History is important to the growth and development of a country. Presidential history tells us the political behaviors and policies of past and present presidents in their dealing with national issues and crisis. Current heads of state can learn from the past and lead their administrations to success.
This article attempts to review some of Liberian past presidents and the policies they implemented in resolving a major economic crisis. The goal is to see how the George Weah presidency can learn from history in dealing with the present economic condition. The paper is aware of its limitation and of the fact that the Weah presidency is new, and a review now of the administration would be unfair. However, an initial look at the current policies would and can provide us a glance of what could happen.
President George Weah Coalition for Democratic Change came into power with an overwhelming support of the Liberian people. The people expected a change in their living conditions. The previous Unity Party led-government of Madame Ellen Sirleaf, while is credited for helping maintain the peace, has for twelve years failed the Liberian people in bettering their lives. The economy was in a shamble, the education system was “a mess”, the agriculture was ignored, and health and road conditions were undeveloped. Ebola, for instance, exposed the backwardness of the health system.
In the few months of the Weah administration, the economic condition continues to exacerbate. The prices of basic commodities have increased. For example, a half bag (25 KGS) of rice, Liberian stable food, has gone up from 1900 LD (Liberian Dollar) to 2200 LD; a 10-liters of cooking oil from 1550 LD to 1800 LD. Gasoline is up from 485 to 560 in one month, from June to July this year. Moreover, the rate of the US dollar has increased while the Liberian dollar has depreciated about 50% from December 2017 to January 2018, according to government estimates. This has created a chilling and alarming effect in the Liberian market. Opponents, detractors, even some earlier supporters of the ruling party have criticized the Weah administration. Others, however, have called for calm and patience. “Weah means well, the administration needs time, and things will be fine”, they say.
PAST PRESIDENTS: WHAT DID THEY DO?
Past Liberian presidents approached economic crisis differently. Since Liberia’s independence in 1847, the country had had the problem in improving economic condition and in meeting national development agenda. Foreign nations were reluctant in giving Liberia loans, due in part to the behaviors of the Liberian government. Some scholars suggest that the attitudes of the settler ruling elite contributed to the under-development, pointing out that the settlers initially failed to engage in agriculture and to include the rest of the Liberian people in the national development and administration. Even Jehudi Ashmun, the key representative of the American Colonization Society which transported to and settled American freed Black slaves in Liberia, threatened to resign and leave Liberia in frustration with the settlers’ refusal to engage in agriculture but desire to acquire land and become masters like their former owners. The settlers used the Congos from the Niger-Congo Delta and African native Liberians to do their farming. This behavior was embarrassing and disappointing, given the fact that the former slaves were cotton farmers on their White masters’ plantation in America.
Few years after independence, Liberians controlled their economy as darker-skinned settlers engaged in shipping and other commence. Coffee, rice, and palm oils were major export commodities. Liberian coffee, which at that time was considered the best in the world and was introduced in Brazil, was later monopolized by the Latin American country. Also, the palm oil market was controlled by British traders. This reduced Liberian exports and the national treasury. By the 1870s, the settlers abandoned trading and engaged in politics forming the True Whig Party which put Edward Roye into the presidency previously dominated by lighter skinned settlers; mulattos, children of slave masters.
From 1874, the party controlled politics and the presidency of Liberia. With a focus on politics, the ruling elite depended on borrowing from foreign nations and local taxation from the natives for revenue. The country economy started declining.
Arthur Barclay, who became president in 1904, inherited a broken economy. He was born in Barbados. His administration operated under the policy of “internal development”. Like today, export was down. “Conditions worsened, as the cost of imports was far greater than the income generated by exports of coffee, rice, palm oil, sugarcane, and timber”. To come back the situation, he attempted several methods, including extending citizenships to the majority native population. He tried to borrow foreign loans to meet national development. The granting of citizenship was done to enhance local taxation and stop foreign criticism of discrimination of natives. However, he was unsuccessful.
After Barclay, Daniel Howard became president in 1912. The economic hardship was passed over to his administration. Things got more difficult. The government was unable to meet payroll. The enactment and enforcement of the port of entry law became unattainable. Under this law, the government taxed local and foreign traders for conducting business at coastal ports. The Kru, in particular, protested this enactment on the ground that the government was imposing taxation without representation. The Kru, by 1912, had complained previously to the Barclay administration about the unjust killing of their chiefs in cold blood in Sinoe County by a powerful senator without justice. The government protected the senator. This impunity along with the enactment led to the Kru revolt of 1915 -1916 during the Daniel Howard presidency. His military reaction to the resistance brought the massacre and execution of 72 Kru chiefs in front of their people in 1915. But the brutality did not stop the problem and either solve the economic decline.
Howard tried to improve the condition by granting the French government permission to build a cable station in Liberia and it led to the military blockade of the country by Germany. Consequently, with the support of the United States and other allied nations, Liberia declared war on Germany. The move was risky in that Germany was Liberia’s major traders and investors. About 75% of Liberia’s trade was with Germany. Although Liberia lost the revenue, confiscation of German properties and assets helped the national coffer. Yet the money was inadequate, despite receiving the Liberty Loans for participation in the war. Howard appealed to the US for a loan, which was not provided before leaving office in 1920.
Charles B. King succeeded Howard in 1920. Born of Creole Sierra Leonean paternal parentage, King held many important positions like previous presidents. His first vice president was Henry Toe Wesley, a Grebo from Maryland County. Toe Wesley, other called him Too-Wesley, was the first native to come this high in the settler controlled government. Under King, Liberia met her most embarrassing and difficult period. The country was facing hardship; World War I had just ended; the world economy had declined, and Liberia needed resources. King continued Howard’s appeal to the US for a loan. While US President Woodrow Wilson was sympathetic to the Liberian cause, the US Senate rejected Liberia’s request for a $5 million loan.
Liberia recorded the most fraudulent election in world history, making The Guinness Books of Records. In the 1927 election, King won over Thomas Faulkner of the People’s Party with total votes of about 243,000 out of less than 15,000 registered voters for the election. Faulkner received 9,000 votes. Faulkner madly protested to no avail. King won his third term with his second vice president, Allen Yancy, a former soldier and gun repairer also from Maryland County. The administration urgently needed capital for development.
