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A Message to our Presidential Candidates

By Julius L. Weeks

Today, I came across an electronic article on The Economist titled "Africa's Most Wanted Man" (May 12th 2005). The thought that immediately popped in my mind was "Could they be referring to Charles Taylor?" Sure enough they were. I suddenly got an overwhelmingly sad feeling regarding how drastically "our world" had changed along with the rest of our planet.

Reflecting on my lifetime, I remember when such an individual, "Africa's Most Wanted Man" could not possibly come from Liberia: or could they? It is not so much that vile and wicked leaders have not existed in our country in the past. What's different now is that with the state of the art in communications (or as it is most commonly put, "the world is so small") the action of most if not all world leaders are constantly under microscopic scrutiny. Before, Liberia could well have been a distant planet from which news arrive to the outside world late if ever. However, today, no action that impacts a population - especially those with negative impacts - goes unnoticed in our world: Not even in Liberia. Leaders are no longer able to rule countries with impunity and believe there will be no repercussions. Sooner or later, and generally sooner than later these days, persons in positions of authority will have to answer for their misdeeds.

As a child growing up in Monrovia, reckless disregard for human life was practically unheard of. The worst we heard, every now and then, was the stories of hi-men (highwaymen) and ritual killings. Remember Yakpawolo and Madame Korlu? That was just about the most fantastic news I remember during my early years in Liberia. Now, murders and rapes and other vile and inhumane treatment of our fellow Liberians are hardly cause for concern. Ne'er an eyebrow goes up these days when folks speak of rapes, child molestation, extreme drug use among our youth or other activities that degrade the morality of our people. We must change these attitudes and that change must start with the leaders we elect. Who among the crowed field or presidential aspirants is speaking or addressing these social issues. What do you have to say about them and how do you plan to elevate the moral standards of our society? Inquiring minds in Liberia and the rest of the world need to know.

Issues such as these, along with infrastructure redevelopment, employment, health and education are critical components to building a wholesome functioning society. That phrase, coined by our late President Tolbert, now more than ever is critical to the success of the birth, growth and sustained development of our next Republic. Will you, our presidential candidates remain mindful of these things after you are elected? Will you roll up your sleeves in support of whichever candidate is elected in the difficult and arduous task of rebuilding our nation? Or will you look for every misstep of the successful candidate and use it as a platform to thwart their every effort at fulfilling the mandate of the Liberian people to renew our country? The real challenge to all of our aspiring candidates is to be big enough to accept that only one of you can be president and put ego and personal agendas aside and support the platforms of the person chosen by the Liberian people. Keeping in mind that the task ahead will require all the "also ran(s)" to find ways in which they can still contribute to the re-establishment of wholesome functioning society.

Finally to that candidate that is chosen by the Liberian electorate, remember it is very easy in these times to become another Charles Taylor. Are you prepared to lose your soul to power and greed? Is that a legacy you want to leave behind for your children and future descendents? Will you keep you eyes on the long range prize for self and country? The pleasures of the flesh and out love of things material is very fleeting and soon enough we have to answer, first to our fellow man and finally to our God for our actions. Accountability in inevitable and Charles Taylor, I am sure, in retrospect, did not ever once expect to be branded as Africa's Most Wanted Man. Do any of you want that epitaph? That dubious distinction was foreign to any Liberia in bygone years. Lets try to make it the last time we have such a title placed on any of our country men.

The ball in the court of one of you - our aspiring candidates. Will you meet the challenge in such a way that will make you ancestors and descendants proud? I remain optimistic that whoever wins will. PLEASE PUT PERSONAL AGENDAS ASIDE AFTER THE BALLOTS ARE COUNTED AND SUPPORT THE WINNING CANDIDATE. The real picture will come into sharp focus once a candidate is selected. Then and only then will we begin to see who are the real men and women in our society. The political rhetoric will be done. Your true colors will be seen. Its up to you which color you project. We are watching. The world is watching. God is watching.

Julius L. Weeks
jlweeks@jonesday.com