With Bai M. Gbala, Sr.
We, the Kwia Gbala Family of the Town of Meabloh, Grand Gedeh County, wish for you all, our fellow Compatriots , a very merry, joyful and meaningful Christmas, happy and prosperous New Year (2015), with good health and long life throughout the coming years.
It is disappointing, profoundly discouraging and hopeless in our country today, because nothing positive has changed throughout the 167-year history of our country; nothing, in terms of meaningful socio-economic and political reform/transformation for the overwhelming majority of the nation’s population – poverty, un-information, hunger, disease, etc. The Decentralization of Political Power In Liberia about which we wrote in 1998 and published in 2004, although acceptable and the talk of the nation is still works-in-progress in the files and offices of Monrovia bureaucrats, gathering dust.
Indeed, there is nothing, really, to make merry about, other than our historic resilience, the very life, the breath that we breathe and the soup & rice that some are lucky and able to provide for the family. For these we must give thanks to the Great Arbiter of human events and damn the successive, political leaders of our country, since 1847.
Those who brought hell here on earth – mind-boggling, historic plunder, destruction, human suffering and death upon the villages, towns and cities of this nation, under the banner of “freedom fighters”, but, in fact and reality, freedom killers – have been, and are being, today, awarded the conventional, traditionally-earned title of “Honorable” and recognized as the “socio-economic and political leaders” of the nation; they control and dish out their brand of law enforcement, the police, prosecution, the courts, you name it.
These “Honorables” are the wealthy, Liberian millionaires of the day, personalities or individuals who stole from the public treasury, capitalized and founded what is now “corporate Liberia” (the facts and records are available and will catch up with them as it did, and does, with former President Taylor); they are the few, wealthy, Liberian political class who dominate Liberia’s economy and in an unholy alliance (or cohoot) with “none-black, non-African nationals (foreigners) who wield social, economic and political power in Liberia”, according to Miss Robtel Pailey (Pailey, Commentary, FPA, October 22, 2012, on Liberia’s Negro clause, Article 27b of the Liberian Constitution).
Most of them were, then as now, the political class, the ruling group that dominated then, and dominate today, the political economy of Liberia; they bear responsibility for the massive fight of Liberians into far away, foreign lands as refugees, with some forced to take up foreign, naturalized citizenship.
Today, Liberia, the land of our nativity and home, is caught “with its pants down” in the deadly grip of the Ebola Epidemic, a disease that threatens the very existence, indeed, the survival of the nation, because of conscious neglect, failure, greed and ethnic/tribal bigotry on the part of our successive, political leadership, up to the present.
Since the onset of the Ebola Epidemic in our West African Sub-Region – Guinea, Sierra Leone and Liberia – in March of this year, medical experts and scientists tracking the Epidemic reported that the disease is transmitted, rapidly, by infected, human activities – transport and people movement, public gatherings, meetings, assemblies, touching and/or coming in contact with the infected, unprotected burial of infected dead. The US Center for Disease Control (CDC) and the World Health Organization advised the Liberian Government to pay strict attention to, and avoid, these activities.
However, rather than postpone the scheduled, senatorial elections to a later date in response to this critical, medical advice in order to devote undivided attention to contain-and-prevent the reported, rapid spread or transmission of the deadly, Ebola virus, with several deaths and infected, already, in the country, the Government of Liberia – Legislative, Executive and the Judiciary – approved and gave instructions for the holding of the elections, despite the proven, known fact that most of electoral programs/activities contain and are the very same acts against which the Ebola experts advised.
In carrying out these orders, the National Elections Commission (NEC) will be, and was, under obligation to undertake several of the very activities that are, in fact, pre-requisites to conducting elections, including the 2014, senatorial elections. These are, and include, the deployment of its electoral staff and policy workers nationwide; authorization of political parties and independents for campaigns, rallies, public gatherings and public assembly, to take place, and did take place during this period of the rapid spread of the Ebola virus, nationwide, with the risk of infection and instant death, due to the Ebola Epidemic.
It is important to note that the request for postponement of the election is consistent with the Constitution of Liberia as well as the containment process – population movement, public gatherings, mass meetings and assembly – that transmit the Ebola virus rapidly, according to advice by the Ebola Specialists, US Center for Disease Control (CDC) and the World Health Organization (WHO).
