Liberia: Past, Present, and the future
A Speech delivered at the University of San Francisco,
California, United States of America on November 16, 2022
By Tiawan Saye Gongloe
Madam Chairperson of the African Studies Department,
Academic colleagues, students,
Distinguished Ladies and Gentlemen,
We cannot begin to understand Liberia’s past, present, unless we understand the context and the facts that have shaped Liberia since the country was established. Allow me, therefore, to give you a little bit of background information that highlights the salient aspects of the major events that have had a tremendous influence on who we are today.
I will begin with the rather unique political history of Liberia and speak a little bit about the civil conflicts, as well as the current state of Liberia and conclude with what direction Liberia needs to take to become a better country for all of its citizens. The Liberian experiment of establishing a colony by a non-governmental organization and not a sovereign country like the history of other countries in Africa makes it unique. The violent removal of two presidents, the 1955 political crisis, the 1979 protest against the rise in the price of rice, the civil conflict and the endemic corruption and lack of respect for the rule of law, as well as the retrogression in the social political and economic development of Liberia are all the result of a flawed venture in state building as shown by the establishment of the Liberian state.
- I) The political history of Liberia
As I stated earlier, Liberia has a rather unique history among the nations of Africa. It became an independent Republic on July 26, 1847. It is called Liberia, the land of the free and its capital city is Monrovia, named after United States’ 5th President James Monroe. At the time of its independence, Ethiopia was the only independent country in Africa. Unlike Ethiopia that evolved as an empire over centuries and was led by powerful monarchs, the last of whom was Emperor Haile Selassie unlike the other African countries that were colonized by European countries , Liberia was established by a non-governmental organization created by state actors and non-state actors, with the financial and moral support of the Government of the United States of America. The organization was called the American Colonization Society (ACS).
The American Colonization Society (ACS) was founded in 1816 by a group of white elites, some of whom were slave owners including Rev. Robert Finley, Charles Fenton Mercer, Henry Clay, Daniel Webster, Bushrod Washington, Elias Caldwell and Francis Scott Key. Rev. Robert Finley the founder of the ACS and its first leader was a Presbyterian minister from New Jersey and an advocate for the abolition of slavery. Clay one the founding members of the ACS was speaker of the House of Representatives in 1816 and served six times as speaker of the House.
In a speech delivered by Clay at a meeting of the ACS at Davis Hotel in Washington DC in December, 1816, Clay stated his view on the motive for repatriating freed slaves back to Africa. He said “From their condition and the unconquerable prejudices resulting from their color, they never could amalgamate with the free whites of this country. It was desirable, therefore, both as respected them, and the residue of the population of the country, to drain them off.” In that speech he also absolved slaveholders declaring, “instead of evils and sufferings which we had been the innocent cause of inflicting upon the inhabitants of Africa, we can transmit to her the blessings of our art, our civilization and our religion.” In this statement Clay puts a philanthropic flavor to the repatriation project. However, whether repatriation of freed slaves back to Africa was a humanitarian venture or an avenue of relief for slaveholders for the prevention of rebellion by slaves who were still in captivity remains a subject of debate by historians. In an article captioned: The American Colonization Society: 200 Years of the “Colonizing Trick” Nicholas Guyatt writes “While some historians have suggested that the ACS was merely a front for proslavery interests—with powerful southern slaveholders hoping to remove free blacks from the United States to consolidate the slave system—its origins and trajectory always evinced a watery commitment to abolition. Two facts made this commitment supremely insidious. First, it placed the burden of ending slavery on ‘benevolent’ slaveholders themselves, who would supposedly free their slaves when provided with an “outlet” for doing so. Second, it marked an epic endorsement of racial segregation, effectively denying the possibility of coexistence while promoting what would later be termed “separate but equal.” Henry Clay, a slaveholder at the time, was a powerful politician in the 1800s, holding key positions in government during the period including Speaker of the House, Secretary of State, and one of the five most outstanding U.S. Senators. Additionally, he unsuccessfully contested for the presidency of the United States five times. In the last sixteen years of his life, Clay served as president of the ACS. In addition to Clay, there were other powerful politicians such as James Madison, Thomas Jefferson and James Monroe amongst others who supported the colonization project.