This need resulted in the coming of the Firestone Company to Liberia in 1926 and to the plantation of the Firestone Rubber in Liberia in 1928. Firestone, a US company, gave Liberia a $5 million loan at 7% interest. The money was to repay other foreign loans and to meet domestic obligations. To get the loan, Liberia leased Firestone one million acres land for 99 years at 6 cents per acre. Sadly, the company was given the authority over Liberia’s revenue until the loan was paid. When Liberia missed a payment, Firestone requested the US government to send its gunboat to take charge.
On the other hand, Firestone provided a financial opportunity to government officials becoming absentee private rubber farmers. The Liberian farm owners employed local unskilled workers on their farms in an owner-servant relation. But at the same time, the government stopped the unionization of rubber workers to protect its interest. Thus while foreign finance came to the country, the general living condition of the Liberian people remained unchanged. Moreover, the Liberian government was unhappy with foreign intervention in the country’s domestic affairs, though it needed foreign capital. King and Vice President Allen Yancy were forced to resign for engaging in forced labor and enslavement of native Liberians in Fernando Po, a Spanish colony in Africa. Fernando Po plantation needed laborers. King and Yancy received a commission for the recruitment of workers. They also were charged pocketing insurance benefits for Liberian workers died on the plantation.
King’s removal was good news to Faulkner, who saw the disgrace as a payback for his unfair election loss. It met the liking of King’s other political enemies, including supporters of William Coleman who was forced to resign in 1900 as president of Liberia after the killing, execution-style, of chiefs who were invited to a peace conference. The chiefs, about 75, came from various tribes; the Gola, Vai, Kpelle, and Mandingo. King, Daniel Howard, Arthur Barclay, and Garretson Gibson had campaigned against Coleman for his positive interior policy and therefore were happy that he resigned. Unfortunately, Coleman resigned just as the time his Vice President Jacob Ross died. Economically, Firestone felt relief and was glad for King’s removal. The company saw the recruitment of workers to Fernando Po plantation as a threat to Firestone’s manpower and possible labor force. Apparently, the company was losing some of its workforces migrating to Fernando Po for better earnings and benefits.
Coleman was born in Kentucky, United States. He came to Liberia and was first a carpenter. Then he joined the True Whig Party, worked in various capacities and later became vice president to Joseph Cheeseman, who died in office. Coleman completed Cheeseman’s term and ran successfully for two terms on his own. Perhaps he missed politics during retirement. He came out and ran for the presidency as the candidate for the People’s Party in 1901, 1903, and 1905, but lost. He died in Clay-Ashland, Liberia. His son, Samuel David Coleman, attempted to follow in his footsteps. David later joined the broke-away Independent True Whip Party as it’s vice standard bearer in 1955, after working in the Tubman government as secretary of the interior. But he was implicated in the “Plot That Failed” incident. He was killed with his son John Coleman in a shootout with the soldiers at the family farm in Bomi County.
King’s and Yancy’s fall from power led Secretary of State Edwin Barclay to become president. Like in their resignation, the country was faced with a constitutional crisis when Coleman and his vice president left power and Secretary of State Garretson Gibson was made the president. The Speaker of the House, Robert Marshall, who was to succeed Coleman, was passed over because his congressional colleagues found him unqualified.
Born of Barbados parentage, Barclay was born in Liberia and was a nephew of Arthur Barclay. The new president took revenge on those advocating for justice for King’s removal. Under President Edwin Barclay, the Liberia government expelled Didwho Twe, Professor Dr. F.W.M. Morias, and other advocates from the Liberian legislature. Liberians who testified on the Fernando Po investigation were punished; Kru chiefs were killed, and their villages were burned. The revenge caused the Sasstown war. Sasstown Chief Juah Nimley, the war hero, was arrested, paraded in the streets of Monrovia, and jailed. On the battlefield, he refused to surrender even when approached and begged by some educated men of his ethnicity. He wrote Lord Cecil of the League of Nations and spoke to international observers that he did not trust the Barclay government because ” in the end, we may be killed like the 75 chiefs who were invited to a “peace conference”…
Barclay visited Nimley in prison, scores of people from other parts of the country came to see him, reporters interviewed him, he was called the “Wonderful Nimley”, the government could not kill him, for doing so would make him a martyr, and the international community would blame the government. So they released him, he became a free man. After months of exile in Gbarnga, he returned to Sasstown and later died there and became a legend. Barclay maintained an improve relation with the US and requested more assistance from President Franklin Roosevelt.
Lawrence Marinelli, an economist, in reviewing Liberian past economic condition, wrote.
When foreign funds became more readily available, the Liberian Government was distrustful. All capital was kept out, in the belief that this was the only way to safeguard the sovereignty. As a result, in 1943, after 96 years of independence as a republic, the national revenue was only 1.5 million and the entire economy was dependent on one crop, and company, the Firestone Rubber Plantation Company. And even the latter was allowed to enter Liberia only on condition it guaranteed a desperate needed $5 million loan.
Anthony Morgan, Jr. reported on the revenge and the massacre in Sasstown. “King and Yancy were forced to resign in 1930, but not before another orgy of revenge were carried out on those chiefs who had testified before the Commission. Towns and villages were razed and more chiefs executed, imprisoned, fined, flogged, and humiliated in front of their people”. In addition to the execution, Philip Blamo also stated that in the burned houses, “81 men, 49 women, and 29 children Kru people died when the huts were burned because the soldiers found it too dangerous to search them”. Again, the government took no action against the aggression.
Interestingly, as King’s secretary of State, Barclay helped discourage the settlement of Blacks Americans of the Universal Negro Improvement movement, a group led by Jamaican born Marcus Garvey, Jr., a Black nationalist. The association owned the Black Star Line, a profitable shipping business. The group’s hope was that Liberia would become their African home just as Israel is to Jewish Americans. Although the group would have brought US capital to Liberia for development, the Liberian government feared that the settlement would fuel opposition to minority rule in the country. Further, the administration viewed that the US government would react negatively to the settlement of progressive Black Americans interested in Africa freedom from colonialists. Consequently, the group was not allowed to come to Liberia.
During the Barclay presidency, Liberia experienced one of her worst economic crisis. The country was broke and could not meet some basic obligations, was unable to pay her foreign loans, and the price of rubber was down. Also, the United States, Liberian main ally, was in an economic depression, which occurred in the 1930s: unemployment was up, and Americans were in soup lines and desperately hungry for food.
Barclay took actions to address the Liberian economic situation. He stopped the port of entry law mentioned earlier; he suspended debt payments; he appealed to the League of Nations for assistance, and he developed a personal relation with US President Franklin Roosevelt. Moreover, he introduced the American dollar as a currency replacing the pound used previously together with the Liberian money. The Liberian dollar was equivalent to the US dollar. This made the financial transaction easier arresting inflation.
