‘Liberia’s Democracy Still Under Threat’ – Kofi Woods

Atty. Sam Kofi Woods described forests as of vital importance for the livelihood of millions of West Africans and that they provide key ecosystem services of local and global importance.

“Educated people and intellectuals did not fail Liberia; greedy and selfish individuals did.”

Renowned Liberian Human Rights Activist and former Minister of Labor, Atty. Samuel Kofi Woods, has said that Liberia’s democracy is still vulnerable and constantly threatened by leadership deficits which have  plagued the nation. In spite of criticisms of this view, Woods said, “I held that to be true (in the past) and do so now.”

The Judiciary As a Beacon of Hope

With the growing tension and discontent provoked by the electoral impasse emanating from the recent October 10 presidential and legislative elections currently before the Supreme Court, Atty. Woods declared that the only hope for the country now lies with the highest court.

“Our hope ultimately lies in our judiciary, which must now redeem our country. God give us men and women whose integrity will be unblemished, whose love for the nation will be tested and whose faith in you will lead them to give purpose and meaning of their existence,” he implored.

He urged Liberians to respect the rule of law. The pursuit of no man’s ambition is worth a drop of human blood,” he cautioned.

Speaking at the induction ceremony for officers of the Liberia Federation of Labor Unions yesterday in Monrovia, Atty. Woods said, “After years of elusive peace, tenuous transitional justice (the Truth and Reconciliation process) and cosmetic national reconciliation, our attempt to consolidate our democratic credentials is under threat because we failed to properly reform our institutions.”

Officials-elect of the Liberia Federation of Labor Unions being being inducted into office

“Educated people and intellectuals did not fail Liberia. It is greedy and selfish individuals who did. Educated or not, if you have no values, no integrity and no love for country, it will make no difference, Woods declared. “The value we place on materialism and wealth corrupts us and denies our nation of what it deserves,” he pointed out apparently making the case against ascribing blame along tribal and other divisions in the Liberian society.

Woods warned that Liberia cannot continue to be a problem child in the ECOWAS region and on the African continent. “We must grow up and become responsible adults taking care of each other and building our nation,” he counseled.

“No leader however patriotic will save our country individually. It will be our collective will to reform, love for one another and love for country,” Woods admonished.

He observed that “We undermine our institutions and compromise them. We use them for personal rather than collective ends,” urging, “We must serve our government because in service to government we perform the highest moral responsibility. However, this must be done with the highest degree of commitment and integrity. Government is often seen as the center for exploitation and ill-gotten wealth.”

“People’s desperation is not to serve but to acquire wealth at the sufferings and agony of our people. This is also true for our various organizations. Our reference to leadership deficit is not limited to the Presidency but at all levels of society: our family, religious institutions, professional bodies, etc.,” Woods stated.

“My fellow compatriots, the complexities our nation face will not require cosmetic solutions,” he said, noting that it requires radical and deliberate attempts to fulfill the ideals of nationhood. “It will lie in a responsible leadership not led by those in the shadows.

He said Liberians have failed to build strong and viable institutions because “we continue to glorify personalities. Our political, social and economic institutions have become small cartels of motley individuals whose sole purpose is to exploit our people and abuse their innocence.”

Woods boasted that he left government unblemished. “I served in two capacities in government and I challenge all and sundry about my stewardship. I am on record as the only living Minister whose term at the Ministry of Public Works was audited twice and yet stand tall without any scar of abuse of the public trust.”

He said, “I have the patience and time not to be confronted by gossips and rumors but facts and evidence that can be contested in the proper forum deemed by law.”

Liberia’s problem, he said, is being compounded by new elements of tribal and group affiliations rather than the quality and value of the character. “Honest men and women have become enemies of the state. Here lies the Liberian Problem and here lies the problem of organized labor in Liberia.

On The Economic Front

On the economic front, Woods said people depend on work to fulfill their need for income to better their lives and the lives of their families, to escape poverty, ignorance, and disease, enjoy recreation and achieve status. Work also involves the production or creation of things that make life better and more fulfilling.

“This is why we insisted on the need to review our labor laws and provide decency in the workplace. This is why social dialogue among workers, government, and employers remain a viable vehicle for progress.

“It is my thesis that workers in Liberia continue to suffer the wrath of poverty and treated with a large measure of disdain because we have failed to organize because we have refused to come together into strong labor movements rather than small, briefcase labor organizations. We cannot have the force and effect necessary to transform the sector and make workers proud if we do not unite and organize.”

