By Elder Siahyonkron Nyanseor
Liberian history is replete with accounts of heroism on the part of Americo-Liberians (Settlers), and the so-called accounts of cowardice on the part of Native-Liberians (aborigines). It is this slanted view of Settlers’ history and a false sense of heroism and cowardice that have been the main source of conflict amongst generations of Liberians on either side of the political and social divide. This portrayal of both groups has undermined true patriotism and nationalism in Liberia. A classic example is a phrase: “Peace was in heaven until Kru People got there”. Similarly, it can be said that – “peace was on earth unit JESUS got here”.
The phrase “Peace was in heaven until Kru People got there” is intended to portray the stance taken by the Kru (Klao) ethnic group in dealing with everyone they meet. Within Biblical and historical context, it can be explained as what was meant as a NEGATIVE reference to the Klao tribe of Liberia became promotion about the people Europeans referred to as “Africa’s Sailors”; the tribal people who rather die than be captured and made slaves.
It is recorded in European history that prior to the arrival of the freed-slaves from North America to West Africa, the people known as Krus (Klaos) were involved in trading and had developed a mutual relationship with European Merchants and Explores. It is from this relationship the Klao ethnic group in this area was named by Europeans as Kroo or Kru. The name Kru is derived from the word ‘crew’. This name was given to them as the result of their profession. The groups that are referred to as KRU were the Klao, Bassa and the Grebo.
The Meaning of Peace was in Heaven Until Kru People Got There
As a Youth in Monrovia
The phrase: “Peace was in heaven until Kru People got there” was used by grown-ups as well as my peers in Monrovia. Many of those who are of my age might have heard this statement used in the 50s and 60s about us. I heard it too many times! Some of them said it as a joke. However, there is this Liberian saying, “Facts come through jokes”. Therefore, I did not take it as a joke. The statement was meant to make a mockery of my people without known the true story about the Klao people’s struggle under the Settlers’ government.
As a young boy in Rocktown, Monrovia – the unpaved side of Clay Street I got into fights with anyone who used the phrase in my presence. That’s how much I resented it. It was not until Sergeant Moore, my cousin under whom I studied and served as Griot (storyteller) told me to accept it with dignity. Here is what he told me! “Jglay Kpa-kay, have you forgotten our (Klao) mottos – Never trouble, trouble until trouble, troubles you” and “Too much of gentility leads to brutality?” Sergeant Moore’s explanation made it crystal clear to me. His advice motivated me to take a keen interest in becoming passionate in researching, studying, writing and telling the truth about African Liberians and African Historian in general. First, I owed this interest to the Almighty God, and second to Sergeant Moore, my teacher who taught me the true history of the Klao people. As a matter fact, I give God the glory to have created me as a “Countryman” and a “Troublemaker” who speaks both the Klao and Bassa languages of Liberia.
As a Christian, I am reminded of Genesis 50:20 NIV “…you thought evil against me; but God meant it unto good, to bring to pass, as it is this day, to save many people alive”. Wow, what a revelation!
You see, what was intended as a put-down, God turned it all for our good. He brought us to the position of advocacy, so we could fight injustice to save our people and humanity. GOD is so good; He made the enemies our footstool. That’s how He works for those who worship and praise him!
The Klaos (Krus) History & Struggles in Liberia
There is an African proverb that says, “Until lions have their own historians, the story of the hunt will be told by the hunter.” This is the reason we need to tell our own history.
The history of the Kroo/Kru (Klao) people, can be traced from their activities with Europeans, such as the Normans who visited the Liberian shores in 1364; Pedro de Cintra in 1461, the English in 1551, 1556, 1562, 1564 and 1567; a German-Swiss by the name of Samuel Braun in 1611, the Dutch in 1626 and 1668, and the French in 1725. During this period, some of the natives were literate; they traded and interacted with the Portuguese, Dutch, French, and Germans. Common sense tells us that for the length of time African-Liberians carried out these activities and transactions with Europeans they had to speak their languages. Therefore, to suggest that “The cannon went off (Matilda Newport Story) the sound was so loud; it frightened the attackers who had never seen such a discharge of firing power before.” This is not only a blatant lie but a ridiculous portrayal of African-Liberians.
