‘Liberians Behave Like Morticians’

Augustine Kpehe Ngafuan

“A good number of Liberians behave like morticians and treat their country as a corpse that does not have any sense of feeling, (and) therefore can just be chopped up left, right and center like a mortician will chop up a corpse in the mortuary,” former Foreign Affairs Minister Augustine Ngafuan has said.

According to Ngafuan, “Liberia is treated like an orphan who does not have parents, a mother who does not have children, or a street urchin who is neglected by friends.”

He spoke on Tuesday at the University of Liberia Graduate Program in Monrovia.

He urged the honors students to be the parents to that orphan child, and the children to that childless mother called Liberia. He challenged them to feel for and stand up for their motherland no matter what anyone says or does. “If stand up for Liberia or feeling for Liberia makes you to be called stupid or ‘gbelleh,’ then feel proud to stand up for Liberia to be called those names.”

The former Finance Minister spoke extensively on corruption, where he said in today’s Liberia, there is a depressing reality of contradictions that exist between people’s rhetoric and their actions vis-à-vis the fight against corruption, and that the public’s rhetoric and its action often move in opposite directions. On the one thing, he observed that the generality of the Liberian people are very vociferous in condemning corruption; however, many of the Liberians who he claimed condemn corruption are surprisingly not prepared to make the sacrifices or to take the right actions or decisions that will ensure that corruption is minimized.

“How can we in one breath condemn corruption and in another celebrate peace and vilify good people? How can we say we are against corruption and at the same time tarnish the reputation of those who refuse to loot the public coffers to meet our unreasonable demands?” Ngafuan, who once served as Minister of Finance, asked the gathering.

It is precisely because of these contradictions, Ngafuan asserted, “that I once stated that most Liberians, no matter what they profess do not have the fundamental problem with corruption. In Liberia whether a corrupt act is considered good or bad depends on who benefits from the fruit of the corruption.”

“If a typical Liberian benefits from the generosity of a corrupt individual,” he declared, “that individual is not considered a thief, but rather, a good man, a savior. As unfortunate as it is, corruption per se is not considered bad by many Liberians, instead it is the manner of allocation of the fruit of corruption that many actually have a problem with.”

Ngafuan then reflected on the days of the notorious criminal Jimmy Ringo who resided on Terminal Island in Monrovia with his gang of robbers. He robbed rich people and shared his loot with residents of the community.

In Liberia today, he said, the Jimmy Ringo phenomenon is playing itself out. On a daily basis, in many sectors and on many levels, what is considered wrong by some, is considered right by others just because they personally benefit from the wrong. “You may call an individual a thief, wrong doer or exploiter, but like Jimmy Ringo, there are many ‘Terminal Islands’ around the country where that thief or wrong doer and exploiter is considered a hero.”

To highlight the current phenomenon, Ngafuan then quoted portion of a speech he delivered in April 2010 at a program organized by campus-based Students Unification Party (SUP): “These corrupt individuals that clad themselves in cloaks of benevolence create a vicious cycle of poverty. Given the opportunity to be fair to the country, they act unfairly; given the opportunity to be true to the country, they act falsely. The net effect of their actions is to throw more people in poverty, people whose children will then depend on their false and filthy generosity to continue in school.

“They cut your legs and bring artificial legs to you, knowing that you are not sophisticated enough to link your need for an artificial limb to their wickedness, and so you become overly grateful for their favors, and in your kindness you give them what they want, your political support. In short this is the way they wash their dirty money.”

Giving to the poor of their choice for selfish and political reasons, Ngafuan said these corrupt people compound the poverty of the nation as a whole, which according to him is nothing but money laundering.

“Men and women of honors understand these realities and refuse to do good for a few at the expense of the state or others. Robin Hood was a robber who took from the rich and gave to the poor, so was Jimmy Ringo; but in spite of their unholy generosity to some people, the two were robbers.

“So as tempting as it may sometimes appear, men and women of honor cannot behave like Robin Hood or Jimmy Ringo, but must behave like statesmen and stateswomen,” he added.


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