EDITORIAL: ‘Owners of the Land’ Have Spoken, Mr. President You Must Listen and Save Liberia
ON MONDAY, September 9, traditional leaders, under the banner of the National Traditional Council of Chiefs and Elders of Liberia, presented to President George Weah some recommendations that they think when implemented will make Liberia a better place to live.
BEFORE THEY had handed their document to the President, an official of the National Traditional Council read their statement out loudly to the hearing of everyone who had gathered in the C. Cecil Dennis Auditorium of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, which now contains the President of Liberia’s Offices.
AS HE READ their petition, one could clearly hear, understand and see the expressed concerns of the traditional leaders, about the deplorable state of affairs of the country. On that Monday, the chiefs and elders, who have time in memorial consider themselves to be the “owners of the land,” poured out their minds without mincing their words and they did so speaking truth to power.
THE DOCUMENT they had presented to the President had been craved during and at the end of a week-long conference in Monrovia. They said they cannot sit idly while vices that lead to conflict continue to take the public space.
THE TRADITIONAL people’s document did not only draw the attention of President Weah, but also throw lights on the opposition community, the Executive, Legislative and Judicial Branches of government for not individually playing their roles to promote unity, peace and development in Liberia.
THEY HAD drawn their petition out of hearings they conducted. They packaged highlight of speeches, complaints, defenses and suggestions as well as recommendations from Liberians from different walks of life including political, social and traditional backgrounds.
“IN OUR CAPACITY as those charged with the responsibility to protect, promote and preserve positive culture and tradition and to also serve as advisory arm to the Liberian Government and the people of Liberia in general, we have heard our own children and have observed every word of their experiences and wisdom; we have taken out time to write down these few words as our position of recommendations to our children, both government and the opposition,” Isaac Gbapue, Program Officer of the Council of Chief and Elders of Liberia, said as he read out the National Traditional Council of Chiefs and Elders’ petition.
WHEN THEY directly referenced the President, they mentioned the lack of accountability in the Executive Branch. They even said the Presidency continues to show “unwillingness to fight corruption.” They mentioned the poor state of the nation’s healthcare delivery system, lack of freedom of speech, freedom to walk the streets of various cities without being intimidated by ‘too many criminals.’ They also told the President that his administration is not freed from nepotism and “friendship administration where the love of friend or family member supersedes the general interest of the people.” The chiefs and elders further stated that Liberians lack the peace of mind where they are worried over salary cut, instead of rejoicing over pay rise and poor livelihood.
“PERMIT ME, Mr. President to address you directly. One of the many things spoiling our country is accountability. The people of Liberia voted you to power with the highest majority ever in the history of this country, by the exception of Charles Taylor for three things and they are: Hope to fight corruption, hope for a man to walk home and present an earning that will put smiles on the faces of children, hope to walk to the hospital telling their children I am coming back and sure he returns and all the pains are gone because the facilities are up to date. Hope for equal justice.”
THE TRADITIONAL people, however, acknowledged that the President inherited a country, which economy was in a deplorable state. They, nonetheless, said the President has made no effort in disproving what his predecessor has continually said that she left in the country’s coffer a good amount of money, instead he continues to blame former President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf’s leadership for the economy collapse under his leadership and handing the country to him very broke.
THE TRADITIONAL leaders also demanded the President to act decisively in the US$25 million case.
“WE WANT YOU to have this issue of L$16 billion done with, so as to give your people sign of relief. In our hearing the Central Bank Governor said no money was missing, but was placed in the vault and later removed. If so Mr. President, your fathers want you to clear their doubt as to what happened to that money.”
THEY URGED their President to speedily establish the Economic and War Crimes Court in the country. At the moment, this subject keeps showing its head in public discourse and the Weah-led administration keeps turning a blind eye to the reality of the day. However, as pressure mounts from every nook and cranny of Liberia, President Weah’s regime might be thinking that it can no longer dodge this issue.
UNLIKE BACK in the day, especially in the 60s, 70s, 80s and 90s when sycophancy was rampant and clearly written on the faces of the people of the land, this time around, these traditional people or “country people” as some call them, approached the ‘throne’ of power without being intimidated and chastised all the major stakeholders of the land, including their lawmakers in the Legislature and Judiciary. These elders of the land were bold, determined and very resolute as they spoke their truth to the power of the day.
MR. PRESIDENT, please don’t sweep the recommendations coming from these people under the carpet. These are people, who overwhelmingly voted you to be their President. Most of these people who live in rural Liberia, are the ones feeling the worst pinch of the collapsed economy under your watch. Prices of basic amenities become five times what it is sold by in Monrovia by the time those items get to their towns and villages. They have spoken; please decisively act on those recommendations so that the State can be saved and their lives can get better.