Although the colonization project was not an official venture of the United States Government, the US Congress approved US$100,000 in 1819 for the repatriation of freed slaves from the US by the ACS. James Monroe was the president of the United States at that time. It is recognition of his effort that capital city of Liberia was named in his honor. Clay is also remembered in Liberia for his role in the repatriation project. There is a street named after him, Clay Street. Clay Ashland, a settlement in Montserrado County is also named after him, reminiscent of Clay’s Ashland estate in Lexington, Kentucky.
The official purpose of the American Colonization society was to repatriate to Africa, freed black slaves and free born blacks. The first group of repatriates was led by Dr. Ali Ayres and they arrived in Monrovia on December 11, 1821. With the assistance of a US naval officer, Capt. Robert F. Stockton, Cape Mesurado and the adjacent island of Dozoa were purchased from King Peter Zolu Duma for the settlement of the returnees. According to UNESCO,” Prior to being called Providence Island, Dozoa was first renamed “Perseverance Island”, depicting the resilience of the settlers to find a new home despite the huddles they encountered at Sherbro Island in the Republic of Sierra Leone”. The size of the land purchased was 36 miles long and 3 miles wide and the purchase was done with goods, weapons and rum worth US$300.
In 1822, the ACS formally established a colony in Liberia on the land purchased from King Peter Zolu Duma. The colonists first settled on Providence Island and later spread to other areas of Cape Mesurado (one of the places in Liberia named by Portuguese explorers). Later other settlements were established on the Bassa land (Grand Bassa County), Kru and Sapo land (Sinoe County), the Grebo Land (Maryland County) and the Vai land (Grand Cape Mount County).
The settlements were governed first by agents, the first of whom was Dr. Ali Ayres, a white man, from December 15, 1821 to April 25, 1822. The second agent Frederick James and third Elijah Johnson were black men . From 1821 to 1836, the colony was governed by 14 agents, some of whom were white men and some black men. On April 1, 1839, the colony became a commonwealth and Thomas Buchanan, a white man and a relative of America’s 15th President became its first governor. Following the death of Thomas Buchanan on September 3, 1841, Joseph Jenkins Roberts was appointed governor.
In 1847, Governor Joseph Jenkins Roberts led Liberia to independence; thereby making Liberia a sovereign state with the right to defend its territory and be internationally recognized as an independent state. Britain, not the United States was the first to recognize Liberia as an independent state. France was the second to do so in 1852.
The United States of America recognized Liberia’s independence only fifteen years later in 1862 during the Presidency of Abraham Lincoln. President Lincoln in addressing the US Congress on the need for the United States to recognize Liberia’s independence said, “Liberia has grown to a condition of stability, and has been declared entitled to respect under the law of nations by France, Great Britain, Belgium, Prussia, Brazil, Lubee, Bremen, Hamburg, Portugal and the Kingdom of Italy. These and other Powers have formed treaty relations with it, stimulated by substantial commercial benefits derived from this vigorous embryo of African empire. Owing to the kind feelings of the people toward this country, the American flag and American trade have been received on the same friendly terms as those of the most favored lands. But it is surely hardly just that we should enjoy these material benefits while treating their author with contemptuous neglect. Besides, our African trade has already suffered much from the want of diplomatic and commercial relations with Liberia, and there is little doubt that should this short-sighted policy be persisted in, we shall soon find this lucrative trade — already amounting to several millions annually — passing into other and more cunning hands. A just and sensible policy, on the other hand, would enable our countrymen to carry on this rich trade with more advantage than any other people.”
a) Why did it take so long for the United States to recognize Liberia?
One reason given for the reluctance is that the US did not want to recognize the independence of Liberia “Because of fears of the impact this might have on the issue of slavery in the United States…” Just imagine what effect a black ambassador sitting in Washington, DC would have had on blacks who were still slaves and their relationship with their owners
b) What stimulated Governor Roberts to work towards declaring Liberia a sovereign state?
