2005 ELECTIONS - THE "CRITICAL" CENSUS
By: James W. Harris
As Liberians prepare (or may I say brace) themselves
once again for the upcoming Presidential and
General elections in 2005 in their now badly
ruined country, the issue of conducting a nation-wide
census prior to the nervously awaited "big
event" is somewhat becoming a rather hot
topic (as it should) for serious discussions
amongst people that are interested in seeing
things done correctly this time around - and
more than anything else, the pending elections
there hold the key to whether or not our now
severely damaged nation will rise up and achieve
permanent peace or continue on its ugly path
of self-destruction as it has been doing for
the past 15 years.
there obviously are pros and cons regarding
the sensitive issue of census, like with everything
else these days, the need to take a national
count before the 2005 elections is absolutely
necessary. Also, it's the wisest thing to do
and in line with the rule of law in our now
sick country. And I must emphasize this!
Granted that the recently constituted National
Elections Commission (NEC) in Monrovia could
definitely carry on the said elections without
first taking a national census as proclaimed
not too long ago by none other than the Chairlady
herself, Cllr. Frances Johnson-Morris [please
see: "No Census For 2005 Elections….. Says
Elections Commissioner, But", the Inquirer/Perspective,
May 7, 2004], we really need to step back for
a minute, at least for once, and ask ourselves
whether or not such a move would be in the best
interests of our country.
better yet, we need to ask ourselves, and with
all honesty and sincerity, whether or not we'd
again prefer "expediency" at this
crucial time in our nation's turbulent history
which could lead most likely to other serious
problems down the road rather than correcting
our nagging mistakes by appealing to the international
community to give us more time and help primarily
to ensure that we get it right this time around
so that the entire elections process can be
seen as being truly legitimate. These really
are the two main issues facing Liberians today
as they get ready for the election of a new
and hopefully incorruptible government.
When she was asked recently in what appear to
have been an exclusive interview with the Perspective
webzine (short for web magazine) why her Commission
(the NEC) had infact decided to go ahead with
the 2005 elections without holding a census
first, Cllr. Johnson-Morris gave one of the
most confusing answers that I've ever heard
on an issue as important as this.
Here is partly what she had to say: "The
only thing [that] we need [to conduct the] elections
is qualified Liberians who are eighteen years
[old] or above and who are not disqualified
otherwise under our law [s] So voter registration
can take care of that " ("The Liberian
National Elections Commission Chair Addresses
Elections Issues [interview]", the Perspective,
August 13, 2004).
when asked further in the same interview whether
or not Special Elections Law [s] would come
into play for the ensuing elections like in
1997 when the despot, Charles Taylor, was supposedly
'elected', she responded in the negative stating
that: "We [the NEC] are going by the 1986
Election Law [s] as well as the reforms that
we have proposed …[like] suspending Article
52c [which has to do with the residency requirements
for both the Presidential and Vice Presidential
candidates under the 1986 Liberian Constitution].
if that's the case - conducting the 2005 elections
based on the 1986 Elections Law [s] - then one
could argue vigorously that the need for a census
before the upcoming elections becomes very,
very clear as well as compelling. Doesn't it!
However, when one reads other portions of the
Chairlady's interview, one can't help but see
the confusion implied in her statements.
For example, she also said the following in
her interview: "Well, it is necessary to
conduct census [of course it is]. And I have
always been one of those who have spoken of
the need to conduct a census because the last
census we had [in 1984] in our country was 20
years ago", adding, "we do not have
any reliable data on the population of Liberia
[of course not]." Then why now the change
of heart, Madam Commissioner!
Johnson-Morris continued: "However, there
are projections - projections made by the United
Nations (UN), some groups have worked on some
population surveys and so we can use these figures
for the purpose of [the 2005] elections."
"But we are going to conduct voter registration.
Census is not necessarily the prerequisite to
holding elections", she then added.
On the last statement, I'd just say, WOW!! Well,
wait a minute. Since she has already admitted
above that: "We do not have any reliable
data on the population of Liberia" as every
Liberian should know by now, isn't it then only
logical to take a nation-wide census at this
time in preparation for the ensuing elections,
especially so, after all these miserable years
of carnage and mass population shifts in our
now war-wrecked country? That's what I and other
Liberians had thought. Certainly, it would be
the correct thing to do - no doubt!
