By Bai M. Gbala, Sr.
Bai M. Gbala, Sr.
Dr. Abdoulaye W. Dukule’ writes (www.theperspective.org, November 3, 2015) that “Liberia is at peace because Liberians want peace, not because UNMIL is here”.
“Some of the most important issues at the core of the agitation in the 1970s have been resolved. The various political movements and the warring factions all fought for the same principle . . . to be part of the political process; to break the cycle of oppression and gain lost dignity; to have the same opportunity as anyone else. All those battles led the nation to where it is today, with freedom of speech, freedom of association, national leadership open to anyone without distinction as in any democracy”.
Put differently, Dr. Dukule’ holds that some of the most important, critical for which Liberia’s political were fought in the 1970s - participation in the political process or national leadership without consideration of ethnicity; break the cycle of oppression and gain denied recognition/dignity; equal treatment and access to equal opportunity; freedom of speech, movement and association – have been resolved today. We argue the contrary.
That Liberia is at Peace . . .
Firstly, indeed, while we admit that Liberia is at peace because Liberians want peace, not because ECOMOG was or UNMIL is here, but we argue, also, it is because some Liberians, bravely and sacrificially, stood tall to Mr. Charles Taylor & his NPFL, forced them to yield to resolution of our political differences, peacefully, on the conference table (peace conferences in foreign lands) rather than their desired clash of arms on the battlefield.
Secondly, upon Mr. Taylor’s ascension to political power by “democratic election” but with declared “jungle justice” public policy, it was the same Liberians, not foreign peace-keepers, who drove Mr. Taylor and his jungle justice into exile and, eventually, to where he is at the present. Therefore, the “fragile, relative peace”, law & order and personal-collective security that Liberians enjoy today would not have been possible, because without the resilience of the Liberians, Mr. Taylor and his jungle justice would, still, be here.
Thirdly, that “some of the most important issues at the core of the (political) agitation in the 1970s have been resolved” ignores themost important, critical issues since 1847 that gave rise to the April 12, 1980 military coup d’ etat, for “abuse of power (culture of impunity, denial of vote-electoral rights – decentralization) and rampant corruption as its signature tune”. These most important issues are with us much more profoundly than ever before. Some examples:
Abuse of political Power (culture of impunity, denial of vote/electoral rights - decentralization).
Although the nation’s public policy theorists-experts/advisors agreed and admit that Liberia’s devastating under-development and “failed-state” conditions are due to the century-long unitary structure of the nation’s government, but we are told by the Governance Commission that “Liberia shall remain a unitary state with a system of local government and administration which shall be decentralized with the county as the principal focus of the devolution of power and authority (Section 1.0, page 2, National Policy on Decentralization & Local Governance, January 2011)”.
In other words, devolution of political power as defined, the right to vote in the selection of Mayors, Town, Clan, and Paramount Chiefs and Superintendents, as desired and expected by the overwhelming majority of this nation’s citizens, is not governed by constitutional provision, and that the Unitary, Central government, the system now prevailing in Liberia, reserves the right to change and/or abolish the devolved powers without consultation and/or consent of the regional constituents, the counties in the Republic of Liberia. The Liberian voter in Fish Town, River Gee; in Saiquellie, Nimba; Tubmanburg, Bomi, let alone Bentol, Montserrado Counties need not a rocket scientist to tell him/her that this has been and is undemocratic!!
Rampant (Roaring) Corruption has become the Rule
During a televised panel discussion in the US on whether Corruption Is Institutionalized in the Liberia, our answer was “no”, based on public service experience in the Liberian Government. Among others, we held, hold today, that corruption is a universal phenomenon, a vice found on every continent, in every country, society and culture, irrespective of socio-political and economic development; that corruption is, perhaps, intrinsic to human nature, a result of decadent moral behavior; and that, as such, Liberia and Liberians do not have a monopoly of corruption. But, research information shows that corruption can be controlled, reduced and, eventually, eradicated. However, Liberian Corruption resisted, continues to resist, effectively, control and/or reduction, let alone eradication. Almost every Liberian knows or is aware that public dishonesty, or corruption, has been with us - indeed incased, protected and immortalized – by the unitary structure of the government, a structure or system enshrined in the Nation’s Constitution with wide-ranging, extensive, executive power - political, economic and administrative - to an “Imperial President” since 1847.
Some prevailing examples:
Recent press reported financial collapse of some state-owned enterprises due to mismanagement and alleged corrupt practices, with managing directors laid off (NOCAL, for example); others dismissed outright for similar reasons; and still others are awaiting court trial for mismanagement, alleged corrupt practices and related thievery. Moreover, there has been record dismissals and resignations of ministers, deputy ministers and other high-profiled personalities, for alleged public dishonesty of lies, deceit and corruption, from across the entire spectrum of the Liberian Government.
