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THE DEBACLE OF A FEW GREEDY MEN, A MISHAP OF THE

LIBERIAN POLITY
A promise betrayed: The ever-widening schism between a relatively small group of Liberian
bourgeois elite and the overwhelming majority of ordinary and poor Liberians persists as our leaders
place their individual and personal interests above and before the common good; they are too willing
to take kickbacks and further foreign interests ahead of the needs of ordinary Liberians. As a result, the
majority of Liberians continued to live in abject poverty, with some sleeping in the graveyards and
under public bridges, while a few greedy Liberian politicians and their foreign collaborators repeatedly
rip the country of its natural resources and at the same time subject Liberians to dehumanizing living
conditions.
Rubber plantations, mining companies, gold and diamond enterprises, logging concessions and most
recently, oil exploring outlets in Liberia are largely controlled by foreigners, assisted in a few instances
by Liberian front men and women. Expatriate workers at concessions/plantations live in well-furnished
homes with swimming pools, basketball, golf or tennis courts, 24-hour electricity, water supplies, and
security protection, while Liberian workers at those companies live in squalid camps with tiny brick
huts and little or no furnishings. Expatriate workers and their children also have easy access to paved
alley roadways and well-equipped schools and cozy relaxations under the ambience of club houses,
while Liberian workers and their children have to inhale dust particles daily from gravel roads to and
from work, home, and special division schools for their children. They also endure the crippling weight
of latex filled buckets - heavy enough to wreck the body of any healthy man in no time; only to fulfill
daily workloads.
I do not see why, with all the modernity of farming implements, human beings should have to be
subjected to such primitive manner of labor, under the disguise of employment in this 21 st century.
And this is all the more reason why I cant help but wonder how all of these could possibly escape the
notice of our leaders. Or do they simply look away because of the benefits that accrue to them, or
because neither they nor their kid are resigned to such a fate? Perhaps its high time that citizens do
more to reclaim workers dignity, keep our governors conscious and put modern day slaver out of
business, where necessary.
As the 2011 calendar winds down to election day, they have again rendered our electoral process a
subject of commercialization in their bid to perpetuate experimentation, trials by error, guesswork, rule
of lawlessness and a corrupted public order where compromised individuals hold sway in government.
Elections no doubt, remain critical to building and preserving our democracy, but each passing day has
evinced that elections alone are not enough. To keep our democracy intact, we must build strong
institutions, including an independent judiciary that not only promote the rule of law and help ensure
official accountability and transparency, but stands against corruption.
It is somewhat foolhardy, but continuously one General Auditing Commission (GAC) report after
another has shown that elements within the power circles and national politics have not lived up to the
public trust, but have unfortunately embarked on self-enrichment sprees at the expense of the masses,
who continue to fall deeper and deeper into poverty and despair (they want all of the recognition,
power, wealth and everything they do not even need).
This seemingly unending parade of corrupt clowns at all levels of power conveys an air of horror
evinced by the growing number of persons going to bed hungry daily, the numbers of young men and
women who have helplessly and painfully turned to crime and prostitution only to make ends meet;
and the many more who struggle to learn under difficult circumstances, or die from minor diseases,
teen age pregnancies, etc. One does not need to be a rocket scientist to know that to reverse this
menace a reenergized struggle must ensue and be sustained, as
Nothing is guaranteed but the struggle itself: In order for Liberia to make any significant forward
progress, its people must intensify the struggle for a new political order one that impels

