False Prophecies in Liberia: The Gods Are Not To Be Blamed
By Thomas G. Bedell
I was born and reared in the far keyhole of Liberia. That’s Harper City in Maryland County. It sits in the belly of the southeastern region. Living there, one tends to feel left out in developments in the country. But that’s another story which I don't intend to go into now because it is not part of this story. The truth is, many things in the country hold common and true everywhere. No matter your geographical location. We all suffer the consequences. And that’s the basis of my story. So let me tell it to you.
Last night was February 25, 2009. I was lying down in my bed. Usually I leave home 8am to work. I work free-of-charge because I am a volunteer in the country. So I do this sort of work six days a week. I have a small office. When I conclude work I get home at 9pm. That's thirteen hours a day. First thing I do when I get home is to catch a bath. Grab something to eat and then to bed I go. Usually people are stay up lecturing. If you know Liberian people very well, you will agree that they are very loud. I could hear them in bed. I dosed off. But at midnight, I am up. That's when I start taking phone calls because I am less busy at night as compared to the day hours. I have to tell you, cell phones in Liberia are prepaid. So they are expensive. If you talk too long, you will spend more money. Considering my job (helping people), I have to talk long. But I spend from my pocket to sponsor my Programs. So I do not have money to spare. Phone calls at night are free-of-charge. So I ask everyone to call me at night. That way, we can talk much longer. Here is the good thing. Lone Star Cell Phone Company has a midnight free-talk program for its customers. It runs from 12:30 to 5am. I take advantage of it. And that’s exactly what I was doing that night when strange things began to unravel.
It started at 2am. I called my sister like I usually did. She too is a Lone Star customer. So I can talk to her free. She and I were talking. She asked me if I heard the news. I told her “No!” And then she said her Gardnersville neighborhood was noisy. I asked why? She said a prophet told the people that everyone in the country MUST fetch water before the next day. And if people did not comply, the water would turn into blood the next day. And that would bring “evil” upon everyone. Because of that, everyone around her area was busy fetching water late at night. Then she jokingly asked me if I had done mine. I laughed. She asked me why I was laughing. I said her question was funny. Why should I wake up late in the night and go looking for water around town? I told her I couldn’t figure that out. And she too couldn’t figure it out. So, both of us were in the same mindset.
In most part of Monrovia people sell water. And when the water joint is closed, that's what it means. It is closed. At 10pm everything in the City shuts down. And the City becomes dangerous place to live. Armed robbers go on the rampage. So when one goes out. He does so at his own peril. She agreed with me. So we joked about all the noise issue. Then a call came in for her on the other line. She bided me good night. And I did same for her. I dropped my line. Then “Bang!’ it all happened! Noise erupted in my neighborhood. People were outside shouting. Then I noticed they were fetching water also. One of them kept warning the rest of the people to fetch water or suffer disaster the next day. The noise of people, aluminum buckets and rubber pitchers abounded. So was the warning to everyone to comply. Others engaged in a different job. They banged on doors waking people up. Soon the whole area was like a jute-box in a California joint. I could tell because the noise was increasing moment by moment. No one could now sleep.
Young girls (usually the ones that fetch water in the “Third world”) started toting water. I could hear them complaining. But they had no choice. I was lying on my back. And I was trying to figure out what was going on. Then it clicked my mind. I was reminded of the first time I entered the country. One incident like this occurred. Another “prophet,” I don't know which god he prayed to, said everyone in the country HAD to cook and eat potatoes greens for three days consecutively. Otherwise, “evil” would befall everyone. And nobody wanted “evil” to befall him. I guess Liberians have had enough painstaking situations. So no one asked questions. Everyone went in the market. They bought all the potato greens. Those who grew potato greens in their gardens cut them all for consumption.
