Speech Delivered by Nvasekie Konneh in Dallas, TX at Programs Marking the Inauguration of Matex’ Officials
Greetings to the outgoing and incoming presidents and members of Mattex, the president of Felmausa and members of his delegation, community elders, officials of government, and invited guests.
I am excited and personally gratified for the opportunity given me to address this very important occasion, the inauguration of the new leadership this vibrant community organization, the Mandingo Association of Texas, here in the beautiful city of Dallas, Texas.
I felt a sense of honor and service when I received your invitation few weeks ago. Upon digesting, I accepted to be here to honor your request. What could be more prouder and honorific for me than to respond to the request of a community whose cause, development and progress are dear to my heart? I feel more of a sense of duty and service to be with you on this occasion because whenever and wherever our people gather, I always want to be there.
So I will say thank you to President-elect Yousouf Koisiah for the invitation. In the absence of our fathers and mothers who laid strong foundation for us in Liberia, we are tasked with the responsibility to build on that foundation. We are the children and grandchildren of great men who sacrificed so much for the betterment of our community.
As we say in Mandingo, if you are not able to uphold your father’s legacy, tie rope around it and haul it behind you. So wherever we live, either in Liberia or here in the diaspora, we must walk in the footsteps of our fathers and mothers.
Today, our community is on the march for progress. Though there are lots to be criticized, we have chosen to recognize and praise the progress so as to inspire us to do more. We must all continue to help in the march towards progress because we are the generation whose majority have gone to schools and traveled to all the advanced countries in the world.
As well-meaning men and women of educational and professional experiences, we must take the lead in the post war reconstruction and development of our community. This can only happen in peaceful atmosphere where in Liberians from all walks of life can participate without any regard to ethnicity, religious creed or political affiliation or persuasion.
As such, I wish to beg your indulgence as I attempt to perform this task at this very important program where one administration is peacefully turning over power to another. This is a sign of peace and unity in the Mattex community and we must all be proud of such development. As such, I have chosen to speak on the topic; Following in the Footsteps of Our Fathers in Peace and Unity.
Ladies and gentlemen, our country Liberia is still in transition from war to peace. If Liberia is a nation in transition, our community is a community in transition as well. Before the war, we were focused on being petty traders, drivers for passenger vehicles, tailors, mechanics.
For technical profession like mechanic or tailoring, we spent years as apprentices as we learnt to perfect those professions. Yes, driving was the most popular profession for young men in our community. For the young women, they were raised primarily to be married, remain resourceful house wives who would assist in shaping the destiny of our families.
Other than that they were encouraged to be traders either in shops or marketplaces. We must admit though, those professions afforded our parents the opportunity to provide us standard middle class upbringing. Now a day whether in Liberia or in the diaspora, we have come to value standard education as the way forward to respectability and decent living condition in our society.
Today Mandingo professionals are in healthcare, administration, legal services, finance, banking, law enforcement, journalism, literature and the list goes on and still some of our people are engaged in trading activities. Education has given us more options to earn better living, but also to be of service to our community and nation.
Generations of educated Mandingoes before us were forced by circumstances to abandon their community for acceptance in mainstream society. The more they were accepted, the more they went away from our community. This is because they felt their new values were incompatible with the values of our community. Because of that many of our people in the past refused to send their children to standard school for fear of losing them to society.
But this generation is proving that acquiring western education does not mean going away from their people. This generation believes that the more educated we are the better our community can be. This generation believes that we can use our educational and professional experiences to advance our community.
Though we argue and sometimes fight politically for positions, for honor and prestige in our community, we are still united in the quest to preserve our cultural values whether at home or abroad. Despite some of our acrimonious disagreements, we still identify with one another in time of difficulty because of the unifying force of our Mandingo and Islamic cultural values.
Yes, indeed, more than 10 years ago the war ended in Liberia, does that mean progress will automatically happen? Of course not. Now we should be asking ourselves individually or collectively, what role do I have to play in the ongoing development of my community and nation? Am I just satisfied with the good life I am living in the US, in Europe, Australia or MiddleEast?
With the education and the professional expertise I have acquired, how can I be of service to my people in Liberia, and even to our community where I live? Is it just enough for us to boast of the education we have acquired if that education is only benefiting us? These are some of the questions we must be asking ourselves all the times as we aspire to serve our community and nation.
So to the incoming administration, it is my believe that this is the motivation for aspiring to lead the community at this time around. On that note, we caution you not to take our people and community for granted. They have entrusted you with the leadership for the next two years. Work hard and be transparent in the discharge of your duty. Promote peace and unity in the community without which you cannot function well. Though you have been elected to lead, don’t think you know it all. Consult with community members, consult with the outgoing leadership if need be because they have gotten some experiences which may benefit you and the community.
And to the outgoing leadership, don’t think that your service to the community is over because you are no longer in power. Stand by at all times should you be called upon for your expertise to solve problems in the community. It is one community and one people. In this light, I will say congratulation to President Isiaka Sidibe and his administration for job well done. And to President elect Yousouf Kosiah, congratulation for your election and the opportunity to lead Mattex for the next two years. We should not see ourselves as rivals. We are partners in progress for the betterment of our community.
Part of our problem in the past was self isolation. If we want to take our rightful place in Liberia, we should not continue to involve ourselves into activities in our own community organizations only. While we are proud of the formation of our own community organizations such as Felmausa, Mattex, Limany, Limap, MMA, we should also be encouraged to join other Liberian organizations.
Drawing on our own experience in UNICCO, United Nimba Citizen Council, we will say to you, go and make your presence felt in Lofa Associations if you are from Lofa County. Go and join Bong County organizations if you are from Bong County.
If our fathers and grandfathers lived and interacted with their counterparts from other ethnic groups and lived in peace with them, then what is stopping us today from joining our fellow Liberians in good numbers to further the progress of our country? Don’t sit there and think that change will come without your involvement. You can only be the change that you want to see in your community and nation.
On the longstanding land dispute in Nimba County, our position has been that we cannot remain outside and resolve the problem. Staying outside and delivering beautiful and emotional speeches do not translate into reality of solving the problems. We must take stock of the percentage already given to the rightful owners and encourage our family members to live on their properties while we work to regain control of the remaining portions.
If we keep waiting for everything to be 100% perfect before we go by, we will stay longer time outside. With all that said, I once again thank you for giving me the opportunity to speak to you on this occasion, God bless Mattex and our community, and God bless our motherland, Liberia.