News / Africa

Liberians Observe 163 Years of Independence Monday

Information Minister Cletus Sieh says after nearly six years of improvement, Liberians are thankful for electing President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf

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Audio
  • Liberia Information Minister Cletus Sieh spoke with Butty

  • Charles Brumskine of the opposition Liberty Party spoke with Butty

  • Liberians in the U.S. Saturday celebrated their country's 163rd independence anniversary

James Butty

Liberia, Africa’s oldest republic, is celebrating 163 years of independence Monday.

Information Minister Cletus Sieh told VOA that, after five years of significant improvement, Liberians are thankful for electing President Sirleaf.

Map of Liberia
Map of Liberia

“When Madam Sirleaf was campaigning, she promised the Liberian people that, if she got elected, she would redeem our nation. Our nation, that had been considered as a failed state, will, (has) now been accepted by the comity of nations. Now, as Liberians today, we can go to any part of the world and walk majestically knowing that we are Liberians,” he said.

Sieh also recounted other achievements during the five-year reign of President Sirleaf.

“Another significant thing is that our debt of over $4.6 billion, again because of the leadership provided by this God-sent woman, has been reduced. That is another milestone. Our roads have been rehabilitated; there is some electricity; we are not fully there yet; there is some pipe-born water, and now the health, as well as the educational system. And so, these developments are some things that we need to look at and say, ‘Thank God that we made the right decision to have Madam Sirleaf in office,’” Sieh said.

Brumskine of the opposition Liberty Party noted some of the development projects completed by the government in time for the 163rd independence anniversary.

President Sirleaf with U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton
President Sirleaf with U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton

But, he said the Sirleaf government must do more to sustain the country’s fragile peace.

“Liberians, from all walks of life, are grateful to God today that we are able to celebrate our 163rd independence anniversary. We’re all happy, but we have a salient question and that is whether we are making progress toward sustaining this fragile peace. We need to do more in terms of reconciling our people, reforming our institutions and the way we do business in Liberia,” Brumskine said.

He said there are some Liberians who feel left out of the 163rd independence anniversary celebration.

“For example, you have the commissioners of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission who still have not been paid, although they completed their work about a year ago. You have teachers that are protesting on the streets because they have not been paid for over four months. And, the celebration is, for some, not much of a celebration,” Brumskine said.

In Washington, D.C., thousands of Diaspora Liberians and friends of Liberia marked the 163rd independence anniversary Saturday on the grounds of the Liberian Embassy.

Liberia’s Ambassador to the United States, Milton Nathaniel Barnes, said the huge crowd was a direct result of his embassy’s aggressive approach to the Liberian Diaspora.

“We’ve, over the last two years, very aggressively engaged the Diaspora to become involved in impacting positive things in Liberia,” Barnes said.

Patrick Nimely Sie-Tuon of the U.S.-based Liberia Human Rights Campaign said there were some reasons to be concerned about Liberia’s seeming stability.

“In Liberia, there is an appearance of stability, but there are some concerns that could disrupt that stability. Those concerns include the continuing corruption in the government and the refusal of the Liberian government under Madam Ellen Johnson Sirleaf to implement the TRC (Truth and Reconciliation Commission) report,” Tuon said.

As Liberia commemorates 163 years of independence, the question still remains - from whom did the country get its independence?

A group of 19th Century African-Americans settled in Liberia around the early 1800s under the auspices of the American Colonization Society, a private organization of notable white Americans, but not a U.S. government enterprise.

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