In her address at the opening of the new Coca Cola Bottling facility in Paynesville Monday, President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf reminded Liberians that there was “no way that the Liberian economy or businesses operating in the country will boom amid the destruction of properties and businesses by demonstrations that have engulfed the country.”
“Meaningful investments that are supposed to improve the lives of the Liberian people and the economy,” she added, “cannot come to the country when investors feel insecure.”
This newspaper, the Daily Observer, has in just the past week published two editorials in this connection. The first was about the demonstrations in Ganta, Nimba, during which the thriving hotel as well as the homes of Mr. Prince Howard, a progressive Ganta entrepreneur, were looted and destroyed. Several people have since been arrested and, as usual, the parents of some of the youth involved have come asking for forgiveness.
Well, that is the same thing some youth of the same county, Nimba, did to ArcelorMittal Liberia last year, resulting in damages costing millions of United States dollars. Then the parents of the youth came begging President Sirleaf to “forgive.” Have we forgotten what the 1980 coup d’état, staged by the People’s Redemption Council, did to Liberia? It started the brain drain that saw tens of thousands of our educated people leave the country, most of them—and their children—never to return.
Then there was the civil war that drove into prolonged, largely interminable (endless) exile the remnants of the educated class. We are talking of medical doctors, nurses, engineers, technicians, teachers, priests and people of every imaginable profession.
In his book on Albert Porte, the author, Kenneth Y. Best, quoted Dew Tuan Wreh Mayson, a founding member of the Movement for Justice in Africa (MOJA), and one of the leading advocates for change in the 1970s. Mayson told the author, “The day I meet President William R. Tolbert, Jr. in the Great Beyond, I will tell him, My man, you got best,” – a Liberian way of saying I’m sorry. What did Mayson mean? He saw what came after the violent overthrow of Tolbert. Samuel Doe and the PRC not only murdered thousands of innocent people, leading the country through 10 years of terror. They also looted the public treasury. How many people know of the US$21 million mansion President Samuel Doe built in Zwedru and another plush dwelling in his home town, Tuzon? Is it necessary to ask where he got the money from?
Remember, too, that one of the prime reasons for the April 12 coup was “rampant corruption.”
Doe and the PRC’s excesses led the country to civil war. This led us to Charles G. Taylor who plundered not one, but two countries, Liberia and Sierra Leone.
For Mayson, Liberia was clearly better off with Tolbert than without him. There is a popular saying, “Be careful what you ask for.”
That is precisely what our second editorial on violent demonstrations, instability and chaos was trying to say. And that is why we are still pleading with those in government who identify with the Student Unification Party (SUP) at the University of Liberia (UL) to go talk to them. This business of disrupting classes at UL is bad for the university, bad for Monrovia, the nation’s capital, and bad for Liberia. Fortunately for us, there are not too many places around the country where youth and students think and behave that way. The UL campus and Nimba County are the woeful exceptions.
One of the world’s leading multinational corporations, Coca Cola, which happens to be headed by a young Liberian, Alex Cummings, insists on expanding its operations here and even going so far as to build a first class School of Technology in its Paynesville neighborhood. This is despite the economic downturn which Liberia suffered because of Ebola.
What the UL students and the Nimba youth do not understand is that the world is watching. Capital (money, especially those who have a lot to invest) loves peace and stability. Anything else will drive investors away, and where will Liberia be without jobs?
With our educational system still “in a mess,” the youths of the country, led by UL students who definitely should know better, should be the first to help fix the problem by doing all they can to maintain peace and stability, and give government and other stakeholders a chance to improve the situation. They should find peaceful means to resolve differences and disagreements.
Are UL students truly interested in improving the academic standards of their school, which is at an all time low? We pray that they will heed the voices of reason and not those of recklessness.