By Jones Nhinson Williams
The facts remain that the world looks up to the United States for the application of reasonable universal standards––in politics, economics, business, governance, transparency, law and even with respect to basic living standards. Liberia, in particular, has always regarded and continues to look up to the United States in almost every aspect of life, especially when it comes to good leadership, accountability, the rule of law, transparency and basic fairness. This comprehension is so engrained in the Liberian populace so much so that even villagers in the country largely adulate Liberian political candidates on the basis of how well the U.S. thinks of them. Obviously the U.S. has used this influence for years in its historical and traditional relationship with Liberia. Because of these motives, previous Liberian administration were either subjected to condemnation, or somehow indirectly deposed by the United States. It is also a general understanding in Liberia that when a Liberian administration is not liked by Washington, D.C., it means either that administration has to fall or it is in a serious trouble, and the only thing that could reclaim it from complications is to fall in line with Washington, D.C.’s dictates.
Knowingly, that was why President William V.S. Tubman, Liberia’s longest serving and notoriously awful president, practically worshipped Washington, D.C. during his 27 years’ rule. And so, despite being extremely unimaginative, potently ferocious and economically impaired, he was much regarded by the power in the U.S. and indeed in Africa. President William R. Tolbert, Jr. (1971-1980), considered to be the most religious and prudent of all Liberian presidents, past and present, became his own man and did not adhere much to the norms of Washington, D.C. However, he simultaneously found it difficult to abruptly break away from the Americo-Liberian repugnant and apartheid–infested hegemony. The result was a bloody military coup in 1980 supposedly carried out by young infantry soldiers headed by an unknown Master Sergeant Samuel K. Doe, Sr. President (Master Sergeant) Doe, though considered to be the most economically progressive and most love-of-country leader of Liberia, had limited education and was caught up between a web of tribal elements on one hand, and sag of self-absorbed, envious, power-seeking, greedy and decisively corrupt Liberian progressive politicians on the other hand. Initially liked by Washington, D.C. during the Ronald Reagan’s era, Doe was undermined by the so-called Liberian progressive forces who used their education not to uplift their country, but to derail its progress, if not, destroyed it so as to enjoy its spoils as they do today. Our current president, by proxy, championed the coalition of those destructive progressive conspirators under the auspices of the Association for Constitutional Democracy in Liberia (ACDL), according to co-founder Jucontee Thomas Woewiyou and others.
Then came Charles Taylor, hired and used by the very so-called progressive elements to rebel against Liberia and the imbalance of the Doe regime in 1989, the genesis of Liberia’s ruin. Obviously, Taylor had serious personal faults and will drive down in history as Liberia’s most overbearing political ruler due to instructional and collaborative guilt, but in hindsight, Taylor as president, was a bit more patriotic to Liberia’s development and cared a bit more for the economic prosperity of ordinary Liberians than the current governors and affiliates of the Liberian government of today. Taylor’s singular weakness was that he focused too much on his insatiable taste for state power such that his savagery and war machinery indiscriminately victimized decent and ordinary people, including five American Catholic nuns, who only wrong was their love and faith to help vulnerable Liberians. Today, Taylor’s foremost regret is his failure not to have courted Washington, D.C. in general while in state power, and his stupidity in surrounding himself with gangsters and restrictive economic villains who had zero appetite for peace and reconciliation, since thriving on perpetual conflict was the basis for fame, power and competence.
Taylor’s obvious and dramatic fall in 2003 was supposed to be the period of re-emergence and reassurance for Liberians, and a new day for Liberia, especially when what appeared to have been a redemption political ticket materialized in 2006 under the banner “Sirleaf-Boakai for President.” That means President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf and Vice President Joseph Boakai were both elected as president and vice president of Liberia respectively on the dysfunctional ruling Unity Party’s platform and so they both should take credit for any achievements under their reign and criticisms for any pitfalls (and there are dozens) under their watch. It is therefore justified to call the Liberian government the Sirleaf-Boakai-Unity Party’s administration.
