What will it take for us to learn?


By Francis N. Kateh, MD, MHA

The Perspective
Atlanta, Georgia
October 28, 2005


Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf
Liberia, our beloved Country is at a crossroads again and the international community and the world are watching what will happen on November 8, 2005. Are we going to repeat the same mistakes that have led our Beloved Country down the path she has followed for the last twenty years plus or are we going to see reason to change the course of our destructive path and join a community where nepotism is not the order of the day, nor corruption the agenda?

As a Liberian who has come from a humble and grass-root beginning and through hard work, determination and sacrifice has come this far in life, it is difficult to sit on the outside or on the fence and say I am going to shut my eyes and ears on what is transpiring in Liberia. The future will hold us liable as Liberians, and our grandmothers, grandfathers, mothers, fathers, sisters, brothers and other relatives that have given their lives so that we can make a difference and have a peaceful and prosperous nation will never forgive us. What will it take for us to learn? Remember the Rice Riot in 1979 that led to the loss of many lives because of Baccus Matthews and his cohorts’ narrow view of the situation? Do you remember how the late Samuel Doe was dressed-up as a savior when he took over the Country on the morning of April 12, 1980, “native woman born soldier, Congo woman born rogue” and what transpired years later? What will it take for us to learn? Do you remember what transpired on the morning of December 24, 1989 when Charles Taylor announced that he was coming to redeem the suffering people of Liberia and its aftermath which transcended to the many lives that were lost in the St. Peter Lutheran Church, Sinkor, Monrovia, the many innocent women and children caught in the cross-fire, the Cater-Camp Massacre, and others that were raped, etc.? Do you remember the famous “Octopus”? Do you remember…? Or is it true that ‘Liberians are hard to learn and quick to forget’? I hope not.

I am relating these situations that have caused the lives of many of our families and yet after all of these, we overwhelmingly elected Mr. Charles Taylor. Do we remember what happened? ‘You killed my ma; you killed my pa I will vote for you’. The results are still fresh in our minds if we are not suffering from selective-amnesia. But what is interesting is the consistency of few individuals enjoying the massive resources that if divided or used wisely will transform Liberia in to a Nation to be reckoned with in Africa and the World. Yet, the would-be Baccus, with a minimum education, continue to enjoy the resources for which our people have shed their blood. Today, the Baccus and his cohorts are manipulating the lives of our people once more for their personal aggrandizement. What will it take for us to learn?

I personally do feel for Mr. Weah who has the potential to help make a difference in the lives of the younger generation because of one or two reasons. He dropped out of school, but was able to make a difference in the world through his athletic abilities; and as a former UN Goodwill Ambassador which could have been used to help the young people in Liberia that are desperately in need of a sense of direction since most of them were coerced into fighting a senseless war and now need to be rehabilitated. By Mr. Weah’s experience on how his little education was dangerous, yet his athletic abilities made him famous, by telling his story, it could help the younger generation to look within themselves to find their niche which could change their course from hopelessness to fulfillment. But Mr. Weah has been caught in the web and tentacles of Mr. Baccus Matthews and his cohorts. Mr. Weah? Have you forgotten the spokesman of the famous Oriental Timber Company that has been accused by the UN of smuggling arms into Liberia that have killed many of our parents, brothers and sisters? Have you forgotten who tried to burn down your house on 9th Street, Sinkor and his relationship to “OTC” that was called his ‘Pepper Bush’? Remember, some of the individuals that dressed-up the late Mr. Samuel K. Doe and led him to his grave, and further dressed-up Mr. Taylor and led him down his present path. Now they have combined themselves into two types of dressers based on their past experiences with the late Mr. Doe and Mr. Taylor with a synergistic effect that are gradually dressing you up to come and dance. The end result will be determined by the future.

What we as Liberians need to learn is the fact that education has never failed Liberians, but it is the quasi-educated ones and their voracious greed and personal aggrandizement that have been the cause of our failures. Administration is a craft that needs to be mastered before engaging oneself into it. It is not a place for trial and error, or a place for apprenticeship. You cannot pick up a person from the street and give him/her a scalpel to perform a C-Section! That person has to be trained; hence Liberians need to learn that the future of our country is very vital and should not be played with. A seasoned administrator, a technocrat, and someone who understands the language of Accountability and Transparency is the one we need to entrust our country with. We have tried others and the end result has been devastation because of quasi-education, nepotism, corruption and personal greed. Do we want to continue the same trend?

Furthermore, the statement that this person has money should be the last thing Liberians need to listen to. Remember the 1997 election? “I will infuse my personal money into the recovery of the Liberian economy when I am elected”? ‘I will electrify the city before my inauguration’? Where are we today? For what I know, Liberia is the only nation on earth that does not have public electricity and running water. No one should lie to us and we listen. We need the support of the international community and our friends to help us propel the stagnant economy we have. This can only be done when the right person who understands what it takes for the international community to support us by curbing the high rate of corruption and making accountability and transparency the agenda for the day. Not only by mouth, but that person must have been tested and scrutinized by peers, colleagues, and the international community based on his/her past track records. Does Mr. Weah have a track record? What will it take for us to learn?

My fellow Liberians, this not the time to vote for a person based on tribal affiliation, friendship, and other relationships, but we need to vote first and foremost because we belong to the tribe LIBERIA, and therefore we need to entrust our future in the hands of someone who has the knowledge of what it will take for Liberia to become part of the global agenda on curbing corruption, but improving accountability and transparency. We need to elect someone that the international community and investors will trust because that person has the ability to analyze and scrutinize scenarios that will come before him or her and not only rely on advisors. In short, if we think we love Liberia, and understand what it has taken us to learn, then the right decision is very glaring, that is to elect Mrs. Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf on November 8, 2005.

In conclusion, let me close with Philippians 4:8 “ finally, brethren, whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy-meditate on these things”. May God bless us all and save our Nation.

About the author: Dr. Francis Kateh is Health Director, Anson County, NC, and a former Chief Medical Officer of Ganta Methodist Hospital, Liberia, West Africa