Thoughts of an Elder Statesman: The Culture of Entitlement

Former Senator Cletus Segbe_web.jpg


The issue of dual citizenship has come in the news in recent times and it was one of the 25 proposed amendments recently discussed at the Gbarnga National Consultative Conference.

As recently as 2003, I launched a broad-based initiative urging Liberians in the Diasporato cultivate the culture of “speaking with one voice” in discussions with Liberia’s International friends rather than sending mixed
and often confusing signals to Liberia’s friends.  And I was comforted by the fact that resolutions originated from our meeting in Bethesda, Maryland, USA, to a verifiable degree, underpinned the basis of the creation of the ICLG, which ushered peace to Liberia.

Those meetings, in which our present President, Madam Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, former Pro-Tempore Charles Brumskine, Alhaji Kromah, Alaric Tokpa, Harry Greaves, Chea Cheapoo, Amb. Al Hassan Conteh, Former Foreign Minister Rudolph Johnson and many other well meaning Diasporan Liberians collaborated and consulted contributing significantly to the Peace we enjoy today.   Those meetings were conducted under the general umbrella of the Liberian Leadership Conference, a non-partisan Diaspora group, in Bethesda, Maryland, USA.  And evidently, the role of the Diaspora in this particular instance and the subsequent results sprouted from a sincere and honest engagement in broad consultations, which are fundamental to appreciating a number of crucial national issues that continue to confront our nascent democracy. As Liberians we need to accept that every Liberian has a role to contribute to the sustenance of the peace we are enjoying thus far. And the continuity of these types of consultations and engagements should never be placed on Liberia’s political back-burners.

This culture of entitlement by some Liberians, who were initially seized with the idea of change in democratic governance when the aura of democracy was sweeping the continent of Africa, must be tempered with the realization that other Liberians also have a contribution to make to the survival of their nation.

Our friends and progressives must cast aside this cloak of entitlement and speak of the critical interventions made by less vociferous Liberians without whose consistent efforts the Yamasokro and the Geneva meetings would definitely not have taken place. But disappointingly and regrettably, the cardinal players of this period refuse to acknowledge the contributions of their colleagues at severe personal costs of funds and at times risks to their lives, consistent with the immature impression that whatever glory that would come their way would be transferred to new-comers in their game, whatever it was.

Last week’s explosive situation, involving the deaths of three motor bike operators has once again brought to the fore the need for all Liberians to be committed to ensuring that the peace we enjoy today is sustainable.  But with this peace comes a certain degree of obligations and expectations. Basic to the sustenance of this peace and the stability that Liberia seeks and needs is the virtue of RECONCILIATION.

You see, when we ushered in the elected Government of Charles Taylor, a mandatory conference of Reconciliation was overlooked. We once more missed that opportunity the second time when the Ellen Sirleaf Government was inaugurated on January 16, 2006. I am of the conviction that a missed opportunity is not always a lost opportunity. Now that we are enjoying this period of calm and peace, and now that the inter-personal mistrusts have reduced amongst and between the competitors for national relevance, there is now this golden opportunity to re-calculate and redesign all efforts towards honest and genuine reconciliation for the only sake of MAMA LIBERIA.

A national dialogue on reconciliation underpins the overriding consideration of healing our country after the 14 years of destructive civil dislocation. To engender national solidarity and re-capture our national identity, it is compelling that the issue of a National Reconciliation Conference is placed as the foremost priority for Liberians, where the Government and civil society, with focus,
openness and all sincerity,  engage in robust consultations, firstly at the political community levels towards the hosting of a National Conference.

The planning of such a conference should involve all
Liberian stakeholders, so that at the end of the day we can all rejoice and sing “we did it the Liberian way.”

On the 13th of August I issued a statement reflecting my personal views on a National undertaking that was dictated by the CPA and approved by the 51st Legislature-The TRC REPORT. The report was submitted to the National Legislature, since indeed it was the national body which gave authority for the creation of the TRUTH AND RECONCILIATION COMMISSION, whose mandate was to make a critical national evaluation of the behavior of the civil war, the actors and the victims towards reconciling a devastated and distrusted country.

The intent of the drafters who created the TRC was underpinned by the belief that as Africans, the Commission would reference the experience of countries in Africa who have suffered similar debacles—South Africa, Nigeria, Rwanda and others within the relevance of African traditional jurisprudence.

I opted for restorative justice rather than retributive justice. After the difficult period of governance prior to 2006, Liberians, in their usual resilience, have been trying to heal their wounds, resuscitate and restructure their lives, improve their wellbeing and move on in life. Regrettably, as all of us noticed, the growing economic challenges, the consequences of violence, the weakness of a climate to unleash the entrepreneurship of Liberians, the slow pace of job creation which seems to propel some of our youth into criminal activities, Liberians still remain divided and distracted without yet a rallying totem for national identity.

In retrospect we note that all Liberia’s peace meetings during our struggle have had the continuous calls for National Unity, Security and Reconciliation. It is in view of all the complexities and vicissitudes of our lives as Liberians and finding ourselves at crossroads, confused as to whether we implement the recommendations of the Commission, which seems to have the potential to widen the divisiveness
amongst Liberians, or we resort to restorative justice within the context of African traditional jurisprudence which goes thru consultations of a “palaver house traditional practice,” without overlooking any wrongdoing.

But my caution is not to address the wrongdoing as an end in itself.  We are aware that the notion of restorative justice in the Western practice deals with reparations for the victim, but once again going back to the experiences of the African countries that went thru similar dislocations, Liberians must find an African solution that makes the healing of our country the foremost priority. Equally so I appeal to the actors in our dilemma to be contrite and sincerely and honestly engage our fellow Liberians who suffered the brutal hurt.

The Legislature that created the TRC with the intent of reconciling our country and healing its wounds, informs us that the Legislature must react one way or the other to a report that has been submitted to it, as it does for similar institutions created by the Legislature.

Moreover, if there is a sense of imminent danger as a consequence of the diversity of strongly held views and a potential for a security threat, it is the Legislature and only the Legislature that has the responsibility for the security of the nation that must act.  

However, it is my belief that Legislators need to reflect soberly on the recommendations of the Commission more from a political perspective. That requires consultations amongst those who elected them as to which way they would want them to represent their views in the supreme national
interest of the country, during their legislative break. This is
because implementing some of the recommendations may require legislation which will be underpinned by the input of their constituencies.

Note: Former Senator Cletus Segbe Wotorson of Grand Kru County served in public service for more than 65 years and later served in his twilight years as Senator.



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