Ebola is not a National Fight: It is Money and Bucket Donation Politics

By: John S. Morlu, II


The Perspective
Atlanta, Georgia
September 9, 2014

                  


John S. Morlu

“WHO To Train Ambulance Drivers” in Liberia  as reported by Liberia’s Ministry of Information through its Liberia News Agency on September 7, 2014. “We will not out source” is the biggest cry in Liberia because we are an independent nation on our way to becoming a middle income country in 2030 on a 5.8% GDP growth and we will not be donor dependent in 10 years (except this claim was made nearly 9 years ago in 2006). Paradoxically, in 2014, WHO has to train our people to drive an AMBULANCE? This is more than a decade of relative peace in Liberia. I forgot, “we are just coming out of war,” and “we lack capacity,” the two biggest excuses that apologists of the failed governance system have provided time and time again.

And what is up with all the bucket donation business bonanza in Liberia? And where is all the politicians buying the buckets to donate? I know the biggest importers of buckets in Liberia are the Fulah people. But can the Fulah people import the level of buckets being donated by all politicians, groups, and political parties? And why are politicians running to the printing press to print their names, groups or party names on all donated buckets?

And do Liberians know that some of  the key requirements for Liberia to reach HIPC completion were that (1) at least an Ambulance in each district (later renogiated down to one ambulance by county), and (2) regularization of the Ministry of Education’s payroll to put in stringent controls to get rid of all the ghost workers?  In 2009, in the Liberian Government HIPC meeting hosted at the Ministry of Finance, I was the lone voice insisting that Liberia meets these requirements because they were good for the people of Liberia.

But every cabinet minister and senior official in the room were begging IMF to waive these lifesaving requirements. When I cried foul and said I will run to the EU for support on this matter, the Government through the Ministry of Gender staged a false demonstration of so-called “rural women” to say “Morlu must come down,” “Morlu wicked,” and “Morlu do not want us to get international help.” The late Uncle Tom Kamara captured the foolishness of it all on tape and published it, exposing the Government’s plot to present me in a bad light. That was December 2009. In the end, though, IMF waived the one ambulance per county requirement and off Liberia was on its way to get HIPC without performance. IMF also did not insist on the regularization of the Ministry of Education’s payroll, and now we have an education “mess.”

I agreed with Governance Commission, Dr. Amos C. Sawyer when he informed his LPP partisan in America on August 30, 2014 at a 8:30 teleconference that the health System is not alone, arguing that if the Liberia educational system had encountered the same kind of Ebola crisis it too would have collapsed. Dr. Sawyer stated that four months ago, the Governance Commission predicted the collapse of the governing system and communicated it to the President, Legislature and heads of the Health Ministry and Ministry of Education and not much was done to avert the collapse. Instead, like every other report, the President put his on the book shelf.

 

At the start of the Ebola outbreak in Liberia, there was only TWO AMBULANCES and 50 doctors, serving 4.5 million people. It gets worst. In the first and second HIPC audits of the Ministry of Health, when I raised the issue with the Minister of Health about the lack of X-ray machines in Liberia (at the time only 4 existed and only one was barely functioning at Bong Mines Hospital), the Minister of Health wrote me and said there was no need to buy more X-Ray machines because Liberia only had one Radiologist (Dr. Mohammed Sheriff) and he was appointed as Deputy Minister of Transport. And the same Radiologist is now Liberian Ambassador to Italy. Read the Minister of Health’s responses to GAC HIPC audits on Ministry of Health (2006/2007 and 2007/2008). Asking why Government of Liberia was not investing in X-ray machines was characterized as a “political audit” and “witch hunting.”

Anyhow, I wrote in July asking that we make the fight against Ebola non-political. I still believe this fight should be all non-political as people are actually dying and suffering in Liberia. From latest happening and information gathered by me, I have returned to say that Ebola is not a national fight. It has become the biggest compartmentalized political affair in Liberia. The president and her entourage of officials have led the politicization of the EBOLA fight.

Other politicians have seen the green light from the President of Liberia and as such, they too have embarked on a political machinery to build political capital. The Liberian people have once again, being left in the cold, being killed and kicked around like a football. This is just utterly wrong. I present a few examples to back up my claim that the Government has politicized Ebola.

