Looting Our National Coffer With Impunity?

By: Theophilus Totee Bettie

The Perspective
Atlanta, Georgia

December 18, 2003


Elie E. Saleeby, Governor of Central Bank of Liberia
Nowadays, one can barely engage a fellow Liberian in a conversation over the current state of affairs of our country without arriving at a mutual desire: the need to bring to justice those warlords who raped, maimed, and slaughtered our fellow compatriots. As understandable as this may be, what is disconcerting is the lack of a comparable outrage that ought to be apportioned to a group of noncombatants equally culpable for the current misery of the Liberian people. This group comprises of those who have perfected the art of looting our national coffer with impunity.

Recent events involving a quid pro quo between the Board of Directors and the Governor of the Central Bank of Liberia, Mr. Elie E. Saleeby, seem to confirm the perception that Liberia remains a place where the art of looting government’s treasure has undergone a metamorphosis into a full-fledged sport (Visit www.theperspective.org and read its October 30, 2003 article entitled “All the President’s Men, A Case of Massive Corruption"). Notwithstanding the overwhelming evidence presented to expose Mr. Elie Saleeby and his buddies, the silence of the Gyude Bryant’s government on this matter is unacceptable. At a time when all three branches of the Liberian government are being reconstituted, Chairman Bryant’s decision to retain Mr. Saleeby as head of our Central Bank is, to say the least, very suspicious. Not only should Mr. Saleeby be forced to resign but the bank’s kangaroo board must also be disbanded and reconstituted.

Because of our history of tolerating economic crimes with impunity, it is no surprise that the likes of Benoni Urey, Lewis Brown, Grace Minor (the list is by no means complete), go to great length to advertise their expensive homes and luxurious cars both in Liberia and the United States. What is especially disturbing is the arrogance with which such individuals display their “ill gotten wealth”. Although this writer make no accusation about the aforementioned overt participation in corruption, one finds the rapidity with which they have amassed wealth extremely curious considering the fact that they were all virtually penniless prior to their involvement with the unaccountable government of Mr. Charles Taylor.

Judging from our lackadaisical attitude towards the establishment of a commission to examine allegations of crimes against humanity during the Liberian civil war, it is safe to assume that as a society we may never initiate formal charges against white-collar kleptomaniacs. If the past is any indication of the future, we can rest assured that those who have committed these economic transgressions would never face justice. After all, is our obsession with apprehending Mr. Charles Taylor not due solely to his perpetration of a genocidal conflict? Is there a concomitant effort at recovering the millions, if not billions, this man and his cohorts are alleged to have embezzled? It remains to be seen! However, as citizens we have a responsibility to ensure that such conduct remains an experience of the past. Those who have gleefully participated in the destruction of our country for personal economic gains must be exposed and shamed. We must make it very unpleasant for these opportunists to wine and dine with the rest of us. Put bluntly, these individuals must face “street justice”.

If the current intransigence of the warring factions over the distribution of government jobs is any indication, we can all be assured that once again we are missing an opportunity to seize the moment. Instead of exploiting an international goodwill towards Liberia, our so-called leaders are shamelessly pursuing their selfish interests. If only they knew what fools they are making of themselves. Don’t these people have any conscious? In his article entitled: “What the Warlords Say”, Mr. Ezekiel Pajibo did expand on what he believed to be the hidden agenda of these warlords. Yes indeed, he was right; we now have the prima facie evidence to substantiate that their so called liberation struggle” has had nothing to do with improving the material wellbeing of the Liberian people. It has everything to do with how to get rich quick at the expense of the rest of us.

Not withstanding the foregoing, we should not allow a past corrupt culture to dictate our future modus operandi. As Liberians, it is our duty to make it less palatable for this current government to repeat the corrupt practices of the past. This we can do with legitimate impunity.

About the Author: Theophilus Totee Bettie is a Yale Alumnus and a Fulbright Scholar. He holds a M.A. in International and Development Economics and a M.BA. in Finance.