Liberia’s President Sirleaf gets cocky in second term
President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf
By: Ralph Geeplay
Early in her second term and on the last leg of her presidency, analysts say the Liberian president, Ellen Johnson Sirleaf is getting cocky, showing signs of someone who is not worry about reelection, and perhaps who’s also not a good reader of Liberian history. Sirleaf has been complacent to act when she wants to, and tends now to be expedient in the face of grave concerns to a segment of the population that disagrees with the way her leadership is being felt across the land. The Liberian president of late has been bold in dismissing public opinion observers say. Sirleaf now in a whiff is referring to legitimate critics as the “Noisy Minority”, a segment of the population she was once part of, the catch phrase that is a buzz word today.
But who are the noisy minority, by this inference from Liberia’s peace Laureate who happens to be Africa’s first female president? Observers asks, if she referring to that very important constituent in any democracy that includes the intelligentsia, of late that has been her critic: the free press, the political opposition, and public opinion leaders in civic society: a core group of rational thinkers that breathe live and air in any functioning culture? Sirleaf coined phrase has been described as elitist in the most and condescendingly egotistical, by some! Caught right handed she has been giving reasons.
Even abroad recently the Liberian President had a lot of defending to do…
She stood up the charges, and defended herself against her opponents with the whole world listening, Madame President protested claims that she was nepotistic, even though three of her sons, probably now the three most powerful men in the country are all senior level appointed officials. And just as the voices are getting louder and louder, the president coined a term that left observers flummox—the so-called “NOISY MINORITY”! One of her main critics also happens to be her former Solicitor General, Tiawon Saye Gongloe.
Gongloe accused Sirleaf of hailing from the old order that monopolized political power for 133yrs and that she was was intended to bringing back the past.
“True Whig Party,” he said. “The party that institutionalized nepotism, cronyism and other forms of patronage in this country. The only way of doing politics that they know best is the True Whig Party way, which is represented by the slogan…, “So say one so say all.” Patronage and graft observers say were institutionalized and pampered under Liberia 18th president for the most part who led for almost 3decades.
“I challenge anyone who says it’s with me or my family,” [she says about corruption, which is being equated to nepotism], “We have… a society that’s full of rumors and innuendos …I stand the test and I challenge anyone who says there are other motives,” [for appointing her sons]. “I stand by my record and stand by the record of my family very firmly.” The president said. Lambasting those who have accused her of being nepotistic and dishonest…the president still doesn’t get it, that she is abusing her presidential powers and public trust, according to critics.
“So you will not fire your sons? To show that you are a hero of anti-corruption?” the media in Europe asked, “No, I will not.” She said audaciously. She then fired at the critics some more “I have trust in Liberia. I’m not talking about the Noisy Minority … I’m talking about a satisfied majority who I meet in rural areas and who are pleased that their lives have changed, their incomes have increased and they’re getting better services.” Her words were also being closely monitored back home, and displeasures were fermenting at what was a patronizing swagger from the Nobel laureate.
And just as Ellen returned home from Europe, then her former Solicitor and Deputy Anthony General Taiwan Saye Gongloe took the mic and dais on the campus of the University of Liberia, and took on the Liberian president in a strong worded speech befitting perhaps the leading political opposition leader in the country!
The Gongloe speech was very important, it touched the nerves and the issues, it had a lot of red meant, but it was unpretentious, striking the core subjects. It didn’t throw the Molotov cocktail as is often seen in a Liberia where criticisms against Sirleaf are many times expedient and lacking in weight; he then called on the international community that has pampered the Liberian president to take a second look at Johnson Sirleaf’s recent domestic policies.
“I call upon the international community, who’s human and material resources helped us to find peace, to seriously re-examine its position on President Sirleaf in light of the risk that she presents by her blatant violation of the Constitution of Liberia with impunity. This is a very serious early warning sign of the eventual erosion of peace in Liberia. Some of us have seen such signs before and are aware of the consequences of ignoring such signs. The international community must not ignore the voices of dissent in Liberia by considering us to be a noisy minority as our president has repeatedly said. The international community must also not dismiss the concerns that we are raising about bad governance as an African standard of governance. The people of Liberia made a choice to build a democratic country and therefore, deserve to be judged by the common standard by which all democratic countries are judged,” said the former Solicitor General.
