Liberia’s 166th Independence Day: The Memorial Events In Western Liberia (And Beyond)

Liberia's observance of its 166th Independence Anniversary was unique as three counties for the first time in Africa's oldest Republic's celebration history co-hosted the official programs. But it was Montserrado County which kick-started the event on Friday, July 19, 2013 with The Investiture Ceremony before hosts Gbarpolu, Grand Cape and Bomi Counties taking over to exhibit what they had to offer to the hundreds of Liberians and foreign nationals that converged into their respective provincial capitals and other towns.

This year's celebrations witnessed several activities including the dedication of projects initiated by the Liberian Government and citizens of the region in Montserrado and then the three co-hosts. The focus was with a renewed commitment to decentralize government’s activities and foster unity amongst the Liberian citizens by the Sirleaf Administration.

Friday, July 19, 2013: Foreign Ministry, National Investiture Ceremony
Commencing with an investiture ceremony in the Liberian capital Monrovia, President Johnson Sirleaf, Grand Master of the Orders of Distinction, conferred distinctions and honors upon several senior citizens and friends of Liberia for their supports and outstanding services to the country. 

The high-profiled event was attended by members of the Diplomatic Corps, members of the National Legislature and other officials of Government as Foreign Minister Augustine Kpehe Ngafuan presented to the President the accolades used to decorate the honorees.

Those honored by the President were 13 distinguished individuals including two Centenarians – Mrs. Lottie Moore Jartu and Mrs. Rose Violet Micthell Benson –both admitted into the Most Venerable Order of the Knighthood of the Pioneer, with the Grade of Dame Commander; Dr. Charles Clarke, an eminent Statesman, and Madam Miata Beysolow, former Minister of Commerce & Industry, who were admitted into the Star of Africa, with the Grade of Grand Band.
Others included Industrialist and Educator, Mrs. Letitia Gibson, and Missionary, Educator and Administrator, Dr. Myra E. Simpson, were admitted into the Star of Africa with the Grade of Grand Commander. Octogenarian Mrs. Mary-Eliza Cooper Horton was admitted into the Humane Order of African Redemption with the Grade of Dame Grand Commander.
Two other Octogenarian-Educator and Administrator, Dr. Melvin Justinian Mason, and Career Diplomat and Administrator, Ambassador Carlton Alexwyn Karpeh – were admitted into the Humane Order of African Redemption with the Grade of Knight Grand Commander and Knight Grand Band, respectively.
Mr. James M. Garresen, dedicated public servant and Chief Executive Mansion Photographer, was admitted into the Humane Order of African Redemption with the Grade of Knight Commander.       

Also honored were Professional Artist, Producer and Culture Ambassador, Julie Endee, was admitted into the Humane Order of African Redemption with the Grade of Dame Grand Commander. Career Journalist, Mr. Philip N. Wesseh, was admitted into the Star of Africa with the Grade of Commander.
The late Managing Editor and Publisher of the New Democrat Newspaper, Mr. Tom Saah Kamara, was posthumously admitted into the Humane Order of African Redemption with the Grade of Knight Grand Commander. On hand to accept his award was his widow Rachel Kamara.
During the event, President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, in brief remarks, paid homage to all of them who had served their country” diligently and selflessly”.
Herself the Grand Master of the Orders of Distinction, stated: “I wish to thank all of you who have joined us in this event, in giving honor to whom honor is truly due. Many of them have served long years, sometimes under difficult circumstances, making great sacrifice for the development of our country to respond to the needs of our people”.
Responding later on behalf of the honorees, the former National Chairman of the Unity Party, Dr. Charles Clarke, expressed grateful thanks and appreciation to the Government for recognizing them in terms of the contributions they have made to Liberia. “It is very important in our society that as an individual makes contribution they should be recognized,” the former Minister of State for Presidential Affairs said, adding that it was pleasing to each of them to have been selected to be honored.

And ofcourse, the Investiture continued in Tubmanburg, Bomi County where other prominent citizens of Western Liberia were honored as well.

Saturday, Friday, July 20, 2013: Dedication of Montserrado County Projects
In continuation of the celebrations, the President officially dedicated three facilities and renewed her commitment to girls’ education.  The three facilities dedicated around Montserrado County included the Young Women Christian Association (YWCA) girls’ hostel in Oldest Congo Town, the science building on Bromley Mission in Clay Ashland and the girl’s dormitory at Ricks Institute in Virginia.
At separate dedicatory programs, President Sirleaf said her administration will continue to form partnership with international organizations in giving the girl child an opportunity to develop and prepare for future challenges and believes this can only be done through quality education.
The beneficiaries of the YWCA girls’ hostel are wayward girls taken off the streets by the Ministry of Gender and Development under the Save Our Future Project.
Sunday, July 21, 2013: Intercessory Prayers, Cash Center Program, Others: Bopolu, Gbarpolu County.

