A Nation of Irony, Misery and Obscurity After 170 Years of Independence

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Another Independence Day is just 48 hours away, but what is there to celebrate? Independence Day is not just about celebrating age, but celebrating fulfilled promises.

Our sovereignty as a country goes far beyond the Declaration Of Independence. It epitomizes how far we have come as a nation in terms of achieving genuine prosperity, reconciliation, peace, justice and equality. It commemorates socio-economic parity and eulogizes political freedom.

Is Liberia different from what it was 170 years ago?

The fact after almost 2 centuries is that Liberia and Liberians are free on the paper, but not free in reality. Independence is not merely about celebrating age in poverty and misery, but celebrating longevity in prosperity, equality and justice for all.

The Independence of Liberia has no value when Liberians remain economically enslaved after 170 years. How can a nation proudly claim to be independent when it is not self-sufficient? A country predominantly depending on foreign aid, loan and grant has no pride to observe Independence Day.

I am constrained to conclude that Liberia is independently parasitic.

Independence is not just about freedom from direct rule, but freedom from indirect foreign control, interference and economic slavery. Independence means protecting human dignity and self-worth through an equal and just governance system.

Even though Liberia is popularly referred to as the land of the free and the sweet land of liberty, but is Liberia actually free and sweet for Liberians in this age and time? After 170 years, are Liberians free from poverty, illiteracy, disease, nepotism, elitism, ethnicity and injustices?

Did our Declaration of Independence promise poverty and inequality? Did it promise mass unemployment and extreme hardship? Did it promise messy education, poor healthcare and unsafe drinking water?

Did it promise bad governance, corruption, bad roads, poor sanitation, food insecurity, lack of electricity and improved housing? Is this Independence or Dependence?

Has our independence really met its promise or has it given birth to a new and misguided generation of drug addicts, gamblers, car loaders, alcoholics, car washers, store boys, prostitutes, street peddlers, sand miners, rock crushers, casual laborers, coldwater sellers, security guards and a miserable population?

Is this Independence Day worth celebrating? July 26 has lost its true essence.

After 170 years of ‘sovereignty’, Liberians still live like strangers and slaves in their own country.

They are predominantly controlled and abused by foreigners. Foreigners even decide what kind of toothpaste they use, food they eat, water they drink and clothes they wear.
Do you really know who are those running Liberia in this era? Do you really know the actual owners of this country?

They aren’t Liberians as you may be thinking. One would be floating in error to arrive at such conclusion. Liberians have become second-class citizens in their own land.

In fact, most of them are at the verge of being stateless. I am conducting a comprehensive research to release some factual findings, but let me give you a gist of who owns and runs Liberia.

Follow me now to know those who are running Liberia and controlling Liberians after 170 years: 

  • Real Estates, Villas and Infrastructural Investments – Lebanese, Americans and Nigerians
  • Hotels and Resorts– Lebanese, Americans, Chinese and Nigerians
  • Pharmacies and Clinics – Indians, Chinese, Pakistanis, Germans and Lebanese
  • Fishing Companies – Lebanese, Koreans, Chinese, Italians and Ghanaians
  • Palm Oil Plantations and Export – Americans and Malaysians
  • Timber / Logging / Furniture Companies – Lebanese and Dutch
  • Gold Mining Industries – Turkish, Malaysians, Chinese and Germans
  • Iron Ore Companies / Mining – Indians, British, Chinese, Russians and Anglo-Australians
  • Rubber Plantations, Other Cash Crops and Export – Americans, The French and Chinese
  • Gas Stations – The French, Sierra Leoneans and Guineans
  • Oil Companies – Americans, Canadians and Chinese
  • Commercial Banks – Nigerians, Germans, South Africans and Ghanaians
  • Telecommunication Companies – The French and South Africans
  • Supermarkets, Restaurants, Bars/Night Clubs and Casinos – Lebanese
  • Building Material Companies – Lebanese and Indians
  • Road Construction – Chinese, Japanese and Lebanese
  • Multi-million Factories – Lebanese and Indians
  • Importation of Rice, Clothes, Footwear and other Goods/Services – Lebanese, Indians, Ghanaians, Nigerians and Guineans
  • Sand Mining and Crush-rock selling / Export – Chinese and Lebanese
  • Foreign and Local Mineral Water Companies – Lebanese, Chinese and Indians
  • Electrical and Electronic Stores (TV, Laptop, Phones, etc) – Lebanese, Indians and Nigerians
  • Supplier of Vehicles / Cars– Lebanese
  • Airlines / Aircrafts – Moroccans, Nigerians, Lebanese, The French, Kenyans, Ghanaians, Gambians and Belgians
  • Agri-businesses and Small & Medium-term Enterprises – Lebanese, Indians, Chinese, Malaysian, Ivoirians, Guineans, Ghanaians and Nigerians
  • Land and Machineries – Lebanese, Malaysians, Chinese and Indians
  • Aluminum, Glass and Steel Factories – Lebanese and Indians
  • Private Sector / NGOs / INGOs / Micro-Finance Institutions– Foreigners
  • Garages and vehicle repair centers – Lebanese, Japanese, Guineans and Nigerians
  • Technology and firms – Lebanese, Indians, Nigerians and Ghanaians
  • Do you know who controls your government and influences your politics? Foreigners 

Are Liberians only good enough to be store boys, security guards, street vendors and casual laborers in their own country?

