Liberians at home and
abroad are celebrating the 162nd independence anniversary of their
country in many festive ways but with some reflections.
The official commemoration takes place Monday in the central city of Gbarnga.
But for Liberians in the United States, the celebration began over the
The festivities on the
grounds of the Liberian Embassy in northwest Washington, D.C. were complete
with everything Liberian – the food, music, cultural performances and merchants
peddling Liberian clothing and artifacts.
Liberia’s Ambassador to the
United States, Milton Nathanial Barnes said he was pleased with the huge turnout.
“As you know, we sort of
changed a little bit. So the theme of this festival is unity and diversity. And
we have representation from all 15 counties of Liberia showing the rich
diversity of our country but at the same time under the theme of unity. I’m
very thrilled to see the level of participation here today,” he said.
Thousands of Liberians came
to the United States in the 1990s during their country’s long civil war. They
were granted Temporary Protect Protection Status (TPS), a special immigration
status renewable on a yearly basis.
President Obama this year extended
the TPS or Deferred Enforced Departure for another year to March 2010.
On the other hand, Canada announced last week
that it would resume sending illegal immigrants back to Liberia, Burundi, and
Rwanda because it said conditions in those countries have improved.
Ambassador Barnes said his embassy was working with Liberians in the United
States to lobby the U.S. Congress for permanent resident status for Liberians
“We are certainly concerned
and we have tried to communicate to the Diaspora and those that are affected by
the TPS program to move quickly to try to get regularized. And we are working
with various groups in the Diaspora to..lobby on Congress
to make sure that we get some sort of permanent solution to this problem,”
Liberians at the
independence day celebration were also debating the final report and
recommendations of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC).
Among others, the TRC
recommended the banning of President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf and 51 others from
participating in politics for the next 30 years for financing and giving
political support to warring factions.
The commission also recommended
the prosecution of all warring faction leaders and 98 other associates for
human rights violations and war crimes.
Koffa said the Liberian legislature and the government should implement the TRC
“I think the Truth and
Reconciliation Committee was set up as a result of CPA from Ghana
(Comprehensive Peace Agreement signed in Ghana in 2003) and think the results
that have come out of that should be respected by the government,” Koffa said.
Former Liberian Ambassador
to the United States Rachel Diggs said she has not read the full TRC report.
But she said some of the things she has heard about the report are unsettling
“As I understood the mandate
of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission was that people would confess,
people would be forgiven, and would be able to make a step forward to peace.
And from the vibes that I’m getting, the TRC report has raised more concerns
than sway or brought us closer to reconciliation,” Diggs said.
The official ceremonies in
Liberia will take place Monday in the central city of Gbarnga.
But in a video message to
Liberians in the Diaspora, President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf called for unity and
“In the past, we have all
sinned and suffered. Yet we can use this celebration as a new beginning for
peace and reconciliation to promote and sustained development. We can use this
as a basis for healing and renewal,” she said.
Sirleaf said a marker of a truly great nation is the ability of its citizens to
think about the nation before self. She said the war and its aftermath should
not be allowed to define Liberians forever.