The first, ancient Greek Philosopher to write on a wide range of subjects, including Ethics and Politics and to whom western Learning and academic Thought owe its greatness, Aristotle (384-322 BCE) argued that the proper, correct approach for study of what is just, beautiful and higher understanding is to begin with people of good up-bringing and experience in life to gain higher understanding.
Based upon this approach, Aristotle held and argued that the highest good for humans, the highest aim of all human practical thinking and endeavor are socio-economic and political “well-being and happiness” and that Politics is the highest, virtuous calling/profession because it is ordained, dedicated and committed to the achievement of the highest, greatest goal of good well-being or happiness in life by human action (Aristotle, Nicomachean Ethics).
Almost all later thinker-philosophers on Politics, Economics, Theology, History, etc., particularly, such authors as John Locke, John Stuart Mill, Jean Jacques Rousseau, Emmanuel Kante, Thomas Aquinas, David Ricardo, John Kenneth Galbraith, Milton Freidman, etc. were influenced by Aristotle although they improved upon (explained) and perfected the virtuous qualities/theory of Nicomachean Ethics. But . . .
What do we mean by “adulteration of P o l i t i c s”?
We define this phrase by the following: Debase virtuous politics by introducing inferior, counterfeit arguments to falsify, corrupt, spoil, water down, weaken, dilute, bastardize, contaminate and pollute politics as an honest, truthful moral calling and the public standing of just and honorable personalities to achieve evil deeds in an effort to gain economic, personal and public benefits against the interests of the majority.
In the following pages, we flirt with the virtuous qualities of politics as the highest vocation in life and Politicians as the virtuous individuals that are committed to achievement of the highest goal by human action in the following manner, that:
• Politics is the highest vocation because it is dedicated to achievement of the highest goal in life by human action – Happiness;
• Politicians possess excellent, enviable character of truth, honesty, caring for others, self-less and committed to the welfare of state and its citizens, the people;
• Politicians are courageous, determined, open, free, fair, reachable, loyal and patriotic; they are leaders, not followers; teachers, not leaners;
• Politicians are not con men & women; they are not crooks, liars, thieves, bandits or rascals;
• Politicians are not politically-connected lawyers or wheeler-dealers who accept corrupt “brown envelopes” for “conflict of interest” services;
• Politicians do not buy votes, nor use bags of imported rice, Party T-shirts, lappa suits and minimum of Liberian dollars for votes in the ghetto-slums of the City of Monrovia and elsewhere populated by hungry, un-employed and un-educated young Liberians who cannot read nor write their own names;
• Politicians who are members of the National Legislature are Lawmakers and law-abiding; as such, they are not citizens of foreign countries and that they do not demand and receive bribes to change the nation’s laws to please foreign companies;
• Politicians who are Law-Lawmakers do not demand “cold water” or “kola” for confirmation of political nominees; for, such a demand is a bribe and unlawful;
• Politicians who are Law-Lawmakers do not demand payment labelled “Lobbying fees”, or under any name, for ratification of treaties, agreements, etc., because lawmakers are paid for this kind of their work. This demand and receipt thereof, are unlawful; and
• “Politics”, the vocation of virtuous qualities dedicated to the achievement of the highest objective in life, is not “Poli-tricks”.
Liberian Political Enterprise
The Liberian Political enterprise of a century and half history since 1847 had been, and still is, morally decadent. Graft, Greed and public/private dishonesty rose to new exponential heights with a Culture of Impunity.
The Economic/Financial Position of the administration of retired President Mrs. Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf inherited by the current President George Weah and dominated by loyalist/appointees of the retired President is ranked as the most corrupt and dishonest government/nation in world comparative analysis by International Economic/Financial Experts and world-wide watch-dog Specialists.
Moreover, the 12-year reign of Mrs. Sirleaf supported by the “International Community” as its Puppet President had been, and is, overwhelmingly condemned by the Liberian People for her alleged war crimes and historic acts of massive economic/financial corruption, second to none in the history of Liberia.
