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U.S. State Department Report: Good to Accept, But…..

The Government of Liberia recently frowned at the United States Human rights report for referring to Liberia as the most corrupt country in Africa, even though it admitted to widespread corruption in the country.

“We are aware of the fact that corruption truly exists here; there are measures being put in place to combat corruption so as to have Liberia removed from the human right blacklist,” said Information Minister Lewis Brown at last Thursday’s weekly news briefing on Capitol Hill.

“We’re aware that this government is corrupt, but one thing that they failed to understand is that there are a series of measures being erected to ensure that practice is reduced to a controllable stage,” Brown argued.

The U. S. State Department report covering the year 2013 pointed accusing fingers at Liberian security forces for committing human rights abuses, judicial inefficiency and corruption, lengthy pre-trial detention, denial of due process and harsh prison conditions as the most common.

The report also named violence against women and children, including rape and domestic violence, as well as child labor as serious problems, acknowledging that the Liberian authorities generally maintained effective control over the security forces.

“We as Liberians don’t have a problem with the human rights report; we accept the report; it is equal and balanced – that alone is a clear indication of this country that we all must come together and fight this thing instead of making it worse by criticizing the work of the government,” noted Minister Lewis Brown.

While the Government of Liberia must be appreciated and commended for admitting to the issues raised by the U.S. State Department in its 2013 report on Liberia (whether in good faith or not), such acknowledgement must also be translated into practical deeds.

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It is no secret, to agree with Minister Lewis Brown, that already there are series of measures in place to ensure reduction of some of the bad governance issues, including corruption to a controllable stage- that’s an open fact, but the issue of making these measures effective and efficient in the eyes of the Liberian people remains debatable.

Having these measures in place without the ‘ability’ to make them operationally practical in the interest of the nation may be tantamount not only to ‘lip-service’, but the lack of political will on the part of the current Liberian Administration.

National institutions, including the Liberia Anti-Corruption Commission, General Auditing Commission, the Bureau of Corrections at the Ministry of Justice, as well as the Judiciary, established by Liberian Laws to combat ‘bad governance’ situations must be “given the teeth to bite.”

The U.S. Department report would not have captured the issues in Liberia as it did, had the LACC, GAC and others had the capacities and freedom in the legal framework to effectively and efficiently execute their respective mandates. The inability of these instructions to perform, resulting to the alleged bad governance practices in the country may have triggered the issues raised in the report.

Now that the Government of Liberia, through the Ministry of Information, has accepted the report, there is a need for self-examination in the areas mentioned in the report as a way of renewing efforts toward strengthening/capacitating all of the institutions responsible to discourage corruption, rape, as well as unfavorable prison conditions, among others.

It’s good for the Liberian Government to acknowledge the issues raised against it by the U.S. State Department, but it’s also better for us as a government if the measures already in place, are fully capacitated to function effectively and efficiently perform. If we did that as a government, the U.S. State Department will, then, have no cause for such report on Liberia for 2014 as it has done for 2013.

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