Liberia has become a sweet land of liberty for foreigners and a bitter land of misery for Liberians. What an irony!

This is an irony of obscurity and misery. This is what happens when patriotism and nationalism are lacking on an industrial scale.

Liberians, especially those in authority are mostly blamed for this.

We can change this sad narrative. Ghanaians, Zimbabweans, Nigerians and nations in Africa are taking control of their own destinies.

How long will Liberia remain at the very bottom? Only in Liberia foreigners control almost everything.

An end to this gloomy, miserable and dehumanizing episode is a must.

How can we brag about Independence Day when the best jobs for Liberian youth are store boys, container off-loaders, motorcyclists, security guards, car boys?

How can national unity and prosperity exist when civil servants are receiving between US$100 and US$150 per month while high-ranking public officials are becoming millionaires overnight?

We cannot celebrate Independence Day when slum communities are increasing while a handful of pseudo-patriots and capitalists live in palaces and mansions.

This is an outlook of Liberia after 170 years of Independence – what a shameful reality:

  • Food insecurity is affecting over about 650,000 according to Liberia Emergency Food Security Assessment, June 2015 Report
  • Liberia has the highest proportion of children missing out of primary school education according to UNICEF 2017 Report
  • Liberia is the 8th unhappiest and most miserable nation in the world (United Nations World Happiness Report, March 2017)
  • Liberia is the 4th poorest country in the world after 170 years of independence (Global Finance Report, February 2017)
  • 86% of Liberia’s population is poor while 83.76% live on US$1.25 a day (UNDP 2015 Human Development Report)
  • Liberia was ranked as the most corrupt country on planet earth (Transparency International GCB Report, 2013)
  • Liberia only has 298 doctors. This means that Liberia has 1 doctor to 15,100 patients in contrast to the desired WHO doctor-patient ratio of 1 doctor to 5,000 patients (Ministry of Health, 2017 Report)
  • Liberia has a teenage pregnancy rate of 38% (UNFPA Report, 2012)
  • Liberia has a National Budget of US$600.2 and a Direct Foreign Investment of over US$16.9 billion, but youth unemployment is as high as 85% (UNDAF Report, 2013-2017)
  • Liberia had 554 rape cases in a period of 12 months (Ministry of Gender Report, January 2015)
  • Liberia spent US$55.3 million between 2006 and 2013 just to purchase expensive cars for public officials (LIPI 2013 Report)
  • Monrovia is the least prosperous capital city with a City Prosperity Index (CPI) of -0.313 (United Nations Habitat Report, 2015)
  • Only 25% of Liberia’s 4 million people have access to clean, safe drinking water (Water Aid International 2016 Report)
  • Over 80% of Liberia’s population lack access to a decent toilet while 3.7 million people lack access to adequate sanitation (Water Aid International Report, 2016)
  • Over 500 children die every year in Liberia from diarrhea due to unsafe water and poor sanitation (Water Aid International Report, 2016)

Six (6) public offices are receiving over US$10.2 million in Liberia in a period of just 12 months while infant mortality rate is 65.8 deaths to 1,000 live births according to the CIA World Factbook.

Update to now, no one is yet to be held accountable for signing 66 bogus concession agreements. No one is yet to give an account for NOCAL’s bankruptcy, EU’s US$14 million to reduce maternal mortality, over US$14.9 million meant to renovate the Executive Mansion and AG John Morlu’s dozens of audit reports

Education is a mess according to President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf in 2013.

What are Liberians up to? Why must you be the oldest, but poorest especially in the midst of abundant natural resources?

Rich country, old in age and small population, but poor people – The actual identity of Liberia. 

It is time to rise above the status of a crawling eagle and take charge of our economy. There can be no political independence in the midst of economic dependence.

Liberians must think wisely and ACT promptly in order to rescue their destiny. Surely, Liberians deserve far better as a nation and a people. With these appalling realities, it is needless to celebrate this year’s Independence Day. Therefore, Liberians must boycott this year’s celebration as a sign of peaceful protest to these prevailing dilemmas.

Liberians have a choice to alter this miserable chapter. October 10, 2017 is a perfect moment to chart a new course.

The over US$1 million usually appropriated to lavishly entertain the elites on during Independence Day extravaganza could construct over 10 modern Science Laboratories for more than 10 public schools across Liberia.

President John Magufuli of Tanzania cancelled Independence Day celebration in 2015 and transferred the money towards the fight against cholera.

Can poverty-stricken Liberia tread this path?

From the largest slum of West and the top of Ducor, I see a new Liberia rising above the African Continent – A Dream that we must all work towards if the future of the next generation must be secured.

Martin K. N. Kollie is a Liberian youth and student activist, a columnist and an emerging economist who hails from Bong County. He currently studies Economics at the University of Liberia and is a Lux-in-Tenebris Scholar. Martin is a loyal stalwart of the Student Unification Party (SUP).  He can be reached at: [email protected]

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