The lifting of the ban allowed foreign investments; the League assistance provided needed funds for social development; and friendship with Roosevelt paid off. Indeed, when Firestone requested United States intervention to force Liberia to pay the loan, Roosevelt replied thus: “At all times we should remember that (Harry) Firestone went to Liberia at his own financial right, and it is not the business of the State Department to put his financial chestnut out of the fire except as a friend of the Liberian people”.
Barclay’s measures worked. However, they put Liberian sovereignty in jeopardy. When Liberia stopped paying Firestone’s loan, the company threatened action against Liberia, a move some viewers or historians considered an attempted “Coup”. Nevertheless, the US broke diplomatic relation with Liberia until the matter was resolved. The League’s assistance demanded that Liberia’s revenue and finance be managed by foreigners appointed by the organization. The League also asked that Liberia carry out social reforms regarding the native issues so that the sin and shame which King and Yancy committed would not be repeated. Liberia complied.
World War II came; rubber became a demanded commodity. Liberia hence became a strategic zone. The allies needed rubber for production of tires and other rubber materials for warplanes and vehicles. The allies also needed a landing space in Africa and a storage base for the allies operation in North Africa. The Robertsfield Airport was therefore constructed for landing and takeoff of planes. The increase in the price of rubber, construction of the airport, and the building of other infrastructure projects helped Liberia financially. But it should also be stated that the country paid dearly in family relation. Although Liberia benefited economically and her relation with America was restored, Liberia was forced to declare war with Germany and to expel German traders and professionals in Liberia for the second time. This action affected Liberian children of German parentage. Also, Liberia declared war with Japan, an ally of Germany.
Barclay term ended in a respectable and honorable fashion. He selected his in-law William Tubman as his successor. The selection came as a surprise to some Montserrado politicians such as James Cooper, who wanted to succeed Barclay. They felt that Tubman was from Maryland County, the last county to join the new nation and that he was an outsider. Nevertheless, Barclay took Tubman to America and introduced him to President Roosevelt as Liberian next head of state. Tubman married Antoinette Padmore, Barclay’s cousin, namesake of his aunt, Antoinette Barclay.
In 1943, Tubman was elected president and inaugurated in 1944. Tubman’s approach to the Liberian economy was different from Barclay. Unlike Barclay, Tubman opened the economy to the world, resulting in the enactment of the open door policy, which brought in foreign companies to Liberia and importantly also the mining of iron ore. Under the arrangement with the US government, Lansdell Christie, a former US military officer who had worked in the construction of Robertfield airport, obtained an exclusive and lucrative contract with the Liberian government to start the Bomi Hills iron ore with no money and no mining engineering skill. Knowing the need for steel in America and for the allies and the world metal industry, he contacted the Muller Dutch Company to participate as sale and recruiting agent. The company also brought its skills and resources to the picture. The result was the establishment of the Liberian Mining Company (LMC) and other mines, including LAMCO in Liberia. Muller later sold its share to Republican Steel, a giant in the steel industry in America. The entire deal made Christie and Muller billionaires. The operation created an enclave economy, entailing rubber and iron ore as the country’s major export commodities. Liberian economy grew, revenue increased, making Liberia have one of the world’s best per capital growth national product, GNP. Some estimates ranked Liberia second to Japan in real GNP at that period. Liberia enjoyed economic growth nationally.
A writer expresses well how the deal went through.
Christie was neither a rich businessman nor an iron ore expert, but he foresaw the possibilities which the high-grade Bomi Hill iron ore offered with respect to the US steel industry. He obtained an 80-year concession giving him exclusive exploration rights in an area of about 3 million acres, within a radius of 40 miles of the Bomi Hills, and the exclusive mining rights in respect of all minerals except gold, diamonds, and platinum in a smaller area (of maximum 25,000 acres).
The Liberian Government was to be paid an exploration tax of US $ 100 per month and, after the 3 ½ year exploration period, US $ 250 per month. Further, a surface tax of initially 5 dollar cents per acre and which would gradually climb up to 25 cents, and a basic royalty of 5 cents for each ton of iron ore exported. The concessionaire became exempted from all taxes in lieu of this exploration tax, surface tax, and royalty.
As indicated, in high finance, the concessionaire benefited and profited greatly in this arrangement. Liberia was to refund the company for the construction of the railway and the St. Paul Bridge for the transportation of the ore from Bomi Hills to the Freeport. In later years, when the mining ended, Bomi Hills became Bomi holes, as some Liberian progressives named the area. Moreover, like previous administrations, the Tubman government did not give actual attention to agriculture development whereby general consumer commodities would be planted to accompany rubber and iron ore. Although income increased, the economic state was characterized by Clower et al as “growth without development”; a situation meaning that despite growth in population, urbanization, and sectoral improvement, the country remained under-developed. Tubman stayed in office for over 25 years, the longest-serving president of Liberia. He died in office in 1971.
While Tubman opened up Liberia to foreign investment, he failed to encourage the development of Liberian entrepreneurship. There was no opportunity for Liberians to go into business. Only a few did, ie, Eisenhower York who opened a shop in Waterside, Monrovia. Consequently, the government became the main employer. If you were educated, you were supposed to work for the government. This led to the control of the retail business in the hands of the Lebanese, Syrians, and Indians. Now the Nigerians are controlling the auto parts, electronics, and banking industries. The Lebanese and the Indians owned hotels, real estate, and major stores. They sublease to embassies, Liberians, and other foreigners, making huge profits. In the past, the Lebanese and Syrian merchants were also petty money lenders, borrowing to government workers. At the end of the month, they would take workers’ paychecks, cashed them for deduction for loan payment with interest.
The leading churches and established elite owned major real estates. The Mamba Point ocean view land is owned by the Methodist church, and the church and Tubman owned the Sinkor/Congo town commercial corridor now called Tubman Boulevard. Inside Sinkor facing the Atlantic Ocean, the land is the property of the Lutheran church, which leased to foreign landlords subleasing to embassies. Also, before and after Tubman, most of the past presidents were ministers of the Lord and used the pulpit as a stepping stone to the presidency.
