President Weah’s First Annual Message Makes Great, Unprecedented Promises to Foreigners: What Was in It for Liberians?

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President Weah giving his State of the Nation Address Speech at the Capitol Building 3 [Desktop Resolution](Photo by: Nick N. Seebeh)

President George Manneh Weah, who only eight days ago took the oath of office to become Liberia’s new President, made pronouncements in his maiden Annual Message on policy issues which no President before him has done.

He boldly took issue with the very Liberian Constitution he last Monday took the oath of office to “support, uphold, protect and defend.”

He informed the Legislature, invited guests, who included his immediate predecessor, President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, and the entire Liberian populace that he could not report much on the economy since he has been in office for only one week.  He did, however, admit to them that he and his new administration had inherited an economy that is “broke.”

He pledged a number of issues to help revive the economy, including building paved roads connecting all county capitals—a move that would indeed create thousands of jobs.

Two major issues most people did not hear President Weah elaborate on in his Annual Message were Agriculture and Tourism, both of which are not only money makers but also massive job creators.

But the President rushed to enter territory no other President has been.  He plunged headlong into very serious constitutional issues which have been enshrined in the Constitution since the beginning of the Republic—1847.

The first was on citizenship.  The Constitution, in Chapter 4 under Citizenship, Article 27 b clearly states that in order to preserve, foster and maintain the positive Liberian culture, values and character, only persons who are Negroes or of Negro descent, shall qualify by birth or by naturalization to be citizens of Liberia.”

On this matter, President Weah said in his first Annual Message, “I would now like to address you on what I consider to be my most urgent and imperative agenda: Limitation of citizenship only to black people and land ownership preserved only for citizens or black people.

This, President Weah said, may have been appropriate in the 19th century, but not today.  He, therefore, put this to the Legislature and the Liberian people: “I therefore strongly recommend that consideration should be given to removing it by appropriate measures provided for in our laws for amending the Constitution.”

On the issue of land ownership to citizens only, President Weah recommended that this restriction be removed, and that appropriate rules and regulations of the Land Commission and other relevant agencies be amended and strengthened to accommodate this new development, if approved by referendum.”

These two fundamental constitutional issues have been put to referendum twice in recent years—first, when Dr. Amos Sawyer and his 25-member National Constitution Commission (NCC) toured the entire country and came back with the people’s verdict that this constitutional provision should not be touched.  Again in 2011 another referendum was held on issues including this one, and the people’s verdict was the same: leave this thing alone.

Why did the Liberian people, even today, side with the framers of the original Constitution of 1847?  For the same reason postulated in 1847.  And what was that?  Yes, 19th century colonialism and imperialism no longer exist, but who control and even DOMINATE the Liberian economy today?  Foreigners, especially Lebanese and Indian nationals, who have shown no willingness even to train Liberians in business, and to invite them to join them in business.

Give these people citizenship, and the opportunity to buy land “in fee simple,” to use President Weah’s words.  This newspaper has said on numerous occasions that there is enough money in the Middle East to purchase every inch of Liberian land.  And soon, the poor Liberian people will find themselves living in segregated backwoods with no place to do their farming or live a free and normal life.

This newspaper is not against selling land to foreigners.  Our contention is that this should be done ONLY when Liberians are better empowered economically and are no longer so poor and destitute, as we are now, that our people would be willing to sell their land for anything, and soon find themselves totally landless and far poorer tomorrow.

One young Liberian woman, upon hearing President Weah’s constitutional proposals about citizenship and land ownership “in fee simple,” remarked almost tearfully, “That is surely not coming from the people’s President.”

What we expected President Weah to have dealt with first and foremost is the abject poverty in which Liberians live and the dominant role foreigners are playing in our economy.  We expected him to propose ways of empowering Liberians economically, by finding ways to promote Liberian entrepreneurship and to encourage Liberians in business.

The Mexicans tried this same thing in the 19th century—selling their land to foreigners, and soon found themselves (Mexicans) serfs (laborer legally bound to serve a lord) and peons (low paid workers) without hope in their own country.

We wish to assure President George Weah of one last thing: LIBERIANS ARE NOT racists.

To find out who the racist really is, we ask President Weah two questions: First, how many Liberian women does he know who have had children for Lebanese or Indian men? Second, how many Lebanese or Indian women does President Weah know who have had children for Liberian men?

We could go on, but will stop here for now.

Authors

9 COMMENTS

  1. If you say “Liberians are NOT racists,” then why do the majority of them want to KEEP a racist clause in their Constitution??? To protect them from foreign (white people) domination??? Please..I have to suppress the laughter here..

    The sad and tragic fact is Liberia was very vocal in its opposition to apartheid in South Africa, but today, Liberia gets little or no attention from the local and international media for having such racist language (Negros or Negro decent) and in its Constitution. Why?

    It’s because of the double standards that exit in the local and international media today: When Black Africans are the perpetrators of racism, the rest of the world looks the other way. But when White Europeans/ Americans are the perpetrators, all hell breaks loose!

