Let me commence by frankly confessing that I had to discard this article three times before finally setting down to write this one. Admittedly, I pondered lengthily over this topic. The issue of curtailing corruption in Liberia is one that is so intricately delicate that it should be written with extreme caution or risk being trashed under the carpet.
Almost all Liberians, even students at the elementary level of Liberia’s educational arena, are aware that corruption is a epidemic, which has permeated all sectors of the Liberia Society, and is largely responsible for massive poverty which has stifflled national growth and development over the years. Lamentingly, the urgency of curtailing corruption has been much talked about especially by Liberia’s policy makers and planners for decades with little or no action towards its realization.
It must be undoubtedly noted that corruption did not surface in Liberia few decades ago. It has been in existence since the early days of the founding of Liberia, and is deeply entrenched in the Liberian way of life. Hence, the general mindset adopted by many Liberians is that corruption is incurable. So the best thing that the policy makers and planners of Liberia perceive they can do is to strive to elevate Liberia to loftier attainments while neglecting to vigorously combat corruption.
Undeniably, ignoring to combat corruption vigorously but expecting Liberia to blossom in development is tantamount to applying tireless effort to fill with water a drum that is leaking profusely. The more water you pour in, the faster the eater drains down from the leaking drum. Without a shadow of doubt, “Development” and “Corruption” are incompatible.
In a society where corruption reigns as in the case of Liberia, there can be no substantial socio-economic growth.
The urgently needed reforms can definitely not be attained in Liberia when corrupt government officials have both hands deep in public money allotted to embellish the lives of poverty-stricken Liberians. Quite honestly, hardly nothing is being done to rid Liberia of the slums because some gluttonous and visionless government officials think they can fatten their pockets with the people’s money and go with impunity.
Disturbingly, the fight against corruption is mostly articulate rather than implemented. Note worthily, the Liberia Anti-Corruption Commission (LACC) and the General Auditing Commission (GAC)—two institutions established to curtail corruption—are confronted with formidable bottlenecks in the execution of their respective functions by some functionaries of the government who are making substantial gains in the atmosphere of corruption, and therefore would oppose any change in the status quo.
It is simple illusive to think that corruption, which the Liberian people have become so accustomed to living in harmony with for decades can be curtailed in any way other than through the institution of drastic actions. As a revolutionary leader once said, “The old has been here so long that the new must make radical changes in order to function at all.” The question that naturally springs forth is: “How and by whom will these radical changes be instituted to curtail corruption?”
Annoyingly, calls from conscious well-meaning Liberians for the prosecution of corrupt government officials usually fall on ‘deaf ears’.
Few days ago, it was reported in the Friday, February 21, 2014 edition of Daily Observer that human rights lawyer Counselor Taiwon Gongloe on Thursday, February 20, 2014 called on the Government to immediately prosecute, in accordance with law, those lawmakers named by Clemenceau Urey to have received U.S. $ 50,000 as lobby fee from the National Oil Company of Liberian (NOCAL). Mr. Urey is the former board chairmen of NOCAL.
As usual, nothing will happen. There is clearly a general lack of will on the part of government to vigorously prosecute corrupt government officials. Even worse is that these corrupt officials are most often glorified or hailed as heros by the very same Liberians, who are impoverished owing to these corrupt practices. What these corrupt official cunningly do at times is to galvanize support and sympathy from gullible and poverty-stricken Liberians by engaging in charity endeavors and tossing out money to the needy.
In his “Letter from Birmingham Jail” written April 16, 1963, the American Civil Rights Leader, Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., asserts: “Lamentingly, it is an historical fact that privileged groups seldom give up their privileges voluntarily.”
It is obvious that some members of this government –if not most-consider the obtainment of the “brown envelopes” as a privilege and will therefore continue to exhibit a total lack of willpower in the curtailment of corruption unless conscious efforts are applied by “Enlightened Liberians” comprising of members of the press, teachers, artists, writers, lawyers, doctors, etc. to raise the consciousness of gullible Liberians in joining the efforts to institute nonviolent actions on this government.
Liberians cannot and must not sit supinely as “mere spectators” and expect “development on “silver platter”. A bulk of Liberians will retrogress deeper into poverty and misery as long as ample opportunities are accorded for corruption to flourish. The way forward to the curtailment of corruption in Liberia is for Liberians from all walks of life to deem it as their patriotic duties to fight corruption head-on by employing peaceful actions rather than leave their destiny in the hands of gluttonous and visionless government officials who are gaining significantly from the corruption epidemic.
The “Enlightened Liberians” must reconcile the divergent views of the Liberian people, and strategize the way forward in combating corruption by galvanizing the support of the vast majority in the institution of non-violent actions such as peaceful demonstrations, peace marches, etc. that would pressure the policy makers and planners to the interests of the governed first and foremost.
Demands must be made by this group for lawmakers to legislate better and harsher laws to penalize corrupt government officials.
Engaging in such endeavors would eventually witness the transformation of the LACC and GAC from their role as “toothless bulldogs” to becoming “effective institutions capable of imposing rigid and drastic penalties on corrupt government officials.
In summary, it is hoped that Liberian will destroy the notion adopted for decades that corruption is incurable. Undoubtedly, corruption can be curtailed if “Enlightened Liberians” transcend from the role of “passive spectators” to the role of “vigilant refereed” to vigorously enforce the rules against or in favor of players in the political arena.
About the Author
Jahbulleh Cicero Dempster is former C0-Chairman for Operations of Saye Town. His letters and articles often published in the Daily Observer reflect his ardent desire for Socio-economic and political reforms in the Liberia Society.