A critical and productive thoughts on President of Liberia January 23, 2017 Legislative Speech and the way forward for Liberia’s peaceful future

By:Romeo D.N. Gbartea: January 30, 2017

About the author Mr. Romeo D. N. Gbartea
The Author Mr. Romeo D. N. Gbartea

Introduction:

Too many times in Liberia’s socio-economic and political scenarios, we deviate  from the reality and sometimes create confusion just for the sake of creating confusion. It has been stated as often as possible the country is striving for a productive peace and we must structure ourselves in a way that we can enjoy this nation-state. We forget to understand that the world is a place where there are variation of views on national issues and there are those who are responsible to manage the leadership of the country in every dimensions of the country.

The Liberian society is no exception especially when it comes to how we have had productive and non-productive leaders over the period of time in the private and public sectors.  The first female democratic President of Liberia, Her Excellency, Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf has delivered a brilliant legislative report or speech that worth emulation in our decent country. Notably, this article will give a vivid description of Liberia from the perspectives of different respected authors,  an excerpts of the speech with critical analysis coupled with a unique way forward as enshrined in the Vision 2030 document. In essence this paper is segmented into parts to clearly illustrates the topic.

  1. Description of the Liberian State:

There are many authors that have described this unique nation-state, Liberia but let me start with my description. The country is a rumor based country that has some tenets of reality in its functional core values because the smallest of its family system.

For instance, everybody has some relationships with somebody. It is a Christian dominated country but there is a good understanding that other religious practices are respected in concurrence with the constitution of Liberia.  It is a country that has segments of all cultures and customs practiced in the world either in a known or unknown places.

There are mobility of those that have senior public and private sector jobs but once they get out of job, they are always willing to work for any low class position in spite of their previous high profile jobs. For instance, a Former Senator can be Asst. Minister. This aspect where former big government official(s) can work in a low profile is not a bad practice because former senior official(s) brings value to the job and he is still trying to survive until his time is finished in this universe.

It is a country where there is no limitations of functions and career responsibilities. A good Carpenter will state that he is a Industrial Sociologist or Development Economist. In fact, once a smart student graduate from high school without pursuing his future career in a University, College or Vocational programs, he will be the best Liberian Politician and will start suggesting or requesting that he becomes “President” for the country or something beyond his imaginations.

It is cultural and customary African society that respect one man one wife or a traditional practice with one man and many wives. It is a culture that doesn’t support an odd or deviant practices when it comes to marriage. A society where employees are so afraid to get out of job(s) for doing or practicing the right thing at public or private places of work. Unfortunately, it is a country where there are some comrades who are agents of provocations and annoyance in spite of your good relationship with them. Indeed, Liberia is a unitary nation-state with respectability and undeveloped.

However, Professor Amos C. Sawyer, former interim President described the country in his paper, 2004: “Social Capital, Survival Strategies and their strategies and their implications for post-conflict governance in Liberia”: Liberia’s political order emerged as an over-centralized and predatory order that turned increasingly repressive as pressures for inclusion intensified over the years.

It ultimately collapsed under such pressures as external support declined with the ending of the Cold War. Liberia was an outgrowth of the American antebellum initiative designed to resolve the predicaments of slavery through colonization. It declared its independence in 1847 and established a system of government at the core of which was a settler-dominated oligarchy that functioned as a patrimonial order with an expanding clientelist network that, over years of state building, ran deep into surrounding indigenous African communities.

The major instruments of state power were an expansive bureaucracy that ruled indigenous communities and a military force that ensured order. With both under the direct control of the president, Liberia’s political order evolved for a century with powers concentrated in the hands of the president, despite formal laws that established a legislature and a judiciary as independent and co-equal bodies. Ports of entry levies, head and hut taxes and other exactions including extensive labor recruitments were both sources of revenue as well as instrumentalities of control established by the government and used by the president.

Interestingly, professor Mary H. Moran, in her book, 2008: Liberia: The Violence of Democracy described Liberia through a real critical or radical scenario in this fashion illustrated: “Liberia resting on the great bulge of West Africa was never formally colonized by a European power; its pseudo-colonial  “mother country” is the United States itself; a nation predicated on individual liberty which at the same time by chattel slavery.  condoned and profited by chattel slavery. Although frequently characterized in the western media as founded by freed slaves, Liberia was initially imagined as a haven for free people of color, descendants of Africans who by luck, birth, or their own efforts were no longer legally enslaved.  The country was literally the philanthropic project of a private, white, benevolent organization founded in 1816″.

For the distinguished author, Jeremy I. Levitt, 2005 in his book: The Evolution of Deadly Conflict in Liberia: From Paternaltarianism to State Collapse. Mr. Levitt, described “Liberia as an aberration and an archetype in the African context, its political history is unique, yet its contemporary record is typical of other African states.