More important, the earliest reference to Kru (Klao) offshore employment relates to a Spanish vessel that stopped at Elmina on the Gold Coast in February 1645. In the eighteen centuries, Klao migrated to Freetown and from there they were employed on vessels owned by the Sierra Leone Company. By the end of the 1790s, more than 50 Klao were employed as deckhands and in other jobs on British colonial vessels. Klao participated in contract work in the nineteenth century which was almost always voluntary (Amos C. Sawyer, The Emergence of Autocracy in Liberia, Tragedy and Challenge, 1992).
The Kroo (Klao) Mark of Distinction
During this period, there was a blue mark on the noses of the Kroos to set them apart from the other tribes. The blue mark was a mark of distinction. During the time when the slave trade was flourishing, the Kroos were ‘useful watermen’. The slavers would, therefore, never purchase one, or only did so to set him at liberty, fearing to incur the hostility of the tribe, and the Kroos adopted the blue mark as a sign of their nationality, which always protected them from purchase by the white men. (Sylomun Weah, Liberia History, and Culture)
American Military Intervention
Due to the apartheid system the Settlers developed in Liberia, it caused serious conflict between them and the indigenous people. This system isolated the indigenous people who first inhabited the land from the Settlers. The Settlers illegally acquired more land through the issuance of bogus treaties, which led to a series of battles. However, during some of these conflicts, the United States military intervened on the side of the Settlers.
In 1843, Commodore Matthew Calbraith Perry, the man credited with opening Japan to the West a few years later, descended on Kru Coast and Cape Palmas with over 700 American marines, in the vessels, MACEDONIAN, SARATOGA, and DECATUR, to punish the Kru and Grebo people for their alleged attacks on American shipping, and to assist Liberia and Cape Palmas in their struggle against the indigenous people in Kru Coast and Cape Palmas. The series of battles was sanctioned by Governors J.J. Roberts of Liberia and John Russwurm of Cape Palmas.
In 1875, the U.S.S. Alaska was dispatched by President Ulysses S. Grant to Liberia, after Liberian troops lost a series of battles to Grebo warriors; in 1910, President Howard H. Taft of the United States dispatched the U.S.S. Birmingham to Liberia, when another major war began between Liberian and the Grebo people; and in 1915, President Woodrow Wilson, sent the U.S.S Chester with 500 rifles and 250,000 rounds, to assist the Liberian Government when war with the Kru people began over the hut tax and the forced recruitment of indigenous-Kru labor by the Liberian Government.
Again in 1915, the United States came to the aid of the Settlers; confronted by a revolt of the Krus:
The Monrovia government implored the United States to provide it with munitions and to send a cruiser to assist in the suppression of the revolt and to forestall foreign intervention. The United States agreed to do so, and the War Department sent over five hundred Krag carbines and two hundred and fifty thousand rounds of ammunition upon an American cruiser, the Chester. These munitions were sold to Liberia at half-price upon delivery! Thus supplied, the American-organized Frontier Force almost decimated the Kru resistance force (The Liberian Paradox, Raymond, Leslie Buell, March 31, 2010).
Imposition of Custom Duties
During the period between 1850 to1860, the government experienced serious difficulty in asserting its sovereignty over some of the coastal tribes, particularly the Kru [Klao] and the Grebo, who resented the government’s attempt to put an end to their continued trade in human beings and the practice of trading directly with passing ships, as they have done for centuries, by bypassing the customs agents. These tribes staged a series of uprisings and raids on Americo-Liberian settlements which are referred to in Liberian history as tribal wars… The Kru [Klao] people along the Southeastern coast continued with lessening intensity until the early 1930’s (Area Handbook for Liberia, 1971, p. 17).
