Safeguarding Liberia?s Peace & Democracy


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In recent years, Liberia has been striving to strengthen and consolidate its hard-won peace. The country has also been striving for democratic governance which includes, among others, the rule of law, accountability, transparency and fiscal probity. In the past, the governance of the country sadly left much to be desired, as many of those who were catapulted into state power, disappointingly opted to work not for the benefit t of the country but for their own pecuniary gains. Indeed, many past ruling elites and their loyalists employed multiple tactics, such as marginalization and exclusion of the vast majority of the citizenry, in the process of governing the country. Rampant corruption, threats, intimidation and other vices were also the hallmarks of the country’s past ruling elites. For more than a century, they generally created and operated a system of governance, which, by all accounts, was characterized by dictatorial acts of tyranny, as anyone with opposing views regarding state policies and programs (no matter how germane such views were) was considered as an enemy of the state and treated as such. This non-inclusive stance has not only contributed enormously to the nation’s socioeconomic underdevelopment and backwardness, but also effectively led the country towards massive internal dissent that in December 1989 exploded into a bloody armed conflict with disastrous consequences. An estimated 150,000 people, predominantely the elderly women, and children were killed, and more than a million others were internally and externally displaced. It worth noting that during the brutal confl ict, Liberia was effectively reduced to the sorry state of being considered as the “problem child” of West Africa. Globally, it was labeled as a “pariah” or “rogue state,” meaning its conduct, as a nation, was considered to be out of line with international norms of behavior. Consequently, the country was subjected to isolation and sanctions by not only the United Nations but also some of the world’s most powerful and infl uential countries including the United States, Britain, France, among many others. However, the end of the dreadful war chapter of the country’s history and its current transition towards peace, democracy and development are based on the invaluable assistance of the international community including the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), the then Organization of African Unity (OAU), now reorganized as the African Union (AU), and the United Nations, among others. Frankly, without the fi nancial and logistical support of the global community as well as capacity development programs for government, civil society and other peace and prodemocracy institutions, Liberia would not have had the current peace and democracy that it enjoys. The essence of such massive international goodwill towards Liberia after the end of its bloody war was not based on mere fondness for individual Liberian offi cials and politicians but was a response to the resolve of the entire nation not to repeat those acts that sadly plunged the country into anarchy and bloodshed. Indeed, it was expected, and is still expected of the country’s new leadership, headed by President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf to snub practices such as corruption,favoritism, nepotism, selective justice, political  discrimination, abuse of public offi ces, among others that have the potential to place new impediments to the reconstruction of the country and undermine its fl edgling democracy. In recent times, there have been mounting protests from many quarters of Liberian society that some of these vices are raising their ugly heads, with blame on the Johnson-Sirleaf administration that it has been adopting lackluster approaches in addressing these concerns no matter how legitimate some may be. This is why I am challenging the current Liberian administration to listen to the cries of the people and take more pro-active measures in response to the growing concerns. The government must take serious measures aimed at the sustenance of the Liberian peace and democratic process by its deeds and not words alone. One way of doing this is to encourage the participation of the citizenry in the national governance process. For instance, appointments of state offi cials should be based on competence and experience and not based on mere political connections, and other kinds of favoritism including nepotism which are inimical to good governance. Another way of consolidating the Liberian peace is to sustain and expand on the provision of educational and economic opportunities for the benefi t of the citizenry in both urban and rural communities. Liberians generally need capacity building and empowerment in all spheres of development by the government and its development partners to improve, for better, their current appalling living standards occasioned by the biting economic hardships in the country. To put it bluntly, the enjoyment of basic social services should not be the exclusive reserved of a privileged few in government at the disadvantage of the vast majority of the citizenry. It is an undeniable fact that today some of the basic social services such as pure and safe drinking water, electricity, among others are being enjoyed by a handful of selected communities in the city of Monrovia and its environs while a huge number of other communities ironically do not have access to such services. Such a situation, to say the least, is not only disgusting but also troubling. The fact is that the armed confl ict that spanned over a decade and effectively brought the Liberian State to its knees was primarily caused, among others, by the miserable failure of succeeding ruling political establishments in ensuring that all Liberian citizens, no matter their political, ethnic, sectional and other backgrounds, were entitled to equal access to the enjoyment of the nation’s precious wealth. We should not go back to the ugly past of vast, gaping inequalities by our deeds as a nation and people.

 

 

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