As the political season heats up, there will be a lot of noise in Liberia about the gender equity bill, gay rights bill and dual citizenship bill. There is, however, no public outcry about abject poverty, the root causes and incentives for the rising ritualistic killings associated with the upcoming elections or the usual and seasonal impassable ‘highways’ between Tappita and Ganta or Gbarnga and Lofa since 1847. Considering the pressing life-and-death issues of rising ritualistic killings (17 deaths in Nimba County alone) and the nationwide highway transportation quagmire, it seems the noise over dual citizenship or gay bills are misplaced. The dual citizenship noise seems like symptoms of Liberia’s endemic corruption and lingering poor leadership in desperate moves for self-preservation and resuscitation to avert a natural death. It’s in the interest of citizens of Liberia that the real issues that pose serious risks to the safety and security of citizens for 169 years are prioritized.
If the Republic of Liberia is a democracy, who is the boss of the Republic? Is the boss the government official or the citizens? If the citizen is the boss, why are politicians – not the citizens – responsible for setting the salaries and benefits of lawmakers or elected officials? If the citizen is the boss, why are citizens not allowed to directly propose laws without the approval or permission of the President or the Legislature? It seems Liberia’s governance system is corrupt by design and with such systemic corruption entrenched, Liberia’s greatest needs are neither a new president nor a new set of lawmakers to manage ongoing systemic corruption is in its 170th year! Liberia needs a new system that is democratic and designed by citizens, not the corrupt political elites. Who has the power and authority to change the current corrupt system? The corrupt system is working perfectly as designed by the political elites. Therefore, it’s the citizens, not the politicians – the President or the Legislators – who must change the corrupt system. A government of the people by the people and for the people must be designed by the people, starting with citizens’ input to setting salaries and benefits.
Liberian citizens have a God-given right (inalienable right) to change the repressive system of government and replace it with a system that provides security, equal opportunities and is accountable to the citizens. In addition to their God-given rights, even the current flawed Liberian Constitution designed by the political elites to enable them to glean the resources of the country for personal use almost indefinitely also gives ordinary citizens the right to change a dangerous and corrupt system that threatens the safety and happiness of citizens: Article 1 of the 1986 Constitution is crystal clear on who has the power to change the system that provides incentives for ritualistic killers: “All power is inherent in the people. All free governments are instituted by their authority and for their benefit and they have the right to alter and reform the same when their safety and happiness so require.”
We begin by denying the politicians the right to set the national agenda by setting up the citizens’ platform for Citizens’ Independence from domination by the political elites. If the politician is looking for a job, why must we allow him to set the agenda by bringing the political platform? The first two agendas of the citizens’ platform are clear:
1. The citizen is the boss who hires, fires and sets the salaries and benefits of public servants.
2. The citizen is the master who empowers the lawmakers and president and therefore reserves the right to directly propose laws for the greater common good, consistent with the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, without the permission or approval of public servants such as the President or the Legislators.
Public servants who beg for votes can’t be the same folks who are profiting personally for depleting the natural resources forever, taking bribes to pass laws against the interest of the country, setting their own salaries & benefits higher than all lawmakers in American states, thus leaving insufficient money for roads, bridges, education and healthcare.
Despite lip service to dual citizenship, neither the President nor the Diaspora are genuinely serious about facilitating the return of thousands of Liberian citizens forced into exile by a barbarous war to which the government of Liberia through the Armed Forces of Liberia, countless rebel factions and many of the politicians ruling Liberia today were parties to the crime. Aside from empty speeches, and the awarding of extravagant salaries and benefits to selected friends and family members in the Diaspora, can the current government show a single policy crafted to encourage Liberians who fled for their lives during the brutal civil war to return? Is there an executive order of any sort? Are there incentives for the people who sustained tremendous losses and harm, including torture that forced them to flee to return and re-engage in business in the private sector? Are there tax breaks for returning Diaspora entrepreneurs? How about waivers of work permits for returning Diaspora in the private sector? Or is return of the Diaspora only tied to political jobs, with preference over those educated in Liberia? With Liberia waving visa fees for over 300 million Nigerian and other ECOWAS citizens with no family ties to Liberia to enter Liberia freely and engage in business, has there been any incentives for Diaspora return such as visa waivers to encourage thousands of Liberian who fled to other countries? How can these folks keep screaming about dual citizenship when the doors are effectively shut to the Liberian Diaspora? Given the wide range of economic incentives and opportunities yet unexplored by the current administration at the 11th hour, it seems to me the current strategy of dual citizenship is shortsighted and purely political and not economic.
The days for the corrupt system are numbered with no opportunity for emergency life support! Liberia, Africa’s 1st independent republic cannot remain the 4th poorest country in the world. Liberia doesn’t need a contest of politicians vying for the presidency or legislature to dump a system, which is toxic and corrupt by design because citizens have the inalienable right to change the system. With ritualistic killings rising along with the number of presidential candidates, it’s urgent that change happens now! To its credit, even the current flawed constitution gives citizens the power to change the system when their safety and happiness so require. So while the political elites are making noise about non-issues like gay bill, gender bill and dual citizenship bill, ordinary citizens don’t need to make noise because they are the only ones who can make a difference by joining the non-partisan and non-political freedom movement of citizens creating their own platforms and setting the agenda for real change.
A co-director of Greater Boston Refugee Ministry, Krua is a pastor and human rights activist. He was instrumental in lobbying with US congressmen and policymakers to increase the quota of refugees from Africa being allowed into the US. He has also worked tirelessly in the New England region and beyond to champion the rights of refugees and immigrants. His organization, Universal Human Rights International, worked with thousands of immigrants from 38 different countries over the span of 20 years. He has been honored by the National Peace Corps Association and the Massachusetts Chapter of the National Lawyers Guild. Comments: [email protected]