To stay in power, Tubman suppressed opposition and freedom of speech and press. Didwho Twe, mentioned previously, and key supporters were harassed, and their party was denied registration for the 1951 election. Main backers of the Independent True Whig Party were jailed for the 1955 election. Other individuals, including lawyer Bill Horrace, journalist Tuan Wleh, and Ambassador Henry B. Fahnbulleh, Sr. were jailed. Resultingly, Liberia became a one-party state.
Tubman, however, brought about the re-tribalization of some natives. Educated natives who once wanted to become Congo-Americo Liberians, the ruling class, returned to their villages to reclaim their ethnicity because Tubman visited native villages and wore tribal attire. Tubman’s visit, of course, was to obtain native votes. (Nyanfore, D.K, 2017; Forh, C.N, 1970) Tubman also implemented the unification policy uniting descendants of the settlers and the African native Liberians.
Tubman’s Vice President William Tolbert became president after Tubman’s death. Tolbert took a somewhat radical approach to the economy under the phraseologies of “From Mat to Mattress” and “Total Involvement for Higher Height”. From a dual export and extracted economy, he brought forth the plantation of additional local crops, importantly rice production. There was sugar production and enhanced coffee and cocoa planting. In 1974 under James Philips as agriculture minister, the government launched the Foya Rice Project and identified Loffa, a county, as the breadbasket of the country. The goal was to mechanize the farming of rice for domestic and international consumption. The Liberian Produce Marketing Corporation (LPMC), established during Tubman, encouraged the production and marketing of produce. LPMC bought farmers goods and sold them. Tolbert also promoted the setup of agricultural cooperatives in the country.
Furthermore, unlike Tubman who focused on Western nations, particularly the US, Tolbert extended Liberian foreign relations to the East, establishing a diplomatic relation to Eastern Europe, including Russia. He also developed a diplomatic tie with Communist China. The new diplomacy enhanced foreign assistance and partnership.
But the Foya Project did not materialize in making Liberia a rice producing country. Liberia continued to depend on the importation of rice. The increase of rice price on the Liberian market created a socio-political cleavage between the regime and members of the Progressive Alliance of Liberia, PAL, a political group of young Liberians headed by Gabriel Baccus Mathews. Tolbert had allowed the registration of PAL as a political party against the advice of the True Whip Party hierarchy.
PAL mostly maintained that the increase of rice price was motivated by government officials who also were rice profiteers and that it could import and sell rice at a cheaper rate. The polarization between the two groups led to the rice riot and massacre of 1979: the killing happened on a Saturday. PAL members and sympathizers demonstrated in the streets. The government troop started to stop them. The demonstration continued; the shooting started. Hundreds of civilians were killed, and the government buried them in a massed grave. The government failed to address the killing but made Gabriel Mathews agree never to cause trouble. A year later, on April 12, 1980, non-commissioned soldiers overthrew the Tolbert government, bringing the People Redemption Council (PRC) in power. The PRC freed leaders of PAL from prison and employed them and other progressives in the new government. Tolbert was killed; the PRC arrested his officials, tried, and executed them, including the chief justice, speaker of the house, and Tolbert brother, a senior senator. Like the dead demonstrators, the officials were buried in a massed grave. Although the army argued that the takeover was due to rampant corruption, the main factors seemed to have been the economics of rice, government silence on the massacre, and the imprisonment of PAL leadership.
It should be noted that though the Tolbert reforms discussed helped the country, financially the Tolbert government was broke at the end of the administration. Under the watch of Deputy Finance Minister Madam Sirleaf, by the end of 1979, the regime had little capital to meet government payroll. The treasury had no adequate fund for the administration when the military took over. It appeared that the exorbitant expenditure of hosting the OAU conference that year may have additionally contributed to the shortfall.
Further, cases of US notes were looted from the treasury and sent abroad for private use, creating a shortage of American dollars. During the Tolbert rule, the government attempted to make American Blacks citizens of Liberia. It stated that the move would bring development to Liberia and enhance the economy. But the idea, promoted by Rev. Jesse Jackson of America, was defeated by Liberians, including Liberians in the United States.
Samuel Doe, leader of PRC, was elected president of Liberia in 1985. He became the first Liberian president of full native background. Under him, the government continued the agriculture policy of Tolbert. Doe formulated “Green Revolution”, an agenda which attempted to make Liberia a food-producing country through enhanced agriculture. Under Professor Wilson Tarpeh, as president of the Agriculture Development Bank, the government borrowed money from an international agency to help farm production.
Like Tolbert, Loffa was made the breadbasket. Doe had a plantain farm. Loffa son, Joseph Boakai, who had previously worked at LPMC, became head of the corporation. He later became minister of agriculture to implement the “Green Revolution” program. But he was accused of financial impropriety for taking $2 million from the program, according to published reports. A reliable source close to Doe stated that he was arrested and brought to the mansion in handcuffs after been in hiding for days with an associate called Foday Massaquoi. Also, the New Dawn reported; “Boakai and Mr. Massaquoi allegedly went in hiding for weeks before they were discovered and brought to the late Doe. According to information, President Doe developed a slow partner posture against Boakai when Massaquoi took responsibility”…. “Since the 1982/3 US$2m scandal, Boakai reportedly kept Mr. Foday Massaquoi in his close company” even when Boakai served as managing director of LPRC under Amos Sawyer interim government, the paper added. The rice and other agriculture projects later died.
Doe, however, implemented some infrastructural development projects, entailing the construction of government ministries and the SKD Boulevard. He is credited for opening up Liberia ports to European, Canadian, Chinese ships and bringing foreign revenue to the country. The Doe coins became local currency. Though they had no value abroad, people used them also for home construction. More so, he improved education, as the literacy rate quadrupled during his administration. However, the building of government ministries took income from the historical elite landlords who received monthly rental payment from the government. Doe’s action contributed to the opposition to his rule by the elite championed by some progressives.
Initially, Doe received more aid from the US than previous Liberian administrations obtained. But the increase of aid came when the American government wanted to maintain its influence and interest in Liberia with the new regime. Doe and Ronald Reagan happily met in Washington, DC. Doe went against Khadafy and others in support of US. As the internal campaign against the Doe regime intensified, the US withdrew its support and backed Doe’s enemies. Charles Taylor, supported by some Liberians in America, escaped from a US prison to stage the Liberian civil war. Like Tolbert, Doe’s human right record was undesirable. It was reported that he rigged the 1985 election. On the other hand, Doe and Tolbert were firmed as leaders. Doe died in the war.
