Dr. Lisa Thompson, a US Dentist leading a three-person delegation to Liberia to access progress some youth initiated projects and discuss issues relating to national growth, has suggested that in order for the country to speed up its development agenda, its people need to develop a national agenda or goal that will ring in their minds towards growth.
In an interview with reporters following a national discussion with stakeholders including civil society actors, academia, and the media on December 14, 2020, Dr. Thompson cited her country’s mantra, “I’m proud to be an American” as an example driving every American towards the interest of their country above individual or a particular group.
With this example, Dr. Thompson advised that Liberians can either dwell on education or any developmental goal that they will consider their national priority to subscribe to and work in line with its meaning to them.
Dr. Thompson, who is visiting Liberia along with two others, including Kenneth Riley and Mark Bass, on the invitation of Quanuquanei Karmue, Executive Director & Co-Founder of Save More Kids, told journalists that she sees a lot of potential in Liberians but there is a need to blend dialogue with concrete actions that will result to physical outcome in order to have the impact that Liberians deserve.
She added that their visit is mainly to enhance the dialogue surrounding Liberia’s development and how they can influence meaningful results of dialogue to real impactful things in the lives of the citizens.
“We do not want Liberia’s problem to just be in words, but action potential, and this is the beginning,” she said.
She indicated further that people should not always dwell on the war fought here years ago, but Liberians should be assertive in bringing concrete results by either implementing laws and doing those things that work well to build the image of the country and its infrastructure.
Dr. Thompson added that Liberians are willing to accept change but it takes the stakeholders to prioritize education for the citizens to build their understanding to accept the change they need.
Besides her medical background as a Dentist, the US visiting guest noted that she has worked in different capacities with different organizations to help bring change to a country, and her visit to Liberia is in this direction to see a change taking place in Liberia, wich has a close relation with Liberia.
Kenneth Riley, President of the International Longshoremen Association (ILA) in Charleston, North Carolina, wondered why Liberia should not be developed at this time with the human potential it possesses, coupled with natural resources. Mark Bass, a member of the delegation, said he is a person who does not believe in too much of talk, but likes to fight for a cause; something he said goes in the direction of seeing an issue beneficial to a society and fostering it to meet the needs of the people concerned.
In their meeting with their Liberian hosts, those Liberians representing different institutions described the work they do and what they believe can bring a change to Liberia.
Judge Roosevelt Willie of Criminal Court “C” described peace as “Negative or positive.” According to him positive peace is when the people are satisfied with the governance system and have some economic impacts to improve their lives, while negative peace is when the people are not satisfied but quiet and watching things happen.
Judge Willie said rule of law is very important, and in a society where the rule of law is weak or favoring certain people and leaving out others, there will always be the presence of negative peace.
At the diplomatic front, Dr. Augustine Konneh, university professor and Foreign Policy expert, said Liberia’s relation with the United States after the world wars has overlooked the component human rights in the country (Liberia), and the economic impact has been little. The sale of Firestone to Bridgestone, the dismantling of VOA in Liberia, and the closure of the Liberia Mining Company (LMC) all contributed to the economic consequences characterizing the relationship. According to Dr. Konneh, while it is incumbent on Liberians to bring change to their own country, the relationship between the US and Liberia should also set the basis for economic change in a positive direction.
Loretta A. Pope Kai, Chairperson of the National Civil Society Council of Liberia, also said they are in the vanguard of advocating for the rights of citizens and have been engaged recently in speaking against rampant rape cases in the country, but expressed that civil society actors are sometimes threatened and denied at state-owned radio stations to air their voice.
Dr. Angela Benson of the Benson Hospital raised concern over how non-communicable diseases including diabetes and hypertension are killing people and increasing, and expressed the need for robust action that will improve the health system to bring relief to the citizens. She said there are more good laws here in Liberia but implementation is a challenge. She said when overcome, Liberia will have the change it needs.
Charles Coffey, President of the Press Union of Liberia, also defended the press for fearlessly exposing ills in the society despite threats and other draconian laws that are still preventing total freedom of the press. He said the media is also proactive acquainting Liberians with their culture though there are a few challenges arising from interest in politics.
Amos Williams, President of the Federation of Liberian Youth (FLY), said young people in Liberia have the potential to bring changes, but the culture of doing one thing repeatedly without learning from others to improve things remains a challenge to the youths. He said the youth cannot change when, for instance, people who should set the basis are sanctioned for bribing judges to compromise cases in the court.
The ‘National Dialogue Forum’ where these Liberians spoke came to fruition through the instrumentality of Quanuquanei Karmue and Bleegay Innis, two young Liberians who spent much of their lives in the United States and have returned with innovative methods to change lives in rural communities. The Save More Kids program Karmue heads is working in Bong County in the Agricultural sector producing swamp rice.