Reflection Party Three: Liberia At A Crossroad 

BY Hun-Bu Tulay

“Truth is so obscure in these days and times in Liberia, and falsehood is so established that unless we love the truth, we will not know the truth or find it.” –  UNKNOWN

We start this feature with the definition of history, which many Africans were taught in schools but have forgotten; we would like to remind them. History is the study of change overtime, and it covers all aspects of human society: political, social, economic, scientific, technological, medical, cultural, intellectual, religious, military, and the list goes on. From the above definition, you can see that it is important to study history because it gives the tools to analyze and explain the problems in the past and positions us to see the patterns that might otherwise be invisible in the present – thus providing a crucial perspective for understanding (and solving) current and future problems. It is the study of people–their actions, decisions, interactions, and behaviors.  The understanding of history prepares us to predict future actions and behaviors of humanity. A group of people that fails to comprehend its history will be unable to solve the most elementary problems of its everyday existence. We believe that Liberians have failed to comprehend the history of the country because our leaders/politicians continue to repeat actions that caused us to fail in the past as a nation. Let us take you on memory lane: History teaches us how complex problems were resolved in the past and what the good things that were practiced were.

  1. Dr. William Richard Tolbert became President after Dr. William V. S. Tubman, Sr. died in a London Clinic on June 23, 1971. Five years later, Tolbert was able to identify the problems for Liberia’s underdevelopment. On February 26, 1976, he called a Special Cabinet Meeting and beside the cabinet ministers, he invited the Speaker of the House of Representatives, the President Pro-Tempore of the senate, the Chief Justice, and the Chief of Staff of the Armed Forces of Liberia. When he called the meeting to order, his opening remark was, “We call you here today to inform you that the country is at war with three enemies.” The President paused and waited for this sentence to sink in the minds of all those in the room before continuing to name the enemies of the country. Almost all in the room thought that the enemies would be Guinea, Sierra Leone, and Ivory Coast. The president however surprised them when he named the enemies as Poverty, Disease, and Ignorance. It is now forty-seven (47) years since Tolbert declared war on these enemies of the country.  Unfortunately, the enemies continue to get stronger and unabated. These enemies are the root causes of the country’s underdevelopment. Until we defeat them, the country will continue to be underdeveloped. There are no two ways about this undeniable fact.
  2. The April 12, 1980, military coup d’etat: There were many reasons for the coup, but the two main ones were Nepotism and Rampant Corruption. Many Liberians were happy and exulted.  We were among those who were sad and for two days, we wept in our rooms. Many of our friends did not see or could not predict the future as we did because they were not students of history. Six months later, an American Expert assigned at the Ministry of Finance said, “During the Tolbert’s Administration, the door of corruption was wide enough for a Volkswagen to drive through. But now (Doe’s Administration) the door is wider, and a helicopter can fly through it.” All Presidents that have been elected after Tolbert have mismanaged the country’s coffers more than Tolbert. One President, after three years battled with corruption, which was earlier termed “public enemy #1” referred to it as a VAMPIRE, which meant corruption was sucking and it continues to suck today, on the country’s coffers.

The government has become more nepotistic than when Tolbert was President. During Tolbert’s Administration, he only appointed his brother, Stephen Allen Tolbert as Finance Minister, two daughters (one as Deputy Minister of Education and the other as Deputy Minister of Health, and later WHO Representative) and the rest were elected (one to the Senate and other to the House of Representatives). The last president before Weah had one of her sons at the National Security Agency, another at the National Oil Company as the Executive Chairman, another Deputy Governor of the Central Bank, and the sister was appointed as Chairman of the Board of JFK Hospital. Today, all heads of all branches of the government are from the Southeastern Counties and in addition, there are many full ministers and deputy ministers from the Southeastern Counties.  Past presidents did better with the appointments of ministers, almost each county was represented at the cabinet’s level.

