Liberia: The Cartesian Plane Of Governance And The George Weah Configuration
On the cartesian plane of governance there are four quadrants filled with the alternating identities (dividends) of innovation & technical planning, institutional development, sustainable implementation, and rule of law. These identities are the drivers of genuine prosperity everywhere around the world and they account for why some states succeed and why others fail.
Consider the case of Rwanda, a country widely regarded as the “Silicon Valley of Africa”. The implementation of the four identities from the cartesian plane of governance has not only dispelled predictions of the country’s return to doomsday, but has also sustained its role as a shining star on the African continent. And today, Rwanda remains a competing politico-economic power in development discussions around the world. But unlike Rwanda, Liberia’s governance system at the moment seems to drift from the above cartesian plane. President Weah’s wrong configuration of the plane since he became president is dangerous for the Liberian state. As we have seen already since his inauguration in January 2018, the dividends of his configuration are opposing characteristics of good governance: where the role of technocrats is presumed by functional illiterates, development is individually driven, implementation is reactive and unsustainable, and the rule of law problematic; thus leaving everything blurred, stagnant, and unresolved.
Innovation and Technical Planning:
Liberia’s development in the past hinged on natural resources as a chief financier. The sale of those resources (bauxite, gold, diamond, rubber) placed the country’s economy in the early 1960s, as the second fastest growing to Japan. But as Yuval puts it succinctly in Homo Deus, while natural resources were good financiers of development during those times, drivers of today’s national prosperity mean something different; among which are innovation and technical planning. Growth in countries such as China, Dubai, Singapore, South Korea, etc points to a warm embrace of these innovation and technical planning as essential drivers of development. But while it is for these countries, it is the opposite for Liberia. At the moment, the country is overwhelmed with problems to which there are fewer or no solutions. Budget shortfall, environmental pollution, femicide, rape, drug abuse, poverty, and scores of other problems have made life a hard thing to live. To find solutions to these problems, the national leadership is doing things as usual: making it the work of don’t-care foreign experts and home-based bureaucrats whose only expertise lies in solutions of the 60s, incompatible IMF policies, draconian legislations, bogus consensus, and a list of other inapplicable ideas that are only effective when on paper. Such an approach has failed in the past and stands no chance to reinvent itself to make any meaningful difference in the present. To change the paradigm is to do things differently.
One way to do so is placing the right people in the right place. This must come with a resuscitation of key sectors/branches such as the executive. The executive, instead of being a place of reconnaissance and state-gossiping, must be occupied by people whose best gift is the use of the brain instead of the mouth. This is especially so since the head that branch of government is yet to complete his transition from soccer to governance. That is to say, within the executive, everyone must be not a talker. Some should be the users of brains. And in times of national unrest such as the current moment, those people must presume the frontal role of solution development. This same resuscitation must cut across the remaining two branches of government and their sub-agencies of administration.
Whosoever said: “to plait a new mat one must sit on an old one,” was not talking about President Weah. Because for him, a new mat is self-made and that explains his rampant firing of experienced civil servants from positions of significance. The current breed of our supposed “technocrats” are dysfunctional bureaucrats, party zealots, and inexperienced youth leaguers who don’t see a line between party loyalty and national development. In this case, essential nation-building processes such as policy creation and implementation, monitoring and evaluations, and others have become the pleasure of the president instead of a service to the country and it’s 4.5 million people. The resultant effect of this sad epoch has changed everything from normal and accounts for the wrongful configuration to the country’s cartesian plane of governance under this current administration.
Rwanda’s rapid and sustainable development has shown the power of development institutionalization. This is despite the disinformation that everything is run by its President. Key to cite among its many institutions driving development is the Rwanda Governance Board-RGB and Rwanda Development Board-RGB. Charged with the mandate of promoting good governance, RGB conducts research, among others, to measure citizens’ satisfaction/perception with service delivery in 15 sectors of the three pillars (Governance & Justice, Economy, and Social Welfare) of national development every year. The result of that is packaged in an annual publication (known as the Citizen Report Card-CRC that ensures the accumulation of citizens happiness while enabling ministries, agencies, and other public and private institutions to improve on their impact and plan for better performances. This policy instrument also makes it easier for and allows the national government to make an informed decision on socio-economic issues such as budgetary allocation, issue prioritization, and vision setting for the country’s development. This is the work of the Rwanda Governance Board as an autonomous agency and not the office of President Kagame. The question to answer is: What is Liberia’s version of RGB? The answer to this question may seem simple, but in truth, it’s one, when pursued, that opens a pandora box in every corner of the country.
In most countries, development and implementation are twin siblings of the same mother. But the eminent insolvency in the Liberian governance system has the two as opposite axis of different straight lines. While this might not be peculiar to a specific regime, the current government has proven to be a champion. Under President Weah, the malady of lame implementation has spread to the point a national disability. Whether it is the groundbreaking ceremony of the presidential military hospital or his tuition-free education flamboyance at the University of Liberia, the implementation of projects such as the presidential military hospital, no matter how good they may be, depends on how well the president sleeps and the type of dreams he gets from such sleep. In some instances, depending on who is in which mood, officials of the current government have an amnesia of momentarily breaking ground for projects whose implementation cost the country cannot afford.
