“Liberians should stop fussing with each other,” says President Johnson-Sirleaf



By Siahyonkron Nyanseor

The Perspective
Atlanta, Georgia
May 30, 2006


On a private visit to the U.S. for the graduation of her granddaughter, President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf took time off from her busy schedule to meet members of the Liberian Community in Georgia.

President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf Meets with the Liberian Community Association of Metropolitan Atlanta (LAMA)
She had earlier turned down an invitation to meet with the Liberian Association of Metropolitan Atlanta (LAMA) in a town hall setting, but at the 11th hour, the President of LAMA, Mrs. Sue Yancy Williams received a call from Honorable Alexander H.N. Wallace, Acting Deputy Chief of Mission for the Liberian Embassy stating that “the President says she could not come to town (Atlanta) without meeting with the Community”.

Earlier in the week, Honorable Wallace had informed community leaders that President Johnson-Sirleaf was not going to be able to meet with members of the Liberian Association of Metropolitan Atlanta. Based on this information, LAMA President Yancy Williams had to call every Liberian and to tell them that the program welcoming President Johnson-Sirleaf to Atlanta had been canceled.

So you can imagine the pressure that was on the community leadership to scramble to call every Liberian back that the meeting with President Johnson-Sirleaf was on again. And with hard work and the assistance of Ms. Lauramai Gabbidon and former LAMA President Mabel Dargbeh Green, the community leadership was able to put together a short, but successful program to meet the Liberian President.

The rescheduling of the meeting averted a split that was already in the making. Thanks to well-placed members of the community who prevailed upon key members of President Johnson-Sirleaf’s staff to have her meet with the Liberian community in Georgia. In this regard, President Yancy Williams and the leadership of the community extended special thanks and appreciation to Dr. Walter Young, Honorary Consul General of Liberia, Honorable Alexander H.N. Wallace, Acting Deputy Chief of Mission for the Embassy and Dr. Abdoulaye Dukulé for their role in making it possible for the Community to meet with their President.

According to reliable sources close to behind-the-scene discussion, the reason behind the initial cancellation of President Johnson-Sirleaf meeting with the Liberian Community was based on the objection of her sons who said the President was going to be too tired to meet with the community. Besides, they claimed that she was on a private visit.
By some strange coincidence this was the same argument made by Liberians For Ellen (LIFE), a partisan group that was one of the organizers of the May 27 banquet in Atlanta.

What was surprisingly revealing in the recent episode in Atlanta was the fact that Liberian diplomats had to check with President Johnson-Sirleaf’s sons for their approval before a Liberian Community welcoming program could be put together. Mr. Charles Sirleaf, one of the sons of the President served as President of the Liberian Community Association of Georgia (LCAG) now LAMA in 1984.

Be that as it may, the Liberian Association of Metropolitan Atlanta turned up in full to meet with their President. The meeting was held at the Four Seasons Hotel, located at 75 14th Street, downtown Atlanta. The meeting started at 4:00 P.M., and ended around 5:45 P.M.

President Johnson-Sirleaf arrived at 5:00 P.M. and was greeted with standing ovation and applause from the audience. The meeting was opened with an Invocation by Rev. Lawrence Kennedy, Senior Pastor of the World Bethel Outreach Church; after which Honorable Wallace introduced the President. The Liberian National Anthem was sung, and the program commenced.

LAMA’s President Yancy Williams delivered the welcoming remarks in which she stated: “I would like to use the opportunity presented by this occasion to extend our belated congratulations to you on your election and inauguration as the first female President of the Republic of Liberia and on the continent of Africa. Your rise to the highest office in our country is a tremendous source of inspiration and pride for Liberians everywhere, and we want to commend you for that”. She added, In responding to our invitation you said you would be unable to meet with the greater Liberian community at this time because of your tight schedule, and that you would be receptive to our request in the future. While your schedule would not permit a town hall meeting with us at this time, I would like to express our appreciation for your response. Madam President, there are hundreds of Liberian citizens in the State of Georgia whose faith in the future of our country has been rekindled by your election who would like to meet with you. So please keep us in mind”.

Also, the LAMA leader extended words of gratitude to the Liberian Honorary Consul General, the Honorable Dr. Walter Young, “for his service to the Liberian community. We thank you Dr. Young for making this occasion possible for us to meet with our President”.

