Dr. Abdoulaye W. Dukule’ writes (www.theperspective.org, November 3, 2015) that “Liberia is at peace because Liberians want peace, not because UNMIL is here”.
“Some of the most important issues at the core of the agitation in the 1970s have been resolved. The various political movements and the warring factions all fought for the same principle . . . to be part of the political process; to break the cycle of oppression and gain lost dignity; to have the same opportunity as anyone else. All those battles led the nation to where it is today, with freedom of speech, freedom of association, national leadership open to anyone without distinction as in any democracy”.
Put differently, Dr. Dukule’ holds that some of the most important, critical for which Liberia’s political were fought in the 1970s – participation in the political process or national leadership without consideration of ethnicity; break the cycle of oppression and gain denied recognition/dignity; equal treatment and access to equal opportunity; freedom of speech, movement and association – have been resolved today. We argue the contrary.
That Liberia is at Peace . . .Firstly,indeed, while we admit thatLiberia is at peace because Liberians want peace, not because ECOMOG was or UNMILis here, but we argue, also, it is because some Liberians, bravely and sacrificially, stood tall to Mr. Charles Taylor & his NPFL, forced them to yield to resolution of our political differences, peacefully, on the conference table (peace conferences in foreign lands) rather than their desired clash of arms on the battlefield.
Secondly, upon Mr. Taylor’s ascension to political power by “democratic election” but with declared “jungle justice” public policy, it was the same Liberians, not foreign peace-keepers, who drove Mr. Taylor and his jungle justice into exile and, eventually, to where he is at the present.Therefore, the“fragile,relativepeace”,law & order and personal-collective security that Liberians enjoy todaywould not have been possible, because without the resilience of the Liberians, Mr. Taylor and his jungle justice would, still, be here.
Thirdly, that “some of the most important issues at the core of the (political) agitation in the 1970s have been resolved” ignoresthemost important, critical issues since 1847 that gave rise to the April 12, 1980 military coup d’ etat, for“abuse of power (culture of impunity, denial of vote-electoral rights – decentralization) and rampant corruption as its signature tune”.These most important issues are with us much more profoundly than ever before.Some examples:
Abuse of political Power (culture of impunity, denial of vote/electoral rights – decentralization). Although the nation’s public policy theorists-experts/advisors agreed and admit that Liberia’s devastating under-development and “failed-state” conditions are due to the century-long unitary structure of the nation’s government, but we are told by the Governance Commission that“Liberia shall remain a unitary state with a system of local government and administration which shall be decentralized with the county as the principal focus of the devolution of power and authority (Section 1.0, page 2, National Policy on Decentralization & Local Governance, January 2011)”.
The major travelers-users of theRoad to2017, the declared and undeclared candidates for president or “presidential hopefuls”, at this 11th hour of the elections, are allunknown quantitiesbecause none of them has, yet, published or presented a comprehensive, descriptive, political party literature or policy document – the traditionalManifesto – of party plans and programs, indicating the social contractwith the people, so to speak. In a representative democracy, such as ours, the Right-to-vote, particularly, in the selection of important public officials – mayors, town, clan, paramount chiefs and superintendents of counties, for example – is not a privilege, but an inalienable right that inheres to adult citizens by virtue of their citizenship.But that right to vote, since 1847, has been and is denied citizens of the counties. Federalized Decentralization seeks to make that right available to the overwhelming majority of Liberian voters. But we have heard nothing in support/denial from the presidential hopefuls.
• Some of these “presidential hopefuls” are known citizens or permanent residents of foreign countries, bought and maintain homes and families, permanently, in thoseforeign countries. They do not, even, live here, but earn fabulous incomes and pay rent here. That says volumes about allegiance, loyalty and patriotism of these “politicians” to the Republic – the basic criteria-requirement by which political solidarity of the state with citizen and the citizen with state, is judged. For any political “animal”, this solidarity is crucial. Now get this: it is very, very important that we note that all “presidential hopefuls”, for president of Liberia, premised their future governments, if elected, on 1847 or 168-year old assumptions -outdated, obsolete unitary structure of government, astructure that is not, any longer, valid or relevant to the socio-cultural, economic and political realities of the Liberia of today’s 21st century, pro-democracy, world culture, world-wide.
• For no other reason, for crying out loud, one would think, that any reasonable public administrator or democratic politician, answerable to the citizens, would seek to implement change, with reforms, in the light of doing the same thing for a century withdisastrous results. For, throughout 168 years, successive, Liberian, political leadershipsand their derivatives, held on to the unitary structure, while the nation becomes a “failed State”. Now, we are told by the national, public policy theorists & counselors that “Liberia shall remain a unitary state with a system of local government and administration which shall be decentralized with the county as the principal focus of the devolution of power and authority”. Arguably, perhaps, the national, public counselors are holding back some critical reasoning that we and the public should know.We hasten to provide comparative, contrasting analysis/conclusion below, showing the critical difference between the two, main, systems of government – Federal and Unitary. For, according to the premise/conclusions by the “Candidates for President”, come 2017, the Liberian nation will have to wait, perhaps, for another 168 years or more for change, reforms, transformation!!
