Liberian Permanent Representative to the United Nations and former Information Minister, His Excellency Lewis G. Brown II, has said Liberians no longer need to fear, but rather need to hope.
Addressing the nation yesterday upon his return from the headquarters of the United Nations in the United States Ambassador said “Of course the world is watching our elections with vested interest in our peace, and growing concerns over our commitments to strengthen our young democracy,” READ FULL TEXT OF THE SPEECH BELOW:
My fellow Liberians:
I am happy to be back home, and to thank all of you for keeping the peace.
I am especially grateful to all of our aspirants who contested for various elected offices. It is never an easy thing to do. But each of you have demonstrated faith in our democratic process, and by your faith, you have made our country better.
Many of you did not win. But by your participation, Liberia won. All of you are therefore truly deserving of our respect and gratitude. In victory as well as in defeat, each of you should be proud of yourselves, as I am of you, and even prouder to be a Liberian.
Of course the world is watching our elections with vested interest in our peace, and growing concerns over our commitments to strengthen our young democracy. They understand that consolidating our peace and democracy is really a decision that only Liberians can make. They trust us to make that decision for ourselves. And I know we are capable, as we have proven time and again, to hold it within our own hands to shape the future of our country for the better. Such is the magnitude of this election in determining the future of our country for another generation.
As an important part of the process of consolidating our peace and democracy, we pause in dutiful obedience to the instructions of the court. As we do, may I urge consideration of three thoughts:
The first is that even at this defining moment in our democratic journey, overwhelmed as the public space is with negativities, we can still afford to be positive. Despite our myriad differences and the challenges we look to face, our travel together on this post-conflict journey of nation-building is proving to be successful. Not so long ago in 2003, we witnessed our society and its institutions of governance collapsed, yet again, under the weight of self-destruction.
Fourteen years later, here we stand, Liberians and our reforming institutions, however imperfect, superintending the important decisions about our future not in a neighboring country, but here, at home, in the halls of our institutions.
We have come a long way from fearing each other – bonded as we came to be, in organizing, inspiring and lifting ourselves and our communities, to stand up to and remarkably defeat a most dreaded disease which is referred to by the World Health Organization as “the greatest modern threat to public health since World War II”, when many, including the most educated gave us no chance with their dire predictions for our country, and our region.
We have truly come a long way from governing with fear to governing with care; from where the presidency managed all public powers to where the other branches are increasingly standing up in checks and balance.
We have come a long way from a restricted public space for the expressions of ideas to the unhindered expressions of views not because the opinions expressed are necessarily right but because we enjoy the right to express them publicly without previous restraints or the looming threat of reprisals.
It has been a long and difficult journey from a place where our courts came to be underwhelmed by public confidence and political interferences to one to which the public now looks anxiously to independently and courageously say what the law is, as well as what is just and right.
Yes, we are not in a perfect place. But there can be no doubt that today, we are in a better place.
Of course there are more than enough gratitudes to be shared for Liberia’s progress. All Liberians made our progress possible, and are deserving of commendations. So, too, must we remain forever grateful for the continued support of the international community.
And yet there is one amongst us who stands out to deserve our collective respect and commendation – one I have had the duty to criticize, and the honor to work alongside – who bore me no ill-will, and treated my invitation into her cabinet with the openness of a leader dedicated to work with all for a better society; one whose leadership attracted the needed international attention and mobilized the required support when our country needed it most; one whose decided restraints in upholding the rule of law and the decisions of the courts, even in obvious disagreements, have now catalyzed the return of our courts to an increasing place of public respect and confidence; one whose appointments inspire young people to believe that the future of our country is their charge to keep as she reached to Liberians across lines of gender, tribe and religion appealing to the values of our common citizenship and competence, as opposed to the merits of partisanship and patronage; one who has lifted the voices of women, and not only inspired our girls to dream but also to be unlimited in the pursuit of what is now possible in spite of their gender; one who symbolized the hoisting of the standard of our country to a renewed place of respect in the world; one who has diligently guided our cherished peace with our neighbors, and with ourselves; and one who has borne the weight of our country’s aspirations, our successes and failures, with a combination of admirable grace, balance, tolerance, diligence, humility and respect at home and abroad.
I am advised that under the current challenging political climate, it is not “popular” to say thank you to the President. But I dare knowing that truth is not always meant to be popular.
Thank you, Madam President. Thank you for your stewardship and leadership of our country. I believe that history will be kind in its judgment that because of your exemplary leadership, Liberia is in a better place to become better.
I should also thank you for the many infrastructural improvements upon which we can continue to build. And indeed you deserve our appreciation for these as well. But we had a few infrastructures including a hydro plant which we destroyed and looted in our self-implosion. What we have needed, and you showed exemplary courage to deliver, is the building of more enduring foundations for the democratic and inclusive governance of the country. Liberians everywhere – optimists as well as pessimists – must have felt a combination of pride and relief to see these foundations withstand the stress and tension of tests to which they are being subjected.
A few days ago, I returned to the country, and despite the volleys of negative predictions which preceded my arrival, I was pleased to be greeted by quiet streets and peaceful homes. It was especially heartwarming to observe and listen to both the opposition and the ruling parties, which are still locked in the contest for political power, publicly acknowledge that the rule of law prevailed in the recent ruling of our Supreme Court concerning the Writ for Prohibition on the National Elections Commission.
The pronouncement and attending joy, even if not intended to credit the government, actually confirms the settled truth that Liberia has steadily but firmly laid the unshakable foundations for democratic governance in our country which will not, any time soon, be easily uprooted. I congratulate the parties and the court for doing not just what was easy, but what was right. Together you testified to how far we have come, and especially, how matured we have become.
