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Op-ed: Sweeping Corruption with the Broom: The Gongloe’s Effect

By S.Karweaye

Op-ed: When the Charles Taylor regime in Liberia (1997-2003) was facing collapse, the Liberia elite, backed and advised by local and international forces, prepared the ground for a transition to a democratic regime. The various presidents, from Ellen Johnson Sirleaf to George Weah today, have run corrupt regimes, doing nothing to alleviate the suffering of the Liberian masses, while enriching themselves and their cronies in the process.

Rubber accounts for an overwhelming majority of Liberian export earnings followed by iron ore, diamond, coffee, and cocoa, but more than 80 percent of the money generated by those exports ends up in the hands of a mere 1 percent of the population.  According to the study of the second edition of the Economic Update of Liberia released last November by the World Bank, extreme poverty has increased in Liberia by 51.0 percent (up from 38.6 percent in 2014). The report, among other things, indicated that most Liberians lack access to good jobs that provide sustainable earnings. Three out of four of those in the labor force are self-employed in agriculture (36 percent of all employment) or non-agricultural activities (almost 40 percent). Only 20 percent of workers are in wage employment, which tends to provide higher and more stable earnings. The Economic Update also revealed that the Liberian government spends more than the average in Sub-Saharan Africa and countries with similar GNI per capita.

All of this explains the discrediting of the two major parties, the Unity Party (UP), in power between 2006 and 2018, and the Coalition for Democratic Change (CDC) in office since 2018. Next year, in October 2023, presidential elections are scheduled to be held and there is much speculation about the possible outcome, given the discrediting of all the established politicians.

What we are facing in Liberia is a similar process that we have seen around the world. The old-established former ruling Unity Party that has run the system for years has seen its base of support slowly whittled away while the CDC as the current ruling coalition has gotten involved with massive corruption with public officials building mansions and duplexes overnight. The leaders of the opposition, in this case, the Collaborating Political Parties (CPP), have failed to offer a credible alternative. With court battles after battles, they do not mobilize seriously and have failed to build a political alternative. Liberia is the only country in the world that I know where you can go to bed as a member of UP and wake up the next morning as a CDC member. What is the difference? But, what you can see is that Liberians are tired of this kind of government. In this context, a huge vacuum has been created on the political front, and because the CPP leaders refuse to fill it, someone else will do it. It is in this context that Tiawan  Gongloe has appeared on the scene. His decision to stand in the elections has raised hopes among a layer, particularly of the youth and the elderly, that here we have a candidate who can clean up and modernize Liberia. 

A layer of the youth, and also the working class, is looking to Gongloe in the hope of finding the change they so desperately seek. Does Gongloe have the programs necessary to eliminate poverty, improve our education system, create jobs, build an efficient infrastructure and modernize Liberia, as the millions of Liberian workers, youth, and the poor urgently need? And more fundamentally, does he represent the interests of the Liberian poor?  Gongloe promises a lot: Free Compulsory education, fighting corruption, power supply, security, food security, roads, health care, and unemployment are major issues.  Nobody would argue against the fact that the free compulsory education,  security, food security, roads, health care, and power supply in Liberia needs to be increased massively, that an efficient transport system across the whole country must be built, and that millions of jobs need to be created, but how is he going to achieve all this, how is he going to finance it all? He says by combating corruption he can target resources for development.  He is right. The cost of corruption through earlier periods till the present has seen the massive deterioration of public services and infrastructure.  

Corruption also undermines democracy, and good governance by flouting or even subverting formal processes.  Sadly, since Liberia’s inception, the country has been facing corruption as a major problem. In some cases, it has attained levels of gross and egregious theft, for which no possible moral or historical justification can be advanced, and which has played a major role, both in the impoverishment of the country as a whole and specifically in the alienation of its people from its rulers.  Corruption in Liberia has evolved into an alternative wealth and power structure, it has equally acquired the capacity to fight back against those seeking to tame or control it. Yet, with the present fiscal out-turn of the country, in which governments at all levels, and especially are struggling to meet their obligations to citizens. The existence of widespread corruption, especially in Liberia beset by mass poverty and very high levels of unemployment, has a deeply corrosive effect on trust in government and contributes to crime and political disorder. It is not by chance that the most powerful and wealthiest men in Liberia are to be found among former and current government officials who became rich on the back of the Liberian people. 

Cllr. Gongloe has gone one more step forward by calling for the expropriation of these ill-gotten riches. His records of honesty and integrity as well as his symbolic sweeping of corruption with the Liberian People’s Party symbol, the broom corruption, and his denouncement of inefficiency and his promise to modernize the country must be commended. His calls for purposeful reforms across governments and key institutions including lifestyle audits for public officials is the right step in the right direction. It is more than high time that we kill corruption in Liberia, or corruption will completely kill our country. 

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The New Dawn is Liberia’s Truly Independent Newspaper Published by Searchlight Communications Inc. Established on November 16, 2009, with its first hard copy publication on January 22, 2010. The office is located on UN Drive in Monrovia Liberia. The New Dawn is bilingual (both English & French).
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