Ebola State of Emergency: An embodiment of Colossal failure of Leadership

By Patrick Nimely-Sie Tuon

The Perspective
Atlanta, Georgia
August 14, 2014


Patrick Nimely-Sie Tuon

It is no secret that Liberia is a country emerging from the ravages of war. A war that was dominated by deliberate actions of those who presided and prosecuted it. Such as deliberate killings of innocent and unarmed people. Deliberate raping of thousands of women and children, deliberate destruction the country’s infrastructures, especially the deliberate destruction of the various institutions that would have provided life for the resurgent of activities that the country need immediately to move forward: institutions like health and education. In other words, the enabling of institutions like health, education and building of roads and other infrastructures is paramount for the successful reconstruction of a country like Liberia coming out of a war. However, the Sirleaf-Boakai administration keep acting like the issues facing Liberia health, education systems are just emerging. The Ebola crisis has exposed their failed leadership to the point that they declared a “state of emergency” in a shrew way to hide the short comings of their leadership.

For example, in September 2013, after news broke that 25,000 Liberian high school graduates who took the entrance exam for the University of Liberia have failed, an event that immediately enforced an already deep seated suspicion among many Liberians that the Sirleaf-Boakai administration was doing little or nothing towards providing education opportunities for the advancement of Liberian children, President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf went on national radio to declare an “Education Emergency.”  Many Liberians are still pondering what an “education emergency” is. What has it achieved? The term of reference embedded with this so called education emergency was vague with no way to detect its success. The Sirleaf-Boakai administration has yet to comment on this year when 15,000 Liberian high school graduates who sat for the University of Liberia entrance exam for 2014, and only nine students passed. To blunt any criticism and reservation about the failure of her education emergency, President Sirleaf went back on national TV and radio to declare another state of emergency, this time in the health sector, regarding the Ebola virus. In doing so, she wrongly evokes emergency powers of the Liberian constitution.

A state of emergency on a virus like Ebola by the Sirleaf-Boakai administration is laughable and a complete mockery of one of the most important institutions in the country that, after nearly 9 years in office, should have been impacting Liberian people positively. Madam Sirleaf and her partner, Mr Boakai, have developed this habit or practice to declare an emergency whenever there is a clear evidence of their leadership failure. When it comes to health crisis like the Ebola virus and education, the people of Liberia don’t need some artificial emergencies, what is needed is vision, a visionary leadership. Something that the Sirleaf-Boakai administration has failed to provide. There are two avenues of concern that seem to undercut the newly declared Ebola state of emergency, if there is such. First, the Sirleaf-Boakai administration has failed to present a vision when it comes to power as to how Liberia’s broken health system, like many other systems, would be revitalized.

In other words, Madam Sirleaf and Mr. Boakai knew or should have known that the health system of Liberia is such that it lacks the capacity, before Ebola, to deal with common health problems facing the Liberian people. However, every opportunity they get, during their trips abroad, they would say to Liberia’s international partners that Liberia is making progress. It is open secret that the 2014 Ebola outbreak in Liberia is from Guinea.  Right after the news of the first case in 2014 the Liberia-Guinea border would immediately be closed. It didn’t happen until after four months later, coupled with the Liberian government being in denial from the start of the crisis. The attitude exhibited by the Sirleaf-Boakai administration from the early days of the outbreak of Ebola was to treat the virus like a terrible headache that would easily go away.


To his credit, it was former Liberian ruler Charles Taylor's aide, Benoni Urey, who first heightened the concern of the threat posed by Ebola in April, 2014 when he chided President Sirleaf for leaving the country for a trip to Europe on the heels of the Ebola outbreak. Urey too called an emergency to be declared. In response, the presidential press secretary Jeromelink Piah, released a blitz of attacks on Urey, somehow implicating Urey in the death of a young man who died while swimming in a swimming pool on Urey’s property. Mr. Piah thought, at the time, that he was defending the president.  However, he exposed another weakness of the Sirleaf-Boakai administration in enforcing the laws. Piah, in his diatribe on Urey, exposed the suspicion many Liberians have about the Sirleaf-Boakai administration: that individuals may be getting away with murder under the Sirleaf-Boakai administration. Without enforcing the law, why use such allegations as political weapon? Many Liberians are baffled as to why the administration linked the concerns raised by Urey to the drowning of someone in his swimming pool? After this theatrics of insensitive displayed through presidential press secretary Piah, President Ellen Johson-Sirleaf, did exactly what Urey called for by declaring a state of emergency

The Education emergency, Ebola state of emergency, along with failed policies like the infamous  Poverty Reduction Strategy, 150-Deliverables, Vision 2030, the refusal to implement the TRC report, dismissing recommendations from other blue ribbon commissions, refusal to freeze  the assets of now convicted and imprisoned former Liberian ruler Charles Taylor and associates, weak response to corruption, among others, amount to a gigantic failure of the Sirleaf-Boakai administration. At this time, there is one major solution that seems to be pointing in the direction to disrupt the ongoing leadership failure in Liberia. That is for the Sirleaf-Boakai administration to resign. Just to preempt the response to those who will recklessly consider resignation a wrong idea in favor of election, let me say, resignation is also part of the democratic process. In fact, it is the noblest part of democracy. It is when a leadership concedes or admits its incapability to lead, and for the love of the country and people removes itself in way of progress. It is that moment that epitomizes the slogan that is widely used by most politicians: putting the people and country first.  For Madam Sirleaf and Mr. Boakai to insist on remaining in power until 2017 in the face of their failed leadership poses much more serious threat to Liberia than Ebola.

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