In his powerful Commencement Address last Saturday to the Graduating Class of Cuttington University, Daily Observer publisher, Kenneth Y. Best, gave several warnings to the people and government of Liberia.
He first told them that Liberians were losing their country FAST. How? He said leading families and ordinary ones, too, were leasing their prime properties to foreigners for 30 to 60 years for pittance. In so doing, they were mortgaging the inheritance of their children and grandchildren and these properties may be lost forever.
Mr. Best included some of the nation’s churches in this property surrender—properties that were acquired by the missionaries over 70 years ago for education. Look at what has happened to the Methodist property on Tubman Boulevard. They have mortgaged it until they have squeezed themselves off their own land, and hidden way behind the Methodist Girls Hostel, which for generations accommodated young girls from upcountry attending the College of West Africa and older girls from out of town attending the University of Liberia.
Mr. Best warned, secondly, that huge tracks of agriculture land, mineral mines and petroleum blocks were being handed to foreign conglomerates—all with NO Liberian participation.
The Cuttington Commencement Speaker warned, thirdly, that the Liberian economy was now totally in the hands of foreigners, leaving Liberians in continuing poverty and powerlessness.
He warned thirdly that thousands of youth from abroad were invading Liberia annually to take the jobs in business houses that Liberian high school and college graduates could be trained to do. This crisis, he said, was being actively facilitated by the Ministry of Justice, especially its Immigration arm, and the Ministries of Commerce and Labor, who are responsible for giving out residence permits, business licenses and work permits.
Mr. Best warned, fourthly, that if the government did not require these business houses to train Liberian high school and college graduates to take responsible jobs, instead of having the country invaded by foreign youth every year, this could spell trouble tomorrow.
The speaker’s fifth warning was that foreign businesspeople had a spell upon Liberia’s lawyers, judges, politicians and government officials and were therefore in the habit of humiliating the poor Liberian boy and girl, man and woman, keeping them continually poor, vulnerable, subservient and powerless in their own country.
The Commencement Speaker said he knew of NO country in the world who gave foreigners in their midst that kind of power. And he warned that the Liberian government would maintain this status quo at its own peril. Why? because the people will develop a sense of hopelessness since they feel they have no stake in their country, Liberia. They would be ready and willing to join any insurrection s (rebellion, revolt) and again destroy its infrastructure.
He then gave this candid and helpful advice to government: Every foreign business person who runs a business worth US$50,000 and up should have at least one Liberian partner.
That is the way to empower Liberians. So many other countries have done it, thereby enabling their people to take a substantial stake in their economy.
Mr. Best charged Saturday’s Cuttington graduates become the ones who will REDEEM Liberia. They can redeem Liberia by loving, fearing and serving Almighty God, and He, in turn, will protect, sustain and prosper them in EVERYTING they do. They must love their country, Liberia, and love, serve and support their fellow Liberians. They must, in everything they undertake, be honest, patriotic, conscientious, hard working and time-conscious. “When you are called to be a partner in any business,” he admonished, “be a good, reliable, dependable honest and productive partner.”
Mr. Best told the graduates that they could redeem Liberia by going out and starting businesses and thereby soon become part of the emerging Liberian middle class.
He recalled that twice before, in 1972 and 1989, he had given similar warnings, but they were ignored. The 1972 warning, in a speech at the Booker Washington Institute (BWI) was followed by the 1980 coup d’état. The 1989 warning, at the same Cuttington, was followed 12 days later by Charles Taylor in Buutuo, Nimba County igniting the civil war.
Mr. Best urged the government to take action NOW, and redeem Liberia, and not sit and wait for more trouble.