“Reliving the Vision & Spirit of ULAA’s Founders: Unity and Advocacy”
By Eminent Siahyonkron J. K. Nyanseor, Sr.
Hampton, Georgia. October 20, 2021
The Union of Liberian Association in the Americas (ULAA), Inc. held its 47th Annual General Assembly on September 17 – 19, 2021 in Columbus, Ohio, at which the Historian, founding member and eleventh President of ULAA, Inc. Siahyonkron Jglay Kpa-kay Nyanseor, Sr. served as the Keynote Speaker. Below is the full text of his address:
First, I thank God Almighty to live to be threescore and ten plus four, this July 22nd. For a 74 years old person, I have some limitations – as a result, I have become very conservative. My conservatism is Liberal Conservatism.
Some time ago, Professor Oluwole Babatunde Soyinka said: “Only in Africa will thieves be regrouping to loot again and the youths whose future is being stolen will be celebrating…”
What a true and insightful statement!
When I was asked to serve as Keynote Speaker for this occasion, I promised to speak nothing but the truth, which I intend to fulfill here. Therefore, let’s get down to business. I won’t keep you for long.
Compatriot Vamba S. Fofana, ULAA National President
Representatives of the Ohio Governor
Office and Officials of the City of Columbus
Former ULAA Presidents and Chairmen of the Board
Members of the ULAA Board of Directors and National Leadership Council
Delegations of ULAA Member-Chapters
Officers and Members of the Federation of Liberian Associations in Ohio
Friends of Liberia
Ladies and Gentlemen,
I bring you greetings and solidarity on behalf of the founders, past presidents and chairmen of the National Board of Directors of the Union of Liberian Associations in the Americas (ULAA), Inc. While the present conditions of the Liberian people at home are very sad, we should be grateful to Almighty God for giving the founders the vision to give birth to this great organization to continue to advocate on their behalf.
More importantly, it is with a sense of humbleness and sincere appreciation – I stand before you to engage you to look at where ULAA is right now, and how we can move forward to keep the founders’ vision alive. In this regard, I will attempt to do three things; first, find out if there is problem of disunity presently in ULAA-member chapters; second, what are the cause and consequences? And third, recommend how the problems can be solved amicably.
The theme of the 47th Annual National General Assembly of ULAA, which is: “Reliving the Spirit of the Original Intent of the Founders: Unity and Advocacy” reinforces its motto: “Together We Struggle for a Better Liberia”. To further the discussion, I chose to speak to you on the topic: “Reliving the Vision & Spirit of ULAA’s Founders: Unity and Advocacy”. In my presentation I will attempt to diagnose the cause and consequences of what led to the declined of ULAA’s national patriotism that started when the Grand Ole True Whig Party (TWP) rule came to an end on April 12, 1980.
Before I proceed further, please allow me to give honor where honor is due. Mr. National President, Vamba S. Fofana, I thank you and your administration for bestowing this honor upon me. I learned that when you were about 12 years old in Liberia, you heard about a group of Liberians in America that was giving the government trouble on behalf of the Liberian people. So you dreamed that one day of becoming a member of this group. Well, Fofana, you had your dream realized; you became president of the group you dreamt about. This proves that dreams can be realized if you work hard towards achieving them.
As for me, it is the encouragement I got from my mother for which I have become the person I am today. First, the honor is due to the Grace of God, my mother – a multitude of others, including my elementary school principal, whom we referred to as Teacher Pepper. The same can be said about President Fofana. I truly believe he got his unselfish and inclusive leadership style from this same multitude of people that influenced him to become the great leader he is today. Thank you President Fofana for your great service to Liberians in the Diaspora and the United Nations (UN)!
Covenant with the Liberian People Betrayed
I believe it was Shakespeare who said, “He who the gods want to destroy, must first make mad (Crazy).” Exactly, that was what happened to Charles MacArthur Taylor and former members of ULAA in his government. This group failed to adhere and promote freedom of speech/press, respect for human and civil rights and safeguard the constitutional guarantees of our people, for which as student leaders in the 70s advocated, protested and demonstrated in the United States. It is these guarantees and fundamental principles that ‘Charlie’ and associates compromised for power and positions.
It was this point of departure that made critics of ULAA started to blame the organization for the behaviors of those few “rotten apples” (former ULAA leaders). While I may not agree with many of their criticisms, I share their frustrations and understand their disappointments. Since not all criticisms are bad, we need to address some of the criticisms we know are true; such as those Liberian government officials who are engaged in deceit, lies, abuse of power, criminal activities, and mismanagement of the affairs of the country. These behaviors and practices are not only unique to Liberians at home; there are some going on among us here in the Diaspora.
