By Frank Sainworla, Jr., firstname.lastname@example.org
Liberia, the oldest independent black African Republic which is close to 180 years old, is indeed at a crossroad, rich in many sound public policy documents but very poor in implementation. This is a country that has done countless number of pre and post-war reforms.
However, this nation of over 5 million people is yet to be transformed due to failures of past and present governments to implement the very policies that took so much time and resources to be formulated, validated, passed by the Legislature and signed into law by the President.
The campaign planks of three of the 20 presidential candidates in the October 10, 2023 presidential election—promises to bring development to Liberia, to fix Liberia and to rescue Liberia—all speak to the needs of this small West African state which fought a brutal civil war which officially ended in 2003. Although the war saw warlords and their henchmen pillaging this country’s natural resources and claimed the lives of about 250,000 people, there has been no political will to bring any of the alleged perpetrators of war and economic crimes to justice up till now. As a result, impunity has continued to reign, injustice as well as disregard for the rule of law from top to bottom of the political ladder largely remains the order of the day.
Liberia’s political history
Liberian political history records the “deeds, not words” posture of one of Liberians’ most dynamic leaders in the person of the late President William R. Tolbert, Jr. who did not only talk policies but he actualized many of them in the famous adage, “deeds not words”. President-elect Joseph Nyuma Boakai is no stranger to the leadership tenacity of the late Tolbert, as he served in his government as head of a parastatal, LPMC. Unfortunately, Tolbert was overthrown in a bloody military coup on April 12, 1980. Like Boakai, Tolbert served as Vice President under the late President William V.S. Tubman for 19 unbroken years and took office as President after Tubman’s death in July 1971.
Like the late 19th President of Liberia, Tolbert, Jr., the incoming President Boakai comes to the highest office in the land with many years of experience as Vice President in the last Unity Party government of former President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf. He then served as Vice President for 12 years until 2017.
Calendar already designed by a Liberian, Nyema M. Williams
As he said on his campaign trail, he and the main opposition UP are on a “rescue mission”. In view of the political backdrop given, rescuing the nation must be holistic by fixing what needs to be fixed and developing the country’s political, social, economic and physical infrastructure such as roads, bridges, etc.
Indeed, a mission to rescue Liberia must not be given lip service, as was the situation with the outgoing ruling CDC party of incumbent President George Manneh Weah who vowed to bring change for hope to Liberians, respect for the constitution/rule of law and promote the interest and welfare of the common people. But instead soon upon taking office in January 2018, they were reluctant to declare their assets. But instead, they immediately began displaying lavish lifestyles and amassing wealth by constructing mansions, sources of which yet to be accounted for. A former head of the anti-graft agency, Liberia Anti-Corruption Commission (LACC) famously spoke of “lifestyle audits”.
Well, as he prepares to take the oath of office as Liberia’s next President, Ambassador Boakai must demonstrate the political will to deal with malfeasance and misfeasance head on though “deeds, words”. Like his UP predecessor before him, Weah flouted the constitution, failed to implement the National Code of Conduct Act by not even appointing the Ombudsman Office to operationalize the Code, allowed the integrity institutions such as the LACC to be toothless bulldogs by not adequately funding them; failing to implement Public Financial Management law by ignoring implementation of the budget performance reports, etc.
Now his work is cut out, Boakai must kick off his UP “Rescue Mission” at the get go by clearly laying out and implementing his plans in the first 100 days, and begin to actualize them during the course of year one of his presidency.
Urgent Steps That Must Be Taken
Therefore, in order for the incoming second UP administration not be seen as regime out for the usual business as usual, citizens expect to see the following public policy pronouncement set into motion:
- The new leadership at the Executive Mansion must demonstrate leadership by example and send a very strong signal to Liberians and foreigners alike taking swift and decisive actions against officials that go out of step
- Incoming officials swiftly declare their assets, while outgoing official declared their exit assets
- Comprehensive hand over notes that state the financial and administrative position of gov’t ministries and agencies as at the inauguration of the new president
- Immediately launch audits of the outgoing government, reopen corruption investigations of the previous Unity Party government including NOCAL bankruptcy
- Set the record straight at the onset that cleaning the political, financial, administrative and social mess by robustly fighting corruption, waste, bad governance, impunity, lack of transparency and accountability has nothing to do with witch-hunting but all to do with bolstering patriotism and sparing the nation from political, economic and social degradation—for those with integrity and clean hands should not be worried about being audited and giving account of their stewardship
- New President must put his stamp of approval on Liberia’s commitment to setting up a war and economic crimes court
- Appoint an experienced, well knowledgeable, no nonsense professionals with the highest level of integrity as Justice Minister and Police Inspector General
- Put a freeze/moratorium on passing new laws/reforming existing ones and embark on a national campaign of transformation
- Launch a massive national education and sensitization campaign to mentally prepare Liberian citizens for a national drive on the urgent need to respect the constitution, laws/regulations, ahead of a robust enforcement regime/policy
Judging from what is being heard from “the silent majority” and many patriotic Liberians in various quarters, all eyes and ears remain wide open to see and hear which path the incoming Joseph Boakai government will threat—whether it will be business as usual or there will be efforts towards overhauling the system and using the rule of law to bring perpetrators of graft, misuse and abuse of office and public resources to book
Many political watchers believe that only with such a demonstrated political will that durable change in our political governance will come and the abundance resources of Liberia will be enjoyed by the vast majority of the Liberian people. Indeed, coming from 12 years of the Ellen Johnson Sirleaf-led UP government (part one) when the country’s resources were “squandered”, the incoming Boakai regime will not have, as it is commonly said “the luxury of time” to begin getting its feet wet by putting deeds into words.