Profoundly disturbing is the approximately US $5M donated for construction, but allegedly disappeared at the Ministry of Public Works. Also disturbing and disgraceful are the disappearance of some of the reported US $5M, about 100 vehicles out of the reported 300 and medical supplies donated for the recent Ebola Epidemic.
Local newspaper publishers, courageous investigative reporters, international journalists, international watch-dog groups such as Global Witness, Global Financial Integrity and Liberia’s own “Partners-in-progress” have advised, warned and written repeatedly about Liberia’s problem of roaring public dishonesty (corruption) of lies, deceit and thievery. Liberian writers, columnists and concerned citizens criticized, warned and advised change. Others zeroed in on democratic governance, decentralization of administrative, economic and political power. But the response from some of Liberia’s political rulers/decision-makers says, implicitly, “let them talk, talk and talk or write, write and write; we will continue to do our thing”. Indeed, they are doing their thing, dishonesty – deceit, lies & thievery, corruption!!
Do not take our word for these conditions, just take a tour of our unsanitary, over-crowded, peninsula, central City of Monrovia, jammed-packed with more, late models of high-priced vehicles than people. This includes all of the City’s suburban enclaves, likewise over-populated with deadly, unsanitary conditions, unsafe drinking water, do not ask about electricity, unpaved streets/roads/paths, also, jammed-packed with late model vehicles; with buildings going up everywhere and you ask, where is all of this money coming from – vehicles, businesses and new buildings? Also, visit government offices (LRA at ELWA Junction and Health & Social Welfare on Tubman Blvd in Congo Town, for example) and you will note that which we are talking about, late model vehicles, etc. Elsewhere, we wrote and noted of organized corruption andthat citizens, nationwide, are afraid to speak out because this Clique is composed of politically/financially powerful personalities and agencies of government which begins with the Ministry of Finance & Development Planning (“the Paymaster who must chop something from the people he pays”); the Legislative Caucuses (chairs the CDF & SDF County Councils, decides who gets on the County Council, distorts and abuses interpretation of the Budget Law and decides who gets what and how much of the development funds); and The Ministry of Internal Affairs, the local town & County chief, controls all.
This is a finance, development and planning monster, a classic approach to public dishonesty – corruption. The brains behind the crafting of the Budget Law (Act of Legislature of June 30, 2013) did an excellent job in creating several bureaucratic run-arounds, designed for “tire-outs”, basic, fundamental requirements for bribes and/kick-backs.
We held, elsewhere, that allocated, approved and transferred Funds to counties for development - education, transport/communication, health, poverty, hunger , etc., etc. - have, now, become victims of “I chop, you chop, they chop” corruption scheme, dominated or presided over by the same paymaster, the Ministry of Finance & Development Planning, R. L., with the other, politically-powerful players, again the Legislative Caucuses of the National Legislature and the nation’s Town Chief, the Ministry of Internal Affairs. Thanks to the newly-crafted “Budget Law” which benefits the crafters, under law, of course. Here are some examples:
Case in point, also, reasonably here is that the relationship of foreign, permanent residency/citizenship of the Liberian diplomats employed at the ministry becomes an issue in employment requirement, in the light of the discovered skillful, planned and executed scheme by which “some senior and junior Foreign Ministry officials” allegedly stole US $300,000.00 right under the noses of the Nation’s President and Minister of Foreign Affairs, the Head of the Ministry & Nation’s diplomatic “Face” and mouthpiece to the world community.
The allegations are not only disappointing, regrettable and shameful, but also, disgraceful and indict the required moral code of ethics of our Ministry of Foreign Affairs. For, this US $300K was a donation from the Empire of Japan for “Operation of the Department of International, Economic Cooperation and Integration (IECT)” of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. It is now said that the Desk Officer, Mr. Augustus Nyanplu, who controlled the use of Funds from this grant “is now on the run” in the USA, where he is a Permanent resident. Mr. Nyanplu was hired by Elias Shoniyin, Deputy Minister for International, Economic Cooperation & Integration. Hon. Shoniyin is now Acting Foreign Minister!!
Reportedly, the nation’s major Finance (Fiscal) and Economic (Monetary) Policy-making agencies - Finance & Development Planning and Central Bank – have been at odds, while the Governor of the Central Bank is an unannounced candidate for President of Liberia, with several campaign tours and full colored, full-page, press coverage throughout the country, pushing “Microfinance” (usury lending?) to the politically-connected. Meanwhile, the Liberian dollar is sinking or has sunk to the great beyond with the nation’s economy in hot pursuit; also, while the nation is dangerously, excessively dependent on imported goods & services, including our staples – rice, cooking oil, etc., etc.
These are the century-long core issues that gave rise to Liberia’s political tragedy!!