Now the Case in Point
One of the prevailing, critical issues at hand in Liberia is the denial of Traditional, Customary Land Tenure Rights. Historically, there had been, and still is, massive conflicts, confusions and disputes throughout the nation which arose and continue to arise between and among individuals, farmers, communities and Counties (regional, political/administrative sub-divisions) due to denial of Traditional, Customary Land Tenure Rights and deficient boundary demarcations, exacerbated by elements of the recent civil war tragedy (Kaba, 2010).
This Land, its People, Government and the Immigrant/Settlers
When the Settlers, arrived on this land mass, now known as Liberia, they met, recognized and accepted a People, their people, and a Polity or a system of government of Tribal Chiefs and Kings – Chiefdoms & Kingdoms – with laws and socio-cultural, traditional practices that regulated and governed their activities in peace and security, although with some level of differences from tribe to tribe. However, according to these laws and traditional norms and practices, land was owned and held in common by all citizens of the Chiefdoms/Kingdoms living in villages and towns, without personal rights of land possession/ownership. This approach was mutually agreed, accepted and binding, based on what the Settlers, our Forefathers, termed as “building upon what existed”, known then and now, as “Customary Land Tenure”.
Origin of Land Ownership Conflicts, Confusions & Disputes
The challenge to Liberian Aboriginal Title was discovered and disclosed later, that out of the eighty-three (83) Articles prepared by and originated from the Immigrant-settlers, only two (2) articles addressed the issue of Customary Land Tenure out of the 1923-1936 Conferences of the Settlers and the Tribal Chiefs/Kings, at Suehn-Mecca Chiefdom.
Although this was an attempt by the Immigrant-Settlers to “order their own colonial relationship” with native lands”, but the prescriptions laid down and agreed upon by both the indigenous “native chiefs” and immigrant-settlers were based upon customary practice and that the deceptive attempt was clearly in violation of the Immigrant-Settlers’ own “building upon what existed”, an expressed recognition of the existing, tribal customs and traditions, as expressed, also, by the Hinterland Law of 1949.
The Law (Hinterland Law of 1949) provides “right and title” to tribal lands and, thus, absolute ownership rights to indigenous Liberians. But the Aborigine Law of 1956, an apparent revision of 1949, made fundamental changes by providing only “rights of use and possession”, rather than “ownership” without consultation of or input by the indigenous, land owners.
In this way, the legal status of rural, indigenous Liberians and their communities was, and is, landless tenants of the Liberian state or squatters on land that they own and held, based upon traditional, customary law, for more than the-then 109-year history of the Republic of Liberia.
Now the Objective Case in Point – “Poli-Tricks”- of Nation-wide disputes
This contradiction was an apparent design to introduce and apply the notion of “territorial sovereignty” held by European, colonial states over and from real, “collective ownership” of land owned by African, indigenous peoples and their communities.
One of the examples and primary results of “territorial sovereignty” in Liberia is the creation of “cities” in rural Liberia, decreed to be an eight-mile radius from imaginary “city center” and new jurisdictional areas over which Customary Land Leaders have no official authority by law, because acquiring land in the “city” no longer requires Tribal Certificate as required by Customary Land Tenure, but a “city” certificate. Accordingly, all lands, including villages and towns near the “city” that, inevitably, fall within the eight-mile radius of an ill-defined, extended boundary, are now under the mayor’s jurisdiction with increased price of an acre of land in the “city” areas from $0.50 (fifty US cents) to $120.00 (US one hundred twenty dollars). Moreover, creations of “cities” in rural Liberia provide new opportunities for officially-protected encroachments upon customary lands by elite, wealthy city slickers from urban, coastal Liberia.