Directing attention to the new officials of the Liberia Federation of Labor Union, Woods told them that no government however responsive, no minister however patriotic can offer them the dignity they deserve. “It is by organizing and building institutions larger than yourself and your ego that will provide you the freedom and dignity you deserve.”

He gave a brief history of the formation of Labor Unions in the United States, Nigeria, and others and encouraged the new leaders to avoid petty jealousies, infighting, and internal conflict, to realize their potential as an economic force to make a difference in political issues in the future.

Woods said “When we organize, we build power and we put ourselves in a better position to get what we want. A renowned union organizer once defined a union as a group of workers coming together to use their power in numbers to make their employers do what the employer would otherwise not do. If we agree that organizing gives us power then it is a no-brainer that WE MUST ORGANIZE, for our economic survival, the preservation of our dignity as human beings, our health, and safety on the job. Our future depends on organizing.”

Inducting the officers, Mr. Emmett Crayton, assistant minister for the Trade Union & Social Dialogue at the Ministry of Labor, called for working relations with the government to ensure substantive success for the Union. He encouraged them to work together to realize their objectives.

President Alfred B. Z. Summerville pledged his administration’s preparedness to work harder to ensure that the objectives of the Union are realized. He called on members to live up to their commitments to the Union and warned that there will be no handbag unions as members. He spoke briefly about his interactions across West Africa with Labor Unions in Ghana, Nigeria, Senegal and warned that his administration will do things differently to bring progress.


  1. Thank you, Mr. Woods. Liberia needs unimpeachable characters of people like you, Fahnbulleh, Gongoloe, Alaric, Flomoyan to effect the much needed change we yearn for that country. Hopefully a Boakai victory in the pending election will provide that opportunity once again.

  2. “Educated people and intellectuals did not fail Liberia. It is greedy and selfish individuals who did. Educated or not, if you have no values, no integrity and no love for country, it will make no difference, Woods declared. “The value we place on materialism and wealth corrupts us and denies our nation of what it deserves,”

    Thank you Cllr Woods!!

  3. May I introduce my working relationship with the Justice and Peace Commission of Liberia, a successful and worth noting experience as Chairman of Buchanan, Grand Bassa County Region, ( Nathan Onumah as Vice Chairman).
    Atty, while it is true in my acknowledgement of your sentiments, it should also be considered that Liberia is an independent country, with a culture and traditional practice. A custom that the world had come to recognize and benchmark in the globalisation process. I have the most respect for our judicial system, as compare to the misconceptions, innuendos, and conundrums of others.

    Liberia became the first independent Republic on the African Continent because of her intellectual power. Hence she will continue in the vanguard of leadership. Our Supreme Court will guard us in this respect and we should honor their decision, being cognizant of the fact that they are more informed as custodians of the local and international laws, and a branch of the very government they choose to keep.
    Augustine Series Nagbe (C++)

    • Liberia has become the laughing stock of the world. Other African countries cannot believe that we cannot have one election without conflict or run off. What world is recognizing us as the vanguard of leadership?

      • Moses, the reason why we do not have one election is that (people at the NEC have never follow the rules that they set up). Take for example one part of t he rules states t hat every political party should have headquarters in every county-check and see if that is happening, so every Tom gets up with couples of people and register a party as a result we will always have 20-30 party come election time.

        • Ooh Mr. Johnson, you took the words out of my mouth. I have been trying to get an answer Why the NEC would allow any piece of crap to register as a political party and contest the presidency. This is a complete failure on NEC.

  4. Educated people are the back bone for civil society, and the building of a stronger and reliable nation. Unfortunately, for us in Liberia, it is the opposite. “OUR EDUCATED PEOPLE” are so d…..m selfish and greedy, that they have made themselves so low like sick “puppies” who can settle for any thing for survival.

    I m not against any educated person, there are some who have values, however; the vast majority of our EDUCATED have “A GRAB AND GO” attitude. Those mentioned by Mr. Snyder are no different from corrupt and selfish, greedy bunch of ANARCHIST. Case in point, during the 1985 Thomas Quwionkpa coup. The group that were trained in Sierra Leone were split in 2. The NPF (National Patriotic Force) led by Quwionkpa, and another inside group led by Henry B. Fahnbulleh. ( I supposed it is the Fahnbulleh Mr. Snyder is recommending ).

    Leader crisis broke up in the rank and file of the group. Mr. Fahnbulleh wanting power as much as Anthony Mcqwee, could not agree upon the main leader who will control the men that will enter Liberia. Inside fighting grew to the point that Qwuionkpa Field General was killed by Fahnbulleh men. Qwuiwonkpa; not fully known what is going on while in Monrovia, announced the captured of Doe on ELBC Radio.