Land Grab and Custom Duties
Land Grab and Customs Duties were some of the factors that led the Klao People to earn the status of “Troublemaker”. In the “Settlers’ History” written and taught as Liberian History, the Klao (Kru) people were portrayed as “troublemakers”, “war-like”, “hardheaded”, “fussy” people, etc., without first explaining the underlying factors that contributed to their fights for their civil, human and economic rights in Liberia. This article highlights some of the reasons which caused the Klao people to acquire such reputation and inaccurate portrayal their struggles.
To begin with, we need to know who the people are known in Liberia as Kru (Kroo). Secondly, do they refer to themselves in their language as Krus? If not, how do they refer to themselves?
Before the Elizabeth and the Alligator, ships that brought the Settlers from North America, the Kwa linguistic speaking group that consisted of Bassa, Dei, Klao, Belle, and Krahn were referred to in Liberian history books as KROO or KROOMEN. As noted, this group did not only consist of the Klao (Kru) ethnic group. The KROO referred to by Europeans, consisted of the three ethnic groups who lived along the Atlantic Ocean: Klao (Kru), Bassau or Bassaw (Bassa), and Grebo. There is evidence of their working relationship with European traders, especially Portuguese explorers as far as 1461.
Within three centuries a flourishing trade developed between the coastal Africans and European Merchants. The Klao (Kru), Bassau (Bassa), and Grebo were employed as crews (laborers) on European ships. It is believed that the name KROO or KRU derived from the English word, CREW. This group served as crews on these ships.
The so-called Kru people in Liberian History referred to themselves as KLAO, which is also spelled KRAO. The name Kru stuck on them in the same manner that African Liberian leaders were referred to in Liberian (Settlers’) History as King George, King Freeman, Chief Boatswain, Joe Harris, King Governor, King Peter, and Long Peter. I wonder whether there was a Short Peter! Others references to African Liberian leaders are: King Jimmy, King Jack Ben, and worst of all, a Klao (Kru) man was referred to as “Bottle Beer” (Guannu, Joseph Saye, Liberian History Before 1857, p. 25).
The Bassa, Kru (Klao) and Grebo lived in permanent settlements along the coast. The Kru people which consisted of the three ethnic groups worked as seamen on European ships. They were so successful that the name Kru became synonymous with sailor among the traders and shipowners (Yekutiel Gershoni, Black Colonialism – 1985, p. 4).
In the book titled: The Black Republic – Liberia: Its Political and Social Conditions To-Day written in the 1920s by Henry Fenwick Reeve, a British Colonial Secretary in The Gambia made the reference below:
‘The Love of Liberty’ which brought the American Negroes to Africa has not worn well in later years and has never been fully extended to the peoples under their control. The ‘Bush Niggers,’ as the Liberians term their fellow citizens of the Interior, still fight among themselves without interference on the part of Government, while the spoil of battle in prisoners, men, women or children, is still bartered among themselves, and even sold to the Liberians under the euphemism of ‘Boys’ (Wards).
The term “Boy” is a derogatory reference, which regards people of African origin as child-like. The Americo-Liberian Settlers used it in relation to the African Liberians in the same manner; “boy” was used to them in North America.
According to Reeves:
Liberians (Settlers) never liked work since the establishment of the colony; agriculture even has had but the slight attraction for the people. It is not strange, all things considered. The ancestors of these people used to work hard in the fields before they went over there; one reason they went was that they wanted to escape field labor. They had always been accustomed to seeing their masters live in ease, without soiling their hands with toil; when they became their own masters they naturally wanted to be like the men to whom they had been accustomed to look up to with respect. Trade has always been in high repute. It was easy for the new-comers to trade with the natives of the country and rapidly acquired a competence. So far as work was concerned there were plenty of ‘Bush Niggers’ to be had cheaply. There is, however, another way of escape from manual labor besides trade-that is professional life. Everywhere people do not wish to work with their hands may seek a profession; it is so here with us – it is so there with them. The Liberians would rather be ‘reverends’ or doctors or lawyers than work with their hands.
