Tear Fund Launches Reports on Ebola, SGBV

The British Charity Tear Fund has launched a qualitative report on Sexual and Gender Based Violence (SGBV) and the Ebola Virus recovery programs.

The report on SGBV reveals that there is still a degree of impunity  for men who perpetrate violence and abuse. The report further discloses that survivors of Sexual Gender Based Violence are still stigmatized in society.

According to the charity report on SGBV, patriarchal norms informed by religion and culture still dominate people’s world views and inform opinions and perspectives on gender relations and SGBV. (Patriarchal norms are accepted with scant consideration of the possibility of any change to the status,” the report indicates.

It stresses the need for faith communities to play a key role in the response to SGBV but their capacity for the task is inadequate.

The report also reveals that incapacity includes the lack of both adequate and up to date theological and theoretical knowledge beyond their church practices and doctrines, and the requisite knowledge of practices and strategies in the gender equality/women‘s rights sector.

The charity asserts that poverty overshadows almost everything else in communities and relegates gender issues to secondary concerns among others.

The charity has   meanwhile forwarded several recommendations aimed at addressing the issues of Sexual Gender Based Violence in Liberia. Amongst them is shifting the dominant negative gender norms that still view men as leaders with women as sub servants, and promoting gender equality gender equality, requires an intervention that focuses on women.

Sexual Gender Based Violence of women and children is primarily a result of the unequal power relationship between men and women.

The charity envisages the intervention for transforming masculinity must be accountable to women’s rights struggle, and promote empowerment programs.

Launching the report, Gender Minister Julia Duncan Cassell called on partners to coordinate efforts to ensure the fight against Sexual Gender BV is successful.

She said the case of SGBV in Liberia is seriously alarming and there is a need for stakeholders to be proactive in solving the issues of SGBV in Liberia.

Minister Cassell used the occasion to appeal to the Legislature to pass the Domestic Violence Act.

According to her, when the act is passed it would put in place proper measures in the fight against SGBV.

The Gender Minister commended Tear Fund and other partners for the launch of the report describing it as a tool that will give a clear picture of SGBV situation in Liberia.

In a related development, the charity has released a report on Ebola with the aim of establishing the Ebola recovery policies in Liberia.

The Ebola   research report is also intended to evaluate   support received in practical tense by survivors and other affected persons, and record  lessons learned  for recovery periods in future health emergencies.

Speaking at the launch, Deputy Health Minister, Dr. Francis Kateh said the foundation of a good health service delivery is the community.

Dr. Kateh noted that the community has a pivotal role ensuring that they appreciate services rendered them by health workers.

He said if the community appreciates the kind of services , then the issue of resilience in the health will be of paramount concern to the community.

The Deputy Health Minister stressed the need for awareness to be carried out robustly with the aim of educating community members about health services.

Part of the finding released by the charity on Ebola is the producing recovery policies in a timely way , inform  communities of their rights.

The charity also stressed the need for the dissemination of information as possible amongst other key recommendations.

The launch brought together several international partners, local groups amongst others.

 

(Edited By Fredrick P. W. Gaye)

 

WAHO Hosts Regional Meeting On Post-Ebola

By Mafanta Kromah

The West African Health Organization (WAHO) on Monday April 10, 2017 held a high level meeting. Held  at the Golden Gate Hotel in Paynesville outside Monrovia, the gathering was aimed at emphasizing on the status of implementation of the decision of the heads of states and governments on the prevention, detection and control of Ebola.

The meeting also emphasized on the status of resource mobilization and partnership on the prevention, detection and epidemic control and also status of the implementation of perspectives and challenges of the  Abuja Deceleration and status of the implementation of resilient plans and perspectives of the three affected post Ebola countries.

Speaking during the meeting, Dr. Xavier CresPin, Director General of WAHO noted that the objective of the regional meeting is to access key decision and put in place a national committee to unite them as one.