Furthermore, however, for professor Fred Van der Kraij of University of Liberia’s Economics Department in the 80s, my best Dutch Friend, described Liberia as the oldest independent republic in Africa. Yet few people could have pointed out this west African country on the map before the outbreak of the Ebola epidemic in 2014.

Ten, Twenty years earlier Liberia also dominated the international headlines because of the civil wars raging in the country, horrific even by African standards. The inhabitants of ports around the world regularly see ships coming and going that fly the Liberian flag. Liberia once even had the largest merchant fleet in the world, at least on paper. Just as it has long had the world’s largest rubber plantation, and was once the biggest exporter of iron ore in Africa and ranked third in the world”.

Thus as it regards, this aspect of the work, all the authors stressed the origin of this nation-state and its activities . I will now underscored the excerpts of the President’s speech, my analysis, Strategic Components of the President Speech, Achievements, Conclusion and way forward.

Strategic components of the President’s Speech

Some times in our life there are situation(s) we admire or appreciate especially those aspects of life that can build your consciousness in a more productive way . Realistically, the President of Liberia, Her Excellency Ellen Johnson Sirleaf is well schooled and she laid those issues down without mincing her words in professional ways.  I know somebody who will read this article will just state that I have been paid to this analysis but the fact is that our children and the future generations must consider formal education with high moral standard of life must be the way to enhance our development.

Amendment of the constitution:

Excerpt of the President Sirleaf Speech: Honorable Legislators: We would also like to remind you of important matters that are still before you. They include: those pertaining to the Amendment of the Constitution of the Republic; three Anti-Terrorism Bills; the Land Rights Bill; the Local Government Law; A Bill to revise the LACC Act; and the Affirmative Action for Equitable Participation and Representation Act, which would enhance women’s participation in the democratic leadership of our nation.

My analysis: The governance process of Liberia does not only include the President’s decision making but rather it provides opportunity for the other branches. Remember, there are three branches of Government with equal & distinct responsibilities. The Executive branch which is led by the President has submitted strategic amendment to the national legislature which requires enactment and thereafter once those critical issues have been passed into law it goes for referendum as defined by our constitution. For instance, it has been stated by some officials of the Governance Commission of Liberia that the Local Government Law has been passed by the lower house or the Representatives awaiting the senate decision on it.

Decentralization efforts:

Excerpt of the President Sirleaf Speech: We have gone one step further. We have established County Service Centers in four counties, through which an increasing range of public services, such as birth certificates, driver licenses, business registrations, marriage licenses and other documents, are being provided, making it unnecessary for citizens and business people to travel to Monrovia for that purpose. I will be commissioning three additional Centers in the northeast and two more in the southeast early next month. Before this administration ends, there will be fully operational Service Centers in all fifteen counties.

My analysis: The National Vision 2030 document of which I served as one of the authors took stock of the country’s progress, constraints and future approaches. In this unique document, Decentralization  is structured as one of the ways if we are to settle those issues. This distinct document emphasized how decentralization can be used to build institutional capacity. But, the National Policy on Decentralization and Local Governance of which I served as one of the authors emphasized how the country can be decentralized or deconcentrated.

Furthermore, the President of Liberia launched the national Policy on decentralization and local governance January, 2012 in Salala to serve as the policy document for our governance reform so as to enhance participatory governance in the local governance structure or the counties. In the county service centers which are reflected by the president there is a fiscal decentralization component which is the county treasury framework that is being implemented by the Ministry of Finance & Development Planning Fiscal Decentralization Unit.

To date, the fiscal decentralization unit of the Ministry of Finance & Development Planning with other stakeholders in the Ministry has structured the first annual report of the county treasury framework and it is on the Ministry website. The county treasury framework is implemented in Grand Bassa, Margibi, Bong & Nimba. The county treasury framework is a  mechanism that allows financial and budgetary processes to be implemented in the counties using the Integrated Financial Management Information System (IFMIS). The process of the county treasury framework is being directed by the Fiscal Decentralization Director, with other strategic team in the department of fiscal affairs of the Ministry of Finance & Development Planning.

The county treasury framework is supported by the Government of Liberia, Integrated Public Financial Management Reform Project (IPFMRP), Liberia Decentralization Support Program (LDSP) and technical works to implement the framework is done by the Fiscal Decentralization Unit. The Ministry of Finance & Development Planning co-chair the Liberia Decentralization Support Program. It must clearly stated that Ministry of Finance & Development Planning and the Internal Audit Agency deployed financial management officers and internal auditors in the four counties: Grand Bassa, Margibi, Bong & Nimba.

