Tiawon S. Gongloe

Can Tiawon Gongloe Govern A Troubled Liberia?

Posted May 16, 2022

By Tewroh-Wehtoe Sungbeh

On a very busy Saturday evening on May 14-15, in two metro Atlanta cities, presidential candidate Tiawon Saye Gongloe made his campaign and fundraising debut to the political faithful who gathered there to hear him tell them why he wants to be the next President of Liberia after 2023.

With a compelling narrative about himself that detailed his story from rags to political and legal prominence at times as a pro bono lawyer, his known and defining brand of integrity, and his brush with early death and jail time as a young college activist, Gongloe did not hesitate to burnish those attributes to make a case that he is the one who can salvage Liberia from itself.

For those reasons alone, he promised to be a president who will “declare and publish my assets,” and “publish the salaries and benefits of the president and the three branches of government,” to bring credibility and integrity to government.”

I will “institute lifetime audit in government, the president first. No questionable bank accounts.” Because if the president cannot explain his wealth, “I will resign.”

“The only reason to hold public office is to serve, not to steal,” he said as he lambaste President George Weah and the legislature that finds daylight stealing from the Liberian people a mark of honor.

Mr. Gongloe who did not hold back his criticisms of the Weah administration questioned the so-called Legislative Engagement Funds and the “Constituent Visit” piggybank-ATM policy that gives $30,000 to these legislators – 103 members, which adds up to over $3m dollars.

“In Liberia, the treasury is a fishing net. People are hungry and food insecurity is as bad as physical security.”

“If our president cannot succeed in his area of expertise” (football), with Lone Star, the national team fallen short in international competitions, where else can he succeed?”

“Politically, our current president is unable to carry the load.” So, “the reelection of President George Manneh Weah is choosing suicide,” Gongloe said.

Can you believe this, in a country where a Liberian citizen lives on $1.25 a day, and to pay these guys who doesn’t even care to visit their districts and their constituents, and don’t live there, and has no relationship with them, to be making this amount of money - $15,000 a month, in these times, is absolutely crazy and insensitive.

Tiawon Gongloe is knowledgeable and comes across as competent and honest and ready to fill the void of presidential leadership missing in Liberia since the nation’s founding.

But, can he lead a troubled Liberia?

Is he ready to lead on day 1?

This is not to beat on Gongloe’s incredible accomplishments and political aspirations.

I respect the sacrifices he has made as a human rights (poor man’s) lawyer, activist, and former political prisoner, to his current renowned status.

With a near-cherubic personality that makes you want to invite him to dinner at your home, I respect what I can describe as a love affair with Tiawon Gongloe’s presidential candidacy that a section of the Liberia population has for the man and what they purport him to be.

Liberia’s in a leadership mess and when there is a sense of desperation in any relationship, there is a dire need to hang on to any straw, good and bad, to find relief.

For Tiawon Gongloe, he’s singing to the choir, who are singing along and is hitting the right notes that his audience wants to hear in these troubling times.

However, as a Liberian who lived the experience and is critical of the proverbial presidential playbook, the strong Liberian presidency, and its wayward, unaccountable, and despotic tendencies, candidate Tiawon Gongloe, like other presidential candidates, did not discuss, or failed to discuss (which I asked him) his take on an amendment to examine the flawed Liberian constitution to take away powers from the president.

And decentralization of government?

Yes, decentralization is the big elephant in the room.

Curtailing presidential powers and the decentralization of national and local governments are a great start to making Liberia a wholly functional society.

Don’t blame me for such unwavering pessimism, a version of a political Post Traumatic Stress Disorder brought on by flashbacks, anxiety, and intrusive thoughts from the way Liberian presidents and other political leaders have abused power and abused the Liberian people, lied to them, stole from them, kept them poor and ignorant, and the way these people have treated the Liberian nation in its 200-year history.

Candidate Tiawon Gongloe certainly has a grasp on the issues, and he autopsied the grave problems the nation faces and has inspiring descriptions and hard-nosed solutions to the nation’s problems.

But, can Tiawon Gongloe lead a broken country, and broken people in the face of a flawed constitution in a centralized government, a poor undeveloped country where most Liberians are poor, and unemployed, an odious culture of impunity, and a nearly 200-year-old presidential playbook that gives unlimited powers to the President of Liberia?

Time will tell!!



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