But I'm very sorry Madam Commissioner. The mere
fact that there are "projections"
by, let's say, the UN, as well as, "population
surveys" from other groups as you had correctly
mentioned, just doesn't cut it. Simply put,
it's just not good enough, although it may have
been in the past. This is a brand new day.
all seriousness, we must strive to gather every
bit of new information that we can possibly
lay our hands on at this particular time so
that we can have the very latest, most accurate
and up-to-date data on Liberia not only in preparation
for the upcoming elections, but something that
we can pass on with confidence and pride to
whoever assumes power in 2005. In that way,
the newly elected government would have the
most significant thing that it would need to
hopefully chart a different course for our now
destroyed nation, thereby, avoiding the usual
long delays in implementing programs and policies
geared towards uplifting all our miserably poor
people - people victimized by the "system".
this respect, I really don't think that it makes
good sense to be contended only with voters'
registration as suggested by the well-respected
Chairlady compared to a full census prior to
the elections. If anything, the opposite is
true! Also, we should all bear in mind that
the international community, upon which we rely
on so heavily for assistance, has already said
that they're giving us (Liberians) one last
chance and we would do well not to blow it either.
As far as I can determine, the apparent confusion
in Cllr. Johnson-Morris' mind (and probably
in the minds of her entire Commission, I may
add) lie in her response to the following question
during her recent interview.
asked specifically: "Will the 2005 elections
be special elections or regular elections?",
she replied in this way. "They [the elections]
will have to be special - special in a sense
that they are not done in accordance with the
constitution." Why not? Because, according
to her, "The [so-called] Comprehensive
Peace Agreement (CPA) [had] suspended many of
the provisions of the [Liberian] Constitution.
So these are not elections that are done in
accordance with the constitution. And anything
that is not done in accordance with the constitution
must be special."
While it is true that the much talked about
CPA has infact suspended [certain] provisions
of the Liberian Constitution, none of them pertain
to the upcoming elections in 2005. So, let's
not confuse ourselves, okay!
If my eyes aren't playing tricks on me (and
I do hope that they aren't), then according
to the CPA, the only provisions of the Constitution
that have been suspended so far have to do with
Sections b & c under Article XXXV (Special
Provisions). Furthermore, Section d under the
same Article is perfectly clear on this. It
reads: "All other provisions of the 1986
Constitution of the Republic of Liberia shall
[and I repeat, SHALL] remain in force",
obviously including our Elections Law [s].
so, I could therefore argue again with some
degree of confidence that whichever provisions
of the Constitution were suspended under the
CPA pending the inauguration of a 'legitimate'
government, really have nothing to do with conducting
the 2005 elections in the proper way as Cllr.
Johnson-Morris would like us to believe. Far
Infact, a renowned Liberian lawyer, Cllr. Tiawan
S. Gongloe, has since cleared up some of the
looming confusion in a rather brilliant article
that was published not too long ago [please
see: "Elections in Liberia without Census
Would Be Unconstitutional", The Perspective,
May 20, 2004]. In his appropriately titled piece,
he wrote that: "The Comprehensive Peace
Agreement (CPA) requires that besides those
constitutional provisions that were explicitly
excluded for the interim period, all other provisions
of the Constitution of Liberia are observed
in the implementation [phase] of the [CPA] agreement…[therefore]
if the Constitution of Liberia must be observed
in the electoral process, then census must be
held [simply] because the Liberian electoral
process is a constituency based process",
meaning that census MUST be taken into serious
consideration. I mean, it definitely can't get
any clearer than this!
good-ole Cllr. (Gongloe) then went on to explain
in depth why infact "Elections in Liberia
without Census Would Be Unconstitutional."
But please understand that I can't insert Tiawan's
entire article here for obvious reasons - space
and time, but you can read it for your own understanding
and benefit by referring to the source that
I've cited above in this piece.
Tiawan and I are surely not the only Liberians
that see things differently from Cllr. Johnson-Morris
and others, especially on the census and elections
issues. There certainly are many other Liberians,
including, one W. Topor and N. Wiah, of Uplb
Los Banos, the Philippines, for example, who
feel that a new census definitely is needed
before the elections in 2005.
a recent piece titled, "Yes to Census Before
[the] 2005 Elections" (the Perspective,
May 11, 2004), they jointly asked: "Liberian
People, what is this?" in apparent frustration
at the NEC boss for her untimely comments on
the delicate census issue.
wonders of the reaction of the 18 [?] registered
political parties which the National Election
Commission (NEC) Boss was addressing when she
made this statement [on the census issue]? [.]
Of course, all parties would ask, how can free
and fair elections be held without [a] census.
[?] The last census was held in 1984, after
which there has been [a devastating] civil war?
[.] In case no party was able to raise this
issue perhaps due to egotism or an oversight
on the part of those Parties' bosses; now, it's
time that it becomes the 'issue of our time'
for every Liberian, if Liberia is to march forward
rather than turning about face", Topor
and Wiah wrote.