He said the meeting discussed how to involve other sectors including the Agriculture and among others, noting they have money in their fund but it is not sufficient enough to achieve their target.

Dr. CresPin explained that they have sent 150 medical staffs from the 15 countries for advanced knowledge in improving the health system in the various countries.

At the same time, the Minister of Health, Dr. Bernice T. Dahn, said that the recent experience from the outbreak of the Ebola Virus Disease (EVD) reminds and challenges them of being at risk to any disease outbreak, something she said needs to be adequately prepared.

She said disease threat in any of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) is a threat to all including the international community, stressing, “the existing inadequacies in our health system also reminds us that we are all vulnerable and thus, shared vulnerability requires shared responsibility including sharing resources, expertise and information.” “We should work tediously to achieve this in our region,” she said.

Dr. Dahn indicated that the recommendation from the IHR Joint External Evaluation and the Global Health Security Agenda (GHSA) to prepare, detect and respond rapidly and effectively to the disease outbreak, multi hazard threats and others humanitarian emergencies will be built and developed through the capacities of Liberia and its partners.

In addition, she stressed that Liberia recognizes the on-going work within the ECOWAS to improve prevention, detection and response with support of key technical and donor partners.

In her conclusion statement, she commended representatives from the 15 countries for  their active participation in the important meeting and hope that the meeting will provide unique opportunity to generate, concrete result that will be realistic and readily implementable to improve preparedness, detection and response in the EVD affected countries and in all states of ECOWAS.

Meanwhile, Dr. Momodou Horouna of WAHO thanked Liberia and members for organizing the meeting and allowing them to meet and discuss issues about the improvement of the health sector of the 15 countries. He also thanked participants for the effort put in place for rebuilding their health system.

(Edited by Fredrick P. W. Gaye)

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NATMOTE To Train 100 Women Aspirants

By: Mafanta Kromah

 

The National youth Movement for Transparent Election (NAYMOTE) will on Tuesday, April 11, 2017 host a weeklong training for 100 women aspirants and women campaign managers from across the 73 electoral districts in Liberia.

The women’s leadership and political participation training is meant to prepare female aspirants for the 2017 legislative election. The training will be held at the Development Education Network Liberia (DEN-L) Compound, based in Gbarnga, Bong County. The overall goal of the training is to increase women’s representation in the legislature and empower them to participate in competitive politics and governance in Liberia.

According to the Executive Director of NAYMOTE, Eddie Jarwolo, participants were selected through competitive vetting process and they will be trained and equipped with the necessary tools, knowledge and skills to participate in grassroots campaigning and campaign events, and learn about campaign communications, public speaking, message development, press relations, voter contact and requirements of becoming a candidate and among other key areas.

He said the Deputy Special Representative of the Secretary-General of the United Nation Mission in Liberia (UNMIL) for Peace Consolidation, Mr. Yacoub El Hillo, will delivery the keynote address on the topic, ‘The Role of Women in National Building and Accountable Governence’.

Other speakers at the opening session will include, the Charge d’Affaires of the Embassy of the United States of America, Mr. Samuel Watson, the Minister of Gender, Children and Social Protection, Minister Julia Duncan Cassell and the Co-Chair of the National Elections Commission, Cllr. Sarah Toe.

NAYMOTE’s Executive Director, Eddie Jarwolo further noted that after the weeklong training his institution will partner with Coalition of Political Parties Women in Liberia (COPPWIL) to host 10 citizens engagement events across 10 electoral districts in Montserrado and Margibi to find out what issues are most important to voters as well as host mock campaign events for graduates in the 10 electoral districts to improve their public speaking skills before the actual campaign period.

Mr. Jarwolo said his institution look forward working with COPPWIL to setup a ‘National Women Campaign Coordinating Team’ which will be responsible for fundraising, directing and supporting all women candidates across parties lines during the elections period.

