Deciding which presidential candidate to vote into office is simply a matter of party affiliation for some Liberians. While 0thers, however, cast their votes based on specific characteristics they look for in their candidate of choice.
As the 2017 presidential election comes closer, Liberians of all walks of life are quietly beginning to look for a new leader, one that is not a political insider or a beneficiary of the systemically corrupt and stratified system that is marred by entrenched nepotism, greed, incompetence and tribalism that continue to set the country backward.
A cross section of Liberians have little, or zero confidence in the current crew of politicians vying for the presidency in 2017 because they see these politicians as one and the same. However, one name that is sparking up fast to most Liberians across the political spectrum in Liberia and abroad is Jones Nhinson Williams, a non-politician who some believe will be the surprise choice that Liberians could see as their next president and a new leader that could set the bar for effective governance in Africa.
Williams is regarded as the relatively unknown hero who restored Liberia from a failed state under warlord Charles Taylor and a set of tribal and at times religious-minded factions as well as disgruntled politicians. He is viewed by many as a man of utmost honesty, integrity, and compassion. Others see him as highly competent, inspiring, broadminded, forward-looking, courageous, fair-minded, broadminded, intelligent, and visionary. Obviously, these are qualities that a new leader of Liberia needs to have in order change the course of the country’s ugly and current dismal condition into one of hope and prosperity for all.
Highly respected by his former seminary-mates (many of who are Catholic bishops and renowned priests across West Africa – from the Gambia to Sierra Leone and Liberia) for his leadership, inspiration and diplomatic skills from his days in Catholic seminaries where he studied for the Catholic priesthood, Williams has an unmatched track record that no current candidate seeking the Liberian presidency in 2017 has.
He served as a unifying figure of Christians and Muslims, various tribal warring factions, disgruntled opposition politicians, civil society and pressure groups when Liberians and the West African sub-region struggled to raid Charles Taylor’s terror machine from Liberia. He cultivated broad-based international support and effectively made the case for a U.S. and European intervention that prompted former U.S. president George W. Bush to issue an ultimatum to Charles Taylor to leave office or be forced out, eventually leading to Taylor’s forced resignation, exile in Nigeria and his subsequent arrest for war crimes and crimes against humanity for which he is serving decades of jail time in the United Kingdom.
After a successful strategic meeting in Rome with several international stakeholders regarding Liberia in mid-2003, Williams turned down the request to lead Liberia as an interim president; stating that he could do more good for the country as a non-politician at that time. Instead he was instrumental in the gathering of Liberian stakeholders to discuss the country’s future and the formation of an interim administration through the Accra Peace process.
That arrangement ushered in a transitional government that was led by Charles Gyude Bryant and the eventual election of current President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, both of whom were suported by Mr. Williams.
Upon Bryant’s selection, he offered to make Williams the Liberian UN ambassador during a phone conversation that was facilitated by the current Liberian ambassador to the African Union and Ethiopia, Ms. Vivien Wreh, but Williams rebuked the idea as nepotism and unnecessary.
Instead, he encouraged the appointments of the executive director and operations director of the United Nations-backed National Commission on Disarmament, De-mobilization and Reintegration (NCDRR) as well as offered to provide pro bono policy and strategic management advice to the institution. That process led to the disarmament and demobilization of Liberian factions and the successful hosting of the 2006 democratic presidential elections that brought President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf to power as Africa’s first female head of state.
Prior to that, embattled warlord president Charles Taylor, in an attempt to fragile the opposition against him in 2002, attempted to lure Williams with money and the position of Liberian ambassador to the European Union during his (Williams) visit to former opposition leader now current president Ellen Johnson Sirleaf’s private office in the Ivory Coast, but he turned all those offers down to the surprise of Rooselvelt Quieh, former chairman of Liberia’s National Investment Commission.
During the struggle to raid Charles Taylor’s terror regime from the sub region, then West Africa-based researchers from the International Crisis Group (ICG), Human Rights Watch (HRW), Global Witness, and the United Nations etc. described Williams as an effective, principled minded, forward-looking and genuine leader of Liberia’s future.