Not surprisingly, they then called on all Liberians
to appeal to the UN to facilitate, what they
called, "all democratic mechanisms",
including conducting a national census before
the elections, so that lasting peace can come
finally to their troubled homeland.
again, another remark from the Madam Commissioner
regarding the critical census issue that I don't
quite understand is this: "The result of
an assessment conducted by the United Nations
team working in collaboration with the commission
and the Ministry of Planning, has concluded
that the conduct of a census before the pending
elections are not possible" (The Inquirer/Perspective,
May 7, 2004, "No Census For 2005 Elections…Says
Elections Commission, But"). Now, what
exactly does she mean by that? I wish that she
would have given us some more details just how
they had arrived at that conclusion.
many Liberians still languishing in refugee
camps throughout West Africa and far beyond,
in some cases, living in sub-human conditions
after escaping the civil war in their country
that was characterized by barbarism, cannibalism,
and naked cruelty, among others, coupled with
the fact that most rural areas in Liberia still
remain inaccessible by recent reports to authorities
who seem to be satisfied with being just in
Monrovia, it would be ludicrous to hold a "credible"
elections under these circumstances.
and how, infact, will the voters' registration
be conducted? Only in Monrovia and its environs,
I guess! If every Liberian citizen who wants
to vote in the pending 2005 elections must be
given that sacred opportunity to do so, then
the government and the international community
must ensure that they are repatriated to their
homeland as soon as possible and resettled so
that they can participate fully in the political
process. Otherwise, the whole exercise will
be seen as a sham - and correctly so! That's
another reason why census is indeed critical
to the upcoming elections.
And I'm very sure that the UN and other friends
of Liberia would be willing to assist us with
gathering new census data before the 2005 elections,
but my take is that we just haven't been assertive
enough. With all sorts of new technologies available
today, I just can't see why it's not possible
to conduct census in a small country like ours.
All that's really needed is our desire to do
That's why I wholeheartedly agree with Topor
and Wiah that indeed "Liberians [must]
tell the UN [and others] what we feel that can
bring total peace to our [troubled] motherland.
And for sure, the UN [and others] [hopefully]
as [the] world police for maintaining peace
and order will never reject our perception for
amicable peace in Liberia. Therefore, let us
be firm in stating what exactly Liberia needs
from the UN [and others]." Well said guys!
Likewise, I also strongly agree with Cllr. Tiawan
Gongloe that without holding a census prior
to the 2005 elections, that many Liberians seem
to be counting on, the whole exercise would
be unconstitutional and therefore illegitimate
- something that we have the power to avoid
we must do everything possible, individually
and collectively as Liberians, to convince the
NEC as well as the UN about the necessity to
conduct a new nation-wide poll before the ensuing
elections just to make sure that we get it right
this time around. Most importantly, though,
it would be the only way that any future government
of Liberia can get the legitimacy, credibility
and respect from the international community
that it deserves. It would also be the only
way to restore hope to our country, whose image
has been damaged almost irreparably in the immediate
past by various crooked administrations dominated
mostly by losers and criminals
this light, I'd strongly like to appeal to the
good consciences of Cllr. Frances Johnson-Morris,
her entire Commission as well as the UN to rethink
the census issue very, very carefully once more,
because a whole lot would be riding on this
election - 2005. Moreover, conducting a national
census before the elections would only help
the process, not hurt it.
it about time that we do the right thing at
least for once for the sake of our country?
I truly think it is!
- 30 -
THE NTGL UNDER THE MICROSCOPE
- the Charles Bennie Allegations
In the eyes of some Liberians, the recent allegations
made by a senior official in the incumbent interim
government, the National Transitional Government
of Liberia (NTGL), in effect that the country's
very scarce financial resources were being "misapplied"
[squandered] by the Charles Gyude Bryant administration
instead of providing basic social services for
the people or even paying longstanding salary
arrears to its employees, is nothing more than
the issue of a team player gone berserk for
one reason or the other.
Yet to others, Customs and Excise Commissioner,
Charles Bennie, a LURD appointee, is a good
example of a new breed of young Liberians, who,
in spite of his very visible position, would
not hesitate to ring the alarm bell when something
seems to be going wrong with the way the government
chooses to do business, particularly, regarding
the expenditure of the Liberian people's already
scarce financial means. Or is he?
the country now completely ravaged by more then
14 years of a brutal and savage civil war to
the extend that even human feces has become
a common sight in the streets of Monrovia these
days as reported recently by the media [see
allafrica.com "After Peace - Household
Waste, Sharapnel [?], Carcasses…" (the
Inter Press Service, July 6, 2004), one would
think that the Bryant administration would be
sensible enough, if anything, to use the people's
meager financial resources on things that would
directly benefit them. I'm talking about things
that have obviously been missing from their
already miserable and wasted lives for quite
a long time, like, clean and safe drinking water,
electricity, health care clinics, education
facilities and roads, among other basic needs.