Naymote Partners for Democratic Development is a good governance and research institution working to promote democracy and participatory governance in Liberia. Established in 2001, the institution has been one of the leading grassroots organizations promoting democracy, peace building, human rights and civic engagement in Liberia. It’s the organizer of the Young Political Leadership School based in Liberia

The United Nations Mission in Liberia Quick Impact Project support is the supporter of this program.

(Edited by Fredrick P. W. Gaye)

 

 

 

WHO Highlights Depression At World Health Day Celebration

By Mafanta Kromah

Liberia on today April 7, 201, joins the rest of the world in celebrating World Health Day with the theme: “Depression, Let’s Talk” to draw attention to the global burden of this common mental disorder.

Speaking at a press conference on Thursday at the Ministry of Information, Cultural Affairs and Tourism in Monrovia, the World Health Organization (WHO) Regional Director for Africa, Dr. Matshidiso Moeti, said three hundred twenty-two million people around the world are affected by depression as it is the leading cause of disability worldwide, and a major contributor to the overall global burden of disease in the African region.

“We are all at risk: it effects people of all ages, from all walks of life, in all countries. Stigma and fear of socialization are significant barriers to seeking help; there’s an urgent need to prevent and treat those affected by this serious and complex mental health condition,” he stressed.

Moeti noted that early recognition of the symptoms is key to preventing depression from becoming a chronic illness.

He called on countries to support mental health program by allocating adequate human and financial resources to respond to growing burden.

He noted that individuals, families and communities can take steps to help prevent depression by avoiding stressful situation, alcohol abuse and drug use.

WHO defines depression as an illness characterized by persistent sadness, loss of interest and ability to perform daily activities for a period of over two weeks.

He noted that depression can also lead to suicide, which is the second leading cause of death in 15-29 year-olds globally as well as varies by age, peaking in older adults aged 55-74 years, but also occurring in children and adolescents. If left untreated, depression can be recurrent, long-lasting and debilitating.

He maintained that it impairs an individual’s ability to copy with daily activities, and can have devastating consequences for relationships with families and friends.

The African region has a critical shortage of qualified professionals for mental health, with just one psychiatrist per one million people and a similar number of psychologists.

The mental health workforce of psychiatric nurses, occupational therapist and social workers is woefully inadequate.

 

Six Nigerians Arrested With Illegal Drugs

By Mafanta Kromah

The suspects

 

The Liberia Drug Enforcement Agency (LDEA) has arrested six Nigerians for allegedly involving in selling and distributing narcotic substances on the Liberia market.

Speaking in an interview with journalists at the Head office of DEA in Fiama Sinkor in Monrovia, the Chief of Operations of the LDEA, Johntor R. Wolo said they found 182.8g of Narcotic and Heroin worth L$ 666,960.

The suspects include: Victor Kamara, a 37-year-old Nigerian businessman who lives in Caldwell, Uzaa Kamara, a 28-year-old Nigerian businessman who also lives in Caldwell, Prince Ken, a 35-year-old Nigerian businessman who lives in Paynesville, Anthony Enechi, a 26y-year-old Nigerian businessman who lives in Paynesville(ELWA), Sunday Moses, a 29-yr Nigerian constructor who lives Red Light and Iko Nso, a 30-yr Nigerian Motorcyclist who also lives Caldwell.

The Director called on citizens to be more tolerant with the DEA staff on the field and stop insulting the staff while on duty. He also encouraged the media to seek information in DEA office and stop speculating.

Researches indicate that the continued use of heroin can bring devastation to both physical and mental health and is likely to culminate in a number of social legal ramification for the user. Heroin is the name of a modified version of morphine that is a very addictive and illegal opioid drug.

According to National Institute on Drug Abuse, it is available on the illicit market in a number of different varieties, with purer product tending to occur in white power form and can be mixed with other white substances, such as sugar, power milk, starches and quinine.