This new condition of cities in rural Liberia with Customary Land sale in rural Liberia prompted a Voinjama, Lofa County Elder to ask, “uh, and how I will buy this land, then, we must buy from who?” In other words, no one has the right to sell the land in the first place, because it was their forefathers who “had settled the land, cleared the bush, made it arable, usable and valuable”. According to their “traditional” notions of making claims, what right has the government to ask for money for the land that was already, and is, theirs (Lomax, 2008).
Political Sovereignty versus Indigenous Ownership
It is necessary, indeed mandatory, to provide international interpretations of political (colonial) sovereignty versus Indigenous Ownership. On land ownership based on “Political sovereignty” versus “Indigenous Ownership”, Wiley observed that it was only during the 1970s that positive and favorable, Supreme Court rulings on many continents began to take root regarding land laws – accepted possession of rural lands to be clearly and concretely re-interpreted and asserted (Wiley, 2007):
First, the New Zealand Supreme Court ruled, in 1847, that “it cannot be too solemnly asserted that indigenous ‘native title’ is to be respected that it cannot be extinguished other than by the free and informed consent of the occupiers”.
Second, other courts, including the British Privy Council held, but ignored that “a mere change in Sovereignty is not to be presumed to disturb (the) rights of private owners”.
Third, the Canadian Supreme Court concluded in 1973 that “pre-sovereignty, property rights of indigenous peoples cannot, forever, fail to be acknowledged; continued and current occupation today should be acknowledged as proof of possession and, possession to be proof of ownership”.
And Fourth, to this, the Tanzanian Supreme Court observed, in 1994, that “to do otherwise (deny indigenous right to title and ownership) is to condemn Tanzanian citizens to being squatters on their own land – a very serious preposition”.
Accordingly and back home in Liberia, it is extremely necessary that the National Decentralization & Local Governance Policy in Liberia take due note and include Land Rights administration/enforcement in the light of the following that:
1. The foregoing contradictions are the major sources of impediments to Boundary Demarcations, local, democratic governance and national reconciliation and peace;
2. Social, economic and political analysts and observers of recent Liberian history predict and conclude that failure of policy makers to address land disputes and the resulting conflicts through re-recognition of traditional, Customary Land Tenure, with application of fair and definitive boundary demarcations, could provide the incentive for another, devastating, national tragedy;
3. Denial of legitimate, property rights of indigenous populations is, in effect, colonialism, a practice against which the Immigrant-Settlers stood firmly by recognizing, accepting Customary Land Tenure and protecting indigenous, hinterland populations and their laws. However, they changed years later in the effort to capture and hold on to valuable assets (land and forest thereon, legally-held by the hinterland, local communities) through the concept of “Hinterland as occupied Territory”, which had now become the “colony” of Urban, Coastal Liberia with Hinterland populations, the colonized. This issue has become abusive and violation of human rights.
Nation-wide Land Disputes
Nationwide, as indicated earlier – North, South, East and West – throughout the length and breadth of this troubled land, there has been, and are, conflicts, confusions and land disputes often leading to armed, deadly violence among and between farmers, private landowners in the cities, towns, villages, and county authorities.
President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf referred to this condition in her Annual Message (January 28, 2013) as “. . . as if these statistics were not daunting enough, the boundaries of all these localities overlap, leading to confusion over jurisdiction and administrative authority . . .”.
This alarming condition is due to illegal actions of the land-grabbers, encroachers/squatters of land not their own, exacerbated and compounded by rebels of the civil war.
The example is right here in our Capital City of Monrovia. We are sitting on potential time bomb which is likely to explode at any time, in the event that nothing is done about the illegal encroachers at the Cooper Beach Estate. Some of the illegal encroachers/squatters built shops, churches, homes and mansions on land which they do not own, refuse to vacate and render possession to lawful owners, even upon the nation’s Supreme decision, with all necessary legal mandates in favor of the Cooper Beach Estate and the land owners who acquired their properties lawfully from the Estate.
The illegal encroachers/squatters depend, simply, upon their friends in high places in government, especially the courts, “Counselors-at-Law” and the Ministry of Justice, with its promise to intervene “because of the nature and volume of citizens involved”. The lawful owners are still waiting for Ministry of Justice – it is now more than 10 years!!
