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On Thursday August 8th, members of the Liberian Senate were in full gear going through tense legislative debates in the plenary when a shocking communication from President Ellen Johnson, pulled out of the docket of the Senate Secretary, revealed that Madam Mary Broh’s name had been withdrawn from among the nominated names up for confirmation before that august body.
Between December 1989 and August 2003, Liberians fought, or were drawn into warfare supposedly for two intertwined reasons: to establish rule of law and an aura of justice, all other things being derivatives thereof.
The absence of the rule of law and justice and corruption had been the subjects of contention for the Liberian opposition for close to a century. Going back to 1955, D. Twe charged everything that is ever wrong with a democratic government; Samuel Doe, a soldier propped by an opposition in trouble, charged despotism and rampant corrupt and promised to overhaul the government; Charles Taylor charged despotism and injustice; and Thomas Yaya Nimely and Sekou Damante Konneh charged despotism and injustice. Of course, latent tribal feuds provided the fuel for the viciousness of this war of nearly two decades that killed thousands of Liberians. In successive diagnostic peace conferences in various capitals around the subregion and in Geneva, Switzerland, stakeholders found that Liberia would fare well, well into the next century, if Liberians establish a democratic government through universal suffrage. No stakeholder floated for once the idea that Liberia needed a political messiah, even though the predominant charge of nepotism and injustice presupposed a need for a messianic, perfectionist presidency, not reformed institutions, and policies built in law.
This political prognosis suggests that all stakeholders believe in and embrace the rule of law (and of course the justice it promises). Liberians established the democratic government, all right. But do all believe in and embrace the rule of law and justice, in their strictest truest sense, in whichever position and situation they found themselves on the political spectrum? Does anyone in opposition today see anything wrong with the reform, judicial, and legislatives processes as conduits to the rule of law and justice? Today, doesn’t it seem a prevailing political solution to perceived injustice and corruption, as it were back in 1955, simply to charge everything that is ever wrong with a democratic government and to wish, as a remedy, the removal of the president anyhow? With this prevalent antithetic disposition to democracy and good governance, should there be any reason for hope for better in Liberia beyond President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf?
The Analyst, this week, brings into sharp focus these enduring questions.
II. The Issues
In her annual address to the nation through the 53rd National Legislature, January 28, 2013, President Ellen Johnson outlined four kinds of challenges. She outlined the challenges her administration had surmounted with the support of the Liberian people and the international community; the challenges that are surmountable but that are ongoing with difficulties; and the challenges of the future. There is no question she over told a good story – going beyond the review period and making claims difficult to verity. This obviously disheartened most realistic Liberians and created an impression within the international community that it is only a matter of time, a little more aid dollar, and a little adjustment before Liberia becomes a relatively well-off nation in sub-Saharan Africa. How the president overplayed the issues of improvement in employment, education, healthcare, and GDP upward mobility vis-à-vis poverty reduction – in style, claim, and form – mainly drew the curtains down over the address. As crucial as this presidential faux pas is in the sight of critics is, it is beside the focus of this discourse, which seeks to periscope Liberia beyond the pilot administration of President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf from the perspective the more serious faux pas committed by critics of the address. The discourse considers three problem areas in opposition monitoring of the administration, which if not corrected now, would leave no hope for the better for Liberians beyond 2017. Not surprisingly, the founding and administrative difficulties of most institutional members of the Liberian opposition predetermined strange variation with which the opposition monitors the incumbency. But attention here is drawn to those who bothered to document their criticisms of the government – the Congress for Democratic Change (CDC) and the Liberty Party (LP). Two other individuals are added to this duo – Messrs Tiawon Gongloe and Vandalark R. Patrick. They earned their inclusion by the hullabaloo created by the hilarity of their claims regarding the response of the security forces to their proposed extra-legal civic action against the government. These respondents are archetypal and cut across opposition custom – from the days of the original Progressive People’s Party of D. Twe, to the Progressive Alliance of Liberia of Gabriel Baccus Matthews, to the present. A bird’s-eye review of what each of these parties and individuals said regarding the president’s message rand a statement or two about their error of commission or omission will drive home the point that Liberia’s political future is not that bright beyond the present administration, as Liberians are being led, like sheep to the slaughterhouse, to believe.