People with continued heroin use for long period of time may experience decreased dental health marked by damaged teeth and gum swelling, excoraited skill from scratching, serve constipation and increased susceptibility to disease from diminished system. Others include poor appetite and malnutrition, sleeping problem and decrease in sexual functioning.

Meanwhile, effects of the narcotic drug and other depressants narcotics initially produce a feeling of euphoria that often is followed by drowsiness, nausea, and vomiting. Users also may experience constricted pupils watery eyes and itching.

COC Row Rolls: Ellen’s Misstep? -Qualification Crisis Greets Ombudsman

By: Lewis K. Glay  /  0886469835/lglay.inprofile@gmail.com.

 

  “Massquoi was issuing UP batches and other campaign materials to people when he was Commissioner of the Bureau of Immigration and Naturalization during campaign time for the 2011 elections.”

President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, presumably wanting a close on the argument on the controversial ‘Code of Conduct’ now being made by the Supreme Court of Liberia as a law binding on Liberians, seems to have slipped in her judgment in naming appropriate team members of the office of the Ombudsman released on Monday, April 3, 2017.

Already, the wave of public criticisms over the appointments of members of the Ombudsman Team has compelled the President to rescind the nomination of Atty. Massa Jallabah due to her age limit which is said to be a qualification deficiency, coupled with her alleged inexperience to occupy such critical position that has very significant bearing on the pending 2017 elections.

It also appears that the wrong judgment of the President points to the appointment of the Chairperson of Ombudsman Team, former LNP Director Chris Clarence Massaquoi, who most recently was admitted into the Liberian Bar Association as Counselor of the Liberian Judicial System.

Critics have claimed that Cllr. Massaquoi is still inexperienced to handle judgments expected to arise from cases coming from complaints the Code of Conduct would prick against would-be violators.

Moreover, it is not only Massaquoi’s  alleged inexperience in the legal profession for such a delicate duty, but he has been branded as being ‘unreliable’ to pass fair judgment due to his link to Ellen Cockrum’s imbroglio  which  brought the Ellen-led administration into public dispute, coupled with his alleged bad ‘administrative practice’ at the Liberia National Police over the years.

In many political gatherings, Massaquoi is still known to be a staunch member of the ruling Unity Party whose Vice President Joseph N. Boakai is a strong contender for the presidency during the pending elections. As one observer noted, “Massquoi was issuing UP batches and other campaign materials to people when he was Commissioner of the Bureau of Immigration and Naturalization during campaign time for the 2011 elections.”

Another member of the Ombudsman Team, Atty Edward Dillon, is not off the hook of suspicion as critics focus the make-up of the team by President Sirleaf. Dillon is linked to a close tie with Cllr. Charles Brumskine who is political leader of the Liberty Party, a party President Sirleaf is being alleged of supporting for the 2017 presidency, even though this is yet to be proven.

Atty. Dillon is also seen as having a strong connection with the Liberty Party on grounds that his brother- Darius Dillon is an influential partisan of the LP; however, it is not established  the kind of correlation  to justify such claim.

Accordingly, Section 5.1 of the contentious Code of Conduct termed as an act on political participation dictates that  “all presidential” appointees such as ministers and other public officials, including those in tenure positions desirous of contesting for elected offices must resign two and three years respectively prior to elections.”

As  it stands, three opposition political  parties- Liberty Party, Movement for Economic Empowerment and Alternative National Congress whose contenders are seemed to be in violation of the Code of Conduct are fiercely resisting the legality or lawfulness of COC to bar their would-be candidates  from participating in the pending elections.

However, opinions are divided over the Code of Conduct row, as there are some Liberians who support the enforcement of the law while others have argued that the law only targets certain potential would-be candidates in the elections.

Meantime, the wave of reactions from the public including that from the House of Representatives as quoted in the News Newspaper on Wednesday, April 5, 2017, following the release of the names of members of the Ombudsman office, appears to create deepened concerns as to how and when the legal fray would be laid to rest before the conduct of the pending elections.