1. The Militarization and Demilitarization of Ebola is purely a political decision to give unfair advantage to the president and her son’s senatorial bid, Mr. Robert Alvin Sirleaf. If 2017 Presidential Hopeful Mr. Benoni Urey and Liberty Party’s Montserrado Senatorial candidate Benjamin Sanvee had not gone to donate to West Point, quarantine would still be in West Point. I appeal to Benoni Urey go to Dolo Town, so the quarantine would end. The Government is reacting too much to the perceived political moves of Benoni Urey.

Just as nearly all the Ministry of Finance appointments during my tenure were not based on sound reasoning and competency but to counter-balance Morlu, it is the same that the President is reacting again just to counter-balance Urey. After my tenure as Auditor General, all those appointed at Finance were removed and sent to other ministries. A President should not make a policy on the basis of counter-acting a single individual.

From World Health Organization to the U.S. Center for Disease Control to Congolese Doctor to New York Times, they have all argued for a week that quarantining a population was ancient and akin to “plague societies” in the  14 century. The Government was adamant and impervious to opinions that the quarantines were unnecessary even after the brutal killing of Shaki Kamara and wounding of several unarmed poor Liberians by the ruthless Armed Forces of Liberia. It took the appearance of Benoni Urey with donated rice on August 29, 2014 for the Government to lift the quarantine on August 30, 2014, less than 48 hours after Benoni Urey’s visit to the 60,000 people stronghold West Point. The Chair of the Task Force panicked that Benoni Urey and Sanvee were gaining popularity from the angry quarantined population.

Former Chairman of NOCAL and the son of the President, Mr. Robert Sirleaf wrote and circulated widely a press statement that he was leaving Liberia for Europe and America to “lobby” for Ebola support. This was an unnecessary promotion that is not supported by the facts. Mr. Sirleaf left Liberia to participate in the final discussions that is being held in London for the sale of the 4 oil blocks. He went to join NOCAL Chairman and President Legal Advisor, Cllr. Seward Cooper, who was excused from the one week ultimatum for all government officials to return to Liberia. Why Mr. Sirleaf, who said he had resigned from NOCAL, takes such advantage of the Ebola problem?

Some of us have been in the international community longer than Mr. Sirleaf. America and Europe do not listen to President Sons acting as envoys. America and Europe belief is in institution, not individuals. America and Europe are not Kuwait. Where is the Minister of Finance, Minister of Health or Minister of Foreign Affairs? But we like to see the list of officials in Europe and America who Mr. Sirleaf came to meet with. I am in the Washington DC metro and feel well connected to be in the know.

Adding on the politicization, government agencies are getting on the donation bandwagon. The current media fanfare carried by the President of NOCAL and the Deputy Minister of Finance regarding NOCAL donation of $150,000 to Ebola is a case in point. LPRC has also done same, like so many taxpayers owned and run government corporations. The $150,000 donated by NOCAL is not Dr. Randolph AKW McClain’s personal funds, but he is trying to get a political gain from it. 

These public corporations, which are wholly owned by Liberian taxpayers, have continued the long standing historical bad governance of donating public funds as though they were private companies like Ecobank or a privately non-for profit organizations. All of these bad governance practices have continued without much comment from the Governance Commission of Liberia headed by Dr. Amos Sawyer. Every reasonable person, Liberians and international partners, believe that Ebola is a symptom of the corruption induced bad governance in Liberia. It is true that Ebola did not start in Liberia but the rate at which it has spread and the inability of the Government to deal with it sends a clear and convincing message that the failure to contain the spread is a lack of capacity, created by continued corruption. Foreign Policy Magazine put it bluntly that “the cure for Ebola is accountability.”

2. Because of the Chair of the Task force (also President of Liberia) and her officials have engaged in various forms of political gamesmanship with Ebola, other politicians too have seen the need to also capitalize on the situation to advance their own political motives, One cannot blame them for it, as the “fish rots from the head.” Look at the pattern of the "donation madness," a self-promotion bonanza. Politicians and groups putting their names on buckets, ambulances, bags of rice, toilet papers, vehicles and even gloves, etc.

3. Politicians and their supporting groups are holding more press conferences than to donate a few buckets and materials than actually educating the people. Read the press reports. Unfortunately, the Liberian President and Chair of the Ebola Task Force has also gotten involved actively in the stage management press conferences. Case in point: The President attended a large gathering of people along with business partner and confidante Musa Bility to receive two jeeps they called Ambulances for the Ebola fight.

