No administration in the history of Liberia has received so much support from the international community and goodwill from its citizens than President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf’s Unity Party-led government. Equally, no administration in the history of Liberia has caused so much short and long term damage to the future of Liberia and the mindset of the Liberian people than the Sirleaf-Unity Party-led government.
The damage in the short term is that our nation has become a dishonest, greedy, unpatriotic and distrustful society where lies, crime and deceit are its visible characteristics. In the long term, Liberians will end up being slaves, paupers and strangers in their own country, and the time is fast coming. More than that, our neighbors would have been far developed while we would still look like a dark nation.
From North America to Europe and some parts of Asia, Liberia’s image as an ungovernable, messy and useless nation has never being higher. Apart from rogue foreign investors and money launderers, no serious investors and credible investment institutions take Liberia seriously. In diplomatic circles, our country is considered a parasitic state, which is another form of being a nation of beggars, con-artists and hopelessness. This is so serious that no low level analyst at the United States State Department and no Congressional support staffer on Capitol Hill remember Liberia except when they are reminded about matters of misery and humanitarian assistance for poor, struggling and mismanaged nations. In view of this pathetic state of affairs, our president and corps knowingly pretend as if something normal is unfolding inside Liberia.
Five years are basically enough to turn around a broken nation if a leadership establishes itself as one with a moral authority. Since 2006, President Sirleaf and the Unity Party-led government have had more than a decade in power, and yet, the stats are more dire and worrisome then they have ever been under past Liberian administrations, including even warlord Charles Taylor’s.
Despite over $16 billion dollars in direct foreign investments in addition numerous international aid and a debt relief package, Liberia is ranked 126 amongst nations with dismal unemployment, according to the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency’s (CIA) World Fact-book. Total population dependency ratio in Liberia is 82.9%, among youth it is 77.4% high. 83.1% of the total Liberian population has unimproved access to sanitation; among rural inhabitants it is 94.1% and 72% among urban residents. In 2006, an estimated 63.8% of Liberians were living below the poverty line. This was a period when Liberian refugees were returning home from neighboring countries to begin rebuilding their lives. Today, after almost 12 years under the Sirleaf-Unity Party-led administration, an estimated 96.2% of Liberians live below the poverty line, and several hundreds are running away from the country to seek asylum and residency abroad due to hardship and poor healthcare conditions.
Even an internationally isolated Liberian regime once headed by jailed warlord Charles Taylor had a better fiscal policy than the Sirleaf-Unity Party-led administration. According to the scoreboard of Millennium Challenge Corporation (MCC), a U.S. Government agency that has given over half a billion dollars to Liberia since 2006 Liberia ranks terribly when it comes to economic freedom. From fiscal policy (48%) to regulatory quality (44%), and land rights and access (22%), Liberia is in the red. When it comes to the agency’s ruling justly indicators, Liberia is also in the red. Liberia also does poorly in terms of government efficiency (23%) and the rule of law (48%). When it comes to the agency’s investing in people’s indicators, the Sirleaf-Unity Party-led government is also pathetic. Immunization rate is 12%, primary education expenditure rate is 15%, natural resource protection rate is 19%, child health rate is 47%, and girls’ primary education completion rate is 18%. Important to note that our president is a woman, and she was once a beautiful girl who became president as a result of education, an opportunity denied most beautiful Liberian girls today under her administration.
Countries like Lesotho and Cambodia surpassed Liberia when it comes to better fiscal policy’s indicators, at 92% and 66%, respectively. Compared to our neighbor, the Ivory Coast, which experienced brutal civil wars too around similar times, our nation is a joke. Ivory Coast has a 62% rating on the MCC’s fiscal policy indicator, 56% in government efficiency, and 88% in controlling corruption. The Ivory Coast also does well in other areas, such as 71% in rule of law, 65% in primary education expenditures, 92% in business start-ups, and 100% in natural resource protection. For Liberia, our resources are mortgaged and the proceeds are choked by widespread systemic corruption and insatiable greed by a few inter-connected bedfellows. Our so-called National Oil Company of Liberia’s (NOCAL) funeral service and wake keeping were held before its death announcement, with millions flown out to individual’s personal accounts. Now our government is broke and the super stars, who came from poverty to overnight wealth, are heading for the doors. Others parade our wealth in our faces with glamour and pageantry as would-be 2017 political saviors while persistently abusing the power we gave them.
Consistent U.S. State Department’s reports since 2006 paint Liberia as bleak, to say the least. From corruption to callous governance practices and abuse, our country is polling undesirably. Recent 2015 State Department’s report illustrates a realistic picture of what Liberia has turned out to be under the Sirleaf-Unity Party-led government. A month prior to the release of this latest report, I was at the State Department and on Capitol Hill pitching about the poor situation and outlining these concerns about Liberia, thinking that these realities were perhaps unknown to the Americans. My sense was that they already knew and, luckily too, no public relations firm in Washington, D.C. or New York City could have overturn or polish these realities no matter how much money is paid to them from our government as part of its routine and needless ‘image building’ tendency.
The most alarming irony is that the Sirleaf-Unity Party-led administration has managed to game and outsmart the Liberian progressive old-timers with perks, comfort and affluence. Everyone benefits, even though some people chop more, and no one says anything.
As one common-sense African leader once put it, “Leadership is a privilege to better the lives of others. It is not an opportunity to satisfy personal greed”. Apparently, the Sirleaf-Unity Party-led administration does not share this view this is why our leaders in the Liberian government see their role as an opportunity to satisfy their personal greed and establish their fortunes.”
There is no doubt that our president is an educated and intelligent woman, a Harvard graduate, internationally and politically seasoned. Testament to her smartness is the fact that she has used and continues to cajole all the old fashioned PhDs and progressives’ old-timers in her orbit. It is therefore impossible not to believe that she does not grasp the dire situation that millions of ordinary Liberians faced daily, from physical insecurity to food insecurity. Combined, Liberia has a national security time-bomb, especially as Burkinabe and others are encroaching on our territory in the southeast. The real factor here is that the president and the entire Unity Party-led government are out of step with the real and serious needs of the vast majority of the Liberian people this is why in a time of great need and excruciating deprivation among 97% of our population, they continue to offer business as usual.
The president and I have a love-hate relationship, and it is hard to criticize the person you cherish. I love and respect our president, perhaps more than many of the white-collar criminals in her administration, but I also vehemently despise her administration’s policy and vices they endanger our nation and people. I despise the administration’s vices and corruption enabled policies because at any time in history, but especially in this time, it is awfully immoral for a president and the folks in his or her government to offer themselves as leaders of the nation while blatantly disregarding the survival needs of the nation. This is acting immorally. Here is the most appalling aspect about everything that is wrong with our government and our leaders: The refused to change knowing that only two people cannot change—God and a fool, and they are not God. The good news is we will not only continue to pray for them, we will also speak out against their political and economic immorality while still remembering that God is still in control.
Williams is a Catholic educated philosopher and a U.S. trained public policy professional. He can be reached at [email protected]