THE CLAIM OF MARGINALIZATION OF THE MAH OR THE DAN PEOPLE OF NIMBA: A PRODUCT OF SELF-CENTERED, DIVISIVE POLITICAL GAME PLANNERS, DOOMED FOR FAILURE
By Cllrs. TiawanSayeGongloe and Zaiye B. Dehkee, I
Nimba County remains one of the two sub-political divisions in Liberia that have resisted the temptation of disintegration. During the Taylor administration, when Lofa and Grand Gedeh counties were being politically split into two counties each, Nimba resisted the pressure of disintegration from high placed political leaders (not Nimbaians) in government. The focus of the Nimba people at that time was on elevating the level of political governance of the county by the creation of statutory districts, administrative districts, townships, chiefdoms, clans and magisterial districts to suit the size and population. The knowledge the proponents of disintegration are lacking is that the founders of Nimbacounty envisaged and engraved unity in the hearts and minds of Nimbaians to be their strength and authority in the embodiment of the national politics. Evidently, this vision of Nimba County’s founders has, from time and again, been tested and demonstrated as reflected in Nimba responses to national crisis and events irrespective of internal disagreements with county governing authorities or dissatisfaction with conditions of governance. The successes scored in hosting and handling national and international events beginning with the formation meeting of the Organization of African Unity in Sanniquellie in 1969 to the hosting and handling of three Liberia Independence Day Anniversaries in 1972, 1999 and 2010 arguably demonstrate and justify the true reflection of unity and culture of hospitality of the Nimba people. Though, the 1999 Independence Day Anniversary, understandably, was poorly attended due to the fact that Liberia was at war with itself, Nimba County remains the beckon of hospitality in Liberia. Nimba’s strength and successes in scoring these high marks of national credentials were and are embodied in unity envisioned and engraved by the founders.
The Civil Crises: A burden of Reconciliation
Just as Ebola threatens the existence of humanity, so was the Liberian civil crisis. The civil crisis was brutal in nature and threatened the bond that units the five ethnic groups (Dan, Mahn, Krahn, Mandingoes and the Gbi peoples). The burden of reconciliation is the by-product of the civil war that those who see themselves as political leaders of the people should and must bear. Our people are seeking for leaders that will fulfill the vision of the founders of the county, not those who seek to create conditions of disunity among them. Leadership is an authority that can only be given directly by the people through an electoral process or indirectly through the President and other persons elected by the people and not imposed. Only rulership, such as the one obtained through military coups or monarchial system can be imposed. Surrogate politicians who, being inadequate in themselves and lack the appropriate message for the people, would sing the song of their proponents of disintegration, in some cases, such as marginalization or political dominance by another ethnic group, especially when the people are to freely make their choice at the ballot box. There should be no dissent when the people freely exercise their franchise, and so also, when the executive, with consent of the choice of the electorates, constitutionally exercise its rights guaranteed under the constitution to appoint their local officials.
Since the end of the fourteen years of civil conflict in Liberia, the overriding concern of all well-meaning Liberians have been to seek ways and means by which Liberians reconcile themselves and unite to rebuild Liberia. Nimba County is at the core for this search for reconciliation and unity. The reasons are simple. First, all of the tribes that are known for greater participation in the civil conflict are found in Nimba County. It is a well-known fact that the history of the Liberian civil conflict cannot be a true story if it does not mention the roles played by the Mahs (Manos) Dan (Gios) Krahns and Mandingoes. While, some hold the view that the weapons of death and destruction placed in the hands of members of these tribes were pointed at non-Nimbaians, the truth is that Nimbaians pointed some of these weapons at their fellow Nimbaians. There are so many stories of this nature in nearly all of the districts of the County. The second reason is that in the efforts of some Nimba politicians to get political position, either elected or appointed they tend to use methods that have the potential of undermining the unity of the Nimba people. Those who use the method of divide and rule do often succeed in getting elected or getting appointed to important political positions. While such persons succeed in getting what they want, the net effect of their success is tend to plant the seed of disunity among the people, becoming suspicious of each other’s intention thereby making it difficult for Nimbaians to work together for the common good of the people of Nimba County. What good is a political position, if one feels that in order to get it he must divide his own people? A divided people cannot succeed in achieving anything for their common good. So, the situation, in Nimba today, is such that since 2006, the members of the House of Representatives and Senate representing Nimba County have not been able to work together for the common good of Nimba County. Generally, Nimbaians are disappointed, disheartened and sometimes find the situation hopeless. Recent pronouncements of some Nimbaians holding public posts that have the tendency of dividing our people demonstrate a lack of leadership. We reject any and all message of disunity and call upon the people of Nimba County to cleave unto the vision of unity of our forefathers and vote with their conscience.