CDC: Criticisms, Commissions, and Omission
Responding to the President Sirleaf’s January 28, 2013 Annual Message to the Second Session of the 53rd National Legislature, according to media reports, CDC accused the administration of directly engaging in, encouraging, or closing its eyes to massive theft and plunder of the country’s treasury being perpetrated by public officials.
CDC National Chairman, George Solo (Pictured)
During a press conference the party organized to response to the message on Sunday, February 3, 2013, the party accused faceless officials of the administration of using “creative ways” to rip the country’s economy. Says the party, “We posit the following factors. One, the size of the leakage due to endemic corruption may be large so that a huge slice of public spending is being siphoned into personal projects. Corrupt public contracting and other forms of ‘creative corruption’ are on the rise and are undermining poverty reduction...a huge chuck of public spending appears to be frittered away in inefficiencies and waste. Fiscal authorities should to ensure public spending rides an optimal trajectory: the country is challenged to squeeze the maximum bang out of the marginal dollar spent on the poor.”
These are serious charges, which warrant policy change, the fundamental overhaul of the system, and prosecution. But this is opposition politics in Liberia as the opposition knows it – it’s okay to emphasize allegation over details. Neither did the party bother to name the felons nor did it bother to say how much in dollar and material the accused squandered from the Liberian people or which policies need change or adjustment in order to remedy the situations of concern. Many generally consider CDC, perhaps by its presidential poll performance in 2005 and 2011, the biggest opposition political party. It currently occupies an estimated 14 seats in parliament, the second highest behind the ruling party. In administrative and outreach sense, this should mean it is a political party that has unparalleled insight into governance processes, budget administration, and the wherewithal to independently verified reports of audits conducted by the General Auditing Commission and government internal auditors. Its response to the president’s address, wholly in abstract terms, therefore, should raise a serious question about its understanding of governance in Liberia and of its readiness to assume national leadership – not as intern but as a practiced political institution. The party deliberately covered up this disservice to the Liberian people by heaping praises on the administration for ‘enacting good laws’ – an indirect approbation of the legislature in which most of its former executive committee members now serve.
But superficial criticism of a detailed report, as would any ordinary Liberia, is not the only fault of the party. It committed serious, fundamental oversight that further brings the validity of its democratic and rule of law credentials to scrutiny and the prosperity of the socio-economic and political future of the country into question. Claiming that corruption is on the rise, the party called on the Legislature to review the mandate of the Liberian Anti-Corruption Commission and give it enforcement and prosecutorial powers. It did so as a disinterested, casual observer would – neglecting to say what is wrong with the commission’s mandate. That the Ministry of Justice already has those powers, in keeping with the Constitution, and that creating another prosecutorial arm of government would open the way for duplicity, internal rivalry, and possible stalling of justice, did not seem to matter to the party that some say is waiting in the shadows to take over the government in 2017. In its haste to cast the first stone of aspersion upon the blamable Sirleaf Administration, the party did not think it was necessary to address the all-time million-dollar question of whether corruption persists in Liberia for lack of laws and prosecutors or for lack of institutional mechanisms for tracking public expenditure within government – mainly in Liberia outside Monrovia.
Secondly, and in a characteristic style if frivolity, the party diagnosed the administration’s problems regarding corruption as related to the lack of effective oversight of the laws intended to improve the lot of the people and proceeded to question the statistical disparity between the growing GDP and the rise in the poverty index. In its view, corruption is systemic, and relates to “monstrous crisis in public expenditure management”. The party’s solution to this serious problem: establish a “multi-sectoral governance framework” comprising government agencies, civil society, and the private sector. This “multi-sectoral governance framework” is supposed to usurp or share the functions of the Ministry of Public Works and the public agencies dealing with electricity production and distribution. In a sense, the party wishes a political solution to what it diagnosed as an administrative problem. Again, that is not all. The party believes the administration and the Legislature performed excellently by passing, amongst others, the Bill Creating a Special Economic Zone and the Bill to Establish a Special Fast-Track Court to handle Corruption Cases, but which will have non-exclusive jurisdiction over such cases. It is a big question how much trust the party has in the ability of these legislations, acting alone, to fight corruption when it made a strong case for the inclusion of LACC to the horde. Interestingly, it did not occur to the party that parliament, in which the opposition has controlling majority, has failed for seven years to pass the Code of National Conduct Bill – a bill that will define corruption officially, determine official limitations, and remove the temptation for breach of public trust. This brings us to the second critic of the president’s message – the Liberty Party.