    • You don’t seem to understand that the playing field has yet to be leveled. This may help enlighten you:
      “The thriving British economy after 1660 was made possible mainly because of Britain’s financial institutions. Trading houses, insurance companies and banks emerged to underpin Britain’s overseas trade and empire. The expansion of overseas trade, especially in the Atlantic, relied on credit, and bills of credit (like modern travellers cheques), which were at the heart of the slave trade. Similarly, the maritime insurance, which was focused at Lloyds of London, thrived on the Atlantic slave trade.”
      http://www.bbc.co.uk/history/british/abolition/building_britain_gallery_02.shtml

      “In 1834 Britain abolished slavery, a defining and celebrated moment in our national history. What has been largely forgotten is that abolition came at a price. The government of the day took the extraordinary step of compensating the slave owners for loss of their ‘property’, as Britain’s 46,000 slave owners were paid £17bn in today’s money, whilst the slaves received nothing.”
      http://www.bbc.co.uk/mediacentre/proginfo/2015/28/britains-forgotten-slave-owners

      Europe, America and, by extension, the White wealth/privilege you see today are the result of hundreds of years of systematic abuse; namely the enslavement and exploitation of Africans and the African continent. The effects of this are still plaguing people of African descent today. The playing field has yet to be leveled.

    • You clearly don’t know the definition of racism. Please look it up before you open your mouth.

      In this white supremacist world, there are no double standards that black ppl apply to Non-blacks. White people, Arabs, and people of non-negro decent naturally benefit from white privilege, especially in Africa

  2. The President is out of his mind and this clearly showed that Weah took some money during the campaign from both the Indian and Lebanese communities. For a president who promised to be the people’s president to be suggesting such is unbelievable and it begs the question how long has Weah thought about this land issue.

  3. If you don’t welcome people who have resources (time, money, experience) into the fold, Liberia will remain the same as it has been. Those who claim that they want Liberians only to be Liberians are short sighted. Look around you, look at the ground, the pollution, the filth, waste and corruption. The beaches are polluted, the waters are polluted and making us all sick. Welcome those with the resources, vision and energy to rebuild Liberia for it to grow. If you do, in five years Liberia will be a whole new place. Safer, cleaner and with jobs for those who are prepared to work. If you want to continue to lay on the sidewalk day in and day out then keep things as they are. if you want change, then support President Weah’s greater world experience, vision and energy.

    • Camai, it seems that you have no idea how other African countries managed to develop. For example, Côte d’lvore got her independence in 1960, and see how fast her people managed to develop it. Did the government sell the land? Did they allow white people to become citizens? I say a big NO! Agriculture, which is one of the important ways of growing economy, which was not mentioned in Weah’s SPEACH, according to the writer, is one of the things used by the great and WISE Ivorian LEADERS, to bring about development in their country. So, if Weah does not have any strategy to grow our economy, maybe he can go and borrow some good ideas from other African leaders.

      • Thank you. No foreigner is going to save Liberia. Only Liberians can save and improve Liberia. Black ppl are supposed to accommodate non-blacks. Skilled Liberians all around the world need to return home with the skills they have learned to rebuild Liberia.

        @Camai B Go to these countries who you are trying to give Liberian citizenship to and see how they treat you. See if they will even rent an apartment to you, or let you buy, land or property.

  4. I HAVE READ MOST OF THE COMMENTS AND THE PIECE ON THE ISSUE OF LAND OWNERSHIP IN LIBERIA.This issue has nothing to do with racism but rather to protect liberians as mentioned by some.many countries in Africa and around the world have this very same policy on the issue of land ownership and the they are doing just fine.

  5. DIASPORA VS NON DIASPORA LIBERIANS. I do realize a differerence of openion here base on where people are presently. People who have lived in Liberia all through their life time and those who have been in the diaspora or currently live in the diaspora. You are mostly prune to be against base on your experiance with white peopl in the west, and for those who haven’t, your openion wil sway FOR.
    I am personally aginst the idea of white citizenship. White people leaving the west to invest in poor countries dont do so because of citizenship incentives, Period. This is just shared ignorance. No white man in his right mind would risk his citizenship, the rights and preveliges of free university education, Free healthcare,Right to Food and shelter wheater he or she is employd or not,the protection in his country of origin to become a liberian citizen.
    Of course you will have the Asians to do that because some come from the slums of India, Bangledesh,Libanon and refugees from Syria which look much like West point, New Kru town, Waterside and other slums in Lib.. Land ownership for Asians and Chinese is a challenging preposition for the future generetion. You dont need to go far but to villages i Ghana where Chinese busnessmen have had clashes with villagers and village chifs for land rights leaving some villagers been shot by Chinese to protect land areas they bught from govt. The size and population og Liberia is like a district or city i China. So if the dicide to become citizens of Liberia and carve up towns and villages in liberia, have the president given a thought about the consequences.

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