He won the admiration of then ICG’s researcher and current New York-based AVAAZ executive director Ricken Patel, former ICG’s West Africa program chief now Africa’s program director Dr. Comfort Ero, HRW’s West Africa chief researcher Corinne Dufka, and former BBC’s Focus On Africa veteran, Robin White. Like these dignitaries, many international figures, foreign diplomats and regional security experts in the West Africa sub region during Charles Taylor’s era believed Williams’ effectiveness, moral leadership and inspiration to bring disgruntled Liberian warring factions together, ability to mobilize its civil society groups and keep politicians and activists in check, as well as his skills to lead them all into forward-thinking is largely responsible for the freedom and relative peace and security the country enjoys today.
Although not stationery in Liberia due to his commitment to international refugee work, food security issues and forced migration that affect people in most developing nations including Liberia, Williams has engaged efforts aimed at helping Liberia and Liberians. Using his interpersonal skills, credibility and influence, Williams has prevented several planned public demonstrations intended to induce chaotic political change under the guidance of disgruntled Liberian politicians against the current Liberian administration.
He did so on grounds that unnecessary political change is undemocratic, economically destructive and socially unjust. He was also effective in providing behind the scenes leadership in securing international support to the Ebola affected countries of Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea, and was the first African of stature to contact the U.S. Center for Disease Control, some members of the United States Senate and Congress for U.S. attention and intervention in the crisis when it first started.
Since 2003, Williams has been quietly working on a number of issues that range from food security, forced migration and refugee protection at international levels while also finding solutions that would facilitate the return of most Liberian refugees scattered throughout West Africa and around the world back home.
He was instrumental in the resettlement of thousands of Liberian refugee families and individuals in Australia, Norway, Sweden, Canada and the United States in the late 1990s to the early 2000. Today, he uses his position as head of the U.S.-based Jewish Family Services International Refugee Program to continue to provide assistance to Liberians abroad who face migration issues based on economic, human rights and security concerns. Williams also has extensive experience in labor market analysis, workforce development, development psychology, strategic management and public policy.
Considering the high stakes religious tensions in the country, lack of public trust and confidence, massive unemployment facing Liberian youth, corroborated abuse of power, widespread organized corruption and theft of the country’s wealth, misuse of the natural resources, a weak private sector and skills gaps, as well as the endemic development obstacles that impact ordinary Liberian lives, many believe no better candidate is capable of changing Liberia for the better than Jones Nhinson Williams. More importantly, Liberian Muslims and Christians alike believe Williams is the most qualified Liberian leader capable of reconciling and uniting the country, especially at this time of serious religious tensions that are drawing the country back to the status of being a deeply divided society.
Currently, there are those who believe that Williams’ record of supporting change as a non-politician may leave him reluctant to seek the political office of presidency at this time. It is clear that Williams’ motivation is to create a new Liberia and to do good for its citizens.
He is not motivated by power but by finding the best path to make lasting changes for the country. Some Liberians who have followed Williams’ activities over the years believe his extreme honesty and integrity could pose a serious problem for him if he decides to contest or succeeds as the elected president of Liberia considering how the country is infested with a lot of tainted politicians, many of whom he would be expected to work with as lawmakers, bureaucrats and judiciary members. Another drawback for Williams is that he has no political affiliation or institution and has never held a Liberian government position.
However, these limitations may become Williams’ strengths as the 2017 political campaign gets underway. Some reliable sources hint that a number of possible presidential candidates and political parties are considering the idea of Williams as a running-mate to boost their credibility in terms vision, change and integrity.
Some Liberian political observers believe that if Williams runs and wins as a candidate or a running mate, Liberia will not only have a leader with the ability to listen well, empathize, negotiate strategically, reconcile and unite the country, but also one who will lead Liberia from poverty into a new era of self-sufficiency and development. Williams who has two teen daughters and is married to a former diplomat at the United Nations in New York believes the urgency to redeem Liberia from its self-imposed economic struggles is for the good of Liberian children and those unborn.