The Economic Freedom Fighters of Liberia (EFFL) has officially responded to the President of Liberia, George Manneh Weah annual message delivered on Monday, January 24, 2021.
Below is the full text of the EFFL press statement:
Ladies and gentlemen of the Press, Religious and Traditional leaders, Diplomatic missions and Fellow citizens.
As you may be aware, the State of the Nation Address or Annual Message is delivered by the President of Liberia at a joint legislative session of the National Legislature on the third working Monday of January each year and is a constitutional mandate. The President’s message typically includes a budget message, an economic report of the nation, and also provides an opportunity for the President to propose new legislative agendas or national priorities.
The annual address fulfills the requirement of Article 58 of the Liberian constitution and is an important constitutional function in global governance.
Fellow citizen, this constitutional requirement allows the President to periodically present to the Liberian people the progress made during the year and the challenges facing the state, with recommendations for collective action as a country.
In light of the foregoing, the EFFL considered it politically obligatory for the people of Liberia, as a proposed political party, to respond, by tradition since its formation, to the President of Liberia SONA.
Fellow citizens, as you may know, this is the fourth annual message from President George Weah following his historic election from the soccer field to the Executive Mansion of our beloved country. In this response, we will review the President’s three years in office in a comprehensive manner to give us a clearer picture of his leadership.
Before going any further, we want to consider this fourth annual message as a well-structured lie with no basis for truth to tell the people of Liberia.
During his first SONA, in an overly charged and exciting environment on Capitol Hill, the President made a statement on the 25% reduction in his salary and benefits and called on all elected officials to do the same. Throughout his term, we have not seen any legislation that reduces the President’s benefits, but he will be remembered for taking steps to reduce the salaries of his staff in all areas and for encouraging members of the legislature to do the same.
Perhaps this reduction in salaries may be the only achievement of the President, as our nation bled at the hands of the Unity Party government and other previous governments over the enormous take-home pay of government officials. The only disappointing part of the salary cut is that it has negatively affected poor civil servants who are purely professionals doing all the work for the government.
Corruption and the rule of law
Throughout his tenure, the president showed no interest in fighting corruption.
Fellow citizens, without any national and political conscience, the President has appointed people with huge character liability to the nation’s anti-corruption office to include the LACC, in total disregard of our nation’s image. During the administration of the Unity Party, Liberia was engulfed by numerous allegations of corruption to the point that Global Witness reported that all the much heralded sixty-three (63) concessions were all bogus and some individuals landed in court for said reports. This means that President George Weah inherited a nation in the throes of a huge credibility crisis and that he needed to take immediate action to correct the negative perception of our country. Unfortunately, the President and his government have compounded our problems with the disappearance of $16 billion, the misuse of $25 million in the Mop up excise and the President’s refusal to replace the LAAC Boss. The blatant refusal of his government’s officials to declare their assets in accordance with our existing laws has simply dashed his promise to stop making corruption a way of life in our country.
Reconciliation and the fight against impunity
Ladies and gentlemen of the press, fellow citizens, many of those who supported the President considered him the best person to implement the TRC reports and to create the anti-corruption Court before the elections that brought him to power. Following his inauguration, the EFFL joined with many Liberians in protesting and demanding the implementation of the TRC report and the creation of an anti-corruption Court to demonstrate the government’s commitment to fighting corruption and ending the culture of impunity in Liberia. The President, through his time in office, has shown no respect for those who have painfully lost family members in the Liberian civil war and shown no interest in healing our beloved Republic.
If the president is to be seen as a reconciler, he must take steps to implement the TRC report and stop accommodating warlords within his government. A good leader will not think about future elections, but will always think about his or her legacy, and that is the path we expect the President of a nation to take.
The excuse for the fall in iron ore and rubber prices on the world market was the argument put forward by the Unity Party government when it realized that the economy was failing during President Sirleaf’s second term of office to escape the responsibility of repairing the economy and this current administration that claimed to have solutions to our growing economic crisis is pursuing the same path. Ironically, iron ore and rubber prices are even more attractive than before, but since many of our citizens do not have access to this global data, these weak governments are reverting to lying just to control people’s emotions about their inability to improve our economy. The agriculture sector that is poised to reinvent the economy and creating jobs for millions of our citizens, receives little or no attention under President Weah’s leadership. Interestingly, the economic management team that should be the driving force in searching for solutions to our economic crisis is busy celebrating the IMF’s growth projections of about 3 percent that are not based on any scientific data but rather on mere perception. Where is the investment to support the IMF’s growth projections?
Fellow citizens, our health sector has suffered major shocks over the last three years due to insufficient budget support, poor administration and rampant corruption. In the approved budget for 2019/2020, $ LD 80,340,072 was allocated to the entire sector. This contrasts with the enormous challenges facing the sector. 70% of our health facilities was not functional, deaths from curable diseases increased by 40%, and one of our country’s major health facilities, the Phebe Hospital, was unable to treat common diseases. With Liberians in remote areas of the country hoping for a significant increase in budget allocations for the health sector, the amount allocated was inhumanly reduced by $ LD13,417,703 in the 2020/2021 national budget. This huge reduction sums up the government’s lack of priority given to this sector. In 2020, health workers organized more than three separate protests to denounce the backlog of salaries and benefits. This resulted in health workers abandoning their jobs and caused the deaths of many Liberians seeking medical care in their assigned facilities.
In 2019, President Weah declared all public tertiary institutions FREE. The result is a calamitous total delay compared to the very little progress made in previous years. Instead of strengthening and increasing budgetary support to the sector, the budget allocated for 2020/2021 to the entire sector increased by only $ LD 6,000,000. This has resulted in a sharp increase in enrolments while educational institutions have remained unimproved and overwhelmed by the large influx of students. To improve the sector, enrolment growth must be accompanied by an improved learning environment, which is not the case. Often, scholarship recipients, university administrators and professors are not paid for 6 to 8 months, creating an incentive for fraud. Our system is polluted and in need of a massive global overhaul of the sector.
To change Liberia’s negative perceptions of human rights, corruption, and economic recovery, we recommend the following actions.
- That the President remove from office the chairman of the Liberian Anti-Corruption Commission, who suffers from a character deficit
- That the government immediately provide long-term loans to local rubber producers through the banking system.
- Build regional rubber processing plants to encourage local rubber producers who cannot compete with Firestone due to the lack of processing plants in the country.
- Focus on capital provision to Liberian own businesses through the local banking system.
- Implement the TRC reports as a means to end the culture of impunity and establish the Anti-Corruption Court for Liberia.
- That the government prioritize health facilities throughout the country by increasing direct budget support to improve their delivery capacity.
- That the education sector be reorganized through increased budgetary support to improve learning facilities, training, etc.,
- That health and education sector workers be prioritized and paid in a timely manner.
We believe that if the following recommendations are implemented, we will officially begin the roadmap for national recovery.
We would like to thank the President for the proposed amendment of the Sexual and Gander base violence Act to provide more protection for victims, as well as for the proposed Act to create an anti-corruption Court and to give the LACC the power to prosecute. This is indeed a step towards combating sexual violence and corruption in Liberia.
Thank you, and God bless Liberia.
Issued by: Olushola Kim Ekunode (Deputy Secretary for Press- +231 777233252)
Approved by: Chairman Ansumariam Dukuly (National Chairman – +231 77059008)