Tuesday, July 26, 2011

The dream to build Liberia continues as she celebrates 164 anniversary

By: ralph geeplay

Susana Lewis and her peers decorate the flag

The struggle for self determination and rule, Liberia’s constant battle to govern itself since its foundation is still a work in progress after 164 years of independence. There has been many hitches and glitches in the nation’s history  to progress because the premise and promise that informed its establishment have been upset, but a people’s resilience to live in their ancestral homeland despite the many odds put in their path has been their only inspiration.

These are the hurdles to Liberia’s development: ethnic bigotry, tribalism, nepotism, a nasty hegemony and dictatorship, corruption, and war. If anything, the inhabitants have reinforced their determination to rebuild their nation despite a long civil strive. It is no secret  say observers that our internal conflicts were always instigated by players who desire for power and a winner take all mentality further embroiled the country in chaos.

Historians say, the emergence of the nation in the 1800s was a clarion call for liberty, since  the interplay of events leading to Liberia’s foundation attest, wherein the rights of the former Liberians in their homeland were being denied. They came home to the African soil to find peace and live freely. On the first voyage, according to accounts were 88 free blacks on the Elizabeth. The ship was, duped “The Mayflower of Liberia”. The journey began from the New York harbor on February 6, 1820. The actual mayflower was the 1620 ship that transported the first pilgrims from England, Great Britain to Massachusetts which began the founding of the United States of America.

There were high hopes that Liberia would be the beacon of hope on the African continent, and the black world. Its foundation was meant to symbolize a great opportunity, that men and women of negro descent were capable of governing themselves, free from Jim Crow. Liberia, therefore was meant to be a state looking after its own affairs while treating all under the law equitably.

The great Liberian patriot and academic Edward Wilmot Blyden who immigrated to Liberia four years after the nation was born declared in 1861 (“Hope for Africa, a speech he delivered), “My heart is in Liberia" he said, "and longs for the welfare of AfricaLiberia is a beautiful tropical country teeming with the rich fruits of a perpetual summer, with mountains and valley and rivers and brooks…” and he could have added, plentiful of rainfall and a profuse lush evergreen forest!
It is an open secret that the country is wonderfully blessed, known for its rich natural resources and the resilient human spirit of its peoples, but the prospect to develop the country was radically disadvantaged by the newly arrived, and the trend forlornly continued by those who succeeded them to the seat of power throughout the country's murky history. 

The Liberia that finally gained independence in 1847 was a nation still deeply planted in the American South, with plantation minded zealots not quite ready to lead the nation and understand what W. E. B. Dubose would called “…a peculiar sensation, this double-consciousness, this sense of always looking at one's self through the eyes of others, of measuring one's soul by the tape of a world that looks on in amused contempt and pity,” at what was the sad state of governance in Liberia, through out the country's history.

The segregation instituted by the Liberian Republican Party (LRP) which began it all in 1848, gave rise to the dominant True Whig Party (TWP) of darker the skin group, of 1869. The TWP was founded to oppose the LRP (which was mainly composed of the lighter skin settlers), and to wrestle power away; it did and continued the same old segregation, and the abuse of power.

It is also known that beginning in 1980 as the TWP reign of error and terror ended; Samuel Doe came into the picture. His PRC-NDPL, mostly controlled by his henchmen began their horror and havoc persecuting almost everyone, including the various indigenous tribes, until he was kicked out of the Executive Mansion by force of arms. The history of the nation is one of exclusivity, the domination of state power at the top in disregard to the majority.

Even in 1919 when Liberia joined western nations ratifying the convention of the League of Nations, a brain child of President Woodrow Wilson, it wasn’t until 1946 that the Liberian state granted suffrage to its so-called indigenous peoples, ninety nine years after it became a sovereign state.