Due to the role ULAA play in the Diaspora on behalf of our people at home; especially, when the Liberian people at home were abused and their rights violated; many people wonder why ULAA remains silent. I came across two examples expressed through poems. One of the poems is titled: “And Still ULAA Did not Talk” (Published on the Internet, Monday, August 26, 2013 http://dennisjah.blogspot.com/2013/08/and-still-ulaa-did-not-talk.html)
The other poem is titled:
“ULAA Gone AWOL”; it was published on the Internet, May 4, 2015. An excerpt below reads:
The Umbrella Organization, ULAA, headed by
Hon Gaye Sleh, Jnr. has not been found
Anywhere ever since 10 year old Barway
Edwin Collins disappeared, his body found
And his remains finally laid to rest on
Saturday May 2, 2015. It is sad that When
Something like this tragic and terrible confronts
Any community in the USA, ULAA that
Supposed to be the umbrella organization will
Be completely absent. Many thanks to
The OLM or Organization of Liberians in
Minnesota who have stood strong ever since
Little Barway was reported missing. At the
Minimum, you will expect ULAA through its
Leader to issue a statement in support of the
Effort of OLM and other friends of Liberia but
That is not the case, etc, etc, etc…
According to David Lamb, author of The Africans (1989 Edition), Africa today is “… the story of people who won their freedom on battlefields and at negotiation tables, only to discover that their white colonial masters had been replaced by black neocolonial leaders more concerned with personal power and wealth than national consensus or development.”
He continued: “… Africa of the 1980s is neither a happy nor a hopeful place. The colonialists designed the scenario for disaster, and the Africans seem to be trying their best to fulfill it. Calamity waits within arms’ reach, oblivious of Africa’s potential strength. Across the whole continent, economies are collapsing, cities are deteriorating, food production is declining, populations are growing like weed-seeds turned loose in a garden. Governments fall at the whim of illiterate sergeants and disgruntled despots, prisons are as overcrowded as the farmlands are empty, and at last count the number of refugees in Africa had reached the incredible figure of five-million – people driven from their homelands by wars, tyrants and poverty.”
Based on some of the reasons narrated David Lamb’s book, we can’t sit by idly to watch these good for nothing leaders and their partners in crimes continue to ruin our nation and its resources. Those who sit on the side and watch are contributors to the ruin of their nation. It is a fact of life that change does not come as the result of “let’s wait and see.” Change occurs when individuals and organized group like ours make consistent demands on dictatorial leaders. We cannot afford to sit by and expect someone other than us to solve our problems. Not to do so, and to accept less, will be placing our future and the future of our children and grandchildren in “serious jeopardy.” By taking a stand, does not mean we are seeking vengeance. Vengeance belongs to the Lord; what we seek is justice – to affirm our rights as citizens of Liberia.
The Truth Shall Set You Free
I am a believer in the phrase, “The truth shall set you free”. Therefore, as a young man growing up in Ducor (Monrovia) – to be exact; the unpaved side of Clay Street, Montserrado County. I was awakened by the injustices I saw and experienced in Liberia. From there on, I made a promise to God Almighty that up to my last breath on earth, I will seek justice for those who are denied it by our leaders. Therefore, no one will ever persuade me from doing that which is RIGHT.
Ladies and gentlemen, any national organization that has lasted for 47 years will have its share of problems. Notwithstanding, ULAA has made valuable contributions to our community in the Diaspora and at home. Make no mistake about this! However, as human, we tend to remember or dwell only on the negatives such as the role played by former ULAA leaders in our national politics. It is unfair to blame ULAA for the faults of its former leaders.
The decline of ULAA’s patriotism and advocacy began with the April 12, 1980 overthrow of the Grand Ole True Whig Party (TWP) government (dynasty). The byproduct of this change woke up tribalism that had been dormant in our national discussions. Prior to April 12, 1980, the Liberian palava had been the ruling elite against the rest of us – the natives or country people. The palava between Samuel K. Doe (Krahn) and Thomas Quiwonkpa (Dan/Gio) took the Liberian people’s struggle to a toxic level. This toxic divide showed up in the once united ULAA.
As the power struggle between Doe and Quiwonkpa was taking place in Liberia, it affected Liberians in the Diaspora. As the result, the unity ULAA once had began to erode with the establishment of various special interest groups such county, alumni, and other associations.