accountability and reinforces the fight for economic and social justice. This struggle must transcend
generations age group, class, education, ethnicity, religion, or political persuasion. It must dare to
humble the so-called big shots/names and make the strong just and the weak safe.
It must be a struggle to free not just the oppressed but the oppressors from their gluttony as well. It
must be a struggle that will rage on in our families, communities, schools, counties and nation. It must
seek to make our elections the ultimate forums for accountability. It must set standards and award
power to only the deserving.
While many may elect to bequeath Liberias oppressive institutional and political cultures to historical
antecedents that occasioned the formation of this state, a similar argument will not lie to support its
perpetuation. Liberias exclusionary political culture is attributable more to greed and selfish interests
than to other factors.
Whilst we are not oblivious to the fact that external interests seeking access to Liberias resources
significantly shape the dynamics of our governance systems, they cannot and will never succeed but
for a few greedy individuals, whom we must now seek and weed out. There is no question that
Liberias riches, if managed well, are capable of providing for the entire population, but the grand
looting of our national coffers with impunity continues to facilitate the export of stolen wealth to banks
abroad. These tendencies exacerbate resource struggles, class and ethnic rivalries and election rigging
and violence. It is certainly no news that apart from been recorded for having had one of the most
rigged elections in the world, in 1927, in 1955, the incumbent, President William V. S. Tubman viciously
crushed political oppositions and accused former President Barclay of attempting to overthrow the
government. A key figure in the opposition David Coleman and his son were killed. Again, in 1985
another election rigging occurred when Samuel K. Doe, who had transformed himself from military
personnel to an interim president of the Interim National Government selected fifty (50) persons to
count the ballots, nullifying the original Special Elections Commission (SECOM); he subsequently
slammed several opposition political leaders behind bars. [1]
Greed is however, not just pervasive, but debilitating. It thrives on silence and weak laws, or their
intermittent enforcement. Bribery and political influences in our criminal justice system are rapidly
eroding social cohesion by creating one system for the rich and another for the poor. On a near day to
day basis, people are still imprisoned without charge or on false charges. Still many, who get charged,
never get the speedy and fair trials guaranteed as their rights in the constitution. Police corruption,
brutality and use of excessive force continue unabated. This is no doubt fracturing our communities
and fueling enmity, which undermines the rule of law. The happenings of recent time give us reasons
to believe that these few greedy men are more willing to compromise the future of this whole country,
if doing so would serve their egotistic interests.
While instances abound, this is especially portrayed in the way they handled the constitutional
requirement regarding the establishment of a threshold to facilitate the delineation of electoral
constituencies, which are prerequisites for voters registration and thereby critical to strengthening
relations between representatives and constituencies, and the holding of democratic, free and fair
elections come 2011. Shamefully too, the same people who miserably failed to do the least to uphold
the constitutional provisions in respect to threshold because they perceived same as been against
their interest, have now mandated the conduct of a national referendum under the guise of wanting to
obey another set of constitutional provisions which obviously serves the purpose of a few again, and
amounts to nothing but cosmetic dress ups that is in and of itself in violation of constitutional
provisions(Article 91 which states that The Constitution may be amended whenever a proposal by
either: (1)two-thirds of the membership of both houses of the Legislature, or (2) A petition submitted to
the Legislature, by not fewer than 10,000 citizens which receives the concurrence of two-thirds of the
membership of both Houses of the Legislature, is ratified by two-thirds of the registered voters, voting
in a referendum conducted by the Elections Commission not sooner than one year after the action of
the Legislature; and unmindful of the risks of instability and controversies such moves may invite on
our already fragile peace.
Since the drafting of Liberias constitution in the 1800s and in the face of the numerous politically
motivated amendments and revision, Liberian society has changed out of all recognition. Family
structures, moral standards, and patterns of religious participations, have all shifted radically.
Economic development, immigration and technological advances have contributed to shaping modern

