Huge State Funeral For Dr. Amos Sawyer -Goodluck Jonathan, Sirleaf, Progressive Icons, Clergy, Pay Tributes -President Weah Renames Liberia College in Sawyer’s Honor
Despite being a longtime partisan politician, serving as a Chairperson of a political party, Dr. Amos Claudius Sawyer nonetheless attracted enormous admiration and respect from across the aisle both nationally and internationally. His innate tendency of pragmatism, peacefulness and intellectual sophistication attracted and kept even ideologically heterogeneous minds around him. The manifestation of this rare tendency came out prominently at his state funeral which saw diverse groups of politicians, activists and theoreticians conglomerating at the Centennial Pavilion and heaping eulogies and enthralling tributes on him, as The Analyst reports.
Prominent and grassroots Liberians, and some international Very Important Persons (VIPs) turned out en mass Saturday, April 2, 2022, at a state funeral service celebrating the life and legacy of one of Liberia’s eminent persons and erudite intellectuals, Dr. Amos Claudius Sawyer.
Liberia was represented at the highest level of authority by President George Manneh Weah who led top government officials such as the Vice President, Mrs. Jewel Howard Taylor; Speaker Bhofal Chambers, who represented the National Legislature; Chief Justice Francis Korkpor for the Judiciary.
Foreign dignitaries and members of Diplomatic Corps, including the US Ambassador to Liberia, Michael McCarthy and the former Nigeria President, Goodluck Jonathan, graced the occasion and paid tributes.
There was a horde of members of the Legislature, Cabinet Ministers, heads of autonomous agencies, and members of the Liberian civil society.
Top opposition politicians were also present. They included former Vice President Joseph Nyumah Boakai, the political leader of the Alternative National Congress (ANC), Alexander B. Cummings, and many others.
The Liberian civil society organizations, religious leaders, workers, market women, students, family members, well-wishers, among others to the program turned out to celebrate “the home-going of Dr. Sawyer, former President of the Interim Government for National Unity (IGNU).
The funeral service was the first major event to be held at the Centennial Pavilion after thorough renovation and being designated as one of the country’s National Historic Site.
With sweet fragrance of recent refurbishment pervading the hall, the once sleepy-looking structure came up alive with her new outlook, of the national colors of red, white and blue and with an elegant picturesque the public has seen in years.
Meanwhile the casket bearing the remains of the late former President, enveloped by members of the Clergy from the Episcopal church, government officials, the bereaved family, and well-wishers, was given a full military escort from the Samuel Stryker Funeral Home in Sinkor and paraded through the Tubman Boulevard up to Ashmun Street.
The observance of the usual first Saturday general cleaning up day for the month notwithstanding, there was no noticeable hassle getting the program site as the body arrived at the venue a little after 10 am, few minutes away from actual time slated for the commencement of the program.
The casket, covered with a white cloth, was ushered into the building by the clergy with the support of members of the Armed Forces of Liberia who rolled it to the designated spot for the commencement of the program.
As soon as President George Manneh Weah arrived at the venue, the order of service led by The Rev. Canon A. Too Williams, Rector of St. Stephen Episcopal Church, Sinkor commenced.
In his invocation, Rt. Rev. Dr. Kortu K. Brown gave the opening prayer, calling for God’s direction as the nation was celebrating the exit of one of its greatest leaders.
He called on the Christian faith to be steadfast in the things of the Lord and endeavor to live a life worth celebrating.
After a selection by the St. Stephen’s Episcopal Church Parish Choir, a number of scriptural readings came from Rev. Abenda F. Tamba, General Superintendent of the Assemblies of God Church; Mot. Georgina T. Williams, President of the St. Stephen Lay Reader’s Guild before Rev. Dr. Bombo Sellee, Bishop Co-Adjutor-elect, Episcopal Church of Liberia mounted the pulpit to deliver the funeral discourse of the funeral.
Dr. Sellee recounted his personal experience with the late Sawyer, stating that what Dr. Sawyer did, what he stood for including is advocacy against autocracy, rape, corruption, impunity are still afflicting Liberia.
Orator: ‘Use Power Prudently’
He used to platform to address the abuse of power and arrogance being exhibited by some people in government and urged them to desist from such acts.
“Be careful how you use power; you are not the source of power; your power derives from my God all mighty,” the Episcopal Bishop said. “Power is transient. Today, you can hold power and tomorrow you lose it. Be careful how you use authority and power. Use your power to serve the people and not to suppress the people.”
Rev. Dr. Sellee also talked about the alarming and increasing rise in the profile of rape cases in the country especially after the President had declared state of emergency on rape and other gender based violence.
He called on the government to address the situation very quickly.
He said further: “We need to address the issue of the rising rate of rape cases in our society. Our children are being destroyed by heartless men around the country. We thank our president who declared rape as a state of emergency and promised prosecution for violators but rape is still the issue in the land. Violence against women is all over the society, even in the city and we as a people must work together with the president to address this issue. We must work together to address the issue of women in our society.”
