On the 167th anniversary of the birth of Liberia, Africa’s first independent republic, we, at the Universal Human Rights International (UHRI) wish to reecho the humanitarian emergency alarm sounded daily since July 2003 (over a decade ago) on the humanitarian crisis facing Liberian refugee women and young Liberian-American children evacuated by the United States Military from Monrovia to safety in the United States. It is unconscionable that the governments of
President Barack Obama the United States of America and Liberian President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf, both in their second and final terms of office, have chosen to ignored the plight of their citizens and reneged on their legal and moral obligations to protect their own citizens, especially vulnerable young children and women. While this crisis predated the ascendancy of both Obama and Sirleaf to power, there is no excuse or justification, whatsoever, for ignoring the suffering of the citizens they were elected to protect and paid a salary to serve. On this 167th anniversary of Liberia’s existence (?independence?), we call on Presidents Obama and Sirleaf to use their good offices and end over a decade of unnecessary and unjustifiable suffering and misery for over 7,000 Liberians who entered the United States after October 2002 and have since been denied protection contrary to pleas from the Massachusetts Delegation to Congress and the late Senator Edward Kennedy (See attached letter).
Additionally, as President Obama is seeking $500 million dollars to support and arm rebels in Syria and nearly $4 billion dollars to assist unaccompanied minors entering the USA illegally from Central America, surely, he must address the plight of accompaniedAmerican children and Liberian refugee women evacuated from Liberia by the United States Military over a decade ago. We also call for a constitutional amendment in Liberia making Citizens’ Initiative a part of Liberia’s political life. Citizens’ Initiative is a measure of participatory democracy that allows citizens, as the supreme source of state power, to propose good laws, repeal bad laws, set the salaries and benefits of politicians without the approval or permission of the president or legislature. Citizens’ Initiative, which dates back to the 5th Century B.C. in Athens, Greece works great in 2014 in the European Union, Switzerland and 24 states in the United States of America.
On June 13, 2003, President George Bush ordered Operation Shining Express, a deployment of an American naval task force based around the amphibious assault ship USS Kearsarge (LHD-3) to rescue U.S. embassy personnel and American citizens during the Second Liberian Civil War. The deployment announced on June 13, 2003 lasted until July 2003.
Considering the appalling state of Liberia’s education, widespread poverty and political landscape rife with corruption, greed and advancing of personal and family interests above national interests as well as 167 years of political gimmickry that has rendered Liberia’s political elite as masters over the impoverished masses of citizens, we believe now is the time for the citizens of Liberia to embrace Citizens’ Initiative and thereby bring lasting security, equal opportunities and sustainable development to this country. Citizens’ Initiative is the only sure way for more transparency, justice, security and equal opportunities in the republic of Liberia because this measure puts citizens in charge.
As Liberia commemorates 167 years of existence (?independence?), the president appoints all mayors, governors of all political sub-divisions, cabinet members, heads of all public corporations, thus putting too much power in the presidency. Only politicians and their friends and family members are celebrating their freedom to travel first class, drive expensive cars, enjoy huge salaries and benefits while poor citizens are living in misery and hopelessness at home and abroad.
Beyond widespread unemployment, the deplorable education system, other consequences of the breach of trust include greed and corruption which seems to be the order of the day. Public service in Liberia has become the primary path to acquiring personal wealth for Liberia’s ruling elite. The gap between the rich and poor continues to widen, evidenced by the outrageously high salaries and benefits politicians have assigned to themselves and their family members. The number of sub-standard schools and universities across Liberia is alarming and growing with many places of worship setting up sub-standard schools without adequate facilities for learning.
July 26 celebration is mired by widespread boozing and dancing on the streets. Meanwhile, the Liberian economy, Liberia’s largest churches, security sector and big banks are all controlled by foreigners. There seems to be evidence that growing political corruption also means that ‘brown bags’ and corporate money have potentially powerful influence in the government.
When it comes to national leadership, it seems that the process has been effectively rigged by the ruling elites against ordinary Liberians without access to foreign higher education. Even President Roberts, one of the greatest selfless leaders of the world, evidenced by donation of his estate to educate Liberian children never had access to foreign higher education. Additionally, many of the brightest and most creative minds of the 21th century, including millionaires and entrepreneurs in America such as Bill Gates of Microsoft, Steve Jobs of Apple and Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg, never completed college and they were 20 and 21 years old when they started their companies.
By creating unrealistic standards for national leadership out of the reach of most Liberians such as foreign higher education requirements, the ruling elites have established an unjustifiable political hegemony that have robbed majority of Liberians of a role in national leadership. Liberian citizens continue to be robbed of natural resources due to corruption, robbed of a role in leadership through the lack of citizens’ initiative laws and the requirement of foreign higher education for leadership. Liberians have been robbed of the future by effectively denying innovative youths a chance to tap into their God-given talents and potentials.
On the other hand, unnecessary government bureaucracies and commissions continue to be created as avenues for the elite to siphon wealth for themselves and their families, many of whom reside overseas. Laws have been enacted not for the common good of ordinary citizens but for the benefit of multi-national corporations and the ruling elite. Although the constitution claims that “All power is inherent in the people,” ordinary Liberians are powerless in the face of powerful corporations, foreign-owned companies that dominate the Liberian economy and the ruling elite. Without citizens’ Initiative, the citizens cannot exercise their power as the boss of the republic.
Accordingly, we wish to reassert the inherent dignity and inalienable rights of these accompanied young Liberian-American children and Liberian refugee women as human beings who deserve to be protected both at home and abroad. Inalienable rights are in fact God-given rights-not given by any man and rights which no man can take away.
Liberian refugee women suffering for over a decade deserve better. We call on both President Obama and President Sirleaf to use their good offices and end the unnecessary suffering of American children and over 7,000 Liberians who entered the USA after October 200. We call on citizens of Liberia to join ranks in pushing for a constitutional amendment that brings to birth in a new day of true freedom, justice, peace, equal opportunity, prosperity and security in Liberia and Africa.
With our children set free in America they can begin to live their dreams and contribute their quotas in making our world a better place. With Citizens’ Initiative, Liberia will be a prosperous nation that guarantees justice, security and equal opportunity for all citizens and a level playing field for foreign investors to compete in a free market place.
Torli H. Krua is President of the Universal Human Rights International (UHRI), a non-profit organization that promotes democracy and citizens’ initiative in Africa and refugee rights in the USA