Liberia Does Not Need Mary Broh; But A System Created In Her Image


TWO PRESIDENTS IN SUCCESSION NOW have come to realize one specific fact: That Mary Broh is an invaluable asset to Liberia. Love her or hate her, Broh’s no nonsense stance in tackling everyday issues.

IN 2007, WHEN THE PASSPORT BUREAU at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs was engulfed corruption and bribery, contributing to delays in the processing of passports by applicants, former President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf turned to “General Broh”, as many of her admirers have come to refer to her as, to help fix up the mess.

BROH DID NOT DISAPPOINT. In only a matter of weeks, the long queues which greeted passport applicants were no more. The processing time was shortened from weeks, sometimes months, to 48 hours.

BROH LEFT HER MARK in only one year. In 2008, Madam Sirleaf, in a bid to address the slow pace of container clearance and bottlenecks at the National Port Authority, turned to Broh and named her Managing Director of the NPA.

SIX YEARS AFTER BROH LEFT the passport division, old habits returned. The system she had put in place at the passport bureau had broken down once more, prompting President Sirleaf, on May 7th 2013, to caution Broh’s successor’s to channel her work ethics and restore sanity to the bureau.

AN ANGRY SIRLEAF, UPON HEARING of a breakdown in the system of issuing passports, with long lines and people once again paying others for processing their passports, visited the Passport Division to see the situation first-hand, issuing a caution to the then Director of the Passport Division, Mrs. Tennema Deline, about the inefficiencies and of going back to the old habits.

SIRLEAF REMINDED DELINE that, under former Passport Director Mary Broh, it used to take only 48 hours to issue passports, now it was now taking weeks.

PRESIDENT SIRLEAF THEN demanded immediate corrective actions to address the long lines of people waiting for passports, as well as the practice of applicants once again paying staff for service.

THE PRESIDENT, at the time also visited the first floor of the Foreign Ministry, having been informed that some staff were operating a cookshop on the premises, right down the hall from the cafeteria.

SIRLEAF, AT THE TIME, accused the staff of turning a government office into a restaurant, and of selling food when they were supposed to be working. The President then summoned the Deputy Minister for Administration (DMA), Mrs. Una Thompson, and ordered her to shut down the operation.

THE MARY BROH magic had fizzled.

SIMILARLYIN 2009, when criticisms of the filthiness of Monrovia was gaining notoriety, Sirleaf once again called on Broh, ending her tenure at the port to appoint her as Mayor of Monrovia.

BROH FACED STIFF resistance following her appointment, but Sirleaf insisted and despite hurdles for confirmation in the Senate, which led to Broh not being officially confirmed, Sirleaf made a presidential move to appoint Broh as Acting Mayor.

WHEN THE SIRLEAF government took its exit after the 2017 presidential elections, Broh was one of the only official from the Sirleaf era to hold on. President Weah appointed her as Director General of the General Services Agency.

LAST MONTH, Laurent Delahousse, the Head of the European Union Mission in Liberia uttered what was on the minds of many Liberians and expatriate community, that Liberia’s capital city, Monrovia was “dirty and disgusting” despite the fact that donors has been pouring millions in aid to clean up the city.

SAID THE EU ENVOY: “Monrovia is a disgusting city, it is a dirty city. Of all the capitals I have seen in my previous posts in Africa, I have not seen one that is as dirty as yours.”

AMBASSADOR DELAHOUSSE WENT on to urge City of Monrovia to address the issue of waste that continues to pose serious challenge for the Monrovia City government. “A clean city is an asset; it creates jobs and probably that is what Liberia needs most.”

IN RESPONSE TO THE EU AMBASSADOR, the Monrovia City Mayor Jefferson T. Koijee said the envoy’s comment was a restatement of the Monrovia City Corporation’s position that solid waste handling in the City of Monrovia is overwhelming their capacity to deal with the existing challenges they have in the absence of a sustainable approach.

DAYS LATER, on October 21, 2021, Mayor Koijee constituted what he termed as Citizens’ Engagement Board, tipping Broh as Chairperson of the Board and Ambassador Juli Endee as Co-chairperson.

EVER THE MULTI-TASKER, Broh, since her appointment, has maintained her work with the GSA while taking to the streets to restore sanity to a dirty city.

WHILE IT IS ALWAYS a good thing to see Madam’s Broh’s work ethic appreciated, it is somehow disturbing that the message Liberia is sending out to the rest of the world is that there is only one Liberian capable of exhibiting high-performance tasks with ease.

BROH HAS BEEN phenomenal. But is she the only product out of Liberia that personifies greatness? Are there no other Liberians capable of putting in the work and raising the bar of expectations to exceed the often mediocre display that has defined governance and performance in government ministries and agencies?

THIS BEGS THE QUESTION of what’s next? A Mary Broh appointment as Minister of Justice to clamp down on the wave of secret killings? A Mary Broh appointment to keep Pen-Pen and Keh-Keh riders off the main streets of the city? A Mary Broh appointment to weed corruption from government? A Mary Broh appointment to fix the messy economy? What’s next?

STEVE DAINES, A MEMBER OF THE REPUBLICAN PARTY and a member of the U.S. Senate from Montana once said: There are huge opportunities to continue to improve efficiency in the way the government operates and improve the way government provides services to its citizens. 

GOOD GOVERNANCE must ensure that everyone in an organization follows appropriate and transparent decision-making processes and that the interests of all stakeholders (shareholders, managers, employees, suppliers, customers, among others) are protected.

WHEN GOOD is omitted from governance and leaves a huge vacuum that can never be filled no matter how good the intentions are from those at the helm of power.

MARY BROH HAS BEEN a great asset to Liberia. In her old age, some President of the day will no doubt reward her with the nation’s highest honor for her service to country and one day, many moons from now, Liberians will remember the value, principles and strong ethics she brought to her work. However, it is important for Liberia and Liberians to begin to look at the big picture and the reality of what is really at stake.

AFRICA’S OLDEST republic continues to revolve around a recurring circle of impunity, corruption, greed and laziness;  a society where citizens have become prone to embracing mediocrity when they should trumpeting notable alternatives; a nation that has become so gullible that its citizens celebrate greed, corruption and shady characters masquerading as overnight saviors while those at the bottom of economic ladder continue to linger in abject poverty, entangled in the familiar refrain that politicians have abandoned them and all hope have been lost.

IF LIBERIA HAD A HUNDRED MARY BROH, perhaps things would be much better. But more importantly, if Liberia can put in place the right systems and people with the right attitude and do away with the age-old tribal warfare and historical blame game, there may never be a need to rely on the likeness of Mary Broh to save failing institutions or a rapidly failing state.