By K.Y. Zayzay
July 28, 2011
For those of you who haven’t been to Liberia in years but spend all your time “working double” in Minneapolis, MN, Staten Island, NY, Providence, RI, Philadelphia, PA, Lowell, MA, Charlotte, NC and the rest of the world, and naively accept news from Liberia, you will be amazed when you read this. You don’t have to believe me, you can either come verify for yourself or do what self-serving Liberians usually do claim that since it’s not happening to me personally, it must not be true or call your relatives back home.
These are what the majority of Liberians believe and/or hold to be true and false:
Fact/True: The press is relatively free when compared to previous administrations. Anybody can get on the airwaves and literally say anything he feels. I have never heard of any secret police going to people’s houses at night because of what a person said on the air. However, journalists are poorly trained if they are trained, and are paid little to nothing. Most take money on the side to write and say what politicians want them to say. They are not objective whoever pays gets the benefit of the doubt! Headlines are usually sensationalized to sell papers and take political positions. Newspapers are now aligning with political organizations to further political agenda. Recently, the Daily Observer declared its support for the ruling Unity Party.
Lies/Politricks: The roads around Monrovia and parts of Liberia are paved or being paved. There were some attempts to pave some of the roads around Monrovia; however most of the roads that were “paved” broke apart in 3-6 months! Yes, you heard right. So-called paved roads become dirt (dusty) roads in a short period of time. The jobs are poorly done, and these roads become impassable in no time. 4 out of 5 roads “paved” have broken apart; the 5th is barely maintaining its form! Public Works has been accused of providing no oversight and being involved in corrupt activities when it comes to road building. It is very difficult to travel outside Monrovia especially during the rainy seasons, most roads lack bridges and places like Lofa and Maryland can only be reached by UNMIL four wheel vehicles. With the exception of Sinkor, Robertsfield highway, downtown Monrovia, Cape Mount and recently part of Buchanan roads, the rest of the country has no reliable roads.
Belief/Perceptions: This present administration cares more about what the international community thinks of it than what Liberians feel. The president’s biggest accolades come from the international community and not the people whom to purport to represent. Her never-ending overseas trips support this belief.
Fact/True: You cannot get the police to come to your aid after dark or sometimes during the day. There is literally no security after dark, unless of course you can provide it for yourself. Government officials usually hire watchmen and build fortresses around their houses. The so-called emergency response unit (ERU) does not respond to the public, sometimes because there are no roads leading to these places but mostly because calls are never answered, vehicles not gassed, under staffing, and a host of other bogus reasons.
Lies/Politricks: Liberia is safe. If you’ve got money or have a cushioned government job, this is entirely true. However, if you’re like the rest of the country, your security is “by the mercy of God”! Anybody in power can do anything to anybody and nothing becomes of it. This also includes beating the living hell out of a police officer in public! It is not unusual to see a vigilante gang clubbing an alleged thief to death in the middle of town at 12 noon!
Belief/Perceptions: Unity Party is trying to reestablish a True Whig Party-type government with a few “imported” Liberians, especially those from the old order or link to the order as leaders.
Fact/True: There is a whore house on literally every corner. People with clout are some of the biggest customers. It may be the oldest profession, but it is the number one flourishing craft in Liberia. Though illegal, it is openly practiced on nearly every corner. Our women are vulnerable, they live under desperate conditions, and many result to prostitution to feed themselves and their families. Some of these girls are as young as 12 years old! It has become so rampant that the public now accepts it as normal! Even Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, the President, at one point mistakenly categorized the practice as legal. The government has shown little to no effort to address this major breakdown in our society.
Lies/Politricks: Liberia is electrified. 99% of the people in Liberia either use personal generators or other primitive means to light up there areas. The government gives out millions of dollars in gas slip every months to keep its offices and officials operational. LEC’s efforts are still in its infancy; its services are from 6pm to 6am and are not reliable. Most businesses have cancelled their LEC’s service because of the extremely high costs associated with it. However, there were a few street lights put around Monrovia, but because of the poor quality of these lights, they last a few months some even go out as early as 3 weeks! Most of these lights can hardly shine. Basically, Liberia is a big dark hole!