Liberia way beyond the imaginations of those who drafted, revised or ratified our constitution. The
extent to which the aspirations of the Liberian people has influenced those constitutional changes and
the purposes they have served, now begs a critical concern that must claim our focus so as to ensure
that our organic law meets and passes the posterity test; serve the common good and do not become
subjected to changes whenever its provisions does not serves the whims and caprices of this same few
For instance, if the Ten Years Residency Clause is recognized as being intrinsically exclusionary in its
very nature, why dont we just get rid of the entire residency requirement? It is interesting to note the
malicious schemes already embedded in the so called and belated Official Gazette recently published
in somewhat careless obedience to Article 92 of our constitution which provides that Proposed
constitutional amendments shall be accompanied by statements setting forth the reasons there for
and shall be published in the Official Gazette and made known to the people through the information
services of the Republic. Aware of the yearning of the populace, especially of our rural communities to
have a say in our governance through the election of municipal officials and chiefs who would
champion their cause for better targeted policies and interventions to local situations and contexts,
and therefore provide better and more appropriate services; the promulgation has perched the
possibility of holding local chieftaincy and municipal elections along with the NO! Vote on the issues of
timing of the elections. So that a situation is presented where people who be compelled to vote YES to
change the time of the election, or lose the opportunity of electing their chiefs and mayors... I find this
particularly wicked because it does not only violate the legal requirement for presenting issues of a
referendum in such a way that the public is able to vote on each issue separately, but set out to
deceive and manipulate voters on the issues to be voted for; these actions signify the desperation of
the same few and the length to which they will stoop to further their aim, so cannily coupling and
illegally including the elections for local officials in the official gazette, which does not form part of the
approved amendments is but a foreshadow of what is likely to result. It beats my imagination that the
Liberian legislature having contested the credibility of the National Population and Housing Census
conveniently adopted its projected population for the division and allotment of legislative seats for the
impending 2011 elections, but through the resolution adopted in the place of a threshold, has
surprisingly mandated the National Elections Commission to use of the total number of registered
voters for redistricting or the demarcation of electoral constituencies; something that bears the face of
imprudence, illegality and confusion. In the face of all of these developments, our political institutions
remain weak, largely disorganized, woven around a few individuals and divisive because of these same
few men, who always insist on being heads and can never support or cooperate with any other person
who emerges as head. Opposition formation of coalitions continues to be driven by vain quest for
power rather than by shared values or vision. Without belaboring this point, it is important to note that
our legislature should be able to provide adequate oversight of the other branches, since for the first
time in our national existence, it is dominated by opposition, save for a few greedy men. Our national
governing structures continue to be presided over by persons haunted by their past, or who harbor
personal agenda thus culminating in an urban-rural divide or a dis-connect from the majority of the
citizenry, thus leaving our government simply in office and not in power. With ruling parties that tend
to use state property as their own, the issue of fair political contest remains a concern, which has
implication for the ensuing political context laden with mistrust, grudges and non cooperative
postures. The contrived efforts of a few greedy men to continuously manipulate our national
institutions and processes such that they only serve their interests, or revolve around just them, must
be halted by a force more powerful the people themselves. Not tomorrow, or sometime in the future
but now, and
That struggle is what hones us now. If we must free ourselves and rid our country of these few
greedy men, we must then ready ourselves for confrontations, as "Freedom is acquired only by
conquest, not by gift. It must be pursued constantly and responsibly. And this Freedom is not an ideal
located outside of the ordinary Liberian man. It is rather the indispensable condition for the quest for
our innate completion." Today our Truth and Reconciliation Report has been effectively brushed aside,
again because of a few, despite the legacy of abuses and devastation traceable to the same few. And
the thousands of brutalized and broken victims who endured politically and ethnically motivated
atrocities have but hoped in vain that a day of reckoning would come. Several more continue to carry
memories of deep hurts, while nursing grudges and the predilection of even revenge for the huge
losses and immeasurable sufferings endured at the hands of their compatriots. And the hurried and
less consultative process adopted for the reconstitution of the Human Rights Commission leaves very
little to be desired as to furthering its mandate to insure the implementation of the TRC
recommendations; especially since it is implicitly dependent and fall short of meeting key international
standards such as the Paris principles. Yet these same few scramble for our political offices, our
educational systems is witnessing a downward spiral with academic excellence rapidly becoming the

exclusive preserve of a few prominent personalities, who barely attend classes, or write exams;
meanwhile the efforts of true academicians are frustrated daily to ensure the emergence of these few
again. A recent World Bank report revealed that 78% of 2nd Graders cannot read a single word in English; and a good
number of university graduates cannot fill out application forms. Our public education system remains in dying
need of serious support as access and quality continue to be the greatest challenge, yet our up-side-

down national budget priorities repeatedly allocate significant portion to recurrent cost to purchase mostly
cars and or fixtures, while general and special allowances to officials has risen from $40.7 million from
last fiscal year, to 48.1 million for this fiscal year. No sophistication is required to know that without
quality public education, we the citizenry cannot know, handle, let alone check the powers that govern us.

