Liberians who attended the Minnesota version of Liberia’s Vision 2030 consultative meeting staged Sunday night at the Crown Plaza Hotel in Brooklyn Center are left to describe the event in any way but a success in that less than seventy-five people participated in the ceremony. And for the state of Minnesota with the largest Liberian population of over 20,000, the poor attendance indicated a flat out failure for promoters of Vision 2030.
Last night’s Vision 2030 ceremony came second in a row staged in the US but produced results facilitators had least hoped for. The first was held in the city of Philadelphia in Pennsylvania Saturday June 2, 2012 and it similarly received poor reception from Liberians living in the trio US states of Pennsylvania, New Jersey and New York according to reports.
In some cases, some Liberians are even boycotting these events as their way to vent out their disappointment in the current Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf Government’s failure to effect meaningful changes in the country as well as implement “past recommendations” including those of the TRC. One such Liberian is Dr. Lawrence Amos Zumo a neurologists at one of Baltimore’s largest hospitals in Maryland.
“I am not going to attend any of the Vision 2030 programs because like the past, the government isn’t going to take action afterward. No action plan…and we want action,” Dr. Zumo told this writer Monday June 4, 2012 in a telephone interview.
Dr. Zumo further lamented the Johnson-Sirleaf Government’s failure to honor recommendations forwarded by several bodies like the Truth and Reconciliation Committee (TRC) and the John Marlu General Auditing Bureau commissioned to perform certain tasks in the interest of peace but noted their efforts were frustrated by the same administration.
“Let the government first address the economic crimes…what more vision do they need,” Dr. Zumo maintained.
At the Minnesota event last night graced by members and officials of the Organization of Liberians in Minnesota (OLM), facilitators of pres. Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf’s Vision 2030 didn’t have it the easy way as usual. Pres. Sirleaf’s delegates which included Professor Elwood Dunn, Steve Manley and J. Zangar Bright were bombarded with questions from every topic throughout the nearly three hours ceremony in spite of attempts by delegates to restrict all questions and comments only to the selected topic: The Vision 2030.
With many Diaspora Liberians now frequenting home and getting first hand impression about general life situation in relation to the high level of poverty prevalent in the war ravage country where nepotism and rampant corruption have become the hallmark of governance, delegates, mainly Zangar bright struggled to convince participants on how the current Vision 2030 differs from others in the past and its prospects at achieving the planned goals.
There were also other odd rules besides the one that barred participants from digging into the present state of affairs in the country other than Vision 2030. For example, panelists were only taking questions, comments and observations but not giving direct responses to questions that were being posed by members of the audience, something some saw as being “undemocratic.” However, minutes from the events according to panelists would be passed on to the project’s steering committee in Monrovia for possible action at the end of the entire exercise.
In the past few years alone, the current Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf’s administration spent exorbitant amount of taxpayers’ money sending groups of delegates abroad just to promote its policies. Famous among them were the Truth and Reconciliation Committee (TRC) which was set up to investigate crimes committed during the civil war and the Poverty Reduction Strategy (PRS) designed not to bridge the gap between the rich and the poor but to alleviate hardship faced by the downtrodden in the country. However, for some political reasons, the present administration to honor final recommendations from the TRC team which is still being viewed by many Liberians and friends of Liberia as a roadmap for genuine peace in Liberia.
One Liberian female expressed concern over the huge amount of money the government is putting in sending delegations to Europe, America and other parts of Africa such as Ghana while many children go hungry. She then demanded to know who “foots the “bills for this trip?” She said she didn’t see the need for such large delegations traveling abroad to explain such project which could have easily been shared via the internet instead. “We could do this via Skype [internet communication] and have the money go to the poor.”
Some speakers at the program criticized the government for doing too little to help bring about reconciliation in the country ravage by long years of war. As a result many observed, individuals and tribes still hold strong fear and resentment against one another which tends to muddy the road to peace.
A young Liberian woman who visited the country recently after many years living abroad expressed surprise that people still practice “tribalism” in Liberia. She narrated that everywhere she went while in Liberia; people often asked her “what’s your tribe?” But her biggest disappointment she maintained is the fact that there isn’t a single social networking group in the country to help cater to thousands of war affected kids and youths. She urged the delegates to consider doing more in that area.
As the ceremony went on, a Liberian believed to be a government political insider took the stage and tried to paint a rather different picture, far from what many who visited the country in the past years observed as being true reality. The gentlemen went on to make references to what he called, “development and changes” Liberia is now experiencing under Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf. His long speech seemingly didn’t settle well with many in the audience but because “House Rule” number four says: “No participant should be put down because of their opinions,” the speaker was treated with civility.
Half way into the occasion, some members of the audience violated one of the rules that said “No side discussions among participants.” About nine to ten persons in attendance who appeared to have some misgivings about the new project walked out and were seen standing in the hotel corridors discussing and debating the Vision 2030.
By James Kokulo Fasuekoi – Our correspondent in Minnesota