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ACS System of Authoritarianism Laid Foundation For Conflict...Dr. Augustine Konneh

The system of authoritarianism, established by the American Colonization Society (ACS) and sustained and expanded by various Liberian governments laid the foundation for the civil war, Professor Augustine Konneh, a Liberians historian has said.

Dr. Konneh said policies of authoritarianism adopted by various Liberian governments from Presidents Joseph Jenkins Roberts to Samuel Kanyon Doe laid the foundation for the civil war in December 1989, which he added were undeniable contributors to the current crisis.

Dr. Augustine Konneh, a professor and former Chairman of History at Morehouse College in Atlanta, Georgia was testifying Wednesday at Liberia's Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) ongoing Thematic and Institutional Hearing on Historical Review.

He said although Liberia was not colonized like other Africa countries, the historical, political and social structures that emerged from the settlement, particularly the relationship between the returnees and indigenous Liberians produced familiar colonial conditions that generated deep contradictions, conflicts, and suspicions between the Americo-Liberians and the indigenes.

He said the failure of the Doe regime to transform Liberia's perennial unjust and repressive political economy created a state of despair, hopelessness, frustration, and fear among Liberians.

For long over a century prior to Doe, Konneh said, Liberians had already experienced economic and political injustices, thus when Charles Taylor launch his rebellion against the Doe regime, he appealed to the dissatisfied population.

Konneh who also teaches African, African-American, United States, Caribbean and World histories at Clark Atlanta University and Agnes Scott College in the United States said if Liberia must return to the path of stability, the Liberian society must be reconcile by healing the wounds of the war.

"Reconciliation is necessary so that those who suffered trauma during the war must also receive healing. To remain unhealed is to remain traumatized and that trauma can lead to more conflict, Professor Konneh said.

He said Liberians must also recognize and reconsider some of the nation's myths, saying that myths exist in every society and Liberia is no exception.

One of these myths, he said, is the Matilda Newport story, which he contended is an account of heroism on the part of Americo-Liberians and cowardice on the part of native Liberians. He said this false sense of heroism and cowardice have been the main source of conflict amongst generation of Liberians on either side of the political and social divide and thus undermine true patriotism and nationalism in Liberia.

Under the theme: "Examining Liberia's Past: Reality, Myth, Falsehood and the Conflict", the hearing will provide a critical review and expert perspectives into Liberia's past not only for the purpose of understanding the historical antecedents to the conflict, but to ensure the country's history or national narrative reflected the experiences, beliefs and aspirations of Liberians of all backgrounds.

The hearing featuring the testimonies and presentations of historians, anthropologists, journalists, lawyers, politicians, diplomats and clergymen is intended to help Liberians rewrite their history by seeking to identify the issues that underpinned our history, divided us as a people and nearly eviscerated the state.

The hearing is focused on events between 1979 and 2003 and the national and external actors that helped to shape those events.

The TRC was agreed upon in the August 2003 Accra Peace Agreement and created by the TRC Act of 2005. The TRC was established to "promote national peace, security, unity and reconciliation," and at the same time make it possible to hold perpetrators accountable for gross human rights violations and violations of international humanitarian law that occurred in Liberia between January 1979 and October 2003.

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