As Liberia celebrates its 168th independence anniversary by joining the world in transitioning from the Millennium Development Goals to the Sustainable Development Goals, the role of our Community should be recognized as catalysts for accelerated development.
Considering the Nineteenth Century founding of the Republic of Liberia, and the way Liberian communities at home and abroad have strived to overcome Liberia’s adversities and maintain the nation-state since then, there are at least three conceptions of what is meant by Our Community.
The first takes inspiration from the historian of international repute, Benedict Anderson, who, in his book “Imagined Communities,” defined the nation as “an imagined political community – and imagined as both inherently limited and sovereign” By this conception, the nation is imagined “because members of even the smallest nation will never know most of their fellow-members, meet them, or even hear of them, yet in the minds of each lives the image of their communion.” The nation is imagined as limited “because even the largest of them, encompassing perhaps a billion living human beings, has finite, if elastic, boundaries, beyond which lie other nations. No nation imagines itself coterminous with mankind. The nation is imagined as sovereign “because the concept was born in an age in which Enlightenment and
Revolution were destroying the legitimacy of the divinely ordained, hierarchically dynastic realm.” Finally, the nation is imagined as a community “because regardless of the actual inequality and exploitation that may prevail in each, the nation is always conceived as a deep, horizontal comradeship.”
Our second conception derives from historical geography: the conceivable units into which the nation can be devolved to the grassroots level over time and in space to maintain what the framers of our Constitution refer to as the “Positive Liberian Culture.” For example, under our Republican system of governance, below the state, are Counties, Districts, Townships, and Clans.
Finally, our third conception derives from the emigration of Liberians to different parts of the globe, partly as a consequence of the Liberian civil war, and partly for the search of greener pastures, where they have settled often in clusters, yet identifiable by their passion for the welfare and survival of the nation-state they have left behind.
At these various levels of analyses, whether rebuilding Liberia from the fracture caused by the prolonged civil war of 1989 to 2003, or responding collectively to combating the Ebola Virus disease, Liberian communities have demonstrated uncommon resiliency, under strong central government leadership, in overcoming the challenges of tribalism, provincialism and political disharmony that have for long hampered strong nation building.
Our communities have withstood the test of time by developing strategies in solving conflicts and caring for Liberians in difficult circumstances, including vulnerable women, children, the elderly, refugees and Internally Displaced People. For example, communities developed self-help strategies following major disasters including the Liberian civil war and the Ebola Crisis.
It was therefore no mistake when the Government of Liberia, under the able stewardship of President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, cited the contribution of communities as one of the success stories in fighting the dreaded Ebola virus. For example, Incident Management Team worked with community leaders around the country to communicate anti-Ebola messages that ultimately convinced Liberians about the reality of Ebola and the need to use preventive measures. One such example, is the Town Chief of Jenewonde, Madam Jebbeh Sannoh, in Grand Cape Mount County, who demonstrated exemplary and emulative leadership in mobilizing community members in the fight against the Ebola virus. This proves that those community level initiatives, when buttressed by Government programs, can reinforce national disaster management.
Government must therefore continue cultivating community leadership to provide ideas and fresh impetus to its Post-Ebola Development Strategy.
This can be done by insulating communities from poverty, dependency and external shocks. Traditionally, rural Liberian communities are known for mobilizing local populations through Susu and Ku groups as strategies for economic development and support for seasonal farming activities respectively. They therefore provide valuable lessons at the grassroots level, and serve as the foundation for Liberia to undergo the necessary processes of social reconciliation, rehabilitation, national reunification and reconstruction.
Such insulation at the community level has been admirably taken place under the leadership of President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, since 2006, through key infrastructure, education and health projects. For example, the Sirleaf administration has reconstructed roads in Monrovia and its environs, as has begun the construction of highways from Red Light to Ganta to the border with Guinea border. The Sirleaf administration has also repaired the Phebe via Sanoyea to Totota road (79 km), and the Saclepea-Bahn-Loguatuo road (79km). The Government has also inaugurated the Barclayville Bridge in Grand Kru County. On the education front, it has dedicated nine sub-projects in Margibi County including the Ellen Johnson Sirleaf Public School in Zuawein Community. To expand access to higher education, it has opened Community Colleges in Lofa, Nimba, Bassa, Grand Gedeh and Bong Counties. The Zwedru and Phebe hospitals, 39 clinics, and four community health facilities have been rehabilitated.
Proceeding to the next level, the Liberian communities in the Diaspora have contributed immensely through remittances, and often repatriation, to the reconstruction of Liberia from the ravishes of civil strife and the current Ebola crisis. Remittances to friends and family, and resource mobilization to aid government’s rebuilding efforts have been the hallmarks of Liberian communities around world.
At the national level, the Liberian nation has thrived since its founding in 1822 with every community vowing to be part of this glorious land of liberty that shall long be theirs. The Government of Liberia must therefore as a matter of priority and urgency continue to build on the progress of our Community by mobilizing Liberian communities as vehicles of economic development and empowerment. Communities at the local, national and Diaspora levels have the capacities to bring all stakeholders together to work for the transmission of essential skills and national values important for sustaining development. Community rebuilding strategies must also be central to current decentralization activities and the setting and articulation of sustainable development goals.
Partnership with communities to rebuild needed health, infrastructure, education, agriculture and security sectors will also be crucial in accelerating Public-Private-Partnership to attract needed humanitarian and development funding and resources from home and abroad to complement gaps in Government’s development financing.
The Government and Community leaders should work together to motivate Liberians to always develop the ways and means be self-reliant in complementing national revenue sources for the pursuit of sustainable development objectives and goals.
Ultimately, Government’s role in providing an enabling environment will be critical in engendering Our Community at the local, national and Diaspora levels, comprising of enterprising men, women and youth, galvanized in serving as transformative agents to improving the nation’s welfare through self-reliance and good governance to achieve accelerated national development.
HAPPY INDEPENDENCE DAY!