Then all attention got shifted to Western Liberia, first in Bopolu on Sunday, July 21, 2013 where several activities including an Intercessory Worship Service at the Bopolu Bible Community Church, and the dedications of the Circuit Judiciary Court-a very impressive
and the largest such facility outside Monrovia–and the Finance Ministry’s Gbarpolu Cash
Center, aimed at payroll decentralization, among other projects took place.

The intercessory service was attended by President Johnson Sirleaf, VP Boakai and Senate Pro-Tempore Gbezohngar Finley, as well as members of  her cabinet including Foreign Minister Augustine  Kpehe Ngafuan.

A visit was paid to the once infamous notorious Bella Yalla Prison Center where the Bopolu-Bella Yalla Road was dedicated, paving way for the people in that part of the country to gain access to motor road for the first time. The Liberian leader who spent the night in Belle Yella dedicated the Bopolu to Belle Yalla Road, which will bring countless opportunities to the people along that roadway.

“This place of horror has now become a place of hope”, President Sirleaf said during the visit.
At the grave of the late King Sao Boso, Foreign Minister Ngafuan and Pro-Temp Findley performed the dedicatory ceremony as the chiefs of the county welcomed the two officials.
Senator Findley described the late Chief King Sao Boso as a powerful man. According to the Senator, “Generations that were not born when he (Sao Boso) was alive know his history” and further added that the people of Gbapolu should be proud and happy.

Tuesday, July 23, 2013: Robertsport, Grand Cape Mount County
An Intercessory Worship Center organized by the Muslim community (the Supreme Islamic Assembly of Grand Cape Mount County, in collaboration with the National Muslim Council of Liberia), a newly revamped youth center and stadium-stands as well as fencing at the Momo Tawel Sports Stadium and street lights are some of the events that characterized the Robertsport celebration.

Minutes after Vice President Joseph Boakai, accompanied by Foreign Minister Ngafuan and county officials cut the ribbon to the stadium and a brief ceremony, friendly kickball and soccer matches ensued between the Monrovia-based officials and those hailing from the county.
Foreign Minister Ngafuan led the Monrovia-based team, making impressive and skillful moves throughout the match and scoring the second goal that left the home team defeated two goals to nothing. Above all, some fun was inter-spliced with the celebrations.
Wednesday, July 24, 2013: Latia Public School, Cassava Processing Plant, Other Projects Dedicated Around Cape Mount County:

Between Tuesday and Wednesday, Vice President Boakai and Foreign Minister Ngafuan traversed the length and breadth of Grand Cape Mount County and dedicated over 30 development projects, including roads and bridges, schools and libraries, health facilities, street lights, police and immigration posts, amongst others.

In the village of Latia, villagers danced and celebrated a worthy cause: the dedication of a public school that has not only been elevated to junior high but also modernized. Minister Ngafuan, on behalf of President Johnson Sirleaf cut the ribbon to the new impressive structure that welcomes a conducive academic atmosphere.

Hon. Ngafuan, after giving a brief background on the County Development Fund (CDF) which he said was introduced in 2006 at the time he was Director of the Bureau of Budget said he is very happy that this project was funded by the CDF.

“When I see the funds being used by the citizens of the county, I feel it has met its purpose and is an example of wise use of the fund” the Minister said. He also thanked the Principal and staff for impacting knowledge in the students of this school.

The building was earlier turned over by the Executive Director of the construction company, Community Aid Liberia, Mr. Peter G. Dauda who remarked that he is delighted to turn over the keys of the construction of the Junior high school that cost US$114,000.

While receiving the keys on behalf of the Administration of the County, Assistant Development Superintendent Madam, Tenneh Simpson thanked the Government on behalf of the county leadership for the support and level of work during the construction of the school. “I saw the people themselves in the involvement of the work of the building”. She further noted that the project was an inherited work from the past leadership of the county.

Other projects dedicated in the county included the Sinje Health Extension and Radio Cape Mount (both in Sinje Town), the Cassava Processing Plant in Daniel Town, the Immigration Post and Immigration Lodging in York Island, the  among other bridges, schools and others.

Also dedicated in Cape Mount was the newly established poultry farm of former Nigerian President Olusegun Obasanjo, where chickens are being raised to supply eggs to the local market. President Johnson Sirleaf during the dedication ceremony expressed gratitude and saluted the former President for the investment and the confidence which she said is implied in Liberia’s future.

