Speech delivered by Wantoe Teah Wantoe, Keynote Speaker of 176th National Flag Day 2023

Your Excellency Dr. George Manneh Weah, President of the Republic of Liberia;

Honorable Chief Dr. Jewel Howard-Taylor, Vice President of the Republic of Liberia;

Honorable Speaker Dr. Bhofah Chambers, and esteemed Members of the House of Representatives;

Honorable President Pro-Tempore Albert T. Chie, and esteemed Members of the Liberian Senate;

Her Honor, Chief Justice Sie-A-Nyene Yuoh, distinguished Associate Justices of the Supreme Court of Liberia, and esteemed Members of the Judiciary;

The Dean and esteemed Members of the Cabinet;

Excellencies, the Doyen and distinguished Members of the Diplomatic and Consular Corps, and other esteemed Foreign Dignitaries Present here;

Representatives of Local and International Organizations;

Prelates, and esteemed Members of the Clergy, Heads and Members of Religious Institutions;

Chief Zanzan Kawar, Chair of the National Traditional Council of Chiefs, esteemed Elders and Zoes;

Heads of Political Parties, Civil Society Organizations, and Heads of Educational Institutions;

Presidents and Chairpersons of Youth and Student Organizations;

Presidents and Chairpersons of Women Organizations;

Members of the Business Community; Most especially, the Market women and men;

Yana Boys and Girls; Bus and Taxi Drivers; Tricycles and Motorcycles Drivers;

Wheelbarrow Operatives;

Disadvantaged and Physically Challenged Citizens;

Students and Teachers;

At-risk youth/Zogos;

Members of the Fourth Estate;

Distinguished Guests; Fellow Liberians, Ladies and Gentlemen:

Today, we gather here to commemorate the 176th anniversary of our beloved National Flag. Under the theme, “The Lone Star: A symbol of Unity and Nationalism,” we reflect upon the significance of this emblem and its role in fostering a sense of togetherness within our great nation.

It is crucial that we remember the historical context in which National Flag Day was established. On October 25, 1915, the National Legislature of Liberia passed a law declaring the 14th day of August as National Flag Day, to be observed as a national holiday across our land. This legislation also entrusted the Ministry of Education, alongside other line ministries and agencies, with the responsibility of organizing suitable programs to commemorate this special day.

Today, I am honored to address you all during such a momentous occasion in our history. As we come together to celebrate the 20th anniversary of peace following the end of our brutal civil conflict, we must remember the scars left by that senseless bloodshed. It was a period of division, where conflict tore us apart rather than bringing us together. The chaos inflicted severe damage on the growth, productivity, and well-being of our young people.

Before proceeding further, I would like to express my sincere appreciation to His Excellency President George Weah, our legislature cabinets and the Liberian people  for our  steadfast commitment to preserving peace and stability, even amidst political disagreements. President Weah  commitment to national unity is commendable, and we should all strive to emulate his example.

Secondly, I want us to kindly offer a moment of silence to the members of “Girls for Weah” who tragically lost their lives while actively engaged in the campaign trail. I also wish a swift and complete recovery to those who are currently recovering from this unfortunate incident. A general silence also for everyone who we  unfortunately lost during this election. I commend the unified solidarity offering condolences to the victim regardless of political differences. A pure emblem of unity and unification. We also remember the death of Representative Hans Barchue and all the departed souls who passed away during the electoral time peacefully or through other mediums.

The resilience and enthusiasm demonstrated by these girls during this election cycle deserve recognition and admiration. Their active involvement in advocating for their preferred candidate underscores the commitment of young people to shaping the future of our country. It is regrettable that this noble pursuit has been overshadowed by this tragic loss. Their unwavering dedication and sacrifice will never be forgotten, and we will honor their remarkable contributions to our democratic process. Their loss will forever remain in our hearts. Let’s please stand in 30 seconds of silence in their remembrance.

Fellow Liberians and Compatriots,

As we gather here today to commemorate the 176th anniversary of our National Flag, it is imperative that we reflect upon the sense of unification that lies at the heart of our theme, “The Lone Star: A symbol of Unity and Nationalism.” Throughout our history, Liberia has faced challenges of division and animosity from our historical origin to our progressive stage. It is a conflict that lives at the heart of such periods. Most notably is the Americo Liberian and Indigenous sentiment.

