LIBERIA: Students Group Decries Bad Governance, Hardship, Wants TRC Convicts Dismiss At The University.

supThe leadership of the Vanguard Student Unification Party at the state owned University of Liberia has publicly condemned the Liberian Government for its failure to catering to the needs of the Liberian people over the years.

In a statement delivered at a news conference, and read by Jerome D. Dangbuah                                  Chairman of SUP recently, said, for more than a decade now, the Liberian people have endured hopelessness and hardship as a result of bad governance despite the abundant natural resources and huge international support, it is disappointing to note that most Liberians still live in extreme poverty and misery.

“What a tragedy! Until our nation and those who spearhead its affairs can ensure equal opportunities and justice for all citizens, the Vanguard Student Unification Party will not rest in championing the ultimate agenda of the underprivileged, less-fortunate and the abandoned class of our society. Since 1970, this has been our foremost duty as a masses-driven political institution. We will forever preserve this sacred responsibility and revolutionary inheritance!

Ladies and gentlemen of the Press, with deep dissatisfaction, we want to again inform the Liberian populace about the poor quality of education at the University of Liberia due to the lack of adequate financial support. Even though education is a fundamental right according to Article 6 of our Constitution and Article 26 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, but the government of Liberia has intentionally refused to prioritize the education of over 31,000 students currently attending the University of Liberia.

How do we intend to make Liberia better when education is not a priority? No wonder why our country is still far from landing on the shore of genuine development and economic growth. Until we can understand that poverty is the product of illiteracy, our nation is doomed. In this era of global recession, it beats our imagination for any serious government that believes in quality tertiary education to appropriate US$15.1million to operate a State-run University that comprises of more than 31,000 students, 1500 faculty members, and 1200 staffs on 4 campuses.

SUP wants to use this medium to again call on the government of Liberia, especially the National Legislature to increase the budgetary appropriation of the University of Liberia this coming fiscal year to a minimum of US$29 million. If this is done, thousands of Liberian students will have access to quality education. Furthermore, we hope those in authority have not forgotten that the government of Liberia is predominantly responsible to fund the University of Liberia according to its Charter. Additionally, we have learned through our intelligence arm that there are ongoing discussions between the government and UL administration to financially overburden students next semester, by increasing tuition from LD$175 to US$5.00. Let this message go forth to those planning to strangulate us that any such attempt will be fearlessly resisted.

This looming increment is a clever attempt to depopulate the University and render most of us vulnerable to perpetual poverty. Be aware that over 80% of our comrades at this University depend merely on scholarship and financial opportunities from external donors. How can anyone think about increasing tuition at UL, when students lack access to internet connectivity, modern libraries, laboratories, research and career centers, computer labs, improved sanitation, better infrastructure, clinic, safe drinking water, buses, student loan and internship? You (government officials) use millions of tax-dollars for your children, grandchildren and other family members to acquire foreign education, but you are unable to use the same taxes to give us quality education at UL! This is the highest form of injustice and cruelty. In the midst of acute joblessness and economic decline, increment in tuition is unacceptable!

In addition, there has been rumor in the air that the University of Liberia will close for 8 months as a means of renovating its facilities. We call on our students to remain calm, because this is the biggest gossip and joke of the year. If UL ever closes for 8 months just for renovation, then it means that the Capitol Building and Foreign Ministry will also close for 8 months, because these public facilities need renovation too. After almost a year of closure due to the Ebola Virus Disease, it is unthinkable and irrational for over 31,000 students to keep out of school for another one year. SUP is not against renovation or improvement at UL, but we think that there are better strategies and time-saving measures to employ in achieving this target. No University in the World has ever closed for 8 months just for renovation. The purported closure of UL for 8 months is only meant to further provoke struggling students to anger….

Furthermore, it has been brought to our attention that ex-Warlords teaching at the University of Liberia have been misusing our classrooms to poorly justify the role they played during Liberia’s Dark Age. SUP believes that the action of these morally-bankrupt characters continue to endanger the growth and development of thousands of students at the State-run University. Their presence is creating serious psychological turmoil for some students. Henceforth, SUP is calling on the Board of Trustees to immediately dismiss all TRC convicts (Madam Waede Kobba-Wureh, Mr. Lavala Supuwood, Mr. Alahaji V. G. Kromah and others) before second semester begins. The University of Liberia is an environment of moral uprightness and discipline; therefore, it must never be used as a hideout or safe haven to accommodate warlike personalities.