Of all the professions, however, the law seems to be the favorite. The number of lawyers in Liberia is unnecessarily large, and lawyers naturally drift into politics; they aim to become members of Congress (the Legislature) or judges of the Supreme Court, or members of the Cabinet, or President of the Republic. It is unfortunate that so many of them are anxious for that kind of life, but they are skilled in it, and we have nothing to teach them when it comes to politics. (Reeve, The Black Republic, pp. 69-70)
Reeves went on to say:
The hiring of the Kroo-boys by the Government of Liberia is a matter of common knowledge on the West African coast, and perhaps in the circumstances there is little fault to be found with the principle, as the gentle Kroo-boy is far and away the best labourer to be found, and is especially good in the working of ships and boats, for which purpose our own (Britain) nation has been party to the custom, both in naval and merchant ships. Where a Government is consistently faced with an empty Treasury it may be forced into hiring out of some of its subjects, even while its own territory requires the labor of every able-bodied man for its industrial development. (IBID)
However, the methods the Settlers adopted in Liberia to raise revenue from this lucrative source was ruinous to the seagoing Kroo laborers. Rather than adequate measures to regulate the movements of one of the backbones of the economy by allowing emigration in districts where labor was plentiful while disallowing it where minimal, hence ensuring help for home industries, the authorities contracted alien firms which charged the shipping companies high “Head Money” it split with the Government. In this equation, the more men shipped the more money went to the contractor and the Treasury. And were it not for the loyalty of these men for what they call “We Country” which lured them back once yearly, coupled with a desire to adhere to tribal laws, the Kroo coast would have been depopulated.
The Treasury also benefitted from a condition in the contract with the employer at other ports on the coast under which part of the wages for the yearly service of the Kroo laborer was paid in merchandise. Thus, import duties were levied on his goods in the Colony where he worked, and by the government of Liberia on his return. In the end, returning laborers recouped little profit on the one-half of his year’s work. That’s the baboon work monkey draw syndrome; it’s been an albatross on the powerless in our country forever.
Formerly, “Boys” could be taken off from their own beach, under a contract with the chief of their tribe, but the embarkation and re-embarkation were made at one of the several ports of the customers on the Liberian coast under heavy penalties on shipmasters. However, for amphibian Kroo laborers, the mile or two of sea separating a ship’s deck from their native village was a trifle, and they occasionally took French leave in those circumstances, pushing their trade boxes while swimming until picked up by canoes. Relatives would then meet them on the beaches, and in accordance with native custom, elders would help themselves to a goodly share of their merchandise. This meant that, in the final analysis, the Kroo laborer gained little either way by his love of community and country, so often decided to make his home elsewhere, especially when such migrations were sweetened by incentives from the shipping companies and the colonial administrations in the later Kroo enclaves of Sierra Leone, Ghana, Nigeria and Liverpool, England (Reeve, The Black Republic, pp. 118-120).
Another case was reported in the Government Gazette published in Monrovia, January 1916. It is interesting to note the racial enmity existing between the Liberians and the Kru/Klao people, as well as the lack of firm government on the part of the rulers of the Republic:
Executive Mansion, Monrovia, December 18th, 1915
To the Citizens of the St. Paul River in general, and Caldwell, Clay Ashland, Virginia, White Plains, and Crozierville in particular.
I regret to inform you that I have heard very unpleasant reports of the actions of certain of my fellow-citizens towards that portion of our citizenship in your midst composed of Kroo people.
They have complained to me of threats having been made on their lives by citizens in Caldwell, whose names were given to me, that if they were found out after six o’clock p.m. they would be shot; also that violence has been done to their property in the settlements specifically named, all of which is said to be done in retaliation for the alleged killing in Virginia, supposed to have been done by the Kroos.
I must remind you that the Kroos who were accused of the killing in Virginia were tried and acquitted in our own court by a jury composed mostly, if not entirely, of persons from the River.
