Confused but gaining momentum…

 

After the meeting at Dtweah’s apartment on August 1, 2004, one of our young comrades, Charles Dweh, decided that he would host the next meeting on Sunday, August 8 at his apartment in Crystal, Minnesota (Apt. 205).

 

Charles is a young man who left Liberia at a very tender age and had never engaged in Liberian politics but got excited about what he heard us discussing about the motherland and so he decided to get actively involved in what we were doing. All during those formative days and weeks, Charles believed in us and thought our cause was just. He is a young man that earned our respect during the process for his passion and energy.

 

And so at that meeting, since we had already agreed on the name during the last meeting, the focus was on adopting a Mission, Vision, Logo and Motto for the movement and also setting up committees. At this point, there was no head of the organization; our colleagues only allowed us (Dtweah and me) to moderate meetings and keep notes and do follow ups. We were honored by that.

 

While we were handling those normal organizational issues, there were still fundamental ideological and philosophical issues that were not yet settled. For example, was the movement organized around the idea of making Amb. Weah president or just supporting anything young person? If we were organized around making Amb. Weah president then what differentiated us from other political parties that had gone into oblivion since their founders disappeared? These were questions that remained still unanswered hitherto, and were fiercely debated at nearly every meeting. Even we were conflicted and didn’t have clear answers.

 

However, we knew that having Amb. Weah would be a valuable thing but organizing solely around him would be a dangerous thing. I remember on 6 August 2004, Andrew Telmeh (yes Andrew Telmeh) wrote, stating that we should “leave ourselves open to talking any potential, deserving and energetic young person and so Kofi Woods should definitely be one of our targets.” The group took Andrew’s comments under serious advisement and started making efforts to get in touch with Kofi Woods.

 

Also during this same period, I made contact with comrade F. Aagon Tingba (yes Aagon Tingba) and Adolphus Dupley. Comrade Tingba had, at that time, recently authored an article on www.limany.org and so I decided to get in touch with him to tell him about what we were thinking relative to politics in the motherland.

 

During this period, it was all about outreach and expanding our email group: trying to recruit whoever was willing to listen to our story. I must tell you, our storyline at that time was very confusing but folks could understand and appreciate that we were passionate about a “grassroot political revolution” in our dear country.

 

And so while the group worked on the paperwork, Dtweah and I were also charged with working the phones to bring many people on board. Most of the folks we were dealing with at the organizing levels were not people with deep rooted political connections in Liberia; many of them had left Liberia at the beginning of the war and so did not have connections with modern political happenings compared to Dtweah and me who had some recent student activism at the UL and Zion respectively.

 

In the days that followed, the group started to gain momentum and more and more people were invited to our meetings. Before the 4th meeting which Varney Kennedy had agreed to host on Sunday, August 15, 2004, the group had established contact with Atty. Samuel Kofi Woods and he agreed to meet with us at his apartment in St. Paul, Minnesota.

 

So on Saturday, August 14, 2004, a three (3) man delegation which included Dtweah, Varney Kennedy and myself drove to St. Paul to meet with the legendary Kofi Woods. Before that day, I had never met Kofi Woods in person. I had only read about him or heard his story and so I was honored to have the opportunity to interact with him especially to discuss issues relating our country for which he had either gone to jail or had to run for his life.

 

We met Kofi that day and gave him a draft brochure about our movement. We explained to him that a group of young people were excited about the impending political opportunity in which there will be general and presidential elections that an “incumbent” will not be participating. We informed him that we saw this an excellent opportunity to effect a mammoth political revolution if only the young people would come together in a reasoned fashion. At that time, we thought that the easiest way (not the only way) to effect political change was to take charge of the presidency since in fact the Liberian state had come close to been an “imperial presidency” and so change could come from the top down more easily. This was our fundamental belief then and we were not shying away from articulating that we wanted to see a young person become president. In fact, again, my radical idea was that we take state power and retire all the old folks by sending to the University to do only teaching (those were my strong views even colleagues from time to time reminded me that I too would get old).

 

During that meeting, we talked to Kofi about our desire to talk to many young persons and high on our list was him and Amb. Weah. We felt that the two of them were leaders in our generation though from very different walks of life. We informed him that we had reached out to Amb. Weah through one of his friends, Patrick Cheah (now deceased) and we hope to have a conversation with him too.

