The Liberian Dialogue http://theliberiandialogue.org Serving you since 2002. Credible. Compelling. Consistent. Provocative. Sat, 05 Aug 2017 23:58:34 +0000 en-US hourly 1 https://wordpress.org/?v=4.8.1 The Elliptical Political Journey of Rev. Samuel B. Reeves, Jr http://theliberiandialogue.org/2017/08/05/the-elliptical-political-journey-of-rev-samuel-b-reeves-jr/ http://theliberiandialogue.org/2017/08/05/the-elliptical-political-journey-of-rev-samuel-b-reeves-jr/#respond Sat, 05 Aug 2017 23:58:00 +0000 http://theliberiandialogue.org/?p=4765 By Tewroh-Wehtoe Sungbeh      

 

I don’t know much about Rev. Samuel B. Reeves, Jr., the vice-presidential candidate who is on the ticket of presidential candidate Mills Jones of the Movement for Economic Empowerment (MOVEE).

I got to know a little about Rev. Reeves just recently after his protective brother, Joe Reeves, (a former die-hard supporter of presidential candidate Joseph Boakai (Unity Party), who has since jumped ship to join his brother’s elliptical vice presidential bid), inboxed me the ‘profile’ of his brother.

How can an individual who was once a dedicated, passionate, early supporter and defender of the presidential candidate of the ruling Unity Party – long before his relative was ever chosen to be on a ticket drop his candidate and any allegiance to the candidate for a relative’s campaign; is perhaps an issue I need to thoroughly look at in a future article.

If I ever should do a future piece on this issue, I will take a look at the lack of loyalty, commitment, betrayal, opportunism in (Liberian politics), and the family ties that served conveniently as a magnet that drew Joe Reeves to his brother’s camp in the 2017 Liberian legislative and presidential elections.

 For now, I want to focus on Rev. Samuel B. Reeves, Jr.

 According to his profile, Rev. Reeves is an “inspiring man with a hope-filled vision of faith, a powerful community leader, a theological scholar and a transformational pastor.” He is also “a family man who enjoys spending quality time with his wife, son, and extended family and friends.”

Those are warm and fascinating qualities about a man of God who wants to be the next vice president of Liberia – a “transformational pastor” who could be the next President of Liberia in his own right.

If those qualities about Rev. Reeves are true, they are worthy of our collective attention and adulation because of the compelling nature of his story, which shouldn’t be told only when he’s running for a political office totally and completely different from his ecclesiastical role at the holy pulpit.

I want to hear more of those stories, inspiring stories about Rev. Reeves and other Liberians whom I believe are good and decent God-fearing people residing in the Liberian orbit, whom we don’t often get to know or hear about (except for the legendary Togba-Nah Tipoteh), whose trademark decency and uncorrupt public life has riveted our collective imagination.

So where has Rev. Reeves been all these years when the Liberian people needed him?

 Again, according to his profile, Rev. Reeves “has been serving for the past 12 years,” and “has made Providence {Baptist Church} one of the most social and politically conscious churches in Liberia.”

Rev. Reeves has made Providence one of the most “social and politically conscious churches in Liberia?”

“Politically conscious?”

Really? When?

Rev. Reeves was politically conscious during his 12 years at Providence Baptist Church during the Ellen Johnson Sirleaf administration?

On the issue of social consciousness, Rev. Reeves’ LEAD (Liberian Entrepreneurial and Asset Development, Inc), according to his profile “established strategic plans of extending his vision of Christian Education to other regions of Liberia,” which has offices in seven counties.

Rev. Reeves’ profile mentions that he is in the “process of building a homeless second-chances model center for Ebola orphans, with vision of senior house complexes. Rev. Reeves “has built the DeVos Village, comprising of Medical Center, a high school, an IT Center, a water company, a farm, and housing units, located in Bo-Waterside region.”

Are these facilities in Bo, Sierra Leone or Liberia? If yes, why Sierra Leone and not in Liberia?

Truth is I follow Liberian politics a whole lot and I never heard anything about Rev. Reeves’ “politically conscious” activities in Liberian during the Sirleaf administration, or in any administration.

 With a profile as rich in everything positive about Rev. Reeves circulating everywhere, I would think his profiler would include and specify the Rev’s “politically conscious” activities in a country (Liberia), and a government that experienced over the years slews of political killings, rampant corruption, abject poverty, hunger, underdevelopment, high unemployment, nepotism, armed robberies and a whole lot of other criminal activities, in the nearly 12 years of the Sirleaf administration.

History tells us that the Liberian people are not too kind to preachers-turned politicians, and are not kind either to a quasi-theocratic republic as it was superficially during the Tubman-Tolbert autocratic regime and the Tolbert-Warner-Greene period.

Can the Liberian people handle another preacher as vice president or president?
Do you all remember what happened in 1980 and after? Is he ready for the incoming political storms? Can Rev. Samuel B. Reeves, Jr. handle the heat in the political kitchen?

Providence Baptist Church has a history of political consciousness when Rev. E. Toimu A. Reeves pastored the church in the 1970s, during the Tolbert administration.

I know because I listened to Radio Station ELBC that year, (I believe) 1978, when Rev. E. Toimu A. Reeves boldly tote the moral bullhorn to the pulpit and spoke passionately to the conscience of an anxious nation when he challenged President (Rev.) William R. Tolbert, Jr’s. cruel attempt to make what was known as the “age of consent” law legal in Liberia.

The so-called ‘age of consent’ law was meant for 13-year old girls (kids) to legally have sex with grown men.

Had the age of consent law passed, it would have made it legal for grown adult men to molest, rape, ‘marry’ and have sexual intercourse with 13-year-old young girls.

It is one thing to be socially-conscious like Rev. Samuel B. Reeves profile says. It is also spiritually and morally unconscionable for men and women of God to sit by idly and see the children of God suffer at the hands of an uncaring government.

What would Jesus say or do?

I guess Jesus will say, ‘your people are suffering. Speak out like Rev. E. Toimu A. Reeves once did when he rallied the consciousness of a nation and stopped a bad law.”

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“President” J. Emmanuel Nuquay? Lord, Help Liberia and the Liberian People http://theliberiandialogue.org/2017/07/31/4761/ http://theliberiandialogue.org/2017/07/31/4761/#respond Mon, 31 Jul 2017 20:49:23 +0000 http://theliberiandialogue.org/?p=4761 By Tewroh-Wehtoe Sungbeh          

 

 

J. Emmanuel Nuquay is the current Speaker of the Liberian House of Representatives.

Mr. Nuquay is also the running mate of the current vice president Joseph Boakai, who is running to be the next president of Liberia.

Nuquay could be President of Liberia.

Scary, indeed.

Before his selection as the vice-presidential running mate of the slumberous septuagenarian Boakai, the once obscure Nuquay represented Margibi County in the House, and later became Chairman of the Ways and Means Committee.

Mr. Nuquay became Speaker of the House of Representatives in 2016 after the disgraced Speaker Alex Tyler was removed from office for his sleazy role in the Global Witness Sable Mining investigation, which accused Tyler of receiving a $75,000 bribe.

Anxious and nakedly ambitious to climb the political ladder in a country where only the strong, sleazy and powerful political and non-political hustler can survive, the 48-year old Nuquay once a member of the ruling Unity Party in his previous political life, conveniently resigned from the Unity party and co-founded the People’s Unification Party (PUP).

What became of Nuquay and his People’s Unification Party for him to suddenly and shamelessly become the running mate of Vice President Joseph Boakai and his ruling Unity Party in this year’s electoral fervor to surpass 15 others in the selection process, is left to our speculation.

Because these are two distinct individuals with (I guess) different ideas, beliefs, values and vision for Liberia that supposed to set them apart politically.
They are also from two different political parties (Unity Party and People’s Unification Party), that supposed to have different political values, beliefs, platforms and goals for the country and the Liberian people.

Any political conviction?

Does it matter anyway in Liberian politics when ideas, values, goals, beliefs, vision and political platforms are thrown out the windows to satisfy the opportunistic and self-centered political ambitions of a politician?