ECC Wants Code Of Conduct Section 5.2 Amended

By Mafanta Kromah

The Election Coordinating Committee (ECC) is calling on the National Legislature to amend Section 5.2 of the Code of Conduct and also called for a national conference to look at the modality in the implementation of the Code of Conduct particularly around Section 5.2.
Addressing a press conference on Wednesday March 5, 2017 at the ECC office on 16th Street Sinkor in Monrovia, the Chairperson of the Steering Committee of the ECC, Oscar Bloh, noted that ECC respects the opinion of the Supreme Court regarding the legality of the Code of Conduct.
However, Bloh said the ECC is making the call “given the country’s history of political and socio-economic exclusion and in the spirit of consolidating the democracy and increasing citizens participation as well as strengthening the constitutional provision of all persons being equal before the law (Article 11c) and equal opportunity for work (Article 18).”
He stressed that the Government should conduct a national conference with all stakeholders from all sectors including the three branches of government, various embassies, Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) and all political parties to discuss the implementation of Section 5.2 of the Code of Conduct.
In the same development, Bloh expressed the Committee’s concerns over the appointment of certain individuals by the President to enforce the implementation of the Code of Conduct.
He maintained that the Code of Conduct falls short of stating the qualifications, competencies, experience and tenure of individuals to run the office of the Ombudsman and how they can be removed.
Recently, the President issued Executive Order Number 83; she also appointed Christian Massaquoi, who has headed several security positions in the current government and is considered to be one of the president confidantes, as member of the office of the Ombudsman.
Atty. Edward Dillon, another appointee is said to be in close relationship with the Liberty Party and also said to have word in the office of the Brumskine & Associates/Pierre, Tweh & Associate Law Firm when the Ombudsman is an independent autonomous body in keeping with Section 12.1 of the Code of Conduct.
Chairman Bloh affirmed that Section 4 of the Executive Order gives additional power to the office of the Ombudsman that is not prescribed in the Code of Conduct (Section 12.2) formulated in keeping with Article 90 (c) of the Liberian Constitution, noting the additional power includes the ability to investigate on its own initiative violation of the Code of Conduct.
Based on the said information on the two individuals, Bloh said the ruling establishment and to an opposition party undermine the “spirit and intent of the independence of the office of the Ombudsman, therefore they are not the most suitable Liberians to occupy these positions.”
“Given the sensitive nature of the implementation of Section 5.1 and 5.2 of the code of Conduct and their implications for the peace and security of the country during electoral process, we call on the president to withdraw or recall the appointed names mentioned above and undertake a wider consultative process with diverse stakeholders in nominating names to fill the office of the Ombudsman. If our call is not considered, we urge the Senate not to confirm them for same reasons provided above,” Oscar Bloh, the Chairperson of the Steering Committee, indicated.
The Election Coordinating Committee is a non-partisan professional network of civil society organizations that mentors documents and report on election issues to promote transparency and accountability in the democratic process. The election work of the ECC is conducted in Partnership with the National Democratic Institute (NDI) with support from the United States Agency for International Development (USAID).

COC Row Rolls: Ellen’s Misstep? -Qualification Crisis Greets Ombudsman

By Lewis K. Glay/ 0886469835/lglay.inprofile@gmail.com.

 

“Massquoi was issuing UP batches and other campaign materials to people when he was Commissioner of the Bureau of Immigration and Naturalization during campaign time for the 2011 elections.”

President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, presumably wanting a close on the argument on the controversial ‘Code of Conduct’ now being made by the Supreme Court of Liberia as a law binding on Liberians, seems to have slipped in her judgment in naming appropriate team members of the office of the Ombudsman released on Monday, April 3, 2017.

Already, the wave of public criticisms over the appointments of members of the Ombudsman Team has compelled the President to rescind the nomination of Atty. Massa Jallabah due to her age limit which is said to be a qualification deficiency, coupled with her alleged inexperience to occupy such critical position that has very significant bearing on the pending 2017 elections.

