The Liberian knot

Rally at the Capitol shows that the Liberian crisis hits home

Quadayou Thomas stood watching from the edge of an Aug. 1 rally outside Georgia's Capitol building, where more than 100 people, including Dr. Joseph Lowery and other prominent black Atlantans, gathered to ask for humanitarian assistance and military intervention in the African nation of Liberia.

Thomas was dressed business-casual amid participants wearing colorful African garb; she spoke with a slight Georgia twang against heavy accents that marked others as native Liberians. But Thomas' ties to Liberia are strong. Her parents left Liberia for Georgia with the intention of returning to their homeland, armed with college degrees and skills that would enrich the nation founded in 1820 by freed slaves.

War broke out instead, and Thomas was born a first-generation American aching for the country that should have been her home. The violence that started in the 1980s has culminated in rebels killing 1,000 civilians during a two-month attack on the Liberian capital Monrovia. More than a million civilians are trapped there with little food, water or shelter from the violence.

"My 70-year-old grandmother had to sleep in a swamp last night," Thomas says wiping away tears.

She and others at the rally, organized by the Liberian Association of Metro Atlanta, called on the U.S. to recognize a responsibility to intervene in Liberia. They're asking that President George W. Bush deploy American troops to join a U.N. peacekeeping mission that began with West African forces arriving in Liberia Aug. 4.

Two U.S. warships are stationed on the war-torn nation's Atlantic coast, but whether the Marines aboard the ships will ever hit the ground remains uncertain.

If the people of Iraq deserve humanity, Thomas asks, why not those who are suffering in Africa?

"Liberians work here and pay taxes here," she says. "Liberians are in the military fighting in Iraq right now."