It is, also, important to note that the Executive Branch, the Liberian Senate and their friendly political parties have all fielded candidates for election to the Senate, individuals who are unconcerned about the existence/survival of the nation and the plight of its people, but seeking jobs and the expected, associated benefits – wealth, class, and political power. An example will illustrate:
Written “The Agony of Sorrow, Destruction & Death”, it was and is our sympathetic contribution to the New Democrat’s “Cape Mount’s Gathering Storm . . .” article (New Democrat, December 4, 2014). We are concerned about the ever-present issues of our nation’s “human condition”, with particular reference to the often-reported, historic trials & tribulations of Grand Cape Mount County, one of the original, five counties of our nation and home of some of our great leaders.
The County was and is home of the Joneses, Fahnbullehs, Dempsters, Mores (Bai T.), Shermans, Roberts, Simpsons, Shannons, etc., the icons (academic/intellectual, socio-cultural, economic & political) whose vision and courage, with others, shaped the modern destiny of our Nation. It is, also, home of the industrial, intellectual peoples of the Vai, Gola, Mende, our forefathers and their descendents; and yes, it is home of many of Liberia’s traditional, village industries – colorful “Vai” Shirts, Gowns, caps, Lappas, Head-ties, classic, traditional African attire with colorful designs; musical instruments of the Sasas, talking drums; canoes (tree-trunk dug-out) for the fishing industry of the Atlantic and the famous Lake Piso, the scenic beauty of a tourist’s paradise.
However, Grand Cape Mount County had been, and is, neglected, forgotten and in decay, now in addition to the devastating, deadly Ebola Epidemic, although the County is only about an hour’s drive from Monrovia, the seat of government and source of all socio-economic and political power and decision-making. Proximity, unfortunately, did not and does not help, because Lofa County, in the north, dominated north-southwest Liberia, due to its large, geographic territory and population, with Grand Cape Mount County eclipsed. Bomi County, created during the 1980s, replaced Lofa County after Gbarpolu was sliced off for political reasons. North-southwest Liberia, including Grand Cape Mount County, fell and lives in the shadows and under the socio-cultural, economic and political domination of Bomi County, particularly, now that the current President and Speaker of the House are citizens of Bomi County.
With Counselor-at-Law, the Honorable Varney G. Sherman, a “politically- savy”, and prominent citizen of Grand Cape Mount County, as Chairman of the powerful, Ruling Political Party (Unity) of which the current President is Flag Bearer, it is reasonable for one to speculate or, even, conclude that developmental issues of the County would improve; but, apparently, they have not.
Case in point and critical in our wondering or question, is the prevailing, deadly conditions in the County of Venerable Counselor Varney Sherman, the deadly Ebola menace!!
The Counselor, a former candidate for President of Liberia, owns and lives, comfortably, in a mansion on Tubman Boulevard, Congo Town, Montserrado County; he is now standing for the Liberian Senate for Grand Cape Mount County. Counselor Sherman is man of reason, professional competence, long-time prominent on the national stage for socio-cultural, economic and political development. The nagging question: How does the Counselor rationalize, explain and carry out, engage aggressively, a reasonable, political campaign for the Liberian Senate on behalf of the County, a campaign characterized, traditionally, by singing, dancing, eating, drinking and merry-making in an atmosphere of happiness and hope for a better future – in historic Robertsport, the County Capital, cities, towns and villages of Grand Cape Mount County, with all five districts of the County reporting deaths and increasing Ebola infections, in Agony of Sorrow, Destruction & Death, while the Counselor preaches the “Politics of Joy”, a la the late Hubert Humphrey of Minnesota, USA?
This illustrates the message of these Reflections. We stated, earlier, that on ground, here, in Liberia, nothing much positive has changed. There is nothing, really, to be and make merry about, other than our very life and the soup & rice that some are lucky and able to provide for the family food table. For these we said that we must give thanks to the Almighty and forget, ignore the careless, successive, political leaders of our country.
For, during the Ebola Crisis, faced with the immediate problems of the Existence/survival of the Nation and People on the one hand, and the scheduled, Senatorial Elections for October, 2014 on the other (elections with activities against which Ebola experts advised), which one of these policy options – Existence/Survival of the Nation and People or Elections for jobs, wealth, class and political power for the very few?
This day, December 25 of every year, is a day on which Liberians of all walks of life, with family members, extended relatives and friends gather, together and celebrate, make merry and give thanks to and praise the Almighty God for another year of survival and life of happiness.
However, today, December 25, 2014 and all the “Christmases” after the national tragedy of the civil war, the average Liberians – men, women and children – the majority of the nation’s population, have nothing about which to celebrate and make merry, because:
1. The turbulent, critical challenges of socio-economic and political development that we faced in the past have grown worse and appear un-surmountable.