Without quality public education, there can be no substance to the promise of equality and freedom,
no possibility of developing and realizing individual capacities, no possibility of children overcoming
disadvantage, or of teens reaching for the stars, no possibility of being a people guiding their own
destiny or of individuals choosing their own course. Above all, there will be no possibility of being a
self-governing people, capable of preserving this sweet land of liberty as a democracy. Indeed, there is
more at stake here than just the loss of a great system of education. But we have no doubt that in spite of
the apparent odds, a just cause will triumph regardless of existing power relations and citizens must be
willing to fight at the risk of definite consequences. In this fight, we must all
Look beyond individual aggrandizements: Identify our respective roles and define an allembracing agenda that puts Liberia first. For too long we have had to deal with the plague of the three
Gs Get, Grab and Go which have left us picking up pieces every now and then, but the more
things change, it seems, the more they remain the same. We keep making the same mistakes over and
over again. Its high time we woke up, took full responsibility for our destinies and stopped waiting for
foreigner to dictate our future. At times we have been so desperate for change, and we have become
even too willing to use arms manufactured in western countries to destroy ourselves, unconscious of
the fact that its been said in some quarters that murders does not happen in Africa, just regrettable
deaths. Yet it is from these deaths that they derive civilization.
After more than a century and the half of our national existence, we must begin to rethink our
sovereignty in a more serious way. It is obvious that Liberians cannot in earnest continue to
commemorate years of national sovereignty and political independence amid our inability to feed
ourselves, reliance on foreign troops for national security, foreign military advisors, foreign legal
advisors, foreign commander of the Liberian army, and foreign businessmen running the affairs of
Liberia, while we are effectively rendered spectators in our own national stability and development. We
must dispel the notion that ordinary Liberians tend to appreciate anything foreign, cannot and must
not be allowed to attain any relevance especially at the levels of our national government, leaders and
intelligentsia. I doubt seriously that the responsibilities of revitalizing Liberia can be the burden of
anyone than Liberians themselves. Thus, change is the necessary risk we must embrace.
Change, as US President Obama acknowledged, is not easy. It is difficult and comes with its own
adverse effects. But it is understandable since change is a natural, inevitable phenomenon that all
humans must experience. Experience have shown that mankind are more disposed to suffer
evils than to right themselves, or rid themselves of same by abolishing the forms to which
they are accustomed. Tunisia and Egypt bear witness to the fact that, for any government by
consent to subsist very long, citizens must be guaranteed the unhindered enjoyment of their rights to
be treated with dignity and equally before and under the law.
With a rich history of self determination and triumph, Liberians must strive to break from conflicts
influenced by identity and never doubt that a small group of committed people can change the course
of our nation. This is the fight for the future and a fight we must win. So we must not be deterred by
vain insults and futile character assassination, which proxy agents are sure to embark upon. This is the
charge we have to keep

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1.

Liberian History Up To 1847, Joseph Saye Guanue

About the Author: Mark M.M. Marvey is a Transitional Justice and International leadership Fellow (U.S.A.

Public Diplomacy) and an Independent Expert for Human Rights. Hes served as Independent
Consultant for the UNDP, UNFPA etc., undertaking governance and other management studies
including evaluation, and baseline studies. He studied Accounting, Negotiation and Law. Hes currently
the Program Director at NAYMOTE-Partner for Democratic Development, a local nongovernmental
organization that has championed participatory democracy in Liberia since 2001.