EG Celebrates Liberia 163rd Independence Day
Just from Ganta,Nimba County,William Jacobs reports
Monday, July 26,2010 was Liberia’s 163rd Independence Day. The official program for the day was held in Sanniquellie, the regional capital city of Nimba County. Founded by free slaves from the United States of America, Liberia plunged into a destructive and divisive civil war in late 1989 and spanned over 14 years. The strife to repair the damage and re-unite the nation is a task that every peace loving Liberian citizen whether at home or abroad is working to achieve. Some 250,000 Liberians were estimated to have died during the war while over 800,000 fled the country.
The fact that Sanniquellie, was chosen as the venue for the 163rd Independence Day anniversary is indication that re-unification of the country is paramount to the citizens and current leadership of the war ravaged nation. The formation of the Organization of African Unity (OAU), now African Union, was first discussed by great African leaders including, Kwame Nkrumah of Ghana, William V.S. Tubman of Liberia, and Admed Sekou Toure of Guinea in Sanniquellie back in 1958. The Liberian civil war also started in Nimba as a “small rebel incursion” on December 24,1989.
This year’s Independence Day celebration going to Nimba, a county bordering Guinea and Ivory Coast, two countries that have themselves gone through years of political and civil upheavals, is significant to the process of rebuilding and healing for Liberia, a country with a history that is so unique and different from any other on the continent of Africa. When Liberia declared independence on July 26, 1847, the countries on the continent of Africa were still under hash colonial rules. This made Liberia the haven for many in those days. Now that the image is becoming good again and the country reclaiming its proper place among the nations of the world, everyone felt confident to get on the road to Nimba to celebrate the new dawn of peace and stability. Many civil society groups and non-governmental organizations including everyday gandhis, joined president Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf and her entourage to commemorate the Independence Day in Nimba, some traveling the long road as early as Thursday, July 23.
The eg team was ahead of the convoy to organize its youth soccer and kickball for peace games as part of the activities to mark the celebration in Ganta. The everyday gandhis Independence Day games were in fact held simultaneously in Sarkonadu, Lofa County and Ganta in Nimba County. All of the communities are border towns that separate Liberia from Guinea and the Ivory Coast. everyday gandhis had since identified the border communities as important places for its youth program simply because of their vulnerability to mercenary recruitment, prostitution, drugs addiction and HIV and AIDS. People from both countries commute daily across the borders doing various types of business in the process.
Upon arrival in Ganta on Thursday July 23, staff of Center for Justice and Peace Studies (CJPS), the youth organization hosting and collaborating with eg was on hand to debrief our team about preparations made so far.
A talking circle with members of the eg soccer and kickball teams (eg Peace Ambassadors FC) was part of the plan. During the circle each of us talked about our life, and one good thing that we have done to help someone in our communities. This started very slowly as many of the young people especially the girls are still shy and lack the confidence to open up to staff members. We try not to emphasize so much on the term “ex-combatants” even though these are the people that we mostly work with, since the war has long ended and most people want to put that title behind them. In his contribution, Kelvin Togba, a gospel musician and member of the soccer team says he provided support for a friend who was once going astray and that that friend is now doing good. Togba spoke about himself as someone who respects others and gets respect in return. Mark Varkum is a teen counselor. He encourages his peers to be positive. Mark was young when his father died.
As eg team members, we listen more during these discussions giving the opportunity to our hosts to speak. Morris Turay, head of CJPS referred to the eg Peace Ambassadors FC- Ganta as representatives of Nimba County. “ Whatever negative thing you do, whatever positive thing you do, will reflect on the county and Ganta in particular,” he told the enthusiastic Ganta Youth. The youth were selected from various neighborhoods to make up the Peace Ambassadors FC teams.
The Soccer and Kickball Games
“This is the only game that I have seen being played in this community without fighting”, an elderly man standing next to me observed during the girls kickball game. eg Peace Ambassadors’ girls were well attired in their green and yellow outfit and were engaged by the United Sisters earlier on July 26, 2010. Though the Peace Ambassadors’ girls went down to United Sisters 5-15, the game was dubbed the most peaceful girls game in recent times.
In the second match, Peace Ambassadors FC boys took on Liam FC both Ganta based. The Ambassadors in all yellow outfits started the game with promise and quickly won the hearts of the spectators. Looking much more youthful than their opponents, the ambassadors took control of the game soon after kickoff exhibiting some spectacular skills in midfield and many times threatening the vital areas of their opponents. Mid way into the first half, the ambassadors’ number one goalkeeper, Cyrus Kwasakeh, sustained injury on his right hand when he collided with a striker for Liam FC, causing him to be replaced. This replacement changed the face of the game when in the dying minutes of the first half, the ambassadors’ number two goalkeeper brought down a striker of Liam FC in a goal-bound attack. He was immediately red carded forcing the eg team to play with ten against eleven as one of the players had to stand out. A free kick was taken that resulted into the first goal. Another quick goal was scored making it 2-0 before the end of the first half. Despite been down by 2-0, the ambassadors mounted pressure against and got a consolation goal right at the stroke of time. The game ended 2-1 in favor of the visitors.
After the games both players and officials hugged and shook hands as a sign of fair play, togetherness and friendship. And as always, the youth and the people of Ganta asked for more…
EG Peace Ambassadors FC soccer team:
3. Alfred Dahn
4. Yousef Fawaz
5. Eric Dolo
6. Tony Obey
7. Othello Gibson
8. Mojue Kromah
9. David Beh
10. Martin Zawolo
11. Kelvin Togba
12. Tozoe Ben
13. Jerry Gono
14. Manwon Wonneh
15. Richmond Teage
16. Varney Johnson
17. Mark Varkum
18. Thompson Paye
19. Henry Paye
20. Jackson Walker
21. Bill Dolo
22. Robert Tealo
23. Chris Kromah
24. Joseph Dahmie
25. Nelson Korquoi == Coach