Brumskine Declares Intention to Seek The Presidency
The following speech was delivered today, February 11, 2003, by Counselor Charles Walker Brumskine - declaring his intention to seek the Liberian presidency. The speech was delivered to the Liberian people at the Christopolis Christian Center in Monrovia.
And the word of the Lord came unto me, saying, Son of man, what is that proverb that ye have in the land of Israel, saying, the days are prolonged, and every vision faileth? Tell them therefore, thus saith the Lord God; I will make this proverb to cease, and they shall no more use it as a proverb in Israel; but say unto them, the days are at hand, and the effect of every vision. For there shall be no more any vain vision nor flattering divination within the house of Israel. For I am the Lord: I will speak, and the word that I shall speak shall come to pass; it shall be no more prolonged: for in your days, O rebellious house, will I say the word, and will perform it, saith the Lord God. Again the word of the Lord came to me, saying, Son of man, behold, they of the house of Israel say, the vision that he seeth is for many days to come, and he prophesieth of the times that are far off. Therefore, say unto them, thus saith the Lord God; there shall none of my words be prolonged any more, but the word which I have spoken shall be done saith the Lord God.
Cllr. Charles W. Brumskine
I had hoped to make these remarks in Gohzohn (Upper Buchanan), my hometown, but as you are so well aware, we have opted to avoid the violence in Grand Bassa County, which the government had planned upon our arrival in the County in an attempt to disrupt the process of renewal that has begun in our country. As I speak, armed-men are in Grand Bassa, terrorizing peaceful and law-abiding citizens only because they dare to plan to welcome me to my place of birth.
But the God of our fathers suffered these things to happen because these remarks should be made in Monrovia, the seat of our government, and not in Grand Bassa. This is not about me, but about the people of Liberia. The process of our national renewal must begin here at Christopolis Christian Center, a house of prayer, overlooking Providence Island, where the old Liberia began. I, therefore, today announce my intention to seek the presidency of the Republic of Liberia under the banner of the Liberia Unification Party (LUP), the party of Teacher William Gabriel Kpolleh.
This was not one of the easier decisions of my life - giving the risk inherent in attempting to make a difference in our country today. But when Estelle, my wife, and I considered how God has blessed us in raising our biological children, we agreed that the blessing should not be locked-up in our family. That the same God who empowered us to raise three God-fearing children is able - He is able to work through us to provide the appropriate environment and guidance for the approximately two million Liberian children who find themselves in a state of despair today. It is on behalf of the Liberian children, the future of our country, that I embrace all Liberians so that together we can build a new Liberia.
Unlike other political leaders, I am neither a great statesman nor a man of vast political experience; I am neither a great soldier nor a mighty warrior. Neither am I a great intellectual nor an eloquent orator. I am just an ordinary Liberian, humbled in the presence of my Lord, Savior, and Redeemer Jesus Christ. But I love our country, and desire to give back a little of what I have received over the years. I believe in you - the people of Liberia - and I know that you deserve better, and I am convinced that together we will do better.
Two hundred plus years ago, on this land that is today called Liberia, brothers war against brothers and the victors sold the victims and their children into slavery. Then in the early nineteen century there was a dream to establish a country - a haven for black men and women, regardless of ethnic background, creed, religion, political affiliation, or social status - where all would enjoy equal rights and protection under the law, by God’s command. Regrettably, the dream has not been realized. In 1980, there was an outburst of new hope, but the euphoria was short-lived and hope eluded us. Today, we find ourselves exactly where we were two hundred plus years ago - brothers warring against brothers, but this time the victims are not sold into legal slavery, they are driven into one form of economic degradation or another.
About half of our population, our mothers and fathers, brothers and sisters, our children, are either in exile, in refugee camps, or in internally displaced camps. They are without shelter; Liberians remain in a state of destitute characterized by hunger, poverty, disease, and lack of education. For the first time in the history of our country, parents are more educated than children. Basic public services incident to good government are not provided. The rule of law has collapsed; good governance and democratic values have again eluded us. Our country is laboring under sanctions imposed by the United Nations. Our statehood is threatened - within the international community. Liberia is referred to either as a ‘failed state’, a ‘state of concern’, or a ‘pariah state’; our nation is at the verge of virtual collapse.
We must not allow this to happen! Of course, there are some who believe that change in our country can come about only by war or some other form of violence. I do not believe that. And I know that the vast majority of Liberians do not believe that either. That is why I am seeking the Presidency of the Republic of Liberia. I believe that genuine and lasting change will come about only through the democratic process, by which the will of the people will be heard, and respected.