Unlike their predecessor President Taylor’s regime, the Sirleaf-Boakai-Unity Party-led administration understands the Washington, D.C.’s game and, more so, the Liberian president knows more than just the game; she is an artful tactician, at best. She understands how the pervasive international community works and its floppy points; she also knows how to tie up Washington D.C. and make it not only to like an individual, but to conform and practically venerate that person, even when he or she is a nonconsequential foreign leader. Armed with this unsavory savvy, the president turned to all of the big-guns progressive public relations firms in Washington, D.C, New York, and in most European capitals so as to achieve the Sirleaf-Boakai-Unity Party’s administration’s objectives for fame, power and wealth in a more structured, pitiless and evasive mode.
In the perception of Liberians, the Sirleaf-Boakai-Unity Party’s administration appears to have captured the thought process of some western officials by fraud, cajoling and bribery. As a prelude and using Liberia’s resources to finance these superfluous public relations schemes, the president and her closed associates in particular have been awarded basically every undeserved honor on earth---from the Nobel Peace Prize to Time and Economist magazines covers, they embodied them all. Underneath all of this charade lies a suffering nation and a marginalized people drained in excruciating poverty, disease, joblessness, abuse and neglect, intimidation, harassment, political assassinations, ritualistic killing, sex prostitution, human and drug trafficking, and worse of all, the deadly Ebola epidemic.
Several credible international organizations - from Transparency International to Human Rights Watch and even a good number of United Nations’ agencies have all reported on the prevailing double-dealing and rip-off in Liberia. Yet, the world ignored Liberians while women, children and the elderly perished; young boys and girls became victims of trafficking, and our nation not only turned into the new Panama for bogus businesses and capital flight, but the new haven for drugs smuggling and money laundry. To some extent though, the U. S. State Department has periodically lashed out at some of the wrongs under the Sirleaf-Boakai-Unity Party’s administration’s watch by issuing reports. However, these mere reports do nothing to curtail these problems and caution the bosses of the rascal Liberian empire. As such, almost all State Department’s annual reports on Liberia since 2006 have become hogwash to our know-all presidency because our leader has cultivated resilient progressive ties in the west, especially in the United States. Ties which, without any plausible moral justifications, continuously provide a shield for her administration even as it implements income inequality, evades ‘playing by the rule,’ mortgages our land, destroys our environment, and neglects our elderly, women and children to mass poverty, starvation, and more.
The irony is progressive values and principles are not limited, they are universal, but when it comes to Liberia, the Sirleaf-Boakai-Unity Party administration is shielded from tough U.S. and global reproach and condemnation, and even sanction. What this tells our suffering Liberian people, mainly our poor mothers and sisters, malnourished children, unemployed youth and vulnerable seniors, is that perhaps, the U.S. has two faces when it comes to its stance on good governance, democracy and human rights in Africa and around the world. What is the Sirleaf- Boakai-Unity Party administration doing differently from the likes of Mugabe of Zimbabwe and all other dictators, abusive and corrupt regimes around the world? So far, none.
The European-based Global Witness, over the years, has yelled repeatedly on the evil in Liberia, but the world and the U.S. paid deaf ears because, again, our president knows how to press the pulse of some of the most ‘influential’ and ‘powerful’ people in these nations by smooth talking them out, and by hook and crook. Despite these postures, Global Witness kept its promise to suffering Liberians by their latest eye-catching and truth-telling report on Liberia’s main ill: Corruption as seen in this very irrefutable narrative https://globalwitness.org/thedeceivers/ published in May 2016. The report exposes how the Sirleaf-Boakai-Unity Party administration has and continues to use the country as a corruption web by enabling, facilitating and nurturing the theft of public funds and widespread massive corruption in a cartel-style fashion, all this is happening in a small but natural-resource rich nation where poverty can no longer be categorized nor described by well-established international institutions, such as the World Bank, the International Monetary Fund and various United Nations agencies.