Sadly, according to the Commissioner, this government,
like the ones before it, continues to lavish
the people's money on utterly expensive items,
like, "brand name" cars, frequent
and unnecessary travels abroad, etc., while
the bulk of our people continue to live in squalor
at home, refugee camps and other dangerous places
abroad waiting for the right signal from their
But whether Liberians like Charles Bennie or
not, they must give the man the credit that's
due him, if for nothing else, for just blowing
the whistle on the NTGL for continuing the bad
and contemptuous practice of misappropriating
the people's money while carrying the hat around
for more. I must remind Liberians, as I should,
that these are not ordinary times in our country
as our people who are already traumatized by
years of senseless wars are badly hurting for
almost everything just to survive (much less
the recent charges made by Mr. Bennie against
the NTGL is still said to be under consideration
in some quarters, however, Liberians need to
collectively DEMAND a full and thorough investigation
into this matter in order to bring out the naked
truth. My point here is that if we do not keep
this Interim Government under the microscope
for a fresh start, then it's more than likely
that we'd keep any future administration or
government (elected or not) in check going forward
- something we definitely must do at this particular
junction in our sad history if we want to build
a brand new Liberia that'll be based on the
twin principles of justice and equality for
all, amongst many other virtues...
we owe it to ourselves as well as the future
generations of Liberians to ensure that whoever
takes the reigns of power in our now comatose
country is transparent, honest and most of all,
accountable to the people. Unless we can collectively
hold our government's [not only the NTGL, but
any other future leadership] feet to the fire
to make sure that it does the correct things
this time around, taking into account the total
neglect of our people in the past, the precious
lives of more than 250,000 of our compatriots
would have been wasted in vain. And I'm very
certain that's not why so many Liberians were
slaughtered in cold blood by the various warring
factions in the last decade or so. On the personal
level, I stubbornly refuse to accept any other
reason (s) for the carnage that has taken place
in our nation, thereby, bringing it to its knees
other than that it was meant to empower the
people - giving them their country back!
Since his allegations against the Gyude Bryant
regime, Mr. Bennie has lately been reported
to have produced some documents to the International
Contact Group on Liberia (ICGL) - a kind of
monitoring group that the NTGL itself had asked
to intervene in this particular matter following
the Commissioner's apparent refusal to cooperate
or even meet with a committee that had been
set up by Chairman Bryant to look into the specific
charges made by him (Mr. Bennie).
so far, the Bryant government's official response
to the specific charges in this rather scandalous
matter seem to be very inadequate to say the
least in that the NTGL, through a press release
dated July 6 by its point man, Mr. Harry S.
Johnson, Deputy Minister of State for Public
Affairs, focused mainly on the dollar amount
of the issues in question as opposed to explaining
in full details how "wisely" the government
is spending whatever meager funds it's handling
supposedly on behalf of the Liberian people.
Liberians do not see the roads or government-owned
buildings (if there are any) being repaired.
Nor do they see any reasonable improvement in
their sorrowful living standards. Or any promising
sign that electricity and pipe-borne water will
be coming their way any time soon. All they
often see is their so-called "big shots"
riding up and down Broad Street in their shiny
luxury vehicles (many with tainted windows)
on pothole-laden roads. They also see their
so-called "big shots" (many of them
not even qualified in the first place, but presently
occupying big jobs) living in and building huge
mansions tucked away behind fortresses that
they call fences - all of them riding on the
back of our miserably poor people who they pass
day after day in the same old condition - helpless,
hopeless and abandoned, among others.
mean, let's be real! This is not the way to
build confidence in a government that came to
power in the first place seriously lacking credibility
and legitimacy from the very start. Not at all!
Mr. Bennie is not alone in accusing the Charles
Gyude Bryant administration of doing things
that are harmful or detrimental to the general
interests of our country and people. Indeed,
there surely are other instances where this
NTGL is seen as misusing its authority to promote
its own selfish interests. For a good example,
let's consider the recent observations made
by yet another official in the NTGL - in person
of Mr. Dusty Wolokolie, a member of the so-called
Contracts and Monopolies Commission.
recently in a rather lengthy piece entitled
"No Genuine Commitment to Accountability
and Transparency in [the] NTGL" (The Perspective,
June 16, 2004), he observed that: "…..Several
agencies of Government have initiated or already
entered into contracts, concessions, grants,
treaties, etc., with the direct/indirect and
open involvement and/or approval of the Chairman
of the NTGL with NO [emphasis mine] reference
whatsoever to the CMC" as they had agreed
to in the so-called CPA (Comprehensive Peace
Agreement) [whatever that is!].
is there anything new in Mr. Wolokolie's apparently
frank observations? Not to me at least! But
to understand what is actually happening in
our severely battered country today, let's go
a little bit further just to show you how, in
this current so-called Interim Government, one
hand doesn't seem to know what the other is
of the initiatives being undertaken or contracts
already entered into UNILATERALLY [my emphasis]
by officers of Government agencies without any
reference to the CMC include: the review of
concession agreements in the forestry sector
in which 24 out of 30 [got that!] companies
have been granted clearances 'and will be re-certificated
to recommence operations following their settlement
of financial obligations to the Authority (FDA)
[Taylor's one-time personal pepperbush] and
to the government'; oil exploration agreements
and requests for bids for Liberia's Offshore
Oil Exploration Licensing by the National Oil
Company of Liberia (NOCAL)", among others,
Mr. Wolokolie further observed.
