Liberia’s President State of the Nation Address was Deceptive

Fact checking parts of the State of the Nation Address

By Kai Toteh/ | January 29, 2014

Ellen Sirleaf speaks at State of the Nation
President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf

Liberians at home and abroad glued to the radios and other media outlets to listen to the State of the Nation Address delivered by the President of the Republic of Liberia. They were patient for more than two hours of the speech, which some analysts say was one of the longest speeches in recent time.

But whatever may be, Liberians wanted to hear for themselves, without hearsay, what was in the speech-meaning what good is in store for them relative to basic social services and basic needs.

Most Liberians wanted to know if the government is now ready to practically engage the restoration of their necessities, which include safe drinking water, electricity, roads, improvement of sanitation, healthcare and health insurance for the elderly, babies and children and citizens who live far below poverty line.

The speech that lasted for more than two hours finally ended followed by massive criticisms. Almost everyone reacted to the speech in the negative, saying the speech was a mere rhetoric and the same old song; almost everything in the speech was said before but no results.

Those who said negative things about the State of the Nation address were not all wrong, because a lot of things were said in previous speeches that are not existent. Promises of improvement in the lives of the citizens were contained in this year’s speech. Given their previous experience regarding empty promises by the current administration, citizens who said the speech was a mere rhetoric could not be wrong.

The speech, among other things touched on passage of bills and amendments of acts and penal codes. Besides the bills that are under deliberations, several bills were passed into law. But the fact is laws are not laws until they are enforced. This is the case with Liberian laws. The laws are created, but they are not enforced, not respected, and they favour only a handful of people. Therefore, that part of the speech is also rhetoric like the critics have already said.

For the benefit of this article and the readership, let’s take a deeper look at some parts of the speech that are immediate and relevant to the people of Liberia. Those things fall within THE STATE OF THE ECONOMY section of the speech.

The president told Liberians the following: “We are proud of the achievements of the Liberian people.” Indeed, this is very correct. Liberians have made achievements such as their patience with the government and their courage and willingness to reconcile their differences for the sake of peace. Almost every Liberian is self-employed and Liberians are one of the groups that make up the driving force for the improvement of the economy.  

The president continued: “But we must all be reminded that our country is recovering from a low economic base where 90 percent of our productive capacity had been destroyed, which is arguably the greatest decrease in economic output recorded in any country since World War II.”

Indeed, all Liberians know and agree that it is easy to spoil something but difficult to fix it. However, Liberians have qualms about one group of people being patient while the other group carries fat salaries and do not work. Therefore, all Liberians need to make the sacrifices.

“Coming from where we were – a broken, destroyed and nearly incapacitated country – we have made marked progress in economic revitalization and the restoration of basic social services as part of the governance pact with the Liberian people,” President Sirleaf told her fellow citizens in her State of the Nation address.  

Unfortunately, she is wrong. Most parts of Liberia lack safe drinking water, heath care and every basic need for normal human beings. In the nation’s capital and suburbs, there is acute shortage of water and almost all social services, and the city is in darkness.

Madam President said, “Socioeconomic conditions have improved as a result of the combined strong efforts of the national government, the people of Liberia and our development partners.” This statement was repeated earlier, suggesting continual repetitions of these kinds of speeches.

She goes on by saying, “As much as has been achieved in economic and social development and reduction in the effects of the multi-dimensions of poverty, we do admit that significantly more must be done and more will be done.” Also, this statement has been said three times justifying the people’s assertion that the speech lacks substance.

“In the decades preceding instability, Liberia’s growth record was remarkable as shown in statistical terms, but this masked serious problems of poverty and inequality in much of the country,” the president said.

Indeed, the president has presented us with Liberia’s economy in retrospect. This statement is very true, but can all Liberians, not few, demonstrate sincerity when running the affairs of the nation?

Liberians are fed up with rhetoric. Liberians want the government and all to act positively toward one another. Our number one enemy should be fought with all our might without favour and fear. We cannot close our eyes on what is responsible for our poverty and blame our poverty on something else. This is a deceptive way of leadership in Liberia.