Hampton, Georgia, March 24, 2022
When a group of individuals deviate from the “Original Intent and Purpose” of an organization, they lose transparency that is an important virtue to its very existence. At such, it entropy (self destruction); and pretty soon, it suffers from a condition of not having patriotic common core other than going after its critics – the leadership of UCEP, Inc.; and when they are unable to defend their positions, they resort to making false and misleading excuses and name calling as their defense mechanism. This is the case of the New ULAA administration of President J. Shiwoh Kamara.
What an irony! ULAA, an organization that was created to be the voice of the voiceless finds itself in bed with the predators. If most of the founding fathers were alive and sitting at a round table and saw what ULAA has become, it could lead to an unending war between them and this new breed of characters (Gravy seekers). This new leadership group of the (New ULAA and its Ad-hoc UCEP) appear to be suffering from an undiagnosed psychological condition characterized by a delusional fantasy of glamour.
By the very fact that the Kamara Administration invited Minister Nathaniel F. McGill to serve as Guest Speaker for his inauguration, makes it a classic case of ‘wonders will never cease’. This practice is similar to former President Gaye D. Sleh, Jr., whose administration served as President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf’s Diaspora Kitchen Cabinet. See the photo:
If I may ask, what useful message will Hon. Nathaniel F. McGill, Minister of State & Chief of Staff of the Republic of Liberia provide as Chief Launcher at the 47th Inaugural Ceremony of the Union of Liberian Associations in the Americas on Saturday, March 26, 2022? Except emptied pronouncements issued by his government! ‘Prime Minister’ McGill is the main Gatekeeper of the country’s wealth. You guys are very naive to come up with a theme such as: Developing Partnerships that would create economic growth and reduce poverty for people of Liberia. Is this a JOKE?
Let me remind you! In order to advocate for positive change in a dynamic society (country) requires putting the denizens and country first instead of personal interests. Moreover, it imposes the burden of avoiding errors of the past as a mean of satisfying majority of the people who have been distressed due to lack of good governance. Refusal to pay heed to this admonition most likely yields unbearable human catastrophes which could be worse than the current state of the nation.
President Abraham Lincoln reminds us, “You can fool all the people some of the time, and some of the people all the time, but you cannot fool all the people all the time”. Since the mind is like a parachute, it doesn’t work unless it is open; we must choose the role to play this arena. We cannot continue to make excuses NOT to engage our elected officials to use the country’s wealth and resources for the benefit of the citizens than for our officials to use them for themselves, their families and associates. This very practice has kept Liberia’s Economy, Health Care, Education, Environment, and Justice System to call to question by the International Community.
The Old ULAA
Let me share here the address delivered by then ULAA’s National President Bai M. Gbala, Sr. to President William Richard Tolbert, Jr. and his Cabinet on Tuesday, March 11, 1980. The address was delivered as the result of a protest against the failed and corrupt policies of President Richard R. Tolbert, Jr.’s government at the United Nations General Assembly, February 1980. It reads:
President Bai M. Gbala, Sr.First, we want to thank Dr. Tolbert, the Government, especially Ambassadors Francis Dennis and H. R. Wright Brewer, and the great people of our great country for the opportunity afforded us by the invitation. We bring to you, from the men and women of the Union of Liberian Associations in the Americas, greetings, wishes of good health and prosperity this year and the years to come.
“We come, Mr. President, in response to your generous invitation, not to confront, but to consult; not to display, but to observe; and not to instruct, but to learn. In this undertaking, however, we reserve the right, as concerned citizens of this Republic, and under provisions of the organic law of our land, to offer critical opinions on any national issue, program, and/or policy with which we disagree, in the interest of the country.
In a statement elsewhere, we ask rhetorically, and we quote, “can it not be argued, and persuasively so, that those Liberians, such as we are, who have traveled and lived abroad, and who have had opportunity to observe and experience the mechanics and dynamics of other social, economic, and political systems, not only from the halls of academia, but also from the real world of practical experience, have a clear and inescapable responsibility, and as well, ideally equipped to deal with and to speak out unequivocally on the multiple problems that now grip our common country and people?
