-At Independence Day Celebrations
Liberia’s Minister of Foreign Affairs, Gbehzohngar M. Findley was on Friday July 26 disappointed in junior government’s officials for refusal to vacate their seats to allow foreign dignitaries to be seated.
This time around, it was evidently clear protocols had no sitting arrangement for dignitaries that were invited—thus constraining Minister of Foreign Affairs, Gbehzohngar M. Findley, to get involved.
Unfortunately, the country’s chief diplomat had no idea what was awaiting him when he thought to create space to accommodate the foreign dignitaries and their respective entourages who had come to celebrate with the President of Liberia on the auspicious occasion.
Mr. Findley took the podium to call out deputy ministers, as well as heads of agencies and commissions to leave the platform, where they should not have been in the first place, in order for the guests to have seating.
Sadly, his initial calls fell on deaf ears as those officials refused to give up their seats after several calls.
After over ten minutes, when the program had come to a halt, a visibly frustrated Findley had to resort to name-calling before some of the officials, including Deputy Foreign Minister Boima Fahnbulleh, decided to leave.
At the celebrations, held at the Samuel Kanyon Doe Sports Complex in Paynesville City, Minister Findley called on the junior officials to vacate the seats to enable the foreign heads of state’ guests to be seated but was greeted with refusal by the officials.
“Deputy Ministers, heads of agencies and commissions, please leave the seats for our guests. Only senior officials should be seated here,” Findley repeatedly said, each time with increasing firmness in his tone after protocols had failed to remove junior officials from the seats.
By name, Minister Findley also Celia Cuffy Brown, Managing Director of the National Housing Authority (NHA) and others to vacate the seats and but were seen sitting with no regard to Mr. Findley and the visiting guests.
Cuffy-Brown, a supporter of the former ruling Unity Party (UP) crossed carpet to the leading opposition political party in the latter stages of the 2017 elections campaign. She also served as acting Managing Director of the National Port Authority prior to the appointment of Bill Twehway as managing director by President George M. Weah.
“Since you don’t want to respect your foreign Minister, you people should just be seated,” Minister Findley continued as the guests kept pouring into the VIP section where several West African presidents were also seated, while awaiting the commencement of the celebration.
Sadly, foreign dignitaries, West African Leaders, including President Muhammadu Buhari of Nigeria, President Alassane Dramane Ouattara of Ivory Coast, President Alpha Conde of Guinea, President Julius Maada Bio and the First Lady Madam Fatima Bio of Sierra Leone, President Macky Sall of Senegal and President of Roch Marc Christian Kaboré of Burkina Faso.
The president of the African Development Bank – Dr. Akinwumi Adesina, was also attended this year’s Independence Day celebration along with other partners.
Without knowing it, the apparent dereliction of duty by those public officials toward the directive of the Foreign Minister was a foreshadowing of chiding remarks to be delivered just moments later by the National Independence Day Orator, 2011 Nobel Peace Laureate, Leymah Roberta Gbowee.
In her speech, Madam Gbowee drew direct correlations between the choice of unqualified and underperforming political appointees and the failure of the state. She noted that political appointments within the ‘Ruling Position’ (the ruling party) have rarely much to do with merit, skill, virtuosity or accomplishment, but rather a person’s ability to sing the political anthem of the day. And that their idea of service is more of self-service than public service.
“The Ruling Position often has misplaced priorities. Their development agenda is nicely written on paper but implementation is basically their private projects,” Gbowee argued.
“The Ruling Position,” she said, “gives rewards not on the basis on excellence but on the basis of who can denigrate their opponent the most on social media and other platforms. This creates a culture among our young people that competence and education are not necessary tools for ascending to any position.”
As the frustrated Foreign Minister gave up trying to convince his subordinates to be courteous and hospitable to their foreign guests, the situation reached the attention of Bomi County District #1 Representative Edwin Melvin Snowe, who immediately took control by removing junior officials from their seats. Rep. Snowe, a member of the opposition who appears to have the ear of the President, succeeded in removing some of the officials and immediately replaced them with the guests.
This year’s Independence Day Celebration was held under the theme: “Together We Are Stronger,” which was described by Gbowee as befitting for times that Liberians find themselves in.
But Liberia Chief of Protocol, Javis Witherspoon through a mobile conversation told the Daily Observer that there is no struggle in doing his protocol work.
“We made the announced earlier, which was reinforced by the Minister of Foreign Findley. We work closely together and there is nothing happening,” Mr. Witherspoon said.