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The History of Liberia – Oppression and being Oppressed

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This is about the nature of people, but let’s take a look at it with respects to the history of Liberia. How people don’t exactly hate Oppression but rather being oppressed!

1821 Liberia

In 1821, a group of freed slaves sailed from the USA to the coast of West Africa to establish their own country: Liberia. When they arrived in Africa, they met natives who they dominated and oppressed for the next 160 years. People don’t hate oppression. They hate being oppressed.

Africans enslaved on US cotton fields

You’d imagine that people who were former slaves themselves, who knows what it feels like to be subjugated and oppressed will have more empathy/humanity. And perhaps you’d imagine that being originally from Africa will push them into creating a truly equal country of brothers/sisters.

But instead, they established their own system of oppression/domination. They mostly excluded the native Africans from power, discriminated against them, engaged the natives into forced labour (semi-slavery). They treated native women same way Europeans treated them as slaves.

The “Americo-Liberian” People

Of course, the Americo-Liberians (former slaves) were more “exposed” than the native Africans, most were literate, fairly learned. They were more sophisticated, had better tools they brought from America at their disposal. They used all these “tools” to dominate and oppress.

They had all the advantage you could imagine. And of course, they had the support of the United States who funded them. So, we had former Africans who returned to Africa to establish an extractive system against their own African kin.

Between 1821 and 1980, only Americo-Liberians governed Liberia. They created an autocracy of their own. The climax of their reign of terror (depending on who you ask) was the Presidency of William Tubman who ruled for 27 years. It was literally an authoritarian rule.

New People, Same Struggles

After William Tubman died in office, his vice President, William Tolbert took over as President. Despite his own flaws, he initiated a policy of including natives in Government. But he faced opposition. The ruling class hated him for “letting the PEASANTS into the kitchen.”

People Of Liberia
President Carter and President Tolbert

(Btw, William Tolbert was an asshole himself, albeit a different kind of asshole.) I don’t know if you get the full grasp of what is happening. African slaves from America returned to Africa to establish their own racist/extractive system on native Africans they met.

In 1980 however, Samuel Doe (a military officer) carried out a coup against the Tolbert Government. Most of his cabinets were executed and the natives cheered. They had finally gotten rid of their own slave masters. You would think that will be their “Eureka” moment.

People Of Liberia
Samuel K. Doe holding a walkie-talkie after the 1980 coup.

When Samuel Doe came into power, he further established his own extractive, discriminatory system. He filled up his Government with members of his Krahn ethnic group and brutally oppressed everyone else (other ethnic groups and the Americo-Liberians)

This continued until 1990 when a coalition of rebels from the other ethnic groups overthrew and killed Samuel Doe. And they then turned on each other over who will dominate the extractive system in place. That led to two bloody civil war that left the country devasted.

Liberia’s civil war is a different story altogether. The country is still a mess today because of that. You can visit. But this is about systems of oppressions: Americans oppressed slaves > Slaves oppressed native Africans > Native Africans took turns to oppress themselves.

What People Don’t Like

This gives credence to the statement that “People don’t exactly hate oppression. They just hate being oppressed.” It means that people wouldn’t mind having an oppressive system as long as they are benefitting. It tells you about the selfish nature of man. Kill or be killed.

People fighting in Monrovia
Rebel fighters moving through the streets of Monrovia.

Btw, Liberia was the only African country that was not colonized. Technically, it was an American colony itself, populated by African Americans. Ethiopia was colonized by Italy between 1936 and 1945. Lots of debates/sentiments surround this, but brief colonization happened there.

Be advised!

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