The Ministries of Health and Internal Affairs have deconcentrated their core responsibilities in these counties. It means therefore, those officers are performing the functions of allotment, correctly vetting payment processes and printing checks with payment request from the requisite entities. The Public Procurement Concession Commission(PPCC) is yet to deploy staffs in these four counties in spite of the resources that have been projected and already in the counties by the (IPFMRP).

Notably, IPFMRP is a Liberia project that is funding most of the reforms in the country. Those countries involve with providing the funds are: USAID, Embassy of Sweden/Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency (Sida),World Bank, African Development Bank, etc. It must be noted that the International monetary Fund (IMF) sponsored training for fourteen (14) government officials and technicians in Duke University, January, 2014 in Program Implementing Fiscal Decentralization in  Liberia: January 13-24, 2014.

  1. Achievements:

In spite of all the challenges, the fiscal decentralization unit with the team work approach with other stakeholders in the Ministry of Finance & Development Planning,  has developed a fiscal decentralization technical working group and the first annual report of the county treasury has been published on the MFDP website. This achievement of publication of the report on the website will enable the European Union to give the Government of Liberia budget support of intensive funds:(One (1) Million Euros).

This is a remarkable achievement for a small country like Liberia. Despite the funds, It is my anticipation that the stakeholders in the MFDP and all other governments will sustain the county treasury framework based on its sensitize nature in the fiscal participatory governance process of our country.

The fiscal decentralization program: County Treasury Framework is supported by the Government of Liberia, Integrated Public Financial Management Reform Program (IPFMRP): USAID, Embassy of Sweden/ Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency (Sida), World Bank,  African Development Bank,  Liberia Decentralization Support Program (LDSP): Government of Liberia, European Union, Sweden, USAID & UNDP.

It must be noted that the International Monetary fund (IMF) funding trained over 12 Liberians in Fiscal Decentralization in Duke University in January, 2014 for two weeks and this viable institution trained financial management officers, Budget officers with other technical Liberians in the RJ hotel: December 17-18, 2015 to start the process of the county treasury operations.

  1. Conclusion:

Excerpts of President Sirleaf Speech. Mr. Vice President, Mr. Speaker, Mr. President Pro-Tempore, Honorable Legislators, Fellow Liberians, at home and abroad: I have 357 days remaining on this journey, and I intend to make every day, every hour and every minute count, in the realization of our dreams. These were the dreams that scared me in 1985 and 1997 and 2005 and 2011. The journey has not been easy, but I proclaim to you it was worth it. I have paid the price. I have earned the stripes. It is a great journey, working for a nation full of promise and of hope. Join me on this last mile!

My analysis: Our Honorable President clearly indicated in her concluding statement about the challenges she went through indicating all her challenges in her political life. There are some people in our society that will not state realistically their challenge(s) or difficulties or even get the remorse to say the journey was not good but our President has clearly stated her admittance to what has happened over the years. Thank you, Her Excellency, Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf for your roles and responsibilities over the years. Your comments have the tenets of reconciliation. The President message should please serve as the modicum for peace and productive development.

  1. Way forward:

We have spent enough time fighting in a country that is underdeveloped and the division level among group of people referred to as the “progressives” and the settlers, indigenous among indigenous, and all the negatives vices that can break down any country socio-economic and political fabrics. It is time we concentrate on how we can develop our country and promote the leadership of anybody that comes to power in a more productive way. During Dr. Rev. Father Tikpor July 26, 2016 speech in Nimba County,  few years ago he illustrated a scenario in which he said that there was a hunter who kills the elephant and that hunter tried to put all the parts of the dead elephant in a cloth including the blood.

It was further stated that the hunter started experiencing the blood coming down his/her foot. When the hunter arrived home, he/she took the animal and put it on the sun or somewhere or on fire for it to get dry but the rats and other animals started eating the animal and some parts begun rotten. We find ourselves in a difficult world always challenged by circumstances: known or unknown situations, therefore it requires us to be peaceful and productive in our leadership. The President has done well. God is in control!

About the author

Mr. Romeo D. N. Gbartea is a Christian of the Adventist faith, precisely Monrovia Central Church on camp Johnson Road, born unto the union of Teblehflow and Yardward Gbartea. He is married to Mrs. Josephine K. Gbartea and they are blessed with two kids, Rojoe L.M. Gbartea and Rophine S.M. Gbartea.

He holds a Bachelor of Arts (B.A.) in Sociology with minor in Economics with another Bachelor of Arts (B.A.) Degree in History and Anthropology from the University of Liberia: (1995- 2006). He graduated from the University of Ibadan, Sociology Department, with a Master of Science (M.Sc) Degree in Sociology with emphasis in Industrial sociology.

He started his Ph.D program in 2015/2016 in Industrial Sociology again; the University of Ibadan is offering him a financial assistance, meaning that he is paying his tuition as though he is a Nigerian. This is strictly on the basis of African Solidarity.

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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.