Corruption in Liberia and under the Sirleaf-Boakai-Unity Party rule is endemic at every level of the Liberian government, including aspects of the judiciary where lower courts rule based on affluence, bribery and social status. More prominently, corruption is rampant in the executive and legislative branches. Basically, all legislative and executive functions since 2006 are marred by bribery, dealing and wheeling, and pay-to-play schemes. Every single administrative function at the Executive Branch level in particular has a smell of corruption. From the Ministry of Public Works’ unfinished road and infrastructure projects and the Central Bank’s fiscal activities to the Ministry of Finance and Development Planning’s budgetary allocation, appropriation, revenue management exercise, and donor’s assistance efforts, we smell theft and corruption. The most gruesome nature of naked corruption under the Sirleaf-Boakai-Unity Party’s regime was the stealing of and unaccountability associated with the Ebola funds given by most donor nations. Corruption is so embedded in the Sirleaf-Boakai-Unity Party administration that even healthcare administrators at the Ministry of Health and Social Welfare elect to steal than to save lives during the deadly Ebola crisis. Corruption is not, as such, a punishable crime under the Sirleaf-Boakai-Unity Party administration’s era in Liberia. In fact, rogue and underperformed officials are not only paraded and lavished with underserved praises, they are frequently offered more lucrative positions, or recycled from one agency to the next. Others are placed on a free salary ride by serving as a chair or as a member of several of the useless and unaccountable commissions and boards of directors of public entities.
Since taken power in 2006, the Sirleaf-Boakai-Unity Party administration has caused more collective harm to Liberia, socially, politically and economically, in the long term, than any regime in Africa’s history. Liberia has become a nation that is more corrupt, more socio-economically stratified, more deceitful, more dishonest, more criminal-minded and more divided on religious and tribal lines than any time in its 150 plus years’ history. The Liberian legislature has become an aggressive mafia and deal-making setting rather than an avenue to represent the Liberian people. Some lawmakers have turned into white collar and petit criminals who represent their selfish greed rather than the best interest of their people. While one could blame a vast number of criminal lawmakers, the Sirleaf-Boakai-Unity Party administration is the introducer of this way of doing things in a country where 80% of the population is below the poverty line, according data portal Index Mundi, and Child Fund, an international organization working in Liberia to provide aid, relief and support children and their families.
According to The Borgen Project, an incredible nonprofit organization that is addressing poverty and hunger and working towards ending them, “Liberia ranks 174 out of 187 on the United Nations Development Index. Infectious disease runs rampant in the country and majority of Liberians have little to no education...Liberia’s education and health systems are both in need of great improvement that is largely hampered by corruption. The lack of health care access often leads to high fatality rates among those with treatable or preventable diseases. As far as education goes, only half of Liberians are literate, and many Liberian children in 90% of the country are kept out of school in order to help on their families’ farms.”
To put it bluntly, 14 out of Liberia’s 15 counties have no ambulance services, and the entire nation has no public library. Despite Liberia being the oldest independent African nation among others in the 21st century, 71% of Liberian homes have no lavatory, this condition is even worse in leeward counties where residents also lack safe drinking water. According to the United Nation’s World Food Programme, 1.3 million Liberians live in extreme poverty and food insecurity affects 41% of the entire population while chronic malnutrition is high. The United Nations Development Programme estimates the maternal mortality rate in Liberia at 77% and the infant mortality rate at 69.19%. And, with absolute disregard for the recent phony employment and unemployment report issued by the amateur and unprofessional Sirleaf-Boakai-Unity Party affiliated Liberia Institute and Geo-Information Services (LISGIS), the country’s actual unemployment rate is estimated at 80%, based on data from the United States’ Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) Country’s Factsheet and others. This abysmal jobless rate is occurring in a small population of 4.3 million people, of which about 3 million or 83.2% is between the ages of 0 to 39 years, which means that the country has a very youthful population that is unemployed.