According to one historical source, “By the 1840s, Liberia had become a financial burden on the ACS. In addition, Liberia faced political threats, chiefly from Britain, as British businessmen traded in territories owned by the colony without regard to the administration of the colony, because it was neither a sovereign power nor a bona fide colony of any sovereign nation. Because the United States refused to claim sovereignty over Liberia, in 1846 the ACS ordered the Liberians to proclaim their independence. The commonwealth received most of its revenue from custom duties which angered the indigenous traders and British merchants on whom they were levied. The British government advised Liberian authorities that it did not recognize the right of the American Colonization Society, a private organization, to levy these taxes. Britain’s refusal to recognize Liberian sovereignty convinced many colonists that independence with full taxing authority was necessary for the survival of the colony and its immigrant population. Against this background, in October 1846, Americo-Liberian colonists voted in favor of independence. The independence of Liberia like the repatriation of the slaves to Africa was to seek a solution to a problem, in the case of the slave owners to prevent a rebellion and in the case of the colonists to protect their territory from encroachment by European businessmen.
c) What were the territorial boundaries of the Republic of Liberia at the time of its independence? Did it have a border with Guinea, Ivory Coast and Sierra Leone?
This is a rather controversial subject in Liberian history. At the time of independence, the areas declared independent were the areas occupied by the colonists. The Liberian Government did not have control over the territories outside the settlements occupied by the colonists. Foreign businessmen freely traded with the people living outside the settlements, without regard for the government seated in Monrovia. Overtime, more territories were acquired from the natives by purchase and by accession and in some cases by the use of force. Liberia’s border with Sierra Leone for example, is said to have been originally established in 1885 between the Government of Liberia and the colonial government of Sierra Leone, but was jointly demarcated many times during the early 20th century by Anglo-Liberian Commissions.
There has been no boundary dispute between Liberia and Sierra Leone, since Sierra Leone’s independence. However, before that time, Liberia’s 9th President, Anthony William Gardner resigned over Britain’s annexation of the Gallinas, which was formally a part of Liberia. The present boundary between Sierra Leone and Liberia covers 327km with a combination of rivers, straight lines, and a meridian.
The Republic of Liberia and the French also demarcated the borders of Liberia with the French colonies of Guinea and Ivory Coast. On December 8, 1892 Liberia and France signed a boundary treaty outlining their respective territorial limits of Liberia and the French colonies bordering Liberia. Following the treaty of 1892, another treaty was signed on September 18, 1907 and confirmed in January 1911 because Liberia felt its border was further north of the boundary line. The last treaty moved the boundary south to its current position. In 1958 following Guinea’s independence, the boundary became one between two sovereign states.
The current boundary of Liberia with Guinea covers “590 km (367 mi) in length and runs from the tripoint with Sierra Leone in the west to the tripoint with the Ivory Coast in the east.” The history of Liberia’s boundary with Ivory Coast is the same because it is based on Liberia’s treaties with France. It covers the Cavalla River and a series of straight lines. Similar to Liberia’s boundary with Guinea, the Treaty of 1907 moved the boundary southwards to its current position. Liberia’s boundary with Ivory Coast is the longest. It covers 778 km (483 mi) in length and runs from the tripoint with Guinea in the north down to the Atlantic Ocean in the south and borders the Liberian counties of Grand Gedeh, River Gee, Maryland and Nimba on the Liberian side and the districts of Montagnes and Bas-Sassandra on the Ivorian side. This historical account of how Liberia’s boundaries were established with its neighbors show that the current boundaries of Liberia were defined at the independence of its three neighbors, based on negotiations with Britain and France, who obviously were more powerful than Liberia.
The colonists had multiple difficulties. They were settled among people who they could not communicate with because of language barrier. The natives of the land and settlers had different cultures. For example, the natives collectively owned land and found it difficult to accept the concept of selling land. The settlers on the other hand understood the meaning of purchasing land and getting a transfer of title as they had lived as slaves on the lands owned by their owners. As a result of these difficulties the settlers found themselves in constant conflict with the natives of the land, while at the same time they were in conflict with European colonizers, principally Britain and France. Additionally, there was no effort by the agents of the ACS, the colonists themselves or the African kings to integrate the black returnees from the United States with the local population. This failure created a perpetual division between the black settlers and those met by them on the ground in Africa.
