October 11 Is Our Hope And Last Chance: A New Beginning


James Torh

The Perspective
Atlanta, Georgia
October 4, 2005


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I was in West Africa and ran a conference in Dakar for a project that is taking shape- building a network of Human Rights Defenders in the sub region. On my way back to Canada, I made a brief stop over to my dear country-Liberia in the first week of August and saw most moving experiences in the streets of Monrovia, the first climate of buoyant hope-the courage of our people participating in the debates on the future of Liberia. The disagreements without the flood of blood, human casualties and the fleeing of refugees mirrored a sense of civilization and significant path for a better Liberia. Indeed, there was no devaluation of human lives and the rage and recklessness that flow from it- this speaks of decent society in all humility. The haven of hope from the streets debate crowd carried out true democracy where people use thoughts and ideas to sensitize their opponents and flowering of human personhood.

Yes, as I walk the streets and visited the atti (the fula tea) shops, I listened to the debates, though look a little less technical but interesting. All the main issues, which were central to the identity and platform of supporting presidential candidates, were discussed. I came to realize and saw the red tint of hope that make an impeccably fair and democratic and said to myself before Liberia floods, the sun will shine again. This is a country for over a decade that past through painful pages of history where chaos, tribalism and warlords ran down the entire country with loss of innocent lives, wounded our public sectors, if not dismantled them and looted our resources. This is Liberia, a country that witnessed the bloodiest and tragic episode, and a devastated war where men behave like brutish beast that shook the conscience of mankind.

Conflict is not an evil in a sense of the word. It set the stage for evaluation and correction and provides a valuable opportunity for creating problem solving. In learning to manage our differences for positive change, we create an environment of optimism and co-operation leading to growth and maturity. This is why Liberia and Liberians must graduate from this poison attitude and learn lesson to move their country forward. The world is watching and the emerging trend of a new day should shape our sense of discipline and give Liberians the flexibility to rewrite their attitudes and behaviors and feel renew to response to human dignity and make appropriate use of international humanitarian law. As we clung to our hopes and prayers with just three weeks to election, refusing that Liberia will not sink again into anarchy, the burden is on us as a nation and people to end the guerrillas message introduced and preached over a decade by Charles Taylor, Thomas Woewiyou and their likes fighting for individual interest: money, power and wealth.

To resurrect Liberia as we move along the path of democracy and respect for human values is to be watchful of our national and political heroes. Indeed, it scares and worries me to death. These political heroes of our time are on the political stage trumpeting and again shouting at the rooftops of their voices for personal fortunes. They are moving with the political wind with rhetoric waving the banner of democracy. They line up culinary delights like jerk chicken to bake Liberia with their pretense of political salvation. Everybody wants to go in the government because there money is and without check and balance, good management and accountability.

Right now the main institution in Liberia is Corruption. The crux of the matter is these are the very people in positions of trust and influential in the Monrovia based government. Yet they are seeking the mandate of the people again after they have failed miserably to trust them with power. To curb corruption in our society and constrain politicians of their stealing habit is beyond our reach and imagination, and is the only game now in town-Monrovia, Liberia. The noise and statistic of over $200,000 USD that vanished at the offices of the Managing Director at the Liberia Petroleum Refinery Company (LPRC) tells the story. This is how Liberia is rotten to the core with corruption. I met an old-time friend on Broad Street in front the Ministry of Finance who after exchanged of greetings told me “my man this where we can conclude the day activities because there is no rule here to grab”. You can imagine!

To save our society from kleptocracy, the civil society institutions must be strong and gather strength and exert dossier on government’s misdeeds to force the government to change because Liberia successive governments will never reform itself. There should be a mass protest against corrupt regime that may surface this time around in Monrovia. The civil society institutions must provide pressure to overturn a corrupt government in Monrovia. It is time to halt the “watching” disease and to be prepared to initiate a process of building checks and balances in government and it institutions. The ultimate constraint on any government is the citizenry after all power is in the power and civil society should take the lead.

The writer is based in Toronto, Canada and can be reached at jtorh@yorku.ca or torhjd@yahhoo.com