A possible answer for this blatant disregard of political norms and convictions on the part of Nuquay, and Mr. Boakai’s selection of Nuquay (as the rumor mill suggests) could be bribery and the payment of $2 million that Nuquay allegedly paid the Boakai camp to get the selection.

As it was with Alex Tyler whom he succeeded as Speaker, Nuquay was embroiled in his own controversies regarding his dubious role in the passage of the 4-G multi-year Farmington Hotel tax break deal, his close and suspicious ties to the powerful Lebanese businessman, Abi Jaoudi, and the insensitive and disjointed rant he made about fellow Liberians after he was chosen by Boakai, raised eyebrows.

“People coming they want job but it’s not our business to give our job to them, to give our birthright to them. So we will never, never ever do that. If they come with rudeness, if they exhibit rudeness; but one thing I have said which I want to reiterate, let them bear in mind that whether it is one month from now, its two years from now, its three years from now, its five years from now, it’s ten years from now, they will pay the price for their rudeness. I’ve said this and I’m saying this consistently and I will do it no matter heaven open, this the time for them to exhibit rudeness? After October 11, it will be our time, from October 11 going, it will be our time,” Nuquay reportedly said.

Is this guy, Nuquay, serious? How did he get to be Speaker or a Vice-Presidential running mate, in the first place?

Really, Liberia?

How low can the bar be?

However, when he was confronted about his suspicious legislative dealings with the Farmington Hotel bill and the Lebanese businessman, Abi Jaoudi, Nuquay said:

“First of all, let me establish that I’m not engaged in any business anywhere or at no point in time have I been engaged in a business venture with any Lebanese; I have never been engaged with any business with a Lebanese either here in Liberia – or in any part of this world.”

Vice President Joseph Boakai’s judgment is an issue here for choosing Nuquay as his running mate amid his volatile comments and his dealings; and he (Boakai) hasn’t demonstrated an intellectual and policy grasp for the office he wants to be elected to in the upcoming elections.

Nuquay, the man he chose as his running mate is completely out of touch, lack intellectual depth, cocky and reckless in his dealings and his utterances like a drunken sailor grasping for air to survive in a stormy sea.

Most Liberian politicians, as is already known, are not politically and emotionally connected to their constituents, and are not even held responsible for what they say or do. As a result, they usually get away with “murder” and not accountable to the voters.

Joseph Boakai is at an age (72 years old) of retirement – or he should have retired by now. Is Mr. Boakai preparing the way for J. Emmanuel Nuquay to be President of Liberia?

Lord, help Liberia and the Liberian people.

There is a serious need for new leaders – serious, respectful, caring, smart and issue-driven/development-driven leaders who are accountable to the Liberian people.

There is also a need for leaders who understands policy and can deliver. Liberia is not the place for apprenticeship, nor a place for cockiness.

We’ve had too many of those already in Liberia’s 170 years as a sovereign nation.

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http://theliberiandialogue.org/2017/07/31/president-j-emmanuel-nuquay-lord-help-liberia-and-the-liberian-people/ http://theliberiandialogue.org/2017/07/31/president-j-emmanuel-nuquay-lord-help-liberia-and-the-liberian-people/#respond Mon, 31 Jul 2017 20:21:51 +0000 http://theliberiandialogue.org/?p=4755                 

 

 

 

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Don’t be Economical with the Truth, Otherwise, Fresh Voter Registration is Eminent http://theliberiandialogue.org/2017/07/31/dont-be-economical-with-the-truth-otherwise-fresh-voter-registration-is-eminent/ http://theliberiandialogue.org/2017/07/31/dont-be-economical-with-the-truth-otherwise-fresh-voter-registration-is-eminent/#respond Mon, 31 Jul 2017 13:44:56 +0000 http://theliberiandialogue.org/?p=4753 By Josiah Flomo Joekai, Jr.       

 

 

Liberia is at the crossroads and it is not a choice but an imperative for some of us who are conscientious to ensure that the right thing is done to consolidate the hard-earned peace that we currently enjoy.

I am fully committed to this well-intentioned course and that is exactly why I am not only discussing this critical national issue regarding the reported problems that have inundated the current voters roll on radio, but equally making sure that my thoughts or opinions are meticulously written for easy access and reference in seeking genuine solutions.

The fact is that the voters roll has multiple problems beyond the total number of 13,000 omissions reported by the Chairman of the National Elections Commission, Cllr. Jerome G. Korkoya, when he appeared before the Liberian Senate.

The NEC boss averred that his reported 13,000 omissions on the Provisional Registration Roll are not alarming as being claimed by some well-meaning Liberians, including me. Thus, there is no need for Liberians to panic.
Conversely, the unadulterated fact is that the 13,000 omissions reported by the Chairman are not just untrue but constitute a fragment of the different issues that have beset the credibility of the roll.

Certainly, I am already panicking and I have no doubt that many of my fellow compatriots are also deeply concerned thus becoming frightened. Unfortunately, the vast majority of our citizens do not comprehend the extent of these problems and their implications for the conduct of the October, 2017 polls. The imbalance in the public understanding of the extent of this issue further strengthened my resolve to enlighten the public by raising the much needed awareness on the voters roll controversy.

Omissions on the Provisional Registration Roll

The Commission through its Chairman, Cllr. Korkoya has denied that the omissions on the provisional roll are alarming declaring that they only amount to 13,000. The Chairman’s report on this matter which is causing so much apprehension amongst the citizenry has to be published in keeping with the practice of the Commission to allay fears and instill trust and confidence in the electoral process.

It would be in the best interest of the Commission and nation were the Chairman to present to the Senate and publish in local dailies a breakdown of omissions per county using a spreadsheet that further provides details per registration center. However, I have no doubt that this is not easily going to happen simply because it will invalidate the 13,000 omissions reported by the Chairman. The truth of the matter is that this does not represent the total number of omissions reported from magisterial offices across the country following the close of the exhibition exercise.

For the sake of the records, let’s take a look at a tip of the iceberg

Gbarpolu County for example with just three electoral districts, there is a little over 4,000 omissions reported. This by all accounts constitutes alarming omissions in a county with a little over 45,000 registered voters (2017 Provisional Registration Roll).

It is absolutely unprecedented in our electoral history and must not be sugar-coated. No one needs to be a Rocket Scientist to understand that this situation is a recipe for chaos if it remains unattended. By this figure, one can infer that taking into account the large numbers of registered voters in bigger counties like Nimba, Bong, Lofa, Margibi, Montserrado and Grand Bassa, 13,000 is grossly understated. The Chairman cannot be economical with the truth knowing very well that it has far-reaching consequences.

Existence of Additional Names on the Provisional Registration Roll

As I mentioned earlier, the roll does not only reflect omitted names or particulars but the names of individuals who were not originally registered during the Voters Registration exercise from February 1-March 14, 2017.

Take for instance GBAHN Registration Center with Code 33180 in Nimba County originally registered 1519 persons but the Provisional Roll showed 1650 registered voters with an increase of 131 registered voters. This is a situation that cuts across the entire roll. Interestingly, these names are within the system and will be difficult to identify since they are recorded under the same center code with those who were originally registered.

Like the omissions, this is a recipe for manipulating the roll and setting the stage for illegal voting in October, which will eventually culminate into electoral fraud. The million dollar question is how did the names appear on the roll, particularly in a disaggregated manner at various centers where the individuals concerned were not originally registered in the first place?

Whether or not this unacceptable act was done knowingly or unknowingly, the Commission is yet to inform the public about this dimension of the voters roll emergency.

The NEC Chairman’s Statement and its Implications for the October Polls

Chairman Korkoya’s June 14, 2017 statement that citizens with valid voter cards will vote on Election Day whether or not their names are on the roll is consistent with the current voters roll controversy. The Chairman’s statement undermines the integrity of the voters roll. It is inconsistent with the standard of maintaining a credible roll. Thus, it is counterproductive to credible elections in October, 2017 thereby creating the need for urgent intervention.

