The national orator of Liberia’s 170th Independence Day celebration, Dr. Herman Browne, has called on Liberians not to give in to politicians who are trending on dangerous ground by dividing the citizenry or preaching divisive politics—a trend that is gradually overwhelming the 2017 electoral process.
The age-old recurring divisive politics Congau vs Native debate appears to be eclipsing the most important issues of corruption, the economy and post-war reconciliation in Liberia’s upcoming presidential elections.
Like in the words of former United Nations Secretary General, Koffi Annan, good public policy (how to fight corruption, distribution of national wealth and others) is best shaped by the dispassionate analysis of what in practice has worked but policies based on common assumptions and popular sentiments (Congau vs Native and the Christian state proposition) can become a recipe for mistaken prescriptions and misguided interventions.
Delivering his oration on Wednesday at the Centennial Pavilion Dr. Browne indicated that Liberians must elevate the discourse, especially during this election which has about 20 presidential candidates and discussions surrounding issues oriented and not be swayed by rhetorical politicians who are only in it for personal interests.
“I encourage you to ask not what your candidate will do for this country if he wins, ask instead what he plans to do if he fails in his bid,” he said, speaking on the theme, “Sustaining the gains.”
It is not obvious—in fact statically absolute, Dr. Browne noted, that there will be more in the latter category than in the former. “Should the hope that one will be a part of the victorious 5% preclude a discussion of what the defeated 95% plan for our country?” he asked rather rhetorically.
While growing up, the national orator said he was taught that politics was about seeking the common good through the aligning of common interest. “Our personal interest must be aligned to the common good or else your personal interest will eventually become our national liability,” he said.
He blasted politicians who are dividing Liberians because of personal interests. “Far too often, some Liberians have allowed their personal interest in getting elected to supersede our common interest or goal of keeping our country united.”
“Let me be clearer, I do not vote for you because you are my father’s kin. I do not vote you because you come from my mother’s clan. Do you know why? Because I know many of my father’s kin that are downright dishonest, some irresponsible and others incompetent. I know many from my mother’s clan who are disloyal, some inexperienced and show no regard for the principles of transparency and accountability.”
Therefore, Dr. Browne said, one ethnic connection to him lays no greater claim to his support than someone without ethnic affiliation with him, but in whom he finds the ethical standards, competence and commitment to public service that “I wish to see in a leader of this country.”
He noted that rhetoric by politicians of ethnicizing their support base in order to gain support and leverage over their opponents is well-known short-sighted tactics that undermine “our unity as a people—the very oneness on which they (politicians) will depend once they are elected.”
“Don’t fall for it and they must be stopped. I do not further our country’s cause, our search for a united, peaceful and reconciled people.”
Many members of the UP and sympathizers are known proponents of the Congau-Native divide, with some publicly stating that it is the time that a native rules the country. UP candidate, Vice President Joseph Nyuma Boakai, is a preferred choice of these proponents who feel that it is now time that indigenous Liberians rule the country after being marginalized for many years by their Americo-Liberians colleagues, who only made up five percent of the population.
The UP presidential candidate, VP Boakai, has received a lot of endorsements across the country, for what many believe, he is the most outstanding indigenous candidate in the presidential race.
Over 90% of the combined members of the national legislature, many of whom are the proponent of the native politics, have endorsed the VP. The issue of native gaining state power has been highlighted at many of the endorsement ceremonies of the VP across the country.
Nimba County District #8 Representative, Larry P. Yonquoi, who read an endorsement speech when over 35 Representatives endorsed the VP a little over a month ago, noted on state radio that he has no apology to anyone for his stance that it is time for a native to rule. “We have been marginalized for too long and we feel it is time for the native to rule. And VP Boakai is the right man to lead us,” he said.
Many also believe that VP Boakai’s choice of Speaker Emmanuel Nurquay, who is an outsider, is also believed to be as a result of the hierarchy’s resolved to have a native ticket.
UP Assistant Secretary for Media and Publicity, Mo Ali, got on the nerves of social media followers when early Tuesday he posted what he termed as an “Indigenous Ticket,” and though Ali denied ever posting it, claiming that his account was hacked.
Liberty Party Standard Bearer, Charles Walker Brumskine, is also accused of preaching divisive politics. He is quoted as saying that it is time for a Bassa native to be president.
However, it is everyone’s expectation that imminent new leaders come 2018 will have the opportunity to transform Liberia by using good public policy that must be what Mr. Annan describes as, “best shaped by the dispassionate analysis of what in practice has worked.”
Dr. Browne said, “We should not constantly speak of wanting reconciliation and at such moments, for personal gains, take concrete steps to undermine it.” He indicated that when Liberians elevate the discourse during this electioneering period and allow it to degenerate into exclusionary, tribalistic rhetoric, “that means we engage unwillingly in a deliberate practice of forgetting. Forgetting that the person who is not one of us is part of us; that the one that the word ‘VAI’ exclude is included in a Liberia that includes us all.”
He added that the deep social practice of “forgetting” has such egregious political consequences that it might rightly be met with an organized “remembering,” in the writing of the common history of the country. “Liberians have had a bitter past, made mistakes that reaped bitter consequences for them. A friend, two days ago, conveyed to me what dangers we face in repeating past mistakes.”
He said if Liberians are not careful, languages that are commonly used will misshape the country’s reality. “We are all citizens of Liberia and only residents of counties,” he said, adding, “The force of this distinction should remind us that wherever we reside in Liberia (some of us for our entire lives) we are one people of one nation.”
He added “My destiny depends on your success; for the intention of our forefathers was that on the DEED of this Republic should be written the name of every child born of Liberian parents.
“And know this, no resident in any part of this country or anywhere else, whether in high office or low comes anywhere near the right to strike out the name of our sons and daughters.”
The National Orator also pleaded with leaders of faith and religion to take a much clearer stand to never be spectators of unfairness or cruelty, “for the grave will supply plenty of time for silence.”
For this reason, it is crucial for Liberian voters and Liberians to know the visions, platforms, qualifications, and experiences as well as the characters of the candidates that are running for public office so that when elected, their policies will not be based on what Mr. Annan termed as “common assumptions and popular sentiments” which, according to him, “can become a recipe for mistaken prescriptions and misguided interventions,” perhaps in their attempts to solving Liberia’s numerous problems.