LP: Criticisms, Omissions, Frivolity
In LP’s response to the president’s annual message delivered on February 6, 2013 by National Chairman Cllr. J. Fonati Koffa, it emphasized ‘option for poor’, contrary to the theme of the president’s message, which emphasized the agenda for transformation. The party blamed growing poverty in Liberia on government’s failure to reform the tax code, the reform of which it believes will leave “more discretionary income in the hands of the poor”.
LP National Chairman, Cllr. J. Fonati Koffa (Pictured)
It believes that reforming the code will redeem the poor from reliance on donor handouts as they strive to meet their survival needs. What is about the current tax code that favors poverty, the party probably did not consider it necessary to say.
It lambasted the president for lamenting the current education system of Liberia but offering no roadmap. So what did it do in turn? It offered no roadmap of its own but a stick-and-carrot suggestion that it believes would strengthen schools that have serious administrative, structural, and funding problems. It did not seem necessary to do something. After all, it is only the duty of the opposition to find faults, not to offer serious, workable solutions or take steps through its representatives in parliament to effect changes. “Reward schools with grants for effect programs to retain the girl child. Take the money out of the hands of the MOE and decentralize the education system by creating school districts that can be directly accountable for the needs and success of local students,” LP said. Deliberately or inadvertently, the party oversimplified the problems assailing the Liberian school system by hinging them on centralization. This oversimplification so blinded the party to the extent that it recommended the entrusting of district school administrators – the very school administrators who have failed to streamline payrolls by weeding ghost employees – with the scrupulous application of education budget in place of the Ministry of Education!
For LP, the nation’s eroding healthcare delivery can be remedied simply by building “more technologically advance health delivery system at the John F. Kennedy Medical Center and the just commission Medical Center in Tappita, backed by a robust system of mobile health centers in the rural areas and community health centers in the urban areas”. Why did the Sirleaf Administration not think of this simple solution to healthcare delivery, beat the party’s imagination. The utterly ambivalent LP concluded, “We must turn greater attention to our at risk youth population by developing more robust jobs program, housing program, education and health care.”
Like CDC, LP raised the question of opposition capability to remedy the systemic failure it often cites and for which it is asking the Liberia people, election after election, to please allow it take over the presidency. The two parties continue to hope that, by pointing out the faults of the Sirleaf Administration, somehow, the Liberia people will consider them capable political stewards. They want to actualize the witty but flawed adage, “If the capable are not available, then the available are capable.” This is pathetic for our political dispensation. But there is something more pathetic, when the learned become the Pied-Pipers, leading the gullible out of town at their detriment. If the criticisms of the two political parties were superficial, parroting, and typical of chapters from the old, discredited, hackneyed practice of political gamesmanship, the proceeding is a political parody by individuals who are working to inspire others to democracy and the rule of law.
Advocacy: the political parody of Patricks with Gongloe’s node
In the discourse, “President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf Political Prisoner 100% Not Guilty”, Vandalark R. Patricks raised an interesting question about radicalism in post-war Liberia and the rule of law. He expressed surprise that even though the “democratic space” that President Sirleaf and other past advocates fought for led to the death of 250,000 persons she has refused to allow current advocates to fight for their own “democratic space”.
Former Labor Minister, Cllr. Tiawon Gongloe (Pictured)
That refusal, in his mind, qualifies the president for the same fate that war-crime convict Charles Taylor faces. But he neglected to say who allowed Sirleaf and others to fight for their “democratic space”. And if he thought anyone did, he did not say why was it necessary to fight and kill so many Liberians in order to earn a another ‘democratic space’. He did not say still why it is yet necessary to fight for another “democratic space” now that Liberians have established a democratic government, complete with functional legislative, judicial, and executive branches for the first time ever as required to establish an aura of rule of law – the obvious lack of perfection notwithstanding.
