President Weah: “Sawyer Was My Role Model”

President George Weah: "We are convinced that the African Continent can build resilience policies and responses through regionalism and linkages across borders."

Dr. Amos Claudius Sawyer has gone to the great beyond but his legacy remains alive and celebrated not only by his peers and companions then but also President George Weah, who, on Wednesday disclosed that the fallen Statesman was his mentor and a role model.

“There are many speakers here today who extolled his chronicle and steering efforts to the peace, the governance and democracy that we now enjoy but, for my part, he was a mentor, a role model and an inspiration to me,” Weah told his audience at program marking the 77th posthumous birth anniversary celebration.

The program, convened at the Monrovia City Hall on June 15 by the friends, family, and associates of the late Dr. Sawyer, was a continuation of celebrations of his legacy as a statesman who did not only lead Liberia as an Interim President but also contributed to the charting of the course of peace in Liberia following a little over fourteen years of civil war.

“I had the good virtues to work closely with him over the years and the main lesson I learned from him was about creating harmony among people through dialogue, negotiation, and compromise; and the importance of making and keeping the peace,” the Liberian leader said.

President Weah continued in his remark that it is his hope that Senator Conmany B. Wesseh, Dr. Togba-Nah Tipoteh, and all other progressives chart the course that Dr. Sawyer did by being tolerant and allowing the free democratic space to flourish.

“Let me say one thing here and please forgive me if I say it wrongly: Dr. Sawyer was different among all of you. We listen to you people every day. Sawyer was a man of peace and he loved everyone, regardless of your background,” he said. He narrated how Dr. Sawyer, before his demise, visited the Executive Mansion and they (Weah and Sawyer) had “a frank and meaningful conversation” in which he (Weah) suggested that Sawyer accept an appointment to the Council of Elders of ECOWAS.

“He graciously told me, ‘You know you are my son. Let me go to the U.S. and see my doctor. I am feeling fatigued. When I come back, I will accept this appointment,’ he assured me,” Weah shared.

The President expressed regret that Sawyer did not come back alive and in good health to take on the task. He reflected further by disclosing that the fallen Political Scientist appointed him as Sports ambassador and he assigned to him the critical task of taking the message of peace to young people so that they could see war as a way forward no more.

Weah concluded by stating, “With his passing, we have lost a father, a statesman who was not afraid to walk his own path. He made his own indelible imprint on our history, democracy, governance, and our peace. Although he is gone, he will never be forgotten by this grateful nation.”

The event included a symposium section with multiple speakers, among them, Dr. Yarsuo Weh-Dorliae, a former Commissioner of the Governance Commission.

In a remark, Dr. Weh-Dorliae said Dr. Sawyer committed his life to building up a system of governance that would ensure the total and holistic involvement of people at the grassroot level and in the rural parts.

“Mr. President, since 2018 when you signed the Local Government Act, today is my second time meeting you. And I want to take this time to say what Sawyer meant by Local Government Law. It’s to decentralize the governance system. Since 1847, we have been using the colonial system, centralized. By then less than five percent of this country’s population decided for the entire country. The centralized system led us to the war,” Dorliae reflected.

He said Sawyer’s dream, as iterated by former U.S. President Barack Obama, was to see to it that there are strong and effective institutions rather than strong men and women. Dr. Sawyer came on board to see that things change in the country, seeing institutions become effective and a system of participatory democracy and our people in the interior receive services without having to come to Monrovia all of the time, as is the case now.

He reminded President Weah directly that the County Service Centers built during the era of Dr. Sawyer and through the government, then led by former President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, are no longer functioning and people in the rural parts of the country are no longer directly involved in the day-to-day formal economy of the country, thereby leading huge losses of meaningful revenues by the government. 

“We have a system here that all the funds the government receives are centralized in Monrovia. You cannot build a country like that. It is good that the people get some of the revenues and have the right to decide. Ministers in Government don’t know what the people in the rural areas go through. The people know their own problems; therefore, they should have the means to solve their own problems. Decentralize and ensure county service centers are sustained. Governance in politics is not about Priests and Bishops, or else it could have been so all over the world,” he said.

According to Dr. Weh-Dorliae, electing Senators and Representatives or even Presidents from time to time will never change anything significant unless the people themselves are directly involved with their own governance processes.

He called it unfair that the Legislature continues to appropriate the same amount of money for development purposes in all the counties.

“Development goes along with population and some other basic factors. US$200,000 for River Gee cannot be the same US$200,000 for Nimba County. There is a great difference. The population in Nimba is more and the demands there will always be high compared to a country that has far fewer people,” he said, noting that it is his hope that the Legislature sees reason and amend that portion of the budget law.

It was after this elaborate and passionate speech by Dorliae that President Weah immediately appointed him — right there in the program — to take over as Chairman of the Governance Commission, subject to confirmation by the Senate. 

Mrs. Thelma Duncan Sawyer, widow of Dr. Sawyer said she could not have been prouder than seeing President Weah and so many others celebrating the legacy of her husband.

“I am happy that today is a special day to honor my husband. Today would have marked him 77 years alive. But it is a good thing that we have assembled to celebrate this illustrious and humble man,” Mrs. Sawyer said.

She explained that she knew Sawyer for over 44 years and she was married to him for 38 good years.

“Sweetheart was the affectionate name I called him. He was my friend, my brother, my father figure and husband.  He was the father of our children and he was my soulmate,” she said, struggling between tears and her speech.

Mrs. Sawyer reflected that she was always proud of her late husband, mainly whenever he said “If we build a capable state, it can administer to the people sufficiently that they will be happy, and the divisions will be minimized once the State is delivering.”

She hailed Dr. Sawyer’s commitment to fighting for justice for all and striving for a free society.