Charles Taylor became elected president. Under him, Liberia continued to face the economic problem. The administration did not receive foreign capital as previous governments. International entities put an embargo on timber exportation, which in the past was a source for funding. The government could not meet some of its financial obligations. During Taylor, the government established the Liberian Central Bank, replacing the National Bank and made the US dollar along with the Liberian dollar as Liberia’s legal tender. Some analysts viewed that Taylor, as the rebel leader, made an agreement with Firestone for periodic payment to him in US dollars. Making the US currency as Liberia’s official legal tender would make the transaction easier. Others do not share this thinking. Nevertheless, Firestone officials acknowledged on tape of the payment, though it may not have any bearing on the enactment. It was stated that payment in US dollars was not circulated in the Liberian market but instead was kept at the president’s residence. The duality of the currency made economic activity difficult, as the Liberian dollar could not keep pace with the US dollar. This caused inflation.
In an attempt to get foreign capital, the government, and or its operatives, went into a deal with the Taiwan government for recognition in exchange for foreign fund. The Taylor regime used tax dollars to finance the civil war against warring factions. Additionally, according to the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) report, some government officials used their positions and contacts to evade taxation, committing an economic crime. This act helped create a national economic hardship. Taylor was forced out of power by international pressure for war crime in Sierra Leone.
However, like Tolbert and Doe, Taylor was not weak as president. When Mandingo merchants or taxi drivers decided to go on strike, he immediately demanded their return to work. Tolbert uncompromisingly dismissed government ministers late on their jobs; he also enforced the death penalty. Doe took disciplinary action on officials, including associates.
In 2006, Ellen Johnson Sirleaf became Liberian president replacing Taylor. To win a much-contested election, Sirleaf promised to improve the life of the Liberian people, electrify Monrovia in six months, and improve employment, health, and education. As expressed at the beginning of this article, the promises never materialized. Additionally, the exchange rate of the US dollar continued to increase while the Liberian dollar kept declining. At the end of the Taylor administration, unemployment was 85%, Liberian dollar vs. The American dollar was about 70 to 1, school enrollment was down, and costs of basic commodities were up. Under Sirleaf, unemployment remained 85% after 12 years; the US rate versus the Liberian dollar increased by about 1 to 140; a 100% up; and the costs of local goods increased. The promise for electricity was unfulfilled. Repair of the hydropower was partly completed in the last year of her 12 year term.
The Sirleaf administration had the opportunity to drastically changed or amend the Firestone contract because, under her regime, the 99 years expired. She was critical of Firestone just after her first inauguration. But the administration later went cold at the contract renewal discussion. The president should have seen to it that Firestone provided a value-added element to the rubber production. Such effort would have created economies of scale; the existence of related economic activities which support each other. For example, Firestone rubber could produce the manufacture of tires, slippers, plastics, raincoats, and boots in Liberia. Farmers could use the boots for work in the raining season. Iron ore product could create the making of steel rods and other metal products in Liberia. This could have stopped the importation of these goods and helped the economy.
President Sirleaf came into power with international fanfare. She was darling of the West. The West wanted to showcase a once war-torn nation is now developed by the West. To help solve the Liberian problem, she attracted international donors and financiers putting approximately US$17 billion in aid and investments. She deserves credit for the waiver of Liberian debts by world creditors, though in reality, it was an interest forgiven arrangement. The principal was intact. However, it helped the economy. She built the Bella Yalla highway. She also promoted freedom of speech and press. Yet Liberia remains an enclave economy, depending on rubber and iron ore as the prime export commodities. As the price of these products dropped internationally, the country had no additional commodity to balance market shortage, resulting in high rate of a currency which the administration had no control of.
Sirleaf underestimated the gravity of the Liberian problems as a political candidate and as a newly elected president. She failed to admit that things would be difficult and Liberians should await hard times. Also, she brought into the government Diasporas Liberians, some of whom bankrolled her candidacy and took government jobs for investment payback. Statistics show that of the officials charged with corruption, only one was sent to prison. Under Sirleaf, some Liberians abroad began the campaign for dual citizenship of Liberians who naturalized in foreign countries. The president and other politicians supported this cause. But it was not achieved before she left office.
As said before, Weah came in power January 2018. The government has reported that the country is broke, that the administration met the treasury with little capital for administration. Certainly, like the Tolbert government and the Taylor regime, Sirleaf left the treasury basically empty. Why?
THE WEAH GOVERNMENT, WHAT IS ITS APPROACH?
The economic problems facing the Weah administration have been stated earlier. A summarization includes the rising cost of local goods, the high rate of the US dollar, and the inadequacy of fund to carry out development. The government under its “pro-poor” agenda has called for the involvement of Liberians in the national economy, Liberian businesses should no longer become bystanders of the economic activity, foreign businesses and investors are encouraged to come and do business in Liberia, and tariffs on certain import commodities have been reduced. Weah started construction of rural housing and proposed the building of a military hospital. The “pro-poor” phraseology has been misinterpreted. Taxi drivers use it to increase fare; marketers expressed it to raise the price for their goods. “We are pro-poor”, “this is pro-poor government”. In other words, they are poor and so must rob the other poor. Apparently, the policy seeks to improve the condition of all Liberians, particularly the poor, and therefore the agenda is for the poor people. The lack of price control in the past and now makes the poor vulnerable. Last week it was stated that the Weah government would by the end of July announce the reduction of prices for commodities and fare.
In his first address to the legislature on the state of the nation, Weah called for a constitutional change to allow Whites to become citizens of Liberia, non-citizens to own land and properties, and Liberians naturalized in the Diasporas to become dual citizens of Liberia. Furthermore, the government requested foreign loans from ETON Finance and EBOMAF for a total of $957.2 million for the infrastructural road network. The administration also wants to make the Boli Island in Monrovia a tourist attraction. The government believes that these measures would help bring economic development.
ETON Finance, a Singaporean firm, would borrow Liberia $536.4 million for construction of 505.3 km coastal highway from Grand Bassa County to Grand Kru County. The loan interest rate is 1.46% annually for 15 years with 7 year- grace period. EBOMAF is a Burkina Faso company owned by businessman Mahamadon Boukoungou. It would construct 323.7 km road from Monrovia to Maryland County at the cost of $420.8 million, which the firm would pre-finance source through Eurobond. Liberia would repay the loan in 15 years at 6.5% interest rate with 5 years grace period.