• Decentralization – Federal & Unitary.Both Federal and Unitary systems refer to or define “devolution”as decentralizationof power. But there are distinct, important differences and conditions, critical to successful democratic practice and results, particularly, in the light of Liberia’s turbulent past. In the Federal system, devolution-decentralization is guaranteed by written, constitutional provisions, with terms and conditions binding upon the central, federal government and its regional, semi-autonomous constituents; whereas, in the Unitary system,devolution-decentralization is non-constitutional and that the central, unitary government reserves the right to alter, re-arrange or abolish the devolved-decentralized powers without consultation and/or consent of the regional constituents, because, unlike federal system, the regional constituents lack constitutional right to exist, in the first place.
In other words, devolution of political poweras defined, the right to vote in the selection of Mayors, Town, Clan, and Paramount Chiefs and Superintendents, as desired and expected by the overwhelming majority of this nation’s citizens, is not governed by constitutional provision, and that the Unitary, Central government, the system now prevailing in Liberia,reserves the right tochange and/or abolish the devolved powers without consultation and/or consent of the regional constituents, the counties in the Republic of Liberia. The Liberian voter inFish Town, River Gee; in Saiquellie, Nimba; Tubmanburg, Bomi, let alone Bentol, Montserrado Counties need not a rocket scientist to tell him/her that this has been and is undemocratic!!
Rampant (Roaring) Corruption has become the Rule During a televised panel discussion in the US on whether Corruption Is Institutionalized in the Liberia, our answer was “no”, based on public service experience in the Liberian Government. Among others, we held, hold today, that corruption is a universal phenomenon, a vice found on every continent, in every country, society and culture, irrespective of socio-political and economic development; that corruption is, perhaps, intrinsic to human nature, a result of decadent moral behavior; and that, as such, Liberia and Liberians do not have a monopoly of corruption. But, research information shows that corruption can be controlled, reduced and, eventually, eradicated. However, Liberian Corruption resisted, continues to resist, effectively, control and/or reduction, let alone eradication. Almost every Liberian knows or is aware that public dishonesty, or corruption, has been with us – indeed incased, protected and immortalized – by the unitary structure of the government, a structure or system enshrined in the Nation’s Constitution with wide-ranging, extensive, executive power – political, economic and administrative – to an “Imperial President” since 1847.
Some prevailing examples:
Recent press reported financial collapse of some state-owned enterprises due to mismanagement and alleged corrupt practices, with managing directors laid off (NOCAL, for example); others dismissed outright for similar reasons; and still others are awaiting court trial for mismanagement, allegedcorrupt practices and related thievery. Moreover, there has been record dismissals and resignations of ministers, deputy ministers and other high-profiled personalities, for alleged public dishonesty of lies, deceit and corruption, from across the entire spectrum of the Liberian Government.
Profoundly disturbing is the approximately US $5M donated for construction, but allegedly disappeared at the Ministry of Public Works.Also disturbing and disgraceful are the disappearance of some of the reported US $5M, about 100 vehicles out of the reported 300 and medical supplies donated for the recent Ebola Epidemic.
Local newspaper publishers, courageous investigative reporters, international journalists, international watch-dog groups such as Global Witness, Global Financial Integrity and Liberia’s own “Partners-in-progress” have advised, warned and written repeatedly about Liberia’s problem of roaring public dishonesty (corruption) of lies, deceit and thievery. Liberian writers, columnists and concerned citizens criticized, warned and advised change. Others zeroed in on democratic governance, decentralization of administrative, economic and political power. But the response from some of Liberia’s political rulers/decision-makers says, implicitly, “let them talk, talk and talk or write, write and write; we will continue to do our thing”. Indeed, they are doing their thing, dishonesty – deceit, lies & thievery, corruption!!
Do not take our word for these conditions, just take a tour of our unsanitary, over-crowded, peninsula, central City of Monrovia, jammed-packed with more, late models of high-priced vehicles than people. This includes all of the City’s suburban enclaves, likewise over-populated with deadly, unsanitary conditions, unsafe drinking water, do not ask about electricity, unpaved streets/roads/paths, also, jammed-packed with late model vehicles; with buildings going up everywhere and you ask, where is all of this money coming from – vehicles, businesses and new buildings? Also, visit government offices (LRA at ELWA Junction and Health & Social Welfare on Tubman Blvd in Congo Town, for example) and you will note that which we are talking about, late model vehicles, etc. Elsewhere, we wrote and noted of organized corruption andthat citizens, nationwide, are afraid to speak out because this Clique is composed of politically/financially powerful personalities and agencies of government which begins with the Ministry of Finance & Development Planning (“the Paymaster who must chop something from the people he pays”); the Legislative Caucuses (chairs the CDF & SDF County Councils, decides who gets on the County Council, distorts and abuses interpretation of the Budget Law and decides who gets what and how much of the development funds); and The Ministry of Internal Affairs, the local town & County chief, controls all.
This is a finance, development and planning monster, a classic approach to public dishonesty – corruption.The brains behind the crafting of the Budget Law (Act of Legislature of June 30, 2013) did an excellent job in creating several bureaucratic run-arounds, designed for “tire-outs”, basic, fundamental requirements for bribes and/kick-backs.
