Preparing for UNMIL’s Departure

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The United Nations Security Council has decided to pull UNMIL out of Liberia on June 16, 2016, roughly a year prior to the 2017 presidential and general elections that will mark a serious political transition.

In her roundtable discussion with the Liberian media last Friday, Special UN Secretary General Representative of the (SRSG), Karen Landgren, said it was critical that the Liberian government and people prepare for UNMIL’s departure.  She challenged the media to do all they can to ensure that the government is ready to assume this highly significant, historic responsibility.

One of the Liberian media’s  challenges, certainly, is to assess for themselves the efficacy (usefulness) of the  Security Council’s decision.  Was it arbitrarily taken? Is it realistic for UNMIL to pull out on the eve of these momentous (earth-shattering) 2017 elections? 

Why these questions?  The Daily Observer has long called for Liberians to assert their independence and self control, most especially in business.    Even though we submit that Liberians have not proven themselves to be highly entrepreneurial, that is no excuse for the continued foreign dominance of our economy.  It is the responsibility of the government and all of its institutions, if they are interested, sincere and determined, beginning with the schools and universities, and all the relevant players—the Ministries of Finance, Commerce, Justice and Labor—to help build the country’s entrepreneurial capacity.  For what are governments for, if not to see, identify and focus upon a dire need and DO something to fulfill that need and make a substantive (permanent, enduring) difference? 

If, however, the government is happy with the status quo, subjecting its own people to abject poverty and continuing to keep them as peons (people held in compulsory servitude) in their own country serving other people, especially foreigners, then nothing will change for us, and the rich especially foreigners and a very few Liberians, will continue to become richer and the majority poorer.

That is a POLITICAL decision that neither the Security Council nor ANYBODY else can make for Liberia.  It is Liberians themselves who must change that status quo and make a permanent and enduring difference, that will assure all Liberians a stake in their own country, leading, empowering, compelling them to do what Edwin Barclay challenged them to do in The Lone Star Forever: “Defend the sacred heritage.”

Without this radical change in the status quo, Liberia, we are afraid, will ALWAYS need an UNMIL or ECOMOG to protect Liberians from themselves.

What are we saying here?  We are saying that so long as the government remains oblivious to the reality of poverty in this country, so long will we be at risk of political upheaval.  This government is fully aware of all the groups who have been calling for either regime change or an “interim government”—whatever that means.  The Daily Observer has consistently and vigorously resisted this, arguing that another interim government would do what all the others except Chairman Charles Gyude Bryant’s NTGL, did—pillaged and plundered the national coffers, then led us to more conflict. 

It seems to us that the current government is the best institution that has the capacity to make a difference, primarily and consummately because THIS is what it was elected to do—and promised it would do—seek the highest interest of the people.  That highest interest is to do everything to seize and retain the POWER that the Constitution has already given them in the first sentence of  Article 1: “ALL power is inherent in the people.”

Without the people feeling powerful instead of powerLESS, those institutions on whom we depend to replace UNMIL, such as the Liberia National Police (LNP) and the Bureau of Immigration and Naturalization (BIN)—but especially the LNP—will continue to be seen as enemies to the people, an LNP whom the people see as seizing every opportunity to extort from, harass, intimidate and humiliate them.

Herein, then, lies the urgency of the cogent (sound) admonition which the Deputy Minister of Justice, Counselor Wheatonia Dixon Barnes, gave the BIN and the LNP last Friday.  If they should be prepared to take over from UNMIL come June 2016, she told them, they must become “accountable and transparent” in all their work.

If they are prepared to behave in that fashion, then they may be ready; if not, they will not be ready.  But the GOL can help make them ready by using its remaining time in office to reduce poverty by helping Liberians get into business and having a greater say in their economy.

Can this government bring itself to that?  That remains to be seen.   

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