Liberia's first president J.J. Roberts

The opportunities to do right by Liberian leaders through out the nation's history as they governed, have always been wasted, simply put: The settlers’ Americo Liberians True Whig Party (TWP) domination of political power and class which lasted 133 years was followed by the misrule of the Samuel Doe indigenously led People’s Redemption Council (PRC) for ten years.
Fuel is added to the fire when Charles Taylor and his misnamed ‘people popular uprising’ was broached on Christmas Eve of 1989. His 15 years leadership of National Patriotic Front of Liberia (NPFL) and its warring cousins furthered Balkanized the country and ruined mayhem as were never seen in Liberia’s history. All these three phases in Liberian life promised freedom and rights to the people. The people saw none! To which this refrain is penned:

And then we bled from the stripped knuckles

Of the hands shackle and vanquish

Like bondsmen while holding

The jagged edge of the machete vulnerable

Blyden and Sabouso on fire the rogue holding the 5
Grip ancestors unanswerable
Now squirm from the big belle
Of mount Thienpo steams rising in anguish
To the heavens from its hilly green tops
Every morning and evening while the blood 10
Of her sons and daughters pops
Dribble in the gutters of Fernando Po it flood
The borders of Buoto and Tchien compromised
From an impious battle at the cock-crow reach
The Montserrado violet and still 15
From the sounds of guns on South Beach

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

The Liberian Family Must Form Part of the Political Debate

By: ralph geeplay

                                                           Liberian children: future leaders

Liberians are embraced for political campaigning; the race officially began on July 5th 2011. As the nation goes to the polls to elect its leaders in what should be a smooth transition to democracy for the second time, the issue the Liberian people wants to hear must come out of the mouths of politicians.

While we still await the political slogans, catch phrases, and policy statements that are expected to drive the debates during this political spell, voters are readying themselves to glean the fact sheets of the candidates to see where they differ and how prepared they are for the Executive Mansion. Reconstructing Liberia in the aftermath of our war is not just about physical infrastructures repairs; it is also about the Liberian family.
What must not be overlook this season is an outstanding fact that, the Liberian family is in crisis.

It seems the simplest and trivial by comparison, when you want to talk about reconstructing the physical costs the civil war has ruined on the Liberian society: the economy, education, electricity, brain drain, hospitals, bridges, roads, and public and private buildings.

Post war Liberia hurts from so many societal ills and damages, that reconstructing the country and finding and fixing all the trajectories that will put the nation back on the course to prosperity seems almost an impossible feat.

The social stratums that should make our society function and hold are diminishing. It is safe to argue that the Liberian family was destroyed by the Liberian civil war says pundits, and this misfortune has had vary penalties for Liberian life.

Unemployment is at its highest level, healthcare is either unavailable or unaffordable, corruption is rampant, the cost of tuition is high – too high an unemployed parent, who just cannot afford to send a child/children to school; the cost of food is too high also that a just family cannot afford to feed their children as much as they want; crime is high and life in Liberia for a typical Liberian family is dismal.

The break down of the Liberian family can be attributed to many factors, but principally the mass displacement of families in the country and refugee camps around the sub region and the world during the war years account for the this community morass.

The Liberian civil war hurt us all. The effects are being felt everywhere. As such, Liberians from all ethnic, political and religious persuasions must come together to rebuild their country – our country for this generation and the next generation of Liberians

Liberia, as it is today grapples perversely with rapes, prostitution, corruption and arm banditry because the family structure has broken and rowdiness invasive, “that the Liberian family was dismembered by the civil war and rendered dysfunctional is not in question,” Wrote Emmanuel Dolo in September of 2008. He went on and lamented the shattering effects it has wrecked on our nation by calling it “the corrosive effects,” which he also said was due to our almost two decade’s long war. Dolo said current events in our country “on human relationships across a broad spectrum justify these sentiments,” adding, “Clearly, certain segments of the society were hit harder than others, and as a unit, the family experienced the most formidable jolt.

Liberian Family

What is also sad is that, the Johnson Sirleaf led Unity Party administration has done little to tackle these issues. Even the political opposition in the country have said little about the problem facing the Liberian family: The social stratum of the family has worsened and it is time for corrective actions.

Schools alone will not make students compete at the highest levels in the class room. Parental participation is also necessary. Education has plummeted as is evident by the mass failures year in and out, and the poor reading and writing skills of students graduating out of high schools today. All of these, because the family has gone kaput. If our society lacks social cohesion and solidification in times when it is most needed then the cursory observer would ask, when would this serious dilemma ever be addressed, and for how long will it be ignored?