Belief/Perceptions: The chief justice is a drunk we are not just talking about alcohol, but power as well. He’s a dictatorial hardliner who believes the post of chief justice is his birth right. He listens to no one and calls fellow Liberians “country” heathens. He’s in a world of his own and unilaterally makes decisions without the input or suggestion of other judges. He abuses journalists with impunity, uses public space (like rerouting traffic because too many cars were passing in front of his house) to suit his personal agenda and doesn’t care what the public thinks of him. He believes he’s above the law!
Fact/True: In a country where the per capita income is $400 per annum, some imported government officials earn as much as US$20,000 a month! This is in addition to assigned $25,000 vehicles, thousands of dollars in gas slip, thousands in scratch card, thousands in rental allowance, free maintenance on vehicles, thousands in overseas medical bills and routine travel to go see families in Staten Island, NY. All of this for a community college graduate from Brooklyn Park, MN to do a job that a LU graduate can do for a fraction of the costs!
Lies/Politricks: People from America/Europe have the requisite training and experience government needs to carry on its affairs. This is just a concocted move to get inept cronies into cushioned posts. The overwhelming majority of Liberians in the U.S. are not college educated, most work in group and nursing homes changing old folks’ diapers and carrying boxes in warehouses.
Belief/Perceptions: This government is old wine in used and dirty bottle not new, a new bottle will indicate that it’s starting anew. This is not the case. People believe it’s a continuation of the old ways, where one hand washes the other and each one takes a term to steal as much as he wants with the other covering up. The very top of leadership supports these tactics. Government is a chopping ground for insiders; outsiders have no chance, they can starve to death!!
Fact/True: Judges are regularly bribed. In fact some have openly boasted of taking bribes without any repercussions. Justice is for the highest bidder! The administration accepts this because it has never taken any concrete stand against such illegal practices. For this reason, most citizens don’t even bother calling on the authority in any matter they take the law into their own hands!
Lies/Politricks: Primary education is free. This is one of the brilliant, but wicked tactics of this administration. People outside the country will applaud this proclamation, but in reality, no school in Liberia is free. Here’s the brilliance: no school fees, but public institutions charge so many different fees that the amount being charged in fees are sometimes 2 times more than what a regular school fees would have caused in the first place. There is no visible preference given to our girls as claimed by this administration. Moreover, people in the interior have fallen for this tactic so hard that they send their young children (some as young as 5) to Monrovia only to sell plastic bags in crowded and dangerous market areas for predatory foster parents!
Belief/Perceptions: The administration believes the Liberian people are too dumb to decipher its scandalous and unscrupulous activities. They can steal as much as they want and “these country asses” will never figure it out. What they don’t realize is that these so-called “country” people are smarter than they think.
Fact/True: Ellen is too old to continue to be president. She’s 72, frequently travels abroad for medical checkups, leaving the countries to hungry opportunists who take full advantage by looting the treasury with impunity. Liberia needs a leader with the strength and modern capabilities to address today’s problems. Ellen lacks both! Ellen may mean well, but she’s just not mentally and physically able! On the other hand, there is a belief that the alternatives may do worse than the present administration.
Lies/Politricks: Government is tackling corruption. There has not been a single high ranking official who has been genuinely tried, convicted and imprisoned in 6 years! The so-called fight on corruption has been limited to setting up toothless governmental bodies with no prosecutorial mandate. Mind you, millions of U.S. Dollars have continued to go missing, without anybody being held responsible. The fight against corruption has mostly been lip service; it is no “public enemy number one”. If anything, corruption is married to the current administration.
Belief/Perceptions: Truly fighting corruption will expose some people who are closed to the president, so the administration prefers to allow the practice to continue rather than haul rope where rope will haul bush. In fact, some believe the president herself might be fingered in some of these illegal practices. Remember the US$600,000 that was transferred from the President’s personal home computer?