Given the depth to which our nation has sunk, the task of setting Liberia afloat again seems insurmountable and impossible. But it is not! Indeed, the task that lies ahead is monumental, but I proclaim before you this day, in the presence of God, that Liberia will be built anew and its people will once again live in peace and unity under God’s command. However, we must together take a leap of faith into the future. We have to desire the change resolve to make it happen. Sacrifices will be required of us, make no mistake. Of some of us will be required, our time; of some, our resources; of some, our convenience; yet of others the risk of liberty, limb, or even life. (A case in point is Mr. Momo Siafa Kpoto, a student leader of the University of Liberia, and nephew of the late President Pro Tempore of the Liberian Senate, Keikura Kpoto, is currently detained because we understand he attempted to organize an intellectual discourse at which I was supposed to have been invited.) But from all of us is required a commitment to a cause that is greater than each of us, a bond that is stronger than any thing that tends to divide us. Liberia is that cause. Let love - the love for those who went before us, the love for our children and our children’s children, and the love for our country - be that bond.
Let us together do a new thing. Through our collective effort we must fashion a national agenda for Reconciliation, Restoration, Reform, and Rebuilding - these four “R’s” of the new Liberia. These four R’s will be discussed in detail with the people of Liberia over the next few months, but today allow me to simply outline them.
Reconciliation is the first pillar of our national agenda. True reconciliation will require each of us to take a look in the mirror and admit that mistakes have been made and wrongs have been committed, not only by our current government but also throughout our history. We will seek to reconcile our ethnic and class divide, our political differences, and provide a forum for both victims and violators of human rights to tell their story, in order to facilitate genuine healing. Reconciliation cannot, and will not, be about revenge or punishment, but about restoring the dignity of every Liberian, and making whole those who have been victimized.
If we are to survive the turmoil that has overtaken our nation, and bring into realization the dream of the new Liberia, we will have to find the strength to forgive each other, and the will to live together in peace. And we will have to commit ourselves to remove the tools of division that have been visited upon us as a people, and that keep us undeveloped, uneducated, unhealthy, and unsafe. We must also address the culture of impunity and break the cycle of violence, if we are to claim our share of the Twenty-first Century.
Restoration of our national image within the community of nations will begin with improving and maintaining cordial relationships with the neighboring countries of Sierra Leone, Guinea, and La Cote d’Ivoire. Liberia must once again become a beacon of hope for peace and stability in Africa. Globalization has brought about a new reality. The world has become a smaller community in which institutions, groups, and individuals, whether in lawful enterprise or criminal conspiracy, interact directly without regard to national borders. And Liberia has become an object of concern with regard to some of the major issues on the global agenda such as: controlling violence; intra-state and inter-state conflicts; addressing international public health crises, such as HIV/AIDS; international economic issues, including not only trade matters, but the implications of the widening gap between poverty and affluence in our global community; managing natural resources - environmental issues; plight of refugees; and, the list goes on.
We must be the source of goodwill, and not the purveyor of violence and terror. Diplomatic intercourse with our neighbors will ensure that their territories are not used for military incursions into Liberia. We must strengthen our economic ties and increase business activities among our countries. We hope to immediately begin negotiations with our Sister Republic of Guinea to ensure that when it commences mining its iron ore, the Port of Buchanan will be the port of export. That will be a major boost for the economies of both countries. We must bring alive the spirit of the Mano River Union and the intent of ECOWAS.
We will constructively engage our friends in the African Union, and become a true partner of the New Partnership for Africa Development (NEPAD). We will not only allow, but will also encourage, the concept of peer review with regard to both economic performance and respect of human rights and for the rule of law by our administration. As a charter member of the United Nations, we must reclaim our place, as a formulator of international customary laws, and not be adjudged as a violator of the norms that govern the behavior of member states.
Our relationship with our traditional friend and ally, the United States of America, will not simply be improved, but will be taken to a new level of cooperation. We will seek a new partnership with the United States based on shared values and common interests. We will develop a new strategic framework to replace the Cold War mindset, setting forth the rationale for reformed development assistance, while dealing with the challenges of globalization. We will show that a new day has dawned in Liberia, that our actions are consistent with our pronouncements, and that our pronouncements are based on the rule of law, good governance, accountability and transparency, and respect for human rights.
Reforming all institutions of government, beginning with the institution that I seek to manage - the presidency - will be a priority of our administration. The Liberian Presidency has become too powerful and must be divested of the extra-constitutional powers that it has acquired over the years. The power of the Presidency must be re-aligned with the intent of our Constitution, if democracy is ever to take hold in Liberia.
