A Government of Inclusion: Cummings Outlines Vision for Liberia
Monrovia – Mr. Alexander Cummings, the former Executive Vice President and Chief Administrative Officer of the Coca-Cola Company and now a candidate for the Presidency of Liberia is vowing to set up a government of inclusion and make peace and reconciliation, revival of the economy and a stern stance on corruption as the centerpiece of his presidency; if elected in the 2017 elections.
“You know inclusion is a very powerful motivator. To help all of the constituents understand the choices we need to make, the sacrifices, etc, we will need to have Liberians that can work together. So we need an inclusive government and that process begins now and as I said we’re in preliminary discusssions for a variety of political parties and individuals to come together, to not only win but to lead the country.
Speaking in an exclusive interview with FrontPageAfrica at the weekend at his party’s headquarters, Mr. Cummings who was last week named as the political leader of the Alternative National Congress, a breakaway faction of football legend George Weah’s Congress for Democratic Change, described inclusion as a very powerful motivator.
“To help all of the constituents understand the choices we need to make and the sacrifices, we will need to have Liberians that can work together. So we need an inclusive government.”
Inclusive Govt. Key to Reconciliation
Mr. Cummings said one of his commitments to the Liberian people is that he would build an inclusive government.
“A government that reflects all Liberians, people from all geographic, ethnic and religious groups. Because I think the changes required to move our country ahead, requires that we have as many people in the tent as possible.”
Mr. Cummings said when asked whether he was open to discussing mergers or coalitions with other political parties, said his party is already in in preliminary discussions for a variety of political parties and individuals to come together, to not only win but to lead the country.
Trumpeting his reconciliation card, Mr. Cummings insinuated that the country cannot be reconciled if the government is not inclusive.
“I believe that one, having a truly inclusive government is one way we could start the reconciliation process, I think two, we have to look back and understand why we have perhaps the rift and challenges we have, we need to celebrate each other, we need to look at our national symbol.”
Comparing reconciliation to an alcoholic, Mr. Cummings lamented: “If you don’t admit that you have a problem, you don’t begin to solve the problem. So we have a problem, let’s come together as Liberians as I mentioned inclusive government, national symbols, and conversations.
You know the Truth and Reconciliation Commission had a list of things; recommendations. I want to focus on those positive recommendations that were all about reconciliation and about moving forward and I am committed to actually doing that.”
22 Parties Certified
Mr. Cummings assertions come as the National Elections Commission certificated two more political parties – Movement for Democracy and Reconstruction (MDR) and the Vision for Liberia Transformation (VOLT).
While the chair of the National Elections Commission hailed the certification of the two new parties as a sign that democracy is truly at work in the country because the people of Liberia are now freely exercising their freedom of association, some political observers there are simply too many political parties.
The latest certification of the proposed political parties brings to 22 the number of registered political parties ahead of the 2017 elections, matching the total number in 2005 which saw 22 persons eyeing the presidency.
The certification also comes amid a debate in the Senate aiming to limit the number of political parties in the country to four.
War Crimes Court View
Asked about his position for a war crimes court for Liberia, Mr. Cummings said he would push for a strong judiciary that will enforce and prosecute.
“I think our constitution says innocent until proven guilty and I think we should let the Liberian court system handle any issues with regards to bad behaviours in the past. I want to focus on reconciling the Liberian people; I want to focus on the future and I think that’s more important. But I think we should let the judiciary system take care of any quote on quote punishment – if there is to be.”
Mr. Cummings also offered a glimpse into his plans to revive the Liberian economy in the wake of massive tumbling of natural resources on the global market and says his Corporate America experience makes him a strong candidate to address the economy.
“I often say to people, large corporations are similar, not exactly the same, as governments. They’re similar in the sense that you have to manage large complex organizations, large budgets.
And I remind the Liberian people that the operating budget I managed prior to retiring from Coca Cola was a lot bigger than the budget of the Republic of Liberia. You manage all the challenges with people.
Once you have people involved, it is a bit of politics and so there are a lot of similarities to a large degree and my experiences having done it very successfully; will lend itself to managing the Liberian economy and the Liberian people.”
The ANC boss said he has assembled a team of Liberians who are strategizing the various sectors and planning on Liberia’s transformation under his watch.
“The way to think about this is first, I said we have to grow the revenues of the country to do anything. You know all the challenges: infrastructure, education, etc. It begins with having the funds to do it. And so as we speak we have commissioned a small team of Liberians to begin to look at how we can grow the revenue base from 650 million to a billion etc., etc.… and by doing that we will create the flexibility to address the issues.
So, that’s one thing. The second focus area of mine is in the immediate future is trying to find ways to create jobs and the way we do that is by providing skills to our young people which is a nice segway into my priorities for education; it’s early childhood education, it’s vocational training because again, it leads to jobs.”
Corruption- All About Consequences
On corruption, Mr. Cummings said Liberians must first acknowledge that corruption is part of the society. “The blueprint starts with us as Liberians acknowledging the fact that in some ways we are probably all a bit corrupt. And let me tell you what we mean by that. Almost every Liberian has either in the past or today; has given somebody a bribe to facilitate whatever they needed to get done, to get to the front of the line; as simple as that.
And when you give somebody a bribe, you are corrupt as the person who receives the bribe. So we have to take a step back and understand that we all have a part to play in stamping out corruption.”
Mr. Cummings said there has to be some consequences for bribery and other forms of corrupt acts. “I have a lot of passion for this, I think we can solve this issue. I don’t believe it can happen overnight because it is so endemic but we can progress with it.
And anybody who is associated with Alex Cummings or a Cummings-led government has to understand that there has to be consequences for corruption. You know there are rogues everywhere in the world. At Coca Cola we have a code of business conduct like we do here.
The difference is we enforce it and we enforce it for everybody. So, bad behaviour is not unique to us. It’s all about consequences and how you enforce it.”
Rodney D. Sieh, [email protected]