It also appears that the wrong judgment of the President points to the appointment of the Chairperson of Ombudsman Team, former LNP Director Chris Clarence Massaquoi, who most recently was admitted into the Liberian Bar Association as Counselor of the Liberian Judicial System.

Critics have claimed that Cllr. Massaquoi is still inexperienced to handle judgments expected to arise from cases coming from complaints the Code of Conduct would prick against would-be violators.

Moreover, it is not only Massaquoi’s  alleged inexperience in the legal profession for such a delicate duty, but he has been branded as being ‘unreliable’ to pass fair judgment due to his link to Ellen Cockrum’s imbroglio  which  brought the Ellen-led administration into public dispute, coupled with his alleged bad ‘administrative practice’ at the Liberia National Police over the years.

In many political gatherings, Massaquoi is still known to be a staunch member of the ruling Unity Party whose Vice President Joseph N. Boakai is a strong contender for the presidency during the pending elections. As one observer noted, “Massquoi was issuing UP batches and other campaign materials to people when he was Commissioner of the Bureau of Immigration and Naturalization during campaign time for the 2011 elections.”

Another member of the Ombudsman Team, Atty Edward Dillon, is not off the hook of suspicion as critics focus the make-up of the team by President Sirleaf. Dillon is linked to a close tie with Cllr. Charles Brumskine who is political leader of the Liberty Party, a party President Sirleaf is being alleged of supporting for the 2017 presidency, even though this is yet to be proven.

Atty. Dillon is also seen as having a strong connection with the Liberty Party on grounds that his brother- Darius Dillon is an influential partisan of the LP; however, it is not established  the kind of correlation  to justify such claim.

Accordingly, Section 5.1 of the contentious Code of Conduct termed as an act on political participation dictates that  “all presidential” appointees such as ministers and other public officials, including those in tenure positions desirous of contesting for elected offices must resign two and three years respectively prior to elections.”

As  it stands, three opposition political  parties- Liberty Party, Movement for Economic Empowerment and Alternative National Congress whose contenders are seemed to be in violation of the Code of Conduct are fiercely resisting the legality or lawfulness of COC to bar their would-be candidates  from participating in the pending elections.

However, opinions are divided over the Code of Conduct row, as there are some Liberians who support the enforcement of the law while others have argued that the law only targets certain potential would-be candidates in the elections.

Meantime, the wave of reactions from the public including that from the House of Representatives as quoted in the News Newspaper on Wednesday, April 5, 2017, following the release of the names of members of the Ombudsman office, appears to create deepened concerns as to how and when the legal fray would be laid to rest before the conduct of the pending elections.

 

‘Lies?’- As Counterfeit Reportedly Hits New Banknotes

Central Bank Governor Milton Weeks

“The counterfeit issue is difficult to easily control. What some of the BMs do is that they travel abroad where money printing machines are and print the money. When they are coming back they buy televisions and only use the frames to conceal the counterfeits and cross borders to enter the country… The government needs sophisticated detecting instruments at entry points across the country to hunt down those involved in such business.”

Reports are emerging that the much talked about new Liberian banknotes are falling prey to counterfeit, one of the major reasons which financial experts in the Unity Party-led government defended the printing of the current banknotes in various denominations for circulation.

Those in the know of printing the Liberian currency, when the now circulated banknotes were printed and released, were quoted as justifying that the action on the part of the Central Bank of Liberia (CBL) was meant to replace the mutilated banknotes of the country with hard code security feature new banknotes.

However, already, people in the business community are said to be experiencing counterfeited hundred dollar bill of the new banknotes, thus defeating the argument about the so-called hard code security feature of the currency which authorities in the regulatory banking sector have boasted of.

“The counterfeit issue is difficult to easily control. What some of the BMs do is that they travel abroad where money printing machines are and print the money. When they are coming back they buy televisions and only use the frames to conceal the counterfeits and cross borders to enter the country,” one source who begged not to be named claimed.

