Peasant Autonomy
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Story 30

A village in Liberia – around 1890 (2)

There is war in the air

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(Photo: Jbdodane)


“Let that man go,” Halay shouts, sparks coming from his eyes. Halay is a handsome man of about forty years old, with his first grey hair. He is a grandson of the founder of the village, and is therefore always treated with respect. About five militia members, in uniform and with a gun, lead a man with them, his hands tied behind his back. When they don't respond to Halay's furious cry, he adds, “What's his crime?”

The oldest one of the militia answers calmly, “He didn't pay his taxes. According to the president in Monrovia (the capital of Liberia), everyone has to pay taxes.” “I don't know a president,” responds Haley. “I only know the village head. I can trust him. He helps me, and I help him. But that so-called president of yours has never helped me with anything.” Then the militia boss has had enough, and says to one of his men, “Arrest him, too. Resistance to the government is forbidden.” At once about ten villagers come and start yelling at the militia. With that, the militia boss decides not to arrest Halay after all.

for bigger picture click on this photo

(Photo: Ladybugblue)


When the militia has passed through with their prisoner, Halay says to one of his friends who has come to his rescue, “It makes me sick to pay taxes every time and to do unpaid work for that so-called new government in Monrovia. And every time these annoying remarks about our village beliefs and that we are backward and that we should send our children to school. We have to stop it.” “How could we do that, Halay?” answers his friend, “they are determined to 'modernise' the country, as they call it, and they have real guns.”

In the evening the militia boss comes to the hut of Halay, alone. “Can I come in?” he asks politely, as he steps over the threshold, and sits down on the ground. “Listen to me, Halay, don't be so angry. You surely must know that this area belongs to the republic of Liberia. This is the modern era, whether you like it or not. Just accept it, don't challenge us. In the end that will cause war, and you know how it will end.” Halay holds his tongue and looks to the ground. “Indeed,” he thinks, “that will lead to war.”


The novel Land of My Fathers (1999) from the Liberian-Dutch author Vamba Sherif tells the history of Liberia, the country that was founded by black Americans, former slaves. It describes the tensions between the colonists and the indigenous tribes.

Go to:
= part 1: 'He is not your enemy' - a village in Liberia – around 1860 (1), story 19.
= the next page: Cricket, a children's game? - a village in Gujarat, India – 1893, story 31.
= the Table of contents, story 30.