One wonders what would have happened if the settlers had changed their slave names and taken African names and learned the local languages. This is a debatable issue because on the one hand the returnees had lost their identity in slavery and could lose another identity by giving up their slave names. On the other hand, by fully integrating with the locals and adopting the names, languages and culture, the division would have perhaps disappeared in a few generations. The reality is that the division still exists because there are Liberians who are referred to as Americo-Liberians and others referred to as indigenous Liberians, although all Liberians are of the same race. Some have argued that adopting one local language as a national language like how Swahili is spoken in some Eastern African countries could be helpful. Instead the Americo-Liberians largely maintained their American cultural identity up to this day.
d) Post-Independence Governance of Liberia
Following the independence of Liberia, its governance was no more determined by the American Colonization Society (ACS). Rather, it was determined by those who were considered citizens of Liberia at independence. The citizens of Liberia at the time of independence were those living in the Commonwealth of Liberia, comprising of the various settlements of the people repatriated from America, and recaptured slaves from the Congo Basin. They were later joined by immigrants from the Caribbean. The new Republic held its first election and referendum for the adoption of a Constitution for the governance of the Republic of Liberia on September 27, 1847. Joseph Jenkins Roberts, the incumbent governor and the presidential candidate of the pro-administration party defeated Samuel Benedict, former Chief Justice and presidential candidate of the Anti-Administration Party. Later, Joseph Jenkins Roberts and others formed a new party in 1848 and named it the Republican Party. Its members were primarily Americo-Liberians of mixed African and European descent. The Republican Party was in power until 1869 when it was defeated by the True Whig Party. The True Whig Party was founded in 1869 primarily by darker skinned Americo-Liberians.
The first president produced by the party was Edward James Roye. He was a businessman who migrated to Liberia from New Jersey and organized a shipping company that owned many ships that navigated to Europe and America. He later became Secretary of the Treasury, Speaker of the House of Representatives, Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of Liberia before his election as President of Liberia. Although Roye was elected for a term of two years, he was deposed from power in 1871 based on a controversy over a $500,000 loan obtained from Britain by him and the fear of his attempt to arbitrarily extend his two-year term of office to four in violation of the Constitution. He was detained for months until he died while still in detention.
Some historians say he was killed and others say he got drowned while attempting to escape from jail and swimming to get on a ship. He is the first known president that was removed from office in Liberia for abuse of office. Another victim of the controversial loan was William Anderson, the Speaker of the House Representatives, whom Roye had sent to negotiate the loan. He was tried and acquitted but was shot at the entrance of the court while he was coming out. The Republican Party regained power in 1872, but lost it to the True Whig Party again in 1878 who kept it until 1980, when President William R. Tolbert was overthrown by a group of non-commissioned officers led by Master Sergeant Samuel Kanyon Doe. The military junta was named the People’s Redemption Council (PRC).
The reason given for the coup was rampant corruption and abuse of office. In 1984 a new constitution was approved and elections were held in 1985 for a return to civilian rule. Samuel Kanyon Doe, the Chairman of the PRC participated in the election as standard bearer of the National Democratic Party of Liberia. The other candidates were Jackson F. Doe, a former Senator in the True Whig Party Government that was overthrown and stand bearer of the Liberian Action Party; Dr. Edward Beyan Kesselly, former cabinet Minister under President Tolbert and standard bearer of the Unity Party and William Gabriel Kpolleh, a classroom teacher and standard bearer of the Liberian Unification Party. The election commission declared Samuel Kanyon Doe, the winner, but the other candidates did not accept the result of the election over allegation of fraud. Shortly after the election result was announced, an attempt to violently overthrow the newly elected President was led by a former member of the PRC, Gen. Thomas Quiwonkpa, using Liberia’s border with Sierra Leone. The attempt did not succeed, but the country remained tense.
The Liberian Civil Conflict
On December 24, 1989, Charles Taylor, former Director General under the PRC regime launched a civil war against the Government of Liberia from the Ivorian border. Through the mediation effort of the leaders of the Economic Community of West Africa, led by President Ibrahim Badamasi Babangida, an ECOWAS Peace Monitoring Group (ECOMOG) was established and an interim government formed. After many peace conferences were held among the parties, the conflict subsided in 1997 and elections were held that year. Charles Taylor won the presidential election. In two years after the elections the civil conflict resumed. This time the attackers came from the Guinean border. The civil conflict continued until 2003, when the larger international community including ECOWAS, the African Union and United Nations intervened and ended the conflict, beginning with Taylor relinquishing power followed by the installation of a negotiated transitional government with the participation of the conflicting parties and the civil society.
In 2005 legislative and presidential elections were held with 21 parties participating. The two leading contenders in the presidential election that year were Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, a former minister in the True Whig Party Government of President Tolbert and George Weah, a celebrated international soccer superstar. Nobody won on the first ballot; therefore, there was a second round which was won by Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, making her historically the first female elected as president in any African country. She was elected twice and her tenure ended in keeping with the Constitution of Liberia. Since President Edwin J. Barclay, she has been the only living former president in Liberia and the first to be peacefully replaced by a successor. In 2017, George Manner Weah, won the presidential election in which there were 20 contenders including the President Sirleaf’s Vice President Joseph N. Boakai. Weah is the current president of Liberia and his tenure ends next year. The next presidential election will be held on October 10, 2023.
