The founder of the Forum for Societal Change in Liberia, Clemenceau Urey, has outlined a number of measures that can sustain lasting peace and prosperity in Liberia. Mr. Urey’s article, the full text of which was published in the Daily Observer newspaper earlier this week, was delivered recently at the William V.S Tubman Memorial High School in Monrovia. The article was directed at stimulating the thinking and conscience of Liberian politicians, policymakers and ordinary citizens on their collective responsibility for the country’s governance system.
According to Urey, for Liberia to attain lasting peace and prosperity, there must be robust actions for economic and social transformation on the part of successive governments. “As we Liberians move to transition to a new administration through what we hope will be free, fair and peaceful elections, it is expected that the incoming government will be radically different from the previous ones, in that it will adopt a new approach to governance which will yield better results in meeting the economic, social and developmental needs of the Liberian people,” he said. “Therefore, we, the members of the Forum for Societal Change, have decided to produce this article.” The article is entitled, “The path to building and sustaining lasting peace and prosperity in Liberia.”
According to Urey, critical to the sustenance of lasting peace and prosperity are agriculture, tribal politics, reconciliation, promoting economic and social justice, and pension benefits for civil servants.
Liberia’s agricultural sector employs 67 percent of the country’s population, but is yet to attract employment opportunities for the majority of the citizens, particularly the youth. Mr. Urey described the high unemployment rate among the youth as a threat to national security, and urged that successive governments see agriculture as one area to create more jobs for young people. “No country can be stable if the youth which constitute the majority of the population is not well engaged and without hope for a bright future. A high rate of unemployment exists among those who have completed secondary school and obtained their first degrees. Therefore, those responsible for youth affairs must be challenged and given the means to develop the appropriate policies, legislation and programs for the youth. Agriculture can be another immediate goal of the new government for the will to tackle the expansion of our economic base and the creation of job opportunities,” he declared.
Liberia, he added, must become a mechanized and commercial oriented agriculture country to further develop the economy and attract more youth to the sector.
The country’s reconciliation process is still a challenge. Mr. Urey said there is a need for Liberians to forget the past and forge ahead with national development. “Progress and development cannot be achieved in the midst of divisiveness. If we want development and progress, we must be prepared to forget the past. We must forget whatever wrongs were committed or received by individuals or groups. We must learn from history and avoid the repetition of such acts that create resentment and be prepared to forgive and unite as a people in favor of development and progress. It also involves surveying the horizon on a continuing basis to identify emerging issues of concern and tension between the citizens and the government, or among the citizens, with the view to addressing or reconciling them in time. It may involve utilizing the services of peace building institutions, religious institutions and other bodies to promote reconciliation. It may also involve promoting civic education in schools and the media to promote togetherness, oneness, the sense of common destiny, and utilizing national holidays to develop and implement national programs and events, rather than using them as days of relaxation and fun on the beach or at beer stands. It also involves institutionalizing the transition process where free, fair and peaceful elections are held on a timely basis as required. It involves the elected government of the day maintaining a balance between partisanship, inclusiveness and professionalism. It involves the government pursuing truly national policies that promote the interest of all partisans and non-partisans alike.
Promoting Economic and Social Justice
If lasting peace and prosperity are to be achieved by successive governments, Urey said the country’s national budget must be revisited to address priority areas like education, health, agriculture and infrastructure. “The social contract between the Governor and the governed must be pursued and honored in a satisfactory manner if lasting peace and prosperity are to be achieved; and it must begin with the national budget decision-making process. We must reorder our priorities in the budget process. We expect to see a difference in the 2018 National Budget. Let us begin with delivering, supporting and improving priority services such as healthcare, education, agriculture, infrastructure – constructing and maintaining farm to market roads and other major road networks. We must allocate budgetary expenses for these items based on best practices, and nothing else. Let’s talk briefly about delivering needed services to the people with specific reference to providing a public transportation system in the Monrovia area.
Regarding tribal politics, Mr. Urey said that such a practice has the propensity to undermine the gains of the country. “Extreme loyalty to the group from which one shares a common language and custom such that one is prepared to overlook all other considerations and prefer individuals falling in this group for benefits and opportunities, such practice breeds resentment, undermines peace and hinders productivity, professionalism, development and progress. Therefore, the practice of openness should be encouraged by all who are opportune to hold a position of trust in all governmental and non-governmental organizations, even religious institutions,” he said.
The Liberian social advocate concluded by calling on successive governments to award civil servants on the basis of their diligent services toward the nation. “All civil servants are not indisciplined, lazy and lacking in integrity. There are many civil servants who spend the better portion of their lives rendering valuable services to the nation with integrity and it is disheartening to see such individuals living indecent and indigent lives after retirement, earning amounts such as L$1,500, which is less than US$20. We wish to urge the incoming government to make it a policy to bring all retired civil servants under the national pension plan and pay pension premiums on time to keep the fund liquid so that retired civil servants who have served their country well during the prime of their lives can live in retirement with some dignity and respect,” he said.