The most recent development in this regard is that some legislators and politicians hailing from Nimba have been quoted as saying that the Dan (Gio) people are marginalized when it comes to political appointments. As much as we do not like to participate in a discourse of this nature because of its parochial nature, we have chosen to make certain clarification because, it would be difficult for us to reconcile and unite the people of Nimba as an integral part of the national effort at reconciliation and unity, if some people holding important public posts continue in their ignorance to the true and factual history of Nimba to continue to polarize our people by putting members of one tribe against the others by preaching the message of disunity to gain vote from a segment of our population. There is not any factual history to support this proposition or claim that the Mano people have been marginalized by the Dan (Gio) people or that the Dan (Gio) people have been marginalized by the Mah (Mano) people. Anyone who makes such a proposition either does not know the factual history of Nimba County or is an evil genius with a deliberate design to undermine, peace, reconciliation and unity in Nimba County. To prevent such evil geniuses from poisoning the minds of young Nimbaians against any group of
Nimbaians or create tribal conflict, we have decided to give a statistical history of how Nimbaians of the various tribes have had their fair chances in holding public posts since Nimba County was created in 1964.
In 1964, the area of Liberia from Kakata to the Cestos River, then known as the Central Province was a land occupied by tribes that were, largely, united and peacefully living together. In 1964, the chiefs and elders of this land gave their consent for their educated children and their government to create Nimba County. The chiefs who made this historic decision included Paramount chief GlozuoToweh, Paramount Chief KarnweinTuazama, Paramount Chief Johnny Voker, Paramount Chief NyontonPaye, Paramount Chief John N. Strotter, Paramount Chief WehDorliae, Paramount Chief Samuel G. Dahn, Paramount Chief Bona Suah, Paramount Chief WotoMongrue, Paramount Chief SokoSackor, Paramount WehpaPaye, Paramount Chief Siaway, Paramount Chief GogbaGlahn (succeeded by) Chief James Berry representing Gbi and Doru (the Bassa section of the Province) amongst others, along with enlightened elders including, Honourables Charles S.G Boayue, Jackson F. Doe, Gabriel G. Farngalo, Samuel T. Voker, Emmanuel N. Gblazeh, D.GborboDwanyen, David Toweh, Samuel GiziKpan, Lewis Bailey, Marcus G. S Dolo, Peter G. Dorliae, John. G. Sahn, Alfred Flomo, Benjamin Tuazama, John Bartuah, Samuel T. Duo, Sr., Dr. Joseph SayeGuannue, Ernest Boayue, amongst prominent other founders, made a deliberate decision that establish Nimba County. These chiefs and our enlightened elders never discriminated nor ever regarded each other along tribal lines. Unfortunately, for us today, most of these founders of Nimba County, except for a few including Charles S. G Boayue and Dr. Guannue are dead. These leaders, coming from the five tribes inhabiting the area of Liberia that is known today as Nimba County, made a deliberate decision that all the tribes living between the Cestos River and St. John River should live together in one county. They named their newly established county after the Nimba Mountain. They eloquently resisted a proposition of the creation of a very large county to comprise the area known then as the Central Province including the districts of Kakata-Salala, Gbarnga, Sanniquellie and Tappita to be known by the acronym of KASAGBASATA. The chiefs and elders chose Nimba, a word coined from NeinbaaTohn (a Mah name for Nimba Mountain, literarily meaning the mountain on which spinsters slipped or that is slippery of spinsters)They were mindful of the fact that there existed a natural and insitu bond that united the ethnic groups in Nimba, something that was always reflected in their cultures and traditions practiced over hundreds of years. The simple fact is that members of the tribes of Nimba County are cousins who are custodians of insitu cultures in Liberia today. They have and continue to maintain bigger and larger native towns and communities with ancient insitu cultures and traditions in Liberia today. We, who inherited this land of united tribes must do everything to keep it as united as the founders intended it to be.