II. Liberia the dream yet unrealized
The founders of Liberia dreamed of a Liberia that has not yet been realized. That dream is contained in the preamble to the 1847 Constitution of Liberia. The relevant part of the preamble says, “Liberia is an asylum from the most grinding oppression. In coming to the shores of Africa, we indulged the pleasing hope that we would be permitted to exercise and improve those faculties, which impart to man his dignity–to nourish in our hearts the flame of honorable ambition, to cherish and indulge those aspirations, which a beneficent Creator had implanted in every human heart, and to evince to all who despise, ridicule and oppress our race, that we possess with them a common nature, are with them susceptible of equal refinement, and capable of equal advancement in all that adorns and dignifies man.”
So the dream of the colonists who declared Liberian an independent country was that Liberia would be an example of Africans showing the rest of the world their ability to govern themselves as the Europeans and Americans were doing at the time. This is a dream that has been betrayed in many ways by Liberian leaders who have oppressed other citizens of Liberia. First, whether unconsciously or deliberately the colonists replicated the relationship that existed between they are their slave owners while they were still in captivity. For example, in the early 1900s Liberians were forcibly sent to the Fernando Po, part of today’s Equatorial Guinea to work on Spanish sugar cane, coffee, and cocoa farms. This gross violation of human rights was being perpetrated by President Charles D. B. King, His Vice President Allen Yancy, and the Speaker of the House of Representatives, Samuel A. Ross. It is reported that they received eight British Pounds per head of each recruit. President King and his Vice President were forced to resign from office by the Liberian Senate after a Commission of Inquiry sent by the League of Nations to investigate the situation held them responsible for such gross abuse of office. It was common to use forced labor in Liberia to work on farms of government officials and the Firestone Plantation in most part of the 20th century in Liberia. The practice of forced labor continued until 1971 when it was abolished by President William R. Tolbert in 1971. My father late Wilfred K. Gongloe was a forced laborer on Firestone in the late 1940s. He escaped another turn of being a forced laborer by going to school, immediately he came from his tour of duty in Firestone.
The history of Liberia also reveals the denial of certain fundamental rights in a country that was founded on the dream protecting the freedom to all its citizens. For example, the right to vote was denied women until 1946, nearly one hundred years after independence. Also, Liberians from the local ethnic groups did not have the right to vote until 1946, during the administration of William V. S. Tubman.
Election and conflicts
Election is the only legal way for citizens to freely and peacefully choose their leaders and to remove them from office when they are not satisfied with them. An election must be conducted with the highest degree of integrity for the citizens to accept its results. A failure to hold election on schedule tends to undermine the integrity of the electoral process and produce negative reactions from the citizens. In 1871, for example, the failure of President E. J. Roye to hold the scheduled presidential election was one of the causes for his removal from office by force. In 1927 a presidential election was conducted in Liberia that is recorded by the Guinness Book of Records as the most rigged election in world history. According to history in the election between the incumbent President Charles D. B. King and T. J. R. Faulkner, the total number of registered voters was 15,000. However, the result showed that King obtained 240,000 votes and Faulkner received 9,000 votes. It was after this election that Fulkner complained to the League of Nations about King’s involvement in the sending of forced labor to Fernado Po. The fourteen year civil conflict that ended in 2003 was linked to the banning of some political parties and the dissatisfaction of the participants in the 1985 election, over the election results. Guided by history all Liberian must advocate at all times for free, fair and transparent election in order to sustain peace and stability in Liberia.