For those of you that are really interested
in shaping the future of Liberia, I'd urge you
strongly to go back and re-read Dusty's entire
article, because I can assure you that it'll
well be worth your time. Furthermore, it'll
give you a very good idea about the inner workings
of this government - the NTGL.
I must confess, though, that I'm no fan of Mr.
Charles Bennie [simply because of his affiliation,
past and present, with one of our nation's most
murderous rebel groups - LURD.]. Neither am
I an admirer of Mr. Dusty Wolokolie, who I happen
to know as a student at LU (aka the University
of Liberia) in the late 1970's. Then, I thought
of him as a young and promising leader, but
have since been disappointed with his performance
on the national level as an official in previous
administrations with highly questionable records.
I must tell you quite frankly that I do respect
both men for their courage in spilling the beans
(so to speak) on this seemingly corrupt NTGL.
For whatever reason (s) either man may have
been prompted to blow the whistle on Chairman
Bryant, be it to gain political advantage or
whatever, their individual efforts in exposing
this interim administration should go a long
way in helping us to decide what it is that
we want out of our government, now and in the
not too distant future
we want more of this kind of bad governance
which existed in the past or do we really want
to see fundamental changes in our institutions
of government that are geared toward transforming
our country for the good of all? Do we want
a government that is wasteful, irresponsible,
insensitive, etc., or do we want a government
that's thrifty, reasonable, responsible, etc.?
These are just a few hard questions that we
ought to be asking ourselves as we go forward.
regards Commissioner Bennie's whistle blowing,
the only satisfactory outcome, to me, is to
have the entire NTGL audited completely from
top to bottom, preferably, by an independent
entity, like, say, a 'patriotic' group of young
Liberian public accountants (CPA's) and other
financial types. That sure would be the best
way to find out the truth about just how the
Bryant administration is spending our little
money. Are there any takers? Arguably, the only
discrepancy between Mr. Bennie's version of
things compared to the government's is the dollar
amount in question - US$7 million in collections
per month as alleged by the Commissioner versus
a total of roughly US$48 million as mentioned
by the government in its July 6 press release.
it would be nice to know exactly how much the
NTGL is taking in each month in terms of overall
revenues, but the larger question still is:
What is Gyude Bryant and his administration
spending our little bit of money on? Because
it surely can't be on electricity (there is
none) or health clinics (there aren't any except
those owned and operated by private/public individuals)
or roads (they're still unrepaired), etc. And
so, the government must be spending our meager
financial resources on something else. What
something? Does it benefit the people directly?
That's exactly what I, like many other Liberians,
really want to know.
Mr. Wolokolie's personal observations, the entire
Contracts and Monopolies Commission, made up
of five (5) members ironically chosen by Mr.
Bryant, has come up with its own accusations
against the Interim Administration. In a press
release issued recently (The New Democrat, July
20, 2004), the Commission said, among other
things, that: "The Contracts and Monopolies
Commission (CMC) is taken aback and very disappointed
by yet another violation of Article XVII of
the Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA) by the
Chairman of the NTGL, [Charles] Gyude Bryant,
in his appointment of a Forestry Concession
Review Committee despite the [current] existence
of the CMC, the [sole] body clothed with the
authority by the CPA to 'oversee activities
of a contractual nature undertaken by the NTGL'
as a way of ensuring accountability and transparency"
then there's this thing about the Central Bank
of Liberia (CBL) and its former Governor, Elie
Saleeby; the Telecommunications war over frequencies
rights; the continuing abuses by Liberian law
enforcement officers, etc. etc. Well, I just
don't how much longer the Liberian people will
tolerate this kind of sparring between their
government and its officials. But one thing
is perfectly clear, though - they (Liberians)
must wake up and take a stand before it's too
conclusion, I'd like to challenge other Liberians
to follow the good examples of Messrs. Bennie
and Wolokolie, albeit, their personal responsibilities
for some of the ugly things that have occurred
in our country in the recent past. Indeed, we
must keep the microscope focused sharply on
this interim government as well as any other
to ensure that nothing is done under cover as
in the past. Also, we must send out a clear
signal to future administrations that we'll
be watching them very, very closely.
know, sometime as I'm driving to work and passing
beside the many new projects, especially, roads
being constructed throughout the area that I
live in, I wonder if it would ever be possible
to do the same in Liberia one of these good-old
days. I mean, that's one admirable thing about
the United States, you always see the people's
money at work - whether it's road repairs, well
maintained public buildings, lively parks, etc.
it is possible, but it depends on all of us,
individually and collectively as Liberians.