Fact/True: The typical director/manager at the Freeport of Monrovia takes home on average US$1000/day in bribe money. This is in addition to their ridiculous salaries and other surreal benefits. The managing director gave herself a 100% raise she now makes about US$12,000/month. The president publically approved! Secondly, the business climate is improving. Countless numbers of Liberians now go abroad to import their own goods. However, to truly become a successful business owner in Liberia, you must be willing to paid officials huge bribes on a regular basis or be a part of the establishment. In fact, most Liberian businesses are from hand to mouth. The Middle Easterners still heavily control the Liberian market they set their own prices where and when they choose. Commerce Ministry does nothing!
Lies/Politricks: Liberia is producing rice. There is not a single bag of rice on the Liberia market that is grew in the Country every grain comes from outside. Well, unless you want to count the president’s “rice farm” in front of her house in Congo town. I kid you not!!!
Belief/Perceptions: This administration is mortgaging the country without any benefit to the people. Any idiot from outside can come in and claim to own a company (government doesn’t verify) and be given unhindered access to our natural resources!
Fact/True: Most officials have their families outside the country in America and Europe, with no intension of ever bringing them home. They have no vested interest in the country, but what they can steal and take to their families abroad. It is not uncommon to hear some of them saying “da wheting business I bringing my children to this dirtay place for”!
Lies/Politricks: This administration has brought in US$16 billion in investment since they came to power. At best, a billion dollars have been directly invested in the country. Most of this so-called $16 billion dollars are bogus promises from two-bit hustlers masquerading as rich business people. Our unemployment rate still stands at 80%; I wonder where all this money went?
Belief/Perceptions: As long as government continues to refuse to do its job of protecting its citizens and putting the interests of the society before the individual’s, Liberia will remain as is: corrupt, destitute, chaotic, illiterate and categorized as one of the least developed places on earth!
Fact/True: Normally, government vehicle (average costs: US$25,000) lasts 9 months to a year! No bother, the official is immediately issued another vehicle. The new issue is sometimes more expensive than the one before. There is no consequence for this abuse of government property.
Lies/Politricks: Present legislators are working in the interest of the people. Most have never sponsored a single bill in the interest of the people or been back to the people who elected them since 2006, yet get a base pay of US$60,000/yr! Furthermore, most of these numskulls have never made more than US$150/month before getting elected. You will think they will protect their jobs by doing the people’s jobs. Most are too slow to grasp this concept. This is proof positive that you cannot turn nincompoops into lawmakers overnight, even after you overpay them and fit them into a cheap Chinese suit.
Belief/Perceptions: Liberia is an elephant meat; anybody can cut as much as they want even the portion that doesn’t belong to them.
Fact/True: Anybody can go to any school and register for any class she likes. Whether you are capable of doing the course work is insignificant you can buy any grade you want; this is especially true on the university level. Many lawmakers now graduate from LU with distinction. Nobody checks and nobody cares! The irony: Most fake report cards/school documents are openly made under the education ministry.
Lies/Politricks: This administration has all of Liberia’s best and brightest. Secondly, without this administration, Liberia will seize to exist and loose her international credibility! This is the most reckless non-sense any so-called responsible person can say. The concern should not be whether Liberia as a place will survive in the absence of a certain group of people, but rather how can we find and elect the patriotic group to lead us. Our society is way bigger than any one group. Let’s formulate our policies with this consideration and our state will begin to progress in the direction we all want.
Belief/Perceptions: Liberia is a free for all society teetering on the brink of chaos, do whatever you can to protect yourself, certainly government will not.
The saddest thing in all of this is that every single Liberian knows how to fix this mess that is Liberia, but nobody is willing to do so for fear of implicating loved ones or themselves in the “crocrogees” (illegal activities) that permeate the Liberian society. Most in power feel it’s their turn to “eat”, others had the opportunity and they ate uncontrollably, why not they? I could continue for pages with this, but I must go attend to my rice fields, the birds, like our two-by-four (worthless, inept) politicians, are overly aggressive during this “selection and harvest” season. Indeed, the selfish cause of the individual marches on; the people have no choice but to continue the struggle. Keep up the good work, Mr. Editor.
Foya, Lofa County