Calls on Incoming Leadership to Convene National Conference of Citizens at Home and Abroad to Fix Liberia
J. Rudolph Johnson, former Liberian Minister of Foreign Affairs, broke his silence on Saturday, October 7, when he called upon the incoming government of Liberia to consider organizing and convening as soon as possible a National Conference of Liberians from all walks of life and from all parts of the world.
Addressing the 2017 Conference of the National Association of Cape Mountainians in the Americas in Columbus, Ohio, Mr. Johnson observed that Liberia was currently facing three major crises, which needed to be addressed and resolved at once to get the country moving on a solid path to sustainable peace and development.
Liberia’s identity crisis, moral decay, and incompetent and corrupt leadership, he stated, were mainly responsible for the country having now become the fourth poorest in the world and one of the most corrupt in Africa.
In an hour-long discourse, Mr. Johnson, who during 2005 presidential elections served as running mate to George M. Weah of the Congress for Democratic Change, regretted the fact that after all these years, Liberians still did not seem to be a united people with a common destiny. He also decried the moral breakdown in religious institutions, state, and society, as reflected in Liberia’s current high crime rate, ranging from child abuse and rape to armed robbery and human sacrifice.
Regarding the leadership crisis, he blamed ECOWAS and the International Contact Group on Liberia for mishandling the end of the 2003 Accra Peace Conference by ill-advisedly conferring power on the warlords and their accomplices whom they saw as the key stakeholders of Liberia.
He also took the peace brokers to task for claiming the 2005 election “free, fair, and transparent,” for then pressuring George Weah to abandon his challenge of the election result, and for finally declaring Charles Taylor’s cohort and chief financial backer, Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, as winner of the presidency.
Mr. Johnson said the new regime inaugurated in 2006 “was not a messiah coming to save, unite, and rebuild Liberia, but a fox that was put in charge of the hen house, with deadly consequences for the Liberian people. Taking the support of the international community as a license to pillage and plunder with impunity, they proceeded to install a governing contraption consisting of family, cronies, business partners, and lackeys.”
Minister Johnson believed much of the leadership problems could have been avoided had the Liberians in the Diaspora been more active in the Liberian peace process. In this regard, he criticized Liberian county associations in the American Diaspora for failing to unite “under one umbrella” to enable them “think with one mind and speak with one voice.”
He further lamented that because the thousands of Liberian intellectuals, technicians and other professionals in the Diaspora had not placed themselves in a position to play any role, much less a decisive one, at the final Peace Conference in Accra, the international community ignored them altogether and went with the warlords and their accomplices.
Invoking the wisdom of three philosophers (Descartes, “I think therefore I am”; Bergson, “think like men of action and act like men of thought”; and St. Anselm, on exercising our God-given freedom of choice), Ambassador Johnson called on the incoming government to convene a national conference as soon as possible for what he called a “constructive dialogue” on ways to address the problems facing the nation.
Such a conference, he said, should be attended by Liberians from all walks of life and from all parts of the world, and should be designed to draw up an ambitious agenda for the creation of a new united republic, committed to securing the best interest and welfare of all Liberians.
Provisional topics for discussion and critical issues for decision at the proposed national conference, he suggested, may include the following: To define and establish a unique composite Liberian identity (including matters of culture, arts and symbolism), with a view to ending all tribal, ethnic, Congo-Country conflicts, and to guarantee all Liberians the full enjoyment of their rights as citizens and not as foreigners in their own land; to devise concrete ways of repairing the broken moral fabric of Liberia, requiring all Liberian families and institutions (schools, churches, mosques, governmental organizations, etc.) to participate in such a venture, starting with the leaders of church, state, and society, since the fish starts rotting from the head; to review and assess the stewardship of past administrations, especially the most recent, to hold them accountable for any wrongdoings and to avoid repeating their crimes of commission and omission. In this regard, also devise new ways of choosing national leaders by requiring, inter alia, concrete evidence of their moral integrity, citizenship, academic qualifications and life experiences, to confirm their readiness to properly manage the affairs of the Republic; and to study and evaluate the efficacy of our current political and economic systems and determine what changes should be made to better meet the needs of the people in the rural areas.
In conclusion, Minister J. Rudolph Johnson declared, “Indeed, my friends, we can do this. We can fix our country, not having to wait for others to do it for us. The Americans, Chinese, Europeans, Arabs, Jews, even the Nigerians, and Ghanaians are sick and tired of our excessive dependency. So let us wake up now and see the light. It is time to do the right thing for our children and grandchildren. Our people are waiting and the whole world is watching. What shall we do?”