Liberia’s 19th President, Dr. William Richard Tolbert, Jr. once described the young people of Liberia as ‘precious jewels’, while other politicians called them ‘future leaders’. Other than the usual Liberian politics of pacifying the young people for support/votes, the reference made to the young people was in consonance with the fact that they would be the ones to take over the leadership of the country in the years ahead.
Referring to them as ‘precious jewels or future leaders’ was only directed at creating the psychological environment wherein the young people would learn from the mistakes of the “old generation” of Liberian leaders in order to build a better and vibrant nation free of all of the vices which strangulated its political growth, unity and development. For the past fifteen years, the Liberian society has continued to experience the emergence of the young leaders in civil society, the private sector and public service.
In the current Liberian administration, the inclusion of young people in decision-making positions to include ministers, deputy ministers, assistant ministers, etc., etc, is a manifestation of the dream of the late Tolbert and other politicians. While President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf must be hailed for encouraging and promoting the young people, it is no secret that there is a danger ahead of us with respect to their attitudes.
When the old generation of Liberian leaders emphasized the need for ‘generational change’, little did the young people understand in terms of its objectives. Perhaps they may be understanding ‘generational change’ from the perspective of the just assuming the administration of the nation, and not being cognizant of the tasks of national reconciliation and unity, as well as the nation’s socio-economic and political development.
At the moment, the bite-biting/under-mining, gossips, marginalization, corruption, cronyism and other divisive tendencies characterizing the activities of the young people in the Ellen Sirleaf administration may not just foster the generational change anticipated by the old generation of Liberian leaders. The disenchantments and reprisals among other Liberians in response to such ongoing divisive vices not anticipated by the old generation may also just endanger the process of national reconciliation, unity and development of our country.
While the opportunities given to the young people to serve as officials of government must be welcomed, they should have been a long-term transition so as to enable them understand the essence/ dynamics of “generational change” as envisioned by proponents of such concept.
Considering all of the factors mentioned, it important to note the unpreparedness of those currently being promoted (and not nurtured) to take over the leadership of the country. The sentiments characterizing such promotion may not only be divisive, but dangerous to the survival of the Liberian state.
Truly, Liberia may not just be prepared for generational change now. The young people must be given the opportunity to undergo proper political orientation for a period of time so as to understand and learn from the mistakes which plunged our nation into its divisive and bitter past. Generational change must be characterized by all of the principles and tenants of good governance, including the promotion of peace and reconciliation nation-wide.