One of the major factors which contributed to our decision to accept your invitation, Mr. President, was the result of the meeting we had with you on October 1, 1979, in Washington, D. C. At that meeting, we raised concerns about considerations which, we felt if granted by you and your Government would encourage and facilitate a free, candid, and unrestrained exchange of views. These concerns relate to the provisions of the-now famous Sedition and Treason Laws, as amended and approved on April 18, 1978. We were concerned that an expression of an objective, critical opinion on national issues, while in our country, could be construed or interpreted as malicious accusation of executive of judicial authority of government, and, therefore, subject to prosecution. In that meeting, however, our concerns were dispelled when you, in effect, confirmed the-then Ambassador Dennis’ assurance to us in a letter dated September 17, 1979, in which he said, “. . . such guarantees (of the freedom of expression, association, and movement) are not necessary in the light of the general grant of amnesty by President Tolbert on June 26, 1979”. After that Washington meeting, we wrote (to the-then Ambassador Dennis): “. . . our meeting with the President . . . has dispelled these concerns, in that the President has affirmed that the right of free speech, association, movement (for members of the Union) will be protected”. This, we felt, is the beginning of a constructive dialogue.
Mr. President, in these consultations and/or discussions, we will be concerned NOT with house-keeping matters. We will focus attention upon the foundation which defines and provides support for the house of state. We will seek NOT to draw attention to economic policies; nor will we be concerned, at this point, with equal opportunities in education and employment or accessibility to adequate healthcare facilities. We will not allude to issues in transportation, housing for a growing population, nor will we attempt to present analyses on man-power (shall we say person-power) development – middle and top managers for an expanding civil service and the industries of Liberia. We will reserve comment on the socio-cultural, economic and political implications of the declared Liberianization policy, nor will we even make a passing reference to the critical issue of rice production, or contend that our country can no longer allow or depend upon foreign-imposed solutions to Liberian problems – solutions based on assumptions which are invalid and totally inapplicable in our African setting. But rather, Mr. President, these are our current concerns:
1. Freedom of Speech and the Press
At the request of President Edwin Barclay in 1933, our Legislature enacted a Sedition law which penalized criticism of the President and the Government’s policy on the treatment of indigenous Liberians, with from three to seven years’ imprisonment and confiscation of property. President William V. S. Tubman, who succeeded Barclay, amended the Sedition law, incorporated and treasonized acts which, when committed during peacetime and prior to the amendment could fall under provisions of the-then existing criminal code. Treason, as we all know, is a wartime first degree felony, punishable, in most cases, by death. President Tubman further obtained the passage of the Emergency Powers Act which authorized the President to arrest and detain, up to one year, without the right of bail, any person suspected of acts described as subversive.
And now during Your Excellency’s administration, we have the amended Act or an amendment of the Treason and Sedition laws to which we referred. This act, as amended, not only continues the tradition, but expanded the scope of coverage to include, among others, accusation of the incumbent president, any other executive or judicial authority, subject to severe penalties under sections of Sedition, including imprisonment, if convicted.
The problem posed by these provisions, among others, is the conditional element of TRUTH or FALSITY of the accusation at the time it is made. Although upon casual examination, it would seem reasonable enough, in reality it is not. Who defines or interprets the truth or falsity of the accusation? Of course the prosecutor and the trial judge, traditional, friendly agents of authority, some of who are likely to be so politicized such that an objective or reasonable, critical analysis or interpretation of the law could very well be clouded and, therefore, jeopardized. Now, what is stake here is the right of free speech – a right basic the functioning of any democratic society. The very enactment and potential enforcement of such a law creates fear and inhibits the free expression of opinions.
Writing on the subject of “The Liberty of Thought and Discussion” in mid-19th century, John Stewart Mill said, “The peculiar evil of silencing the expression of an opinion (critical of persons in authority) is that it is robbing the human race; posterity as well as the existing generation; those who dissent from the opinion, still more than those who hold it. If the opinion is right (or true), they are deprived of the opportunity of exchanging error for truth; if wrong (or false), they lose, what is almost as great a benefit, the clear perception and livelier impression of truth, produced by its collision with error (falsity)”.