Some Liberians have criticized the loans, stating that the sources are not credible, that Liberia would lose her sovereignty if she defaults. Some suggest that the loans should come from international entities so that the debts would be forgiven if Liberia cannot repay. A recent criticism from a newspaper states that, because its investigation showed that a loan source has no website, the source is not real.
Weah has been advised to call for the establishment of a war crime court to investigate those the TRC has accused of involvement in the civil war. They argue that giving impunity to the accused would arrest justice and peace, and would encourage civil unrest in the future. Some feel that Weah is protecting Sirleaf, who has been accused of war crime and was named in the TRC report as a contributor to the war.
The TRC was mandated as result of the Accra Accord signed on August 13, 2003, to investigate the war and the commission recommendations shall be implemented. Sirleaf signed up to the mandate. In 2006, just months after her inauguration, TRC released its findings with recommendations, including the banning of perpetrators of the war from holding public office. But because the report implicated her, proponents for war crime court maintain that she and other accused politicians dragged their feet from implementing the recommendations.
What are the merits and demerits of the above measures judging from Liberian history and current reality? As shown, Liberia is a dual export country. The price of rubber and iron ore has dropped on the world market. Liberia inability to grow food, particularly rice, her stable diet, has increased the importation of foreign commodities, which are purchased with the US dollars. The fact that Liberia does not export enough, the relation has caused not only an imbalance of payment but also causes domestic inflation in the Liberia market. Certainly, as the US dollar rises, the Liberian dollar depreciates. This usually happens when a country produces what she does not consume and consumes what she does not produce. The condition is acute when she does not either own or control the currency which she uses to purchase imported goods. The Weah administration does not have control of this reality at this time.
Other economies are falling victims to the US dollar. For example, in Ghana, which has a better economy than Liberia, the Cedi has depreciated against the dollar. Since January 2018, the cedi has fallen 3-4% to the dollar. “Between May to June this year the local currency has experienced 0.7 percent depreciation and now selling at GHS 4.44 to US$1”. It has created a price increase in the local market, and businesses and consumers are worrying, according to government and public sources.
Another uncontrollable reality is the price of gasoline or fuel. Liberia is not an oil producing country, unlike Ghana or Nigeria. Oil importers pay for their supply in US currency. When fuel producing countries, such as Saudi Arabic, Kuwait, and Iran, decide to cut supply the action creates a shortage, which creates demand in the market, consequently fuel cost increases. This is a matter of supply and demand as we know in principle economics. The importers like Total and Aminata must up the price of their petroleum in the Liberian market. The government receives about $50 LD per gallon as import fee. Taxi or cab drivers pass the increase onto the passengers in high fare. Thus the drivers complain and so the passengers; all put the blame on the government.
The fact that Liberia is not an oil producing country makes the problem harder. But even if she were, the issue would not necessarily stop. For instance, in the US, which is the number three oil producer in the world (Russia and Saudi Arabia, number one and two respectively) the price of oil is high or higher depending on the region. Gas prices are higher in the East Coast than in the West Coast. One of the reasons is that oil is owned by the private investors. But in a country such as Venezuela, one of the ten major oil producers, oil is nationally owned. Therefore, the government subsidizes the cost of oil in the market, enabling motorists to get oil basically free.
Liberia had the opportunity to become an oil-producing nation, but she mismanaged the exploration chance God has blessed her with. She bankrupts the National Oil Company of Liberia (NOCAL). The Weah government failed to audit the company. As known, Sirleaf’s son Robert Sirleaf managed NOCAL, which was grossing millions of US dollars.
Another factor to the economic problem is the closedown of the UN Mission to Liberia (UNMIL). The agency had contributed about $300 million US in the annual budget for its operation in Liberia. That is about or little than half of Liberia’s national and yearly budget. Since UNMIL closing in January this year, the money has stopped, adding to the demand of the dollar. The practice of individuals and government officials sending US currency to America to support their families also contributes to the rate increase.
Weah’s call for constitutional reform regarding citizenship is similar to the intentions in the past for citizenship of foreigners, involving born Liberians nationalized abroad. These calls never worked; the Liberian people have always said no. Weah seemingly thinks that these proposed reforms would help the economy. A motivating factor could be his popularity, apparently a view by him and those who failed in prior attempts that the proposal would be approved this time because the Liberian people like him. It is contradictory to say that the institution of a war crime court should wait while advocating constitutional change to make Whites citizens because the constitution is racist.
Review of literature on foreign naturalization in other African countries does not support the view that such reform is the answer to national development. For example, a Lebanese naturalized as a citizen in Africa usually banks his income or business profits in Lebanon and not the other way around. Certainly, the restriction of “non-Negro descents” from citizenship is racist more so was the denial of African natives of citizenship of the nation. Furthermore, the view that Mandingos are not Liberians or not real Liberians is equally racist, though factually, Mandingos were among the original tribes of the land now called Liberia. This denotes racism beyond skin color to behavior as observed by others. (Markus, 2008; Loury, 2003; and Oni and Winant, 1994).
Liberia has yet to first develop the policy necessary to accommodate citizenship for Whites. Such policy would embody real nationalism and patriotism not to repeat past behavior where, for instance, Liberian policy-makers sold Liberian birthrights for cash in the Firestone and LMC concession agreements. Ghana and other African countries have appropriate policies relative to citizenship for Whites. Beside the institution of policy, Ghanaians have a sense of nationalism and patriotism; the feeling that they are the best. “We the best”, they would say. Liberians need to develop this sense before allowing others to come in.
For dual citizenship, supporters maintain that condition made Liberians become citizens abroad. Opponents, however, argue that naturalization abroad was done willingly and not by force. That the naturalized could have remained permanent residents in the foreign countries like America; and they could have retained their Liberian citizenship while holding employment and other opportunities in the US. They could also vote in Liberia and seek government employment. Opponents further argue that even as naturalized, proponents can return home to regain Liberian citizenship as required by law. But they refuse; “they want to have their cake and eat it at the same” to the detriment of those who still Liberians.
The call for war crime court should be given serious attention. It could embarrass the Weah presidency. Even though Weah has said that justice should be given to victims of the civil war, others have advised that the issue should be put on the backburner. There is an international request for establishment of the court. International pressure led to the resignation of King and Yancy. Barclay and others in the 1920s and 30s tried to protect King and his VP, but their procrastination and later revenge caused disaster in Liberia. President Sirleaf after her 2005 election tried to delay in the silent protection of Taylor. When the international pressure came to bear, she gave up. Taylor was sent to The Hague. History should be a guide.