In the first place, how does one obtain a valid card when his or her information is not captured on the roll? The profile of the voter established by a credible voters roll confirms the validity of the voter card. In so doing, one can safely say that the Chairman’s statement is a paradox because maintaining a credible roll is one of the basic standards in electioneering that any staff or technician must fundamentally understand. In fact, to simply put it, without credible voters roll there will be no free and fair election.

Besides, this principle of maintaining a credible voters roll is also guaranteed by Article 77(b) of the 1986 Constitution of Liberia mandating the Commission to ensure that voters are eligible by being registered. It goes without saying that it was not necessary for the government to spend resources on the just ended exhibition exercise if one will vote using his or her cards without being captured by the roll. Hence, making such policy statement that is consistent with the problems associated with the voters roll only point to the dangers that loom over October, 2017 polls. Now the picture is even clearer thus corroborating the Chairman’s statement and the credibility questions that have plagued the voters roll.
The Jonathan K. Weedor (Commissioner) Factor

In his 15 June 2017 position statement disassociating himself from Chairman Korkoya’s statement, Commissioner Jonathan K. Weedor unambiguously underlined that “there are several problems associated with the current Provisional Registration Roll ranging from the omission of hundreds, if not thousands of names to missing photos and profiles of registrants.”

Commissioner Weedor furthered that the Chairman’s statement is alarming, disturbing and troubling because according to him, a reliable and credible Final Registration Roll is a cardinal requirement for every free, fair and transparent election. He even affirmed that he was not part of the decision to hold the press conference and was shocked when the Chairman made the pronouncement.

It is no doubt that the move by Commissioner Weedor and his assertions do not only invalidate Chairman Korkoya’s claims of 13,000 omissions but are strong indications of lack of unity and coherence amongst Commissioners. This misunderstanding at the level of Commissioners speaks to serious leadership crisis at the Commission and I find it incomprehensible to believe that such thing is occurring at a time when a crucial national decision-making process is at hand. The Commissioner’s position is not just an ordinary insider statement but one that comes from a policy decision-maker which makes it grave thus necessitating urgent attention.

Undeniably, Commissioner Weedor is by far the most hands-on, knowledgeable and experienced Commissioner of the seven Commissioners including the current Chairman himself. Commissioner Weedor has been at the NEC since 2005, and has played a pivotal role in the management of elections to present. The wealth of experience he possesses is an asset that the Commission should adequately tap into especially at this critical juncture of our political transition. To hear from him in this manner raises a number of credibility questions.

It beats my imagination that key stakeholders including political parties and civil society organizations are very silent on this crucial national issue. Consistent advocacy and engagement with the Commission to ascertain the facts with the aim of addressing this problem must be an immediate priority.

In particular, with the irregularities that attended the entire voter registration exercise such as illegal registration activities, use of non-serialized Optical Mark Recognition (OMR) forms, limited professional capacity and the disorderly arrangement of the forms, stakeholders are to painstakingly follow up on every step of the finalization of the voters roll. Unfortunately, that is not happening. This is paramount because the Impartiality and transparency of the Commission can only be guaranteed if these institutions follow up with the Commission on every step of the way.

Indisputably, this is a critical national issue which has attracted tremendous attention. That is exactly why in no uncertain terms any Liberian should be allowed to vote without being accounted for by the voters roll. The reported omissions are not just in the fives, tens but hundreds and thousands. If this is anything to go by, it cannot in anyway be taken lightly since many Liberians stand to be disenfranchised as a result of these reports.

What is even worrying is the number of reported cases of illegal voter registration activities that took place using NEC registration materials in some instances during the exercise. Even though some of the culprits were apprehended, the public is yet to know the outcome of those illegal activities in terms of the number of cards recovered; in whose custody they (Voter Registration Cards) are, and what has happened to those involved. Besides, forgery is one thing that remains prevalent in our society today. Thus, no one doubts the possibility of the use of hundreds or thousands of forged Voter Registration Cards in October given the capacity issue that remains a challenge for the Commission.

In my sincere opinion, the voters roll dilemma constitutes a national emergency requiring the timely and prompt intervention of the government through relevant functionaries, political parties, civil society organizations, religious institutions and diplomatic missions accredited near Monrovia, particularly those with the history of supporting the strengthening and sustenance of our embryonic democracy.

Josiah Flomo Joekai, Jr. is a Representative Aspirant of District #3 Montserrado County, and former Director of Civic and Voter Education of the National Elections Commission, with more than 13 years of professional service in the areas of education management, democracy and governance. He has authored several published articles and books on contemporary issues.

 

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Liberia: Transformative Social Change Through Youth Development and Sustainable Agriculture http://theliberiandialogue.org/2017/07/31/liberia-transformative-social-change-through-youth-development-and-sustainable-agriculture/ http://theliberiandialogue.org/2017/07/31/liberia-transformative-social-change-through-youth-development-and-sustainable-agriculture/#respond Mon, 31 Jul 2017 13:09:05 +0000 http://theliberiandialogue.org/?p=4749 By Francis W. Nyepon  

 

The most vital and clear-cut pathway to propelling transformative social change and inclusive growth in Liberia is through youth development and sustainable agriculture.

It is no secret that agriculture is the backbone of our economy with over 80% of our people living in abject poverty, earning less than US$2 per day, and relying primarily on small-scale subsistence farming as their primary source of income, food, nutrition and survival. Our country ranks 12th from bottom of the United Nation’s Human Development Index with 75% of them under 36 years of age, and 44% of that percentage under 16 years of age, with the majority uneducated, unskilled, jobless and idle.

Over the past 12 years, transformative social change in various sectors has been stalled due to the lack of vision, innovation, support, training, performance, investment, inequalities, and gender bias, even with a female president leading and navigating the ship of state.

Sustainable agriculture for instance, the backbone of our economy and major component of our food security was left unattended without promulgating cutting-edge policies and programs to build critical capacities to enhance social change. As a result, the size of farmlands were allowed to shrink, along with severe inadequacies in water resource management, upgrading of seed varieties and distribution to boost food production, employment and training. Instead, appalling policies were implemented, which did nothing more than to compromise the growth of the sector along with outrageous concession agreements that will seriously injure our country in a few short years to come.

Conversely, with such serious challenges facing Liberia, the majority of our youth, the greatest segment of our population, are stuck at the bottom of the socioeconomic ladder twisting in an endless cycle of abject poverty without a strategic pathway to contribute or participate in our country’s development agenda. Many are instead, marginalized, neglected and excluded from mainstream society without constructively and strategically being engage in contributing to the sustainable growth and development of our country. Since the end of the civil war in 2003, the majority of Liberia’s youth have been left behind in frustration, restlessness, impatience and agony due to the lack of productive education, skill- training, employment and a clear pathway to livelihood improvement.

Today, more than ever, Liberia desperately need a game-changing strategy to fundamentally root transformative social change to spur inclusive growth. The strength, vigor and dynamism of all our young people needs to be groomed and harnessed through sustainable agriculture, the service industry and the trades.

Our youth are a sleeping giant and they must be made the principle driving force to propel transformative social change in every community and municipality in our country. If transformative social change is to take place in Liberia, than the culture of impunity that has historically hamstrung and restrained our governance structures and socioeconomic relationships must be urgently brought to an end.

Since our country’s founding, impunity has been used to institutionalize inequality, injustice, privilege and poverty. It has separated, alienated and set most of our people apart socially, economically, politically and geographically by creating class structures that are destructive and urgently needs to be torn down.

Fundamentally, when impunity is paired with bad governance, corruption, dishonesty and deal making, it prevents our leaders from formulating clear-cut policies and pathways for inclusive growth and delivery of critical services such as, education, healthcare, human resource development, employment, nutrition, water, sanitation, and electricity amongst others. Every Liberian knows all too well that as a collective, these social ills limit social mobility, sustainable development, food security, efficient service delivery, youth development and poverty eradication. According to the World Bank, these are the primary reasons for our country’s underdevelopment, even with its vast wealth and abundant natural resources.

