By P. Nimely-Sie Tuon
It has never happen before in Liberia for a national event approved to be held in one part of the country for the venue to be changed. Not because of a natural disaster, or a threat of a nuclear bomb. However, it happened. The 2014 Liberia’s Independence Day festivities that were destined to be held in two of Liberia’s under-developed counties, Grand Kru and Sinoe Counties, have been cancelled due to what has mounted to a total failure, dereliction of duty, deep insensitivity and a lack of respect for the people in these counties by Madam Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, her government and her cohorts in the legislative caucuses of these counties in the Liberian Legislature.
In announcing this shameful move by the Sirleaf government, former NPFL rebel stalwart, Lewis Browne, Minister of Information, said that President Sirleaf “Grudgingly” accepted the decision to deny the residents of Grand Kru and Sinoe counties their only opportunity to shine in the national spotlight and to be proud hosts of the 2014 Independence Day celebration. A celebration that comes with a minimum level development.
Instead describing this as a national disgrace, Browne added that President Sirleaf is not taking the decision lightly and that it was suggested by the two counties legislative caucuses, that the 2014 Liberia’s Independence Day festivities will be held in Monrovia.
Immediately what was purportedly described as a democratically held election in 2005 that ushered Madam Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf to power, Liberians from the southeastern region of the country started to sense or detect some level of developmental neglect towards the counties in the region, especially Grand Kru County. These Liberians noted that all the supposedly post-war development activities of Liberia were being focused in Monrovia and nearby counties, leaving the inhabitants of the entire region at the mercy of NGOS, some of them whose activities are often described as less flattering.
Under the Sirleaf government, Grand Kru County was rated as the most underdeveloped county by Liberia’s developmental standards. It was declared the “Walking” county due to the lacked of roads. The UN-peace keeping force stationed there called Grand Kru County, Little “Darfur,” a reference to the Sudan Darfur region that is considered the poorest spot or area in Africa.
Despite these unflattering descriptions of the county, from the early start of the Sirleaf presidency, the Sirleaf government has adopted a policy of saying" NO" to anything that will benefit Grand Kru County. For example, while Madam Sirleaf was giving the go ahead to other counties to set up community colleges, she rejected to plans to establish a community college in Grand Kru County.
Denying the people the opportunity to serve as co-host for the 2014 Independence Day celebrations due to the Sirleaf government failure to put in place the necessary preparations to host festivities in the county is another setback to the people of the county.
The Liberia’s ongoing annual rotational Independence Day festivities have always been held in one county at a time, which means all developmental dollars to make these activities successful were poured into these counties alone, one at a time despite the fact these counties have already had by Liberian developmental standards some semblance of development. Like in Montserrado, Gand Bassa, Bong, Lofa, Nimba, etc.
However, when it came to hosting these same activities for the first time in the southeastern of Liberia, two of the poorest counties with less development were bundled together as hosts, which means more than twice the amount of money used in other counties should have been spent in Grand Kru and Sinoe counties to bring the two up to the level necessary to host these festivities. The essence of celebrating the natal day of a country is to showcase proud achievements of the nation. How far that nation or country has come.
Even though showcasing Liberia’s achievements on Liberia’s Independence Day has always been a daunting task for any Liberia government. The cancelation of this year's festivities in Grand Kru and Sinoe Counties is a vivid display of national failure contradicting the widely views held by the Sirleaf government and its cohorts that the government is developing the country. We know that this is a mischaracterization of the realities across Liberia, especially, in Grand Kru and Sinoe counties. This failed attempt to host this year July 26 celebration in these counties has re-enforced prevailing sentiments among the Sirleaf government critics that Madam Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf, as leader of the country, lacks the will power and leadership to equitably distribute Liberia’s natural resources among her citizens.
The Sirleaf government greatest cheerleader about the Sirleaf government developmental prowess is Vice President Joseph Boakai, who continues to use every public opportunity to re-iterate that the Sirleaf-Boakai government is committed to the development of all Liberia. Does such commitment includes the southeastern region, especially, Grand Kru County? Mr. Boakai, who has been serving in the vice presidential post since the inception of this government cannot pretend or believe that there is a real commitment on the part of the Sirleaf government to Liberia’s development when after almost nine years in office, most of the country still lacks basic facilities or infrastructures to host a national event such as an independence day celebration. Boakai, who is rumored to be contemplating for a presidential run could be making Liberians in the southeastern region nervous regarding the developmental fate of the region under a Boakai-led government.
Adding to Mr. Boakai’s continuing drumbeat about the Sirleaf-Boakai administration bold and unflinching commitment to Liberia’s development is the ineffective representation most counties are getting from those they elected to represent them in the national legislature. A representation which can simply be described as absentee representation since most of these are bunch of Monrovia grown ups, and because they all live in Monrovia, provide them with no incentive to champion the development cause of the counties.
It has been reported that Grand Kru County senators and representatives barely act as representatives of the people, but rather as business men. Most of the major businesses in the county are for the senators and representatives, including county officials. Some of these businesses consist of government services and infrastructures designed for the people but are being converted to personal use and then sold to the people at high prices.
The role of the county legislators in the disbursement of the annual county development funds is being questioned with several millions of dollars unaccounted for. For these so-called legislators to have the audacity to deny their own people, they claimed to represent, of this great honor to host such national event leave us no alternative but to call for the immediate resignations of all Grand Kru senators and representatives in the Liberian Legislature. Their decision to brings shame on their people and county makes them un-worthy of being a Liberian senator or member of the house of representatives from Grand Kru County. This shameful suggestion to cancelled the 2014 Independence Day celebration in Grand Kru and Sinoe counties is an act un-becoming of a senator and honorable member of the House of Representatives. All representatives and senators should fight to bring honor to their people and county, what these so-called senators and representatives, Cletus Wotorson, Peter Coleman, George Wesseh Blamo, Nimene Bartekwa of Grand Kru County, brought, was a disgrace to the county and its people, as such they should step aside. Grand Kru deserves better representation in the Liberian Legislature than this.
P. Nimely-Sie Tuon
“Those who make a peaceful revolution impossible; make a violent revolution inevitable” -John F. Kennedy