I am already overburdened with the responsibility of dealing with the acts of unthinking and irresponsible persons and must warn you one and all, good loyal citizens, to raise your voice and lend your aid against any and everything that savors of lawlessness. By so doing you avert the bringing of trouble and frown of God upon you (sic) country, which every citizen is, by his lone actions, capable of doing.
It is worse than hypocrisy to pray in our churches for God to bring in the native people and deny them the benefit of the law of the land for which we contend so strongly.
The law, of course, will be rigidly enforced upon violaters (sic) without partiality, but I feel that all good and law-abiding citizens should be sufficiently interested in the good name of their townships to see that it is not defamed by reckless persons, and I take this method of calling upon such persons to maintain the dignity of the State and the Constitution which guarantees to all men the right to enjoy life, liberty, and to defend his property.
Your obedient servant,
- E. Howard, President, R.L. (IBID, pp. 74-75).
From the so-called founding of the Republic of Liberia,
The natives have never been considered the equals of the emigrants, nor treated as brothers … utilized as house servants. “It is convenient to fill one’s house with (‘Bush Niggers’) servants and the settlers have done so from the early days of settlement”, wrote Professor Starr. He and Reeve noted that the driver of the trouble between the rulers and ruled was because the former arrogated to themselves “the position of white man in Africa yet lacking any sense of right and justice or the power to enforce decisions was a travesty, which the natives recognized as bluster on the part of the Americo-Liberians”. (Reeve, The Black Republic, pp. 58-59)
These are some of the factors that led to the Kru (Klao) and Grebo revolts against the Settlers that are inaccurately reported in ‘Liberian History’.
Kangaroo Court System
Reeves provided a strange example of how the court dispensed justice. He wrote:
Liberians are not much given to independent speaking. One man spoke out and the Government put him in jail without bail, and a woman was held without bail for ‘talking too much.’ In each case, it was an ‘ally’ who got caught. No wonder everybody shut up like a clam.
Another incident Reeve mentioned involved a District Commissioner (DC) who rendered the following decision:
A., you are in the right to a certain degree, but you are in the wrong also because you took up arms without authority of the Government, you are therefore fined two hundred dollars. B. you were wrong in attacking A. without first reporting the matter to the Government, so you must find the same amount as A. The miscarriage of justice was so rampant in Liberia that Graham Greene wrote what he observed in his book titled, Journey Without Map. It reads:
A case was also reported to me from several sources of a man who had been wounded close to Sasstown (during the Sasstown War) and wished to surrender. Although unarmed and pleading for mercy he was shot down in cold blood by soldiers in the presence of Captain Cole.
In another case:
The soldiers crept into the banana plantations, which surround all native villages, and poured volleys into huts. One woman who had that day been delivered of twins was shot in bed, and the infants perished in the flames when the village was fired by the troops. In one village the charred remains of six children were found after the departure of the troops. In this connection, it may be mentioned that a man who had been a political prisoner at New Sasstown stated that he heard soldiers boasting of having cut children down with cutlasses and thrown them into the burning huts.
A similar incident occurred in 1916, which involved the Klao (Kru) leader known as Juah Nimene (Seyon Juah Nimene – 1869 – 1937). Due to the inhumane treatment Juah Nimene and his people received from the Liberian authorities, he complained in a letter addressed to Lord Cecil of the League of Nations’ Liberia Committee stating that “It is almost certain that we will be arrested like Nana Kru Chiefs who are now in custody at Sinoe, and in the end we may be killed like the seventy-five chiefs who were invited to a ‘peace conference’ at Sinoe but who were seized and executed in 1916”.
Juah Seyon Nimene (Nimely)
By August 1936, Juah Nimene had defied the government for five years. Two months later, he was taken to Monrovia as a prisoner. Barclay interviewed the popular chief known as “Wonderful Nimene”. He believed that Nimene had been led astray by educated Kru Liberians; he singled out, Didhwo [Didwho] Twe as the “evil genius” behind the resistance. Chief Nimene was then exiled to Gbarnga for several months and in 1937, when he was set free and allowed to return to Sasstown, he died shortly after.