That's why I think it's very necessary to always
hold our government accountable, beginning right
- 30 -
MUST WAKE UP…BECOME VIGILANT
When the very avaricious
Liberian tyrant, Charles Taylor, was forced
to flee his homeland in disgrace in shameless
exchange for a life of luxury in Calabar, Nigeria
(thanks to President Olusegun Obasanjo who personally
escorted him there), last August, some Liberians
were optimistic and hopeful that their now demised
country was about to finally turn the corner
for the better. But not too long after the tyrant's
abrupt departure from the country that he had
wrecked for 'temporary' exile, Liberians began
to find out that their battered country was
stuck in reverse once again and going no where
- at least not for now.
fact that Liberians could settle for the present
group of so-called national leaders, some of
whom have allegedly committed heinous atrocities
and crimes against our poor people and the state
with impunity in the immediate past, speak more
of their complacency and lax attitude about
life in particular. In general, it shows that
Liberians are not yet ready to take full responsibility
for their country.
To allow the same group of old and failed so-called
leaders, who in many cases don't even have any
constituency in the now crippled country, to
run our nation's affairs - a nation that they
infact helped to destroy - is tantamount to
cynicism of the worse kind as far as I'm concerned.
That's why we're getting the same results: corruption,
abandonment of the people, .use of public property
for personal gains, fiscal mismanagement, etc.
during this interim period.
mean, let's face it…. you really have to be
crazy to believe that you can continue to do
something repeatedly the same way but yet expect
to get a different result. That just doesn't
happen - something fundamental (like practices
in government in this case) has to change before
anything good can happen!
You know, one good thing about Liberians is
that we have many traditional parables, which
when considered seriously, can provide wise
guidance as to the possible outcome of a given
situation. Here's a very familiar parable (one
of my favorites) for an example…."You can't
plant eddoes and expect to get cassava."
Why? Simply because mother nature just doesn't
work that way except through some kind of divine
if Liberians had applied the same logic in the
parable above to the selection or acceptance
of our current core of so-called leaders following
the abrupt ejection of the morally bankrupt
Taylor government, they definitely would have
rejected many persons that make up the present
government based on their individual records
- past and present. Yet, it's never too late
to throw out those rascals and bandits that
continue to pillage our country, and worse of
all, mortgage it to foreign elements, particularly,
the Lebanese, without any remorse.
. Today, we're asking the Gyude Bryant's National
Transitional Government of Liberia (NTGL) why
it isn't delivering the beef (i.e. resolving
the sanitation crisis in the country; providing
light, pipe-born water, jobs, etc.). as if we
didn't know what was going on or the background
of officials that make up this administration.
We knew who they were, but chose instead to.
condemned others who began to raise the red
flag long before the convention in Ghana out
of which came this NTGL as to the fact that
nothing was going to change in Liberia with
this particular bunch in charge due to their
past records of exploiting the country for their
personal gains. I'm one person that has always
considered the Bryant Interim Government as
illegitimate, simply because of the way that
it was put together. It really doesn't represent
the hopes and aspirations of the Liberian people.
senior members of this interim administration
couldn't bring meaningful changes (build road
infrastructures, schools, clinics, provide clean
drinking water, etc.) to the country when they
had the power, for whatever reasons, they definitely
can make no difference now being of the same
characters. . Nothing about them has changed
so why even give them another opportunity to
keep ruining the country. Because it's still
on deathbed, we must realize that Liberia urgently
needs some new blood pumped into it so that
it can resuscitate itself and move along.
Because we neglected to challenge the way things
were being done in Ghana, particularly, the
way the new interim government was being formed
and then forced upon us, we shouldn't even be
questioning them right now. We got exactly what
we wanted - a raw deal!
said that, I'd like to draw your attention to
some of the news on the ground that have been
making headlines lately to see if anything has
really changed in Liberia compared to the immediate
past. Here we go: "Exploitation Discovered
at the Capitol" (the Inquirer as carried
by The Perspective, July 3, 2004); "Civilians
Still Bearing the Brunt of War", [UN Secretary-General]
Annan says" (UN News Service, June 7, 2004);
"Police Flog Information Officer"
(Press Release, Media Foundation for West Africa,
July 6, 2004); "Charles Bennie Releases
Evidence of Corrupt Practices [in the NTGL]"
(The Perspective, July 3, 2004), "US 10M
Iron Ore Deal" (the Analyst as published
by AllAfrica.com, July 6, 2004), "After
Peace - Household Waste, Sharapnel [?], Carcasses…"
(the Inter Press Service as carried by AllAfrica.com),
and on and on.
pray tell me, aren't these the same kinds of
stuff that we've become accustomed to reading
during previous administrations, starting with
the last one, the crooked and brutal Taylor
(NPP) regime? That's what it seems like to me!