The Gongloe speech analysts say receive even less media attention given the gravity of the questions he raised. He didn’t only call on the House of Representatives to impeach the president because she violated article 5c, which speaks against nepotism, he also called for her immediate resignation for usurping the constitution. He also accused the president of belonging to the old order that entrenched the current political structures from which Liberia reels.
“The god father of Liberian politics is no doubt William V.S. Tubman who stay in power for 27years solidifying political patronage in the Liberian government, though it was already there when he came, he did more to give it muscles and legs,” said a Unity Party senior partisan, furious at Sirleaf. ”Something is wrong with it, something should be wrong with it at all times; of course something is wrong with it,” added the UP Secretary General Wilmot Paye. Descent even within the UP on the issue saw demonstrations near Sirleaf’s posh private home, according to reports.
Sirleaf is known to be stubborn, and with a weak political opposition in Liberia, and an equally inept legislature she might just as well get away with violating the constitution some are saying.
Just as the charges of nepotism and criticisms of the president are being heard and the people are talking in the streets, that she is nostalgic for the past, and accusing fingers pointed at Sirleaf for being smug and for ignoring critical voices in Liberia, so did Paul Jackson chimed in, enraged that Sirleaf is being apathetic.
“Usually, when a President responds with indifference and nonchalance to the plight and concerns of her people, the temptation to go rogue on political correctness and give the President an even higher dose of her own arrogance can be extremely irresistible.” The president, he said [like Tubman was] is “the grand patron of nepotism; her sons have strong say in Liberia’s oil, banking, and security sectors.” These criticisms have not dented the president’s courage, however.
Sirleaf observers have said wanted to let her critics know she didn’t care what they thought; when about a month ago she also paid tribute to President Tubman the patriarch whose birthday is a national holiday in Liberia. “His birth day was passed into law, when the TWP was the only political party in the country, with Tubman going to extremes to eliminate the political opposition. The boils from the Tubman administration simmers like magma. When Tolbert came to power, with himself being nepotistic, the volcano had to erupt, because Tubman was so autocratic. In other words, there were too much unsatisfied people in the country, because Tubman led with iron hands, scheming, plotting and to the point of being violent to stay in power. David Coleman and his son were not killed on the sugar cane farm because they had the army to drive Tubman from power; they died from the cold bullets of Tubman and his security. He didn’t managed the peace well, he is a big reason Liberia descended into chaos,” said the Unity Party senior partisan.
Sirleaf, he said, it seems is “either a poor reader of Liberian political history, or she is being arrogant or ignorant at the same time when she on November 29 said “I hope as we memorialize him, today Liberians will look back on those days and recall the days when Liberia truly was Liberia,… we look back in reflection on what we can do to bring back those principles that President Tubman stood for.” She paid the tribute on behalf of the country laying a wreath in memory of the great man.
“And so with the family,” she continued, “I come on behalf of the government and people of Liberia to say to you, that we honor his memory. We cherish his ideals” Sirleaf said to cheers from the family.
But whether one gives credence to Sirleaf political opponents and the charges that she is being nepotistic, arrogant and cocky in her second term, what cannot be denied is that she is showing a penchant of a politician who is longing of the past.
Gongloe’s speech say some, highlights a point in her presidency when she will see the most vocal of criticisms against her, and now that she has no reelection headaches, it seems she doesn’t care.
Tiawon Saye Gongloe for one is not Acarus Gray: one day wearing military uniforms at the Liberian Capitol where he works as the people’s Representative, awkward right, …g?iven Liberia’s recent political history, greased in colorful militarism which lasted for almost three decades and which led to mass sufferings and killings. Rep Gray reports say has behaved boorishly politically, showing signs of a Julius Malema. Other days insulting law enforcement officers publicly["dirty police"], the next calling for a “bitter Liberia”, another, at the feet of Mayor Mary Broh smiling in a suit, the next calling for Sirleaf to be impeached because she makes a foolish political statement. Observers say nepotism could well be Ellen’s Achilles heel. “It remains to be seen if she will act,” said a student at the University of Liberia.