We held, elsewhere, thatallocated,approved and transferred Funds to counties for development – education, transport/communication, health, poverty, hunger , etc., etc. – have, now, become victims of “I chop, you chop, they chop” corruption scheme, dominated or presided over by the same paymaster, the Ministry of Finance & Development Planning, R. L., with the other, politically-powerful players, again the Legislative Caucuses of the National Legislature and the nation’s Town Chief, the Ministry of Internal Affairs. Thanks to the newly-crafted “Budget Law” which benefits the crafters, under law, of course. Here are some examples:
1. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs is presently under investigation for alleged misuse of US $300,000.00 (donated by Japan) by officials of the Ministry. The immediate desk officer in charge has, allegedly, abandoned Liberia and is now in the US. Also, the Minister of Foreign Affairs, the official head of the Ministry, resigned, recently, without definitive reaction as to his involvement or non-involvement in the as allegations.
Case in point, also, reasonably here is that the relationship of foreign, permanent residency/citizenship of the Liberiandiplomats employed at the ministry becomes an issue in employment requirement, in the light of the discovered skillful, planned and executed scheme by which “some senior and junior Foreign Ministry officials” allegedly stole US $300,000.00 right under the noses of the Nation’s President and Minister of Foreign Affairs, the Head of the Ministry & Nation’s diplomatic “Face” and mouthpiece to the world community.
The allegations are not only disappointing, regrettable and shameful, but also, disgraceful and indict the required moral code of ethics of our Ministry of Foreign Affairs. For, this US $300K was a donation from the Empire of Japan for “Operation of the Department of International, Economic Cooperation and Integration (IECT)” of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. It is now said that the Desk Officer, Mr. Augustus Nyanplu, who controlled the use of Funds from this grant “is now on the run” in the USA, where he is a Permanent resident. Mr. Nyanplu was hired by Elias Shoniyin, Deputy Minister for International, Economic Cooperation & Integration. Hon. Shoniyin is now Acting Foreign Minister!!
2. The Ministry of Finance & Development Planning R. L., has successfully resisted financial & forensic audits before and after the merger of the super-lucrative Ministries of Finance and Planning & Economic Affairs into the now, super/super-lucrative Ministry of Finance & Development Planning, R. L. Prevailing, national belief is that this over-staffed (with foreign citizens), over-paid agency is known as the traditional guru or leading source of all get-rich-quick, dishonest schemes, with its several sections and departments, the “tired-outs”,corruption points. For example, requests for an allocated and approved payment are subjected to series of “go-comes, waits for signatures/approval by so-so”, from Kamara to Boima, etc., etc., designed for kick-backs before approved payment is made.
Reportedly, the nation’s major Finance (Fiscal) and Economic (Monetary) Policy-making agencies – Finance & Development Planning and Central Bank – have been at odds, while the Governor of the Central Bank is an unannounced candidate for President of Liberia, with several campaign tours and full colored, full-page, press coverage throughout the country, pushing “Microfinance” (usury lending?) to the politically-connected. Meanwhile, the Liberian dollar is sinking or has sunk to the great beyond with the nation’s economy in hot pursuit; also, while the nation is dangerously, excessively dependent on imported goods & services, including our staples – rice, cooking oil, etc., etc.
3. The Police, Ministry of Justice and Courts are profoundly disgraceful and a negative impact on the Nation’s image. Liberia’s “partners-in-progress”, the historic donors, have, continuously, charged that Liberia’s Judicial system is candidate for comprehensive improvement; for justice, in Liberia, is delayed and denied or unavailable to the poor, controlled and manipulated by politics. Law enforcement is characterized by bribes and related corrupt practices. No wonder the Ministry of Justice has been, and is, unable to extradite to Liberia persons charged with crimes for trial.
4. The National Legislature, the House of Lawmakers, is considered and known as the House of “Insensitives”; insensitive to the plight of their constituents, the men and women who sent them there. Members are out not only for bribes now called “lobbying fees”, cold water”; high salaries, generous allowances and foreign travels, but also, for the corrupt windfalls from Social & County Development (SDF & CDF) Funds as County Legislative Caucuses. These funds go directly into personal pockets with no questions asked. The Budget Law is an excellent cover. Even as it is, they distort and abuse interpretations for their benefit!!
5. State-Owned Enterprises. Mismanagement and dishonest practices (corruption, Inc.) are rampant and roaring within state-owned enterprises. Some Managing Directors (NPA, LPRC, FDA, Maritime Commission) built palatial homes & mansions with swimming pools, own businesses & expensive, top-of-line automobiles (with no safe streets/roads to ply), all acquired with stolen resources from the state and have so become Liberia’s millionaires. They, and the others, are paid high salaries with generous allowances, while they embezzle state-owned enterprise revenue and taxes. NOCAL stands out as an excellent example of rampant dishonesty and mismanagement!!
These are the century-long core issues that gave rise to Liberia’s political tragedy!! Rejoinder to Dr. Dukule