Didwho Welleh Twe
In 1950, Twe and others organized a political party called the Reformation Party of which he was selected as its standard-bearer. During the 1951 Presidential Campaign, one political commentator wrote, “Didhwo [Didwho] Twe, a Kru running against Tubman for the presidency, used an old distinction to rally his followers, and Tubman found it necessary to deny the implications of the distinction in an election eve broadcast.
Find what Tubman said about Twe:
…Mr. Twe refers in his acceptance speech to Americo-Liberians and aborigines. Who are or ever were Americo-Liberians? Certainly not that band of stout-hearted men who gave us, under God, this goodly heritage, its name, style, and title! If any set of people were ever full-blooded Liberians and nothing else but Liberians without any other qualifying word or antecedent, it was they.
Mr. Twe and his adherents complain that for hundred and four years of the independence of this country, no aborigines had had the honor of being President of the Nation. Whom does he call aborigines, he and his dangling group of a fifth of the Kru Tribe (emphasis are mine)? I protest! I contest his supercilious misconceived notion. H. R. W. Johnson, Daniel Edward Howard, Charles Dunbar Burgess King, Edwin Barclay and William V. S. Tubman are all Aborigines and indigenous people of this country, for we were all born, bred and reared here” (Area Handbook of Liberia, 1972 – 48).
Cllr. Tuan Wreh wrote in his book: The Love of Liberty the statement below about Twe:
During his flight, Twe barricaded himself on his rubber estate as Tubman’s security forces combed the territory. The Krus (Klaos) in Monrovia, Twe’s staunch supporters, circulated the tale that during the period when he was being sought, he magically transformed himself into a white cat at his farmhouse and serenely looked on while the security forces searched in vain. After his escape, Twe told the American press that he had literally taken to the woods and remained there for four months, his protectors being ‘two beautiful and trustworthy maidens, whom the friendly African chiefs had provided for me’. The final stage of his flight into British territory was by canoe. (Tuan Wreh, The Love of Liberty: The Rule of President William V.S. Tubman in Liberia, pp. 56-57)
Jacob Cummings, one of Tubman’s chief informer, and a Deputy Police Director named William Tecumbla Thompson used to conduct searches without warrants, whenever they felt like it. In the process, they would harass, physically and psychologically intimidate and abuse family members, relatives and friends of Twe and Tor, which at times resulted in imprisonment. Victims of Tubman’s Gestapo tactics were Edwin J. Barclay, S. David Coleman, Paul Dunbar, S. Raymond Horace, Nete-Sie Brownell, J. Gbaflen Davies, Booker T. Bracewell, Thomas Nimene Botoe, S. Othello Coleman, etc. Later, in the 1960s, former Army Chief of Staff, General George Toe Washington, a law student named Frederick Gibson, Henry Boima Fahnbulleh, Sr., and scores of others were his new victims.
Such Gestapo tactics along with the PRO network was Liberia’s McCarthyism. It was used to destroy the reputations, livelihoods of prominent Liberians such as Didwho Twe, Nete Sie Brownell, Tuan Wreh, S. Raymond Horace, and Henry Boima Fahnbulleh, Sr.
- Twe (Didwho Twe) was a progressive. Elected member of the House of Representatives in 1927, Twe introduced several legislations that were considered controversial by the ruling elite. For example, he introduced legislation to abolish the forced labor activities, the pawn and porter systems practiced by the government and the ruling class. Twe was expelled from the House of Representatives for sedition, when in fact; he was expelled for his advocacy on behalf of African Liberians’ human and civil rights.
Journalism Tuan Wreh suffered similar calamity and abuse.