The source observed that people who undertake this risky venture are mostly in the private sector, but use their connections to engage into money laundering and counterfeiting, adding, “The government needs sophisticated detecting instruments at entry points across the country to hunt down those involved in such business.”

Before then, the previous Liberian banknotes which are still in circulation had suffered mutilation and the hundred dollar bill widely counterfeited and periodically, some of the unscrupulous individuals involved in counterfeiting the money were reportedly booked in the country.

However, the new banknotes entered circulation with acceptability problem; especially when they were printed in different looks with the inclusion of a five hundred bill which members of the 53rd National legislature raised qualm against, claiming that they did not authorize authorities of the CBL to print such denomination.

Unlike  the printing of the previous  banknotes  during the regime of  Charles Taylor, which replaced the two currencies  used during the civil war ( JJ and Liberty  banknotes) in a shortest specified period of time, there has not been any indication as to when  the new banknotes would  replace the old banknotes.

Since the new banknotes came into circulation late 2016 amidst public outcries and mounting criticisms, the disparity between the United States and Liberian dollars remains widened with corresponding consequences characterized by inflation.

Currently, prices of essential commodities including food stuffs, petroleum products and transportation fares are on the increase, while vendors decry payments government owes them for goods and services already delivered.

Early this year, the business community protested peacefully for days against the advancing US rate on the money market as well as the high tariff paid for goods imported into the country at the ports of entry, particularly the Freeport of Monrovia.

Consequently, there was very little impact due to the days of protest which took place when President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf and Vice President Joseph Nyumah Boakai were out of Liberia on official duties.

It is recalled that when President Sirleaf returned, she set up a committee to dialogue with the business community to disengage the protest and by the same token, the US rate dropped slightly, but as it stands, the rate has stepped up again.

It is no illusion that the  country is faced with economic uncertainty, which the government has blamed on the fall in the prices of iron ore, rubber and other commodities on the world market, squarely  termed as ‘ recession’ that is affecting  the global economy.

 

Without Genuine Reconciliation, the 2017 General and Presidential Elections are Critically Indecisive

By: Learsi Aynebil Alis, Philadelphia, USA, April 28, 2017

For the first time in almost 4 score years, Liberia is expected to witness a transfer of power from one democratically elected government to the other. That is, incumbent President – Ellen Johnson Sirleaf- who was elected to the presidency at the 2005 and 2011 polls respectively should be turning over power to whoever is going to be elected at the polls in 2017. Whether that person is going to be the Unity Party’s Joseph N. Boakai, the Coalition for Democratic Change’s George M. Weah, the All Liberian Party’s Benoni W. Urey or the Liberty Party’s Charles W. Brumskine is anybody’s guess.

But for the ensuing reasons, Liberia faces a critical challenge of reconciliation as it swivels towards the 2017 general and presidential elections.

First, this is an election in which a governing party is seeking re-election after 12 years in power. Second, towards these elections, the retiring president admitted in her last State of the Union address that she failed in two essential areas of national governance: the achievement of reconciliation and the fight against corruption. And third, there is a general perception amongst ordinary Liberians, including a good chunk of partisans of the governing Unity Party that the outgoing president, who is either a member or an assimilado of the “congo” or “an Americo Liberian elites” is secretly supporting her fellow “congo man” or “Americo Liberian decent” against a “native man or indigenous Liberian”.

Even though the dual accused “congo people” have vehemently refuted the claims against them as contemptible, their supporters have also labeled the assertions as mere divisive politics. Some even pretend that “native – congo” politics doesn’t exist in Liberia, shouldn’t be an issue or discussed anywhere in our national conversation since political leadership and decision making in the country encompass both segments of people. Yet, the question they haven’t asked President Sirleaf is, how did she fail to reconcile Liberia after 12 years in the nation’s highest office?

