Time To Build Strong and Lasting Institutions in Liberia (Not Strong Presidency), in the Wake of Mysterious Deaths
By Tewroh-Wehtoe Sungbeh
Most Liberians, especially the so-called educated class is good at speculating endlessly about who should be the next President of Liberia, but are not good at discussing the imperial presidency, advocating constitutional means of building and strengthening existing institutions, and are not good at advocating to make democracy and governance work in Liberia.
Knowing very well that there are incredibly broken institutions and a strong presidency in the country, which hinders progress, growth, accountability and democratic governance, one would think these Liberians, instead of their cult-like obsession with anointing the next president of Liberia, would focus on genuine nation-building to make the country safe, credible and livable.
In Liberia, a president can appoint his/her family members to key government and national security positions, without paying a political price for such intentional breach of public trust.
Presidents Tubman, Tolbert, Doe, Taylor and Sirleaf, are guilty of hiring their relatives to work in key government posts.
A president can travel the world (even though there is a Minister of Foreign Affairs, agency heads and ministers) who can negotiate trades and represent the government, in these cases.
Today, President Sirleaf travels the world unchallenged like a drunken sailor looking for a lost vessel.
No oversight and accountability from the legislature and the Liberian people.
A president can appoint Commissioners of the National Elections Commissions, even though he or she is or was on the ballot campaigning for the job. President Doe and now President Sirleaf benefited from SECOM and the NEC, as candidates.
Corruption is way too high and out of control, and the tenures of the national Legislature are unreasonably 7 and 9 years respectively, for members of the House of Representatives and Senate.
There are no genuine watchdog groups to pressure members of this body to legislative, and to also pressure them to visit their rural districts and counties.
There is no law and order in Liberia, and anybody can kill or inflict harm on another person with impunity.
Yet, some Liberians naively believe their convenient choice for president this time around can erase those national problems, once that person is elected and inaugurated President of Liberia.
When democratic institutions are weak and broken as they are in Liberia today, history tells us that ‘absolute power corrupts absolutely’, and the next President of Liberia is geared to governing from the same absolute positions of unlimited strength, unaccountability and abuse of power, as Liberian presidents have done in the nation’s centuries-old history.
This can be said also of the various branches of government.
So instead of prematurely anointing the next president of Liberia, who most definitely will repeat the strong-arm governance tactics of previous presidents, why not discuss and push for strong, vibrant and effective institutions that will make Liberia safe, prosperous and governable?
The mysterious deaths of whistleblower Michael Allison, political insider Harry A. Greaves, Jr., and Guaranty Bank’s Dan Ologun, who fell from a boat while on a joy ride with his family, occurred during a time when major corruption investigations are being carried out by the Liberian Anti-Corruption Commission (LACC).
As these embarrassingly mysterious deaths hovers over the nation, there is an urgent need for transparency, accountability, neutrality and independence, and all eyes should be on law enforcement and the investigative and prosecuting arms of the Ministry of Justice to do its job, not the President of Liberia who reportedly is calling the shots.
The Ministry of Justice, the Liberian National Police, the various law enforcement agencies and their investigative arms shouldn’t be token political institutions and cheerleading squads of Liberia’s dictatorial presidents.
These are professional bodies that should operate by international professional standards and codes of conduct.
President Sirleaf and other government officials should not constantly influence, interfere, control and macro manage law enforcement.
The legislature ought to fund law enforcement, increase their training, and support them in all the do, in terms of doing their job.
There is an urgent need for independence and neutrality in these fatal cases and in other deaths and national crisis that threatens Liberia’s integrity and reasons for being a sovereign nation.
This is not the time to salivate over whom should be Liberia’s next president (as if we are still running a university or high school student council campaign), but a time to build strong and lasting national institutions that will make Liberia a safe and prosperous place to live and raise a family.