Regarding the economy, President Weah has given additional measures to address the issue. In a recent national speech, he informed of the infusion of $25 million from the national foreign reserve into the economy; the monitoring of the flow of US currency in and out of the country; the regulation by the central bank of private monetary exchange activities; and the robust oversight of the central bank on banks regarding the US currency. Few days following the address, the US rate reduced from about 160 to 130 depending on the location. This is a market reaction. Normally the market responds positively when a leader gives assurance to economic condition. Now the rate has stabilized to 150 LD to 1US dollar following a recent meeting of the central bank and foreign money changers. Now the US rate is uninformed, particular in Monrovia. There is no individual sign of the rate by money exchangers. But the decrease will not continue until local production increases. The president should be applauded for the quick response nevertheless. Before the infusion, the reserved was $150 million from $300 million, a 50% reduction. The solution is temporary. If the money goes in the wrong direction or in the wrong hands, the problem could get worse.
History has shown that in financial difficulties, past Liberian leaders turned abroad for loans. Sometimes the loans were to pay back previous debts and sometimes the money was misused. But often, the loans were not really for agriculture or for the road network, as the country continues to have bad roads and no meaningful agriculture development. Vice President Jewel Howard Taylor, in signing the loans into law at the Senate, stated that the money will create road network never done before in the history of Liberia’s 170 plus years of existence.
Historically, loan money had created mistrust, destabilization, and death. President Edward Roye in 1871 died or was assassinated for the accusation of stealing $500,000 borrowed from Great Britain. His loan negotiator, House Speaker William Anderson, was jailed for the money and later shot dead while leaving the courthouse where he was acquitted. Roye’s Vice President James Smith was allowed to succeed him only for less than two months from November 4, 1971, to January 1, 1972, to complete Roye’s term. Joseph J. Roberts, Liberian first president, returned as president, making him the 7th president of Liberia. Seemingly, the Liberian politicians during that time did not want possible successor connected to the loan to become president.
Like Roye, James Smith was born in America. He came to Liberia at a very young age. He was not a businessman like Roye. He returned to the US to study medicine. Upon completion, he came back to Liberia and later entered politics as secretary of state under Stephen Benson presidency. He became vice president to Roye in 1870. Historians differ on whether Roye was assassinated or died by accident. Some say that he was killed by a coup; another view suggests that his canoe capsized while attempting to escape to a British ship. Roye was part of the settler merchant class, which later entered politics. After serving in various positions, including the chief justice of the Supreme Court, he won the presidency under the True Whig Party. As stated before, the party replaced former ruling party of the lighter-skinned settlers. During his presidency, Liberia faced serious financial difficulties. The country was not producing enough exports, creating cash shortage. To come back this, he and the speaker of the house negotiated a second loan with British financiers through the British Consular General. Apparently, Liberia did not serve the first loan well and therefore the term of the new loan was high. The legislature and other politicians were unhappy with the loan and opposed the president. He was accused of financial misbehavior and jailed with the speaker. The outcome, of course, is history.
Back to road discussion; as indicated earlier, road and agriculture would stimulate economic development; and a healthy economy would drive improve education and health. Focusing on the above factors simultaneously would be problematic. One or a group at a time would do. Criticism on the Weah loans appears to have no merit. The reasons given are flimsy. To say that because loans were misused previously, therefore these loans would be misappropriated is an empty augment base on assumption, not facts. The terms of the loans seem fine. If the loans will be used for the intended purposes, the effort should be encouraged.
The Weah long-term approach appears to be in the right direction. If the road network is successfully implemented along with an agriculture activity, which focuses on mechanized farming of cash crops and rice production, Liberia would become a food producing economy. According to the European Union, road connectivity would account for about 3-5% of Liberia’s GDP. This would mean that the country would export enough to reduce the rising cost of import commodities and currency inflation. It would also increase local capital. Construction of the roads would create employment, as happened in the US during the new deal program of the Roosevelt administration. Even if the economy does not improve greatly, the road connectivity alone would pave the way for an easy second term. But reelection now should not be a concern or focus. Doing the people’s work would speak volume.
One major problem contributing to economic hardship is continuing corruption. Corruption is cancer as President Sirleaf called it. We observed in this article that government officials took advantage of Firestone operation for self-enrichment and failed to take action to improve workers living and working conditions. Indeed Sirleaf criticized Firestone but took no action. Taylor rebel group occupied a Firestone plantation site and demanded payment. As president, it was said that he continued to receive payment. Young Lensdell Christie, having realized that the government was corrupt, was able to navigate the system for an exclusive contract making him a billionaire.
In the early 1960s, Ama Tugbe, a Kru old woman residing in Point Four, New Krutown, was killed by a LMC train while returning home from a church prayer service in Monbo Town, Duala. Her poor family had to beg and give a gift to House Speaker Richard Henries to ask LMC for burial assistance. The speaker, while on the government payroll, was LMC legal adviser/lawyer. Shad Tubman, Tubman’s son, headed the Liberian Labor Union. The president was a close friend of Christie. The government stopped the unionization of workers and hence controlled trade unionism.
Sirleaf’s son chaired NOCAL, which made millions of dollars. The company sold oil blocks. Foreign companies and individuals without adequate finance purchased oil blocks and turnaround sold them at huge profits. Legislators received brown envelopes. This brings to mind Christie. During the Sirleaf government, an international entity reported that of the 68 concession agreements, only 2 met the international and proper standard. The rest were bogus. NOCAL went bankrupt as said before. The president took responsibility yet did not conduct an audit.
Under Sirleaf watch, government officials, including former party boss and now a senator, Varney Sherman, was accused of bribery regarding the Sable Mining scandal. The government established a special task-force to investigate the matter, but nothing came out of it. Also during Sirleaf regime, Wendell McCintosh, a Liberian, received millions of dollars from the Khadafy government for mechanized rice farming and production in Foya, Loffa. The Sirleaf administration did not cooperate to have the project operated, according to McCintosh. On the Costa Show in Liberia on June 27, 2017, he alleged that government officials requested money from him, adding that then Vice President, Joseph Boakai, asked for and received $30,000 to support the project and another $10,000 to visit the project site. Like the foya program during Tolbert, this rice project did not materialize.
On the other hand concerning Firestone and iron ore companies, they implemented social responsibility through the granting of scholarships and providing healthcare. Many Liberians received education through the companies’ assistance, particularly in the 60s. Additionally, NOCAL gave social help to causes.
