On Wednesday, July 1,health workers and police staged a running battle before the new Ministry of Health and Social Welfare in Congo Town, on the outskirts of Monrovia during a protest in demand of risk benefits, leaving at least two persons wounded.
Police flogged the two victims in an attempt to disperse the protestors, who had gathered outside the compound of the ministry, demanding benefits they claimed the government owed them.
The victims, severely beaten to an extent that they couldn’t move or walk, were subsequently taken to a nearby clinic, but later brought back on the scene and laid on the main street, as reported by the New Dawn newspaper edition of July 2, 2015.
According to some local Liberian dailies, including the New Dawn newspaper that has published an account of this atrocity in a lead story. President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf warned that, “Liberians got to stop it… when we got problem, we got to solve it; we got to work together and solve it. You create other problems for us then you make us do things that you will not like.”
The President’s reaction to the protest is noteworthy. There are better ways to fight for justice. Until we have elected a new president in 2017, I have personally concluded that all Liberians need to pray and work with President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf. We need to fast and really pray so that God can help our nation and the poor in our motherland. We do not need to criticize the president and her government. It is only God that can save the country for the remaining two years of President Sirleaf’s final sixth year term in office. We need to pray and fast because criticism, strikes, public demonstrations and violence will not help our nation and people at this time. Instead, these actions will only set us further behind and perhaps worsen the already porous misery and uncertain future we find our nation and communities in.
We also need to pray and fast because, with all due respect and love for President Sirleaf, she does not get it. Her government and bureaucrats do not get it. The Liberian legislature –both senate and the House of Representative – does not get it. The so-called political opposition and civil society leaders in Liberia do not get it. The international friends and supporters of President Sirleaf do not get it as well. Most importantly, the paid foot soldiers of select Liberianwannabe presidential aspirants who run around campaigning for some of the same very people that are derailing Liberia’s future do not get it. As a result, there are broad injustices throughout the country, including high stakes religious tension, massive unemployment, teenage prostitution, indescribable levels of national poverty, poor educational system, malnutrition, increased levels of maternal deaths at childbirth, excruciating hunger and unceasing food insecurity, chronic spread of preventable disease, and of course, resurgence of t
he deadly Ebola. These are not factors that result from natural disasters -they are all man-made calamities imposed on Liberians and the country because of the lack of leadership, vision, and unchecked rabid patriotism. Our leaders need to reflect as to whether they truly have God and good intentions in their minds and hearts. They need to ask themselves the question that if they truly love Liberia and their fellow Liberians, what actions are really needed to bring justice and prosperity to its citizens. With God’s blessing, new leadership in 2017 will take Liberia out of its current man-made Liberian mess¬¬.
The war in Liberia was blamed on Charles Taylor. The war has been over for the past 14 years and we have had democratic civilian governance for the past decade. We have also had massive international support and Liberians in country have been very supportive of the political leadership since 2006. Proof of this is the re-election of President Sirleaf in 2011 despite the fact that there has beenfew if any tangible improvements in the living conditions of 90 percent of the country’s population, many of whom are ordinary people.
For the President to say: “Liberians got to stop it… when we got problem, we got to solve it; we got to work together and solve it. You create other problem for us then you make us do things that you will not like” is mind blowing and sad. While she is correct in that we have to work to solve our nation’s problems, the threat that “you make us do things that you do not like” is unacceptable and does not inspire cooperative efforts to work for a just society.
Instead of President Sirleaf asking Liberians to stop it (referring to political protests demanding justice), she must ask her government and all three branches within to stop it-what they are doing is grossly immoral, plain and simple. The current problems in Liberia are the making of the current Liberian government and the so-called power-hungry opposition that criticizes the Sirleaf’s administration while being in bed with the government as consultants and corruption bedfellows at the same time.
It is unimaginable that officials – bureaucrats, lawmakers and others – in the Sirleaf’s administration can earn between US$7,000 -$15,000 monthly when teachers, health workers and the police officers as well as others that risk their lives at the frontlines of calamities cannot earn salaries even close to this and earn less than a living wage instead. Is there any morality in not paying a nurse, police officer, or school teacher who earns less than US$150 a month when a single bureaucrat is taking home tax free US$15,000 a month in addition to other subsidies such as a free government issued vehicle?
I love and respect President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf in many ways. She deserves our respect as a stateswomen, a mother and the president of our beloved nation. She has garnered support from other countries in her tenure as our leader. When she first came to office I vowed to launch a campaign to erect a presidential library in honor of her after her term ended and I still intend to do that as a commemoration to Liberian women and inspiration for our daughters.
However, Madam President, for God in Heaven’s sake please try to do the right thing! Don’t leave Liberia and Liberians in more chaos then when you first took office!
Instead of criticizing you at this juncture, I call on all Liberians to pray and work with you so that God can touch your heart and for you to realize that a change of course is necessaryThe vast majority of Liberians cannot be wrong while your government and beneficiaries always claim to be right. Join the prayers and let those prayers inspire action so that we can move our nation forward, starting with a concerted effort aimed at fostering national reconciliation, developing and increasing economic opportunities that will create jobs and wealth for our most vulnerable population. With your prayers, action and commitment, we can start this work today and with new leadership in 2017, we will move our country forward to become a prosperous country with justice and prosperity for all.
Jones Nhinson Williams is president and CEO of the New Liberia Foundation, and head of the U.S.-based Jewish Family Services’ International Refugee program. He was instrumental in restoring Liberia from being a failed state under warlord Charles Taylor to a relatively peaceful and democratic society. Since 2003, he has been working on issues of refugee flow, food insecurity, economic migration and the impact of deeply divided societies across Africa in addition to finding solutions that would ensure and facilitate the return of most Liberians refugees to their motherland.