MONROVIA – The former President and Chief Executive Officer of the National Oil Company of Liberia (NOCAL), Mr. Christopher Zeohn Neyor says acts of corruption, particularly in the public sector, remain deeply rooted in post-conflict Liberia with the sole involvement of diaspora Liberians who accepted appointed governmental positions to serve their country and its people back home.
According to him, the menace has become cancer in the nation, with most public officials accumulating questionable wealth overnight, depriving citizens of economic, social developments, and other benefits.
He made these comments when he delivered the keynote address at a program commemorating the 175th Independence Day Celebration of Liberia held in the United States over the weekend.
The program was organized by the United Liberian Association of Houston (ULAH).
Mr. Neyor spoke on the topic: What roots are we going back to?”
He said instead of finding solutions to combat corruption in the nation, “Liberians from right here in the United States critical of corruption back home became more corrupt when offered public positions in our country”.
“Corruption unfortunately has taken root in just about every sphere of Liberian public and private life and has become cancer limiting our economic development. Corrupt practices in public office have become the source of ill-gotten wealth for many Liberians”.
He stressed that corruption has been getting progressively worse in Liberia to the point where public stealing of the collective resources is more “conspicuous”.
“It is bold, in your face arrogant corruption committed in the sight of all as if to say, “I will steal from you, I will be dishonest and what are you doing to do about it. We can all agree that is not a root we want to go back to.”
Mr. Neyor observed that acts that breed violence also visible in present-day Liberia.
He named high level of contradictions, corruption, poor governance, abuse of human rights, and injustice as some of the vices that breed violence.
“We saw what this did to breakdown of law and order, the massive atrocities and destruction of the civil conflict in Liberia. It seems we have not learned our lesson and we see these ugly demons creeping up again. Just this recent 26th, which we are honoring here today in Houston, violence erupted on the streets of Monrovia near the United States Embassy when government supporters inflicted severe injuries of students of the University of Liberia who were peacefully protesting. One of those students is in critical condition.”
Christopher Walter Sisulu Sivili of the Student Unification Party (SUP) at the University of Liberia, was humiliated, tortured, naked, and brutalized by some members of the CDC-COP after he and others had gone before the US embassy to protest and present a petition against the high cost of living in Liberia during the celebration of the country’s 175th Independence.
The CDC-COP is an auxiliary of the ruling party in Liberia.
Though Christopher ran away from his attackers into a house nearby, he was captured, dragged out and beaten. Blood was seen oozing from his head, nose, mouth and other parts of his body. He was rescued from his attackers by unknown persons who risked him away on a commercial motorbike.
The victim was has been reportedly flown out of the country to seek medical attention due to his critical nature, however, the police has charged and forwarded to court the leaders of the CDC-COP who allegedly carried out the act.
The silent encouragers
But Mr. Neyor rallied Liberians in the diaspora to speak out against acts of tyranny and bad governance in the Liberian society.
“When this kind of inhumanity to man occurs in our homeland and we say nothing, we become silent encouragers to future abuses and tyranny, prescription to instability and conflict”.
He stressed that “being a friend of the national leadership or being a supporter of the government does not mean one should condone doings that are wrong and could quickly condemn were you on the other side.”
“The best friends any President can have are those who speak truth to him and not the sycophants.”
Patriotism and integrity
Speaking further, Mr. Neyor called on Liberians to create and forge a genuine new roots of unity, mutual respect, love of country and integrity.
“Our culture, our tradition, our history and the founding of Liberia were not perfect but we can work together to perfect them, one generation at a time. Americans reached a significant point of perfecting their union with election of a black man few years ago, a person from the rank of those who were slaves to the highest office in this country and perhaps in the world. How can we perfect the history of dishonesty, selfishness, contradictions and corruption and build a more perfect republic? The answers rest with each of us to first become the change we want to see in Liberia.”
He observed that the country’s history remain filled with accounts of integrity issues or the lack thereof, and as such, Liberians should maintain and uphold their integrity in whatever they do.
“From the very founding of the country in the acquisition of land and in politics and business and even in the religious institutions integrity was found lacking to the point that we are in the Guinness Book of World Records for election fraud.”
Attach to our roots
Mr. Neyor observed that despite the numerous achievements Liberians in the diaspora have achieved, “there is an unquenchable yearning in our hearts for that acreage of 43,000 square miles (111, 000 square kilometers) on the west coast of Africa 4 degrees above the equator”.
He emphasized that every Liberian in the Diaspora has that desire for the motherland with strong inclination to visit and help family and friends back home.
He recalled that remittances, or money sent back home from Liberians abroad was over 300 million in 2019 and at its peak constituted some 22% of Liberia’s GDP, adding that, “this clearly shows the attachment of the Liberian Diaspora to their root”.
“Knowing your roots provides an anchor, grounding, for your life journey. Knowing the totality of your roots defines your worldview. It is said if you don’t know where you came from you cannot know where you are going. What is that place, that culture, that tradition and that history that we come from? Before going back to our roots we must know the culture and tradition and history of that place of our origin”.
“Where we come from, our culture, our tradition, our history has some good and some not so good aspects. In the area called Liberia before 1822, there is a history of disunity and internecine tribal warfare as it was in many parts of West Africa. The arrival of the Europeans and their quest for slaves fed into these tribal conflicts where Africans captured other Africans and sold them as slaves. I am sure that is not a root we want to go back to.”
Mr. Neyor observed that there exists the “ugly tradition” of Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) where young girls were deprived of their natural sexuality instigated by selfish men.
He maintained that in many parts of today’s Liberia, this inhumane practice continues where old traditional women chase the young girls into the Sande bush where FGM are performed often under unsanitary conditions.
“This does not mean all of what girls learn in these tribal “schools” are irrelevant. Infixing the positive traits into the formal education system led by those with expertise in curriculum development should present an excellent opportunity to go back to this root and use the positive attributes for educational expansion”.
Search for liberty
Speaking further, Mr. Neyor stated that prior to Liberia gaining her independence, “good men who were in search of liberty from the harsh treatment of whites in America found themselves inflicting the same pain on the natives they met on their return to our common African homeland”.
He recalled that the natives were not citizens initially in the republic they founded in 1847, because, they could not vote, sit at the same table with these good men and their children for a meal and they could not go beyond a certain grade level if they ever went to school.
“The love of liberty brought those founding fathers to the shores of the land they named from liberty but for a long time that liberty was denied those they met on the land and who offered them accommodation. Human contradictions”.
He indicated that Liberia has made progress with integration and the country has had a head of state from the rank of the natives the free black slaves from America met on their arrival, but however, contradictions remain a mainstay of the Liberian society today.