2004: The Year in Review




The Perspective
Atlanta, Georgia

December 31, 2004

As we finished the year 2003 and entered the year 2004, we did a customary inventory of the year past, and we looked forward to a new year with some apprehension and some trepidation. Being the naturally optimistic people we are, there was a great deal of optimism as well.

In our New Year editorial, the top story we admonished our readers and contributors to be mindful of was: The Donors’ Conference. We admonished transparency in government actions regarding budgeting and disbursement of funds. During the year and up to now, no story has topped that concern.

The Chairman of the NTGL came to New York and took center stage. Our friends in the international community rallied to our country’s defense. A great deal of money was pledged, as we seemed to be tackling an old problem from a new perspective, with a new team. Some were optimistic. Others were pessimistic. As we go into another year, those pessimists can now gloat and say: “We told you so”. The government has miserably failed in running its financial affairs, and that’s no secret.

The ‘disarmament of former rebel fighters’ is another story that took center stage. Would the process be tackled in a uniformed and organized way, under the auspices of the UNMIL forces as stipulated by the CPA? That would seem the most logical approach. But all of a sudden, the individual rebel forces decided that the process would be voluntary and that each group would oversee its own activities. But who would guarantee the success of such haphazard work? So many difficulties were encountered as tricks and other ulterior motives were discovered and exposed. In the end, it was announced that the ‘disarmament process’ was completed. It was called a ‘success’. Some of us still have our doubts.

In the meantime, infighting in the leadership of LURD intensified. Who was running LURD, Sekou Damate Conneh or estranged wife Aisha Conneh? The Justice Minister Kabineh Ja’neh and NTLA Speaker Dweh put their political capital behind the lady; she won. But what did she win and what did Mr. Conneh lose? No one knows since the rebel factions have been disbanded, anyway.

With national elections expected to be held in 2005, the year 2004 saw an unfortunate proliferation of candidates for the top post, the presidency. When as many as forty-three candidates declare their intentions to run for one political post, to represent less than four million people, it is not an exaggeration to call this a tragicomedy in the making.

What makes it so unfortunate is that some of these individuals bring absolutely nothing to the table except a heavy load of egotism, an exaggerated sense of self-importance; conceit. With some of them, the only qualification seems to be that they were born somewhere in Liberia. Qualifications, track records, areas of expertise, political affiliation, all those seem to matter not. All they know, they want to be ‘president’.

The biggest story of the year, however, popped up sometime in April. At first it seemed a late April fool’s joke: George Oppong Weah, an internationally renowned soccer star was said to be considering a run for the presidency. By year’s end, Mr. Weah helped in energizing the process and making his bid a serious matter.

Although the Bryant administration has survived the year, so many disturbances highlighted the year. One group after another publicly challenged the interim government to step down because of massive corruption and self-interest. The Chairman almost got whipped by students at the University of Liberia when he said he was not “going to steal money” to satisfy them; they thought he was “cheeking” them. The market women almost completed the job when he showed up to pay a courtesy call on them. And elementary and junior high school students kept the NTLA Speaker hostage for a while. (Were it not for the intervention of UN peacekeepers, they could have clipped his ears). The next day, bowing to threats, the NTLA members closed down their offices for the day. All in all, lawlessness dominated the scenery most of the year.

A volatile situation developed as what was later described as a personal squabble between two individuals threatened to return the country to war. Some called it a potential conflicted between “Christians and Muslims”. Mosques and churches were burnt down and quite a few lost their lives. The UNMIL peacekeepers saved the day. Again.

It was during such a tragic period that the nation missed the kind presence and wisdom of Archbishop Michael Francis. He fell ill after suffering a stroke. But he will always be remembered as a champion. He fought for liberty, justice and equality for all.. The people of Liberia will miss the drum major for peace. He fought for John and Mary Public.

By all accounts, there is much left to be done to get us back on track. It is a sad testament that corruption is still as rampant in Liberia as ever. It is even sadder that so many people are more and more willing to settle their differences by violent confrontation. Have we forgotten where we were just a few months ago when we were begging the international community to intervene and deliver us from our selves?

Although it is obvious that the Bryant government has failed to live up to expectation, we should do all we can to honor the agreement that brought them to office. There are those who are calling for the resignation of the interim government before the scheduled elections. We are of the considered opinion that such a move will produce more chaotic results than ever. We are hereby calling on those proposing such wacky ideas to get back to the drawing boards to concentrate on the up-coming elections.

This year was a difficult one in retrospect. However, there’s much to be thankful for: We did not return to a full-fledged war although there were many instances that brought us close to the brim. We must thank the United Nations for providing us the service of protecting ourselves against each other. But then one is left to wonder, when will this crazy ride end? Haven’t we had enough? We should.

To all our readers, we say, “thank you”. To all our contributors, we say, “keep it rolling”. We wish all the contestants in the race for the presidency good luck. May the best man or woman win. In the end, long live Liberia. Peace to all.

In passing, as we say good-bye to the year 2004 and welcome the year 2005, there is a story that is begging for headlines: The All Liberia National Conference and the composition of its steering committee. What is it and what does it purport to do? Is it to be incorporated separately or operated under the auspices of ULAA? The message is unclear and vague at best. But for a conference that claims to be representing over two hundred fifty thousand Liberians in the Diaspora, very little seems to be agreed upon as daily squabbles rumble through the inner rankings with spectators having their bit to say. Is all well as we usher in 2005? We shall see. Happy New Year to all.