Agents of the National Security Agency (NSA) and the Liberian National Police (LNP) charged Patricks with “terroristic threat” recently and detained him to prevent him from compromising the nation’s security by holding a protest rally. Patricks, as Executive Director of the Concerned Intellectual Association (CIA), had revealed in a Facebook declaration that the intent of the rally was to highlight the plight of Liberia’s poor. Then, he let the cat out of the bag: the process would create a progressive socio-economic and security paralysis of the country. He timed the protest to coincide with the gathering in Monrovia of 27 eminent persons under the auspices of the United Nations to chart the course for global development beyond 2015. It did not matter to him the 27-member UN High-level Panel of Eminent Persons on the Post-2015 Development Agenda (HLP) were not coming to Liberia to appraise the Sirleaf Administration and that therefore any demonstration intended to expose the administration’s shortcomings would be a dangerous exercise in vain. That was his undoing.
Advocate, Vandalark R. Patricks (Pictured)
Notwithstanding all this, Patricks sees himself as victim of government heavy-handedness. Not only that, he sees himself also as a “political prisoner” and his lawyer, former solicitor general of Liberia and former labor minister Tiawon Gongloe, nods in affirmation! Both men believe Patricks was only exercising his constitutional responsibility under the law. Of course, they did not say which constitutional proviso provides that it is safe to jeopardize public safety in order to exact greater good for oneself or for others. They neglected to say whether misfeasance is now permissible in Liberia. The justifications the CIA executive director provided for proposing the aborted January 28, 2013 lockdown of the capital and its environs are themselves worthy of another inquiry; but that is not the intent of this discourse. What is of immediate interest is the claim of the advocate and his lawyer that by his detention, he qualifies as “political prison”, disproving the avowal of the Sirleaf Administration that it has no political prisoners.
What Cllr. Gongloe made of all this is that Patricks’ detention is not only ‘scary’, but it indicates a digression into Liberia’s dark days of autocratic rule. He called the ‘terroristic threat’ charge an ‘unrealistic cover up for the secret arrest and subsequent detention of an ordinary Liberian citizen’ that befits a monarchic order. What was the former solicitor general thinking when he described the internationally acceptable best security practice as ‘unrealistic’, beats the imagination of many pundits. It is even less clear when he argued that the government should have chosen to protect the right of Patricks to protest and paralyze society over the right of millions of Liberians and their foreign guests to free movement in pursuit of liberty and happiness. Here is why the counselor’s contention is befuddling. Patricks disclosed that his protest, which would take the form of an “unceasing Civil Disobedience Action” and eventually bring the whole nations to its heels, would start from the Roberts International Airport on January 28 and spread to diplomatic missions and to five counties by April 6, 2013. He believes that by doing so through nonviolence would accord it a legal status; and the learned counselor agreed to this legal reasoning turned on its head. The former labor minister, who said he is himself victim of ‘such undemocratic act’ as exercised by agents of NSA and police, might be assuming the posture of an ultra-liberal advocate in this matter. That he was all too ready to cite heinous crimes committed in the past in the name of national security, testifies to this ultra-liberal advocacy posture.
What the former solicitor general, and now, rights advocate no doubt knows and that he should have told Patricks as his contribution to the promotion of the rule of law in Liberia is that there is nowhere in the world unceasing civil disobedience is legal because it is justified in the mind of the leader of an interest group. It matters not whether it is violent, non-violent, or whatever. All that is required to make it illegal is to breach an existing law; and Patricks’ proposition would have breached the public safety law, which the counselor once upheld as solicitor general. Unfortunately, he chose to regard the CIA executive’s plot as representative of the freedom of speech the constitution promises. Nothing is even more unfortunate than Gongloe’s suggestion that Patricks is not accorded the opportunity to advance to prominence as was accorded President Sirleaf, as if Sirleaf’s advance was not at the behest of series of incarcerations, daredevil escapes from death, and eventual exile. “In fact, the placards or press releases issued by this young man have nothing in them that undermine the peace and security of this country. He even in some of his sentences warned Liberians to remain peaceful and calm as they address their dissatisfactions,” Cllr. Gongloe argued, further surprising rule of law advocates and sincere Liberians.