Ladies and Gentlemen, it is not our intention to burden you with philosophical/historical trivia, elements with which you are familiar. However, please permit us to put in perspective, the apparent, historical foundation of the Sedition and Treason Laws. This law is either a copy or is closely modeled on United States Sedition Act of 1798, passed only twenty-three years after that country became a republic. In a legal analysis of the case “Schenck vs. the United States” on the subject of Free Speech and the Press, Robert E. Cushmen, in the book Cases in Constitutional Law, 3d. Ed, 1968, writes: “perhaps the most conspicuous and interesting instance in our history of interference with freedom of expression never came before the Supreme Court of the United States. The Sedition Act of 1798 provided, among other things, for the severe punishment of false, scandalous and malicious writing against the government, either house of congress, or the president, if published with intent to defame any of them, or excite against them the hatred of the people, or stir up sedition. It was limited in operation to two years.
Ten persons were convicted under it, and many others were indicted but were not tried. Its enactment and enforcement called forth great indignation, and President Jefferson, upon assuming office, pardoned all persons still imprisoned under its provisions. Many years later, Congress refunded, with interest, the fines which had been imposed”. This is the law, Mr. President that we have resurrected, some two hundred years later, in the name of protecting and preserving the peace and tranquility of the state. We respectfully beg to disagree, and ask that this Act and the Emergency Powers Act, in their entirety, be repealed.
2. Suffrage – The Right to Vote
In a representative democracy, such as that with which we are experimenting, the right to vote, particularly in the selection of important public officials, is regarded NOT as a privilege, but rather, an inalienable right that inheres to adult citizens by virtue of their citizenship. It is the primary means of insuring that governments are responsive to the governed.
Notwithstanding the all-important nature of this basic, human right, ruling groups in all societies, past and present, have sought to limit the number of citizens who could exercise it. Before the evolution of suffrage, most countries required special qualifications of their voters. In 18th- and 19th- century England, for example, there were a property and income qualifications, the argument being that only those had a stake in the country should be allowed a voice in public affairs. In other European countries, and even in our own Africa, ingenious devices such as literacy tests, restrictive residential and age requirements were used to prevent the extension of suffrage to the masses of the people. But today, Ladies & gentlemen, things have changed and are changing: Social and economic developments, hardly to be anticipated at the end of the 18th century, so radically transformed modern societies in the next century (19th ) that few of the arguments advanced in favor of property, income, education or age qualifications could be defended in either fact or logic. In deed, as it became evident that more and more of the population had a stake in society; as large numbers of the young are called upon to do military service; and as a large proportion of them receive more and more higher education, the significance of their role in the social order can NOT BE DENIED. Suffrage for the masses, therefore, came to be recognized as an instrument of governance that is both a private right and public duty.
As a result, restrictive and prohibitive voting requirements came crumbling down, so that today, in most countries of the world, all that is required in order to vote is the attainment of the age of maturity – 18 years or over. In some parts of the United States, a country from which we borrowed almost all of our laws, all that a citizen needs to vote on the day of election and at the polling place, is a driver’s license for identification.
Despite this evolution in democratic thought, coupled with the revolution in its practical application, and despite our pronounced adherence to the principles of democracy, we remain the only country in this part of Africa, the island of resistance, which continues to require property ownership as a qualification to vote.
In an instructive and revealing narrative on the impact of this requirement on the citizens of our capital city – Monrovia – entitled, Liberia: The Big Palava Over Voting Rights, a publication of the Sawyer For Mayor (of Monrovia) Committee, states: “We have looked at the situation in Monrovia, and the figures on property ownerships show that only a small percentage of the citizens of Monrovia owns property. Take, for example, the section of Monrovia which is bounded on the North by Water Street; on the South by Carey Street; on the West by Nelson Street; and on the East by Johnson Street. The Census Authorities tell us that about 6, 192 people live in the area. But according to the Land Authorities, there are only 496 deeds for land in this area; out of this number, 292 deeds are still in dispute. Thus, only 204 deeds can really be said to be qualified to vote from the area described above”. Thus, on the basis of these figures, only 3.3% of the citizens in this part of Monrovia are eligible to vote, while 96.7% is not.