Evidently, what was not possible in our country years ago, is possible today. The rule of law to which citizens were grievously denied is increasingly available to all. Our reforming institutions are becoming stronger, more competent, and truly deserving of the growing public trust and confidence on display.
Surely, we should disagree on many things. But on this we ought to now agree – that we may not be where some may have liked us to be. But certainly, Liberia is not where it used to be. And even if the currency of the moment constrains a public acknowledgement of this truth, we can still afford to be positive about our country, be proud of ourselves, and be confident about our future.
This brings me to the second point: The path to the future we seek will never be free of difficulties. No transformation in human history is ever free of difficulties.
But the truth also is that the future of our country is bright. And with continued diligence and vigilance, we can be assured that we are on an irreversible course to claiming the peaceful and prosperous future we seek.
I know that during these elections, it appears that this truth is lost, as we have been inundated with a barrage of negative predictions for our country including a possible return to “Liberia’s dark days”. It often feels like rather than hope, we are being treated to the politics of fear – fear of each other, and fear of our future.
Liberians no longer need to fear. We need to hope.
Our country has come too far to be reversed by anyone, or any party. Although our institutions are still being reformed, we are too far along the paths of these reforms to be returned. Today, the Liberian air is too refreshed by the fragrance of freedom to be returned to the staleness of fear.
Individual and institutional duties including in accountability and transparency, as well as the awareness and protection of personal and collective rights are too pervasive to be denied. And from coastal shores to rural highlands, the bell of freedoms and rights now ring too loud to be easily silenced.
Across tribes, gender, age and religion, too many Liberians are today feeling a sense of collective ownership of this country. Too many Liberians – the young and the old, the educated and the uneducated – are now too deeply engaged in the forward march of our country to be turned back, to be excluded, or to be denied. No, we have come too far. And we cannot go back.
And so, I urge us to trust ourselves – trust our hard work, and trust what we have achieved together. And similarly, I ask the international community to keep faith with our country as we proudly become the model of success in post-conflict transformation.
There ought to be no doubt that the winner of Liberia’s Presidential Election will inherit not just a better country but also a freer, more expressive and hopeful people who are determined, as they have earned the right to be, to jealously protect their hard-won peace, freedom, democracy and progress. Whoever wins, Liberia cannot and will not go back.
Indeed, Liberians will continue to respect their leaders and institutions as we must. But we can no longer fear our leaders, or fear our institutions. I know this to be true because we have come to be a people ready for more rule of law, and not less – more equality in gender and more inclusion in national decision-making, and not less. Liberians hunger for more transparency and accountability in governance, and not less – more good neighborliness and partnerships for mutual development, and not less. And yes, we are desperate for more reforms to our political, social and economic institutions, and certainly not less.
Our leaders will be wise to understand that Liberians will be ready to peaceably resist attempts to reverse the gains that all of us, together, have made, and into which we are now decidedly invested. We know we now enjoy the right to do so not with bullets but with ballots.
Make no mistake: I harbor no illusions about the challenges which lie ahead. But I also nurse no fear about our future. I am especially hopeful to place my trust in our people. The promise of our thriving democracy will ultimately come to naught if we fail to trust our people, and return the national psyche to fear, and its byproduct of marginalization and exclusion.
I therefore ask all who seek to lead our people to abandon the path of fear and sow seeds of hope – seeds of togetherness, of shared responsibility and prosperity, and of equality in opportunity. After all, regardless of contemporary or historical differences, we own this country together.
I ask all of our leaders to trust the people we seek to lead, and I urge our many friends and partners around the world, to do so too. Ultimately, the future that we seek – our future of peace and prosperity – is, and will always remain, our collective burden to bear, and collective duty to protect.
Let there also be no doubt, the International community will not abandon Liberia on account of the free and fair democratic expressions of the people of Liberia.
And now my third and final thought: After the electoral contests will come the onerous duty to govern. The chosen one will be expected to lead all Liberians into the future we seek – the quality of future the Liberian people now know to be possible.
Liberians of all stripes are right to expect to be governed democratically, accountably and transparently, and that our leaders will continue to consolidate Liberia’s respected place in the comity of nations, by what they do, and by what they will not do. It is important that we do not win before we begin to reveal our understanding of these high expectations.
This means that even when tempted today to do otherwise, we must continue to act with due regard and care for each other so that leading all of our people tomorrow will prove to be an enriching experience not only for self and party, but more importantly, for the country. To borrow the needed advice, even when we disagree, as we now so often do, we can do so without seeming disagreeable.
It also means that we can criticize each other on the just principles of our claims without laying ourselves bare to lowering standards of hate, enmity and actions which threaten our peace. It means that we can lift our sights, and the sights of those who believe in us, not just to behold the fleeting moments of our victories or despairs but to imagine and embrace the future to which we, and our children, are heirs.
And it means that in victory as well as in defeat, we can choose the high road – to be honorable and thereby inspire honor in others. We can never forget that the beauty of democratic competition is the commitment to honor, and notwithstanding what we may allow ourselves to believe, our opponents make us better.
And so as we are poised to write the next great chapter in the increasingly impressive story of our post-conflict success, my faith is strong – my hope is unfailing – that this chapter will reveal that we did not necessarily lead our various parties to win at all costs. But that we were determined that Liberia won at any cost.
Liberia’s victory is just. Liberia’s victory is right. And Liberia’s victory is big enough to be shared and celebrated by all of us.
And so, true to the legacy of the founding fathers, from coastal shores to rural highlands, our country’s trailblazing light is shining again – inspiring many, all across our villages and towns, as well as those around the world who are still trapped in the jaws of conflict and thirst for peace and democratic governance – to hope again.
Long may our light continue to shine. Long may our spirits be lifted. Long may our democracy thrive. And long may our peace reign supreme.
God bless you. And God bless Liberia.
I thank you.