According to the U.S. Overseas Security Advisory Council (OSAC), “Most Liberians live on less than U.S.$1 per day and have very limited access to health care, education, or other government services” under the Sirleaf-Unity Party government. Childhood malnutrition is high with 39% of children under five stunted, 86% of children 6-23 months anemic and 53% deficient in vitamin A. The high rates of preventable disease as well as early mortality and poor nutrition levels not only hinder economic growth, it also negatively affects development, including the possibilities for community rehabilitation and revitalization, according to the U.S. National Institute of Health’s (NIH) Liberia: Health Sector Needs Assessment. Former U.S. secretary of state, Condi Rice, alluded to Liberian women as the most deprived when she served as guest speaker in Eastern Europe where women there complained about poverty and hardship.
With a goal of passing many fraudulent actions and to have many ill-intention and corrupt officials confirmed, organized and rampant corruption in the Liberian legislature was nurtured, if not started, by the Liberian presidency. In a scandalous and telling recording, former Senator Clarice A. Jah (Liberty Party, Margibi) then chair of Liberian Senate’s Standing Committee on the Executive, disclosed to news outlets that “the President had used her on many occasions to lobby with colleagues to get appointees, including then Central Bank of Liberia Governor Mills Jones, confirmed. The former lawmaker disclosed that the President’s intervention at one time helped her to receive a US$5,000 gratuity from then Central Bank Governor Mills Jones for her (Jah's) role in helping to get the Governor confirmed by the Liberian Senate,” as revealed in the Liberia Airport Corruption Click - Senator Clarice Jah - Video ... and the Liberia Airport Corruption Click - Senator Clarice Jah - YouTube which detailed these sequences. Moreover, the rapid and over-participation of the president’s closed and external family members, loyalists and friends in the affairs of government exacerbated the entire corruption quagmire under the Sirleaf-Boakai-Unity Party’s administration. Furthermore, the president permitted the unreasonable increase of wages and per diems for her inner circles/officials, many of them her ‘god-sons’ and ‘god-daughters,’ with some earning as high as US$20,000 per month in addition to lawmakers who earn around US$12,000 per month. This is all occurring in a nation with a struggling GDP rate, perpetual inflation, massive unemployment, food insecurity, poor and deplorable road network, and deplorable healthcare and education sectors.
The reality in Liberia is that we have a two-tier government: Tier one and Tier two. Tier one led by the president and the vice president and tier two led by the same president and a de-facto prime minister, with the ‘prime minister’ being more powerful than the vice president. First and foremost, the problem in this furnace is that this fantasy arrangement, even though it fully accommodates the president’s entire biological and adopted clan; it contravenes Liberian constitution and political nature. The president’s son, Robert Sirleaf, is the de-facto prime minister of Liberia, another son, Charles Sirleaf, in truth, runs the country’s central bank, the other son, Fumba Sirleaf runs the National Security Agency, which is an equivalent of the FBI and CIA combined in Liberian terms. Her older sister Jenny Johnson-Bernard is the matriarch of last resort while her brother-in-law, Estrada Bernard, serves as national security and legal advisor for the country, even though Dr. H. Boima Fahnbulleh is or supposed to be Liberia’s actual national security adviser. Isn’t this a real modern day complication? Even the great United States does not have two national security advisors. Liberia, which is not even a sub-regional a superpower, does in an attempt to accommodate kinsmen and women.
The clan members listed above are in addition to the president niece, Ciatta Bishop, who serves as head of the nation’s agency responsible for State Enterprises, and a nephew, Varney Sirleaf, is the principal deputy minister of internal affairs. Prior, the president’s cousin, Abdulai Johnson, who resigned under undesired circumstances, was the minister of internal affairs. Then in the private sector, another son, James Sirleaf, runs family owned banks, insurance intermediations and other financial instruments. And, according James himself, his business annual turnover tops US$50 million dollars as per an email he sent to me threatening me to stop advocating for poor and suffering Liberians. These are not the only commandeering for the clan. Aures, a lucrative gold mining concession in Grand Cape Mount County in western Liberia which is headed by Debar Allen, is also owned by the clan through its patriarch and brother of the president, J. Carney Johnson (Liberia’s de-facto minister of land and mines) and his partner Niles Hemlbolt, an American. Hemlboldt once worked for CITI Bank branch in Liberia before returning to the United States years ago to open the defunct Equator Bank, a bank in which President Sirleaf once served in as a senior vice president while living in the United States. A read of all these indicate that the clan controls everything in Liberia––from political power and economic authority to national security and social influence.