Let’s look at the history of those among the sons and daughters of Nimba who have had the privilege of holding important national and local public posts. At the formation of Nimba County, our first Superintendent was Honorable Gabriel G. Farngalo, a Dan (Gio) man from Gbehlaygeh, from 1964 -68. The second person appointed as Superintendent was Samuel T. Voker, a Mah (Mano) from SaclepeaMah, 1968-72, D. GborboeDwanyen, a Dan (Gio) from Tappita District, 1972-74. David Toweh, a Dan (Gio) from Tappita District; Fulton Dunbar, a Liberian of Americo-Liberian descent, who grew among the Mano and the Kpelleh people and could perfectly speak both Mano and Kpelleh, 1977-80; Capt. Robert G. Saye, a Mah (Mano) from SaclepeaMah District, 1980-81; Gen. Joseph N. Farngalo, a Dan(Gio) from 1981-83; J. GondaWorkie, a Mah (Mano) 1983-86; Stephen Daniels, a Mah (Mano) from 1986-90; Col. Jackson Paye, a Krahn from the Kpiablee Chiefdom of Tappita District, in 1990; Henry Bahn, a Dan from 1991-93; Princeton Monmia, from 1993-94; Gen. Edward Meneh, a Dan from Gbehlaygeh, from1994-98; James W. Zotaa, Sr., a Mah (Mano) from SanniquellieMah District, 1998-99; S. YarlorSaywon, a Mah (Mano) from YarwinMehnsonnoh County District, 1999-2001; Rachael E. Miller, a Mah (Mano) woman from SanniquellieMah District 2001-03; Harrison Karnwea, a Dan(Gio) from Zoe Geh District 2003-06; Robert S. Karmei, a Mano from SanniquellieMah District, 2006-09; Edith GongloeWeh, a Mah (Mano) woman from YarwinMehnsonnoh County District, 2009-11; Christiana Dagadu, a Mah (Mano) woman from SanniquellieMah District, 2011-2014; and Fong Zuagele, a (Mah) Mano from SanniquellieMah District, 2014-present. There has been a fair representation of the Dans and Mahs mainly and to a limited level the Mandingoes and Krahns in other local government positions such as Assistant Superintendent for Development, County inspector, county attorney, judge, education officers, etc. For example Samuel Bargibo, a Krahn was one time Assistant Superintendent for Development and the Late AsumanaKromah was Assistant Superintendent for Development.
The people of Nimba County have elevated Nimbaians and residents of Nimba in areas where members of the majority tribes have chosen members of the minority tribes over their own for high public posts. For example the first person to represent the people of SanniquellieMah in the House of Representative was Chief SokoSackor, a Mandingo man from a predominantly Mano Chiefdom. He was succeeded my one of his sons, Hon. MamadeeSokoSackor, as representative when he died. The first from SanniquellieMah, who was Mano, was the Late Madam YalamaDuayenDokie. Also in the 1985 general and presidential elections, the candidate who won the election in Tappita, a predominantly Dan area was AlhajiLansanaKromah, a Mandingo man. Furthermore, the man who won the representative post in the same election from Zoe Geh, a predominantly Dan people area, was AlhajiMamadee Kamara, a Mandingo man. In that same election year, the people of Ganta, Nimba County, elected Mr. James Harris, a Grebo man who had lived in Ganta for a protracted period of time. Another Grebo man, Hon, Jeremiah K. Koung is currently a member of the House representing the Ganta area. During the 1997 election that brought Taylor to power, Madam Ellen King, a Gbi woman was elected by the people of Tappita District. Therefore, historically, tribe has not been an issue when it comes to the holding of public posts in Nimba County.
When it comes to the Liberian Senate, there has also been a fair representation from at least the two major tribes, Dan and Mano. At the birth of the county, the first two Senators were Thomas Quelyn Harris, a Dan man from Tappita, Amalgamated Gio Chiefdom and Johnny Voker, a Mano man from SaclepeaMah Chiefdom. When T. Q Harris died in 1969, he was replaced by Catherine Cummings, a Liberian of Americo-Liberian descent whose late husband was District Commissioner of Tappita District, Central Province, before Nimba was created. Then when Johnny Voker died in in 1976, Jackson F. Doe, a Dan man from Zoe Geh Chiefdom, succeeded him as Senator. In 1985 Edward Sackor, a Mandingo man from Zoe Geh was elected Senator and Hillary Gbunblee, a Mah (Mano) man from SaclepeaMah Chiefdom was elected Senator. Later Senator Edward Sackor gave up his position for the post of Minister of Internal Affairs and was replaced by David Toweh a, Dan (Gio) man from the Amalgamated Gio Chiefdom as Senator. In 1997, Margaret Kermah, a Dan (Gio) woman from Tappita, Amalgamated Gio Chiefdom was elected Senator and George Korkor, a Mah (Mano) man from SaclepeaMah was elected Senator. The current Senators are Prince Y. Johnson, a Dan (Gio) man from Zoe Geh and Thomas Grupee a Dan (Gio) man from the Amalgamated Gio Chiefdom. This representation is certainly not a problem and should not be a problem because it reflects the choice of the people of Nimba. It is the product of votes cast by Nimba people in the 2005 and 2011 elections. Whenever the people of Nimba want a different composition of representation in the Liberian Senate they can do so in another election, now or in the future. Therefore, no tribe or group of persons should be blamed for the nature of representation that Nimba County has in the Liberian Senate. As it stands the chiefdoms that have not produce a Senator yet are Yarwin-Mehnsonnoh Chiefdom, SanniquellieMah Chiefdom and GbehleyGeh Chiefdom. Nimba County is not partitioned along tribal lines but by clans, chiefdoms, administrative districts and statutory districts. Therefore, in the discussion of issues in the county, the focus should be on sons and daughters that have met the leadership criteria to serve the people and not tribe. This is because tribe has not been an issue when it comes to the holding of public posts.