Just as the family has broken down so has violence against women and children in the Liberian society increased, very sad indeed. When women and children are not protected in the Liberian life by men and boys, what kind of society do we think we would have cultured and nurtured for future generations. Liberian traditional laws are also discriminatory in nature and bias, and have done little to sustain the pace of growth needed to breed the Liberian family in the 21lst century.

The nation’s customary laws are pigeonholes against women and are prejudicial. This issue must be looked into, it must be addressed. Liberia cannot remain a decent country and a civilized emerging democracy with such huge conflicts.

Teen pregnancies and early marriages, still to a great regret, do not help in building and rebuilding the family in Liberia. For example, in 2004, the United Nations estimated that thirty six percent of “girls between 15 and 19 years of age were married, divorced or widowed. There has been a slight increase in the average age of first marriage in Liberia.” These are disapproving facts that must claim attentions; the civic society must instruct and bring pressure to bear on the national government, so that resources are deployed to strengthen the Liberian family. For example, single mothers must receive help and scholarship from the state for school, hospital expenses for them and their infants. Young Liberians who are raising familes must also see attention come their way.

The nation’s political leadership and those aspiring for higher offices this election season must work very hard to save the Liberian family, because the Liberian family is the most important unit of society; and its cohesiveness is needed to cultivate an emerging social class of individuals from which the leaders of tomorrow will flow.

Friday, July 15, 2011

Fragmented Opposition President Sirleaf's Greatest Re-election Asset

By: paul pauley jackson

President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf

Introduction: Social and political critic, Paul Jackson makes a forceful posit that President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf reelection bid to reclaim the highest political office in Africa's first republic is all but certain this 2011 political season, because the major political actors in the country are puzzyfooting and doing all to undermine the chances of each other. He is of the view, that, if the political opposition is serious to dislodge the current occupant from the Executive Mansion, they must join forces and move with a unity of purpose.

President Sirleaf appears impervious to political defeat later this year partly due to a congested presidential race that holds the assumption that the more the opposition parties, the lesser the chances of the incumbent getting re-elected.

This view, birthed out of ignorance of presumption has given rise to a long line of political parties and pretenders. However, this laundry list of political parties and geniuses has never translated into victory for the opposition, as greed and narcissism have always gotten in the way of forming a single and formidable opposition capable of defeating the status quo.

We have heard of countless meetings and exchanges between these leaders none of which ever resulted in the formation of a coalition.

Throughout this piece, I will loosely exploit the term “opposition” to speak specifically of three key political figures (Brumskine, Tubman, and Weah) and their unwillingness to form a healthy, functional, and viable coalition aimed at unseating the current political leadership in Liberia.

Madam Sirleaf has consolidated power enough to employ all the resources (legally and illegally, if she so chooses) to aid her re-election bid for a second term, and has also managed to convince a significant portion of the electorate that she is the best thing Liberians has ever had since burger wheat. Looking at the existing attitude of the opposition, I don’t know whether I can discount this assertion anymore.

If our opposition leaders cannot work together on a single goal of defeating the incumbent, how in the heck are they going to be able to unite our much-divided nation? The “oldma” surely knows and realizes something we are taking a lifetime to grasp: That the more fragmented the opposition, the more ‘politically sexy’ she looks in the eyes of the electorate. And I agree with her on this one.

Don’t get me wrong, for ideological purposes and other true and honest reasons, I highly subscribe to the political parties maintaining their separate identities and agendas. But there is also this thing called “SITUATIONAL AWARENESS,” a tool that should come in handy for George Weah, Charles Brumskine, and Winston Tubman, if these people really want to put an end to Ellen’s reign of errors. But everyone seems to be having his own agenda and fantasies of sitting in the Executive Mansion.

The fragile political situation currently in Liberia demands a decisive and united opposition. Because the already ambivalent and disillusioned citizens would rather have a relatively stable and dysfunctional Unity Party leadership than a single political name brand that is unwilling to be part of an effective coalition. At least, with Ma Ellen, things are stagnant, pretty predictable, coupled with superficial economic recovery, no electricity, broken bridges, poor health care, but no gun shots or arbitrary prosecution of citizens.