It is this author’s view that the major contributing factor to Liberia’s underdevelopment is the existence of two exclusively separate and unequal societies that exist in Liberia. One of these societies is prosperous and well-off, while the other, illiterate, poorly educated, unskilled, unemployed and hopelessly poverty stricken without straightforward opportunities for upward social mobility. Each of these societies remains so culturally different from one another that they project diametrically different, and opposing views about prosperity, social change, growth, and development.

Since the end of the civil war in 2003, Liberia’s extractive industry has been the principal source of growth, however, as a collective, the industry’s lofty ventures and enormous profits yield very little, if any, benefit for our people; thereby, forcing the vast majority of our people to continue to languish at the bottom of the socioeconomic ladder in excruciating agony, misery, disappointment, resentment and pain.

However, Liberia has an extremely impressive future ahead of it. The country is in a unique position to chart a new destiny towards a better and brighter future. But, innovative public policy will have to be promulgated to ignite transformative social change. Such innovative policy initiatives will have to be put front-and-center in our governance structures by a visionary leader to create a trajectory for change through youth development, sustainable agriculture, food production, service delivery, increased commodity production and the creation of small and medium industry.

This trajectory will indeed shift the changing realities of economic diversification. If this doesn’t happen after the 2017 elections, high illiteracy rate, couple with the lack of marketable skill-sets for our youth along with food insecurity, malnutrition, and unemployment will continue to keep Liberians hopelessly in poverty without clear-cut pathways to transformative social change.

In this light, it will take a progressive leadership with a vigorous and resolute agenda to empower our youth and enhance sustainable growth. Liberia cannot afford any longer to allow the most vibrant segment of its population to continue to arbitrarily and haphazardly be used as instruments of hostility, violence, conflict and devastation.

Our youth are the engine that can, and must drive our country to prosperity. They are endowed with the most underutilized talent for building critical capacity to igniting transformative social change and inclusive growth in our country. The time has come for our youth to be empowered with productive education, livelihood skills and employment to ignite transformation, increase resiliency and annihilate socioeconomic vulnerabilities. But, it is imperative that our youth be nurtured and guided in order for them to revolutionize their communities to success and prosperity.

Another way to also begin this transformative process is through the effective utilization of the robust value chain applications, practices and performances of a sustainable agricultural sector. Such an approach will allow the sector to become successful in enhancing youth development and empowerment. Our youth must be strategically targeted in a consequential manner so as to boost inclusive growth in a dynamic, and innovative way.

It is no secret that our country is a net importer of food; yet we produce far less than our potential given our rich soil, abundant rainfall, and favorable climate for agriculture. This author holds the view that when sustainable agriculture is paired with youth development, it will translate into a win-win situation for our country. It will create considerable employment, improve food security, improve livelihoods, plus increase the balance of payments for our country. For instance, frozen foods and livestock that could be raised and grown in the country will no longer have to be imported.

Moreover, basic vegetables, which are consumed every day by every Liberians will be grown in our country; instead of being imported from neighboring Guinea and Ivory Coast to fill the gap as it is currently being done at a tune of US10 million dollars annually.

A definite way to begin such a transformative process is the regional institutionalization of Farmers Field Schools. Such initiatives without a doubt will surely help to lift millions of Liberians out of poverty through sustainable agriculture. It can bridge the divide between the youth, women and smallholder farmers’ through capacity building, and discovery learning to facilitate interactive learning amongst this underserved segment of our population.

Additionally, it will prepare participants to effectively utilize the entire value chain spectrum of the agricultural sector, by allowing them to become more engaged citizens through employment, entrepreneurship, teamwork, and problem solving. Agriculture is the backbone of our economy, it cannot continue to suffer from entrenched negative perception and underinvestment where smallholder farmers perform long hours of backbreaking-work with very little to show for their life’s work. Our agricultural sector desperately needs to be modernized through the introduction of new techniques, methods, fertilizers and modern equipment to achieve better yields. What better way to initiate transformative social change, than through youth development and sustainable agriculture?

Mama Liberia, the country we love, and the only country we have cannot continue to be weakened by shortsighted public policy, which bring about intolerance, injustice, sexism and hostility. The confidence of our people cannot continue to be corroded and sink deeper into poverty and paucity.

Every Liberians must be welcome on board. We need all hands on deck to develop our country from Cape Mount to Cape Palmas, and from mount Nimba to seashores of Montserrado. But most importantly, the participation and contribution of our youth in sustainable agriculture must be encouraged through the public and private sectors, and civil society working together to reach this goal.

Liberia First!

Francis Nyepon can be reached at fnyepon@aol.com for remarks and comments

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The Republic of Liberia http://theliberiandialogue.org/2017/07/27/the-republic-of-liberia/ http://theliberiandialogue.org/2017/07/27/the-republic-of-liberia/#respond Thu, 27 Jul 2017 14:55:19 +0000 http://theliberiandialogue.org/?p=4747 By D. Garkpe Gedepoh           

July 26, 1847 was declared Liberia Independence Day by freed Africans who were once sold or abducted into slavery in America. But upon obtaining freedom they returned home after hundreds of years and established a nation which they named “Freedom” or “Liberia,” a derivative from the Latin root word “Liber.”

The constitution of the republic was carefully patterned after the American Constitution but failed to work in the interest of the masses. Majority of the returnees had worked on plantations in America and developed the plantation mentality or way of life, and controlled by an overseer within a patronage system. And so they felt alienated in Africa.

Prior to the establishment of Liberia, the indigenous inhabitants of West Africa had Kingdoms. West Africa was the land of many kingdoms ruled by kings not chiefs. The Europeans traded with the kings along the coast and referred to the land as the “Grain Coast” because it was also blessed with plenty of food.

In their quest to expropriate land and dominate the indigenes, the settlers overthrew the Kingdoms with the help of American gunships and canons and established townships, districts, and chiefdoms, which became conduits of their indirect rule.

They appointed native chiefs who were willing to obey their orders through divide-and-conquer mechanism. They also set up security check points around the perimeters of their settlements to watch out for any rebellious indigenes. This situation led to a semi-colonial domination by the settler minority over the indigenous communities.

The history of Kingdoms was now replaced with the history of the settlers. And most of the history that was written about the indigenous by the settlers was distorted.

The story of Chief Boatswain who the settlers claimed was a Bassaw (Bassa) Chief is an example of such distortion. Boatswain was never a Bassaw Chief! On the contrary, he was a Mandingo King and a Muslim who accommodated and protected the settlers when they arrived at Dugbor Nin or Ducor. The settlers later changed the name Dugbor Nin or Ducor to Monrovia after an American President. Boatswain’s Mandingo name was King Sao Boso…

We will revisit the history of Kingdoms or Liberia in depth in part 2 of “The Republic of Liberia,” but I will like to focus on contemporary Liberia for the moment.

Now, as we celebrate Independence Day on July 26, it is important for the patriots of the nation to reexamine and come to terms with the true meaning of the word “independence.”

What does the word independence mean? According to Merriam Webster online dictionary, independence means: Self-government, self-rule, self-determination, self-sufficiency, self-reliance; the quality or state of not being under the control of; SOVEREIGNTY.

No sovereign nation allows her territory to be occupied by foreign military forces. The presence of foreign forces in any country under the banner of peace keepers means that the occupied country has lost her sovereignty and the existing peace is fragile. So in light of this, you can only concur that Liberia Independence Day celebration is strictly ceremonial with regards to words and not deeds in our contemporary times…

You see: the moment the safety and security of Liberia got transferred from the citizens to foreigners, Liberia lost her sovereignty.

So let’s pray to the Almighty God for LIB (Liberia) to regain her sovereignty and become a nation capable of protecting everyone; a nation that will truly implement the rule of law throughout its borders; where real liberty and justice can be guaranteed to all; where this phrase that has been written in stone on the walls of the Temple of Justice, “Let justice be done to all men” will be rectified indiscriminately to reflect everyone, “Let justice be done to all”…

We pray for the real independence of our beloved nation (LIB), that our independence celebration will mark the true meaning of independence without neo-colonialism; where justice can no longer be shackled; and jungle justice has seized to exist; and a place where crooks and criminals have no place to hide their loots or build their mansions from the coffers of the nation.