Mr. President, we aware of your recommendation that this law be repealed. We believe, however, that this recommendation fails to remove the injustices for which it is intended. For, to require a special taxation, under whatever name, as a condition to vote, brings us right back to where we were in the first place – the negation of an inalienable right. Therefore, we respectfully request that all requirements, other than that of only the age of maturity, be removed and voided.
3. US Immigration Harassment of Liberians
Our third concern requires immediate attention; it is a problem that you, Mr. President, and your Administration can and must resolve – NOW.
This concern, if left to deteriorate, could have far-reaching, negative ramifications of major proportions in our relations with United States.
There is a common bond of friendship, solidarity, and unanimity of national purpose between the United States and Liberia, we are told from cradle to grave. Indeed, it is said that America (USA) is Liberia’s mother country in much the same way as Great Britain is or was to America. The facts, Ladies and Gentlemen, indicate quite the contrary. As we said earlier, it is not our intention to burden you with the facts of history; therefore, we will confine our remarks to contemporary issues; in fact, we are concerned here with only one issue, and that is the overly aggressive, persistent, and often unnecessary harassment of Liberian students in the United States by the US Immigration & Naturalization Service.
Liberians (students) have been and are being arrested, often in the dead of night and at transportation terminals, held without bail and the opportunity to contact friends or relatives for assistance, coerced, threatened with deportation for alleged offences, summarily tried and, sometimes, deported without the right to be represented by legal counsel. In some cases where counsel is provided, he/she is often the traditional, public defender-type, who could care less whether the accused (student) was found guilty or innocent; a political conservative and an avowed racist who believes that blacks should not be in the United States in the first place. Mr. President, the US Immigration treatment of Liberian students, on the basis of our experience, has taken on a new dimension, and that is the notion of race.
In a recent discussion with the newly assigned Ambassador to the United States, His Excellency H. R. Wright Brewer, on the subject, he noted “that reciprocity is an indispensable element in international diplomacy”. We agree. The time has come for the American Government to treat Liberians with the same, favored-people status that the Liberian Government (and people) accords to Americans. To make this a reality, we request that the President (of Liberia) name a special team to begin, immediately, negotiation with the United States Department of State for relaxation of some of the unduly, unreasonable restrictions, including travel to the USA, against Liberian students. We believe that this approach is possible.
However, we want to make it perfectly clear here, Mr. President, that the American people are warm, kind, gracious, helpful, understanding, and sympathetic to the problems of the average, Liberian student. Indeed, without their assistance, many Liberian students, including your humble servant, could not have survived the difficulties of getting a college education in a distant, strange environment.
And finally, Ladies & Gentlemen, the winds of change which engulfed Africa some three decades ago have now turned the spotlight on Liberia. The time for peaceful transition may be rapidly running out. This need not be, for ours is a small country of a closely-knit people. Even our tribal units are not as rigidly defined as in other, African countries nor are our political beliefs conditioned by ethnic origin.
However, the extent to which reason, NOT emotion; confidence, NOT mistrust; love, NOT hatred; unity, NOT division; and peace, NOT violence prevail in the search for solutions to our problems, will depend, to a large degree, on the willingness of our leaders to listen and respond to the voices of the Liberian people – the young, old and unrepresented – crying out in the wilderness, pleading for meaningful and constructive change, for the betterment of ALL.
Thirty-two days after the historic address, the dynasty of the Grand Ole True Whig Party (TWP) was overthrown by the People’ Redemption Council (PRC); ending its 102 years (1878 to 1980).
The current leaders and members of the New ULAA are ignoring this fact of history. Those who ignored history have paid deadly for their ignorance and mistakes. The Kamara Administration is not exempt; his Administration is following a wrong path by having Minister Nathaniel McGill to grace the event on March 26, 2022 in Philadelphia, the very City, where ULAA was founded. To have Minister McGill as a special guest at this event is like honoring your adversary – the systemic government policies the Founders of the Union fought gallantly against. To disregard this history, shows the New ULAA has become the Diaspora Kitchen Cabinet of the CDC government of President George Manneh Weah, Minister of State for Presidential Affairs, Hon. Nathaniel F. McGill and Minister of Finance and Development Planning, Hon. Samuel D. Tweah, Jr.
