At ALJA Convention In U.S. , Kofi Woods Bemoans Liberia’s State of Affairs
By Moses D. Sandy / email@example.com
Worcester, Massachusetts- Liberia’s foremost advocate and defender of human rights, Samuel Kofi Woods, II, says Liberia is in peril; it is sick; and it is in urgent need of resuscitation.
Attorney-At-Law Woods attributed the country’s woeful situation to what he called leadership deficit. He maintained, “Our national discourse is dominated by mediocrity and our leaders threat us with disdain and the arrogance of power.”
The former Minister of Labor and Public Works in the Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf administration, spoke last weekend in Worcester, Massachusetts, USA, when he delivered the keynote address at the eighth annual convention dinner of the revived Association of Liberian Journalists in the Americas (ALJA). ALJA was revived in 2014 following 10 years of dormancy. The Association crumbled in 2004 due to internal rift amongst its members and former leaders.
ALJA is a conglomeration of current and retired Liberian journalists residing in the Americas. It is a 501c (3) non-profit organization. It was founded in Washington, D.C. in 1998 with the objectives of advancing press freedom through media capacity building. The Association is also, dedicated to fostering the principles of good governance in Liberia through media advocacy.
This year’s benefit dinner brought together several eminent Liberians and friends of Liberia including Grand Bassa County Senator Nyonblee Karngar-Lawrence. At the gathering, Attorney-At-Law Woods, declared that Liberia’s national leadership deficit goes to the core of the country’s governance. He said, “We have incompetent leaders, who have no compass to lead.” He furthered, “The nation is stranded in a quicksand and the leaders are stranded because they are clueless; and they have lost the compass to lead.”
Commenting on the US Department of the Treasury’s targeted sanctions imposed on three senior officials of the Liberian government in August of this year for their alleged involvement in ongoing acts of public corruption and undermining Liberia’s democracy, the tough talking Samuel Kofi Woods said, “Our nation is sick when it must take the intervention of another sovereign country to whip our officials and public servants with sanctions for acts inimical to their public service before they can see the need to act and honor their obligations.”
He said President George Weah and the ruling Coalition for Democratic Change (CDC) government conceded the action of the US government and affirmed the whipping by suspending the accused officials and later forcing them to resign.
He wondered, “As a nation, how can we brag of sovereignty and independence when we are compelled by another government to fulfill our duties to our citizens?” He said it took a foreign country to discipline and hold our public servants accountable. He asked, “How can our current bunch of leaders lead when citizens march almost daily to the Embassy of the United States imploring them to whip our leaders into submission?”
The eminent Liberian advocate and defender of Human Rights said the fundamentals of statehood in Weah’s Liberia have been compromised and betrayed.
Touching on the upcoming 2023 general and presidential elections in Liberia, former Minister Woods said the elections will be one of the most consequential in Liberia since the end of the civil wars 19 years ago. He said the elections will determine whether Liberia’s post war democratic experiment is resilient enough; and whether state institutions including the National Elections Commission (NEC) and the judiciary have the capacity, especially given the unresolved issues of the 2017 elections and the recent spike in tension and electoral violence to deliver a result that will represent the true will of the Liberian people.
He said the forthcoming elections are intended to reclaim the conscience of Liberia. Meanwhile, former Minister Woods has underscored the critical role of the Liberian media in the 2023 presidential and general elections. He said the role of the media in the coming elections would be to ensure that the process leading to the elections and the outcome is free, fair, transparent, and that it represents the expressed will of the people.
To achieve this, the Attorney-At-Law, recommended that the media put the appropriate infrastructure in place to enable an adequate preparation to report on the electoral process. He said the media must train, secure logistics, and network with local and foreign institutions to ensure unrestricted media access and coverage of the elections.
He said the media must ensure transparency through its “watchdog” role as the fourth estate. He furthered, “The media must serve as the platform upon which all candidates can be heard equally during the campaign and promote adherence to the code of conduct for public officials.”
He stated the media must be a forum for debate where candidates, the public and others would freely discuss electoral matters. He said sustaining the Liberian democracy is not an option; and the media must take the side of the people in the 2023 general and presidential elections.
He called on the Press Union of Liberia (PUL) and the Association of Liberian Journalists in the Americas (ALJA) to work in unison to develop a collective strategy for championing the cause of the people. “You must both decide whose interest you want to advance”, he emphasized.
Mr. Woods is a renowned Liberian advocate and defender of Human Rights. He is founder and former Executive Director of the erstwhile Justice of the Peace Commission (JPC) of Liberia. While at the JPC, he spent several years promoting the cause of human issues in Liberia and providing pro bono legal services to journalists and independent media institutions in the country. He currently serves as Legal Consultant at the Liberia Law Society.