Soon potato greens ran short in the market. At that time I was visiting Harper City my Hometown. My aunt has been in the business of helping other underprivileged Liberians. She took their kids and raised them. So her house has never been empty. She likes to cook. But she's older now. She trained all the kids how to cook. And so they do the cooking for her now at old-age. But here they were! They were gripped by the “prophecy.” They've heard many other prophecies before. And they have complied. Even though there's no evidence that when they did not complied, something ever went wrong. Yet they did not want to take any chance. They kept telling me they had to comply. I could not convince them. So they cooked potato greens for three days. And we ate potato greens consecutively. I never felt bad about eating potato greens for three days. I enjoyed it. In fact I love potato greens. Having not eaten potato greens for quite a long time in the US, I was having a “ball” in Liberia. If they had increased the days, it would have been up to my taste. Cause I ate it with a passion. Then in my thinking I came back to the water “prophecy.” I saw myself now in Monrovia where I was in reality. I realized it was different. I thought the water “prophecy” was crazy! For why should I believe I should wake up from my bed at 2am to fetch water? And if I didn’t, the next day, the water would turn into blood. The dumb stuff didn’t stop right there. It went further. The “prophet” said no one should fetch water from the regular well. It HAD to be pipe-borne water. Right there it struck me. Capitalism! During the potato greens “prophecy,” the price of greens was jacked up. And because of the high demand for potato greens, it finished from the market.
Now today we have a new “prophecy.” It called for ONLY pipe-borne water. No well-water. And pipe-borne water in Monrovia is for sale. So what was this all about, I asked myself? The answer came out quickly. The answer was for people to buy water. Knowing the size of the army of poor, the profit would be enormous. So when the army of poor engaged the streets, profit abounded. But pandemonium broke out. The poor didn’t want to pay. The businesspeople demanded money for their product. Soon the demand for water sky-rocketed. Daylight was approaching. And it was the deadline. If water wasn't fetched, blood would flow. So the businesspeople were happy. They jacked up the price. Usually you bought two five-gallon container of water for $15 (LD). Now one five-gallon of water is $30 (LD). So if you bought three of those same gallons that were sold at $15 (LD), you would be paying $90 (LD). It became good business for the businesspeople. But bad deal for the poor. The poor didn’t like the deal. But they had no choice. They entertained a belief locked into a prophecy. And they didn’t want “evil” to befall them. So they had to pay the price for their belief. And they did. But all the hullabaloo raged on throughout the night. Then for some strange reason, another strange thing happened. Rain came down. I don’t mean it is strange just because it was raining. We all agree it is supposed to rain because that’s nature! But here is the strange part.
The noise ceased outside. Everyone ran indoor. You couldn’t hear a single sound outside. At the time, if a needle was dropped, you would have heard the sound far off. That’s how quiet it was in the neighborhood. It was mute. And that’s when it clicked my mind. That what they told me when I first entered the country is true. I was told Liberians are not afraid of guns and moving motorcars. They will hear a car honking behind them in the streets. And they will disregard it. Guns will be fired. They won't budge. Market women and men will stand in the middle of the streets. The police will try to scare them off. And they won't budge. But as soon as it started to drizzle that night and the rain began to come down within a twinkle of an eye, the whole area was clear. Everyone disappeared. Right away it was affirmed that Liberians are really afraid of rain. When the rain dropped on the zinc, all the noise ceased instantly. No sound was heard again. Everyone was gone. Thinking they would come back, they never did, because the rain continued. At broad daylight they reassembled. And the discussion of the incident began. They blamed others. Some challenged the validity of the “prophecy.’ But they complied. Some mocked the other for falling for another false prophecy. So they all laughed and made fun. Soon everything ended. And they departed.
Based on these under-developments, I can now conclude Liberians can be easily swayed. Illiteracy is a problem coupled with long years of war and terror. The trauma makes it worse. For their belief in God is so strong they will give in to anyone who plays on it. So when prophecies are made, they do no critical analysis. They just comply. Soon they will be fooled to leave their country for unknown destination on account of a “prophecy” from God. And when they realize they have been fooled and try to return to their homes, aliens will occupy those homes and reject them. In the end, they will become aliens in their own country.
False prophets abound in the country. And they claim to be speaking in the name of God. You can't question them. For if you do, they slap you in the "unbeliever" quarter. And nobody wants to be in there. One can then conclude these hypocrites will haunt us for a long time with dire negative consequences. And when that happens, the God of our Forefathers and Foremothers cannot be blamed for His silence. The Scriptures and Q'uran have warned us of such prophets. If we continue to believe them, we will only lead ourselves on the path of self-destruction and doom to calamities!