    This is the work of some of our educated men. Forming alliances with military thugs to take state power.
    An educated individual will accept a violence means to solve problem as the last result, when all other options have been put first. OUR EDUCATED MEN ARE NOTED FOR RUNNING AWAY, GOING INTO EXILE ….COMING BACK AS THUGS, WHEN THEIR WASTING TERRO ON US.

    We are looking up them to live up to their creed, as EDUCATED MEN.
    I love educated People,….not some of the brand we have in LIBERIA

  5. Mr. Flomo, they called us REBEL and WEAH SUPPORTERS when ever we make a point on this block. But I say to you brother, your writings are exactly what had taken place in Liberia in the last 37 years.

    We all love civil society, as well as law abiding environment. You may call them the left, right or centrist……on and on. They are using the pharse “EDUCATED PEOPLE” to labeled their opponent whenever things do not go their way.

    Have the “EDUCATED” thugs ever work together in the interest of Liberia? Non of them trust the other. They put their interest first, before Liberia. If anyone of them was the head of CDC in 2005 and 2011, they would have run away gone in exile and regroup, come back with TERROR on the Liberian people.

    A section of them cannot accept defeat and give Liberian a peacefull environment.

    ECOWAS and the INTERNATIONAL COMMUNITY need to build an ADULT DAY CARE CENTER that will caters to the need of our loosing EDUCATED PEOPLE. Checking in and EVALUATION, should be a “MUST”….after ever major contested election.

  6. Exactly. “Yes, we are aware of the persistent cry that education has failed our nation. Far from it. Education has not failed us. Rather, education has been circumvented, reconfigured and replaced by cronyism and nepotism under the guise of education in this government. Friendship and family ties bought you a place in the circle of power. We have clerks returning home to take up jobs as managers of corporations, Walmart greeters being assigned to some of the nation’s high offices and security guards being given positions of CEOs. We have some of our people returning home and behaving as if by simply crossing the ocean, they have forgotten how to say thank you, please, or even how to drive! We have people returning with dubious degrees given jobs where they are totally out of their depths. That is why those at home equate education with incompetence and arrogance. Education in its truest and purest form never fails.” Quote from the article by Jackie Sayegh (In Defense of Education)

  7. I usually ask myself if Liberians can distinguish between formal education and leadership. This brings me to the 1980 Coup d’état that brought Samuel K. Doe to power. When this political novice (Doe) bulldozed his way by the barrel of the gun to take state power, he turned to our so-called best formal educated people at the time. These were the same people who said they knew the solution to Liberia’s problems at the time and they were to import 100lbs of rice to Liberia and be sold at $9.00 a bag. They were organizing rallies to discredit William R. Tolbert for all the gains he made. Doe freed most of our book people and gave them positions. I mean the late Barcus Matthews went to ministry of foreign affairs, H. Boimah Fahbulleh- education, Tokpa Nah Tipoteh ministry of economic affairs, Oscar Quiah internal affairs — just to name a few. Some of you who do not know these personalities, they were political heavy weight when I was in high school in Liberia. Whenever they spoke, they move you like Charles Taylor who could move a reindeer into a lion. If only formal educated people would have been the solution to Liberia’s problems, it would had been solved in 1980. But soon after they got in, in-fighting blinded them and within 3 years, the pay system in Liberia was in shamble. Government employees could not get their pay on time. I laid the blame to the feet our economic czar at the time Mr. Tipoteh. The 100lbs bag never sold at $9.00 as promised. I blame that on Barcus Matthews.
    Why am I saying all these rubbish? I am saying all these things because being formally educated cannot equate to better leadership. It just like saying George Weah could become a good soccer coach. Let elect our leaders based on their characters and how they have been solving problems in their life time. How fair they have been resolving disputes with no corrupt practices or taking sides. What they have been doing to help a group of people while they were not in power. How do they relate to the common Liberian.
    I am not a politician but I have lived enough and have observed what I think selecting a leader should be based on. Not oh, this man knows book or oh this man doesn’t know book; this man is a country man or this man in congau. Let us go beyond this kind of mindset, otherwise we will be selecting the wrong person as our leader just as in the Case of the great United States. Just my thought.

    • Guawon, I was so tempted and anxious to respond to the piece you posted above, not until I read your own description it as “rubbish,” then I realized there was no need to pursue such a self-described junk any further. I admire your honesty and self-criticism in that regard. You exhibit some rare qualities. Thank you for being so honest with yourself and us too.

