Liberian Orbit, October 8, 2002          

In the Mind of a Liberian Refugee

Special Feature - From "Zomatic" in Ghana

Editor's Note: The author is a Liberian refugee living in the West African republic of Ghana. He has decided to join the ORBIT Features Desk, and has adopted the pen name "Zomatic" to enable him contribute freely from where he sits. The ORBIT presents his debut article, which adds to the diversity in the exchange of thoughts and information on the ORBIT site.

The Liberian civil conflict has not only destroyed the material infrastructure of the society, but has also taken in its most important resource - the human components needed to resuscitate a devastated society. Historically, the entire concept of refugee is not new to Liberia. Wars and conquests characterized pre-historic Liberia. As one traditional ethnic group or tribe tried to undo the other, a struggle ensued and the victor in the struggle took as prizes of war, prisoners and other valuables. Those who feared to be taken as prisoners fled and became refugees in other areas.

The arrival of the American Colonization Society in Liberia with its human cargo is part of the Liberian refugee history. Those historically called Americo-Liberian and Congo people were refugees. Though they were not particularly taken from Liberia, their departure from the Americas was a result of a series of civil discrimination and unrest in the Americas. These events motivated the American Colonization Society to discuss with the American government the possibility of resettling the freed black people back to the continent from where they were taken originally. Liberia was born out of such plans. The ACS was doing this for the "safety" of non-black America. So the freed black arrived in Liberia as refugees under the name Americo-Liberian, then the contradiction began to sharpen.

The former slaves from plantations in the Americas began to enslave those that hosted them, thereby giving rise to two Liberias. interposing in a geographically one country. A system of perennial exploitation was established under the guidance of the oligarchy - a hegemonic entity, which ate the fabric of our society for over one hundred and thirty three years (133 years). Then history played a trick on the hegemony with the involvement of the military in politics so as to save the state - a theory referred to in political science as the caesarian theory. On April 12,1980, seventeen enlisted men of the armed forces of Liberia successfully toppled the oligarchy.

From earlier plundering of the country by the hegemony, huge wealth was accrued, and with the ignorance of the military, the hegemony soon consolidated and infiltrated the native-led soldiers backed government of Samuel Doe. Deceptive politics and money soon misguided the Doe government, and a system of elimination of core members of the government was established. This led to division within the government as killing of key members led to flight of others for safety. Internal contradiction ensued. This was intensified with an abortive coup led by Thomas Quiwonkpa, former commanding general of the Armed Forces of Liberia. The enmity took a critical form with members of his ethnic group victimized by series of raids.

Prominent citizens from Nimba, the home of the commanding general, fled into exile and on December 24,1989, the return of these exiles led to the first widespread slaughter in Liberia. The war left an indelible scar in Liberia as many fled for safety into neighboring countries. Mass exodus of our people was visible in the sub-region.

Then there was the intervention of pressure groups such as ULIMO, which through the perfect manipulation of camouflage-skinned politicians, led to divisions with names like "K" and "J," and then came the LPC, LDF, etc. All of these groups were an intervention to prepare the returning of our people. And the involvement of the sub-region and the United Nations also exacerbated the conflict in many ways, resulting to the mass exodus of our people.

A makeshift and alien form of elections was later superimposed on the country with the aim of mortgaging the nation. On July 19, 1997,a form of elections called proportional representation resulted in the stealing of the presidency of Liberia with Charles Taylor being announced as the winner amidst controversy. As the ballots were being counted, Taylor was declared a winner with a comical result of over 85 percent. This outside-child of a resurrected oligarchy set up a reign of terror resulting in more forced exodus of our people.

Ghana became a host to many of our people. In Ghana refugee, life is equated to a flight to the country bordering hell - not as hot as hell, yet not cold as a decent place to sustain life. Survival in Ghana is a function of good will from families and friends living in developed world. The basic necessities of life are a far-fetched reality as even in these modern days, safe drinking water is rationed out to the refugees. Bathing is done on a once in two days by many, and the quantity of water used is laughable. This has created a survival for the fittest scenario, as young women result into prostitution for the sole purpose of living while young men pursued older women, the ages of their mother and grand mother. This is pathetic yet factual.

Our people are destitute because of a psychic cum leader plundering the land. This is the background of a journey into the mind of a typical Liberian refugee.

added by: Robert W. Kranz (Dec-2002)