Ladies and gentlemen of the Press, fellow Liberians, for some time now, our nation has been besieged with great fear due to insecurity and series of mysterious deaths. As we look across the nation, who can we rely on for safety and security, especially when UNMIL leaves in June of this year? Judging from prevailing realities, it is a fact that Liberia is moving back to its dark age. The Student Unification Party (SUP) condemns the mysterious circumstances leading to the death of Mr. Harry Greave and calls for the immediate establishment of an independent body consisting of local and international institutions to investigate the matter. Since there are public doubts about the recent autopsy report released by an American Pathologist hired by the government of Liberia, we call on the government to abstain from playing a frontline role in this case. Ladies and gentlemen of the Press, yesterday, it was Keith Jubah and Fayiah Saah Gbollie. About a year ago, it was Michael Allison. Few months ago, it was Victoria Zayzay. Today, it is Harry Greaves. Tomorrow, it could be anyone of us! It is time for us to rise up and demand unconditional JUSTICE. SUP is still demanding justice for little Shaki Kamara, Angel Togba and all others who have died in cold blood.

Let it be known today that the progress of our nation is tied to JUSTICE. We will never surrender to those plotting to undermine our collective destiny. No number of secret killings or threats can silence us!

Amidst public fear and rising insecurity, the departure of UNMIL from Liberia on June 30, 2016 is not only worrisome, but it creates a dark cloud over Liberia’s fragile peace. Is the government of Liberia ready and prepared to assume full security responsibility from UNMIL four (4) months from now? SUP believes that the government is ill-equipped for this huge task and it must refrain from pretense and deceit. When the rate of arm robbery and burglary is escalating across our country daily, it brings us to a logical conclusion that these activities might even become rampant in the absence of UNMIL. As police brutality and arbitrary arrests increase, there are confirmed reports that some officers of the LNP have been involved in armed robbery.

The recent clash between the Inspector General of the Liberia National Police (LNP) and the Director of the Executive Protection Service (EPS) further exposed the weakness of our security sector. The death of Shaki Kamara by AFL personnel portrays the unprofessional nature of our military force. Our people no longer trust the police and military as a result of unethical precedents! Moreover, the lack of manpower, adequate training and financial support to security agencies in Liberia is a major challenge. How can 2000 AFL personnel provide external security for over 4.2 million citizens?

As protests and demonstrations across the country remain high due to public displeasure, it will interest you to know that there is limited Police presence in River Cess, Sinoe, Grand Kru, River Gee, Gbarpolu and other counties in Liberia. I hope we have not forgotten that our borders are also porous due to the limited capacity of the Bureau of Immigration and Naturalization (BIN)! Considering these existing gaps within our security sector, coupled with our pending elections in 2017, SUP is calling on the Security Council of the United Nations to extend the mission of UNMIL beyond 2017. The need to continuously promote security sector reform is cardinal to sustaining peace and genuine national development in Liberia. About 3 years ago, President Sirleaf pleaded with the United Nations to extend UNMIL’s mission and her request was granted. As we approach 2017, which is a very decisive period in our history, why is President Sirleaf not making similar plead?

Ladies and gentlemen of the Press, the Student Unification Party (SUP) wants to emphatically condemn the recent appointment of the President’s son, Mr. Charles Sirleaf as interim Executive Governor of the Central Bank of Liberia. If nepotism was bad yesterday, it is also bad today. If it was wrong yesterday for President William R. Tolbert to appoint his brother, Stephen A. Tolbert as Finance Minister, it is also wrong today for President Sirleaf to appoint her son as interim Executive Governor of CBL. We take no pleasure in questioning the qualification of Mr. Charles Sirleaf, but we strongly believe that his relationship with President Sirleaf would lead to conflict of interest, which contravenes Article 90 of the Liberian Constitution.