Thursday, July 25, 2013: Other National Development Projects Dedicated
Then the celebration entered Bomi, home of the main event where the President and other officials of government dedicated several development projects including the Presidential Guest House, the Chief’s Compound, the Civil Service Agency Regional Office, Superintendent’s Residence, West Africa Examination Council (WAEC) Building and Forestry Training Institute (FTI) building all in Tubmanburg.Others included the Gbar Market Building, Klay Bridge, Kpakala Town Bridge, Kenny Town Bridge, Beajah Bridge, among others all concentrated outside Tubmanburg.

Also in Tubmanburg on Thursday, President Johnson Sirleaf officially launched, through the Ministry of Health And Social Welfare the “A Promise Renewed Commitment to Child Survival” program, an initiative of UNICEF and USAID, where she recommitted and pledged Liberia’s commitment to redouble efforts to reducing under-five mortality in all counties by 2015.

She expressed joy over   progress made in the health services, as was reported by the World Health Organization which stressed that among the countries so challenged, Liberia is Number One in the reduction of infant mortality under-five years.

Friday, July 26, 2013: Tubmanburg City Hall: The Official Indoor Independence Day Program
Then it was D-Day, the day Africa’s first republic’s166th Independence formal indoor program was held. The President and Vice President led other members of the Executive Branch, the Chief Justice led other members of the Judiciary Branch while the Speaker and Senate Pro Tempore led members of the National Legislature as other foreign diplomats and others joined the colorful event held at the newly refurbished Tubmanburg City Hall.

A special guest of the event was former Nigerian Leader, Olusegun Obasanjo and his wife as the National Orator, Cllr. Varney Sherman delivered his oration amidst applause.

Orator Sherman, among other issues, provided insightful recommendations on the draft Bills on the Code of Conduct, Dual Citizenship while touching on the issues of corruption, widespread poverty in Liberia, and the need for reconciliation and the TRC recommendations.

Acknowledging President Sirleaf’s commitment to fight corruption, the National Orator urged the government to take practical steps to fight corruption, noting that the country cannot be transformed when public service is evaluated by the Liberian people as a place where corruption exists, persists and is practiced as a matter of course and with impunity.

“All the good you do, Madam President, all what you achieve and accomplish will not be recognized and appreciated if corruption remains on the lips of our people the day you retire from office in January 2018,” he warned, urging her to remain resolute and strong in her conviction and actions to stamp out corruption. Cllr. Sherman urged the National Legislature to reconsider its decision and to empower the Liberia Anti-Corruption Commission to handle corruption issues.
He also suggested that the major cause of the civil war that is often ignored is the poverty, social-economic deprivation and drudgery that too many people suffer from. He urged the government to pay serious attention to poverty which, he said, is being experienced by the average citizens which are fertile grounds for unrest by unscrupulous people. He acknowledged the measures that government has taken through its poverty reduction efforts, but urged them to curb poverty, including through job creation to make an impact on citizens’ lives.

The President’s Independence Day remarks titled “Transforming Liberia through Reconciliation and Responsible Citizenship” spoke of Liberia’s acquired “Decade of Peace” which she noted had been possible through regional and international support as well as Liberians’ commitment to peace and reconciliation.

The President added: “Thanks go in no small measure to the regional and international support we have long enjoyed, and also because we, Liberians, a resilient people, have declared, “No More War,” and have committed ourselves to peace and reconciliation to develop this gift that God has given to us”.

The Liberia leader said at age166, Liberians have a lot to do with the country’s resources and should utilize their gifts God has given them to their ultimate advantage and benefits, as a reconciled and responsible independence and sovereign state.

The Liberian Leader noted that holding these celebrations is a tradition which began in 2006 and intended to provide the opportunity for expanding and enhancing infrastructural development and also for national healing and reconciliation by bringing the people together as one.

In response to Orator Sherman’s recommendations, the President suggested that a country moving away from the conflict requires a two-pronged approach: political reform and economic development, both of which need to be fully inclusive in terms of geographical and social scope, enabling greater “voice” and space for participation by citizens of Liberia in political processes and economic empowerment.
She said oftentimes when the discourse turns to reconciliation; diehards exclaim that reconciliation cannot take place because the recommendations of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) have not been implemented. “Let me reiterate that our government is fully committed to the implementation of the TRC recommendations in those cases where they are in compliance with our Constitution and laws,” she confirmed.

And so, while the official observance of the country’s 166th Independence Day was climaxed with a Special Reception in Bomi, Liberians cut across the country and in the Diaspora celebrated in their own styles.

With the President’s disclosure that next year’s event will be held in Sinoe and Grand Kru Counties, with the main activities in Greenville; and then onto Maryland, River Gee and Grand Gedeh Counties, with the main activities in Zwedru in 2014 while Rivercess plays host in 2015, this year’s observance was a “huge success”, say most Liberians.