It is understandable, though not acceptable, that CDC and LP responded to the president’s annual message as frivolously as they did. But same cannot be said of Gongloe’s position and Patricks’ understanding of the events he was set to trigger. Where they attempt to mislead the Liberian people is the assumption they promote that it is possible to institute “unceasing civil disobedience” legally. Protesters resorted to civil disobedience throughout the world and throughout history because they distrusted the status quos and the laws to which they were subjected and wanted them overturned. There is no record that any did so in obedience to the law. Gandhi's campaigns for independence from the British Empire, the Czech’s Velvet Revolution and the oust of the East German communist governments, the campaign against apartheid, the American Civil Rights Movement, and the Singing Revolution of the Baltic countries, the 2003 Rose Revolution in Georgia, and the 2004 Orange Revolution in Ukraine, all testify to this truism. Civil disobedience is not a not a political action; it is a revolutionary action that, by its very name, borders on disregard for the laws and integrity of the state. Therefore, its detained planners and executioners do not qualify as political prisoners as Gongloe implied. US practical philosopher Henry David Thoreau asserts that civil disobedience grows out of the belief that governments are typically more harmful than helpful and that therefore their existence cannot be justified. “The government,” according to Thoreau, “is not just a little corrupt or unjust in the course of doing its otherwise-important work, but in fact the government is primarily an agent of corruption and injustice. Because of this, it is ‘not too soon for honest men to rebel and revolutionize’.”
Those who undertook to engage in civil disobedience, according to one theory of civil disobedience, did so not to make demand upon a government for correction, but to deliberately break the law in hope of being arrested thereby generating sympathy and support strong enough to lead to the overthrow of the government. “Protesters practice this non-violent form of civil disorder with the expectation that they will be arrested. Others also expect to be attacked, or even beaten by the authorities. Protesters often undergo training in advance on how to react to arrest or to attack, so that they will do so in a manner that quietly or limply resists without threatening the authorities,” another account says.
Whatever the method protesters in civil disobedience choose, the result is always the same whether in totalitarian Russian or democratic United States – police often read the"riot act" and/or arrest the protesters. After arrest, according to existing international best security practice, many of the same decisions and principles that apply in other criminal investigations and arrests arise also in civil disobedience cases. When the criminal investigations apply, before or after the fact, vary from country to country based on levels of stability. Patricks might have known the depth of what he was going into or he was simply a political neophyte led blindly by fury and urged on by those who want to rediscover their relevance in society on the sweat, blood, and tears of violence dispossessed, struggling Liberians.
There are two basic constants about the criticism of the Sirleaf Administration by CDC, LP, and advocates Vandalark R. Patrick and Tiawon Gongloe. They are all chapters borrowed from the old, discredited tactics of vilification without the responsibility to justify and redirect. Back in Liberia’s days of agitation for democracy, it was both fashionable and acceptable to distort the truth deliberately. Government’s overreaction, which was certain, then made overnight national heroes, who used the opportunity to garner international support. In their haste to second-guess the government, to play the sage of political governance, to reecho the all-too-gullibly accepted jingle that all things government is the production of corruption, to play the hackneyed political refrain, they failed to look at governance in its totality. They failed to review the performance of the government as claimed in the president’s annual message through the prism of the organic law of Liberia that mandates check and balance. They failed to look critically at the Legislature as an instrument of check and balance: propriety in expenditure to avoid breach of public trust, originator of reform, the coordinated collective voice of the constituents. Worse, they overlooked the equally crucial, interdependent roles of the Sirleaf Administration, of civil society organizations, and of political parties in the governance process. And by this failure, they missed the point: that the government has failed to play the central coordinating role the Constitution of Liberia assigned it. A casual observer will applaud the parties, but it is time Liberians buckle down to the growth of this nation and set aside the politics of playing the good guy simply by vilifying the status quo while being grossly superficial.
For instance, CDC and LP spoke of corruption and unworkable policies as the culprits for Liberia’s slow recovery. But the former surprised political pundits when it chose to praised the National Legislature for passing several legislations during the period under review. By that approbation, the party overlooked the one legislation that would have addressed its concern of growing corruption within government – the Code of National Conduct Bill. This bill has been gathering dust in the chambers of parliament for the past seven years. The party attempted to cover over the serious gaffe by proposing the endowment of the Liberian Anti-Corruption Commission with prosecutorial power; something that pundits say would create internal rivalry within the public prosecution community, and further hamper the delivery of justice. There is no question the resulting tumult of a hampered justice would even provide maneuvering room for scoundrels.
