Corruption in Liberia: the Ball Is in Ellen’s Court

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Karin Landgren, the Special Representative of the United Nations Secretary General (SRGS), did not lose her cool last Thursday.  She only set aside diplomacy and put on her boxing gloves and, in the presence of President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, Karin coolly but courageously expressed her total frustration with the insistence of the Liberian government and people on being corrupt.

The thing that pains her most, she said, is Liberians’ failure to understand that it is this penchant (liking, desire) for corruption that has consistently and perpetually   impoverished Liberia and her people, and kept them “perpetually poor” and backward.

Ms. Landgren said corruption had penetrated every sector, including the educational system and the national security, especially the Liberia National Police and beyond.

This, she noted, has caused Liberians to deeply mistrust their leaders and public officials.  She noticed that it was this mistrust that caused Liberians not to believe or take seriously at first, what the officials were telling them about the dangers of Ebola.  That mistrust caused the virus to spread like wildfire throughout the country.  It led us once again to desperation (extreme anxiety, fear, misery), compelling us, ONCE AGAIN, to appeal to the international community to come in and rescue us from ourselves! 

Last week the United Nations announced that Monrovia was among the five poorest capitals in the world.

How long will we, because of CORRUPTON that led to the 1980 coup and to the 14-year civil war, continue to HANG ourselves and, tottering on the gallows, cry out again across the ocean for others to come and rescue us from our self-inflicted pain?

President Ellen Sirleaf was right there to hear the SRGS’s outburst—and confessed that corruption was being perpetrated mainly by “high profile officials, as a result of ignorance and greed.”

It was President Charles D.B. King who once said, “Fish starts rotting from the head.”  He should most certainly have known because it was his administration that was accused of malpractices “hardly distinguishable from slavery”—leading to his and his Vice President Allen Yancy’s resignation in 1930.

What President Sirleaf did not say was that because the head is infected, the chest, the back, the stomach and the tail all get infected also.  That is why one can hardly get anything done in government without bribing some official, no matter how high or low.

Look at the banking system—where many of our young people constantly throw their futures away by tampering with the customers’ money entrusted to them, and “taking” it as their own!

In the government, you have the President’s own son Fumba, head of the National Security Agency, whose agents confiscated over US$250,000 from Korean business people under the guise of being “counterfeit,” even though the Koreans had just that same morning withdrawn the funds from their account at the International Bank in Monrovia, the nation’s oldest bank.  That partly led to Justice Minister Christiana Tah’s resignation because instead of allowing her Ministry to investigate the matter, the President turned the matter over to Counselor David Jallah, whose report recommended that GOL, not the NSA officials who made the raid on the Koreans, repay the money.

There are widespread rumours that the National Oil Company (NOCAL), one of the most lucrative state-owned enterprises, is currently undergoing financial string.   Is this true?  Why? Did its money pass to any political campaign?  Where else did money come from for that purpose?

Yet, if anyone raises these questions, one will get the identical reaction of President W.V.S. Tubman who, when asked a question he did not wish to answer, would reply in Sierra Leonean Creole, “Nah me mot (mouth) you wan heree say Teetee get belleh?”  Or: Is it from my mouth that you want to hear that the people’s teenage daughter is pregnant?    

Karen Landgren is right: corruption keeps Liberia and Liberians perpetually poor and backward, causing our peace to remain forever fragile.  Many in the country have consistently called for regime change but we at the Daily Observer have opposed it because all we will end up getting is another interim government that will do its own looting of the public treasury, just as ALL the others have done.

Because she is in charge—and has been for 10 years—the ball is in Ellen’s court. And she must begin within her own family—so that everyone else will be forced to take her seriously and get the message: NO MORE CORRUPTION.     

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