Anyone can go on FrontpageAfrica and view the large crowd surrounding the President, who saw it fit to leave the larger issue of fighting Ebola to receive two jeeps from the “Mandingo Caucus.” Would it be more appropriate that Musa Bility and two people go to the Mansion (Foreign Affairs) and deliver the keys to the President? Was the large gathering necessary for the fight against Ebola? It was not. Instead, this it is just one more evidence of the politicization of the Ebola fight. Other politicians, tribes and religious sects are likely to follow suit.

What is really sad is that it was this President that issued a regulation against public gathering and promotional advertisement of the Ebola issue. In July 2014, the Mansion sent out “Special Statement by President,” announcing series of measures in the fight against the Ebola Viral Disease.” One of those measures was “restrictions on public gatherings such as solidarity marches, demonstrations, promotional advertisement are to be restricted.” Now the very President has violated her own instructions to the Liberian people by attending a large gathering to receive two vehicles. This practice on the part of the President of saying one thing and doing something completely different has contributed to the widening gap between government and the people. There is not only a loss of faith but there is no trust in the Government to seek the wellbeing of the people.

Additionally, while Healthcare workers at the nation’s largest hospital, JFK, are on a go-slow due to government’s failure to pay salary arrears and incentives owed them, President Sirleaf and her confidante, Morris Dukuly, are giving out thousands of dollars to a newly organized outfit headed by those with presidential and tribal connections.  Case in point: The outfit called Emancipation Project (TEP) recently wrote, “we laud the contribution and collaboration of the Liberian government. Ten Thousand is a very small amount under the circumstance, however, just deciding to work with us as new as we are, is a very laudable step. We thank President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf and Internal Affairs Minister Morris Dukuly for their leadership.” This group says “as new as we are” How many new groups are being formed to get some of the Ebola money?  It is all becoming too familiar…”corruption the Liberian style,” a racket, a cabal, and syndicate.  I just hope President’s confidante Musa Bility is not using the same money provided by the Government to buy buckets and ambulance to donate in his name or the Mandingo Caucus.

4. Several people have called me to send money for them to buy buckets and donate them in my name. When I asked why?  The classic answer is "this thing is politics. Liberians will remember who donated." Can you believe this? What's up with this bucket business? More buckets are being provided but no clean running water for Liberians to wash their hands. There are instances when multiple people are using the same bucket to wash their hands with the same contaminated water repeatedly. It would have been appropriate to inform people that washing hands in the same bucket and with the same contaminated water multiple times could also lead to getting other diseases. But instead of focusing on education, there is an increasing focus on giving more and more buckets, with no clean running water to wash hands.

The so-called Task Force is colluding with cronies to form CATERING Businesses. The $12 million and $5 million are mismanaged and stolen. They are even stealing the materials donated. What kind of heartless people in Liberia? Real human beings are suffering and dying.

Greed and wicked hearts!

I wrote a senior government official this: The Daily Observer and FrontpageAfrica have reported that the president says she will not outsource Ebola fight. I think she is mistaken that outsourcing means failure. In USA, presidents appoint a widely respected and trusted individuals to handle such crisis like 911 Fund, Katrina, etc. PR firms will not do the trick. There is deep seated mistrust of the President and the administration.

Let's be sincere...domestic and now international people don't trust the President’s words and actions. Confidence seems eroded. She needs a credible public face to boost confidence. Even Sammy Doe had John Beh and Kerkula Kpoto. Like them or not, Liberians used to believe them. A large number still think Ebola is "money eating" business...hence we still have a trust issue.

And...the president picking a public fight with WHO, attacking international media on Katie Couric. Rob should lay low... It's not diplomatic protocol to announce that he is jumping over EU and US embassy officials to go to US and Europe to lobby for Ebola support. All these are not helping the President.