Let’s pray for a better Liberia where real social and economic justice is guaranteed to all with her citizens serving as the true custodians of the state…

D. Garkpe Gedepoh is based in Maryland, USA.

 

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The David’s Dossier: 12 Reasons why Ellen Johnson Sirleaf Deserves no Third Term http://theliberiandialogue.org/2017/07/26/the-davids-dossier-12-reasons-why-ellen-johnson-sirleaf-deserves-no-third-term/ http://theliberiandialogue.org/2017/07/26/the-davids-dossier-12-reasons-why-ellen-johnson-sirleaf-deserves-no-third-term/#respond Wed, 26 Jul 2017 23:23:29 +0000 http://theliberiandialogue.org/?p=4744 By Dave Toh Jah                   

 

Close to the end of this year, Liberians will go to the polls to vote in presidential and legislative elections. This is the time for the Liberian people to send a message to the country and the rest of the World regarding the direction of the country. I do not believe the ruling Unity Party’s Government or its associates should be allowed a third term. My reasons are not limited to the followings:

1. Ellen wrote off a huge chunk of the Liberian population

I am not talking about the Southeastern region of Liberia which includes Grand Gedeh, Maryland, River Gee, and Sinoe Counties, a major part of Liberia the Sirleaf’s government has paid little or no attention to throughout her presidency.

The region’s deplorable road network, depopulation, and alarming unemployment rate have become so pervasive that citizens in that part of the country have resigned to the fact such is their destiny. As dire as their plight is, Southeastern Liberia is not the population that I am focused on in this work. That will be reserved for another time.

The government under President Sirleaf has neglected our brothers and sisters who, not by any fault of their own, are stranded in refugee land across West Africa.

Even before the ECOWAS mandate which ended their status as refugees, the government of Liberia has already written off those Liberians who were catching hell in deplorable camps. From Camp Kola, Gbeke, Yomou in the Republic of Guinea to Oru, Ijebu Ode in Nigeria, Liberians continue to languish in refugee camps while their President tour the globe and reward herself and her cronies very fat salaries.

Throughout Mrs. Sirleaf’s presidency there was no sustained effort to return, repatriate or resettle Liberians. Even at the time when Liberians were being mistreated and murdered in refugees’ camps, President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf did not crack her teeth. She acted like those people did not exist or that their lives did not matter.

 2. Failure to acknowledge the war and heal the wounds for fourteen years

Liberia was plunged in one of the worst wars in human history. Of a population of less than three million people, over 250,000 of our brothers and sisters, fathers and mothers, friends, classmates and loved ones were killed, some in the most brutal and gruesome manner.

Even the sitting president at the time was mutilated to death. It was the election of Mrs. Sirleaf that marked the closing chapter of the brutal war. Her government is the most stable and longest-lasting of post-war Liberia. Sadly, throughout the nearly 12 years of Madam Sirleaf’s presidency, she pretended that the country has had no war thus she made no attempt to acknowledge that the country and its people have been hurt for over a decade of wars and needed healing and reconciliation.

She did not acknowledge that thousands of mothers, fathers, and families have lost loved ones and there is a need for some consolation from their leader, especially the one they have called ‘Ma Ellen.’ One will expect that a president of good conscience and empathy will rally the country and work to heal the wounds and build the hope that such nightmare will never happen again. The only group President Ellen Johnson thought was victims were the children of the thirteen former ministers who were killed following the coup of 1980.

3. Ellen’s arrogance and disdain for the majority

President Johnson Sirleaf has presided over the country as if she is omniscient. Even in situations where she has sought the input of the general population through national conferences, she has treated the outcomes of the people’s voices with disdain and failed to act on their recommendations.

The Truth and Reconciliation Committee Report and the Gbarnga Constitution Review Conference are just few of the examples where the Government of President Sirleaf demonstrated a clear disdain and disrespect for the views of the majority.

4. Failure to build a system that may outlive her

 Ellen Johnson Sirleaf has failed to put into place a system that will outlive her presidency. There is no genuine policy or doctrine that she has contributed to the country which can be attached to her legacy. As the result, after twelve years in office, Liberia remains a trial and error nation. Now she wants her Vice President to continue with such junk policies that will continue to render the country impoverished and as she described the education, a mess. This trend has been ongoing and seemed unabated. It gets even worse and disheartening when one considers that this nation is turning 170 years since the declaration of independence.

 5. An economy in shambles

 If the economy of Liberia goes well, everything goes well. Liberia like any nation on Earth needs a vibrant economy to build roads, hospitals, schools, improve education, feed the people and perhaps make progress in almost everything.

Sadly, after nearly 12 years of the acclaimed Harvard economist presiding over the country and its economy, it remains in shambles. The economy still largely depends on foreign aid, handouts and solicitation. For 12 years, government has been unable to resolve which currency to use. Government under the leadership of Madam Johnson Sirleaf has failed to pay attention to the pillars of the Liberian economy which include small businesses (e.g. market women and men, tailors, weavers, farmers, etc.). The Liberian taxation/revenue systems are misguided and served only the needs of the elites.

The same can be said about the oil and mining industries which account for no economic inputs for the country but as milking cows for the President, her relatives and her cronies. Under the Sirleaf leadership, there is the working elite government class and the scraping poor. There is no sustained attempt to create a middle class or encourage private sector emergence and growth. The case of the National Bank of Liberia and its inside loaning process, the PSDI Loan Scheme at the Finance Ministry and a gamut of other mounting scandals are worthy of in depth attention.

6. Unemployment at near 0%?

 Some time ago a key person in the Liberian government was boasting that Liberia’s unemployment rate is among the lowest in the World. He said the number of people actively searching for jobs indicates the number of capable people that are not working. So, if the unemployment rate is near zero, it means that there are more people working so they are not looking for work. Really, Mr. Bigshot!

It means there is no work to look for so nearly 95% of the able body men and women in Liberia have no jobs and must toil with brute force to feed themselves and their families. For nearly 12 years the government remained unable to link standards of living to being employed, and seemed incapable of establishing mechanism for job creation. The government seemed incapable to connect roads and building constructions to job creation for Liberians.

7. Disregard for the separation of power and check and balance system

 Liberia is one country where the president exercises unfettered powers across every branch of government. Under president Sirleaf’s leadership, there have being visible presidential overreaches which use money and cronyism to influence the fragile system. The president actively took advantage of the high rates of incompetence and impoverishment among members of the various branches of government especially the Legislative Branch of government to usurp her power and influence.

8. A divided nation

 Under president Sirleaf’s leadership, the nation is divided than ever and she does not seem to have interest in fostering unity and cohesiveness across the country. She has helped to foster a culture of tribal embrace and alienation to keep the nation divided; and perpetuate the rule of her tribe (the Congau). President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf failed to reconcile the nation and foster a spirit of people coming together for the good of the nation.

 9. An educational system in mess

 Needless to write much about this because in her own words, she described the educational system of the country she leads as a ‘mess.’ And she was right. And even at the end of twelve uninterrupted years of peace, the story is still the same.

From kindergarten to tertiary levels, the Liberian educational system is a total disaster, and those in positions of responsibilities seemed to lack the capacity and the will to make meaningful changes. The trends of mass failures at the University of Liberia and other institutions of learning is just tip of the iceberg.

Even when one considers the creation of the community colleges as a plus but on close observation the attempt is misguided and ill-conceived. The various counties are financially distressed and do not have the human capacity to sustain themselves. The smarter approach is to allow and equip the University of Liberia to expand into the various counties.

10. The scourge of an East African disease

 Under the leadership of President Sirleaf, Liberia has experienced the worst disease ever in its nearly two hundred years of existence. It was under her leadership that Liberians were falling in the streets with blood gushing out of them as they perish in droves.

The havoc of EBOLA is a testimony to her administration’s failure to revitalize a failed healthcare system. (This is how you will know that a country does not have a healthcare system when it must take foreigners to teach or remind people how to wash their hands).