What this indicates to me (and should to any
sound or sensible person) is that the Bryant
Interim Government is indeed carrying on "business
as usual" in sharp contrasts to what he
had promised the nation in one of his first
speeches. Am I disappointed? Nope - not a bit!
I knew it all along that's how it was going
to turn out.
know, sometimes I'm inclined to blame the Liberian
people (masses) for their own pitiful plight.
But again, how can I blame them in good conscience
knowing exactly all they've been through for
the past 150 something years. That would be
too heartless, wouldn't it!
I'd rather blame the continuing madness in our
country squarely on those individuals that keep
holding the nation hostage, people like Blamo
Nelson, Willie Belleh, Harry Greaves, Jr., Ellen
Johnson-Sirleaf, George Dweh (who actually should
be facing war crimes) and Emmanuel Shaw, amongst
a long list of other unprincipled Liberians.
Instead of sheepishly embracing these kinds
of folks whose actions have harmed the country
in one way or the other, we should be demanding
that they step aside immediately and leave us
alone for good.
Seriously, how could any Liberian in his or
her right mind ever believe that things could
change in Liberia for the better with many of
the now disgraced Taylor's close associates
still in charge? How could Liberians really
believe the then new Chairman Bryant when he
said that it "won't be business as usual"
during his interim term, especially so, knowing
who he had surrounded himself with (remnants
of Taylor's, Doe's (the late Samuel K.), and
Tolbert's (the late William R.) inner circle?
Of course it was going to be "business
as usual" with this particular group in
charge - no doubt.
Liberians will ever garner the courage to seize
their now war-torn country and turn it around,
they will first have to wake up and then become
vigilant in terms of speaking out forcefully
and vocally about the continuing damage being
done to our country as the direct result of
the apparent misuse, or better yet, abuse of
our meager resources for personal gains. I've
noticed that a few Liberians have begun doing
just that and I must greatly applaud them for
their courage and patriotism.
I'd really like to see is, for example, young
professional Liberian financial experts, like
John S. Morlu, II, Robert L. Kilby, Emmanuel
Reeves, J. Yanqui Zaza, to name a few, coming
together to do a complete AUDIT of this administration
[the NTGL] to see where we are at this point.
That should be very interesting. Because as
things currently stand, many of us just do not
know who owns what in Liberia today or how our
money is being spent by this government. Moreover,
an 'independent' audit of our government and
resources (whatever is left) could go a long
way in setting the course for the future. I
do hope that our relatively young financial
experts are thinking along these lines for the
sake of their country. That's what I mean when
I say that Liberians must wake up and become
14 long and brutal years under the Taylor dictatorship,
coupled with more than a hundred and fifty years
of misrule by successive administrations, one
would think that Liberians would have said "enough
is enough" in vehemently opposing many
members of this so-called interim government.
especially those that are well-known crooks,
criminals, potential war crimes candidates and
diehard opportunists, amongst others, who, seemingly,
are only interested in themselves and not necessarily
the welfare of the downtrodden Liberian people.
some of you may have noticed by now, I've been
conspicuously absent from the ongoing debate
pertaining to the final destiny of our now completely
wrecked country for some very good reasons that
I'd rather not get into at this particular time.
Please forgive me for that. But I can assure
you that I've been following very closely events
that are taking place on the ground in Liberia
with much dismay and a rather heavy heart simply
because I know that as a people we can truly
I read news headlines and articles, especially
those that are carried frequently in the local
newspapers in Monrovia, I can't help but come
to the sad conclusion that in order for any
"real" change to come to our country,
Liberians will have to step up and challenge
their so-called leaders, not by way of new violence,
but by 'civilized' means like demanding their
rights in an organized fashion (i.e. showing
"people's power" thorough peaceful
demonstrations). That's the only way that they'd
be heard, following the recent example by the
Spanish masses who took to the streets and brought
down the incumbent, thereby, replacing it with
a government that they wanted.
with the UN peacekeeping forces on the ground,
I don't see why this wouldn't be possible. Admittedly,
though, we'd first need a group of sober and
relatively young leaders whose commitment to
a "fair and just" Liberia is unwavering.
Please don't tell me that we can't find a few
good Liberians who could ably steer our ship
of state to better times, because we can if
we look hard enough. But the main problem is
that we've grown to become too complacent about
a lot of things, even those that are apparently
threatening to our personal lives.
mean, what Liberians really need to do (soon
rather than later) in order to save their almost
forgotten country is to get organized and desperately
hungry for a change. Such organization must
be formed not on the basis of tribalism, social
or economic statuses, friendship, personal relationships,
etc., but on the age-old principles of justice,
equality and most of all, the issue of human
rights for all Liberians.
ever increasing news about their appetite for
luxury items, like huge homes and expensive
cars, on the part of our government officials,
continuing bribery and corruption in the various
ministries and agencies, insensitivity to the
deplorable conditions our people continue to
live in, among others, Liberians can't afford
to remain silent at this time. We must become
activists for the people to ensure that they
too benefit from their country's resources and
most importantly, that it's not "business
as usual" in Monrovia.