I believe the President should see reason to step aside from the Ebola Task Force. Even if she had all the good intentions, age has caught up with her and there is general acceptance that “she is not in charge.” At this critical time and given her age, the President should only provide oversight and do the following:

 

The real test for a non-political fight against Ebola will be assured if the President were to implement these suggestions. If not, then it would be chicanery for anyone to say this Ebola fight is a national fight. As of today, it is not. Instead it is a compartmentalized politics. I have never called for the President’s resignation. I have supported that all those who want her to resign has that constitutional right to do so. I have spoken to over 1000 people concerned about Liberia in the past month. All agreed that President Sirleaf is “too old,” and “too compromised” and “not in charge” to manage the affairs of the state and transition Liberia from war to peace, which will be evidenced in the next three years climaxing in 2017. I believe in redemption and still believe with more prayers President Sirleaf will rise up to the challenge to complete her term of office.
But as each day passes and with no ending of blunders, Liberians are moving gradually toward a direction to remove Ellen Sirleaf from power CONSTITUTIONALLY and have VP Boakai complete her term. I think Liberians should give Sirleaf one month and if she does not fundamentally change course, then the constitutional removal must be pursued. For the sake of one President, all Liberians shall not parish under excruciating poverty and deaths, caused principally by corruption.

For me, the day I say Ellen Sirleaf must resign, a move to remove her will be put in action immediately. As we say in America, all options are on the table. But I have not reached such a point. She stills has a small window to REDEMPTION.



Degan Ballayan
John, this is Degan. Your points are well taken. But your perception is your perception. Like I have said, there is no need to change the pilot in a very heavy stormy weather while trying to land the airplane. For the sake of the passengers on board, please let land the aircraft safely!! Ellen knows her days are now inevitably numbered. No doubts! To be brunt, I don't think the Liberian people would prefer to push an incapacitated blind leader off a cliff. Liberians are passive people.
Degan Ballayan at 04:15AM, 2014/09/09.
Henry Davies
Mr. Degan, your argument does not make any sense. Can an incapacitated blind leader land a plan safely. Taking off and landing are the most dangerous in flying. So it is hard to imagine how an incapacitated blind captain can land a plane. The plane will eventually collapse in the ocean and all the passengers will die.

All Mr. Morlu is saying is that if the pilot can not get capacitated, let use the co-pilot to land the plane to save the passengers from the plane crash.

Mr. Morlu does not a new pilot like an interim government. Instead he wants the co pilot. What's the purpose of a co-pilot.

You admit the pilot is "incapacitated" and "blind." Mr. Morlu did not say that you Mr. Degan did. But your solution is let the plan crash and don't use the co pilot. You make absolutely no sense.
Henry Davies at 04:44AM, 2014/09/09.
Ansu O. Dualu
Before counter arguing what Mr. Morlu has written here, I want you to thoroughly examine (absent politics) his proposal and see whether it doesn't make sense. His points are progressive, are within the confines of our constitution and they appeal to common sense!! Having just left Liberia (31 days now, thank God), I can tell you that it will be foolish not to consider his position. Why let our people to perish simply to "make this child great"? I can hear it now from all the big wigs I talk to at Keneja and Royal hotel " Dualu, U pah, U think Morlu da God". No, but I think he's was the shining spot in the life of this Administration. Liberia needs someone like him to lead us outta this wilderness!
Ansu O. Dualu at 07:56AM, 2014/09/09.
Massa Kollie
Thanks John for this brilliant article! Liberians need you to be their leader.Be assured of more than 80% of votes if presidential election took place today or in the future. You're the most trusted Liberian for president. Many people are praying for your return to contest for president in 2017.
Massa Kollie at 01:35AM, 2014/09/10.
Sam Jones Jr.
There is nothing brilliant about this article. It is John's point of view and personal analysis of the issue and is well taken. Remember, John was not truly perfect when he ran the auditing bureau in Liberia. I spoke with few of his confidant and he too had hidden things in his closet, like paying his girl friends 10 times more than his more senior employees and taking envelopes
as well. Two things stand out to me. First, that he has talked to more than a 1000 people in this past month. It means he has very little to do and lots of time on his hand as a professional. Second, last statement "...the day I say Ellen must resign, a move to remove her will be in action..." shows arrogance and a
level of self-centerness. Instead of saying the Liberian people he is saying "I." Who does he think he is? Mr. Righteous? Anyone who wants to aspire to leadership has to stop being individualistic and think team because fixing Liberia is a collective effort. Did anyone audit John after he left his post in Liberia? I have always argued that I would have more respected him more if he was paid by the Liberian government why being critical of it and standing up to the power that be. I am saying this because as Liberians we need to look between the lines for clue
Sam Jones Jr. at 11:53PM, 2014/09/16.

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