Lack of respect for the rule of law
The lack of respect for the rule of law has been one of the factors that have undermined Liberia’s founding dream to a shining example of governance by the rule of law. A landmark case for lack of respect for the rule of law is the story of the removal of President E. J. Roye from office. Roye who was the Chief Justice of Liberia and Speaker of the House of Representatives should have acted within the scope of the law. He violated the law in two ways. First, having received the proceed of a loan, Roye should not have used it until same was appropriated by the legislature. Second, as an incumbent, even if the referendum conducted while he was in office had extended the terms of office of the President of Liberia from two years to four years, he could have only benefitted from the extension if he had been elected in a subsequent election. But, he arbitrarily held unto power and refused to conduct election based on the wrong conclusion that his tenure had been extended by the referendum. On the other hand, those who overthrew him violated the law because the only way to legally remove him was by his impeachment. William V. S. Tubman manipulated the law to remain in power for 27 years and that situation brought increased tension within the political class of Liberia. Additionally, the exclusion of women and the indigenous politicians from contesting for the presidency of Liberia was in clear violation of the founding dream of Liberia, and their rights.
Corruption has undermined the peace and progress of Liberia. In fact, it is more appropriate to say that corruption has greatly contributed to the retrogression of Liberia. The first incident of corruption in Liberia was the controversial loan obtained from Britain by President Edward James Roye in 1871. The President reported that after obtaining the loan he bought some goods for the state while still in the UK. It is reported that of the $500,000 that he borrowed, he reported $300,000 after paying the agent who negotiated the loan and buying goods for the country. His action was arbitrary because under the Constitution of Liberia he needed to report the amount to the legislature and for the legislature to appropriate same before he could spend any portion of it. This was an abuse of office on his part. He also abused his office when he refused to hold elections on the ground that the referendum of 1870 extended the presidential term from two years to four years. Since he was the incumbent president at the time of the referendum, he could not have benefitted from the result of that referendum without participating in the next election and winning it. It was because of these two corrupt acts on part of President Roye that he was removed from office.
Another incident of corruption was the King affair. King as President of Liberia, along with his Vice President and the Speaker of the House of Representatives, engaged in abuse of office by selling slave labor to Spanish Farmers in Fernando Po. The other abuse of office on his part is that fact that as an incumbent he organized an election in which in won by 140,000 votes even though the total number of registered voters was 15,000. He and his Vice President were forced to resign from office.
The third case of the negative effect of corruption on Liberia is the military coup of 1980, that ended 133 years of Americo-Liberian rule, 110 of which was by The True Whig Party alone. The two reasons given by the military junta were rampant corruption and abuse of office. Yet some members of the military junta engaged corruption and got rich faster that those whom the violently removed from power. Many leaders of Liberia have promised to fight corruption, but they have not shown the political will to do so or developed the method to fight corruption. Some politicians evasive about fighting corruption and not be definite for fear of being held accountable. This promotes impunity in the same manner that impunity is being promoted around the issue of the TRC recommendations. I have maintained the view that all the recommendations of the TRC recommendations should be implemented in the same manner. There has to be closure to Liberia unfortunate past as Sierra Leone and Rwanda did for Liberia to have a better future. The suspicions and pains generated by Liberia’s civil conflict must not linger for ever. Accountability is the only way to end corruption and to prevent a resurgence of conflict in Liberia.
III. Liberia’s international standing
While Liberia has not performed well domestically, its role in international affairs has been great. It was the founding member of the League of Nations, the United Nations here in 1945, the Organization of African Unity, now the AU. In fact the first meeting the laid the basis of the OAU was organized by President William V. S. Tubman held in Sanniquellie with Presidents Ahmed Sekou Toure, Kwame Nkrumah and President William V. S. Tubman in 1959, following the independence of Ghana in 1957 and Guinea in 1958. Liberia also supported the decolonization of the rest of African and the Liberation struggle in Southern Africa. Nelson Mandela was given money by the Liberian Government to support the liberation struggle in 1962 and many leading South Africans including Mariam Makeba, Philemon Ho, Hue Masakila amongst lived in Liberia as guest of the Liberian Government. Vusumzi L. Make’ one of the leaders of the Pan Africanist Congress (PAC) lived in Liberia and was a professor at the University of Liberia. Teboho “Tsietsi” MacDonald Mashinini who led the Soweto Uprising in 1976 married a Liberian lady Wilma Campbell. The Liberian Government created a special fund called the Liberation fund for the support of ANC, SWAPO and other Liberation Movements in South Africa. There is a housing estate in Monrovia named after Amilcar Cabral the leader of the liberation movement in Guinea Bissau, PAIGC. The Movement for Justice in Africa, a Liberian pan African Movement, supported the Liberation struggle in the 1970s. On November 4, 1960 Liberia and Ethiopia as former members of the League of Nations filed separate actions against South Africa before the international Court of Justice “…in a case concerning the continued existence of the League of Nations Mandate for South West Africa and the duties and performance of South Africa as mandatory Power”. The claims of the two countries were denied by a tie vote of 7 to 7 members of the Court. Liberia is a member of the non-alignment movement. Liberia played a leading role in the establishment of the Economic Community of West African States and the Mano River Union.