  8. Personally, I am not a Weah supporter at all. But, I am not an enemy of his either. If he wins, I will have no recourse but to accept him as president of Liberia.

    What Liberians of goodwill ought to be doing at this critical time is to tell all friends of theirs to vote Boakai. Peroid! Weah’s supporters are dead set on Weah. No amount of wisdom makes them to reconsider their decision, none whatsoever!

    How in the world could supporters of a candidate say that education is unimportant?
    That’s messed up. It is a bogus claim. Sadly, that’s what we are being told by Weah supporters. When Charles Taylor ran for the presidency, chants and echoes of Taylor’s supporters went like this…….”we will vote for you yah. Whether you kill my mama or my daddy, we will vote for you.”

    In this year’s election process, similar chants and echoes reverberate loudly. Weah’s supporters unashamedly tell us “we don’t care about too much book. En y’all used to say Ellen was an educated person. Wha her education brought to Liberia? We don waun to talk tha y’all book thin”. Wow!

    Well, the very group of people who voted Taylor in are back at work. We are being told that Weah will do a good job whether he’s educated or not.
    I ask this…..when you guys demonstrated about Taylor’s capabilities , what happened? Did Taylor create jobs? Did he improve the quality of lives of the Liberian people? Where is he now? They will not respond.

    Similarly, questions must be asked of Weah’s supporters. But first a reminder. Weah ran for the position of a senator against the son of a sitting president, Johnson-Sirleaf. Weah won overwhelmingly! The Montserrado county voters were intimidated, but the strategy of intimadation boomeranged in Sirleaf’s face.

    Weah’s supporters do not want to talk about education and its significance. Not at all. So I will not go there. So where do I go now?
    What are “some” of Weah’s signature accomplishments as a sitting senator? What are his legislative achievements?
    Answers please.

    Few of Weah’s supporters are actively engaged on this blog. When the question is often asked, his supporters skip around and pray that this issue flies away in the mud. But that will not happen. No way.
    Since y’all want Weah, what are some of his legislative achievements?
    Answers please.

  9. “We undermine our institutions and compromise them.” Well said Hon. Woods. As always, I admire your courage, something you have constantly displayed over the years.

    Sadly, I am not sure if there are credible institutions in today’s Liberia. Most times what one sees are individuals masquerading as institutions. Consequently, when these individuals leave the the scenes, the so-called institutions collapsed. Liberia’s history is littered with obituaries of these “institutions”. I only hope and pray Liberia and Liberians listen to your stately statements.

  10. Absolutely! Education is necessary for DEVELOPMENT. Just like medicine, the misuse of one’s EDUCATION can be detrimental to oneself and to the entire Nation. We must apply EDUCATION right; unless we shall forever be DOOMED. That said, my fellow LIBERIANS; let’s do it RIGHT. “Yes! we can”. Cllr Woods is right.Greed is harming us; not EDUCATION.

  11. For now, the game is over. The Supreme Court of the land has indefinitely postponed the runoff election…….

    Also to their detriment, Boakai and Weah will not sleep comfortably. The proud Liberians who voted on October 10 are unhappy now because of the maneuvering of crooks who call themselves politicians.

    Money that was spent has all gone into the breeze. It’s a sad time for all Liberians. Where do we go from here?
    What happens next?

    Oh God, please show mercy on Liberia.

  12. Greed and selfish individuals with coat suits on occupying the State-Owned Enterprises and the political institutions did failed the Liberian people . Greed and selfish with feet and hands took charged of corruption with impunity as the President protected Mr. Greed and selfish by taking the bullet . Of course Mr. Woods was speaking to people with elementary minds lacking every understanding why their lives have not improved . This guy has become an apologist for Mr. Greed and Mr. selfish , people he had worked with . Just a waste .

  13. Look we the Liberian are our own problem we are sating down and making those foolish people’s put our be lovely country in mess and we are just looking at them. Look at what the supreme court just did because of one man, we need to stand up for our only Liberia, because today or tomorrow anything start they all will leave us n run away. Liberian stand up for your right.

    • Anthony, I think Mr. Brumskine heard your clarion call loud and clear, that Liberians should stand up for their rights. And that’s exactly what the man is doing, standing up for not only his right, but that of other Liberians who may not have the ability or capacity to stand up as he did. So you and Mr. Brumskine are on the same page, won’t you say?

  14. I can’t believe in Ellen’s government we had one corrupt free gentleman. He is no ather than Hon. Samuel Kofi Woods. Congratulations Hon. Woods. He deserves an award for his honesty.


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