The Claim Of Tribal Politics in Liberia: Is It Out Of Ignorance Or Is It For Selfishness;The Case Of Nimba County And Others

By Atty Philip N. Wesseh (PNW)

Whenever it is said that “Man Is A selfish Being,” used, it is always viewed from one perspective, suggesting that man is only concerned about himself and not others. While this may be true, it goes beyond just the issue of being concerned about himself and not others. This may also mean that man is always concerned about what surrounds him and what is of interest to him. This is why even in the field of Mass Communication one of the elements of news is “PROXIMIYTY,” which means that people are always interested in things closer to them than those afar.

Psychologically, it is also said that this might even go beyond one’s surroundings to other areas or events that are of interest to such person. For example, in the area of soccer where some individuals in other parts of the world get so close to a particular team, and in some instances, may even harm themselves just for the love of that team.

Today, I am inspired to make reference to this popular maxim because of the path I am pursuing, after reading a well-researched article written by Cllr. Tiawon S.Gongloe and Zaiye B. Dehkee I, two prominent sons of Nimba County on the issue of tribal politics. In that piece, the two individuals disagreed with individuals who are claiming that the Dan (Gio) people of the county have been “marginalized” when it comes to political appointments in the county. The two individuals, who outlined the leadership trend of the county since it was founded, argued that, “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.”

Furthermore the two lawyers said, “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.” Hence they said that their intent to do the article was to “prevent such evil geniuses from poisoning the minds of young Nimbaians against any group of Nimbaians or create tribal conflict by providing the statistical history of the leadership of the county.

To that, the sons of the county said at the formation of Nimba County that their first Superintendent was Honorable Gabriel J. Fangalo, a Dan (Gio) man from Gbehlaygeh, from 1964 to 1968. The second person appointed as Superintendent was Samuel T. Voker, a Mah (Mano) from Saclepea.

For example, the first person to represent the people of Sanniquille Mah in the House of Representatives was Chief Soko Sackor, a Mandingo man from a predominantly Mano Chiefdom. He was succeeded by one of his sons, Mamadee Soko Sackor as Representative when he died. The first from Sanniquille Mah, who was Mano, was the late Madam Yalama Duayan Dokie.

Also in 1985 general and presidential elections, the candidate who won the elections in the Tapita, a predominantly Dan area was Alhaji Lansana Kromah, a Mandingo man. Furthermore, the man who won the representative post in the same elections from Zoe-Geh, a pre-dominantly Dan area was Alhaji Mamadee Kamara, a Mandingo man. In that same election year, the people of Ganta, Namba County elected Mr. James Harris, a Grebo man who lived in Ganta for a protracted period of time.

As for the Senate, they researched that 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 Queln Harris, a Dan man from Tapita, amalgamated Gio Chiefdom and Johny Voker, a Mano man from Saclepea Mah Chiefdom. When T.H. Harris died in 1969, he was replaced by Catherine Cummings, a Liberian of an Americo-Liberian decent whose late husband was District Commissioner of Tapita, Central Province, before Nimba was created.

Then when Johny Voker died in 1976, Jackson F. Doe, a Mah man from Zoe-Geh Chiefdom, Succeeded him as Senator. In 1985, Edward Sackor, a Mandingo man from Zoe-Geh was elected Senator and Hilary Gbunblee, a Mah (Mano) man from Saclepea Mah Chiefdom was elected Senator. Although the two gave more on the leadership of the county, should I continue to repeat all that they had said, this article would be endless. Therefore, I rest on the trend of leadership for now.

Howbeit, I take interest, not as a son of Nimba County but as a Liberian and someone whose son, Arnold N. Wesseh’s grandmother (Tryphena Farngalo) hails from the county. Frankly because of my son, I now have a special interest in the county. Additionally, I take this as an important matter because the issue of “Tribal Politics” has been something some individuals use to conciliate or divide the people for selfish reasons. More importantly, I feel the piece done by the two sons of Nimba county needs to be encouraged by others so as to strengthen the process of reconciliation, peace and unity. This is so because it appears that many of those who speak of tribal politics may be doing so out of ignorance or for selfish reasons.

By perusing the article of the two sons of Nimba County, one would realize that there has been a balance in leadership. But because people may not know, they stand to be manipulated, thereby undermining the unity and oneness of their people. Indisputably, the leadership of Sinoe County has been involved in similar conflict of ‘tribal politics. Perhaps if a piece, like the one done by the two sons of Nimba is also written, people would really get the insight of the leadership of the county and other areas to avoid this unnecessary cat-and-mouse relationship among county leaders.

I am of the strong conviction that as the campaign continues for the senatorial race, this would be a cardinal point in the exercise. Again, ignorance might be responsible. Ignorance, as it is defined, is “lack of knowledge, education or awareness.” And so it is logical to deduce that some of these so-called tribal politics exhibit only because people are not conversant of the facts, and therefore, at times, fall prey to manipulations or machination by selfish individuals.

The issue of ignorance cannot be overemphasized because it is also responsible for the way and manner in which some individuals behave in society. Sometimes, people say things without knowing the implications and consequences, only because they are not aware or educated on such matter. I recall that once a group called for the resignation of the President. When the group leader visited our offices and was asked if the President were to resign, whether the Vice President would succeed her; to that, he ignorantly said, “NO! all of them must go”, which clearly indicated that the leader of the group was not even aware of constitutional provisions on succession.

In concluding this complimentary piece, let me thank the good lawyers and sons of Nimba for this bold step and hope that people from other counties would emulate this good example to avoid unnecessary so-called tribal politics.

At the same time, I urge the two sons of the county to seek assistance from the UNDP Peace Funds to have this printed in large quality for distribution in the county, as it is geared towards promoting peace, reconciliation and unity, which are very crucial for national development, as a divided nation cannot stand. I Rest my Case.