Now let’s come to national level positions. Since the creation of Nimba County, the following persons have held national level positions, Enoch Dogolea, a Dan (Gio) man, Vice President under President Charles Taylor; Moses Blah, a Dan (Gio) man, Vice President, also under President Charles Taylor and President after President; Jackson F. Doe, a Dan(Gio) man, Minister of Education, William R. Tolbert Administration; LuseniDonzo, a Mandingo man from SanniquellieMah, Minister, Ministry Action, Development and Progress under President Tolbert and Minister of Public Works under President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf; Gabriel G. Farngalo, a Dan (Gio) man, Ambassador of Liberia to Zaire(now Democratic Republic of Congo) Guinea under President Tolbert and Egypt under President Doe; Jenkins Wongbe, a Dan (Gio) man, Director General, Civil Service Agency, under President Taylor; Roger Woodson, a Dan man (Gio) Managing Director, Water and Sewer Corporation, under Presidents Doe and Taylor; D. GborboeDwanyen, a Dan (Gio) man, Minister of Commerce, Samuel K. Doe Regime; Edward Sackor, a Mandingo man, Minister of Internal Affairs, Samuel Doe Regime; S. GlorzuoToweh, a Dan (Gio) man, Minister of Agriculture and Minister of Postal Affairs, Samuel Doe Regime; AnsumanaKromah, a Mandingo man, Minister of Internal Affairs, Samuel Doe Regime and Commissioner, National Elections Commissioner under Presidents Doe and Sirleaf; Martha SendoloBelleh, a Mah (Mano) Minister of Health and Social Welfare, Samuel Doe Regime; Samuel Dokie, a (Mah)Mano man, Minister of Internal Affairs, Liberia National Transitional Government(LNTG1), Varlee Keita, a Mandingo man, Minister of Public Works, LNTG1; Cllr. Zaiye B. Dehkee, I, a Dan(Gio) man, Minister of Lands, Mines and Energy, LNTG1; Y. MewasehPaye-Bayee, a Mah (Mano) man, Commissioner of Immigration and Minister of Post and Telecommunications under President Taylor; David Zalee, Director of Budget, LNTG2; Dr. Joseph Guannu, a Mah (Mano) man, Minister of State for Presidential Affairs, Interim Government of National Unity, Ambassador Plenipotentiary to the United State of America, Samuel Doe Regime; Harry Yuan, a Dan(Gio) Managing Director, Liberia Electricity Corporation under Samuel Doe Regime, IGNU and Ellen Johnson Sirleaf Regimes and now Commissioner of Liberia Telecommunications Authority (LTA); TiawanSayeGongloe, a Mah (Mano) man, Executive Assistant to the President, IGNU, Solicitor General and Minister of Labor, under President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf; Dr. Joseph D.Z Korto, a Mah (Mano) man, Minister of Education, under President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf; George P. Gonpu, a Dan(Gio) man, Director of the Bureau of Budget; Harrison Karnweaye, a Dan(Gio) man, Minister of Internal Affairs, and Managing Director, Forestry Development Authority. Charles S.G. Boayue, a Mah (Mano) man, member, National Elections Commission, under Samuel K. Doe. J. Patrick Biddle, a Mah(Mano)man, Associate Justice, Supreme Court of Liberia, under the Doe Regime; Patrick Sendolo, a Mano man, Minister of Lands, Mines and Energy under President Sirleaf; Frederick Norkeh, a Mah (Mano) man, Minister of Post and Telecommunication under President Sirleaf; SuzanaVaye, a Dan (Gio) woman, Commissioner, Land Commission, under President Sirleaf, Moses Wogbeh, Managing Director, Forestry Development Authority, under President Sirleaf; Lawrence Yekula, Director General, National Social Security and Welfare Corporation, under LNTG1; NyanManten, a Mah (Mano) Managing Director, Liberia Produce Marketing Corporation under President Ellen Sirleaf; George Bolo, a Mah (Mano) man, Director General, National Social Security and Welfare Corporation and Chairman, National Investment Commission under Doe Regime; David Kialin, a Mano man, Director General Agricultural and Industrial Training Bureau; Isaac SayeMessah, a (Mah) Mano man, Vice Chairman , Council of State, LNTG1; Paul Guah, a (Mah) Mano man, Chairman, National Elections Commission, under President Charles Taylor; KarmoSokoSackor, a Mandingo man, Commissioner of Immigration, IGNU, Associate Justice of the Supreme Court, LNTG1 and President Taylor and member, National Elections Commission, LNTG2; Emma Wuo, a(Mah) Mano woman, Minister of Post and Telecommunications, under President Taylor; Micheal Wiles, a Krahn man, Director General of the Liberia Domestic Aviation Authority; EmmanualNyanGblazeh, a Mah (Mano) man, Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of Liberia during the Regime of Samuel Doe; James K. Belleh, a Mah (Mano) man Associate Justice of the Supreme Court of Liberia under Samuel Doe; Francis SeiKorkpor, a Mah (Mano) man, Associate Justice of the Supreme Court under LNTG2 and Ellen Sirleaf and Chief Justice under President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf; Kabineh M. Ja’neh, a Mandingo man, Associate Justice of the Supreme Court of Liberia. Associate Justice of the Supreme Court of Liberia under Samuel Doe; Francis SeiKorkpor, a Mah (Mano) man, Associate Justice of the Supreme Court under LNTG2 and Ellen Sirleaf and Chief Justice under President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf; Kabineh M. Ja’neh, a Mandingo man, Associate Justice of the Supreme Court of Liberia.