At one point in our national history, this conflict  threatened to tear us apart. The divide between these two groups was palpable, causing deep social unrest and leading to the devastating civil wars that plagued our nation between 1989 and 2003. The scars of those turbulent years are still evident in the minds and hearts of many Liberians.

President Tubman Model for Unification.

President Tubman recognized that national unity and social integration were crucial for our country’s progress. He understood that building a harmonious Liberia required breaking down barriers, fostering understanding, and promoting equal opportunities for all citizens. His unwavering commitment to unification laid the foundation for the strides we have made since then.

However, the work of unification did not end with President Tubman. It is an ongoing process that demands our continuous commitment and efforts. We must all play our part in fostering a sense of unity and belonging. Regardless of our background or social divide, we must recognize that we are all Liberians first and foremost.

In our pursuit of unification, we must embrace our diversity as a source of strength rather than division. Each Liberian brings unique perspectives, experiences, and talents to the table. It is through the recognition and celebration of this diversity that we can forge a truly united and prosperous nation. I think seeking to understand one another, respecting one another, and working together towards common goals. We also must  break the cycle of prejudice, discrimination, and hostility that has hindered our progress for far too long. The Tubman unification solution teaches me we can utilize the symbolic nature of our resolve as a nation to overcome these historical divisions and strive towards a future where unity and nationalism are not merely aspirations but lived principles. Our mission is building a Liberia where every citizen feels valued, heard, and included. Together, we can create a legacy of unity that will endure for generations to come. His generation must encompass youth.

Youth As Catalyst of Change.

We are set to hold elections in October. The youth of Liberia have embraced the importance of peace, and they have taken the lead in advocating for it. Through the federations of Liberian youth, they have initiated a movement and delivered a peace treaty known as the Buutuo Declaration. This declaration has been signed by youth leaders from major political parties such as LINU, CDC, CPP, ALP, UP, LPP, ALCOP, and MPC, signifying a significant milestone in the nation’s quest for lasting peace. Buutuo is a historical place known for our civil war. Today, young people in Liberia have transformed it into a pillar of hope and reservoir of peace. There is a growing argument of where sustainable progress lies. Some say the elderly generation are still a pillar of sustainability. Mr president, I want to be equivocally clear I am no stranger to this discourse. I have a side and with youth there is a clearer path to sustained, unequivocal and progressive progress. Here at this 176th National Flag Day Celebration, I stand before you as the national orator, filled with profound hope and unwavering commitment to the inclusion of our young people in shaping the future of our beloved Liberia.

Our nation, like many others, stands at a critical juncture in its history. As the demographic composition of Liberia leans heavily towards the youth, it is incumbent upon us, the leaders and elders, to recognize the immense potential and influence that our young population possesses.

I implore the government, the opposition, and all stakeholders involved in this historic election to prioritize the consideration and inclusion of our young people. They are the heartbeat of our nation, representing 63 percent of our population below the age of 25. Their voices, aspirations, and dreams must be recognized and embraced.

I firmly believe that the path to peace in this election lies in enabling our young people to become catalysts of positive change. By empowering them with knowledge, skills, and opportunities, we can unleash their potential and channel their energy towards building a more united, vibrant, and prosperous Liberia.

We must rid ourselves of divisive tribalism and instead embrace a clear progressive agenda that unifies our nation. Our young people must see themselves as integral parts of a united Liberia, transcending tribal boundaries and working towards the common goal of peace and progress.

Let us provide platforms for dialogue, engagement, and participation. Let us nurture an environment that encourages the exchange of ideas, constructive criticism, and innovation. By valuing the contributions of our young people and respecting their perspectives, we can forge a path of unity that transcends partisan politics.

But let us not stop at inclusion; let us foster an environment that nurtures their dreams and aspirations. Let us invest in quality education, vocational training, and infrastructure that empowers our young people to become active contributors to our nation’s growth and development. By providing them with the tools they need, we can pave the way for a brighter future.

