ZAKARIA: Minister Ngafuan, explain to us what is happening on the ground. You know, with the health care as the developing country, a poor country with a rudimentary health care system. What do you think could be changed to make this problem be addressed more effectively?
AUGUSTINE NGAFUAN, LIBERIA'S FOREIGN MINISTER: Thank you, Fareed. We are a small country. We have had our own history of difficulties. For upwards of 14 years we were embroiled in one of the worst civil conflicts on the African continent that decimated our small population. Now, we are rebuilding. We are experiencing growth. Now, Ebola attacked us at a very time when we were taking off, and our health system was not robust as we wanted it because we had competing challenges, and the rule sector, the energy sector and every sector. So it met us at this time. Now, we are a traditional society. Our people have clung to cultures for the ages. In Ebola environment, burial practices that our people have clung to for ages, they cannot do that because in some of our environments when a person dies, the ritual will entail that they wash the body and some family members will have to wash their faces with the water of the dead. That's part of the practice. But our people have to start to now know that the challenge requires us changing the culture a little bit.
Please read the question again, and re-read our Foreign Minister's response. Several questions come to mind: Did he really say that? Is he a real diplomat? Or you might ask, where did he study diplomacy? If your reaction is, 'this guy is a disgrace', I concur with you. He should be forced to resign and the reason should be: Guilty of stupidity. But we can't count on that from the band of idiots in Monrovia. (Please forgive me if I seem to be departing from my normal approach by applying undiplomatic terms. The situation here calls for bluntness and I'm not going to pretend to be diplomatic).
Liberia is not that huge a country. But one thing is evident, we are a country of diverse peoples, of diverse sub-cultures. I'm quite familiar with the Greboes, the Krus, the Krahs, the Kpelles, and to some degree, the Lormas. (Born and bred in Cape Palmas, a great deal of familiarity with Monrovia and parts adjacent, and four years of residency in Bong County). This practice has never been brought to my attention. As a matter of fact, I could go on record to say that none of the groups listed above practice such an appalling and abhorrent act. Washing your face in the water used to bathe the dead? This is certainly not a national custom. So who exactly does this? If some obscure or tiny group of people engage in such a primitive act, why would the Foreign Minister not be concerned about the message he's sending about the Liberian nation? Is it fair to have outsiders look at Liberia and draw conclusions about the people from such an isolated practice? Does it not matter that the so-called cultural tradition is not common to Liberians in general? (That is, if it even exists at all; I have serious doubts about the veracity of that statement).
But beside being a buffoon wearing a diplomat's hat, there is certainly an underlined method to the madness. What Mr. Ngafuan tried to do is what the entire administration has been doing since the Ebola crisis came to paralyze the nation. It will be recalled that the President and her Information Minister blamed the people of West Point by referring to them as outsiders. They were telling the world how impoverished and backward the people of West Point were and how the government knew what was best for the community as opposed to the people themselves. The Defense Minister joined the act when his ministry gave shoot-to-kill orders to their soldiers. All of a sudden, they were telling the world that the poor and impoverished people of the country were so backward, they had to be protected against themselves, even if it required the use of deadly force. The imposition of a national curfew grew from that sentiment. They militarized the fight against a medical emergency by justifying to the world that it was necessary to take these draconian measures. In other words, they were blaming the poor victims.
The Foreign Minister is now shamelessly taking a page out of the same play book. In a paraphrase, he's telling the world: 'We have a tough job to do here. We are dealing with savages of the most primitive type. These people are so backward, we need to protect them from destroying themselves'. That message has nothing to do with diplomacy but all about conning the international community into giving them money and resources to line their pockets as they have been doing. In other words, paint the worst possible picture you can and garner the sympathy of donors and then you can go laughing to the bank. This could be the most perverted strategy ever dreamt of, but we are dealing with perverted people here, as we've seen during these crises.
Again, go back to the interviewer's question. He tried to give the Foreign Minister a lead to talk about the state of healthcare in the country. But no, the Chief Diplomat has been instructed not to accept any blame. Admitting that the healthcare system is in a deplorable state would require accepting responsibility for the pervasive conditions; their intent is to deflect responsibility by blaming the weakest in society, the victims themselves. Now, what kind of perverted minds are these, you may ask? These are the kind of people that pass themselves off as our national leaders, unfortunately, they themselves are yokels and yahoos.
Had Ngafuan been a real diplomat he would have flinched before uttering those idiotic words. But a diplomat he is not. He had no idea what utter foolishness came out of his mouth; maybe his mouth was not coordinated with his brain and the gibberish simply came out uncontrollably. He was simply formulating in his mind the next lie to tell to the next gullible donor. Their basic modus operandi happens to be: Tell the international community the most outrageous thing about these savages we have as subjects and gain their sympathy, then hit them up for a few dollars. Yes, Liberia is reduced to that under this pathetic administration made up of scoundrels.
Is this so-called Foreign Minister aware of the picture he's painting of Liberia? Does he have any idea what such an image does to innocent Liberians living in these foreign lands, or even at home? Does he know the impact his statement may have on the way others perceive Liberians? Are we to accept such humiliation just for him to be able to hustle a buck for the administration back home? Does it matter not to him that he's painting a fairly outrageous and incorrect image of Liberia and its citizens? Is it fair for Liberians abroad to have to defend themselves against such silliness? These are fair questions, I would hope.
Here is what I propose: The people of Liberia should ask him to explain his response to this interviewer's question. Where in Liberia is such a practice customary? How widespread is it? What national sub-group practices this outrage against civilization? And while he's at it, maybe he could outline the administration's policy on healthcare over the last nine years, a question he intentionally avoided. Tell him we are tired of hearing the oft repeated excuse that Liberia is recovering from a civil war. The nation called Singapore transformed itself from a backward Third World country to one of the most advanced countries in the world. Amazingly, the transformation took twenty-five years. With all the international donor assistance gone to Liberia these last nine years, is it not time to show us some development instead of telling us we are still recovering from a civil war? Will they not be telling us the same thing twenty-five years from now?
Last comment: The Foreign Minister's response to CNN should make the Guinness World Book of Record for the most outrageous statement ever made by a diplomat. But that's probably because he's not a real diplomat; he's nothing but a yahoo, very uncouth. And that's what's on my mind.