IV. Enduring questions and related axioms
All of these gaffes in the responses to the president’s annual message and in response to security action in the Vandalark drama raise a series of controlling questions. Do the Liberians behind these responses really believe in and embrace the rule of law as the panacea for eradicating the governing vices about which they purport to be alarmed? Does anyone in opposition today see anything wrong with the governance reform process as conduit to the rule of law and justice? A ‘yes’ response to any of these questions raises two more questions. Today, doesn’t it seem a prevailing political solution to perceived injustice and corruption – as it were from 1955 onwards – simply to blame everything that is ever wrong with democratic governance on the incumbency, and to wish, as a remedy, the president were removed anyhow? With this prevalence, should there be any reason for hope for better in Liberia beyond President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf?
Liberians, who are as much troubled as most patriotic and nationalist Liberians are by the implied challenges of the last question, need to think seriously about the following axioms. Liberia is a politically changed society. As US political pundit John J. Kennedy once said, “Change is the law of life. And those who look only to the past or to the present are certain to miss the future”. One can no longer justify as political activist or advocate by simply issuing press releases or statements that state the obvious about the prevailing conditions in country in order to score political points or by issuing threats. This is a discredited quick-fixed tactic of the past that colluded with the despotism it was designed to counteract, brought Liberia to its knees, and decimated its population. It is not fair to live in the past and yet expect or accuse the government of living in the past, for such hypocrisy does no good for the Liberian people and nation. Advocates and opposition spokespersons cannot continue to live in the past and hope to chart a better future. Politics is a sacred art dedicated to the search for public good; it is for patriots and nationalists. It is not for the faint-hearted and the desperate or those with scores to settle with individuals too powerful to handle alone. It might have been the preferred method during Liberia's autocratic days, but it is not today; no, not when Liberians are under pressure to create a democratic society in which the laws, not men, rule. This is exactly why if governance appears to be as it were during Liberia’s autocrat past, it is because Liberians refused to take advantage of the democratic remedies offered by the rule law. The challengenow is how to make democratic governance work, not who points out the wrongs faster and more radically.
It is a healthy, encouraging political exercise for the opposition CDC and LP to issue separate responses to President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf’s Annual Message to the Second Session of the 53rd National Legislature on January 28, 2013. The responses of the two opposition parties were, however, good intentions gone awry deliberately or inadvertently, the latter seems the best bet. They complained about the administration’s claims, on economic and administrative improvement, that they believed bear no truth on the prevailing economic conditions in the country and they warned of widespread corruption. They complained about nepotism with acrimonious vehemence; they charged failure to heed the rule of law. But the nation has yet to see follow-up plans for citizen's petition to the Legislature to pass a legislation defining and outlawing employment of certain categories of Liberians in government in keeping with the Constitution of Liberia. Put more succinctly, the responses are rich in allegations but short on supporting evidence and workable policy solutions or propositions for private actions. Repeatedly, they failed to cite tangible figures confirming breach of public trust, much as they failed to name associated felons or institutions. This is the type of response often heard at street corners. This glorified Jacobinism. The days of Jacobinism is over; it is time for an opposition with a goal to steer the nation towards peace, reconciliation, development, and stability through the rule of law, not one so obsessed with the presidency so much as to pursue the Executive Mansion at any, and all costs. Liberians need to beware of Jacobins who take pride in attacking the status quo, but who are not as equally interested in solutions.
That political institutions upon which the future leadership of Liberia relies can put forth responses often heard at street corners, raises serious question about the fate of Liberia beyond President Sirleaf. This is not to imply that the Sirleaf Administration has met the challenges that face the nation squarely, or that the opposition is unnecessarily picking a fight. It is to say that, by proffering superficial responses that do not edify the nation, the opposition has technically lifted the administration off the hook of critical review and by that inadvertently diverted public attention to pettiness.