As we approach this election, let us do so with optimism and a renewed commitment to peace. We certainly are bound together by our shared history, aspirations, and dreams. Let us demonstrate to the world that Liberia is a beacon of hope, a shining example of a nation united in its diversity.

Mr. President, Members of the opposition party, international partners, distinguished guests, fellow Liberians, Our flag day should be a path to embark on a  journey with a firm resolve to uplift our young people, harness their potential, and create equitable opportunities for all. By embracing their voices, we can build a Liberia that we can be proud of – a Liberia that thrives in unity, nationalism, and optimism. However, we cannot forget the dark past. Our celebration of nationalism must remind us of the step it took us to get here.

We are Architects Of Our Security and Peace.

Looking back, we remember the dark times of our history, when our country was torn apart by two civil wars that spanned over 14 long years. The United Nations Mission in Liberia (UNMIL) played a crucial role in bringing an end to these conflicts through Security Council Resolution 1509 in June 2003. However, it is important to acknowledge that sustaining our peace and security requires substantial dedication and resources.

Over the course of 14 years, UNMIL invested a staggering $7.5 billion and deployed more than 180,000 peacekeepers, including 130,000 troops, 16,000 police officers, and 24,000 civilian staff. Their presence was necessary to ensure the successful conduct of democratic presidential and legislative elections in 2005, 2011, and 2017.

However, it is an extraordinary achievement that under President Weah’s administration, we have emerged as the architects of our own peace, security, and stability. We stand here today, no longer reliant on the presence of 180,000 international peacekeeping forces but more unified and patriotic to underscore the significance of not returning to our dark days. Notwithstanding, the cost of his election is enormous since it is the first post war  without the presence of UNMIl on our shores.

The power of democracy lies not only in the freedom to choose our leaders but in the principles of transparency, accountability, and peaceful coexistence that underpin the electoral process. It is my humble duty to charge President George Weah and all stakeholders involved to ensure a peaceful and transparent election that upholds these fundamental principles. The unity of Liberia should be cherished and celebrated during this election. It is crucial to transcend partisan interests and prioritize the collective well-being of the nation, honoring the legacy of peace that Liberia has striven to build. Your excellency has the power to lead by example, forging a path of national unity that transcends political affiliations. By emphasizing the common goals and shared future of Liberia, I am confident and as well publicly charging president weah on behalf of the young people to inspire citizens to come together, bridge divides, and work towards a prosperous and harmonious society as he actively did during our civil war and as a peace ambassador when we needed him the most. I am also cognizant that this peaceful and transparent election is not only a responsibility of the government but also of all stakeholders, including political parties, civil society organizations, and the media. I implore every Liberian  to play their part in fostering an atmosphere of peace, respect, and fairness. Embracing the principles of dialogue, tolerance, and mutual understanding will be instrumental in ensuring an election that is truly reflective of the will and interests of our country. Furthermore, it is paramount that this election fosters an environment of free speech devoid of violence, tribalism, and political manhunt. The diversity of thought and expression should be protected and encouraged, as it serves as the bedrock of a vibrant democracy. All candidates must have equal access to platforms for public debate, enabling them to present their visions and policies in a respectful and constructive manner. Let us reject any form of hate speech or incitement that stokes division and threatens the very essence of our unity as a nation. The cost of conflicts in Africa since 2000 has been estimated at nearly $900 billion, and our own civil conflict preceded that timeframe. In light of this, we must appreciate the significance of President Weah’s leadership in ensuring that our resources are directed towards development, progress, and the well-being of our people, rather than being squandered in endless cycles of violence.

Today we celebrate 2 decades of Peace as a testament to unity and national reconciliation due to uncompromising patriotism, nationalism and unification. I firmly believe the Famigton declaration must be utilized and respected in this election. We must recognize the significance of this election  particularly in a world riddled with hostile geopolitical tensions. In 2021, sub-Saharan Africa witnessed 17 internationalized civil wars, more than double the number of internal conflicts without external intervention. These conflicts have resulted in the displacement of 32 million Africans due to violence and repression. As of 2022, 45 out of the 54 countries in our region have faced one or more coup attempts. Since gaining independence, the average African state has experienced four coup attempts, with Sudan being the most affected, enduring 17, including two just last year. In such a challenging landscape, sustaining peace becomes even more critical. Peace is a critical part of sustainable development as the US 21st Partnership for African Security’s investment of $100 million in a three-year pilot program for security reform. Additionally, a further $60 million has been pledged to support the Trans-Sahara Counterterrorism Partnership. PEACE FIRST AND PEACE LAST. This election is our theater to demonstrate our readiness to forge a peaceful future.

