President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf
We have the late great writer and literary artist Chinua Achebe to thank for the title "Things Fall Apart". It was the apt title of his seminal work that put African literature on the global map. Today, we are bold to use this title in this crucial editorial. The old man will cry sad tears for us in his grave as we evoke our pains. In Liberia today, things have fallen apart and continue to do so with amazing rapidity.
Things fall apart. Is this some sort of attempt to grab attention by placarding sensational headlines? Hardly the case. Things are indeed falling apart in our dear homeland. But don't take our word for it, read global headlines from the folks who run mass media around the world.
From the highly reputable National Public Radio (NPR) comes this headline: "Photographer Recalls How Ebola Patients Were Carried off in Liberia." The story is about a group of irate and rowdy residents invading an isolation center and turning the patients loose into the general population. Now, who has ever heard of such insanity anywhere else? But this is happening in Liberia as you read this.
Another headline reads: "Ebola Fears Rise as Clinic Looted". This comes from the Washington Post.
Fox News scream: "Liberia expands Ebola treatment centers as more airlines halt flights to country."
CNN brings us this one: "Ebola facility in Liberia attacked; patients flee"
The Independent (UK) chimes in: "Ebola patients flee as armed men raid Liberia clinic"
From the Huffington Post comes this one: "Ebola Clinic is Looted in Liberian Capital's Largest Slum"
The Telegraph (UK) puts it this way: "Ebola Outbreak: At least 20 patients flee Liberia quarantine clinic..."
These are actual headlines echoed around the world screaming to bring attention to our people's unfortunate plight. Is there a benefit for these global organizations to fabricate the case for Liberia? No, they are telling it as it is. Liberia is in dire straits. The situation is precarious and begs for attention; that it gets. The situation begs for help, but that remains in short supply. The situation begs for leadership; there is none forthcoming. The president is missing in action except for incoherent statement here and there.
The cry in the country now is tantamount to the Biblical verse, "My God, My God, why has thou forsaken me? Why art thou so far from helping me, and from the words of my roaring?" This comes from the first verse of Psalm 22.
The people of Liberia have become deserted and isolated. Countries around us are closing their borders as we close ours to them. The people are advised to stay within their homes and avoid human contact with others. They are advised to wear gloves and wear masks. But how does someone afford gloves and masks when they cannot afford a cup of rice? Isn't the ultimate aim to survive? But how is one to survive without food? The country is not self-sufficient in food production and supplies remain scarce even in the best of times.
This Ebola crisis has exposed the vulnerability of the Liberian people. They sense imminent danger and are now acting irrationally. They are becoming caged animals who now act recklessly and senselessly as their natural instincts bring the savagery out of them? Imagine people breaking into a quarantine facility and looting the premises. Can you imagine people looting essential medical equipment for which they have no apparent use? But how about looting and carrying off bloody bed linen... bloody bed linen from the infected patients? The answer is simple. These people have lost hope, nothing to live for. They have given up precious life... life is not even precious to them anymore. They are facing a stark reality: Live under the Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf regime of face death. The answer for these folks is simple: Death is preferable, hence the suicide mission. It is clear to see this is suicide, isn't it?
We have said here in this publication, and we hereby reiterate, this Ebola virus will be the Achille heels, her Waterloo, if you prefer. This virus exposed the scam the Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf regime has run against the Liberian people for the past several years now. Now, she can hide no more. She cannot continue to use flowery words to disguise and distort the truth. The truth comes glaring onto the surface: The country is broke. The country has been mismanaged. There has been a colossal failure of policy. Perhaps it is even more correct to say there has been no policy.
It has been said, "Where there is no vision, the people perish." Well, the people are perishing now because of a lack of vision from this senile, incompetent, greedy president. Again, don't take our word for it. The headlines above scream the reality of what prevails in Monrovia. How does the government handle it? It turns to the military to contain the population. There is the most serious medical emergency to face the country, perhaps the region, and the government turns to soldiers to keep people under gun point... even with direct orders to shoot and kill? Read the following for yourself:
Armed Forces of Liberia (AFL) Deputy Chief of Staff (DCOS), Col. Eric W. Dennis, has ordered soldiers deployed at the borderlines in Bomi and Grand Cape Mount counties, Western Liberia, to shoot any individuals crossing into the country from neighboring Sierra Leone under the cover of darkness.
DCOS Dennis issued the order on Friday to the commander of the platoon-size detachment of soldiers deployed in those counties. The soldiers are under orders to shoot on sight those who violate President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf's mandate ordering all borders closed in the wake of the spread of the Ebola virus across the country.
If you think this is fiction created by someone's active imagination, if you think this comes from some Science Fiction account, think again. This is an actual news story culled from the Daily Observer, a popular newspaper in Monrovia. Yes, the administration has ordered soldiers to shoot and kill people suspected of being Ebola-inflicted and attempting to enter Monrovia. So the government's reaction is to seal Monrovia off from the rest of the country, and the surrounding countries, while it does nothing to eradicate the problem in Monrovia. But where does that leave the residents of Monrovia? They are sitting ducks just waiting to expire. Just waiting to demise because they are expandable.
Why use soldiers in an emergency medical development? The answer is simple. There are no sufficient doctors or nurses to deal with the crises. (The few trained medical staff in the country are now shunning the responsibility to serve. You can't blame them. They are under immense pressure from loved ones to abandon duty because of the enormous risk. But most importantly, because the government has not created a safe working environment). So the government's response is to shoot Sierra Leoneans on sight. Perhaps the order will expand to include Guineans and Ivorians. But wait, wait... doesn't Liberia depend on these very countries for crucial food supplies? If you isolate the people of Monrovia, how will they eat? We know there are no medical supplies and services, but don't you compound the problem by creating a food shortage?
It is our belief that the government is operating without clear policy guidelines. It is not even clear whether the president is now in charge. We have heard insane policy statements from officials from the Ministry of Health and now the soldiers have joined the fray. One senior health official is said to have decried the use of cremation for dead victims because it is against Liberian culture. (It is not clear whether the statement was an expression of his personal belief or an official position of the ministry... perhaps there is no difference). Is there a Commander-in-chief at the helm effectively working with trained and competent people to manage the crisis? Are there any effective policy at this crucial moment?
We believe the answer to the questions above is simple: No. The president has lost control. Things have been crumbling around her. For now it is fair to say things are falling apart. This is no fiction. This is the reality facing the Liberian nation. Chinua Achebe's title could not have found a more apt situation to describe: Things Fall Apart.