 

As usual, Kofi been as measured, polished and circumspect as he is, did a lot of listening and very limited talking. (Kofi usually let other people do the talking for him because I remember in Florida where he allowed James Verdier (yes James Verdier) to do some talking for him. I will get to that part of the story in short order). However, he informed us that he thought we were on the right path and that he was willing to work with us and provide us his support. The young man never shows emotion in anything he does. He narrated some of his struggles with past regimes and admonished us that our cause was just but it depended on how we conducted it. He also informed us that several other young people were organizing similar efforts and so it would be good to get in touch with them and see if we could join forces. We thought this was a good idea and agreed to begin making efforts to contact our colleagues on the East Coast of the US.   

 

My colleagues and I were then set to provide updates to our colleagues at our next meeting which was actually scheduled for the next day, Sunday, 15 August 2004 at Varney Kennedy’s house.

 

… we are searching the files for important notes. Get ready for lots of twists and turns in this journey. The group was growing exponentially and interests all around the US were being expressed.

 

And we soldiered on…

And so been true to our words and commitment to become active in the political process in our country, the group met at Dtweah’s apartment (Apt # 311) on 69th Ave N in Brooklyn Center, MN. This meeting which began around 6 PM turned out to be a very interesting meeting with consequential impact on the formation of the “generational movement.”

It was at that meeting that we agreed that the name of the movement would be the Liberia National Congress (LNC) and the purpose would be “Taking Liberia Back.” We arrived at this after much intense debate and exchanges. Some of the names that were tabled included: Liberia Youth Congress, Generational Young Congress, etc.

During the discussion about the name, certain group argued that we do not use the word “young” or “youth” because it was too restrictive and could hinder the organization from achieving its goals. I disagreed with them. I posited that in fact that the group should be restrictive. I argued that this was a “generational battle” and opening it up to just anyone especially folks from the older generation would then render us another Liberian political party. And since we were waging a battle against the older generation, allowing them to join the movement would defeat the purpose and dilute our resolve. (I still don’t know whether I was wrong but I felt strongly about that position then)

My position was that no one above the age of 45 should be allowed to join the movement. But then my colleagues reminded me that but JFK do you know that one day you would pass 45 years? Though true but I pushed further that it wasn’t about me and when that day came we would hold those discussions but I truly felt that allowing the old generation to join would defeat the purpose.

My colleagues Dtweah, Alex Kekula, Dixon Seboe and few others argued that we were not waging a “generational war” on every member of the older generation but rather on the political leaders of that generation who failed to provide adequate political leadership. They further argued that what if someone is over 45 years but have never participated in political activities before, do we exclude them from membership simply because they were born that time? Those were tough and reasonable questions to which I didn’t have sophisticated answers and we so we moved on.

However, we agreed to drop the words “youth” and “young” and decided on the name LNC because we agreed that it sounded similar to the African National Congress (ANC) and since we wanted to form the largest grassroot political movement, that name would truly represent our cause.

Beyond the selection of the name on that day, there were other contentious issues because there were lots of ideological and philosophical issues that occupied the discussions of the day.

For example, I had strongly argued (and I did so very forcefully) that we do not form a political party per se. That rather we organize a movement of young people who would influence the outcome of the elections and bring the much needed change that our people so dearly yearned. My thinking was that if we could bring about 100,000 or 200,000 young people together, raise the required financial resources, and had them vote for a particular candidate who represented their interest, that would be consequential in and of itself. That that movement did not need to be a party and that it could return to other things after the elections. In fact, without been a political party, it could be a very influential group that any serious politician would be compelled to listen to because of the power it wielded.

My colleagues, led by Dtweah, argued that it would be dangerous and counterproductive to have someone elected and then turn your back on them. That if we were successful in getting our candidate elected, it would serve the better interest of the movement to remain engage with that person to further guide the change we envision.

I was of the thinking that forming too many political parties was counterproductive to our democracy.

In fact that issue brought into further scrutiny our choice of George Weah especially since he was just one of many young Liberians that could lead the generation. With this presentation, the group decided that other young potential Liberians should be included on our list of people to talk to.

Leaving the meeting and the in the days that followed, we agreed that we will approach George Weah and seek his membership into the movement and we will contact Atty. Kofi Woods. I also remember that the name Brownie Samukai came up as well.

Dtweah would contact Patrick Cheah (now deceased) to help us contact George Weah. Patrick Cheah was the closest person to Amb. Weah that we knew and so thought to use him as a point of contact.

Calvin Dwuye had informed us that Kofi Woods was in US and would be around for about 2 months. In fact Atty. Woods was expected in Minnesota on Wednesday, August 11, 2004 and will be in St. Paul, MN. Varney Kennedy was charged with the responsibility of making contact.