The men who could be president: Brumskine & Tubman

Brumskine, Weah, and Tubman need to take advantage of these failures and work together to right some of these problems. The last time I checked, Liberians care less who is in the Executive Mansion, and gave Taylor and Ellen (one highly, the other partly responsible for the loss of so many lives) shots at the presidency via the ballot box.

The opposition has as much to play in Ellen’s re-election as Ellen herself. With friends like Weah, Brumskine, and Tubman undermining each other, Ellen doesn’t really need a political bedfellow. The electoral process would be worth another effort in futility should these key political figures refuse to work in tandem for the sole purpose of the better good of the motherland. God Help us!!

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Political Opportunism in Liberia

By: tewroh-wehtoe sungbeh

Liberian senate president Wotorson

Introduction: In this piece, Sungbeh argues that Ellen Johnson Sirleaf has been left off the the hook by her supporters even as she have abused political power repeatedly, while the country claims to represent an emerging democratic society. The author thinks this is a dangerous move for progressive governance and Liberia's future.

Before she ever garnered the courage to withdraw the Shaw appointment amid public pressure to do the right thing, and before she even had the courage to rescind her previous decision to allow public employees, mainly cabinet ministers to take a prominent role in her re-election campaign, the Unity Party’s “Friends of Ellen” often looked the other way when it was about President Sirleaf.

To these individuals, President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf is infallible. And because she’s such, exempts her of any error in judgment and the leadership flaws that often besieged her administration.

It is not unusual in the long and painful history of Liberia for some Liberians to blindly support their president no mater what he or she is cited to have done wrongly when they occupied the Executive Mansion

What those Liberians did then when they blindly supported their president is the kind of history many hoped will never be repeated again, especially the heinous history of a one-party True Whig Party system that monopolized and deprived Liberians the right to genuinely participate in the political process.

While it is true that the ruling True Whig Party is or was easily blamed in the past for undermining the aspirations of the Liberian people to have a vibrant multi-party system, the actions of some Liberian politicians today – the so-called ‘enlightened’ and ‘educated’ ones bring back the nightmarish days of old when Liberians blindly petitioned and supported previous imperial presidents to succeed themselves only for the presidential supporter’s own personal gain.

The truth is, a cowardice practice of this kind is profoundly sickening in the stomach because it undermines the fight for democracy many lost their lives to uphold. The unmanly and opportunistic practice of these party switchers, who sold their loyalty to President Sirleaf, is not intended for the Liberian nation and people but to selfishly win presidential appointments/favors after Ellen Johnson Sirleaf is re-elected to a second term.

Cletus Wotorson, who supposedly is leader of the Liberian senate, is an Ellen convert and presumed leader of her bandwagon and National Campaign Committee’s re-election team.

Sounding offensively inferior and dubious of his national legislative role, Mr. Wotorson naively referred to President Sirleaf of the Executive branch his “boss” and quipped: “You do not want me to help my boss get re-elected?

No wonder this president is constantly traveling out of Liberia without accountability and transparency, and without a single member of the Legislative branch questioning why President Sirleaf is always out of the country? No wonder this president is always macro managing government affairs and not empowering her Minister of Foreign Affairs/Commerce or Trade Representative to negotiate trade deals and or meet with foreign policymakers and on behalf of Liberia? Let me ask sarcastically. Who is the Foreign Minister of Liberia, anyway?

Representative Edwin Snowe

You would think members of that toothless Legislative branch of government would shout ‘fire’ or ‘foul’ after the imperial President Sirleaf recently attempted to enlist cabinet ministers on her re-election team. Not so. And as usual, members of that spineless body put political opportunism over the nation’s interests.

The once promising Congress for Democratic Change (CDC) political party, whose “First Partisan” George Manneh Oppong Weah, came close to winning the 2005 presidential election is no longer in contention in 2011, after ceding control of his party to presidential candidate Winston Tubman.

Not wanting to be left behind in this game of political opportunism, high-ranking members of that political party abruptly left their CDC and jumped ship to the ruling New Unity Party of President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf.

Explaining their reason for supporting President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf’s re-election bid instead of supporting their own CDC party’s presidential candidate, the group said: “We are lending our support to the UP’s 2nd term bid. We shall be with them during the period of campaigning in the forthcoming presidential and general elections of this year.”