What have they been doing since they took power and staffed the Ministry of Health? Maybe this is why someone once stated that the E in Ellen stands for Ebola. This is the President and Vice President, in fact the government’s legacy which they must own. This must be disquieting and disqualifying for a third term in Boakai and Nuquay.

11. The death traps they call roads and highways

 The evidences are found across the country and even in the capital city. Maryland, Sinoe, Grand Kru, Lofa, Bopolu Counties and other parts of the country are considered ‘no-go zones.’ They are cut off from the rest of the country especially during the rainy season due to broken roads and bridges.

Recently, a higher up in the Liberian government shamelessly stated that government was trying to bring the roads up to pre-war level. How sad, that after almost 12 years in office that the desire state should be a pre-war level! No, (I told him) you are not bringing the roads to pre-war level; you have kept them at pre-medieval level.

 12. The Boakai-Nuquay factor, a recipe to perpetuate the chaos state

 President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf is the number one person in the Liberian Government. Joseph Boakai is the number two person in the government, and the Margibi lawmaker and Speaker of the House Mr. Emmanuel Nuguay is the number three person in the same government.

At the same time, the number two person (i.e. the Vice President) is constitutionally the head of the Liberian Senate. This is the government which its own auditor, Mr. John Morlu characterized as ’10 times more corrupt than any government in Liberian history.’

For nearly 12 years the legislative Branch of the Liberian Government has served itself with fat bonuses, luxury cars, gas slips and other amenities while the people it is supposed to serve swim in abject poverty.

In fact, in one of their proposed bills, they dished out benefits for themselves and their families even to the point that when they die, their wives and children will continue to rake checks from this impoverished nation up to three generations. And let us not forget that this very legislative branch has not written a single substantive bill on how to create a vibrant economy and enact laws that will protect the interest of the struggling population. Where do they expect the money from to pay their wives and concubines and service their gluttonous lifestyles?

Mr. Joseph Boakai has conceded the notion to continue with this legacy. So, he picked the third person in line as his running mate. By such choice, Mr. Boakai has endorsed the failed policies and corrupt practices that have thrived under their leadership.

Mr. Boakai did not give Liberians any assurance that he will think outside of the box but has wrapped himself wholly and solely with this failed legacy and a chaos state. If Mr. Joseph Nyumah Boakai thought he did not support the failed policies of the government, he would have long cut away from Ellen Sirleaf by resigning from her government. Or he would have picked a running mate who seemed to think and act outside of the corrupt circle to take the country in a different direction.

My Last Words

 My fellow Liberians – brothers and sisters, on October 10 of this year (2017), I appeal to all of us to end the system of impunity, corruption, nepotism, incompetence, and disdain by giving the Unity Party’s government a knockout punch.

Knock Them out in the First Round! This will be our time to punish slothfulness, divisions, apathy, negligence, and a sluggish economy. Let us not reward those who have failed to serve their country with distinction.

In Liberia, we do not kill chicken for a student who has failed his/her class. We say in Liberia that there is no food for a lazy person. The people of this country gave the government 12 stable years to perform and deliver. Our neighbors and the international community lavished goodwill on the Sirleaf regime with a high hope that the government under Sirleaf and Boakai will deliver. They failed.

Let us not give them an additional minute to continue the dismal performances. May the Lord bless us all and save our Country! Happy 26!

Mr. Dave Jah can be reached at sirdavejah@yahoo.com/215-342-2876.

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Code of Conduct is Dead: Thanks to the Supreme Court of Liberia http://theliberiandialogue.org/2017/07/26/code-of-conduct-is-dead-thanks-to-the-supreme-court-of-liberia/ http://theliberiandialogue.org/2017/07/26/code-of-conduct-is-dead-thanks-to-the-supreme-court-of-liberia/#respond Wed, 26 Jul 2017 01:03:49 +0000 http://theliberiandialogue.org/?p=4739 By Tewroh-Wehtoe Sungbeh

         

I am back!

I took a well-deserved time off from writing and political punditry to briefly focus on self, which is necessary in these times to maintain my sanity.

A lot has happened since, and Liberians as usual are either speaking out in support of or against those decisions that could define the direction of Liberia for a long time.

From the unconscionable act of injecting ethnic politics and religion into the upcoming presidential and legislative elections, to the unprincipled flip-flop coming out of the Supreme Court of Liberia regarding the Code of Conduct law, are just too much to bear for a people trying to find their way out of misery to somewhere in their own country.

The Code of Conduct law is now dead; thanks to the Supreme Court of Liberia.

 As we know the national Code of Conduct law was enacted to weed out candidates who did not resign their appointed or “tenured” government employment on time, “three (3) years prior to the date of such public elections,” as noted in Article 56 (a).

Another section of the Code of Conduct law also states: “All officials appointed by the President of the Republic of Liberia” to not “engage in political activities, canvass or contest for elected offices, use Government facilities, equipment or resources in support of partisan or political activities or serve on a campaign team of any political party or the campaign of an independent candidate.”

In a 3-2 majority decision earlier this year, the highest court in the land upheld the national Code of Conduct law that was passed by the legislature and signed by President Sirleaf in 2014, which barred candidates that did not meet such requirements.

The justices argued at the time that “the act is not, in our, repugnant to or in conflict with any provision of the Constitution to warrant its declaration as being unconstitutional as contended by the petitioner.”

The same Supreme Court of Liberia that once argued convincingly in a 3-2 decision to uphold the Court of Conduct law months ago – in fact this year, shockingly made a 360-degree about-face reversing their own decision and reinstated a law they justices once claimed was not “in conflict with any provision of the Constitution to warrant its declaration as being unconstitutional.”

Why the flip-flop?

The court actually reacted to a complaint brought on by the Brumskine campaign in the disbarment of Mr. Brumskine’s running mate, Harrison Karnwea, Sr. who joined the vice-presidential race two months after he left his management post at the Forestry Development Authority.

According to the justices, Karnwea violated section 5.1 of the Code of Conduct law when he held a press conference on March 14, two days (March 12) after he resigned his post at the Forestry Development Authority.

Instead of upholding their previous decision to hold violator like Karnwea and other violators accountable for breaking the law, the court blamed the National Elections Commission (NEC) for not giving Karnwea due process.

“Due process is mandatory and must be accepted by all legal institutions and it’s a requirement,” justice Philip A. Z. Banks, III said.

The ruling from the court certainly opened a floodgate of legislative and presidential candidates like Karnwea who are now emboldened to run for elected office, which is good and bad for the country’s fledgling democracy.

The ruling also left Liberians divided on all fronts because the national elections are less than three months away.

With this decision reverberating in Liberia and across the ocean with Diaspora Liberians, how can anyone have confidence in Liberia and the Supreme Court of Liberia knowing that decisions from the justices can change at any time whenever the violent winds from the nearby Atlantic Ocean blow their way?

These Liberians believe that the Code of Conduct law (before this decision) was the settled law of the land that needed to be respected and implemented.

With all the public relations nightmare that accompanied the decision, the ruling gives every Liberian the opportunity to run for office in the upcoming elections without having to feel disappointed, unimportant and left out of the democratic process because of some Code of Conduct law.

From a negative perspective, however, the Supreme Court of Liberia crystallized a long-held belief that it is not neutral and independent; but a weak and corrupt institution that is easily manipulated by the politically connected and powerful.

It is clear that Mr. Karnwea violated the Code of Conduct by allowing his opportunistic and naked political ambitions to becloud his judgment.

 In the eyes of many, the Supreme Court of Liberia let the nation and the Liberian people down when it hid behind a manufactured ‘due process’ clause to kill what was once the settled law of the land.

 

 

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The Last Thing Lawmakers Must Do – The Masses Are Watching Ahead of 2017 Election http://theliberiandialogue.org/2017/06/23/the-last-thing-lawmakers-must-do-the-masses-are-watching-ahead-of-2017-election/ Fri, 23 Jun 2017 14:30:25 +0000 http://theliberiandialogue.org/?p=4737 By Martin K. N. Kollie         

 

Why give a 30-year tax holiday or tax break to a Lebanese hotel – the Farmington Hotel owned by Lebanese businessman George E. Abijaoudi when no Liberian-owned hotel has even received a tax holiday for 1 year or even 6 months?