Tuan Wreh’s Fate
Mr. Tuan Wreh, who became dean of the Louis Arthur Grimes School, Commissioner of Immigration and Senator from Grand Kru County in post-Tubman years, then a 26-year-old journalism graduate from Boston University in Massachusetts, was made to clean Tubman’s toilet bowl with his bare hands and subjected to other forms of brutal human degradation. His crime was in 1955, he had written an article against Tubman’s manipulation of the constitution to perpetuate himself in office.
These inhumane and illegal practices by the Liberian authorities against African Liberians led to the various revolts between the Settlers, Klao (Kru) and Grebo people in Liberia.
Unlike other tribes, the Klao and the Grebo fought for justice like the American Patriot Patrick Henry, who when the American colony was being attacked chose to act while others were waiting for consensus.
Gentlemen may cry, Peace, Peace but there is no peace. The war is begun! The next gale that sweeps from the north will bring to our ears the clash of resounding arms! Our brethren are already in the field! Why stand we here idle? What is it that gentlemen wish? What would they have? Is life so dear, or peace so sweet, as to be purchased at the price of chains and slavery? Forbid it, Almighty God! I know not what course others may take; but as for me, give me liberty or give me death! (Patrick Henry’s Speech: “Give me Liberty or Give Me Death”, March 23, 1775, speech in Richmond, Virginia by way of a resolution to the Congress).
The same is true with Abolitionist Frederick Douglass who said:
…Those who profess to favor freedom and yet deprecate agitation are men who want crops without plowing up the ground; they want rain without thunder and lightning. They want the ocean without the awful roar of its many glasses of water.
…There was an important lesson in the conduct of that noble Krooman (my emphasis) in New York the other day, who, supposing that the American Christians were about to enslave him, betook himself to the masthead and with a knife in hand said he would cut his throat before he would be made a slave.
…This struggle may be a moral one, or it may be a physical one, and it may be both moral and physical, but it must be a struggle (Frederick Douglass’ August 3, 1857, Speech: Power concedes nothing without a demand, delivered to a ‘West India Emancipation’ group in Canandaigua, New York).
The (Kru/Klao) people in Liberia fought for freedom and justice like Patrick Henry and Frederick Douglas did in their days.
Train Up A Child in the Way He Should Go…
At an early age, Klao children were taught to always speak the truth and never allow anyone to take advantage of them. They believed freedom and justice were given them by no one other than Sno-Nyesoa (Heavenly Father GOD); and that they should protect others who are abused and taken advantage of; a kind of ‘brothers’ keeper, like the Bible says. This belief is part of our DNA and nothing anyone can do about it!
Yet, the people who have had extensive interaction with Europeans prior to the arrival of the Settlers (Americo-Liberians) are portrayed as “troublemaker”, “war-like”, “hardheaded”, “fussy”, “savage”, “primitive”, and “belligerent people”! The Settlers did this because the so-called “hardheaded” people resisted them by ‘any means necessary’ to protect their civil, human and economic rights. The portrayal of Klao people in “Liberian history” written by their so-called “historians” and their contemporary “scholars” resembles comic scripts out of Hollywood that depicts Native Americans as dumb and savages, while Cowboys and Scouts are portrayed as smart and intelligent; and always victorious in battles against Native Americans. Similar lies were told in Settlers’ history about African Liberians; a classic example is the Matilda Newport (Matilda Spencer, her name at the time she performed the so-called historic task).
What a contradiction! The same people the Settlers portrayed as ‘fussy’ are referred to as:
Morally as well as physically the Krumen are one of the most remarkable races in Africa. They are honest, brave, proud, so passionately fond of freedom that they will starve or drown themselves to escape capture and have never trafficked in slaves. Politically the Krus are divided into small commonwealths, each with a hereditary chief whose duty is simply to represent the people in their dealings with strangers. The real government is vested in the elders, who wear as insignia iron rings on their legs. Their president, the head fetish-man, guards the national symbols, and his house is a sanctuary for offenders till their guilt is proved. Personal property is held in common by each family. Land also is communal, but the rights of the actual cultivator cease only when he fails to farm it. (An extraction from the 1911 encyclopedia: KRUMEN (KROOMEN, KROOBOYS, KRUS, or CRoos)
Professor V. R. Ruggiero states in his book: The Art of Thinking that “If everyone makes his own Truth, then no person’s idea can be better than another’s”. This is the belief system upon which the Settlers ‘founded’ Liberia.