The lesser-known Liberia National Union (LINU) political party, which does not stand a chance in the 2011 presidential election, also joined the bandwagon of political parties endorsing Ellen Johnson Sirleaf’s re-election bid.

“These are indeed extraordinary qualities relevant for nation building. Our search for the ideal leadership for Mama Liberia has cut across the party line. There seems to be no other individual suitable at this to steer the ‘ship of state; to a noble destiny than an embodiment of the mother of the nation. Therefore, LINU endorses Madam Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf’s bid for the presidency of Liberia in the ensuing 2011 General and Presidential Elections” the party’s statement said.

Former speaker of the Liberian House of Representatives Edwin Snowe, formerly of the dreaded National Patriotic Party (NPP) of Charles Taylor, who was once a fierce opponent of President Ellen Johnson, now sings her kum ba yah.

To Mr. Snowe, Ellen Johnson Sirleaf is the best thing that ever happened to Liberia since Palm Butter and Rice or Fufu and Soup were introduced into the Liberian diet.

The convictionless and buffoonery Edwin Snowe who once referred to President Sirleaf’s State of the Nation address years ago “a big shame to Liberia and its people” claims he now regrets those comments, and also regrets his call to have President Sirleaf impeached. Snowe vowed, “to work very hard” to re-elect President Sirleaf.

“The decision, our decision to endorse Madam Sirleaf’s second term bid is not only good for the TWP, but for the overall good of the entire country. We want all partisans to take the message to their respective homes,” speaker after speaker said during the party’s 35th annual convention in June.

Even the discredited True Whig Party (TWP), credited for leading Liberia and the Liberian people downhill for over a century of slavery, tyranny, pains, and tears couldn’t wait to add its discredited voice to the bandwagon of political parties supporting Ellen Johnson Sirleaf’s re-election efforts.

It is one thing to admire a particular politician or a sitting president for what he or she brings to the political table, in the interest of the country and people. However, it is another thing to prostitute one’s convictions by ignoring the troubling flaws and wanton abuse of power of a president only to look the other way for the individual’s own selfish interests. This is not only a sellout but recklessly adventurous and dangerous.

These individuals and political parties perhaps are oblivious to the fact that their blind support of President Sirleaf and any other politician is a drawback that can or will seriously undermine multiparty democracy in Liberia especially at this crucial time of nation building.

So what has become of loyalty, convictions, and the ideals and vision political parties and their leaders often bring to the table with the hopes of building lasting institutions (not for personal gains), but institutions that empowers and provides for the weak, poor, children, the handicapped, the elderly and a vulnerable and neglected female population in Liberia?

Monday, July 4, 2011

Rice and Politics In Liberia

The late Gabriel Bacchus Mathews of PAL

Introduction: This article discusses the implications of the 1979 rice riot on Liberian politics, especially the increased use of rice by politicians to buy the votes of citizens. Locula argues that this practice has led to corruption of the political class and manipulation of the electorate. The author suggests that the government should pursue a policy of domestic rice production to ensure political stability and greater autonomy, and regulate the campaign behavior of political aspirants.

Friday, July 1, 2011

Amos Sawyer and Governance Commission Shows Teeth

By: ralph geeplay

GC Chair Sawyer

The critical issue of governance and leadership in Liberia has always been a source of conflict since the country’s founding, because political authority is highly centralized in the Liberian context and power repeatedly abused by the Liberian president.

While much has been said and written about this issue, not much has been done in Africa’s first independent republic to rectify it. The basis of that clash is the so-called appointing powers established in the Liberian constitution. The country, says pundits, has most of its innumerable problems blamed on an imperial presidency.

There is uproar currently in the country and the Diaspora about the wrongs this scenario portends, and the slippery slopes to tyranny it has become. The fume is rising and people are taking note that this exploitation of the nation’s body politic must not be business as usual.

To solve the issue the Amos Sawyer-led Governance Commission (GC) is showing resolve and hammering the point that local authorities be elected by their own people instead of directives flying out of Monrovia like saucers. The commission especially wants county superintendents elected.