It is also healthy for disconcerted Liberians to petition their leaders to redress their grievances as the constitution provides for, or to adopt extra-legal exercise. The reality in both law and practice, though, is that in the latter case, as it were with the Vandalark drama, individuals choosing extra-legal exercise ought to brace themselves for the legal consequences. It is also part of security and governance responsibility for the security forces to respond to any extra-legal exercise as Vandalark’s proposed “unceasing civil disobedience” within the guidelines of law. To dismiss one response as legal and overlook the merits of the other is to play politics with an issue that is fundamental to Liberia’s future stability and progress. It is this point that Cllr. Gongloe missed when, while assuming that Vandalark’s preventive detention portends the return of autocracy and security overbearing in Liberia comparable to the darks days of autocracy, he declared him “political prisoner”. This is a misnomer that is not only unfortunate but that is also politically tainted, being bereft of all sincerity and objectivity. It is a misnomer to reject the rule of law in the name of human right at this crucial hour of the nation’s search for propriety and sanity. It is so, especially coming from a former solicitor general and rule of law advocate.
This is why it is incumbent upon Liberians to adopt the politics of circumspection and refrain from dignifying Jacobinism as modus operandi for the search for propriety and recovery. Remember, it was Jacobinism that failed this nation and plunged it headlong into warfare. It is time those who feel hurt by the government exhaust all legal remedies. If the government is seen to fail to deliver, the questions that must come into the minds of the concerned ought to be, “Which branch of government is responsible?” “Which branch can resolve the concern?” “Which collection of branches can resolve the problem?” “What is or are the best resolution methods available in keeping with law, not in keeping with sentiment?” These questions will guide against blaming the Executive along when the Legislature concurred with its programs and approved or neglect to review budget performances resulting into corruption or social dysfunction or when the Judiciary fail to deliver justice. In this way, citizens will sit with their legislators to evaluate development projects in their districts and trace public expenditure rather than blindly condemning the presidency. The time is now to stop applying the “fish rot from the head” metaphor to leadership in this country. It is time to identify the part of the proverbial fish that rot, assay the level of rottenness, and find the solution. The simple reason is it had not benefitted, and will certainly benefit no Liberian to vilify the government, as doing so will only give vulture lenders and on-the-fence donors the alibi to deal with the government suspiciously and unfairly. It will only give berth to latent scoundrels, who do not subscribe to democracy and rule of law in any form, to rush to power and reimpose autocracy as we saw in 1980 and 1990 or thereabout. As the Bible says in Hebrew, “Obey your leaders and submit to them, for they are keeping watch over your souls, as those who will have to give an account. Let them do this with joy and not with groaning, for that would be of no advantage to you.”
If the Sirleaf Administration has not been able to control corruption and design the policies that most Liberians want, that is because it is not because it had failed to try; it is because democracy, rule of law, economic development, and reconciliation are not self-propelling. They are people-driven through public and civil society institutions. Democracy works best under pressure, the pressure that is lacking in Liberia’s political realm. Advocates and opposition critics will justify their relevance at this level of the nation’s development, if they point out three or five ways forward for every breach they identify. They must live in the present and design new tactics that befit the nation's democratic experiment. In the present Liberia, critics must view government and governance as the sum total of its separate but equal and coordinate parts. They must therefore judge the failure or success of a government policy from the perspectives of the functionality of the constitutional check-and-balance doctrine and apportion blame or approbation exponential to responsibility in keeping with law. It is when we do these as a nation that growth in GDP will match development milestones on the ground. It is also when we do these as a nation that we will be able to distinguish political prisoners from those seeking martyrdom and police actions that are approved by law and those that are the products of malfeasance or misfeasance. It is then that we will build the hope that this nation will know greater democracy greater, functional democracy beyond 2017. It is time governance becomes a contest between the executive and the people’s elected officials with the people voting with their feet than between Jacobins and the government as the majority stand as spectators.
This nation cannot and should not continue to hinge the success of its political salvation on individuals who do not believe in the workability of its tri-cameral governance system. Liberia should not rely on individuals, whose minds are so buried layers deep under the weight of its autocratic past of imperial presidency that they continue to see everything that is wrong with the government as the fault of the presidency. The silent majority should not continue to rely on individuals to whom it seems not to matter that the people's elected representatives have greater responsibility in ensuring the fair and equitable distribution of the nation's resources. For the opposition and advocates to fail to realize this critical factor at this time of pathfinding and take steps to weed out vain Jacobins from their ranks, is to prove unworthy of partaking in the civil discourse for the nation's recovery and advancement. In this case, the fear will be justified that the nation is likely to go downhill beyond 2017.
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