All of us are aware that the National Oil Company of Liberia (NOCAL) went bankrupt due to poor management, fiscal indiscipline and corruption under the chairmanship of Mr. Robert A. Sirleaf, another son of the President, who is now a multi-millionaire. After leading NOCAL into economic quagmire, he was again appointed by his mother as special envoy to Kuwait on the negotiation of oil and cheap petroleum products.

     About two (2) years ago, another son of President Sirleaf who is serving as Director of the National Security Agency (NSA), Mr. Fumba Sirleaf was caught in a web of illegal arrest and conspiracy to defraud US$270,000.00 from some Korean nationals. We are constrained to ask whether Liberia is a family farm. The decision of President Sirleaf to continuously appoint her children to lucrative positions in government amidst public criticism is disturbing! We are aware that this President intends to make all of her children multi-millionaires before leaving power, but the President must not forget that there is a tomorrow. Therefore, SUP is calling her to immediately terminate the appointment of Mr. Charles Sirleaf as interim Executive Governor of CBL. We cannot afford for the fulcrum of our economy to bleed like NOCAL.

Ladies and gentlemen of the Press, it has been nearly one month since President Sirleaf delivered the State of the Nation Address. SUP describes the annual message of the President as a LYRIC OF MISERY. The speech of the President was entirely characterized by old and empty promises only meant to increase the frustration and hopelessness of Liberians.

Our many problems in Liberia can never be addressed by flowery speeches, but they can only be addressed by the fulfillment of those flowering speeches. How long we have not heard great speeches, but our people still live in shacks and drink from unsafe wells and creeks. After presenting statistics contrary to the reality, the President in her annual message failed to announce to the Liberian people that her administration has been disfigured by corruption, nepotism and cronyism. As a result, about 83.8% of Liberians live below the poverty line according to UNDP 2015 Human Development Report.

Ladies and gentlemen of the Press, we are also constrained to speak about the undesirable migration of Mr. Simeon Freeman from his own country due to fear for his life. While is it true that SUP is against any action that tends to undermine national security, but we believe that the government must refrain from targeting critical voices. The decision of the government to send armed men to besiege the home of Mr. Freeman was unacceptable and counterproductive. Mr. Freeman had every reason to escape, because his fear was legitimate! This is what happens when the bridge of trust is broken between the people and the government.

Members of the fourth estate, conscious students, and fellow Liberians, the Student Unification Party (SUP) remains concern about the livelihood and welfare of our people more than ever before. Our advocacy will never end, until inequality ends. When officials of government are riding over US$40,000 cars while youth unemployment remains high, it sends a clear message that our leaders are yet to learn from our ugly past. When government officials travel around town with mini gas stations and cell phone booths in their pockets, while vast majority of our people have become rock crushers, sand miners, gamblers, beggars and pen-pen riders, then it means that Liberia is going nowhere. It will interest you to know that EATING nowadays is a big accomplishment in Liberia! It makes no sense for Liberians to endure untold suffering, when their country has all it takes to make them prosper. Our economy is currently on life support and very soon it might totally collapse, if austerity measures are not put in place.

Ladies and gentlemen of the Press, if any moment is most appropriate to change our story, then it is 2017. SUP believes that the election in 2017 is a test of multiple choices. Either we choose poverty or prosperity. 2017 offers all of us a unique opportunity to redefine our course.

We must demonstrate the highest semblance of patriotism by putting the interest of our country above short-term gains. 2017 is about Liberia and not any political party. It is about securing a new beginning of equal opportunities for all. It is about transforming our own lives through the ballots. It is about reviving lost hope and turning aspiration into reality. Now is the time for us to unite as one people and one nation to protect our future from greedy and insensitive politicians. Now is the time to pay back those who have treated us as slaves in our own country. With less than a year to 2017, SUP is calling on all Liberians to put Liberia’s interest first. Refrain from being used by self-seeking politicians as spring-boats and scapegoats,” the statement from the students group concluded.

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About Cholo Brooks 13510 Articles
Joel Cholo Brooks is a Liberian journalist who previously worked for several international news outlets including the BBC African Service. He is the CEO of the Global News Network which publishes two local weeklies, The Star and The GNN-Liberia Newspapers. He is a member of the Press Union Of Liberia (PUL) since 1986, and several other international organizations of journalists, and is currently contributing to the South Africa Broadcasting Corporation as Liberia Correspondent.