Land is life
That Land is Life is so self-evident that it needs no expression or proof. But to give meaning and relevance to the critical importance of Land, particularly, to those us who live in the towns and villages of Rural Liberia, it is necessary to re-echo the fact that Land is everything.
Not only that land has been our only and major historical economic activity – subsistence agriculture – but also that land, to all living beings, has been, and is, the ultimate source of life.
That Land is human life or that human life depends on the Land is so obvious that it needs no lecture. It is such that there is no personal-private ownership of land is permitted in Rural Liberia in order to make land available to all households. A few examples are necessary for emphasis:
a) From the Land come the food that we eat daily to sustain life; villages, towns and cities in which we live; the mud, timber, thatch, cement, zinc, iron and related materials used to build huts, houses, mansions in which we live for shelter; the clothes that we wear;
b) The automobiles, trains and railroads, airplanes for rapid mobility are made from primary products from the land; and so are the telephones, television sets, computers and paper products, including the very (printed banknotes) money that we use as the medium of exchange for the acquisition of all of these life-supporters and life-givers from the land.
More important and a benefit, there is more land in Liberia than there are people; our small nation of less than 4 million people is, indeed, sparsely populated. Seriously then, our major responsibility is Education.
Historically, the Liberian People are courageous, determined, open, free, fair, caring, friendly, hospitable, loyal and patriotic, but poor, relatively un-informed on complexities of government and relatively uneducated.
To maintain these positive, enviable qualities, we must recapture our land. This responsibility, now, goes to Kaneh Gwedeh, Inc. of Grand Gedeh County for complete and comprehensive administration of the traditional, customary Land.
Land Commission (LC) & Liberia Land Authority Commission (LLAC)
The enactment by the National Legislature of the Land Commission (LC) and the Liberia Land Authority Commission (LLAC) is intended to resolve, reasonably, the prevailing conflicts, confusions and disputes throughout the nation between and among farm land owners, communities and the County (regional Political/administrative Sub-divisions) which arose and continue to arise from denial of traditional, customary Land Tenure rights and deficient and/or lack of boundary demarcations, a condition exacerbated by elements of the recent civil war.
The historical fragmentation of Land decision-making, often contradictory and/or illegal, an action by, between and among the National Investment Commission (NIC), Ministry of Lands, Mines & Energy and the Registry of Land Records, Deeds, etc, regarding the issues of land ownership, are now centralized under the Land Commission (LC)/Liberia Land Authority Commission (LLAC) by the Land Rights Act of the Legislature.
But unfortunately, this Land Rights Act has become the proverbial “cart before the horse, rather than the horse before the cart” – the Land Rights Act & the Commissions. . The Act is still pending approval, passage and printed in Handbills, due to Poli-tricks and corruption. Now, at this initial point in time, the LLAC is deeply entrenched and involved in County “Poli-tricks”.
For example, available evidence indicates that the LLAC ignores, disregards and disobeys the lawful appointment power-authority of the President of the nation by seeking to retain the official already removed by the President in in total disregard of the Presidential appointee.
This Act is crucial and critical to the survival of the Liberian Nation. For, about 80% of Liberians depend on the land for subsistence. There are no “ifs nor buts”. But judging from history of massive chopping appetite we may be or are in for a heap of “ifs and buts”, The Land Rights Act and Commissions notwithstanding.
Act of Legislature, Revised Laws & Administrative Regulations for governing the Hinterland, approved December 22, 1949
Aristotle, Nicomachean Ethics
Kaba, Ali D, Community Mapping: Land & Resources Security, Sustainable Development Institute
(SDI), River Cess County Report, 2010
Lomax, Tom, Forest Governance in Liberia, NGO Perspective, 2008
Wiley, Liz Alden, So Who Owns the Forest, Fern & SDI Report, 2007