Despite efforts to unite those who were greatly affected by the senseless carnage in the first self-governing Republic in Africa, it is obvious that some Liberians have not learnt from the perpetual vacuum the war created between them and their love ones.
One does not need to be a scientist to develop such ideology; all it takes is attending a gathering of Liberians, especially during community functions where you get a glance at the so-called “educated people.”
Under normal condition, the “educated people” are usually chosen as representatives of ordinary citizens through community organizations, but many Liberian organizational heads reflect the ordinary, “me, myself, and I.” Instead of striving in the interest of people they are elected to serve, they focus on personal greed.
This was recently noticeable in Dallas, Texas, when Bangalee Trawally, president of FELMAUSA, the Federation of Liberian Mandingo Associations in the USA, served as head of a negotiating team to aggrieved parties of Matex, the Mandingo Association of Texas.
Analysts at the failed negotiation concluded that the process began on a corrupt fulcrum. The head of the negotiating team, Bangalee Trawally’s method of brokering peace was completely off track, he introduced what is similar to the controversial “English Only Movement” of California; “Only those who speak Mandingo will be allowed to address this forum.” Interestingly, the organization Mr. Trawally serves conducts all of its meetings, including teleconferences in English. Elections of its officials, including the tinted one that brought Mr. Trawally to power were also conducted in English.
According to a search engine, Opposing Viewpoints, Sandra Del Valle, a civil rights attorney and senior staff attorney at New York Lawyers for the Public Interest and also author of Language Rights and the Law in the United States: Finding Our Voices, said in one of her publications that “Fear is leading many to tie immigration and language together and push for laws that restrict minority languages or that require new immigrants to learn English.” Del Valle also said that language rights must be extended to protect those who speak minority languages. She cited this case as an example:
“In January of 2005, during a hearing on allegations of child abuse and neglect, Tennessee Judge Barry Tatum warned an 18-year-old mother originally from Oaxaca, Mexico to learn English or risk losing custody of her toddler daughter.”
Similarly, the “English Only Movement” in Pasadena, California introduced a bill that would not allow participation of minorities in government operated areas unless they spoke English. The movement was wildly criticized for what others call racial profiling.
It is not clear if this is the trend Mr. Trawally was following, but Losoni Sanoe, a member of the Minnesota delegation who attended the negotiation at Ramada Hotel in northern Dallas, constantly reminded Mr. Trawally to stick to the rule of “Speaking Mandingo Only.”
The continual drifting off from Mandingo to English by Mr. Trawally, the chief negotiator became an embarrassment, as he could not speak the Mandingo language for more than two minutes without blending English. As he was reminded for a third time, a service lady at Ramada Hotel and a man interrupted the meeting by demanding $200.00 dollars for the space.
The FELMAUSA boss who did not understand the amount requested by the Ramada employees vowed to pay, he handed $20.00 to the lady, and the money was in return deposited on the table before him, which brought in some laughter. The delegation was later booted out of the lobby because attendees agreed that it would be wasteful spending if the amount was paid. The meeting was later transferred to the parking lot where Mr. Trawally was again reminded to stick to speaking Mandingo instead of English.
At this point, it became clearer that the “Mandingo only” rule was targeted at the Executive Director of OLM, and visiting Guest Speaker at the Matex inauguration, Mamadee Bangalee Sesay. Mr. Sesay, a Mandingo man, was the only one at the meeting who could not speak the famous West African language.
This became clearer when Mamadee tried unsuccessfully to contribute to the peace talk, but was denied a slot to speak. Losoni Sanoe at this point lashed at Mr. Bangalee Trawally for profiling Mamadee as a non-Mandingo speaker.
Some elders in Dallas who were also denied the right to speak agreed with Losoni’s analogy that Mamadee was profiled by the FELMAUSA boss.
It can be recalled that in 2013, the controversial election of Mr. Bangalee Trawally inflamed relations between FELMAUSA and its chapter, Minnesota. The situation which was much tensed at the time was resolved through peace talk, headed by Imam Mohamed Dukuly and Liberian Financial Minister, Amara Konneh. At that meeting, Mr. Trawally said his mother was a non-Mandingo, something that came to the audience as a big surprise.
Analyzing his statement from the 2013 peace-talk, one would be left to wonder why he would question someone’s “Mandingo-ness,” especially at this time when he’s the president of all Mandingoes in the United States.
It can be recalled, that in 2011, Mamadee Bangalee Sesay, a then presidential candidate of FELMAUSA suffered similar profiling at the hands of his kinsmen at One Veteran Place in Silver Spring, Maryland, during a debate between him and the former president of FELMAUSA, Mohamed Bility. His speech was interrupted when someone from the audience profiled him as not being a real Mandingo; this degenerated into heated argument between supporters of Mr. Sesay and Mr. Bility. The delegation at that debate was again booted from the jam packed hall which was designed to withhold 60 to 75 participants.
What is interesting is that, despite efforts to unite Mandingoes who claim to have been greatly affected by the senseless carnage in Liberia, it is becoming glaring that some have not learnt from the perpetual vacuum the war created between them and their love ones. During the 80’s through 2014, Liberian Mandingoes continue to claim ethnic profiling in the homeland, but what remains bleak is, Mandingoes profiling Mandingoes.
The one million dollars question that remains on the lips of bystanders is how are Mandingoes striving to curtail ethnic profiling in Liberia when those they claim to be their representatives are at the forefront of stereotyping their own due to personal interest instead of the collective interest of all?