The Cost of conflict still rings through our health sector. Following the devastation of our civil war and the Ebola epidemic, our health workforce was decimated, essential services were disrupted, and our maternal and child mortality rates were among the highest in the world.

However, today we must stand  proud  celebrating what gains can be achieved under unification. We witnessed the lowest maternal mortality rate in Liberia. We have witnessed a significant reduction of 44% between 2017 and 2021, Another milestone in our healthcare journey is the establishment of The Ellen Johnson Sirleaf Dialysis Center at JFK, the first-ever dialysis center in the Republic of Liberia. This center provides invaluable care for those suffering from kidney infections, bringing hope and relief to many. Our health and educational services were severely disrupted, with medical equipment and supplies stolen and buildings damaged. Many of our healthcare workers and educators were forced to flee the country, leaving a significant void in expertise and capacity.

I wanna appreciate president weah  for  the construction of the 14th Military Hospital and The Emirate Hospital, which demonstrate growth in the health sector. Additionally, 25 doctors are being given the opportunity to specialize abroad, allowing us to fill the gaps and improve the expertise and capacity of our healthcare workforce is a progressive growth. While unification have earned us this progress, I believe access to quality healthcare should not be a luxury but a fundamental right for all citizens. President Weah, I commend your efforts in bolstering healthcare facilities; however, we must now work tirelessly to ensure that these services remain accessible to all, regardless of their financial status. Most notably in rural and urban Liberia. Affordability can be achieved through investment in our national budget. Just as the free tuition policy we must embrace the possibility of implementing health insurance schemes or expanding existing ones to cover a broader range of citizens. I also believe through regulating and forging  collaborative efforts between the private and public sectors it can lead to incentivizing providers to serve underprivileged communities, we can bridge the gap in healthcare access and enhance affordability. We must aspire to  prioritize investment in research institutions and initiatives in Liberia. By doing so, we can promote local innovation and cultivate a robust research culture, empowering our healthcare professionals to make groundbreaking discoveries that will positively impact the lives of our citizens.

We certainly must demand more! Our task to ensure a more sustainable health system is enormous but through unification we have shown courage and determination and made historic progres from our civil war.

After my graduation from the Calvary Baptist Church School System, I found myself taking a compulsory two-and-a-half-year gap because my Dad couldn’t afford my entrance fee at the University of Liberia. Additionally, ongoing education would have become unaffordable for me, whether at the state-run University of Liberia or a private college.

Another alarming aspect of our society is the lack of affordability and access to education. The New Global Findex data reveals that over half (54 percent) of adults in Sub-Saharan Africa are deeply concerned about paying school fees, with 29 percent citing school fees as their primary financial worry, surpassing medical expenses, old age provisions, and monthly bills.

However, in unison, we celebrate the implementation of a free tuition policy for all government-run colleges and universities in Liberia. This policy has made education more accessible for students, benefiting over 200,000 individuals. Moreover, in a display of commitment to educational affordability, the government has waived the fees associated with the West African Examinations Council (WAEC), reducing financial barriers for students pursuing their education.  Furthermore, the introduction of technology mobility within our tertiary education system has rekindled hope. The Digital System at the University of Liberia serves as a testament to this progress.  Today, we celebrate the best public test result since the foundation of our country in WASSCE under President George weah with little over 46,000 pass out of 49 about 75,- 80 percent.

While we fully appreciate this progress, I believe  accountability must become the cornerstone of our education system. We must establish rigorous standards, regularly monitor progress, and hold all stakeholders accountable for ensuring your youth receive the highest quality form of education. This entails setting clear goals and targets, establishing mechanisms for assessment and evaluation, as well as promoting transparency and the responsible allocation of resources.  In addition, I believe research must be prioritized to inform our educational practices. We must invest in educational research that focuses on understanding the most effective teaching methods, curriculum development, and educational policies. Furthermore, improving our educational infrastructure is crucial for expanding access to quality education. We must address the shortage of classrooms, provide adequate learning materials and resources, and invest in modern technologies that enhance teaching and learning. Additionally, we must prioritize the training and development of qualified teachers who can inspire and guide our students towards academic excellence and promote stem education.