In spite of all the assistance we've been getting
from the international community, the NTGL is
still saying that it's broke that's why it can't
deliver. But we know why it is broke - because
it's spending our little resources wastefully
just like previous administration. Even at that,
it still can't account for the little bit that's
been entrusted into its care. And yet it wants
sanctions that were imposed on the ruthless
Taylor regime by the UN for intervening in a
neighboring country (Sierra Leone) to be lifted
so that they too can benefit materially from
diamonds and timber profits. On the issue of
lifting the sanctions, I'd say NO emphatically
until the Bryant administration can give accounting
of what it has done with our money so far.
disheartening to know that even with the little
help that we're getting, the majority of our
people still live in abject poverty and misery
with no end in sight. This leads me to the one
question that I've been asking all along - they
say that Liberia is in "transition",
my question is: From what to what? Obviously,
I don't see any difference between this government
and the previous one, except we want to be naïve
or unrealistic - the denial syndrome. More or
less, things are basically the same in Liberia.
That's why we have to wake up and become vigilant
as I keep saying!
If we could only insist on getting a government
(interim or elected) that's transparent, accountable,
trustworthy, honest and selfless, among other
good virtues, Liberians could get light and
water to improve their daily lives, because
they'd have a government that's interested in
their welfare. But in order for this to happen,
again, we'll have to be careful in determining
who we want to lead us going forward, lest we'd
get the same results. And we shouldn't be fooled
either by people who say that the upcoming elections
will change everything for the good of the country.
The fact of the matter is that it just could
be the same folks in charge after the elections,
thus the same kind of bad governance we've been
experiencing for so long.
if I had my way, I'd rather have a select group
of our tribal chiefs and elders run the country
during this interim period with the assistance
of Liberians with high moral and ethical standards
instead of this present group of people that
have seemingly been imposed on us. After all,
whose most close to the Liberian people than
our chiefs and elders - because they live in
the villages, towns and hamlets. And besides,
they know our people very well. Furthermore,
they're not as tainted as many in this so-called
Whenever I bring up this particular topic about
our tribal chiefs and elders running the government,
at least in the interim, I usually get negative
responses from people who see and dismiss them
merely as illiterates incapable of managing
a modern-day society. As one of them asked me
in the most serious tone: "Harris, do you
really believe that those illiterate chefs can
go to the IMF (International Monetary Funds)
and World Bank to plead our case?" Never
mind that I had told them earlier that the chiefs
would be supported by a group of young Liberian
technocrats that the people can trust.
in response to him, I said: "Well, we've
had all these so-called educated people with
PhD's, MA's CPA's, CFM's, MBA's and what have
you running Liberia for so long in the past
and even currently….. look where we are. Can
we get any worse? Hell no!" I then continued:
"He who is already down, fears no fall,
but I won't mind trying something radical and
different. I'd rather. give them (chiefs and
elders) the benefit of any doubt, because I
now know what our so-called educated people
represent - despair, selfishness, lack of integrity
and dishonesty, among others." That ended
the conversation, but we still remain friends,
though. At this stage, I'd rather try anything
new or radical that work for our people as opposed
to staying with the old that just won't do.
if Liberians choose to remain complacent or
silent during this very crucial period when
they have the ears and eyes of the international
community, then they'll have no one else to
blame but themselves. After surviving more than
20 combined years of ruthlessness by the late
Samuel K. Doe's and Charles Ghankay Taylor's
dictatorships, Liberians should really have
nothing to fear, especially with UN forces on
the ground. I don't think that they (UN peacekeeping
forces) would deny us our right to assemble
peacefully and demonstrate, if that's what it'll
take in order to draw attention to the ongoing
mess in our country.
all, it is the responsibility of each Liberian,
regardless of where he or she may be, to ensure
that our country survives and that its natural
resources be used always for the total benefit
of us all, not just a selfish and greedy few.
Just as I was about to file this article, I
came across yet another disturbing headline
which is a clear example of what I've been talking
about in this piece: "[Liberian] Parliament
Rejects Petition for Taylor to Be Tried in Sierra
Leone" (IRIN, as carried by AllAfrica.com,
July 7, 2004). Did the human rights groups in
Liberia really expect Taylor's cohorts (or partners
in crimes) who make up most of the so-called
Parliament to embrace their petition? I hope
not! Now you see what I've been saying throughout