Didwho Welleh Twe was a famous Kru(Krao). In fact, he was a legend and was considered the greatest of all the Kru political giants. In addition to his educational achievements, his assistance to P.G. Wolo, and membership with the American Political Science organization, he was the first of the native Liberians to openly seek the Liberian presidency.
“Twe was a former representative in the Liberian Legislature. (He) had a distinguished mark on his forehead, culturally identifying him as a Kru”. Because of his advocacy in the Fernando Po matter and against other injustices in Liberia, he was expelled from the legislature. He was the political leader of the United People Party, which later became the Reformation Party; and he became the party standard bearer in the 1951 election with running mate Tyson Wood of Grand Bassa. But the ruling True Whig Party government, the standing party in Liberia then, denied his party from registering, stopped him from running, arrested and jailed key members of his party and forced him into exile to Sierra Leone. Before his exile, he told his followers and the Liberian people that the True Whig Party government will not be in power forever and that the true leadership of Liberia will come from the East.
Though he was a skillful politician, he did not publically and prematurely expose himself without first having the basis; before entering politics, he was a commissioner and a wealthy man, owning many acres of land in the area called then and now, “the Twe Farm” in Duala, Monrovia. As a student in America, he was sponsored by a US representative, a senator, and by Samuel Clements, literally known as “Mark Twain”. He was educated at a prep school and at Harvard and Columbia. Twe was nationally and internationally known, however, Twe possessed the needed material resources; his followers were largely older Liberians and his cause was mass-based. Didwho Welleh Twe, Plenyono Gbe Wolo, Thorgues Sie, Juah Nimley, Togba-Nah Tipoteh, and Teniwenti Toh had one thing in common;
they all maintained their African identity, their traditional African names, in their respective struggle for justice. They did so in the face of temptation and pressure to do otherwise. Many African freedom fighters did the same; example, Kwame Nkrumah, Jomo Kenyatta, Amilcar Cabral, and Ahmed Sekou Toure. As stated before, self-identity, cultural pride, nationalism, and the overcome of fear are some of the initial steps to liberation.
Traditionally, the Kru believe in the universal God, the creator. He is called Nyeswa. Additionally, there were other Gods who were considered agents of the Almighty. Like ancient Greeks, they were oracles whom the people appealed to for help. For instance, there were Gods for war, birth, and futile land. Historians and other experts on the Kru state that the Sikleo consulted Pepa for war. Ki Jirople was considered the main spirit and oracle whom most Kru dakos called on regarding matters. He was believed to live in the Putu mountains and was with the Jedlepo people known as Betu. They were said to have the strongest spirit and to possess the most powerful spiritual medicine among the Kru.
Next or equal to Ki Jirople was Veto, God of War, whom the Betu, Karboh, Nuon, Gbeta, and the Niffu were believed to have consulted. Unlike Ki Jirople, Veto may have resided in the forest. These Gods were considered the direct messengers of Nyeswa, the creator, whom all Kru know and worship to this date.
The ancestors were also agents of the almighty and could be called upon to help the descendants. There was and still is a general belief that the heavenly God knows and sees everything and what we do in the dark will come to light. The good we do will never go unrewarded. It will be rewarded plentifully either to us or to our family, and so the evil we do; it will come back to us or to our family. These beliefs are not only with the Kru but also with other people. Moreover, traditionally, the Kru or African religious belief regarding the living God and his messengers is the same as we Christians believe in God and in his son, Jesus. Both groups believe in the spirituality of God and in the existence of the oracles.
There were inter-tribal disputes and wars among the Kru. The land was the main reason for fighting. Gbo was the training unit for war preparation. The gbobi, the father of the gbo, headed this unit. Gbo also performed war dance during burial ceremonies. Some members dressed in leopard skins and danced with spears and shields. The dogbio led the military or army to war. The gbowulio served as spokesman for the army and addressed the elders on military issues. During a war, the women and children were placed in Ji-wo, meaning “tiger mouth”, the house of the bodio, the high priest, for safety and protection. It was a sacred place.
A document pointed out that also during a war, the Tugbewa, the keeper of records, was the last to leave the village and the first to enter the village after the battle. Accordingly, he kept the record of the war, the number of soldiers, number dead, and number wounded. He did not participate in the battle but hid somewhere and watched the fight. He carried a drum, which he beat to inform his men for help or defense when an enemy approached him. He also took with him a weapon for self-protection. He also carried a bag of kernels presenting the number of his soldiers. If one died, he removed a kernel from the bag to symbolize the fallen comrade.
The Kru are generally friendly. But as a principle, they do not like people take advantage of them. In their response to disadvantage, they are unfortunately and negatively branded as mere “fighters” or “troublemakers”. People also misinterpreted Kru culture of age- grouping of a big brotherhood called “babi”. In this culture, the older members become big brothers to younger or junior members. For example, a boy of 15-20 years old becomes a big brother to 10-14 years old boy. The babi protected the smaller brother and served as a role model. But others, who did not understand Kru tradition, viewed babi negatively as big-stupid, dull, uneducated, tough-looking and low-class. This negative perception brings us back to Didwho Welleh Twe, his party, his followers, their struggle, and how this factor affected Kru people in general.