Familiarity with Sawyer
Bishop Co-Adjutor-elect told the congregation: “Brother Sawyer and I have some admiration and support for each other. Before going to the United States, I visited him at Caldwell residence and he told me, ‘Father you know I supported you to be Bishop of Liberia; I ask you to have your plans well laid out so that as soon as you take power, you will hit the ground running’. And I said, ‘well, Dr. Sawyer, I will like to share with you my vision and strategy of the Diocese and I will want for you to have a look but he said no he was not qualified because he was not a theologian. But I told him that though he was not a theologian but he knew the issue of the church, the issues of Liberia and the world since he was a great analyst and I trusted him. Though he finally agreed to help me, but sadly he couldn’t return alive. And I feel sad about this.”
Tuah-Wleh Mayson: ‘Sawyer Was Brilliant, Well-liked’
In a moving eulogy, Prof. Dew Tuan Wleh Mayson, cousin of the deceased and a long time comrade, set the audience on fire as he weaved words together to describe Sawyer’s upbringing, his struggle for a better Liberia and contributions to justice and humanity beyond the nation.
He said he knew Dr. Sawyer throughout his life and from the beginning; it was clear to him and all his colleagues that Sawyer was destined for greatness.
“He was brilliant and well-liked by all of us. He was up to his death, very generous, generous with his time and generous with his resources. He was never one of those with open mouths with closed wallets”.
Prof. Mayson’s eulogy which invoked tears from the eyes of virtually everyone in the audience was followed by the reading of the official gazette from Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
GoL Gazette Recounts Sawyer’s Achievements
The Government Gazette recalled Dr. Sawyer’s “well-spent life history” with emphasis on his contributions towards impacting knowledge to a good number of young people of Liberia at the University of Liberia where he taught for many years.
Dr. Sawyer rose to the position of Dean of Liberia College until 1984 before being dismissed for his activism against tyranny. He left the country and returned in 1990.
According to the Government Gazette Dr. Sawyer became President of the Interim Government of National Unity from 1990 to 1994 and as Chairperson of the Governance Commission from 2006 to 2018.
Liberian College Renamed In Sawyer’s Honor
Perhaps the highpoint of the ceremony came when the President of Liberia and Visitor to the University of Liberia announced that the Liberia College at the state-run university would now be named in honor of Dr. Sawyer who had served as Dean.
The College will now be called Dr. Amos Claudius Sawyer College of Social Sciences and Humanities as a way of rewarding him for his sacrifices and to immortalize him for posterity to remember him.
The announcement came from the Government’s tribute delivered by the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Ambassador Dee Maxwell Saah Kemayah, listed the contributions of Dr. Sawyer in the academia as justification of taking the decision, stating that the President as visitor to the University has acquiesced with the decision of the Board of Trustees to name the college as such.
The Citation, read by the Minister of Foreign Affairs stated: “I, Dr. George Manneh Weah, President of Liberia and Visitor to the University of Liberia, with the acquiescence and with the concurrence of the Board of Trustees, do hereby honor Dr. Amos Claudius Nagbe Sawyer by renaming the College of Social Sciences and Humanities, formerly Liberia College, as the Amos Claudius Sawyer College of Social Sciences and Humanities. Given under my hand this 2nd Day of April 2022. Signed His Excellency Dr. George Manneh Weah, President of Liberia and Visitor to the University of Liberia.”
The proclamation honoring Dr. Sawyer ignited wide jubilation and cheers amongst the congregants.
The decision was well received and resonated with many people, especially his colleagues who mooted the idea of endowing a chair in his honor as a way of honoring him and keeping his legacy alive.
The College offers degrees in History, Political Science, Mass Communication, Sociology and Anthropology, English and literature, French, amongst other disciplines.
Chambers: ‘Sawyer is Man of Honor’
Also paying tribute was Speaker Bhofal Chambers on behalf of the National Legislature.
Dr. Chambers described the late Sawyer as a man of honor who dedicated his life to the advancement of the Liberian state.
He said the former Interim President would be remembered for everything he did for the country and its people and Africa as well.
Former President Sirleaf: ‘Sawyer Lived Exemplary Life’
Former President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf also had fond words for Dr. Sawyer, stating that she had worked with Sawyer over the years in the struggle for popular democracy and the rule of law.
She said she was amazed when Dr. Sawyer accept to serve under her administration as Chairperson of the Governance Commission.
According to Madam Sirleaf, the late Dr. Sawyer lived an exemplary life, for the good of the country.
“I can recall on some events and occasions, when we listened, we learned, we shared values, we took action with him, as a professor, the historian, visionary leader and a true public servant,” the former Liberian leader said of Dr. Sawyer.
She continued: “He exemplified a strong belief in the rights of others, and in anticipation and power of all, the high-ups and the ordinary ones among us because he was a people’s person.
