Every 14 May is National Unification Day in Liberia. The holiday is also sometimes referred to as “Integration Day”. The purpose of the holiday is to seek improved relations between the descendants of freed American slaves who colonised Liberia and the original native population.
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In 1822, Liberia became a US colonial possession in Africa, obtained for the purpose of allowing liberated black slaves to return, if they wished, to the continent of their ancestors. As soon as 1847, Liberia became an independent nation. The “Americo-Liberians”, however, became an elite ruling class that practiced segregation against the “native Liberians”.
Finally, Liberian president William Tubman ended the segregation and granted the vote to all Liberians in 1944. This was a policy aimed at bringing national unity and integration. National Unification Day was declared a public holiday in Liberia in 1960 to honour the historic change brought about by President Tubman.
Despite the progress that has been made, there were back to back civil wars in Liberia in the 1990’s and early 2000’s related to the ethnic and historic divide. But National Unification Day at least provides an opportunity to stress the need for the nation to unite further and to celebrate the progress that has already been achieved.