By Prince Kurupati
The year 2022 is a landmark year for the nation of Liberia. The year marks exactly 200 years since the birth of Liberia. Two centuries back in 1822, the first free people of African descent from the United States of America reached the Providence Island on January 7. On that day, Liberia was born.
To commemorate the birth of the nation, the Liberian government established the Bicentennial Steering Committee the purpose of which is to plan Liberia’s 200-year anniversary celebrations. During its first meeting, the Bicentennial Steering Committee agreed that a single day is not enough to celebrate the country’s 200th birthday. As such, a decision was made that the country’s birthday will be celebrated throughout the year starting from January 7 up until December 10, 2022. The official opening ceremony however will take place on February 14, 2022.
The Bicentennial Steering Committee saw it fit to design a special logo that exclusively celebrates the country’s 200th birthday. The logo hasn’t been finalised yet but assurances have been given that by February 14, the day on which the president officially opens the 200-year celebrations, the logo will have been finalised. One thing that has already been finalised however is the celebrations’ theme. The Bicentennial Steering Committee agreed on the theme, “Liberia: The Land of Return – Commemorating 200 Years of Freedom and Pan-African Leadership.” The birthday slogan is “The Lone Star Forever, Stronger Together.”
The theme is befitting for the country’s 200th birthday celebrations as it signifies three significant historical milestones achieved by the country since its birth according to the Bicentennial Steering Committee. Firstly, the theme celebrates Liberia as the country chosen by the free people to call their home after many years of servitude in the United States. This in essence thus makes Liberia an emblem of strength and hope. Secondly, the theme conscientizes Liberians and all other people about black freedom, nationhood and the determination for self-governance. The birth of Liberia in 1822 and subsequently its independence in 1847 indicated to the world that blacks, Africans were capable of self-rule. Last but not least, the theme highlights how Liberia has since birth stood with Africa and propagated the Pan African drive since the colonisation era. Nothing exemplifies this more than the 1959 Sanniquellie Conference held by Liberia, Guinea and Ghana which paved the way for the formation of the Organisation of African Unity (OAU) now known as the African Union (AU).
While Liberia spearheaded the Pan African drive on the African continent, it relentlessly propagated the Pan African message to the whole world particularly the blacks still in slavery in the United States. Even after the abolishment of slavery in the U.S. in 1865, Liberia was still at the forefront in conscientizing blacks in all corners of the world about the beauty of Africa and the beauty of identifying with Africa. It is because of this drive that by the end of the 1800s, around 17,000 free blacks from the United States had repatriated back to the mother continent to live in Liberia – the land of the free.
Though the free blacks who repatriated to Liberia had been affected in one way or the other by slavery, they knew that cooperation rather than conflict with the United States was of paramount importance. In the first years before the abolishment, cordial relations with the United States were important so as to lobby for the abolishment of slavery. After the abolishment of slavery, keeping cordial relations with the United States was still pivotal and of importance to both Liberia and United States. United States did its part in the early days when James Monroe, the fifth U.S. president put his weight behind the American Colonisation Society (ACS) and supported the independence of Liberia. Liberia returned the favour by naming its capital city after Monroe calling it Monrovia. Liberia also ensured that its flag is a partial replica of the United States to symbolise the strong bond between the two countries.
The slogan chosen by the Centennial Steering Committee attest to the fact that unity is strength. For so long, Liberia has demonstrated the importance of unity to abiding to democratic principles. Though the country has experienced a recent spate of political conflicts, the country still remains stable and this is a testament of the strong unity that exists between and amongst the country’s populace. Thanks to Liberia’s strong democratic standing, the country has seen successful and peaceful power transitions. One such transition saw the emergence of Africa’s first female president when Mrs. Ellen Johnson Sirleaf was elected Liberia president.
As Liberia celebrates its 200th birthday, the country’s President George Manneh Weah and the Bicentennial Steering Committee are hoping and aiming to successfully market the beauty of Liberia both on the tourism front as well as on the investment opportunities front. Liberia is a vacation paradise for tourists thanks to its stunning beaches, museums and cultural resorts. The peaceful nature of the country together with its political, economic and social stability makes Liberia one of Africa’s prime investment destinations.