Regrettably, this stereotype affected some Kru youngsters growing up in the cities up to the 1970s. The feeling escalated in 1951 during the D. Twe presidential campaign when the government reacted negatively to his candidacy. The regime singled out the Kru as troublemakers and being uncooperative. Consequently, many Kru perhaps desirous of or wanting to retain their government jobs denied their ethnic identity for fear of the reaction. They encouraged their children not to be known as Kru. Additionally and generally, such stereotype and cultural negativity forced many tribal youths to negate their ethnic background for acceptance into the Western culture and society of the settler ruling class.
However, many Kru, including Thorgues Sie, Wesley Wiah Wisseh, Nimene Botoe, Bo Nimley, Doe Bopleh, Robert Slewion Karpeh, W.W. Nimley, Teacher Jugbe, and others who backed Twe and stood up for their right, principle, and pride suffered severely. As other observers noted, the government harassed and hunted them in a Gestapo fashion by its security operatives, specifically Deputy Police Commissioner Tecumbla Thompson, a fellow Kru. The victims were jailed before the 51 Election, even though their party was denied participation in that election, and even though their leader was forced out of the country. Their main lawyer was disbarred by the Supreme Court. Thompson and Cummings Seyon, another Kru, were said to have reported them to the government.
In their jail cell, the victims asked themselves why were they arrested and imprisoned, apparently in reference to their rights as citizens to form a political party, canvass, vote, and complain against any unfair and unlawful election practices. The government in court charged them with sedition, alleging that the party wrote President Tubman, the UN, the US government, and other international bodies complaining about the election; and in so doing, the party invited foreign entities into the domestic affair of Liberia with the intention of destabilizing the country and government. They denied the charge, but the court found them guilty and sentenced them to multiple years. Although they appealed to the Supreme Court, the high court in 1954 affirmed the ruling.
Like his key followers, Twe’s life was not safe. Juah Wiah Wisseh, his bodyguard, dressed him as a woman at night and moved him from one place to another. Sometimes he was buried alive with a small hole or opening just for seeing and breathing. On one occasion, the sands fell into his eyes. “He was in serious pain”, said Tarloh Twe Patterson, Twe’s daughter, in an interview with James Nyanfore, Sr’s son Dagbayonoh in 1973. “The government soldiers were coming to the house; there was no good place to hide him, so we hurriedly buried him; I felt sorry for dad, he suffered too much”, Tarloh added.
But also there were Kru who did not support Twe mainly because of his Nana Kru background, a part of the Kru in Sinoe considered by others as inferior or bush Kru and therefore lacking the education and ability to lead. This thinking was unfair to Twe and seemingly prejudicial: though his parents were from Nana Kru, he was a Liberian and was born in Monrovia. His parents’ place of birth had no bearing on the presidency. As a citizen, Twe reached out to other Kru dakos, including the educated members of the tribe. His support to P.G. Wolo and strong association with Thorgues Sie of Grandcess were examples of his outreach effort. Further, his party was broadly based, consisting of members of other tribes and of the Congo Liberians.
Twe’s opponent, then sitting President William Tubman, used the “internal Kru crash” for political advantage. A Liberian historian observed. “Tubman maintained that Twe was not a real Kru and did not have the support of the majority Kru people… Tubman began influencing well known Kru people from established Kru sections, including Grandcess, Picnicess, Sasstown, and Sanguine. They are the seacoast Krus with many educated people, most of whom were desirous of government jobs. Tubman was successful in the strategy as many educated Krus began denouncing Twe. They felt that Twe as a lesser Kru and did not deserve to be President”.
The above created a relatively split in the early 1950s between those Kru considered Twe’s supporters and those viewed as regime collaborators. But in subsequent years, particularly after Tubman’s death in 1971, the division completely stopped.
One factor which contributed to the unity could have been the 1980 revolution, resulting in the overthrow of the settler regime of the True Whig Party. With the change, the Kru Coast Territory became Grand Kru County, hence empowering the people and politically upgrading the Southeast region. Twe’s prophesy of the demise of the True Whig Party came to pass, and he was once again celebrated. A newly constructed school was named posthumously in his honor. It was called D. Twe High School in New Krutown, Montserrado County where he was born. Part of District 16 of the county was named in a tribute to him. Moreover, the PRC, the new government which seized power, also built the Redemption Hospital, a referral medical facility in New Krutown. The town became a respected and political subdivision of the county and is one of the largest communities in Liberia. Twe died in the early 60s upon his return from exile.
The genesis of the Kru-Settler conflict can be traced to the coming of the ex-slaves from America to Liberia in the early 1800s. Unlike other Liberian tribes, the Kru have traveled the world and felt that the settlers were not better than they. With the settlers’ view of cultural superiority over native people and the determination to rule, the former slaves encountered greater resistance from the Kru resulting in the hostility or the bad blood between the two. Thus to the settler ruling elite, D. Twe’s “audacity” to seek the presidency was an affront.
Source: Zack Tito Tweh