Moving to the Hill of Development—setting the stage; The Case of Liberia

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Governance has long been suspected to be a major impediment to African economic development. In the case of Liberia, for over 200 years of existence in the development trajectory of Liberia, we have witnessed the economic, social, and political sprawls pointing towards development being under attack by culprits of corruption, bad decision making, self-wealth aggrandizement, and bad governance. These and many more have broken public trust and confidence, loss of hope in the governance of the state.


By: Amara B. Kanneh, Contributing Writer


This brings me to the point of development being defined by my Development Theories and Strategies Professor, Dr. Edward Kadozi, who said development is understood as a condition that enables individuals and society to enjoy a healthy quality of life, be free, have opportunities for upward mobility, and improve their material circumstances. In the case of Liberia and other African countries, what is the hope of achieving this simple definition of development when corruption is being celebrated by grassroot conscious minds? In the absence of good governance, the state plunders into massive corruption, lawlessness and takes away the social corporate benefits of the citizens. This is why  we must frown at corruption and protect the resources of the state for the benefit of all.

Liberia being a nation that has experienced almost 14yrs of Civil unrest, there have been multiple problems confronting our society, ranging from poor health care system, massive unemployment, poor infrastructural development, corruption, ineffective judiciary system and rule of law, public health, etc. These and many are at the results of some public officials who were indicted of corruption from the Sirleaf’s Administration to the Weah’s administration which are in strong public condemnation.

We boast of having over 20 natural resources from different extractive research done. Yet, we are yet to experience a positive and ripple effect of these resources on the livelihood of the Liberian people. These resources can create greater prosperity for current and future generations; used poorly, or squandered, they can cause economic instability, social conflict, and lasting environmental damage. This is the paradox of plenty of natural resources.

Few years back, under the Sirleaf’s administration when Liberia development trends were all in disarrayed, corruption was labelled as “public enemy number one” in 2006 by former President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf although it was a mere statement until in 2011 when she said to the Liberian people “We have not fully met the anti-corruption pledge that we made in 2006. It is not because of the lack of political will to do so, but because of the intractability of dependency and dishonesty cultivated from years of deprivation and poor governance”. This was an embarrassing  statement from a sitting President who received billions in international donor support for 12yrs, and had all the powers to fight and curtail corruption. Yet, she failed massively and alluded to her failure.

This is how bad , greedy and selfish some of our leaders are in the public space of Liberia. The hope of our state and the Lberian people are threatened by a few system eruptors planted in various anti-graft institutions to distort the fight of corruption in our country.  Corruption harms poor people more than others, stifles economic growth and diverts desperately needed funds from education, healthcare and other public services. This is why we; civil society organizations, national and international stakeholders, political actors must join and sincerely fight this menace that is robbing poor Liberians of the equal endowment of resources.

Fastforward, a few days ago, On Aug. 15, 2022, the Treasury Department of the US Department of State imposed sanctions on three Liberian government officials; Minister Nathaniel McGill, Liberia’s Chief Prosecutor Sayma Syrenius Cephus and Hon. Bill Twehway, the managing director of the National Port Authority due to corruption. Brian Nelson, Treasury’s undersecretary for terrorism and financial intelligence further stated that,”Through their corruption these officials have undermined democracy in Liberia for their own personal benefit. The United States remains committed to holding corrupt actors accountable and to the continued support of the Liberian people,” he said.

In addition, the statement said, Min. McGill, SG Cephus and Hon. Twehway are being designated as foreign government officials who allegedly engaged in corruption including the misappropriation of state assets, taking private assets for personal gain, or bribery. Under the sanctions, all property and interests in property of the three officials that are in the United States must be blocked and reported to the Treasury, while people who engage in transactions with the officials may be subject to sanctions themselves, the statement said.

These statements are grave, very strong and have the propensity of undermining global contracts of the state. Not only that, it is also a slap in the face of our judiciary sector and the poor workings of the anti-graft institutions in Liberia. Development cannot come this way. The concept of development has to reflect the following 3 aspects of the economy:

1. Increase of annual national output/national income;

 2. Social development (specifically, poverty reduction and increase of social welfare/standard of living);

3. An improved institutional arrangement, which provides development opportunities and distributes resources/wealth and their benefits to all Liberians. If we are to achieve the above and maintain the developing Liberia we need, we must fight corruption and prioritize the interest of the state above individual’s interest.

The Liberia Anti-Corruption Commission (LACC), as an anti graft institution was established by an Act of Legislature on August 28, 2008 with the mandate to investigate and prosecute acts of corruption, as well as educate the public about the ills of corruption and the benefits of its eradication and the Financial Intelligence Unit (FIU) must have the moral and financial support fully to fight corruption independently for a good development path of Liberia. We appreciate this government for the public sector reforms carried on at these institutions but more need to be done in line with political, fiscal and system discipline.

With that being said, we want to congratulate the Liberian leader, President George Manneh Weah for the suspension of the three officials who were sanctioned for public corruption. This shows that the President has zero tolerance for corruption and will protect no one involved into allegedly pocketing the resources of the state. We also want to recommend that those officials be given every legal due process to clear their names from the sanction list and safeguard the integrity of the Weah’s administration.

In conclusion, in the realm of good governance, we encourage the Weah’s Administration to observe a number of generic benchmarks of public service decision-making processes related to the efficient allocation of economic resources for the purpose and sustainability of the state and the Liberian people. The tendency toward bad Governance can be mitigated by increasing transparency of revenues and strengthening the links between government and citizens. I believe the Weah’s government is on path with this but more need to be done.

Liberia First. Liberia Last!!! WeahTaylor2023.

Additional resources to my August 2021 publication in the International Journal of Advanced Scientific Research and Management, Volume 6. Issue 8, PP 14-24 August 2021. Link: http://ijasrm.com/volume-6-issue-8/

Author: Amara B. Kanneh is a youth developer. An alumnus of the Young African Leaders Initiative- YALI RLC Cohort-39. He is a highly skilled youth developer and a motivational young leader with over 5yrs of experience in leadership, community development, volunteer management with a specific concentration in public/development policy, public sector management. Amara is a Master’s Degree Candidate at the Kigali Independent University in Rwanda. Reach him via email: [email protected]

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