We as a publication have described Madam Leymah Gbowee’s Independence Day Oration as the speech that pressed the reset button for the Republic of Liberia and moved us forward as a nation. Indeed it was, because forward movement begins in the mind before it manifests in the physical. We would hate to see such an opportunity for forward movement fade away into oblivion. Therefore we as a publication would like to help the Government and people of Liberia zoom in on the actionable takeaways from the speech that we believe can be turned into action in order to progressively move the nation forward.
1. The Oration itself contains a model of the legwork that the government of Liberia needs to do — namely, as Madam Gbowee called it, a “listening tour.” This entails going to the people themselves (the governed) and hearing their concerns. This would represent a deviation from the habit of turning a deaf ear to the cries of the poor on whose backs this administration came to power.
We urge the government to conduct a complete 15-county listening tour in order to get a comprehensive view of what the needs of the country are in order to formulate a solid, well-informed strategy for national development. A synopsis of the mini-tour done by the orator shows that the issues were synced from one community to the next – corruption, overspending, limited access to healthcare and justice, incompetence in positions of authority, the poor education system, and the elephant in the room – the prevailing economic situation wherein people can hardly feed themselves, let alone pay school fees.
2. There is also work for Liberians ourselves (we the people) to do. If we lack access to good healthcare, a good place to start would be prevention. We need to clean up our communities without being asked or paid. By the same token, when we see volunteers cleaning up communities let us contribute in cash or kind. We need to organize systems by which we govern our own communities so that we do not depend on government for everything. Liberians are very resourceful and intelligent. We find a way around anything. Let us put that intelligence to good use – trash collection strategies; water management strategies; collaboration with local clinics; even food and water supply. Let us contribute locally to the cleaning up and maintenance of our market places. We can probably even construct economic strategies to counter the prevailing circumstances if we really put our minds to it. The first step is identifying the realities. The next, formulating community-based strategies.
3. Development is a state of mind. Corruption and wickedness are also a mindset. We need to correct the way we think and put each other and the country first. But we need to be willing to move forward in that direction. If we put our hearts and minds to it, we can accomplish anything.
4. One very important point Madam Gbowee made was that “[Liberia’s] natural resources are [being] sold to those who have no development agenda for the Republic of Liberia.” That is accurate. We need to put a stop to that and put our natural resources to better use. We need the political will to redesign concession agreements. The ‘resources for aid’ strategy is not sustainable. We need to become truly independent and stop depending on others, whose main priority is their own selfish national interests anyway. It is not the job of foreign concessionaires to develop Liberia. That is our job.
5. Madam Gbowee also spoke of the need to address the harsh economic conditions and create jobs for our youth. Liberia is a country of vast natural resources. But one industry that would be a major job creator is tourism. Hotels, villas, beach restaurants, canoe rides, cultural displays, arts and artifacts, taxi rides, car rentals, tour guides, businesses of various kinds are all potential job opportunities for Liberia’s youth.
According to statistics, the tourism industry outperforms the world economy on a sustainable basis. Liberia is an incredibly beautiful country. A tourism industry is totally viable.
6. Last but certainly not least, we would like to reiterate the orator’s call for the President of Liberia, His Excellency Dr. George Manneh Weah, to lead from the front by example. President Weah still has the love and commands the respect of the Liberian people. But their patience is wearing thin, and he must act fast. We call upon the President to reset; to surround himself with the right people for the forward movement of this country. We call upon him to start anew. Forward movement requires a custom made strategy. Success does not happen by accident or by copy cat. It requires planning. How we want to develop this country and how we want to manage our resources requires strategy and planning in order for it to be sustainable. It requires focus and commitment. We call upon him to level with the Liberian people. To hear their cries. To declare his assets and to create gender balance in his administration. We call upon the President to put patriotism above friendship.
You can do it, Mr. President. Let no one tell you that you are not capable. You were elected for such a time as this. We call upon you to take the lead.
We are ready.