Unification Must Embrace The Diaspora.

The Diaspora Unification Bill marks a significant turning point in our journey as a nation. Liberians living abroad have long yearned for a sense of belonging and the opportunity to actively participate in shaping the future of our beloved Motherland. President Weah’s foresight and decisive action have extended the hands of acceptance and inclusion, reaffirming that no matter where we reside, we are all Liberians with a vital stake in our nation’s progress.

The blueprint for unification and unity is historic that under President, passing the historic Diaspora Unification Bill, which has provided inclusion, voting opportunities, and acceptance for Liberians living abroad. This monumental achievement is a testament to President Weah’s commitment to unity, nationalism, and the principles that our flag represents.

By granting voting rights, pathway to citizenship and inclusive recognition o Liberians living abroad, President Weah has not only recognized their contributions but also acknowledged their fundamental right to have a say in the democratic processes that shape our nation’s destiny. This step forward strengthens the bond between our diaspora community and those at home, fostering a shared sense of responsibility and unity in our collective pursuit of a better Liberia.

Moreover, the impact of the Diaspora Unification Bill extends beyond the election season. As we stand on the precipice of another crucial election, we must critically learn from this milestone achievement. We must embrace the spirit of inclusivity, unity, and nationalism that President Weah has exemplified through the passage of this bill.

During this election, let us rise above the politics of division and strive for a politics of unity and progress. Let us remember that the true power of democracy lies not in our differences but in our ability to come together for the greater good. As we observe Flag Day, let our flag serve as a unifying symbol that reminds us of the values we hold dear – inclusivity, equality, and a shared vision for a prosperous and harmonious nation.

The impact of the Diaspora Unification Bill is immeasurable. It strengthens our democracy by ensuring that every Liberian, regardless of their geographical location, has a voice in shaping the future of our great nation. It fosters a sense of belonging and national identity among our diaspora, encouraging them to actively engage in initiatives that contribute to Liberia’s progress.

Our National Flag stands as a beacon of hope and a symbol of our collective strength and resilience. It represents the aspirations and dreams of every Liberian, irrespective of tribe, religion, or political affiliation. The significance of the Lone Star cannot be understated, as it embodies the spirit of unity and nationalism that we must uphold to build a prosperous and inclusive society.

Let us renew our commitment to fostering a culture of unity, respect, and understanding. Let us work collaboratively to overcome the challenges that lie ahead, striving for the betterment of our great nation. Together, we can overcome any obstacles and build a Liberia where every citizen has equal opportunities for education, healthcare, and economic progress.

The scars of our civil war run deep. For years, our beloved Liberia endured unimaginable pain and suffering, as division and violence tore through the fabric of our society. But in the face of adversity, we rose. We rose as a united people, determined to rebuild, reconcile, and restore our nation to its former glory.

Under the leadership of President George Weah, we have seen the unwavering commitment to restoring peace and unity in Liberia. His dedication to healing the wounds of the past and fostering a sense of national identity has been instrumental in our journey towards progress. Through his leadership, we have witnessed the tangible outcomes of peace and stability, laying the foundation for an inclusive and prosperous future.

As we reflect upon our successes since the post-war period, we must acknowledge the power of tolerance and peace as cornerstones of our national values. It is through embracing these principles that we have been able to navigate the complexities of our diverse society and move forward as a united nation. As we approach the upcoming elections, let us remember the lessons of our history and ensure that tolerance and peace continue to guide our political discourse and decision-making processes.

Patriotism should not be confined to mere words but should be reflected in our actions. We must adopt a spirit of optimism, inclusivity, and reconciliation as we work towards a better Liberia. Let us recognize that our individual and collective contributions have the power to shape the future of our nation. By embracing optimism, we can impart hope to our fellow compatriots and inspire them to actively participate in the development of our society.

Comments are closed.