As a young person growing up in Monrovia, I was awaken by the injustices I saw and experienced in my country of birth; from then on, I promised God that up to my last breath, I will seek justice for the Liberian masses who are denied it by their elected officials and their supporters. It is for this reason; I hate to hear the statement, “I don’t pay attention to politics…” To me, it is one of the most ignorant statements a person can make. Because if you allow people in your government to commit crimes in your name without questioning their actions, you are just as guilty as they are.
Back to Minister McGill! This man’s CDC government was accused on March 24, 2021by Rep. Christopher H. Smith, member of the 117th US Congress’ Tom Lantos Human Rights Commission. He said: “President George Weah began to amass wealth at the detriment of the Liberian people as soon as he assumed office in January 2018.”
He added: “The issue with Liberia founded by free American slaves; unfortunately, President George Weah leads a kleptocratic government and begins his political corruption on the day he assumed office by depleting the government coffers for personal use why the people of Liberia suffer”.
Kleptocracy is a government whose corrupt leaders use political power to appropriate the wealth of their nation, typically by embezzling or misappropriating government funds at the expense of the wider population. There is this tendency that anything that starts wrong, is likely to end wrong. This is the fate of President Kamara’s New ULAA administration.
The members and the New ULAA’s leadership is not keeping up with events in Liberia, where ritualistic killings, young girls are raped, including a 3-year old baby, lawlessness is rampant, illegal land grab, corrupt justice system and bribery has become a common practice in transacting business.
“Ninety years are not forever”
There is this expression that reminds us: “Ninety years are not forever”! In a way, it is a wish that someday, whether in ninety years or so, those who took the laws into their hands, killed and violated every law in their country with impunity will have to pay for their sins. To the ordinary person, “Ninety years are not forever” is their cry for justice. The Ninety Years scenario has made many African leaders and criminals alike become casualties by their own doing; but for some reasons, these leaders’ greediness for power, they do not learn from history; they keep repeating the same offense over and over and by hook or crook to maintain and remain in power. They have cheerleaders who will cheer them on, no matter the consequence. These are the people Tony Lawrence made reference to in 1995 when he wrote:
“Too many people are only willing to defend rights that are personally important to them. It’s selfish ignorance, and it’s exactly why totalitarian governments are able to get away with trampling on people. Freedom does not mean freedom just for the things I think I should be able to do. Freedom is for all of us. If people will not speak up for other people’s rights, there will come a day when they will lose their own”.
Seeking justice is not a matter of choice. It is an obligation! Because as people of conscience, we are compelled to expose all injustices, regardless of who commits them. And those of us who professed to be the followers of Christ, it should be within our nature to do good; to treat others as we would have them treat us. We should do good at all times because it is the RIGHT thing to do, not only when it suits our interest. This is why some of us find it hard to overlook or remain neutral in matters that involved the violation of the rights of others in Liberia where atrocities are committed daily.
The New ULAA should be prepared to adhere to the Constitution of the organization; instead of cherry picking illegal rules to follow in addressing vexed issues of concerns in the organization. It will be in the best interest and advantage of the Shiwoh Kamara’s administration to deal with the legal and legitimate ULAA Council of Eminent Persons (UCEP, Inc.) headed by Eminent Dr. Jesse M. Cooper, Sr. then ULAA-UCEP’s Ad-Hoc Elections Committee which was temporary, and whose tasks and responsibilities ended after the 2021 elections, and has since dissolved.
Today, nothing can easily be hidden. The mass media is FREE all due to everyone with Internet access and computer – becoming self-made ‘journalist’, and anyone with smart phone becoming ‘photo journalist’. This is the predicament these human dinosaurs find themselves in. Therefore, they must as well throw in the tower. The truth of the matter is, these days, government of any country is accountable to the people and the mass media serves as the means of communicating the message to the people.
Not too long ago, the Liberian Supreme Court accused the CDC government of violating the Code of Conduct. And the flimsy excuse Minister McGill gave why the COC is not being implemented is, “… due to the fact that there is no Ombudsman appointed to monitor.
