Five Central Issues for Those Seeking Public Office in Liberia

By Mohamedu F. Jones, Esq.

The Perspective

November 19, 2001

Liberia is one of those countries that entered the new millennium worse off in 2001 than it was 20 years before. Even more troubling, under its current leadership, the country will only continue on the downward spiral. In 2003, Liberia will hold general elections - we need to begin thinking about those issues and matters that ought to be addressed as we consider whom to support - these are issues that speak to the core of Liberia’s future. If people who desire elective office are not thinking and talking about these issues (and I don’t mean lip syncing), then they don’t get it.

I believe there are five central themes that speak to the fundamental issues facing Liberia, Actually, they are the same five central themes that have confronted Liberia since its founding as a nation-state over 150 years ago. Overall, the country has failed miserably in meeting its responsibilities to itself on these matters. As the political process begins, we need to assess whether the men and women who want to assume the service of public office have the capacity, the conscience, the insight and the foresight to address these issues. I wish to share my brief perspective on what I think matter; they are not presented in any system of order.

Governance and democratization
Governance and democratization is the connective theme to all the other themes; it goes to the very fabric of the country. The people are severely diminished in a society where proper governance and democracy do not exist. This theme covers political accountability, public management, and ethnic relationships: conflicts and polarization, freedom of association, improved legal frameworks, bureaucratic transparency and respect for human rights.

Patterns and distribution of power and influence
The patterns and distribution of power and influence in a society affects the entire country. Presently, in Liberia, the national government and its state actors hold the highest level of power and influence. Sharing and nurturing the sharing of power and influence with civil society, civic institutions, regional and local governments, institutions in the market place, and ordinary citizens, are essential to the future of Liberia. Office seekers must commit to this and live up to it.

Issues agenda
Office seekers must very clearly lay out their agendas for addressing the basic everyday issues of citizen’s life. There are the socio-economic issues of poverty, education, employment, environmental and energy management, AIDS, health care, decentralization, rural and urban development, and the economy. Their issues agenda must speak to the management of Liberia’s natural resources, building of human capacities, and address its cultural, religious and ethnic diversity and structures. In addition to laying out their issues agenda, office seekers must tell us how they would fund their issues agendas.

National Values
This is the core theme that animates our national ability to achieve any goals that we set. What are the shared national values of Liberia? Generally, Liberians are incapable of articulating what the national values of the Liberian people are. Even casual analysis of the rote responses about how Liberians see themselves ("good people, concerned about others," "very friendly," etc) quickly show them to be more illusionary than real. Persons considering political office, especially the office for the presidency, ought to present their perspectives on Liberia’s national values, as well as their own, and how they see these values applying to the nation’s future, including their inculcation by young Liberians.

Globalization and the information age
Liberia cannot avoid the effects of globalization, including the negative ones. They have serious implications for the country and its people. New technologies are impacting the daily life of people throughout the world in ways not before seen. Liberia is far behind in this area. This is an area that persons considering leadership roles in Liberia must give thoughtful consideration to.

The development of national capacities is the route to sustainable ongoing development of Liberia. These five themes offer some parameters within which to consider what our politicians are saying. To be considered serious, candidates for high office in Liberia, need to present to us their thoughts in the form of realistic choices and opportunities and speak directly to these issues. Otherwise, all they want are the jobs with all "all rights, privileges and appurtenances thereto" - like all their predecessors who failed us. • e-mail:

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