This historical account may not be comprehensive enough and may not be reflective of the full picture of Nimbaians who have had the privilege and honor to be preferred by various regimes to serve our country in top level national posts. Occupants of deputy and assistant level positions in ministries, autonomous agencies and public corporations have not been taken into consideration. Taking into account the number of Nimbaians that have been appointed to public posts at that level, would require more research work and more time and therefore, delay a release of this very important information which is intended to undermine any attempt by any uninformed, less informed, or evil genius to misinform the young people of Nimba County and thereby create bad feelings among them which could make them hateful of each other based on their tribal affiliation, under efforts at reconciling and uniting the people of Nimba County and the general progress of the county.
Our advice to the people of Nimba County is that we should not allow anyone to plant the seed of disunity and hatred amongst us because of appointments of some of our brothers and sisters to local and national level posts. We should know that appointments are temporary and based on the will and pleasure of the President of Liberia. Most often, presidents appoint individuals that they know or are comfortable with as long as such appointments are not in violation of the Constitution of Liberia, a statute or public policy. Sometimes appointments are made based on recommendations made by people that are close to the president or that she or he trusts. In some cases a president may appoint a person, not because she or he is the most competent person for the post, but because he just likes the person. For example, there used to be a popular impression during the Doe Regime, that as much as Emmanuel Shaw is a competent professional, what motivated Doe to appoint him to several positions in his government was not his professional competence, but the way he dressed and conducted himself. The popular notion then, was that Shaw was, largely, responsible for how Doe dressed and conducted himself in the public. Doe liked Shaw and so Shaw was appointed by him as Deputy Minister of State for Economic Affairs, Minister of Finance, amongst others. Some of Doe’s appointments may have even been influenced by Shaw. Some appointments may even make a payback for something good that the appointee or his parent or some relative may have done for the president before his/her presidency. Appointments can be payback for support during presidential campaigns. So also, it should arguably be understood that while nobody has control over the factors that influences appointments made by a president, the failure of county political leaders to influence equitable and just inclusion of their citizens in government should not form the basis of disunity. Therefore, Nimbaians should not turn against each other because of presidential appointments, irrespective of whether those appointments are local or national. Rather, we should be happy when one of our Nimba brothers or sisters is fortunate to be appointed by a President of Liberia, especially to a national level post. Nimba has been fortunate under most presidents of Liberia, in this regard. Some counties have not been as fortunate as Nimba when it comes to appointment to public posts. Even under Doe, when some counties did not have even one cabinet level position, Nimba had many. We hope that the information that we have provided in this article will help to undermine conduct that have the tendency to plant seed of conflict in Nimba, and open the door for reconciliation, unity and objectivity during the pending senatorial election and subsequent elections. We congratulate all our brothers and sisters who have placed their names at the disposal of the people of Nimba County to select one as our senator. BRAVO! BRAVO! BRAVO!