Ladies and Gentlemen, county and alumni associations are good for the role they play in carrying of special projects for our people in the Diaspora at home; but when these organizations are preferred than ULAA the umbrella organization, then everything chakled. We must all realize that we are Liberians first. Therefore, it is imperative that we participate “actively” in our local Liberian community association, which has its umbrella organization as the Union of Liberian Associations in the Americas (ULAA), Inc.
I believe the right thing to do is for us to renew our support for ULAA so that it will continue to champion the cause of all Liberians in the Diaspora and at home.
We cannot allow this august organization atrophy due to the lack of interest, which is based on “misinformation” and refuse to learn about the contributions ULAA has made and continue to make. ULAA is a pacesetter – it was ULAA that started the organizing business in the Diaspora. I suspect individuals in certain quarters, who are misinformed about ULAA’s activities would like for it not to exist. This is sad because, ULAA cannot be replaced with county, alumni or soccer association because these associations’ goals and objectives cater to a particular interest group, while, ULAA is for all Liberians, regardless of where one hails from in the country.
To resolve the behavior and practice that divide us, I suggest the followings:
1. Work together to promote ULAA’s interests first and then interests before the interest of county, alumni or soccer associations.
2. Members should serve and promote the interests of their association instead of serving and promoting the interests of the leaders who are their friends or associates.
3. Members should make their leaders answerable to the membership, and hold them responsible for their actions.
4. On the ongoing basis, members should be prepared to critique and evaluate their leaders.
5. Leaders must encourage equal participation by keeping the membership informed regarding the affairs of the organization rather than “a select few”.
6. Organization must develop the type of leadership that is performance oriented.
7. Whenever the president or any of the officers of the organization is not functioning to the expectation of the organization, that individual should be dealt with, and when found incompetent, removed from office in accordance with the constitution and by-laws of the association, and finally;
8. As Liberians we should stop the practice of celebrating other people’s cultures; take pride in celebrating of ours.
These are my recommendations to you. You are at liberty to use them or pass them over to those that will find some merits in them. And for the sake of our country, let’s be honest with each other. Ladies and gentlemen, the choice is yours to make!
On a serious note, we should stop accusing individuals we do not agree with as “troublemakers”. If you chose to let go your rights to critique a leader, remember that others have the same rights to do the exact opposite. Don’t call them “troublemakers” because I choose to speak my minds, and you chose not to. Instead, let’s be open-minded to new ideas and new ways of doing things. Do not be content with the same old way of doing things. Be creative and experiment with new ideas. We should not be judgmental or engage in backbiting! Gather facts first before reacting to a person’s statement, or rush to conclusion by deciding the person who criticized you is a bad person.
Furthermore, I was asked to comment on the following subjects:
- Dual Citizenship
- Out of Country Voting
- The 2023 Liberia National General Elections, and
- The CDC Pro-Poor Government’s Performance.
Based on my fifty years plus of social, political advocacy; reading and learning from history, I am pleased to provide you with my honest and personal observations in these matters.
Fellow countrymen and women we should not be fooled; it is a fact of history that Liberia is not Independent; it is a Dependent country. It was established by a colonial process (Imperialism) like all African and the so-called developing countries were set up. Moreover, since the systemic structure of the country remains intact, no elections, political parties, or president will be allowed by the external forces to actually do for his/her people. In other to do, the arrangements of our socio-economic and political systems, which we inherited from the colonizers or external forces has to be changed and dismantled.
Our ‘Dual Citizenship’ proposal which Diaspora Liberians are advocating to have passed by the Liberian Legislature, to me is a waste of our time and resources. For some reasons, the current leaders of Liberia have their reasons why they are denying us Dual Citizenship – the country’s main source of external support. We were born Liberians, and shall remained Liberians. We have the means to have them to not only listen to our legitimate request but to accept it. We should NOT accept the second class citizenship they are giving us. No one has the right to take away my birth right, except God. I was born a Liberian, and I will die a Liberian.
With the current technology at our disposal today, ‘Out of Country Voting’ is possible, but Liberia lacks the infrastructure, and the leadership of our government that will be willing to adopt such a system. They believe it will not be in their interests.
Let me cite one example here. Since the 1955 Presidential Election which President William V. S. Tubman allegedly won; no president in power has lost re-election. It is not due to the fact that they got majority of the votes, rather the reason is – they control everything in the country, including the Elections Commission. My prediction of the 2023 National General Elections, President George Manneh Weah will be declared the winner. This is based on the reasons I stated earlier. Mark down this prediction!
