Liberia at 171:  What Have We to Show?

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Another July 26 has come to celebrate our Independence Day, a day on which we recall how eleven men representing three commonwealth counties (Montserrado, Grand Bassa and Sinoe) signed the Declaration of Independence in 1847 and thus leading Liberia to becoming the first African independent state.

No female was among the eleven signers of independence, although we know from history that women played key supportive roles in the drive to independence amongst which was the design of what is known today as the Liberian flag made up of eleven stripes representing the 11 signers of the Declaration of Independence.

As the nation looks back today reflecting from whence we have come as a people and what we have so far achieved in terms of the quest for dignity and justice and equality as enshrined in the Preamble of the 1847 Declaration of Independence. It reads thus:

“We the people of the Republic of Liberia were originally the inhabitants of the United States of America. In some parts of that country, we were debarred by law from all the rights and privileges of men-in other parts, public sentiment more powerful than law frowned us down.

We were everywhere shut out from all civil office. We were excluded from all participation in the government. We were taxed without our consent. We were compelled to contribute to the resources of a country which gave us no protection. We were made a separate and distinct class and against us every avenue to improvement was officially closed.

Strangers from all lands of a different color from ours were preferred before us. We uttered our complaints but they were unattended to, or only met by alleging the peculiar institutions of the country. All hope of a favorable change in our country was thus wholly extinguished in our bosoms, and we looked with anxiety abroad for some asylum from the deep degradation.

The Western coast of Africa was the place selected by American benevolence and philanthropy for our future home. Removed beyond those influences, it was hoped we would be enabled to enjoy those rights and privileges and exercise and improve those faculties, which the God of nature has given us in common with the rest of mankind”.

These words written 171 years ago, basically a litany of complaints, in effect constitute perhaps what is the longest duration anywhere of unlitigated complaints against the Government of the United States of America. Those unlitigated complaints notwithstanding, after nearly two centuries of existence as a nation, what can we as a nation truly celebrate aside from the fact of our independence declared 171 years ago?

Truly speaking the quest to establish an independent nation was in fact a quest for equality, justice and the freedom to enjoy all those rights denied the founding fathers in the land of their birth that propelled them to seek succor on this piece of land now otherwise referred to as the Republic of Liberia.

In establishing the Republic, the founding fathers established a form of government akin to that of the United States of America with a government made up of three separate independent but coequal branches, namely the Executive, Judiciary and Legislative. Indeed the founding fathers had a lofty vision of a future Liberia built on the foundations of justice and equality.

But nation building, being a human endeavor, is prone to mistakes and even failure. In this vein we acknowledge that successive leaders of this Republic have betrayed the vision of the founding fathers. And they have done so by creating a hydra-headed monster of an Executive branch that is very corrupt, dominates and even emasculates the others.

Through the influence of the Executive for example, over 60 bogus concession agreements have been midwifed into existence through corrupt means. For its part, the Legislative branch has willy-nilly accommodated the hunger of the Executive to bend the rules for personal gain, and passing into legal existence concession agreements in violation of the laws of Liberia.

For much of its history, it (the Legislature) has been nothing more than a rubber stamp body approving and indulging the Executive in its breach of the laws of the Republic. For its part the Judiciary rather than being a guardian of the People’s trust have also over the years accommodated the Executive in abusing the rights of the people leaving the mass of the citizenry completely bereft of trust in the Judiciary.

Bribery and other forms of corruption have taken hold and threaten the very independence of the Republic. Courts of law, rather than being Holy Altars of Justice have been instead desecrated and presided over by mean, vile and corrupt men and women thus placing Justice far out of reach of the ordinary Liberian today.

As if by Providence, what remains of the Republic after encroachment by colonial powers, is a land mass not as large as before but richly endowed with a wide variety of natural resources. But as if by Satanical intervention, citizens of the Republic remain mired in abject poverty with virtual predators manning its machinery of government and for personal gain, selling for few pennies any and everything they can lay hands on including their own birth rights.

So after 171 years of existence, the Republic finds itself at a crossroads of history, where every step forward has to be carefully measured. But we must also ask the question what is there to celebrate against the backdrop of dismal national statistics such as 85 percent illiteracy, very high infant and maternal mortality rates, 1,072 deaths per 100,000 live births (2013 DHS), a broken and dysfunctional education system, over 80 percent unemployment, a very corrupt judiciary, a compromised Legislature and an overbearing and corrupt executive.

This 171st Independence anniversary should be a time of deep national reflection. Liberia is in crisis — very deep crises and uncertainty appears to have gripped the nation amidst mounting economic hardships, to which real solutions appear elusive.

Rather than merry-making and basking in the fantasy of promised but false Hopes, Liberians should instead engage in deep reflection on the future. And we must ask ourselves the all-important question What is there to show after 171 years of existence as an independent nation?