Why go into a US$59.5 million Pre-Financing Loan Agreement with a bogus foreign company and at the same time serve as a guarantor with just 6 months to go? With few months to go, there is a huge rush to bag millions without any respect for established laws/rules and the sense of patriotism. The LAST THING lawmakers must do is to reject these shady deals, 4G agreements and glaring economic conspiracy against the people’s interest.

When Liberians trooped en masse to the polls in 2005 and 2011 subsequently to chart a new political course, they did so with the conviction that this nation once torn apart by civil conflict and bloodletting would rise again and offer a fresh hope for every citizen regardless of ethnicity, religion, status and affiliation.

Yes, this was the confidence and optimism all of us (eligible voters) took to the polls.

No natural phenomenon (rain or sun) prevented us from exercising this inalienable right – a right we discharged so conspicuously in the best interest of our country. We used our ballots to form a new government. We used our ballots to employ a new President and a new Vice President. We also used our ballots to give power to 73 lawmakers at the National Legislature. Our collective purpose was for all of you (Legislators) to work in our best interest through three basic functions: Lawmaking, Representation and Oversight.

After almost 12 years, are we reaping the dividends of the decision we made as a people and a nation? This question seems painful to answer especially when our nation is shamefully sitting at the 4th position on the Global Poverty Chart. This question seems difficult to answer especially when our young sisters and mothers have no option, but to prostitute themselves and invade the pride that comes with womanhood.

How can we joyously answer this question when the rate of poverty in our country is 81.86%; and teenage pregnancy is 38% with youth unemployment skyrocketing at 80%. What is even more disgusting is that foreign companies and businesses are being unjustifiably prioritized and clandestinely preferred over Liberian-owned companies and businesses.

Is this how we intend to make Liberia better and take ownership of our economy by sidelining our own people and making foreigners richer? It is time to go beyond this unpatriotic pedestal and begin to seek Liberia’s interest. Liberia must be first in all that you do if you must be gowned as NATIONAL PATRIOTS by the next generation.

How long must you treat our nation like this? Was it a bad thing to have elected you to represent our interest at the Legislature? Or is this what we get for spending hours at the various polling precincts casting our ballots in your behalf? I hope you (lawmakers) have not forgotten that you are our servants and employees, and not our lords and employers.

With less than 108 days to election, the choice is yours to do “The Last Thing In Our Interest”. And this last thing is to reject a US$59.5 million bogus and selective Pre-Financing Loan Agreement in favor of an International Company – East International Group Incorporated. If you fail the people now, they will also fail you at the ballot boxes, because all power is inherent in them according to Article 1 of our Constitution.

In the midst of mounting challenges, ranging from unimaginable corruption to acute poverty, silence can never be an option. Our shared demonstration of love and loyalty to this country remains undiluted. While Liberian-owned businesses and companies are denied tax-break or tax holiday for even one (1) year, our government, especially the Executive Branch, is giving a 30-year tax-break to a Lebanese-owned hotel – The Farmington Hotel owned by Lebanese businessman George E. Abijaoudi.

Is this how we intend to power on the engine of our economy by making Lebanese multi-millionaires while Liberians decay in extreme poverty?

It is with this unquenched and patriotic desire to always seek a NEW LIBERIA through genuine advocacy, we have stood up and standing up even now to confront visible odds that continue to threaten our sovereignty, survivability and commonality as a nation and a people. We dare not economize with prevailing facts as voices of truth. Therefore, we make this case in good faith.

I read a headline story published in The In Profile Daily Newspaper on May 29, 2017 titled “Questionable Contracts”. This publication is implicating Ministry of Public Works into a web of Conflict of Interest with a foreign Chinese-owned company – East International Group Incorporated. As an advocate, I chose not to anchor my thoughts only on what was published in The In Profile Daily, but to go beyond by digging out some fundamental facts.

In my possession, I have a copy of an official loan agreement and a communication from the desk of President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf requesting you (lawmakers) to ratify a Pre-Financing Loan Agreement costing US$59.5 million between GoL and East International Group Incorporated. In her 2-page letter to you, she said that this loan agreement is meant to pave a 24.5km road from Clay to DC Clark in Bomi County and a 51km neighborhood road in Monrovia and its environs.

I want to applaud her government for its farsightedness to have 30 roads paved even though she has only 6 months in power. I wonder why all this rush. Without any intention to oppose our nation’s developmental drive in whatever manner, I have some basic inquiries, which reflect the basis of my thoughts and those evolving concerns I have since harbored about this US$59.5 million pre-financial deal:

1. Why go into a loan agreement of US$59.5 with a foreign company that has no proven international record in construction and engineering? I Google this company and found no record of performance beyond Liberia.

2. What is the rationale of preferring East International Group exclusively for such huge DEAL (US$59.5 million for 30 roads) when we have Liberian-owned companies that are even more qualified and capable?

3. Who does this US$59.5 million agreement really benefit and what gain does it bring to Liberia? Does it benefit Liberians or Chinese?

4. Why wasn’t there any competitive bidding process for such contract in line with proviso of our PPCC Law? Why was East International Group given such a preference, which contravenes Part V Section 46 of our PPCC Law?

5. If East International Group defects on its obligation(s) according to this agreement, who pays back this astronomical loan or offset this huge liability in 7 years? How can we even trust East International Group when it was recently shut down by LRA for evading taxes even though it was served a 30-day assessment notice (warning) in line with section 1042(d) and section 70 of Liberia Revenue Code and LRA regulations (Ref: http://www.frontpageafricaonline.com/index.php/business/4162-liberia-revenue-authority-shuts-businesses-suspected-of-evading-tax).

6. Why is GoL serving as a guarantor of this US$59.5 million loan in favor of a foreign company, and not a Liberian company? Why even give this contract of 30 roads to East International alone and place Liberian companies in a subservient position?

Having carefully read and analyzed this 15-page Pre-Financing Agreement and the communication from the President which seeks to garner legislative endorsement, my questions above have prudently led me to these systematic conclusions judging from available facts and incontestable realities:

1. This US$59.5 million Loan Agreement is a BAD DEAL due to its selective and skeptical nature.

2. It unravels high risk of losses for Liberia and puts East International Group in a gainful and profiteering parameter.

3. It discourages local dominance of our economy and promotes foreign control, which has a downward impact on growth and development. Additionally, this deal is an unpatriotic attempt to sideline Liberian-owned companies and render them vulnerably inactive and worthless.

4. This deal disfigures the true essence of the Liberianization Policy and contradicts Section 45.1 of our PPCC Law, which even highlights Margin of Preference:

“A Procuring Entity may grant a Margin of Preference to Domestic Businesses, or Liberian Businesses, or Solely-Liberian Owned Businesses, as defined under this Act, in accordance with regulations adopted by the Commissioners.”

5. This deal, which indicates that East International Group has exclusive authority to subcontract Liberian-owned companies and engineers at will, gives this foreign company unparalleled leverage and monopoly to control this sector. How can you award a contract of 30 roads to East International Group alone? This means that Liberian contractors and companies will turn into mere beggars to East International Group before getting contracts. Furthermore, are our engineers and companies only good enough to be subcontracted?

I thought our economy is based on those fundamental principles of a free market system, where competition is permissible? Why then is our government preferring a foreign firm over local Liberian companies especially without a bidding process? Even community/feeder roads too? Whose interest is East International Group, if I may ask? Madam President, I have reliably learned from an authoritative source that East International Group Incorporated, a former supplier of building materials that came to Liberia in 2010, is the interest of Public Works Minister Guyde Moore.

In pursuit of this egoistic interest shockingly engineered by Minister Moore and his accomplices, East International Group was recently transformed into a construction company. Again I ask, what record does East International have for GoL to comfortably enter into an extravagant US$59.5 million agreement with it? It is important that a special committee be set-up to thoroughly investigate this shady deal.