We also agreed that we needed to start spreading the activities of the organization in Minnesota and other states in the US as quickly as possible. It was also advised that we seek to form alliances with other like-minded organizations. Dwuye had indicated that several other organizations on the East Coast of the US were engaged in similar thought process.

We also agreed that Dixon Sebeo be used as our point of contact in Liberia.

We left the meeting, agreeing to meet on Sunday, August 8, 2004 at 6930 54th Ave N (Apt 205), Crystal, MN 55429 (Charles Dweh’s apartment)

These were the committees that were established to begin working to carry out the work of the movement:

Finance Committee

Alex Kekula

Varney Taylor

James Kollie

Venue   Committee   (Ad   Hoc)–Responsible   to   secure   the   North   Hennepin   Technical College   facility   for   a   planned   end-of-month   Mass   Mobilization, and Information.

Recruitment Meeting

Elijah Simpson

John Tarr

 

Membership Committee

Charles Dweh

Sameul Tweah

Publicity Committee

Varney Kennedy

Samuel Tweah

Planning Committee

Alex Kekula

John Tarr

Elijah Simpson

James Kollie

Norris Tweah

Beyond that day, the activities started ramping up and moving very fast. We did the registration of the organization with the Secretary of State of MN; we planned a meeting with Kofi Woods; we contacted Patrick Cheah to establish contact with Amb. Weah; and we started raising money amongst ourselves to help our cause. We were serious about the political revolution…

And this was just the second meeting… a lot did happen as you can begin to see

The first meeting of the “generational movement for political change”

Once Dtweah and I had that initial meeting of the mind that it was necessary to begin the process of exploring the what we called the “humanitarian and political future” of Ambassador Weah, we began placing calls to friends and opening small debates at various gatherings in Minnesota. We wanted to hear what other colleagues thought about our idea.

 At that point, we weren’t clear about what we really wanted to do. At one point it was about opening a legal immigration clinic to help Liberians in the Diaspora with issues about immigration and then on another hand, it was about engaging the political space and entering the theatre full time.

After several confusing calls to many colleagues, we began fine tuning our ideas as Dtweah and I had more conversations. During these conversations, we started getting extremely excited about what we were embarking on. We used the month of June 2004 to touch base with friends and bounced our newly found passion off them. As most of these colleagues were not politically savvy but equally passionate change back home, we thought they could be of real value to this undertaking.

But something happened in July 2004 that made everything to change. We had gone to the home of Patrick Sawyer (P O, now deceased) in Champlin, Minnesota to hold discussions about some organization that Dtweah, P O Sawyer, Samuel Deputy and others were working on. Unfortunately, PO wasn’t home and we couldn’t get into his computer and so the meeting never took place but then we had the opportunity to witness the ESPY Arthur Ashe Courage Award that had been taped but aired on Sunday, July 18, 2004.

As we sat and witnessed the world recognizing George Weah with this prestigious award and the manner and form in which he received the award: presenting two (2) Liberian children that he said represented tribes that fought in the Liberian civil war but that were now reconciled. This moved the entire audience and caused many TV land to reflect deeply as this Liberian son, mounted the world stage to make Liberia pride again.

This was the moment and the biggest selling point of our venture. This was what gave us the audacity to organize the first meeting and scheduled it for Sunday, 25 July 2004 at my Crystal residence. As we saw the expressions on the faces of Denzel Washington, Kelvin Garnett and other Hollywood stars, we thought that was it. Weah was our guy and that Liberia was ready for him if they truly wanted to break away from the past.

Immediately after that viewing Dtweah and I compared notes and thought the citations should go out. We called our friends and invited them to participate in this discussion. Dtweah was charged with talking to all the colleagues who worked with him at US Bank and I would place as much calls as I could and schedule the meeting for 6 pm that Sunday.

That was also historic as it was the eve of Liberia’s Independence (26 day) and so we thought we were crafting the nation’s real independence.  

And as planned, the comrades gathered and we introduced the topic: that it was time for all Liberians to get involved in the political process in back home. That it was no longer ok for us to sit and just witness events when we believe that we can do something. It was upon it backdrop that we thought to invite you our esteemed colleagues to begin to discuss the “humanitarian and political future” of Ambassador George Weah: A man we consider one of the greatest patriots of our time. We argued that to him, the country had given nothing but that in return he had given a lot more to our country. (that was our argument then…)

The true be told, at that meeting, we were not able to clearly communicate whether we were organizing a political movement to make George Weah president or we were organizing a political party that Weah could be part of. Frankly, a colleague by the name, Momoh Dudu did raise serious objection to organizing a political party for purpose of making George Weah president. He spoke strongly and passionately about his views and if he had carried the day, our movement was dead. Dtweah tried to engage in rhetorics (as usual) with Dudu but Dudu pushed back strongly. I felt we were losing the argument and I so I jumped in and became very blunt with Momoh and told him that we were taking the Weah path because we believed that he (Weah) had a lot to offer. We were not emphatical that he should be president but we were convinced that Weah had a critical role to play in our generation and so we were going that route.