The Kraos (Krus) are the most persecuted people by the Liberian authorities and their allies; because they will fight for their rights no matter the consequence. As the result, the Liberian government authorities considered them disruptive, and to the point of disrupting peace in heaven when we got there. The heaven they referred to is not the heaven where God resides; it is Liberia, the piece of land loan them in which the excluded the original owners.
The phrase “Peace was in heaven until Kru People got there” resembles the accusation the Sanhedrin (a ruling body composed of both Sadducees and Pharisees) leveled against Christ for preaching the WORD of His Father on earth. His accusers felt that peace was on earth until He (Jesus Christ) came on earth to save mankind from sins.
The Truth Shall Set You Free
Each time issues concerning the injustices done to African Liberians are being discussed, benefactors of the system go on the defense, and will accuse African Liberians of practicing tribalism or ‘pushing up fire’. If any group in Liberia is tribalistic, the Americo-Liberian tribe is the architect; because for 133 (up to 1980) years, they were the ones who held to power by tribalistic means.
We do not seek vengeance; that belongs to the Lord; we do not take matters into our own hands, we simply look to God to vindicate us in His own time and in His own way; praying this way affirms our confidence in God’s ultimate justice. Whether now or later, the truth will win out and hidden evils will be exposed. David prayed many such prayers against his enemies (Psalms 35 and 109).
In the Foreword to Nelson Mandela’s Conversations with Myself, President Barack Obama wrote: [Mandela’s] “example helped awaken me to the wider world, and the obligation that we all have to stand up for what is right. Through his choices, Mandala made it clear that we did not have to accept the world as it is – this we could do our part to seek the world as it should be”.
So as a youth, I too was awakened by the injustices I saw and experienced in Liberia and I promised the Almighty God that up to my last breath, I will seek justice for those who are denied it, especially, the Liberian people by their leaders since the founding of the country. Therefore, no one will ever persuade me from doing that which is RIGHT.
Cultural Explanation of Word Kwii
The word Kwii which is used to describe a so-called civilized person is derived from the Klao (Kru), Grebo and the Bassa languages. The original meaning for Kwii – is “spirit”. The word Kwii was later corrupted because of African Liberians’ interaction with the Settlers and European missionaries. Today, it is used to refer to a white person or a so-called civilized person. Kwii is plural, while KU is singular. KU means DEAD in Klao; add “Menmen” to Ku, becomes DEAD PERSON in the Klao (Kru) Language. It is a general belief held by the Klao, Grebo, and the Bassa ethnic groups that “White People” are our dead ancestors who had been reincarnated. According to our oral history, when our people die, they go behind the sea to live, and they remained there under the sea. And by living too long under the sea, their skin turned white.
This Klao/Kru, Grebo, and Bassa live along the Atlantic Ocean; made their living as fishermen and some of them worked as stevedores on European ships. Legend has it that their ancestors who live under the sea provided them protection. So, when they encountered the first white people, they thought their dead ancestors had reincarnated.
About the Author:
Elder Siahyonkron Nyanseor is a founding member the Union of Liberian Associations in the Americas (ULAA), Inc., and its 11th President (1986-1988). He is the historian of the organization; former vice chair & chair of the ULAA Council of Eminent Persons (UCEP), Inc. Elder Nyanseor is an ordained Minister of the Gospel. Also, he is a poet, Griot, journalist, a cultural, social and political activist. In 2012, he Co-authored Djogbachiachuwa: The Liberian Literature Anthology; his book of poems: TIPOSAH: Message from the Palava Hut is now on the market. His upcoming book: WROH: The Heart of the Matter consists of selected articles, stories and poems will soon be published. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org