2. The gap between the average, poor and hungry Liberian on the one hand and the emerged/emerging political class or ruling group, wealthy, government officials on the other or between the proverbial “poor and rich” has widened and continues to grow wider exponentially. Poverty, discontent, no-where-to-turn, helplessness, hopelessness and anger have become the order of the day. Almost all of the young, including 4-5 year-olds (the nation’s future leaders) go to bed every night on empty stomachs, live in sub-standard, unsanitary homes and communities; there is little, very poor or non-existent medical facilities, with JFK Memorial Hospital described by a visiting, US medical delegation as “a place one goes to die”.
3. Our Nation has been around for 167 years, yet we had not, and have not, prioritized national, economic development policy – all-weather roads/highways, the Premier, Multiplier Effect in national economic development. One cannot travel, comfortably and safely, between Monrovia and Voinjama, Lofa County; Saniquellie, Nimba County; Zwedru, Grand Gedeh County; and Harper, Maryland County.
4. The unprecedented exodus of refugees from all over the nation into the Capital City of Monrovia, the-then only safe haven, from the brutalities of the civil war, compounded not only the socio-economic constipation of the city, but also rendered it extremely over-crowded, congested and un-governable due to population increase that is far greater than the city can hold, safely and economically.
5. Making matters worse are the city streets and roads built, paved and unpaved, some 50-55 years ago that cannot, now, hold nor facilitate efficient, smooth, safe and orderly flow of vehicular and pedestrian traffic, due to the increased number of automobiles, much more than the volume of traffic for which the streets/roads were designed and built.
6. Apparently, all the motor vehicles imported to Liberia are registered and concentrated in the Monrovia area, with no safe and comfortable streets/roads to ply. Police “traffic control” is, in fact, a “close down of the entire city and business”, without streets/roads to ply with more vehicles and the pehn-pehns, because such “control” is often limited to Liberia’s only 4-lane, paved thoroughfare, the Tubman Blvd., from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Capitol Hill/ City Hall to ELWA Junction in Paynesville.
Indeed, we are aware of the nature of our “resource-squeeze” as a strong impediment in pursuing, actively, all of these, very needy, development challenges. But, we know, also, of the billions of US dollars that flow into Liberia but vanish in thin air, due to public dishonesty, the increasing, national phenomena of Corruption, Inc. Take, for example, almost all former managing directors of the state enterprise, the Liberia Petroleum Refining Corporation (LPRC), built mansions (some with swimming pools) and own businesses.
In this scheme of things socio-economic and political, corruption, Inc. has come to be a potent force in Liberian society such that many public officials, led by the current President of the Nation, refer to it, inevitably, as “Liberia’s public enemy No.1”, because of its incidence, with negative impact, on the social, economic and political development of the Liberian nation. Now, corruption has been developed, by a corps of highly-placed government officials – MBAs, MSCs, LLMs, PhDs – into a big business that may be likened to the US/Italian Mafia. Corruption, Inc. has captured control of the corridors of state power and has become a major, dominant political force.
However, it has been shown that corruption can be controlled, minimized and eventually, eradicated. But, this effort requires rational public policy development/prescription, the political will and the commitment/dedication for diligent application/enforcement.
The major source of income of Corruption, Inc. has now become the abuse of the lawful, public policy of Salary/Wage Allowance System. This system of salary/wage allowance has been and is extended into such unexplained categories as the following:
ALLOCATED CATEGORIES OF ALLOWANCES
Travel Allowance (Domestic & Foreign)
PERSONAL, UN-EXPLAINED ALLOCATIONS
Fuel – Generator Repairs
Local Scholarship Give-aways
Now Telephone Scratch Cards
Recipients of these dubious allowances are all ministers, their deputies, executives of state enterprises, justices of the Supreme Court, and members of the National Legislature. There may be more.
It is very important to note that the hundreds of millions of US dollars, spent in this way (unexplained, operational expense, special service expense, local scholarship giveaways, newspaper purchase, in addition to all the other dubious allocations) end up in foreign bank accounts held by many of the “allowance recipients” who are, highly likely to be US or citizens of other, foreign countries. Other payments, in billions of US dollars, made to the dealers for these generators, fuel, spare parts and service, including the popular SUVs, parts, service and fuel, also end up, but as revenues (out of Liberia) to the foreign business organizations operating in Liberia.
In other words, this is enormous sums of money out of the Liberian economy and out of resource source necessary for national development. It is time to review this scheme in the effort to cut out the fat.
In any case, do have a great day, merry Christmas and a happy, prosperous New Year, 2015.