There must be a complete integration of our dual legal systems that have developed along parallel lines. Whether a Liberian lives under customary law or statutory law, everyone must be entitled to the same rights and privileges under our Constitution. The Supreme Court of Liberia must be the final arbiter of all litigation, as provided for under our Constitution, and not the President of Liberia, as now pertains to civil matters arising under customary law. Every Liberian woman must be an heir apparent of her husband, and none should be regarded as a chattel to be inherited by the heirs of the man who paid the dowry.
We will reform our economy. Liberia’s future growth and prosperity is tied to the global economy. Therefore, a focus on customs, free port services, transshipment, and free zones will be emphasized over the extractive industries such as logging. We will review the status of the public corporations currently operated as a part of the government and explore a basic strategy for privatization or liquidation in the best interest of the Liberian people.
Economic development is crucial for the maintenance of peace, stability, and democratization in Liberia. We will, therefore, ensure that Liberians at all levels, acting in both the public and private sectors, are significant players in our national economy. We will introduce the necessary incentives that will ensure that Liberians outnumber foreigners in the retail sector of our economy before the end of our administration. Public Contract laws will be enacted to ensure that only Liberian individuals or entities having majority Liberian ownership will sell goods and services to the Government of Liberia.
We must immediately monetize the public sector wage bill. Civil servants must be paid so that they may provide for their families, and in order to minimize corruption in our public sector.
We must reform our education system to ensure expanded access to accommodate all school-age children, enhance learning achievement by focusing on those factors that affect learning, reduce gaps in enrollment, retention, and achievement between the rich and poor, boys and girls, and between urban and rural schools. The school day will be made longer to ensure an environment for students to study and prepare for the next school day, prior to returning home.
With regard to health, we will embrace the broader approach of dealing with health issues that focuses government programs on the true causes of ill health such as poverty, poor nutrition, inadequate housing, and poor drinking water, among other things. However, we shall also target intervention at the individual clinical level by immediately securing mobile clinics that will go from village to village providing health care. Restoration of all health facilities, and constructions of new ones should be accomplished in the short to medium term.
We must reform and restructure our Armed Forces to include the young men and women who have been engaged in armed-conflicts since 1989. These young men and women should be integrated in a well-structured national army. But I hasten to add that they would not be recruited into combat units of the Armed Forces, but will be enlisted in Auxiliary Battalions, such as the agriculture, engineering, and medical. The military will be used as a vehicle for rehabilitating these ex-combatants, through the discipline and regiment of the Armed Forces. They will be trained as technicians, and taught to become productive citizens. They too are our children.
We must institute major land reform policies, which will ensure, among other things, that Liberians living on public land within the interior of the country, whose affairs are still governed by customary law, will be issued fee simple deeds for the land on which they live. This is not only the right thing to do, but it is also necessary to give the majority of Liberians a stake in their country, make them more a part of the body politic, as well as empower them economically.
We will rebuild our physical infrastructure that has been destroyed as the result of years of wars and neglect. Electricity and pipe-borne water will be restored in major population centers within the shortest possible time. Clean well water will be built and maintained in the rural arrears. The sewage system in Monrovia and its environs will be immediately restored so that public health is not further compromised. Specially designed outdoors toilets that ensure sanitary conditions will be constructed throughout the rural areas.
Existing roads will have to be repaired and maintained, while new roads are built. Ports and waterways must be dredged and repaired to enhance our trade and commerce. So must our airports and telecommunication systems.
Of course, a new Liberia would entail a new national polity that will ensure the realization of the Liberia that was intended by its founders. A nation based upon the rule of law, with a sense of commitment from each, and the integrity of all. A government formed upon the constitutional premise that all Liberians are equal, and that each and every one of us is endowed with the same natural, inherent, and inalienable rights, regardless of our ethnic background, religion, gender, or political affiliation. We will be guided by the mistakes of the past, determined never to repeat them.
Gratitude to our country and our people that have given us so much; the obligation to set in place a legacy that we must pass on to our kids; the satisfaction of making a sacrifice to bring about a better tomorrow for the suffering children of Liberia, who, but for the Grace of God, could have been my children or yours. These are all compelling reasons for getting involved in building a new Liberia. Liberia needs the services of God-fearing, committed, and dedicated men and good women. Liberia is counting on each and every one of us.
May God bless our country and save the people.
I thank you.