The division that started in 1822 continues today
Just imagine the statement President William V.S. Tubman made in his 1944 Inaugural Address. Excerpt reads:
“What is termed the Americo-Liberian population” is diminishing. It needs vigorous new blood of our own race from without to assist in the Herculean task set before them as the bearers of torch of Christianity and civilization to their uncivilized brethren. I am therefore wholly inclined to the view that we should use every legitimate means at our disposal to encourage the immigration of our kith and kin to Liberia from, the United States.”
Americo-Liberians are the 17th Tribe of Liberia; they are the most tribalist of all Liberian tribes. My position is supported by the Bible, Culture Anthropology and their behavior. Based on the definition of tribe, Republicans and Democrats be classified are two major tribes in these great United States. For example, whatever it takes to protect their interests they will do, even see LIE and refer it as True. Most tribal people think of only their interests, and care less about the rest of the population. (See my research, Americo-Liberians: The 17th Tribe of Liberia – The Liberian Dialogue, May 22, 2013 Edition).
Lastly, for too long, Liberians have relied on charity; and our citizens have embraced so many hedonistic (pleasure seeking) activities; without engaging in patriotic and visionary practices that will promote and benefit the country. We cannot continue to blame the President and politicians for the terrible state Liberia is in. The people too, should bear some of the blame for serving as enablers and praise singers when they know too well government officials whom they support are not doing things in their best interests.
Ansu Opa Dualu said it better in his article published on September 3, 2021 in Globe Afrique titled: “Why Diaspora Liberians Matter. It reads:
Contrary to most Liberians who fear competition in the job market believe, enterprising Liberians abroad do not come home to take political positions; most come to create jobs and contribute to the social, cultural, political, and economic innovation of the nation! The Diaspora Liberian role should not be restricted to sending remittances. They can also promote trade and foreign direct investments, spur entrepreneurship and innovation, transfer skills and knowledge, serve as the nation’s eyes and ears to the outside world, but most importantly, could drive the economic development of a country if the right local policies decisions are implemented with a heightened degree of sincerity (https://globeafrique.com/why-diaspora-liberians-matter/).
In closing, permit me to leave you with the wise statements of Dr. Kadiker Rex Dahn:
“No Liberian is more Liberian than the others. Mitigating cultural dishonesty and educationists in Liberia require a democratic solution, collective efforts where citizens proffer and propound diverse and constructive views for the betterment of the society”, wrote Dr. Kadiker Rex Dahn in his article titled: Regional or Geographical Nepotism: A Deficiency in the George Weah-led Government, published in the Daily Observer of February 18, 2019.
By Kadiker Rex Dahn
Liberian Political Struggles – Was President Weah Thoughtful in Calling for the End of the “Struggle?”
Kadiker Rex Dahn stated further:
“I salute our progressive fathers, those who are alive as well as those who have gone into glory for solidly laying the foundation of the multi-party democratic system in Liberia. In laying the foundation, indeed it wasn’t bread and butter but bloodshed, and untold sufferings. In 1979, the “Rice Riot speaks” of the “struggle,” Retrospecting the past, considering the experiences of the present and the struggle that lies ahead, our progressive fathers from the political trenches came up with the political manifesto which states, “In the Cause of the People, the Struggle Continues.” From the 1970s up to January 21, 2018, this manifesto became the path in which sons and daughters of progressivism in part took their strength”.
Even in Madiba Nelson Mandela’s last farewell speech to his people, he closed with “The Struggle Continues!”
Let’s put Liberia’s interest first!
Gwei feh kpeh! (The Struggle Continues)
God bless you and our beloved native land, LIBERIA!
I thank you!
NOTE: Should you need information about ULAA, I can be reached at the contact provided below.
About The Author: Eminent Elder Siahyonkron J. K. Nyanseor, Sr. is a retired Mental Health/Developmental Disability (MH/DD) Clinical Team Leader and QMRP (Qualified Mental Retardation Professional) employed by the Georgia Department of Human Resources – Georgia Regional Hospital at Atlanta. He has over 30 years’ experience working as Clinical Instructor, Behavior Specialist and Administrator. Eminent Nyanseor is former Secretary, Vice & Chair of ULAA Council of Eminent Persons (UCEP), Inc. He is the historian of ULAA; a founding member and the organization’s 11th President (1986-1988). Eminent Nyanseor is an ordained Minister of the Gospel. Also, he is a poet, Griot, journalist, and a cultural and political activist. He can be reached at: (470) 667-9210 & [email protected]