How Does President Weah Become Successful, Taking History As A Guide?
The presidential history briefly discussed shows us one thing; despite systematic suppression of the majority, most of the presidents covered neglected agriculture. Liberia, as a land, was a food-producing country. Liberia produced and exported rice, peppers, cocoa, coffee, and palm oil. It has been stated that Liberian natives taught the Americans how to farm rice. In fact, the Grain Coast was called the Malaguetta Coast for its large export of peppers. Grandcess now in Grand Kru County was a major pepper producing area in the 17 Century.
Regrettably, a few days ago, it was reported that a Liberian drowned on the Cavalla River on his way from buying peppers from Ivory Coast. Rubber and iron ore continue to be Liberia’s major export commodities. As their prices drop on the world market, the country is left without backup, creating a domestic hardship. With a futile soil, numerous natural resources and a small population base, agriculture would lead the way to economic glory. The CDC knows this. At its January 2017 convention, the party mentioned its agriculture agenda. It should actualize the agenda following or together with its road construction strategy.
One way to realize this process is to do the road network in the first two years, followed by agriculture in the next two years. Education, health and the economy would be the last but not the least. Or, focus on road construction and agriculture the first three years; and education, health, and economy the last three years. Road connectivity stimulates economic development as shown. But the solution to the current problem will take time.
Weah must emulate the firmness of Tolbert, Doe, and Taylor. There appeared an element of a fascination with Madam Sirleaf. This adoration may not be due to her administrative ability but rather to her skill to appeal and relate to world leaders and financiers. Weah could copy that and not allow her to influence and control. President Weah was elected to lead. Sirleaf had her time.
Weah has been criticized and considered unqualified for the presidency; he should allow criticisms. It is better to be criticized and to have difficulties now then to be cheered and adored with praises and flatteries and later be condemned at the end. History tells us that leaders who started fine later failed in the end. Tolbert with his beginning reforms was later demonstrated against and deposed. Doe was loved and praised from the start, but at the end, he was campaigned against and killed. Taylor entered Monrovia triumphantly in the late 1990s. The Liberian people said; he killed my ma and pa, but I will vote for him. Yes, they voted for him. Later they asked him to go.
Many leaders who started poorly ended up successfully. Abraham Lincoln was president of America. The Southern states did not want him and a civil war broke out. But he was not disturbed; he united the country and became one of the best leaders. Franklin Roosevelt confronted the economic depression and personal handicap. However, he endured and became one of the greatest presidents, the longest-serving head of state of America. Bill Clinton met economic hardship; unemployment increased and his party lost control of Congress in the first half of his 93-97 administration. But he was determined and ended victoriously.
Maybe a little more on Clinton would be helpful in the above discussion. Clinton was born poor. His biological father, William Blythe, was a salesman who died from an auto accident four months before Clinton’s birth. He was raised by his single mother Virginia who later married his stepfather name, Clinton. In college, the late Dr. Carroll Quigley had a great influence on him. Professor Quigley was a historian and taught the “Evolution of Civilization” at Georgetown University. His class, though popular and a required course, was hard but he was fair and honest. On campus, Clinton was progressive and also religious from the Pentecostal faith background with a strong belief in prayers. He was conscious of history and took it as a guide. He did not forget his roots and his boyhood friends even when he became president. The friends honestly advised him and were there for him in difficulties.
President Weah must have few of his boyhood friends either from Claratown, Gilbratal, or Sasstown around him to truthfully advise him. They knew him when he was not a celebrity and president. They will not be consumed by the glory. Not all friends or Liberians wish and want to work in the government. Some political friends will leave you when the power is gone or about to go. Doe experienced this sadness. The president also needs to have a real spiritual leader who is not political to guide him spiritually. God national leaders are God chosen. He must pray daily.
Weah must actively and seriously fight corruption. He must withstand corruption. The presidency is the main target for corruption enterprise through business opportunities and the conversion of donor money into personal pockets. Weah must muster the political will to take drastic action on officials, even strong supporters found guilty of corruption. Yes, it is the president duty to protect his or her citizens, but not when they break the law and are wanted. When people say, “the government is corrupt”, it is not that the president is personally corrupt, but the president presides over a government that is corrupt and does nothing about it. Hence, that president is corrupt and or is equally guilty of the act. Infrastructural development, enhanced agriculture, and the improved economy would be meaningless if corruption is not aggressively fought against and minimized.
This article shows with historical and current evidence that agriculture is the key to Liberia’s financial recovery. Solutions will not be immediate. Liberian problem is historical. The Weah government should seriously take agriculture as the gateway to national development. His short and long-term measures seem to be on the right trajectory. However, he and his administration must be firm and must aggressively fight corruption.
There is another finding of this analysis. There had been a historical brutality by some previous administrations. Many of the presidents reviewed committed human crimes, failed to render justice, but instead attempted to protect the perpetrators and punished those who stood up for justice. These atrocities and impunities resulted in the civic crisis, including the Grebo war, the Sasstown war, the Kru revolt, and the 1980 military takeover. These events contributed to the national economic crisis, human and physical destruction, as observed in the civil war. Most of the presidents were preachers and considered men of God yet were evil.
Historian Emmanuel Bowier stated that the late writer and historian Bai T. Moore had suggested a national day of consecration; fast and prayer for the innocent blood that was lost, and to ask God for forgiveness. Bai T. Moore was speaking of the massacre by the settlers on now called Ashmun Street, between Buchanan and Carey Streets, where innocent school children of the Poro and Sandi Societies were murdered in the 1820s. That advice was not taken seriously before his demise. Instead, a monument of Matilda Newport, a symbol of past celebrated atrocity, was structured there at the centennial pavilion ground.
Moreover, defend less 29 children, 49 women, 81 men, and their houses were burned down to ashes; peaceful, harmless, and invited 75 chiefs were massacred, and the government took no action on the killers for the brutality. In most African tradition and culture an arbitrary killing of chiefs, elders of the land and killing of children and women is a taboo, which can result in a curse. Perhaps, Liberia’s under-development could be due in part to the crimes against the ancestors and the creator.
President Weah must also be a president of justice and peace.
About the author: Dagbayonoh Kiah Nyanfore II is a Liberian national. Was educated at Georgetown University. Was a special assistant to former US Congressman Les Aspen and worked with the 1993 transitional team of Bill Clinton, his schoolmate. Is principal of Planning and Development International, a planning, architecture, and economic development consulting firm incorporated in the US and Liberia.