“We’ve Banned All Traditional Practices” – Zanzar Kawor, To Allow Free, Fair, Transparent Elections

MONROVIA: Breaking from the country’s century-old history of selecting formally educated Liberians as the national Independence Day orator, the government of Liberia selected Chief Zanzar Kawor, Chairman of the National Traditional Council of Liberia (NTCL), to deliver this year’s July 26 Independence Day Oration in his native Bassa vernacular through an English interpreter. Using the unique platform, Chief Zanzar Kawor veered from tradition to place a ban on all traditional practices in the country to allow free, fair and transparent conduct of the ensuing presidential and general elections. Among other things, the chief zoe also called on the citizenry to respect the tradition of the land, as well as the rule of law governing constituted authority.

“To support free, fair and transparent elections, in my capacity as Chairperson of the Traditional Council of the Republic of Liberia, we have placed a ban on our traditional practices. We do not want any opposition or whosoever to say that I went to this village to campaign but I cannot do it because of cultural practices. No!” Chief Zanzar Kawor said.

Dressed in the customary country cloth gown with a swath emblazoned with the national red, white and blue colors, Chief Zanzar Kawor kicked off his oration at the jam-packed Centennial Pavilion in Monrovia by appreciating the Liberian president for his selection as national orator, which he said represents a solemn day for the traditional people.

“When somebody spoke about my degree, there was a kind of laughter. Indeed, I have a degree in wisdom. In the wisdom of the President, that he was able to select me in the midst of the 16 tribes, making me the National Orator of this 176th Independence, Mr. President, I am grateful. Mr. President, my selection will enable me to retreat my memory into history… to retrospect on the history of this country; where we come from, where we envisage to go, and where we are now. And it is clear that I will never forget to speak on the non-violent, free and fair elections, but I want to first speak on the history of this country, to know where we were, where we are now, and where we hope to go,” Chief Kawor said.

Delving deep into Liberian history

Speaking on the historical foundation of the Liberian republic dating from the arrival of the freed slaves from the United States who here to establish a haven of self-rule, Chief Zanzar Kawor said the settlers already met a group of people who were ruled by kings; well-established in their traditional customs and beliefs; but were later divided by the introduction of strange customs of the settlers.

“We have our children, who went overseas for so many reasons. And then those children went and they decided to come back home, and then they went through the way of Sierra Leone and into Liberia. When the settlers thought about coming back home, they were troubled with mosquitos through malaria. That was the reason why they came back incomplete. Some of them left there on the island, and some of them came to this free land.

“They came and they were able to berth at the Du River. When they berthed at the Du River, they were still in serious search as to where to settle. So, they came around the ocean, and still not satisfied, they went back to the Du side.

“Before the arrival of the settlers, this place was ruled by a king called King Long Peter. I still retain my memory as my father related to me, for the history of our country, 1821. And King Sao Bosso was also on the north side, a Mandingo. Let me tell you my history, the Mandingoes are not strangers to this land. King Njolah was also a leader at that time. And these three were the ones providing traditional leadership for this land.

“And so, when the settlers came, they berthed at the Du River and they saw how clean that place was, so they declared ownership, forgetting to know that there were men who had prepared that place, and the only thing they had to offer was praise to God, saying God thank you, the love of liberty brought us here. But they had forgotten to know someone was there who kept that piece of place very clean.

“That place is called by its traditional name, Dosuah. That’s what is referred to as Providence Island. And that’s when they decided to ask, please can you tell us who owns this land. And then they called King Peter. And then they decided to go in search of the owners and they were hosted by the Dei.

“So, the King in his traditional wisdom asked the settlers to break word, and settlers said our fathers brought us, and we have returned because where we went, we cannot be perpetually, and we thought it wise to come back home, so here we are. So, they were received, and the King gave them a place for them to settle and they built their tent.

“And then the king said if you want drinking water, there is a well, you can drink from this one. But in their mind, they did not want to drink from this well. So, the little water they brought with them, they drank it, but after it finished, they needed to go back and get another water. But they couldn’t go back but they had to drink the water that was there. And then, the traditional people started shooting them. Even though they didn’t have guns, the traditional people were living by their skills and their swords. And so, the king ordered the settlers out of their land.