Dudu lost the argument and never showed up to any of our other meetings again. (Maybe this was the first biggest mistake we made)

However, we took down the names and email addresses of those who attended, opened and email group, and then scheduled for next meeting for Sunday, 1 August 2004 at 6 PM to be held at Dtweah’s apartment: 1308 69th Ave N, Apt # 311, Brooklyn Center.

This next meeting turned out to be a very interesting meeting because in attendance were Norris Tweah (he was very passive and level headed), Dixon Seboe (he was visiting from Monrovia) and Calvin Dwuye (visiting from Massachusetts) who just popped. And at that meeting we decided on a name…  

        I am still checking the files…. Since that July 25, 2004, we met every Sunday, religiously, until sometime in February 2005. The details are in the files…

The History of the modern “grassroot political movement”: to the best of my recollection

It was on a Sunday, in May 2004 when Samuel D. Tweah (Dtweah) came to visit me at my home in Crystal, Minnesota (6500 34th Ave N) that we started a conversation about the “humanitarian and political future of Amb. George Manneh Weah” and then it was on Thursday, February 16, 2006 that I officially resigned from the CDC. In between those dates, a lot of things happened.

As I embark on another journey with the CLP, I am compelled to look deep into the files to review notes of our actions and inactions that led us to where we are and why I think we need to give the grassroot progressive revolution another shot.

It is no secret that in 2004 I was at the foundation of the Liberia National Congress (LNC) which later became the Congress for Democratic Change (CDC) but also operated in the US as Liberians Aspiring Communal Esteem (LACE) due to NEC’s regulation that political parties cannot conduct political activities outside of Liberia.

Usually when folks ask me if I am a founding member of the CDC, I am quick to correct them by saying that I am not a “founding member”, I am a “founding ideologue” of the CDC. I say “a” because my colleague, Samuel D. Tweah (DTweah), is another “founding ideologue” of the movement.

So in order that my politics is clearly understood and that the purpose of the CLP’s formation is properly situated within the political history of Liberia, I have decided that I will narrate my involvement with the CDC “to the best of my recollection” by reviewing my notes on file.

My accounts can be corroborated and/or corrected by comrades DTweah, Alex Kerkula, Piso Saydee-Tarr, St. Tomalin George, and few others.

DTweah and I had not seen each other for several years before our meeting in May 2004. It is important to note that DTweah and I were team mates on the Tubman High Meet-the-Challenge team that won the championship in 1992 and we had remained very close ever since that time; always comparing notes on issues of mutual interests. I remember on the night I was preparing for my debate before my elections as student council president at Zion Community College in 1994, Dtweah visited with me on camp and again we compared notes. Our political and ideological relationship date several years before our May 2004 meeting and then the journey that began thereafter and continues to this date.

In the next few weeks, I will spend some time giving the full details of how we started; the mistakes we made; the challenges that confronted us; opportunities we missed; and the things we wish we could do over.

Voting Age… should there be a limit?

Last week, I had dinner with a guy who made a funny comment that have got me thinking ever since that time. The guy was giving an analysis of the BREXIT vote and said that the decision was made largely by old people. Then he went further to say that those kind of decisions should not be made by old people since they may not be around to bear the consequences.

And when I considered that further, it moved from comedy into a serious issue that requires careful consideration.

In our electoral process, we don’t usually allow people less than 18 years to vote because we think they are not matured enough to make such critical decisions. But shouldn’t the same be true for people who are far advanced in age?

Because elections are about the future and arguably, based on the natural progression of life and all things held equal, older people have less stake in the future than younger people. So shouldn’t that decision be made only or largely by younger people?

I don’t have an age range but I think it is something that we ought to consider in the larger scheme of things.

At a certain age, we should be allowed to only observe the process and let those who will have to live with the consequences make those decisions.

Look at England for example, when the consequences of BREXIT become eminent, those older people who made the decision would be long gone. It will be the young people, who are more global and progressive in their outlook, that will have to live with the consequences.

