SINCE BECOMING AN INDEPENDENT nation in 1847, Liberia has found itself engulfed in a series of unfortunate events.
WHETHER IT WAS the sad fate of Edward James Roye, the first pure black person to become President of Liberia or the countless coups, counter coups, civil wars and self-destruction of its physical infrastructures, Africa’s oldest republic has seen it all.
PRESIDENT ROYE had arrived as a new immigrant in 1846, just a year prior to Independence. He became President in 1870 but was deposed the following year in the first coup d’état in the country. Two years later, he died mysteriously while in custody.
ROYE’S LEGACY to this day remains in tatters of shame amid variations of theories and reports that he was making a getaway with proceeds of an 1870 Loan when the boat he was riding capsized. Rescuers reportedly took the money from his body. Other reports say he died in prison after being dragged while trying to escape custody.
THEN CAME the shame of the 1927 general election now enshrined in the Guiness Book of World Record as "the most fraudulent ever”. Despite the fact that there were fewer than 15,000 registered voters, President Charles D.B. King received around 240,000 votes, compared to 9,000 for Thomas J. Faulkner.
SEVERAL YEARS would go by as Liberia struggled with its newfound freedom. Leader after leader came and amassed wealth, purchased yachts and power while the poor linger in abject poverty.
AFTER YEARS of True Whig Party dominance, a young master sergeant Samuel Doe and a band of military misfits ended decades of Americo-Liberian rule, pledging to rid the nation of corruption. Several key figures of the William R. Tolbert government were killed as the new government sought to show a stern fist to rid Liberia of one party dominance and what it touted as “rampant corruption”.
DOE LASTED nearly a decade but many of the ills he pledged to rid Liberia of was prevalent during his reign and remains prevalent today. His once famous mansion in Zwedru, his hometown, today lay in ruins – and so are a lot of his other properties. One famous one, the Vamoma House has been drawn in legal wrangle for years.
TAKE A DRIVE TO BENTOL, where the properties of late President Tolbert lay in ruins, abandoned and falling to pieces. The story is the same in Harper, Maryland County, home of late President Tubman. Homes and properties which once hosted the best parties and wining and dining are no more.
THIS BRINGS US TO TODAY, where decades later, we find ourselves as a nation enduring a recurring bad dream that never seems to want to end, a dream in which we continue to reward looters of our country with more opportunities to loot and reward former rebels who maimed, killed and send scores into exiles with King Maker status that is holding the nation’s political redemption hostage with standing in so-called vote-rich regions of the country.
QUITE RECENTLY FrontPageAfrica unearthed a story of Mr. Sebastian Muah, a former Managing Director of the Liberia Telecommunications Corporation (LIBTELCO) who reportedly deposited nearly a quarter million dollars on casino in the Central African Republic.
NAYSAYERS WERE QUICK to come to Mr. Muah’s defense until evidence pointed to the contrary. Weeks later, the Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf led government quietly slipped through a replacement, Mr.Darren Wilkins, who had been a member of the board, as Mr. Muah’s replacement.
AIDES TO THE PRESIDENT failed to do due diligence, omitting the fact that Mr. Wilkins has an arrest record in the United States of America for theft.
REPLACING ONE bad apple with another is sadly, not a good practice of good governance but once again, Mr. Wilkins supporters are singing his praises, forgetting to know how the job he has ascended to became vacant in the first place.
BUT MR. WILKINS, in an Op-Ed titled “Setting the Record Straight, published in several local dailies and online portals said though he was held for theft, it was simply because there was a procedural error in transferring the IT equipment to him for which he was called for questioning after his house was burglarized.
ON THE CONTRARY, court documents discovered by FPA shows that despite his not guilty plea and subsequent request for the dismissal of the case, the Libtelco chief was found guilty of petit theft – a first degree felony on September 3, 2010. He was fined US$300. He also served a sentence.
THE JUDGMENT NOTED: “The defendant being personally before this court, accompanied by accompanied by the defendant’s attorney of the record, Frank Paul DiPlacido, and having been adjudicated guilty herein, and the court having given the defendant an opportunity to be heard and offer matter in mitigating of sentence, and to show cause why the defendant should not be provided sentence by law, and there was no cause being shown. It is the sentence of the court that the defendant is hereby committed to the Sheriff of Lee County, Florida, be imprisoned for a term of two days (Lee County Jail)”.
AFTER YEARS of broken promises and unfulfilled expectations, Liberians continue to shoot themselves in the foot by quickly forgetting how evil and ruthless warlords were during the civil war but now celebrating them with jobs in the national legislature.
SADLY, MANY of those living in countries were such issues are not taking lightly and never accepted, are rooting for such vices to be accepted in a post-war nation on the rebound from a war caused by the very vices being celebrated and trumpeted today. In fact, some are saying what has something in America, got to do with Liberia?
HOW SOON HAVE WE FORGOTTEN? A lot of good people have lost their lives, many have been maimed, killed and others have simply turned their backs on this nation for good.
THE WORLD? Many of the nation’s we lift our heads to for handouts are now having second thoughts about aid.
SIMPLY PUT, the road ahead is going to be rugged and daunted.
THIS WEEK, a report in the influential Foreign Policy magazine suggests that the Trump administration’s March budget proposal is vowing to slash aid to developing countries by over one-third. The FP report says the overhaul also includes rechanneling funding from development assistance into a program that is tied closely to national security objectives.
THE FP REPORT noted that Acting USAID Administrator Wade Warren told employees at a recent staff meeting that administration officials are considering folding the agency into the State Department as part of a review mandated by President Trump’s March 13 executive order on streamlining the executive branch, according to a source within USAID. “The order instructs the head of each agency to submit a plan to the Office of Management and Budget director, Mick Mulvaney, “to reorganize the agency, if appropriate, in order to improve the efficiency, effectiveness, and accountability of that agency,” according to the report.
COUNTRIES LIKE Liberia can expect to see severe cuts in aids from not just the US but from the European Union as concerns over accountability and transparency heightened.
THIS IS WHY IT DOES not bode well for Liberia when one official dismissed for corruption is replaced by one who has been convicted for theft.
WHEN WE BEGIN to accept as normal the ills that destroyed what we took 170 years to build, then we dishonour the memory of those who died in vain struggling to make sure that we never again witness such carnage and destruction.
WE DISHONOR the legacy of D. Twe, Albert Porte, Tuan Wreh and the countless others who laid their lives on the line to ensure a brighter tomorrow, today.
BUT IT IS all about how we as Liberians seen ourselves. Make no mistake; the world has bigger problems now. We all recall the pains many endured during periods of war when many felt neglected and abandoned.
WE ALL REMEMBER when many could not find food to eat or a haven to lay their heads.
THE WORLD CAME AND DID its part; it is time for Liberians to grow up, roll up their sleeves and stand and be counted.