Authors

7 COMMENTS

  1. Mr. Editor, your paper editorial of today’s is one of those pieces of trash written by so-called intellectuals in our society. They do not only write, but when they have nothing to say, they also talked rubbish for our children to hear on their graduations from kindergarten and high schools. These are the rubbishes that our children read and hear that make them not to be patriotic to their country and its rich political history. After 171 years of existence, then you come up to berate the governance structure of the country; what a nonsense, that you called editorial!Are you not grateful that you belonged to a piece of Land that you can called your country? Are you not acknowledging the struggles that the founders of this nation went through to have this done? Let’s admit that they made some mistakes in the process of nationhood, but they are not worth being berated; after the nation got its independence, what did our modern generation do? destroyed it in the name of making it better, you Mr. Editor served in one of these governance structure, what did you do in your little corner or what difference did you make? Nothing!!!!!! Stop the criticisms and put on a new thinking cap, ok?
    Thanks.

  2. The paradox of the narrative is such that the Editorial bias of the Observer has rationalized a political ideological persepective which justifies some of the politcal Operators and ideas that succeeded the 27 years of Tubman wherein there was a kleptocratic oligarichy which presided over a Dispensation of economic growth without development as enumerated by Robert W. Clower , George Dalton, et al in 1966.

    How can the Observer resolve the contradiction of supporting such primitive Paternalistic or should I say recently Maternalistic manifestations of Politics in Liberia and expect different outcomes?

    As the Information Age has clearly demonstrated ….. Garbage in = Garbage Out!

  3. Mr. John H.T Stewart, please, pardon the puerile genuflections of Gbada J. Harris, alias Flomo and the other anonymous commenter; these guys are defensive of an era when their bloodlines were the ‘sole’ overlords. It is the same nostalgia the American South would feel for Slave Plantations, and the Afrikaaners for Apartheid South Africa. But to answer your question, we have something intangible yet significant to show for 171 years of Independence: Hope for a safer, richer, and happier Liberia.

    Indeed, it will include potentiality for a genuine Country-Congua cooperation in at last a truly inclusive democratic nation state. Anyway, to realize this, together we need to establish political stability which would result in an attractive climate for investments. The optimism is based on the fact that unlike, for example, Congo, most of our natural resources are still untapped. So, although poor we aren’t only sitting on hundreds of billions of US dollars worth of wealth, but also live on a fertile land once called the Grain Coast, with more than enough rainfall for well-planned mechanized farming.

    Most importantly, some of us might have been unconscionably selfish and greedy for the few visible creature comforts of life, yet don’t hate each other on ethnic, religious, or religious lines, which is evident by intermarriages and common children. Put another way, there has been a sort of class warfare centered on power, affluence, and influence. Unquestionably, that too shall pass as we discover new sources of revenue; restrain corruption; ensure equality of opportunities; dencentralize imperial executive power; empower local governments; and strengthen democracy – all of which should make every resident a shareholder in the protection and preservation of the country.

    The above isn’t sermonizing or daydreaming, Liberia already reached rock-bottom, and can’t go further, hence by the law of gravity has to go up. We can’t give up on her now. How could we, if the Jews whom, according to the Bible, God promised a Cannan – Israel – flowing with milk and honey depend on threats of retaliatory force and stockpiles of weapons to survive, why shouldn’t Liberians be grateful for their providential land. And if you ask me, fellows, we ought to be thankful our nation-founding fathers came to the Grain Coast, they enriched the culture: an immense blessing, no doubt.

    • “Liberia already reached rock-bottom, and can’t go further, hence by the law of gravity has to go up”
      No disrespect meant , but gravity (not to be confused with normal force acting upwards on a body at rest) doesn’t work that way. On earth (we are excluding gravity on other planets), gravity acts/points downwards (We are not talking normal force here acting on an object at rest within the as indicated by this arrow ( 🠗 ). If it works as per your reasoning Sir, we would have all reached the moon and beyond by now .

      I hope you don’t take offence, my apologies in advance as I don’t know if this was figuratively meant, rooting from some “scientific misconception” accepted in ordinary literature !

      • Call Me John Doe July 27, 2018 at 8:48 am
        “Liberia already reached rock-bottom, and can’t go further, hence by the law of gravity has to go up”
        No disrespect meant , but gravity (not to be confused with normal force acting upwards on a body at rest) doesn’t work that way. On earth (we are excluding gravity on other planets), gravity acts/points downwards as indicated by this arrow ( 🠗 ). If it works as per your reasoning Sir, we would have all reached the moon and beyond by now .

        I hope you don’t take offence, my apologies in advance as I don’t know if this was figuratively meant, rooting from some “scientific misconception” accepted in ordinary literature !

  4. No offense taken, John Doe, at least, you made allowance for probability that the analogy could be figurative, which informed grasp of my purpose and supporting arguments. By the way, writing and criticism are inseparable in the public square; anyone leery of the latter shouldn’t go there, thanks.

  5. Let’s face the facts. CORRUPTION IS A “CANCER” IN LIBERIA. All talk and no concrete action on the part of every government official is ever worse. I seriously doubt if the government of Liberia is committed to stamping out corruption especially at the airport and seaport of the country. Bribery and extortion is and has been a “requirement” since day one and this must stop if Liberia is to get off the list of the 10 poorest countries in the world. NO public official deserves a salary over $6,000(US) a month in a country with practically no electricity or safe drinking water for the masses. This is a NATIONAL DISGRACE.

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