Again, because the intention of this blog is to provoke a debate, you are not wrong to comment…

 

 

Political Change and Historical Accidents

I am baffled when I see that someone of our colleagues, rather than take pragmatic and measured steps to achieving political goals and outcomes, they chose to think that historical accidents will deliver the political change they seek.

I would rather have a deliberate plan based in realism than think that if I am standing there and someone makes a mistake I could benefit,politically. It doesn’t work that way. No one should base their hopes or dreams on the mere occurrence of accidents. Let your plan be solid and thoughtful. And you need to be truthful to yourself; you need to know what is possible and what is not and you need to work hard.

It is against this backdrop that my colleagues and I have been frantically organizing under the banner of the Coalition for Liberia’s Progress (CLP). We believe that our approach is systematic and realistic. We believe that grassroot people can bring about change if they focus on the right things and build the right mechanisms and approaches.

The presidency is not all to political change. A movement that recognizes that could be on its way to leading a true revolution. Imagine for a bit if we had a cadre of 10 or 15 legislators who were prepared and able to stick together and make the hard choices, what a difference we could see?

But when legislators render themselves powerless and join the chorus of complaints then you know for real that we are in serious trouble and that our path to political change would be a long and tedious one because the people entrusted with the authority to change things don’t think they are the ones to really change things.

Let’s be reminded that change will not happen by accident. Men and women will have to take deliberate actions to force the desired outcome and that is the where the progressive grassroot coalition under the banner of the CLP comes in.

We all have the an opportunity to be part of history by declaring solidarity with the CLP.

This blog is intended to provoke debates; so you are not wrong for raising issues…

 

 

We are getting there, as promised…

About a year ago, we had promised that we will not sit idly and see 2017 elections pass by. It was our commitment that we would be active participants when 2017 comes around. Though we did not say exactly how we would participate, it seems that it is now getting clearer.

A few weeks ago, the grassroot progressive coalition was in Kakata, Margibi County seeking membership for what promises to be the biggest coalition for grassroot political change.

Under the banner of the proposed Coalition for Liberia’s Progressive (CLP), the grassroot people will be advocating that change comes from the ground up and that if we make the right decisions at the grassroot (legislative constituency) level, our chances for change will be higher even if not guaranteed.

The approach that always focuses on the presidency at the expense of staffing the first branch of government with qualified leadership has failed. It is time for change!

The CLP’s model of political change is that if we can get the right people from the grassroot (our communities) to represent us then they can make our case at the table. But if we don’t have people at the table to advocate and to speak for us, then we will continue to be in this state of affairs.

Always complaining will not solve our problems. We need to take practical, collective actions and the CLP is here to lead the way.

 

My Tribute to Togar Lawrence Randall

TRIBUTE TO A DEAR FRIEND AND BROTHER

TOGAR LAWRENCE RANDALL

ONBEHALF OF AMARA M. KONNEH AND JAMES F. KOLLIE

DELIVERED BY: JAMES F. KOLLIE

SEPTEMBER 10, 2016

 This is an extremely difficult moment for me. But I have to muster the fortitude to perform this task as part of my final respect to someone who was so dear and special to me.

I crave your indulgence to allow me to spend a little longer time than others or than would otherwise be allowed.

It is still unbelievable to me (or maybe just plain refusal to accept) that we are gathered here today to hold funeral rites over the remains of a dear friend and brother.

Our country has indeed lost one of its best and finest. I can argue that the media has lost one of its outstanding and exemplary young men. Continue reading “My Tribute to Togar Lawrence Randall”

Welcome into my mind…

Dear friends and colleagues,

As Liberia approaches a critical period in its national existence, the need to provide insights and perspectives on a wide range of issues have never been more important than now.

I intend to use this medium to continue to make my contribution to nation building by providing my thoughts and perspectives on the issues of the day. I believe that I am uniquely qualify to do so not just because of my experience and deep understanding and appreciation of the issues and challenges that confront our country but also because I am a Liberian and have a patriotic duty and responsibility to do so.

It will be a failing of immeasurable proportion on my part if I sit do not offer my perspectives on the issues that matter for I believe that history will judge me harshly for refusing to make my valuable contribution to the national debate.

More than ever before, the need for sane, reasonable, and measured voices have never been more urgent. In these times when wannabes are masquerading as savior, those who know what needs to done are under patriotic obligations to provide information to the people so that decisions cannot be made on false and baseless claims.

It is in this light that I have decided to use this personal space to provide my views and thoughts on a whole host of issues that I believe our people should know as they endeavor to select the next President of the Republic.