Neighboring Sierra Leonean President Julius Maada Bio is admonishing Liberians to discuss their differences through peaceful debate and common ground with a vibrant democratic culture, but they should never do anything to take their nation back to the painful past.
President Bio, who made a daring sacrifice under regional peacekeeping group ECOMONG in the 1990s to bring peace here, says there are those things that stir up real anger and real passion, but Liberians must not allow people to use them to further their own ambitions or their plans.
In a keynote speech delivered at the University of Liberia (UL’s) Centennial Commencement Convocation on Wednesday, 11 December in Paynesville, President Bio suggests that peaceful debate and common ground within a vibrant democratic culture where people believe in principles that matter most for nation must always prevail.
“To jaw-jaw is better than to war-war. Strengthen civil society voices. They may say some uncomfortable truths amidst their daily catalogue of everything that’s going wrong. Those uncomfortable truths must give you pause to make the best decisions on whether to stir your nation,” he says.
He says Liberians have a peaceful country today, urging them to remember the lessons of the recent history and maintain a culture of peace and democracy. Addressing the University’s Centennial graduating class of 3,673 members, President Bio says Liberia is at an inflection point and the graduates must now respond to the challenges of nation-building.
He notes that their generation must develop strong democratic and governance institutions, provide access to quality healthcare and food security, make new roads, build hospitals, and supply potable water to all Liberians.
“Your generation must reduce maternal and child mortality and stop all forms of sexual and gender-based violence. Women comprise nearly 50% of Liberia’s population and women matter. They must be included in development, and they must be present in all democratic and civic spaces, and their voices must be heard! Your generation must eliminate corruption from public life, he continues.
He charges that the graduates have a duty of care to tend the future of their great nation, saying they must always remember that throughout history, good Liberians and good people have made sacrifices for ideals greater than themselves.
“Sometimes, involuntarily so, but most often believing that their sacrifice was right and fitting for the country they love so dearly. I want to challenge you graduates, to be the latter,” he says.He urges the graduates to embrace science, technology, and innovation to leapfrog Liberia along the rungs of development, noting that “We” do not want to become the Athens of West Africa again.
He continues that Athens is in ruins and even Athens in modern day Greece is aspiring to become Silicon Valley.
“We want to be a site teeming with talent, educators, innovators, and entrepreneurs. So your generation must develop a knowledge-based economy in Liberia because that is what matters for Liberia to participate fully in the Fourth Industrial Revolution,” President Bio adds.
He suggests that they can use technology to provide solutions for governance and governance processes, revenue collection, healthcare, quality education, service delivery, small-scale manufacturing, scientific research that benefits ordinary Liberians, and much more.
“Your generation must embrace entrepreneurship and expand the private sector and create jobs. You need not sit down and wait for a government job and an air-conditioned office,” he concludes.By Winston W. Parley