In closing she said, “Finally, President Sirleaf, we believe your presidency signifies a bright star of hope on the Liberian horizon, which will shine its light of peace upon our people and inspire confidence in their own future. And you can rest assured, Your Excellency, that as Liberians we will do everything within our power to help you achieve the goals that you have set for our common country. Again we welcome you to Atlanta, and thank you very much for including the community in your basic schedule. May God bless you and save the Republic of Liberia. I thank you”.

The LAMA leader’s remarks was followed by brief remarks by representatives of the various political sub divisions and related organizations of Liberia, i.e., Bomi, Bong, Grand Cape Mount, Grand Kru, Margibi, Maryland, Montserrado, Rivercess, River Gee, Sinoe, St. Paul River District, Ministerial Association, Lawyers Association, Medical Association, etc.

In President Johnson-Sirleaf’s brief remarks to the community, she thanked the leadership and members of the Community for their continuous support to the people of Liberian, and that “Liberians should stop fussing with each other”. She went on to outline her Administration’s 5-Pronged Program Plan, which includes first and foremost, Peace and Security, Governance, Transparency, Improvement of the Judicial System, Economic Revitalization with emphasis on Professionalism, Infrastructural Development, i.e., electricity, roads, hospitals, housing and safe drinking water among others. She also talked about the many challenges and obstacles the country is facing. Some of the challenges she referred to are: the $3.5 billion external debt, 80% unemployment, the lifting of sanctions, providing universal primary education for every child, which she referred to as ”from the street to the classroom”. She ended with the criticism directed at her, “the people say I am traveling a lot”; but in my travel, I am improving the credibility of our country that was badly damaged by the civil wars.
Her remarks were followed by a 10-minute question and answer period. A total of 5 questions were asked; one of the five questions asked was by Mr. Tewroh-Wehtoe Sungbeh, Publisher of The Liberian Dialogue Internet web magazine. Mr. Sungbeh’s question was in reference to the recent handling and burning of the market stalls by the police, and what the Government was doing about it. In response, President Johnson-Sirleaf said she regretted that the incident happened, but that the incident had to do with some conflict within the leadership of the market association; but went on to say, the Government is in the process of relocating marketers in the vicinity of VOA (Voice of America); and that the new environment will be equipped with facilities that will care for the marketers’ children, etc.
After the 10-minute question and answer period, the President shook hands with the audience, and the meeting was closed with a benediction by Rev. William B.G.K. Harris, Senior Pastor of the International Christian Fellow (ICF) Church.

President Sirleaf departed Atlanta for the United Kingdom on Sunday, May 28, 2006 for meetings with British officials.

Prior to the community’s meeting with the President, Mr. Hassan Kiawu, a member of the community, published on The FrontPage Internet website indicating that LAMA’s President Sue Yancy Williams had intended “to mastermind the downfall of the banquet organizers”. This assertion prompted Mr. Abraham M. Williams, a key member of the Community and the husband of LAMA’s President to write the Editor of The FrontPage to have the article retracted because “Kiawu’s assertion that he attempted to reach Ms. Sue Yancy Williams is completely false because until I called early Thursday morning, he did not know Ms. Williams’ phone number. And if he had called he would have reached someone to talk to or left a message and his phone number would have been recorded by our Caller ID”.

Had it been for LIFE and Liberians in the community who claimed “special privilege” to the President, this meeting would not have been held. Whatever their reason, they need to know that in these United States, the Liberian Community Associations under the umbrella organization of the Union of Liberian Associations in the Americas (ULAA), is the only organization that represents all Liberians. There exist no other organization in the U.S. with such broad base and inclusive appeal in which Liberians can relate and feel an integral part of, than the Union of Liberian Associations in the Americas and its local branches to which LAMA belongs.

Liberians need to refrain from the behavior that the leadership of our country belongs to a particular group of people in Liberia. Liberia does not belong to one group of people; therefore, the practice of laying claim to a President because he/she is from your county brings about disunity. The fact of the matter is, we are all Liberians; to think otherwise, will continue to pull us apart, and will keep us fussing with each other “until kingdom come”.

© 2006 by The Perspective
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