Many years prior to becoming President, the Iron Lady served as a Deputy Minister during the Tolbert’s Administration. As Minister, she was a guest speaker at the University of Liberia. At the end of her speech, one of the students, a student advocate, asked her: “Madam Minister, is it a fact that your children are studying in the United States of America on Government Scholarships and at the same time they are on the Government’s Payroll and receiving monthly salaries?” The student was holding a file which seemed to contain documents that supported his inquiry. She answered as follows: “Those are some of my benefits as minister.” That day, some of us were disappointed. This was someone who criticized the government and provided damaging information on the government to students.

Today our leaders are not only corrupt, but they are looting the country’s coffers on an industrial level. Looting is far worse than corruption. Today nepotism and corruption (looting) have reached a point of NO RETURN.

  1. The 2020-2023 Election Violence: There was pre-election violence in Grand Cape Mount County, in District 13th in Montserrado County and in Foyia District, Lofa County, where it was alleged that two persons lost their lives, and many got injured. There was election violence in District 15 in Montserrado County; and there was post-election violence in Gbarpolu, ballot boxes were taken away.

We saw pre-election violence in Zwedru in 2020 and 2023. We saw pre-election violence in District 7, Nimba County, where the home of an individual was damaged; and we saw post-election violence in District 4, Nimba County, where ballot boxes were taken, and ballot papers destroyed. We saw pre-election violence on the Japan Highway, and it is alleged that there was an exchange of gunfire. Unfortunately, the security agencies investigating the violence have not given reports to the public on the various violence. This is very sad for the country because these were to test the security agencies as well as preparing those perpetrators for bigger actions come the Run-off on November 14, 2023.

Predictions: The three enemies (poverty, nepotism and corruption) of the country will continue to be part of our society until we can elect a leader with the will-power and integrity to fight these enemies. These enemies are the real cause for the lack of infrastructural development, economic transformation and investors not coming to the country. Reference the election violence, be it pre or post, the fact is that nobody has been held accountable for these violent actions.  We are predicting that these violent acts will be repeating themselves after November 14, 2023.

The National Elections Commission (NEC) needs to work with the security agencies and the partners (ECOWAS, AU & EU) to develop strategies in protecting the ballot boxes when transporting them to the Magistrates’ offices as well as protecting the Magistrates’ offices during final tallying of the ballots so that NO BALLOT BOXES ARE REMOVED as was done in Gbarpolu County in 2020 and in District 4 of Nimba County in 2023. If the NEC and the partners cannot provide the security, the voters will protect their votes to prevent the rigging of the election and if both parties’ supporters meet, this would be a recipe for serious violence that might go beyond control. The PEACE OF LIBERIA IS IN THE HANDS OF THE NEC AND THE PARTNERS. WE WISH TO WARN ALL THE POLITICAL LEADERS THAT IF THERE IS ANY PRE-ELECTION VIOLENCE, OR ELECTION DAY VIOLENCE ON NOVEMBER 14, 2023, OR POST-ELECTION VIOLENCE, THE POLITICAL LEADERS WILL BE HELD RESPONSIBLE.

The great philosopher, Aristotle, once said, “MAN IS THE NOBLEST OF ANIMAL IN THE ENVIRONMENT WHERE LAWS ARE ENFORCED AND JUSTICE IS TRANSPARENT, BUT IF SEPERATED FROM THESE; HE IS THE WORST OF ALL ANIMALS.” Enforcement of laws and transparent justice system are the keys for peaceful co-existence in any society. In a society where laws are enforced without favor the people seek redress in the courts. What Aristotle is saying, is that for man to be at his noblest, he must be punished for violation of the law?  When President Barclay confiscated former President King’s assets because it was believed that he got them through money from the Fernando Transaction, many government officials were mindful of their actions in Barclay’s Administration. Barclay’s successor, William V. S. Tubman returned King’s assets and government officials became corrupt again. THE POLITICAL WILL AND LAW ENFORCEMENT WITHOUT FAVOR CAN GO A LONG WAY IN MAKING LIBERIA A PEACEFUL AND PROSPEROUS COUNTRY. THESE DO NOT COST A LOT OF MONEY.


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