board room seat, the cabinet room are no longer just for men, but for them as well. So, even as we mend the tattered fabric of our society, Liberia still shines.

Ludwig Von Mises, that great economist, once noted: “People must fight for something they want to achieve, not simply reject an evil.” Well, today my fellow ctizens, as we celebrate our respective and collective national achievements we also celebrate all of you– the Liberian Diaspora – men and women who work day and night to support your families at home; because it is you who keep Liberia’s economy stable. Through your remittances which are estimated at US$1.7 billion since 1990, especially during the time when our nation was submerged in chaos, you kept our people from slipping into ultra-poverty and further destruction. Even today, you are educating the generation you left behind, helping your loved ones to achieve their own economic independence, and catering to their welfare in more ways than I can describe.  You are true patriots, and you have earned your place among the greatest generation of Liberians.

Now, I’m the first to acknowledge that there’s a good deal left unfinished on the national agenda. Our cleanup crew led by President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf will need more than four years to deal with the mess left by others for over half a century. But I’m not disheartened. In fact, my attitude about that agenda isn’t very different from that expressed by most of you.

And as you continue to strive along with us to cultivate our common ground called Liberia, let us keep the vision alive – a vision that compels us to risk our personal survival for the greater good of our people. It’s the spirit of Sao Bosso Kamara, J.J. Roberts, the spirit of Arthur Barclay, Edwin Barclay and William V.S. Tubman, of William R. Tolbert and Jackson F. Doe, of Albert Porte, Baccus Mathews, Mother Wilhelmina Dukuly and Bishop Michael Francis; of D. Twe and those countless heroes who may have been born under humble circumstances, but whose fierce patriotism earned them a place in the Liberian hall of greatness. We need to celebrate them. We are the only country in our neighborhood that does not celebrate its heroes. We need a national monument now that commemorates our heroes.

I’m convinced that, that spirit of cultivating a common ground is still alive and well in us. Our Nation is pulling back together gradually. We’re looking to the future with renewed hope and confidence – and we know we can make Liberia great again by putting the destiny of Liberia back into the hands of the people. If we just stick together, and remain true to our ideals, we can be sure that our greatest days are ahead of us.

My fellow Liberians, it’s morning again in our homeland and the chickens are crowing; letting us know it is time for work. Today more men and women will go to work than ever before in the last twenty years of our country’s history. With inflation at about half the record highs of 1990s and the early 2000s, more families will buy more food and build new homes today, more than at any time in the past ten years. This afternoon more than 20,000 young men and women will be celebrating the 26thin entertainment centers across the nation, and with inflation at less than half of what it was just ten years ago, they can look forward with confidence to the future. Today, there are more yellow machines and dump trucks building roads and bridges all across our country. Today, all along the eastern border towns in our country, men are at work planting light poles and running transmission lines that will bring cheap electricity from Cote d’Ivoire through Nimba, Bassa, Margibi, Montserrado, Bomi and Cape Mount Counties as part of the West African Power Pool. It’s dawn again in Liberia my brothers and sisters, and under the leadership of President Johnson Sirleaf, our country is prouder and stronger and better. The fundamental question for all Liberians now is: where do we want to go – chaos or community? Why would we ever want to return to where we were just ten short years ago?

You and I are consistently reminded by the aggrieved politicians and those accustomed to surviving through chaos that we must choose between chaos and community, but I suggest there is no other option but to pursue community. There is only an up or down. Up to the age-old dream of all men – the maximum of individual self-determination consistent with order – or down to the valley of despotism that leads to chaos. Regardless of their sincerity, their humanitarian motives, those who would sacrifice our young vibrant but very fragile democracy for their personal interests have embarked on this downward path. The Greek philosopher Plutarch once warned, “The real destroyer of the liberties of the people is he who spreads among them bounties, donations and benefits.”

Our attitude is at the heart of the new political consensus that emerged in Liberia at the beginning of the decade of the 1970s, one that I believe has dominated and continues to dominate Liberian politics for many decades. The economic decline brought about by reliance on an enclave economy, exclusion and marginalization; and too much government dominated by a few with lousy conflict resolving institutions were the catalysts for this consensus. During the ’70s, the Liberian people began to see misdirected, overgrown government as the source of many of our social problems – not the solution. The progressive movement led the charge for social justice, inclusion, increased voice and accountability that were met with fierce resistance.

That new consensus had a view of government that’s essentially that of our constitution, that government is the servant, not the master; that it was meant to maintain order, to protect our nation’s safety; that it was meant not put any constrictions on the people but to leave them the heck alone.

The overriding goal during the past six years has been to give the government back to the Liberian people, to make it responsive again to their wishes and desires, to do more than bring about a healthy economy or a growing gross national product. We’ve truly brought about a quiet revolution in the Liberian government. Today, there is increased voice and accountability than ever at any time in the history of our country.  There is more political freedom than at anytime of our history.

For too many years, bureaucratic self-interest and political maneuvering held sway over efficiency and honesty in government. Public dollars were treated as the property of bureaucrats, not taxpayers. Those in government establishment who point to the misuse of those dollars are looked upon as malcontents or troublemakers.