“In our history, the traditional people have fought for this land. After they (settlers) left, they could not get any hospitality, so they decided to come back and apologize to the traditional people. So, they stayed at the Du River for six months, and then they came back to apologize,” Chief Kawor said.

Narrating further, the Traditional Council chairperson said since the foundation of Liberia, the zoes were part of the traditional history, but when the settlers came, they brought up a different agenda.

“Our traditions were meant for the young people to respect the older ones. For us, the traditional people ran this country through their zoes. If anybody offended anybody, the men would lead and resolve the issue. We were not into political debates and castigating other people. Whenever the traditional people selected you, it means all of us will bow to you as our leader.

“When the settlers came, they brought their own agenda, church. Then we asked the question, what is the difference between the traditional people and you? Today, I want to ask you who are our children, when you are in leadership, why are you in continuous confusion? You go to church; you go to school.

“When Doe came to power, he didn’t have any traditional background. For example, when things were not right, he did not consult the traditional people to advise him on what to do as a president. Because of the 13 Tolbert officials that died, you as civilized people came back in another form and fooled our children. And many of you who organized this thing, you sat in America. Our people died in this land.

“To prove that we the traditional people love this country, after you killed our children, our wives, we decided to work with you because we wanted peace. After 176 years, have we come to a point where our development can be compared to any country in Africa? Where are we in terms of development? If you had really developed this land in the last 170 years now, at least Montserrado should have been developed, not to mention other counties.

“What else do you want us to do? This land is owned by the traditional people, the indigenous people. We own this land. So, there is no need for confusion. There is no reason for political noise.

Commending President Weah

“We come on to development. Let me ask you a question. Those of you in government, who can you identify as a leader or the president, who will come and confess here that the past president did this so I will continue, based on her conscience. Who did that? George Manneh Weah is the only president who did that,” Chief Kawor said.

Going further, Chief Kawor said during her 12 years reign, former President Sirleaf did not complete renovation of the Executive Mansion, but it is President Weah who is completing work on the Mansion, and now the edifice is being prepared for the function of the President of the Republic of Liberia.

“Maybe someone from the opposition camp will be thinking that I am preaching politics, but that is not so. I am speaking reality. As traditional chairman, I can acclaim that the former President and President George Manneh Weah stood together breaking grounds for the road from Gbarnga to Lofa, and Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf appealed that we can go ahead with this road, and President George Manneh Weah accepted, and now the road is completed.

“Those who are being considered as the owners of the land, the paramount chiefs, they were walking line by line. Traditionally, when the paramount chief wanted to execute power, the only thing that was in their command was the laborers, who tote them in hammocks to carry them. But modernization has come forth, and things have changed. Our children that used to do the work cannot do it anymore.

“So, the president asked me what was happening, and I told him we are no longer moving in hammocks, we are walking along the road. Then the president asked me what we wanted. With fear I responded to the president that we just wanted a motorbike and two cars. But the president gave 30 vehicles for the traditional people to go through their towns and villages. Then for our towns and villages, the president also sent 13 ambulances to rescue those in the communities.

“What I thought about the opposition, they too are supposed to think about development. In my traditional political wisdom, since the president provided these 30 vehicles, 150 motorbikes, 15 ambulances, I thought the opposition would have come up to say we will give ambulances because we too want development. But they cannot do it.

“Our traditional essence cannot allow us to fight with our leaders. By the conscience and the oath of the tradition, we have to protect our leader. When it’s your time, it will be your time,” Chief Kawor said.

On the 2023 National Elections

Speaking on the credibility of the October 10, 2023 presidential and general elections, Chief Kawor called on all Liberians to work with the National Elections Commission in creating a level playing field for all.

“Those of our children that declare their ambition for whatever they want, please create a level playing field. Let everybody participate. Because we want a very free, fair and transparent election. Let me announce, whether you work with the Elections Commission, you are not authorized to announce the election results. Our law says it is only the Chairperson of the National Elections Commission that is clothed with the authority to announce who becomes the victor of the election.

“Those of our people at the polling stations are the ones who can bring out violence and small, small confusion. The number that is not even out is the one they can put forth. I want to announce here that we want peace,” the Chief Zoe of Liberia said.

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