Again, for the first time in many years, especially following the orchestrated killing of former President Samuel K. Doe, the Liberian nation state is in close prospect of a political aspirant with somewhat clear ‘Liberian agenda’. So, to indigenous Liberians who occupy about 80 percent of the country, Joseph N. Boakai represents their aspirations. For them, he is a true reflection of their hope to reclaiming Liberia after prolonged “Americo Liberian” rule. Even some of the “progressives” in Liberia hold secret believes that this is the closest they have come to the presidency. Some contend that VP Boakai has even demonstrated a lifestyle of patriotism by raising, schooling and maintaining his family, particularly his children in Liberia.

They further argue that their admiration for the Vice President is deeply rooted in his notion that the reconstruction and development of Liberia can truly be attained by thinking Liberia and loving it. This is why he continues to stress the need to invest into all local Liberian industries and businesses. Born in Lofa County and schooled meanly in Liberia, Joseph Boakai is accordingly a staunch champion of the view that utilizing local Liberian talents will fast forward the country’s development programs as oppose to importing expatriate Liberians from mostly the United States of America and Europe to staff the government. Who wouldn’t agree with him on this concept if that’s what he truly believes?

A risk, as witnessed in the recent past, where so-called Liberian consultants or expatriates were conveyed from the USA and Europe to ‘contribute’ to Liberia was that, all those ‘imported technocrats’ brought from overseas eventually went back to those places after they left their jobs. Some even took back with them public assets converted into personal use. Another risk was that most of them kept their families abroad, supporting them from Liberia with taxpayers’ dollars. Even now, some of them still do.

Liberia was also recently dragged into the history of it’s sad past. What appeared like the reemergence of the Tubman and Tolbert era came afloat. With one family or certain names – dominating the corridors of state power, it became apparent that this was ‘payback’ period. For instance, Antoinette Weeks – a failed Public Works Minister who now occupies a prestigious Liberian slot at ECOWAS had previously served the National Oil Company of Liberia.  Other Weeks who continue to permeate the Liberian government include, Angeline Weeks, Executive Chairperson – Liberia Telecommunications Authority, Kemmie Weeks, Board Chairman – Liberia Water and Sewer Corporation, Milton Weeks – Executive Governor, Central Bank of Liberia, Ophelia Inez Weeks – Vice President for Academic Affairs and is expected to be appointed as President of the University of Liberia soon.

Our history has proven that it is usually a national disaster when few cronies are empowered at the behest of the leader and at the expense of the masses. The results are usually disgruntlement on the part of the governed, disdain for the governors, the few elites and state parasites, and insecurity on the part of the leader who may seek to use obscured means to either stay perpetually in power or groom and or support a surrogate to replace him or her. This is usually a protection – exit strategy.  No wonder why after almost a decade in office, the President could admit openly that she failed in the corruption fight. It cannot be disputed that nepotism is corruption since Article 5 of the Liberian constitution says so.

Could the scenario being speculated by the Liberia people be something to believe? Is it that the Liberian people are unhappy with the President’s judgment to repeatedly appoint her family members and the Weeks to strategic positions in government? Could it also be that the Liberia people have observed that to protect her hegemony, President Sirleaf is now scheming against her Vice President to prefer opposition Liberty Party’s Charles W. Brumskine who she perceives could shield her after she steps down?

Again, whether these opinions are true or not, they promise to have a fundamental sway on the voting attitude of ordinary Liberians. This is why my crystal ball tells me that without genuine reconciliation, the 2017 general and presidential elections are critically indecisive and may pose a threat to peaceful transition of power in Liberia thus undermining our fragile democracy.

Early warnings in these fashions could help avert conflict. President Sirleaf must take note and act logically if her legacy at home is to be protected. Vague admittance to failure to reconcile Liberia is not enough. She must make a choice, leapfrog from her fear vault and take some calm headed, yet drastic and unorthodox decisions gear towards brooking genuine reconciliation in the country before the 2017 polls.