These are exactly the misplaced aggressions used by some lawmakers for stealing their share from the pad of Liberia’s resources. These lawmakers that include obviously the speaker of the House of Representative, who not only hailed from the same tribe and party with the president, but is notorious for corruption allegations, incompetence and deception, seem to believe that theft of public funds is a right. Under that illusion, they take Liberians for a ride in many respects, from reaping millions in salaries and annual budgets to selling legislative votes on concessionary agreements and more. Here is the shameful part. The speaker’s annual appropriation is about a million plus dollars. That amount far exceeds the combined annual wages of all public schools teachers in Liberia. The president pro temp of the Liberian senate’s annual appropriation is more than a million dollars, and that too far exceeds the combined annual wages of all medical doctors and nurses in Liberia. The vice president’s annual appropriation is estimated at a little more than 3 million dollars. That represents more than the combined annual wages of all medical doctors, nurses, and teachers in the country. In addition, our police and immigration officers are underpaid, our military, which has come out as a pride to post war Liberia, is also underpaid.
Putting all of these together reveals that the Sirleaf-Boakai-Unity Party administration in Liberia is not only the most organized and corrupt regime on planet earth, it has also translated Liberia into the marathon center of favoritism, nepotism, hegemony, deceit, cover-ups, vengeance, stubbornness, hypocrisy, and calculated crimes––from white collar and dark collar crimes to petit and viciously criminal acts. At the height of all these is a limitless greed for wealth, power and fame. Yet, Liberians have not seen any forceful reproach or condemnation from the United States. Besides, most Liberians believe that powerful forces in U.S. politics continue to provide a global platform for the legitimacy of the corrupt and abusive Liberian presidency. This has emboldened the Liberian presidency to abuse power more and to subjugate millions of Liberians to a manufactured economic hardship as well as in untold and undeserved poverty.
The Liberian government goes after perceived political rivals and critics with hate and force than it does with those who embezzled millions of the Liberian people’s wealth. Our prisons are filled with unemployed youth who are forced to engage in survival crimes than those who stole our country’s resources and mortgaged our rights to rogue investors that disregard international corrupt practice acts and fair business standards. The Liberian rogues who are associated with this government are now the political and wealthy celebrities since they can openly use stolen wealth to buy votes from a starving population as well as fund their political campaigns for all elected positions, from the legislature to the presidency. In addition, our country has no credible opposition. Many in the opposition are either job seekers or money chasers. Given jobs or stolen wealth, they compromise our people and their own character and integrity, especially in a time when character counts and integrity matters in leadership.
It is time that those who continue to shield this corrupt and inept Liberian regime stop! Liberian mothers, abused and neglected girls and youth are requesting the full attention and position of United States’ 2016 presidential candidates on the greed, abuse and corruption in Liberia so that, once again, Liberians can have faith in America’s global leadership, value and principles. To all Liberians, we have to stand and oppose the greed, selfishness and callous demonstration of heartless manipulation, even if it means to our death. Enough is enough! We must speak up and speak out and protest peacefully and lawfully to demand the immediate resignation and investigation of all those implicated in the Global Witness’s corruption scandal, because if we don’t this again will go away just like how past and previous corruption allegations and murder cases did. We don’t have any faith and trust in the Sirleaf-Boakai-Unity Party administration to halt and address corruption and theft of public funds since the entire regime is a part of the process.