IV. This is Liberia’s past and present, what is the future for Liberia?
Liberia has been a promised betrayed, thus far, but all well-meaning Liberians have a collective responsibility to make it a promise belatedly kept. In order to solve a problem the first step is to identify the problem. Liberia has had a history of exclusionary rule with one group controlling power based on group identity of one form or the other. It has been the foundation of not applying the law equally to all Liberian citizens, the disproportionate access to economic opportunities and social services by one group over the rest of the citizens and the control of political power by all means possible and the endemic corruption that has become a virtual weapon of mass destruction or a pandemic. All of these tendencies make it difficult and almost impossible for Liberia to fulfill the promise that Liberia would be a land of freedom and would lay a foundation for good governance for the rest of Africa. The latter is no more possible because some African countries are already playing this role.
The opportunity for Liberians begin the historic task of making Liberia a free land of liberty for all Liberians is the 2023 legislative and presidential elections. It provides every Liberian the chance to sweep corruption from Liberia and choosing people who are capable of making a country that functions well for all its citizens. All Liberians and friends of Liberia should support free, fair and transparent legislative and presidential elections in 2023. Liberia is a historic country that Africans and all people of African descent should be proud of and collectively work to make the country that it was meant to be.
The view that colonization by European power was a benevolent action because many formerly colonized countries are doing better than Liberia is not a view that any proud African should allow to be a prevailing view. There is nothing morally good about slavery or colonization. But then if Liberia does not improve its governance process, this distorted moral argument might be taken even by Liberians to be true. We can only change the situation by finding effective ways to fight corruption.
Here is what I consider to be an effective way to fight corruption in Liberia. One, the value of the president total assets, his salary and benefits should be published on the internet, read on the radio and published in leading newspapers in Liberia. This is consistent with the provision of the Liberian Constitution that says, “… there shall be no limitation on the public right to be informed about the government and its functionaries.” Similar information should be published about all government officials in the three branches of government. This is important because when the salary of government officials is known the people will monitor whether officials of government are spending above their incomes. The next step in fighting corruption is for the president and his entire minister to subject themselves to quarterly lifestyle audit with the report of each audit immediately published. The next step is that any minister who is found to be spending more than his income should be immediately dismissed by the President and turned over to the Liberian Anti-Corruption Commission (LACC) for full investigation and prosecution. Every Liberian that I have spoken to has agreed with me that if at least five ministers are dismissed, prosecuted and all their stolen assets seized by the state, no other minister will steal public money. The stealing of public money must be stopped because government is a place to serve, not to steal.
Once, we stop the stealing in the government of Liberia, it will be easy to provide free access to medical treatment for pregnant women in order to curtail the high maternal mortality rate and children under the age of five as well as Liberian seniors beginning with the age of 65 years. Additionally, Liberia cannot make progress without making preprimary, primary and secondary education free for all Liberian children, providing free adult education to all Liberians and technical and vocational training for all Liberian young people in the fifteen counties of Liberia.
Given the high-level of food insecurity in Liberia, government should support mechanized rice production program by supporting environmentally safe mechanized rice farming through non-interest loans through government bank, by revitalizing the Agricultural and Cooperative Development Bank. Government should also decentralize road construction and maintenance by restoring the public works yards that were present in all counties during the regimes of Presidents Tubman, Tolbert and Doe. Liberia’s youth empower should be comprehensive to include free and compulsory quality education, exposure to all sports in the world, promotion of music, arts and culture, amongst others. Investment in IT and cheap electricity for all should be among government’s priority in giving a new direction to Liberia. These are just a few of the strategies that I strongly believe should be adopted for progress, peace and prosperity in Liberia.
November 17, 2022
A BETTER LIBERIA IS POSSIBLE
I thank you.
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Agents and governors of Liberia – Wikipedia
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Thomas Buchanan (Governor of Liberia) – Wikipedia
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/History of Liberia – Wikipedia
https://www.nytimes.com/1862/02/05/archives/Recognition of Haytian and Liberian Independence A Step in Advance. – The New York Times (nytimes.com)
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