But, you know, making government responsive again to the Liberian people involves more than eliminating waste and fraud and inefficiency. It involves more than chat room discussions. During the decades when government was intruding into areas where it was neither competent nor needed, it was also ignoring its legitimate and constitutional duties such as preserving the domestic peace and providing for the common defense. It will take a very powerful coalition of all stakeholders to break the cycle of entrenched interests in Liberia.

Yet any time you and I question the schemes of the do-gooders who prey on young angry Liberians and the educated in the Diaspora looking for opportunities to return home, we’re denounced as being opposed to their humanitarian goals. It seems impossible to legitimately debate their solutions with the assumption that all of us share the desire to help the less fortunate in Liberia. They tell us we are not doing anything to address more than a generation of economic decline and the largest economic collapse recorded in the history of growth economics. Whenever we asked questions, they say we are arrogant, frisky or too powerful; they say we are always “asking” never “agreeing” to anything the first time they are brought to our attention.

Are you willing, my fellow citizens, to spend time studying the issues, making yourself aware, and then conveying that information to family and friends? Will you resist the temptation to demonize your country, putting at risk the hard fought peace we now enjoy? I want you to realize that the doctor’s fight against socialized medicine is your fight. We can’t entertain the doctors without entertaining the patients. Recognize that assault on the hard earned reputation and hard work of your leaders and public servants without any hard evidence of wrongdoing just to settle political scores is eventually an assault upon your country’s image. If some among you fear taking a stand because you are afraid of reprisals from patrons, ambitious politicians, or even government, recognize that you are just feeding the lion hoping he’ll eat you last. They are only criticizing, not offering any constructive solutions!

If all of this seems like a great deal of trouble, think what’s at stake. We are faced with the most evil enemy Liberians have known in their long desire to move from mats to mattresses, from the slumps to vibrant communities. There can be no security anywhere in Liberia if there is no fiscal and economic stability; and there can be absolutely no economic stability if there is no security and rule of law. Those who ask us to trade our young democracy, our new but fragile peace for the soup kitchen of the prosperity for a few powerful and loud voices are architects of a future conflict.

These architects say Liberia has become too compounded for simple answers. They are wrong. There are no easy answers, but there are simple answers. We must have the courage to do what we know is right. Winston Churchill said that “the destiny of man is not measured by material computation. When great forces are on the move in the world, we learn we are spirits – not animals.” And he said once when Hitler went mad in Europe, “There is something going on in time and space, and beyond time and space, which, whether we like it or not, spells duty.”

My fellow Liberians, in August this year, we will be celebrating ten years of peace. We must reexamine our attitudes as individuals and as a Nation, for our attitude is as essential as the socio-economic issues confronting our nation. Andevery thoughtful citizen who despairs of conflict and wishes to live in a more peaceful Liberia, should begin by looking inward, by examining his own attitude towards the possibilities of durable peace, towards the addressing the underlying soft issues of ethnicity, exclusion and marginalization we have long ignored but continue to fuel our anger.

Too many of us think it is impossible to confront tribalism, marginalization and exclusion. Too many think it is unreal. But that is a dangerous, defeatist belief. It leads to the conclusion that Liberia going back war is unavoidable, that Liberia is doomed, that Liberians are gripped by forces they cannot control. We need not accept that view. Our problems are Liberian made; therefore, they can be solved by Liberians. And Liberians can be as big as they want. No problem of human destiny is beyond human beings. I am not referring to the absolute, infinite concept of unity, peace and good will of which some fanatics dream.

Let us focus instead on a practical, more attainable reconciliation for a durable peace, based not on a sudden revolution in Liberians but on a gradual evolution in our institutions – on a series of concrete actions and effective programs which are in the interest of all Liberians.

There is no single, simple key to this reconciliation and peace roadmap; no grand or magic formula to be adopted by us. Genuine reconciliation must be the product of all of our tribes, the sum of all the major stakeholders in our country and in the Diaspora. It will not work by excluding Diaspora Liberians. It must be dynamic, not static, changing to meet the challenge of each new Liberian generation. Reconciliation and peace are a process – a way of solving problems.

To achieve genuine reconciliation and lasting peace, there will still be disagreements and incompatible interests, as there are within families and communities. Confronting tribalism in Liberia does not require that each man loves his neighbor; it requires only that they live together in mutual tolerance, submitting their disagreements to a just and peaceful settlement. So let us persevere, my fellow Liberians. By defining our goal more clearly, by making it seem more manageable and less remote, we can help all Liberians to see it, to draw hope from it, and to move compellingly towards it.

Make no mistake, Liberians at home and in the Diaspora are not a people who dread the future. We are a people who make history. And on this July 26th, we walk in that identity. We need to cultivate the perseverance of our forefathers, as they strove for independence nearly two centuries ago. And we must do it together. And I know that this noble generation of Liberians will make its mark on history and write the next chapter in the great Liberia story.

By working together to put an end to ethnicity, exclusion and marginalization in Liberia, we will be giving our children the greatest gift that is within our power to give, the one we did not receive from those who came before us: a strong and opportunity-filled Liberia united for peace and sustainable development. And I thank you for all that you have done and continue to do in the Diaspora to make certain that we do just that.

Thank you and Happy July 26th, and may God Almighty bless our country.




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