I am reminded of President Julius Nyerere’s profound statement: “Poverty is an enemy of good governance, for persistent poverty is a destabiliser, especially if such poverty is shared in a grossly unequal manner, or is widely regarded as being unfairly distributed as the few who are relatively rich indulge in conspicuous consumption… Known or suspected corruption among the political leaders often makes the problem worse – and corruption throughout the society more difficult to overcome. Good wages or salaries will not stop bad people from being corrupt but miserable wages and salaries are not conducive to rectitude. Political instability, real or imagined, can be a source and is often used as an excuse, for bad governance.”
If what President Nyerere described is ignored, Liberia will become a country owned by Weah, Tweah, McGill and Company. Minister McGill is a man of questionable character. For example, there was an allegation leveled against him and President Weah of poisoning the late Public Works Minister Mabutu Vlah Nyenpan. But after a long silence, Minister Nathaniel McGill responded to the allegations on Monday, November 16, 2020 at his residence in an interview monitored on ELBC to say, he has nothing to do with the death of the Public Works Minister and that “God will fight my battle.”
Secondly, Minister McGill and other key advisors to President Weah are undermining their own mandate regarding the Code of Conduct (COC). They are found of defending such an act with outrageous justification, which is detrimental to the administration. In addition:
- the CDC government is corrupt
- the Capital City, Monrovia is too dirty
- there are lots of killings going on all over the country and nothing the government is doing about that
- the government has been accused by several citizens regarding the increase in the numbers of rapes in the country; especially, among young girls, and that
- the justice system is too corrupt
My advice to the Liberian people is, DO NOT lose your moral compass by remaining silent to question and engage your elected officials, especially, the President and his favorite ministers to do what they were elected to do, which is the general welfare of ALL the citizens.
On this note, let me say – I watched the Confirmation Hearing of Judge Ketanji Onyika Brown Jackson with intense interest. It couldn’t have happened at a better time. Why? Because the Liberian system of government is a replica of the American System. But ours gave the Liberian Executive Branch of government unlimited power to the President which has, and is being used today with impunity. This is a contradiction to the great American Experience which serves as the point of departure of unlimited power the British Monarchy had. Yet, many Liberians are proud to say they have similar political system like the Americas. What a joke!
Finally, according to an historian, “The people and only the people alone are the motive (force) in the making of history.” The Liberian people, be it at home or abroad, are not exempt from this historical process. It is a practice in Liberia for those who opposed the ruling class to be imprisoned, harassed, and killed. In the past, the ruling class closed all of the doors leading to the chambers of peaceful constitutional change. This very practice is being repeated in the CDC government of President George Manneh Weah. The idiom, “History makes strange bedfellows” is entering into a peculiar alliance with people you do not share the same beliefs but they are at the center of power more accessible to you and it produces the results you want. This is happening today with the New ULAA administration of President Kamara.
I hold in the highest regard the democratic belief and practice that promote contending ideals that will help the New ULAA administration to become a better organization like in yester years; instead of promoting “one size fit all” mindset of today’s leaders of ULAA.
In short, “If there was ever a time in history for a generation to be bold and to think big, to stand up and fight back, now is the time”. (Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders, Guide to Political Revolution).
Gwei feh kpeh! (The Struggle Continues)
Together We Struggle For A Better Liberia, in Unity and Advocacy.
About The Author:
Eminent Siahyonkron J. K. Nyanseor, Sr. is a Senior Reporter for The Perspective, an online internet web magazine (since 1996) of the Liberian Democratic Future (LDF), a non-profit, independent, and democratic research organization dedicated to promoting peace, democracy, justice and equal opportunity for all Liberians. In other to pursue its goals and objectives – ideals such as such as building democratic, economic and political institutions will serve as hallmark, and ensure the future of democracy in Liberia is sustained. In this regard, LDF is dedicated to proactive approach in championing the human and constitutional rights of those individuals and groups who find themselves less empowered and unfortunate in Liberia and its Diaspora. As an independent organization, the LDF remains opened and committed to working with any Liberian and non-Liberian organization who share its beliefs and principles. Eminent Nyanseor is a poet, Griot, journalist, cultural and political activist. He can be reached at: (404) 468-2440 & [email protected]