A giant-sized statue has risen. It hovers over one of Liberia’s biggest urban slums—Samuel K. Doe Community. Not too many people would like it. In the view of some of the haters, statues don’t belong in slum communities. Others assert that it heralds the dawn of despotism. Of all the guesswork on the slum-town statue, this is something to grasp: the statue of Liberia’s 24th President in a slum community pontificates a deviant message, a message about the revolution that got consummated on December 26, 2017. The message is this: that slum dwellers, too, deserve the Presidency of Liberia. And the projection of the statue over their shanty huts is their way of telling the wild world their liberation has come. They take pride in it. They are prepared the live it.
True, the world’s iconic statues are situated ideally to garner the admiration and celebration of the people for whom they were designed. Except left abandoned by fallen civilizations and elites, statues are usually placed and seen in terrains of elitist human traffics to be admired. Statues are rarely built by impoverished people nor situated in unlikely locales. True, there must be a couple of statues despots built or were built for them. What is also copiously true is that iconic heroes and heroines are etched in human memory in statue. Long marginalized people have the way of expressing and exalting themselves in their legends’ sculpture. This is the case with the people of Samuel K. Doe Community and their Clara Town brethren who are kin and kith of the country’s 24th President.
For 133 years, national leadership belonged to, or was statutorily bequeathed to only a tiny clique, the settler elite. The monopoly was broken by a junta which against all odds brought the marginalized majority within the Liberian governance sphere. But in barely ten years, the elite knocked the heads of the masses against each other and made a comeback. In this nation called Liberia, there have been people who think national governance is an instinct ingrained in their DNAs—only in their DNAs—and that the rest of the people must keep their distance. Thus, to make a comeback, the tiny clique that rose from the settler hegemony and their co-opted native intelligentsia kept the nation ungovernable for 14 years. And they did so until they ensured one of their kinds took hold of state power. For the last decade and two, the masses found their way back on the margin of society. Slum communities and rural towns and villages which naturally provide abodes for the masses were kept on the fringes of society and their inhabitants left to smell the goodies of urban life they never tasted. Slums like West Point, Clara Town, SKD Community, New Kru Town and others were deliberately enclaved by the elite so that the poor masses watch from their valley of squalor the fragrance of modernity that were never to touch. The elite brought down Manneh’s first statue on Broad Street.
There came the revolutionary dynamo that exploded on December 26, 2017 in the country, rifting through the Liberian governance mosaic and bringing to the helm of power a slum progeny, George Manneh Weah—something that revived memories of 1980 but in a civil and democratic dimension. Once again, the marginalized paupers, the socially and politically enclaved masses, have begun to feel that a man of their kind has returned to the acme of national leadership. They now see in the Executive Mansion someone like them—someone who once plowed filth here and there in search of survival; someone who knows what it means to sleep under “jungle lamp” in a roofless home gazing at blazes of lights in the nearby skies; someone who knows what it means to trek back and forth large swamps, muddy routes and dilapidated paths in search for foods.
Certainly, this is neither good news nor a welcoming development for the few elitist persons who think they—and only they alone—carry in their veins the blood of state leadership. For them the rise of former slum dweller to Liberia’s presidency is the most abominable act ever occurred in human history. They attempted as much as possible to advert the waterloo they suffered on December 26, 2017 in the hands of the impoverished majority of Liberians. They unleashed their most lethal political and propaganda arsenal against the people and their choice, yet the least expected but most revolutionarily necessary thing happened: the son of a slum community emerged as the President of Liberia.
Today, the anger, the bitterness and the hate created by the emergence of a man from the slum is echoing in many ways. Some have resorted to literal vituperations and curses. The bitterness is incurable. It will certainly remain incurable in the soul of the elites because they grew up with the belief that Liberian leadership and all that comes with should be their exclusive natural entitlement; they think slum dwellers are supposed to remain destined jetsam and flotsams of society; they think their education, or oratory prowess, or blood lines to the debauched oligarchy give them exclusivity to Liberia’s leadership.
But it looks like the people of Samuel K Doe Community, which is clearly an epitome of all slum communities and victims of economic injustice and political marginalization in Liberia, are unapologetic over the rise of their kin and kith to the Liberian presidency. In an unambiguously deviant mood they chose to express the joy of their decisive victory over the intelligentsia, the political gurus and aristocrats of the Liberian society by planting the giant-sized statue of their hero, Manneh Tarpeh Weah. It is their way of saying, “The time of the people of the slum is now.” It is their way of saying, “Slum dwellers and impoverished citizens of Liberia also matter.” It is their version of the “Statue of Liberty”—liberation from exclusion and want without attention; liberation from sidelining and downgrading; liberation from being spat on and neglected. In a rather deviant way, the slum people thought Manneh’s first statue demolished by the elite on Broad Street needed to take shape on their territory—the territory that breathed greatness into him; in a sense telling all and sundry near and far, as depicted in artistic words, that though he was neglected by the “aristocrats” of Liberia, he is risen over the principalities; and he as lifts them out of squalor they remain the unshakable pillar upon which he explores new frontiers of greatness.
And thank God the man whose symbol they use to communicate the dawn of their liberation is acting exactly and squarely like one of them. Manneh Tarpeh Weah’s priority policy actions directly, clearly and evidently target communities and people that were long neglected and left to wander hopelessly in want and expectation. Thus, as he takes paved road to Sannniquellie, he fixed the leaking roofs of paupers in Clara Town. As he prevents the destruction of Redemption Hospital and D. Dwe High School in New Kru Town, he builds paved road to Tusa Field. As he places 2,000 long denied poor health workers on payroll, he builds paved roads in long neglected Logan Town. While building hundreds of modern housing units for poor Liberians, he offers free tuition for public universities and colleges attended by children of marketers and slash-and-burn farmers. As seen in his first year and clearly set to continue in the following years, hundreds of President Weah’s priority actions and projects have focused the long economically and politically subjugated people. It has all been about “for the poor, by the poor and of the poor”. It’s no wonder why his flagship development roadmap is called Pro-Poor Agenda for Prosperity and Development.
And no wonder why Samuel Kanyon Doe Community, one of the country’s largest urban slums, splendidly carved and erected a towering statue voluntarily arranged and put up by the paupers themselves. Interestingly, this happened under the coordination of Veteran Young Survivors, an amended version of Young Survivors FC of the 1970s, the community team that first injected into George Opong Manneh Weah his athletic charm and pedigree that got him going to world prominence. Further interestingly, the slum community is named after former President Samuel K. Doe who not only ended Liberia’s political and economic monopolization by a few elite but also promoted sports and fertilized George Weah’s soccer instinct abroad.
It is understandable therefore why these people are firm and unapologetic about their liberation expressed in the towering statue of their hero and their inspiration. As an embodiment of the long-ignored masses of this country, and watching their liberation unfold in spiraled pro-poor tangible developments, and inhaling the scent of fresh tarmac road piercing through their shanty town, the residents of this enclave have got no option but to dance and celebrate hourly around the giant statue they have built.