“And now our mentor, our friend, our national hero and conscience has left us. I am glad that in Amos’s last days we were able to do more, to talk to him a bit more, to appreciate him a bit more, for what he was, and no one else has risen to the stature that he exemplified in our country.”
Tributes from Foreign Colleagues
International goodwill and tributes came from the international community especially the sub-region where high power representation from the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) and the Mano River Union (MRU) were present and paid tribute.
The Special representative from ECOWAS described Dr. Sawyer as a man of peace and a strong believer in democracy and good governance.
He said Sawyer’s footprints would remain in the archives of the regional body and will inspire good leadership among member states. According to the ECOWAS delegation at the funeral, Dr. Sawyer made a profound contribution to the politics of development and humanity, a pan Africanist and visionary whose death will remain an irreplaceable void.
For her part, Mrs. Medina Wesseh, Executive Secretary of Mano River Union (MRU), reflected on Dr. Sawyer and his leadership role he played during the brutal civil war.
She said Dr. Sawyer fought to safeguard the sovereignty of the nation which was challenged by rebel fights. She recounted that he worked with the international community to set up a timetable for the holding of elections to end the war but despite that not happening during his tenure, he worked assiduously with others, especially leaders in the subregion like MRU and ECOWAS to end the carnage and ensured that peace eventually returned to Liberia.
A high power tribute came from the Elders of ECOWAS, a group of eminent persons who are former leaders of their respective countries. Dr. Sawyer was a member.
Dr. Goodluck Ebele Jonathan, former president of Nigeria who spoke on behalf of the group, extended deepest sympathies to the Government of Liberia and the bereaved family for the passing of Dr. Sawyer whom he described as a great statesman and an uncommon leader whose contributions to advancing the democratization process in Africa was outstanding.
“We are all sad and it is an unfortunate situation. Africa lost a role model, West Africa lost a voice, Liberia lost a leader and the family lost an icon, a father, a pillar and a guardian”, he said.
Tributes from Liberian Clergy
Powerful tributes also came from the Liberia Council of Churches and the Liberia Muslim Council with both eulogizing the late leader and calling for good leadership that will foster peace, development, national unity and mutual co-existence among Liberians.
His church, the St. Stephen Episcopal Church/Episcopal Diocese of Liberia while paying their tribute extolled his virtues as a committed servant of God, a humanitarian, family man, a passionate Christian who followed Christ to the best of his ability and a true ambassador of the Episcopal faith.
His brother Professor Joseph W. Sawyer who spoke on behalf of the family described him as a committed family man who will be remembered for his humility, his honesty, and faith in God, attributes he said Dr. Sawyer took to everywhere he worked. He said the family was deeply hurt of his demise but will take solace in the Lord in good faith
Prayer for the family was performed by Rev. Fr. Wozeyan Bazzie, Curate, St. Stephen Episcopal Church who expressed his sadness for the loss and prayed to God to grant the widow, Mrs. Comfort Thelma Duncan Sawyer, the children and members of the bereaved family the fortitude to bear the loss.
Archie J. Sawyer, one of the brothers of the deceased, in his acknowledgement extended thanks and appreciation to President George Manneh Weah and his government for organizing such a wonderful state funeral arrangements and also the Embassy of Liberia in the United States of America for expediting the visa process for those who attended the events. He also extended appreciation to the church.
Mrs. Sawyer spoke of individuals who played major roles during the entire funeral arrangements of her husband. She singled out Mrs. Mary T. Broh for working tirelessly with the Ministry of Finance to bring the venue to a conducive atmosphere worth hosting the program and also Madam Esther Richards whom she described as a true friend and sister in time of need who paid her own flight ticket to and fro.
The state funeral was the climax of all the activities lined up to give the late Dr. Sawyer a befitting burial not only as a former leader but for his immense sacrifices made to the country and its people, mainly the country’s democratization process.
He died in the United States of America on February 22, 2022 from cardiac arrest and his body was flown to Liberia on March 25, 2022.
The government opened a Book of Condolence on Tuesday, March 29, 2022 at the Centennial Pavilion where President Weah led an array of government officials to sign the book of condolence. Members of the Diplomatic corps, top politicians, religious leaders, the business community, civil society groups, workers, among others took part in the signing ceremony.
On Wednesday, March 30, 2022, a Governance Day program was organized to celebrate his legacy in public service and covered the period he served as President of Interim Government of National Unity and the Governance Commission which was followed by the Day of Honor hosted by the University of Liberia in collaboration with friends, associates and comrades of the late sage to recognize the years he spent to impact knowledge to a good number of young Liberians who are today making towards the development of the country and humanity throughout the world.
A wake keeping took place on Friday, April 1, 2021, at the Trinity Cathedral on Broad Street attended by President George Manneh Weah, top government officials, members of the diplomatic corps, religious leaders, business community, the civil society, workers, students, among others.