He was only a high school senior when, in 1984 in the living room of his father, Dr. Edward Binyah Kesselly, Dr. S. Jabaru Carlon and others met to found the Unity Party to contest the 1985 presidential and Legislative elections.
Young Kesselly recalled that UP’s founding fathers, by giving it the name “Unity Party,” were determined that the party would “epitomize Unity.” Its original motto was “One People, One Destiny.” He then told the Unity Party Leadership and membership that the best way to honor Dr. Carlon and all of its fallen heroes is by returning “to day zero—a day for us to reflect, start all over and finally realize that the Unity Party is an institution that was founded on ideals and principles, not on individuals and personalities. We should revert to its original path for which he and other great men suffered, bled and died—one that epitomizes Unity.”
One could candidly say that with Unity Party’s standard bearer, President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, present at the funeral and listening, young Kesselly’s was a mouthful. What was significant about the Tribute was what he did not say, but preferred to hold on the ancient dictum: “A hint to the wise is quite sufficient.”
The Daily Observer on Sunday morning called around to talk with some UP stalwarts to gauge their reaction to Mr. Kesselly’s call. Most of them said what the public already knew: that the party is in apparent disarray. UP has not held a congress since 2011 when they met to nominate President Sirleaf and Vice President Joseph N. Boakai to succeed themselves on the UP ticket.
The party’s youth wing has been critical of the leadership, and many members have bitterly complained that the administration has not rewarded it partisans with jobs. Said one, “The entire Cabinet is filled with ‘friends of the President,’ not with partisans, and this has seriously embittered the party rank and file.
Ironically, one of those in the party leadership being criticized is young Kesselly himself, who heads one of the major components of government, the Liberia Maritime Authority. They say there is no party stalwart in the whole of Maritime except, of course, the Commissioner himself.
Unfortunately, Mr. Kesselly could not be reached yesterday for comment on this allegation.
But we wish to state that jobs for partisans alone are not what constitute a viable and properly functioning political party.
A properly functioning political party is one that holds regular meetings of the rank and file. If it is the party in power, which UP currently is, it should keep the membership regularly informed about government policies and programs, in order to enlist party support.
A political party, in developing countries, especially, should hold leadership seminars and workshops to empower the membership with leadership skills to keep them in top shape always, not just at election time.
But the lack of jobs for the rank and file is not the only problem that has embittered the UP membership. Some of them, including leading businesspeople within the party ranks, complain that they are unable to get a single contract from the UP-led government. Here again, they complain that the party leadership is giving business opportunities only to “the President’s friends.”
Several key partisans with some financial resources say they have been trying to get into the ownership of some of the oil blocks, but to no avail. They say the President’s friends are linking up with foreigners to purchase oil blocks; and these partisans are bitterly and painfully disappointed.
Most Liberian leaders are very conversant with how American politicians do business. Both Republicans and Democrats in power reach out to their partisans not only with jobs, but contracts also. These beneficiaries, in turn, oil the parties’ money machines. That is in part of how the American middle class keeps democracy functioning.
But it appears that successive administrations in Liberia have frustrated the development of a Liberian middle class. These administrations have consistently favored foreigners.
Yet who can and will build Liberia in the way it should be built but Liberians themselves, in the same way the Americans and Europeans have built their countries and the Nigerians and Ghanaians are building theirs?