For instance, without expert research or policy recommendation pointing to the need, cost, and benefit the City Mayor of Monrovia and the Youth League Chair of the ruling party launched the “WeahForCleanCity” Campaign some months ago. This was different from his future suicidal “dig holes and bury your dirt” one that auctioned environmental calamity, record-breaking disease racketeering, and death proliferation that awaited Liberians if they had tried it. On the day of the launch of the campaign, the Mayor was seen with the president picking plastic and other dirt around. As pretentious as that was, it brought so much hope. But what happened next? A few days later, Monrovia has neared the Guinness Record of filthiest capital of the world. Why? Sustainable implementation. The difference between institutional and individual development is sustainability in implementation. More than any point, it is this that the government of Liberia lacks at the moment. These solution to Liberia’s problem doesn’t lie in how many projects government ground-breaks for. It lies in how sustainably implemented projects are; small or big. If Liberians don’t know anything about governance, they know that no one government can do everything. It is with this understanding that the current government must chill and focus on sustainable implementation of development initiatives that are impact-based rather than attention-seeking.
Rule of Law:
On August 8, 2019 Kenya showed a landmark example to the rest of the world about what rule of law is. With the incumbent president in the lead, the Supreme Court nullified the Presidential elections results on the basis of electoral fraud and bridge of key constitutional provisions. For many this was a test of Kenya’s democracy and a defining moment in its post 2007 nation-building process. In the words of the writers of “African Union: Autocracy, Diplomacy, and Peacebuilding in Africa” it was a “primacy of rule of law” and lesson for other member states of the African Union. But as instructive as such lesson might have been, it is the opposite for Liberia. This so because the current rule of law of law is a sham; functioning on the whims and driven by the will of individuals rather than responsible institutions. A good compass for examining this shamelessness is September 16, 2019 publication of The Perspective. Dubbed “ Liberia: The Gangster’s paradise”, the former head of Liberia’s TRC and now Executive Director of International Justice Group Cllr Jerome Verdier summed up the sporadic decay in the country’s justice system. While Cllr Verdier’s opinion might not fully account for how broken the judicial system is, current happenings in country’s body politics point to nothing different.
During the just ended Montserrado County District 15 senatorial by-election, the vehicle of Telia Urey, the main contender against the ruling party’s Abu Kamara, was vandalized and herself “abused”. Before Telia, the chief spokesperson of opposition Unity Party (Mo Ali) had tasted similar fate. Similarly, the Deputy Inspector General of the Liberia National Police, on 3 August, was “beaten” by “riled partisans of the ruling Coalition for Democratic Change” due to his intervention that CDC partisans should remain in the premises of the party’s headquarters to avoid a clash with supporters of Sen. Dillon. Ms. Justina Taylor, a recent video-shoot-critic of President Weah, was missed through near-death beating in an attempted murder for charging strong allegations against the City mayor and his boss in president Weah. Since January 2019 there have been more than three confirmed femicide cases and countless others of rape. And According to Cllr Verdier as quoted by The Perspective, “Jefferson Koijee in concert with the CDC Party Leadership and the entire top and middle-level staff of the National Security Agency (NSA) are coordinating serial attacks against innocent civilians and are encouraging President George Weah to purchase armor (war) tanks for use against his own people”.
Cited are these few cases, among many unrecorded and censored ones, to point to a growing terror in a country that is yet to dust itself from its horrific. But sadly, none of these cases have made it through judicial scrutiny. The question is: How then, in the midst of all these scary circumstances, do we protect the gains of our development, reward good and punish bad, promote accountability, build an ideal society based on justice and equality, and attract investments? In matters of electoral dispute, as in the just ended one of Montserrado County, what course do citizens takes to put forward their plight and address their grievances? To what extent do they trust the ruling of the judiciary? At what level can they remain peaceful? There is but only one way out and that is through the rule of law. But as Cllr Jerome Verdier put it, “The culture of impunity has emboldened criminals in government and in the corridors of power to new heights of violence and crime, fully aware that they will not face justice anytime soon under the Weah regime because the perverse President of Liberia champions impunity, supports injustice and will not bring his henchmen to justice”. This brings us to only one objective conclusion: the rule of law is comprised and is now a dream in Alice’s wonderland. Where then is the solution? How can it be fixed? What measure is needed to be put in place? The answer to this may vary but for most people, it won’t be far from Jeune Afrique’s 1964 Director-General assertion:
We may have said and have repeated without wearying that regimes in which the law is identified with the will of the rulers, and with them alone, only recourse to Coup d’etat and conspiracies is possible.
It is no argument that the current plane on which the governance of Liberia is conducted is not right. That’s a fact. There is a growing fear and anger in the citizenry and the government is doing little to address it. Time might have changed from 1979 to the present. But the people have not. Those who sang “you kill my ma you kill ma paa I will vote you” are still alive and, interestingly, capable of repeating the same event that led to that song. The nation is as fragile now than ever before. Precaution, intentionality, and sensibility would greatly help if the government wants to make any difference.
On the other hand, all is not lost. President Weah has just led for a year and a half. Four years is a lot to drive a meaningful change. In countries such as Ghana and South Africa, it is an entire presidential term. But whether President Weah will live up to the huge expectations Liberians had of him and the ones he promised in his “Change for Hope” 2017 presidential campaign will depend on how he will decide for the next 4 years. There can be no magical transformation of the country again. And for the good news, God is not coming back to help any group of people to cross the red sea again. Our magic and the red seas are the head of our president and other national leaders. If they use it as Moses did, the promised land is certain. If they fail, which is not impossible to happen, we will as well serve a proper dinner for the pharaoh. Whether this will happen or not depends on how president Weah properly configures the current Cartesian plane of governance of the country.