Sunday, July 26, 2020 is the 173rd anniversary of the declaration of independence on July 26, 1847. It has been nearly two hundred years since, looking back. But what has been achieved since the adoption of a flag, anthem and motto, is the question to which answers are hard to come by.
That a nation so abundantly endowed with vast natural resources and with a very youthful population can be classified the poorest country in the world is indeed a stinking indictment of past and current national leaderships. Some indicators of the extent to which Liberia continues to be mired in poverty can be reflected in official statistics — the 2013 Liberia Demographic Health Survey (LDHS) report.
According to the report, only ten percent of households have access to electricity, while 45 percent of households have no toilet facilities at all; additionally, Further, as the statistics show there are serious rural, urban and gender dimension to poverty and underdevelopment in Liberia which much too often is overlooked or not addressed in meaningful terms.
For example, forty-seven percent (47%) of females and 33 percent (37%) of males age 6 and older have never attended school. Further, only 39 percent (39%) of women have completed primary school compared with 62 percent (62%) of men; likewise, 10 percent (10%) of women have completed secondary school compared with 23 percent (23%) of men.
Additionally, 50 percent of rural women have no education compared with 23 percent of urban women. Among men, 19 percent of rural men have no education compared with 9 percent of rural men.
These are just some of the myriad problems attending this country’s 173-year strive to become truly independent. But if the problem has not been the lack or want of natural resources to accelerate our national development process, then the problem must be traced to the kind and quality of national leadership that has steered this country over the years.
Most Liberian elites, including successive national political leaderships, have always tended to look outside rather than inside for answers to problems of national development. And the single most country to which successive Liberian leaderships, including members of the ruling elite, have tended to look is the United States of America. Anything foreign made was always considered better than those made locally.
For example, there was a time when locally produced CLUB Beer was considered not good enough for the dinner tables of the Liberian elite. They preferred instead, Heinenken, BECKS and other foreign produced beer. The wearing of a top hat and tailcoat became synonymous to wealth and status in society.
An additional cultural aspect to this was the adoption or imposition of western cultural attributes and tastes on the population. For example, until the inauguration of President William Tolbert in 1972, at no other time in the history of Liberia were indigenous native songs rendered at that occasion. All other times before, only Western hymns and songs were rendered at such occasions. And that was a singular achievement of the venerable Liberian female ethnomusicologist, Agnes Nebo von Ballmoos.
Back to the present, Liberia at its 173rd anniversary of independence, finds itself faced with perhaps the greatest crisis of leadership in this country’s contemporary history. Since emerging from a prolonged brutal civil 14-year civil conflict in 2003, the country has experienced three (3) successive democratic elections back to back.
It experienced twelve (12) years of uninterrupted peace under the reign of President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, thanks to the presence of 15,000 UN Peacekeepers who maintained stability and thus enabled the government to attend to other priorities. Three (3) back-to-back successive democratic elections should be indicators of a healthy and robust electoral system in any country.
At least this is what is expected. But in the context of Liberian politics and perhaps elsewhere such a robust and healthy electoral system can be undermined by a leader bent on imposing its will on the people as was vividly demonstrated under the leadership of President Sirleaf, who not only encouraged a corrupt non-Liberian citizen to oversee the elections process, but she also displayed open bias towards a rival political party and ultimately ensured its rise to national leadership.
More than that the passage into law of 66 bogus agreements, thus virtually mortgaging the entire country, makes nonsense of whatever pretensions to sovereignty and independence our leaders may have proclaimed. More to that, it is becoming increasingly clear that the glowing terms in which she-spoke of the promised generational change that would solve the country’s problems, was all hype and fake. Now the country finds itself plagued with such a plethora of problems that should make any lavish celebrations unthinkable.
But it appears not to the case as top officials of this government are engaged in a spending splurge intended to woo people into voting for the ruling party at the December polls. That the country appears to be fast sinking does not make a difference to these officials. What will the celebration of July 26 mean to them when they do not have any money to buy food to feed their children?
Frankly speaking there is little for which to celebrate. This should be a time of reflection on what we have achieved to far, the mistakes we have made and how we can learn from those mistakes so that we do not repeat them ever again. Additionally, this occasion should provide an opportunity for President Weah to speak to his people from the heart with a solemn pledge to turn things, to end the spate of corruption which is running this nation to the ground and making nonsense of its claim to 173 years of existence.