With just 6 months to a very crucial democratic transition, I am aware that our nation will be faced with these glaring complexities of interest-struggle, but for once, can we protect Liberian-owned businesses especially during these last moments? I am wondering why is GoL in hurry to pave these 30 roads now with just 6 months to go. This means that the burden to pay this US$59.5 million loan in a period of 7 years will be transferred to the next government.

In paragraph 1 and 2 under Economic Renewal in President Sirleaf’s January 16, 2006 inaugural address, she said “The task of reconstructing our devastated economy is awesome…..Yet, we have the potential to promote a healthy economy in which Liberians can prosper. We can create an investment climate that gives confidence to Liberians.”

In all of her lines, Liberians were mentioned first, but I am constrained to ask “Are they first now after almost 12 years”? Are Liberian companies and businesses prioritized now? Are Liberian engineers, farmers and entrepreneurs first under your leadership? Are Liberian-owned companies first over East International Group Incorporated in this Pre-Financing Agreement? Though I recognize some gains made under your presidency, but most Liberian firms and enterprises remain vulnerable due to foreign dominance in almost every sector of our economy.

Are our engineers only good enough to build plank bridges, lay blocks, transport cement, sell crush rocks, bend steel, draw house plan and serve as casual laborers to foreigners? What are we waiting for to take control of our economy? Taking control would mean prioritizing and empowering local companies over foreign ones like Ghana, Kenya, Ivory Coast, Guinea Senegal, Zimbabwe, Rwanda, Tanzania and other nations are doing.

Having said all of these, I therefore plea with your consciences in the spirit of openness and patriotism to reject such bogus agreement and henceforth prioritize Liberian-owned companies. You must trash this sinister Pre-Financing Loan Agreement, because it is far from seeking Liberia’s ultimate interest. This unpatriotic approach of awarding big contracts to foreigners as a result of GREED is inapplicable in most countries and undermines the nationalistic standard for protecting citizens’ interests – THE ONES WHO PAY TAXES TO KEEP YOUR GOVERNMENT MOVING AND NOT THOSE WHO WIRE MILLIONS TO THEIR COUNTRIES THROUGH SHADY DEALS.

 Martin K. N. Kollie is a Liberian youth and student activist, a columnist and an emerging economist who hails from Bong County. He currently studies Economics at the University of Liberia, and is a Lux-in-Tenebris Scholar. Martin is a loyal stalwart of the Vanguard Student Unification Party (SUP). He can be reached at: martinkerkula1989@yahoo.com

 

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For Free, Fair and Transparent Elections, Do not Compromise the Integrity of the Voters Roll http://theliberiandialogue.org/2017/06/20/for-free-fair-and-transparent-elections-do-not-compromise-the-integrity-of-the-voters-roll/ Tue, 20 Jun 2017 15:53:58 +0000 http://theliberiandialogue.org/?p=4735 By Josiah Flomo Joekai, Jr.,

 

Chairman Jerome G. Korkoya of the National Elections Commission on June 14, 2017 informed the nation through an elaborate press conference that citizens with valid voter registration cards will vote during the ensuing October 10, 2017 elections, whether or not they are captured on the Final Registration Roll.

Chairman Korkoya’s statement was in response to the growing reported problems linked to the exhibition exercise particularly, the alarming omission of names and particulars of registered voters on the exhibited Provisional Registration Roll (PRR).

These reports came from credible sources such as media correspondents, government officials and private citizens from across the country. Many of them reported that from their own assessments especially visits to Voter Registration Centers and interactions with their fellow compatriots, the names and particulars of hundreds and thousands of registrants were omitted from the Provisional Registration Roll.

Indisputably, this is a critical national issue which has attracted tremendous attention. That is exactly why in no uncertain terms any Liberian should be allowed to vote without being accounted for by the voters roll. The reported omissions are not just in the fives, tens but hundreds and thousands. If this is anything to go by, it cannot in anyway be taken lightly since many Liberians stand to be disenfranchised as a result of these reports. What is even worrying is the number of reported cases of illegal voter registration activities that took place using NEC registration materials in some instances during the exercise from February 1-March 14, 2017.

Even though some of the culprits were apprehended, the public is yet to know the outcome of those illegal activities in terms of the number of cards recovered, in whose custody they (Voter Registration Cards) are, and what has happened to those involved. Besides, forgery is one thing that remains prevalent in our society today. Thus, no one doubts the possibility of the use of hundreds or thousands of forged Voter Registration Cards in October given the capacity issue that remains a challenge for the Commission.

This matter is grave and one that requires prompt and practical solution. As such, the Commission has to come out clearly to firstly confirm whether or not these reports are true. With my limited experience in electioneering, I would want to believe that there were difficulties in getting many of the optical Mark Recognition (OMR) forms containing the information of applicants scanned appropriately thereby failing to capture their photos and particulars.

Another reason that may account for this could be the inexperience of registration staff who failed to meticulously arrange the OMR forms according to serial numbers thus accounting for the disorderly manner in which names and particulars are captured on the Provisional Registration Roll. If these reasons are amongst causes of the problem, the Commission needs not ignore the facts but rather inform the public in a manner and form that will be vividly understood. The reason is simple. Fears have to be allayed, trust and confidence assured.

In a credible electioneering process, deception is not possible because numbers don’t lie and the facts are always unraveled no matter what. Thus, it is better to divulge the reality now with respect to the current state of the voters roll rather than present a roll that does not reflect the actual number of voters in possession of Voter Registration Cards at the polls in October. Absolutely, that will run inimical to the gains that have been made and sustenance of our bourgeoning democracy.

I find it incomprehensible to believe by any measure that the statement made by the NEC Chairman came as a result of the decision of the Board of Commissioners given its incoherence to the standard of maintaining a credible roll. Although I may be wrong but under no circumstance should an Electoral Management Body (EMB) like as ours make such policy statement that has serious implications for the conduct of the October polls.

The statement is one that has the propensity to manipulate the voters roll, create a floodgate for illegal voting and undermine the very core democratic values and principles of fairness, transparency, accountability and integrity that we seek to uphold.

For the sake of the records, the exhibition of the Provisional Registration Roll which is part of the overall voter registration exercise is a regular activity of our electoral process intended to correct the particulars of registered voters and remove the names of those who are ineligible in keeping with established guidelines and regulations of the Commission. This vetting exercise is fundamentally required for the finalization of the Provisional Registration Roll into a credible Final Registration Roll.

The voters roll or electoral roll is a list of persons who are eligible to vote in a particular election as required by our electoral jurisdiction. The voters roll is a fundamental requirement that enables stakeholders to gauge the credibility of a given election. This is so because the roll serves to prevent illegal voting or electoral fraud in general by verifying a voter’s identity and entitlement to a vote and ensures that a person does not vote multiple times.

Although the nomenclature may vary from one jurisdiction to another, it however remains an undisputed international acceptable standard for the conduct of elections particularly in countries that subscribe to and practice participatory democracy such as the United States, United Kingdom, Australia, New Zealand, etc. In essence, without a roll, there will be no election. This goes without saying that the credibility of a given election is contingent on the integrity of the voters roll.

Like many jurisdictions, the voters roll of Liberia is attainable through a periodic voter registration exercise conducted by the National Elections Commission. According to Article 77(b) of the 1986 Constitution, a citizen who attain the age of 18 years or above shall be registered as a voter to vote in an election. Pursuant to this Constitutional requirement, the New Elections Law of 1986 as amended in 2003, 2004 and 2014 further strengthens the mandate of the Commission to undertake this national task. The incorporation of these vital provisions into our organic law and the electoral act of the country respectively, speaks to the importance of accounting for every voter in any given elections in our embryonic democracy.

Obviously, it is absurd for any individual or institution least to mention the Commission with the mandate to oversee elections to declare that citizens can vote without being captured by the voters roll. This statement in my candid opinion should be retracted by the Commission and genuine assurance given through an implementable strategy for the enrollment of individuals whose names or particulars were omitted from the Provisional Registration Roll.

Josiah Flomo Joekai, Jr.,  is former Director of Civic and Voter Education of the National Elections Commission, with more than 13 years of professional service in the areas of education management, democracy and governance. He has authored several published articles and books on contemporary issues.

 

 

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