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Dougbeh Nyan’s congressional moment

Dr. Dougbeh Chris NyanBy Tewroh-Wehtoe Sungbeh



Unlike Elphinstone Birch who did not see Dr. Nyan’s Ebola presentation before the Foreign Affairs Subcommittee of the US House of Representatives before telling his readers that Nyan wasn’t one of the participants, I saw the presentation on youtube and believed it was Dr. Dougbeh Chris Nyan who was speaking.

I listened to Dr. Nyan’s presentation over and over not to beat him for his effort, but to also applaud him for addressing a group that holds enormous weight in finding a solution to the Ebola crisis.

As I applaud him publicly for having the courage to address the subcommittee of the US House of Representation on the Ebola crisis raging in Liberia and the West African region, I also want to differ with him about his singular appearance and other part of his presentation.

With all the adulations pouring in from his many supporters on his behalf for his appearance, some could see my disagreement with him as the equivalent of an apostasy – for daring to get out of the box and publicly question a guy who takes his own time and energy and consciousness to do what we all want folks to do – that is to find a group or a solution to the Ebola crisis in our country.

As a research physician, no one understands medicine and Ebola better than Dr. Nyan. As such, I don’t claim to be an expert or hold a high ground to debate this issue and its tragic consequences with him.

What I can do is ask why Dr. Nyan had to appear before the subcommittee alone as ‘Director of the Secretariat’ of this new and obscure ‘Diaspora Liberia Emergency Response Task Force on the Ebola Crisis?’ According to him, his group has already airlifted 4,000 lbs of medical supplies to help with Ebola in Liberia.

Why did Dr. Nyan not appear with Liberian doctors – his colleagues to make a case about Ebola in their homeland before the subcommittee?

Also, with their enormous expertise, why did Dr. Nyan not mobilize Liberian and foreign doctors to volunteer and travel to Liberia, to assist the (foreign volunteer doctors) that are already in Liberia, working to cure Liberians, and also contain Ebola?

Because numbers and visuals matter when mobilizing support for a cause, I wanted to see along with Dr. Nyan on stage in Washington D.C. Liberian-born-US-based doctors and those living in other parts of the world, speaking cohesively on this issue under a banner that reads: “Liberian Medical Association.”

I am not interested in a personal political crusade that thrusts a singular person in the limelight to make name for himself and get that perfect sound bite and photo-ops of the day. I am interested in a genuinely solid collective representation that delivers practical results.

I am not suggesting that a singular activist representation delivers no result. However, the doctor that Nyan is would have gotten greater results, cooperation and credibility on the issue had he reached out to his colleagues, his fellow countrymen and women who understands the non-political, medical aspect of Ebola to make a biting case.

As Ebola takes a toll on families and countries, Diaspora groups representing the various countries are using every available platform to draw attention to a menacing virus that has taken away thousands of lives, threatened governments and devastated economies.

Not that Dr. Nyan is believed to have capitalized on Ebola to raise personal funds. The concern is, as the virus spreads and becomes difficult to contain, some individuals are already using the crisis to raise their own profiles and raise funds for their organizations without any form of accountability, as some famously did during the Liberian civil war.

That said, I want to move on briefly to another part of Dr. Nyan’s presentation.

Liberia is a poor country. Liberia is also a sovereign nation. Being a poor country does not mean surrendering those historical rights guranteed under a country’s constitution.

The Ebola crisis is not the place for “mainly the US to take immediate control of the healthcare system of Liberia,” as Dr. Nyan suggested in his presentation.

What the US can do is work with the Liberian government as collaborative partners to rebuild Liberia’s broken healthcare system.

Also, I am not so crazy about Liberia’s so-called “special relationship” or historical ties with the US, as Dr. Nyan mentioned.

Any special relationship with no strings attached?

What’s so special about Liberia’s relationship with the US when Liberian citizens are expected and required to be in line at embassies to apply for visas, like citizens of countries with no special relationship with the US do everyday?

What special “links?”

Liberians work hard to earn everything they own in this country. “Special relationship” with the United States is not and has never been a passport for Liberians to win special favors from the US government.

If Liberia had such a special relationship with the United States, Liberia would have visa waiver status today like European countries and some Asian countries.











Director of the Secretariat, Diaspora Liberia Emergency Response Task Force on the Ebola Crisis

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