On the Wrong Side of History?

By Elder Siahyonkron Nyanseor
Senior Advisor, MOLAC & CLACI

Lawrenceville, GA
October 1, 2013

Liberian Protesters

“For where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them,” thus said the Lord! (Matthew 18:20) God did not say where a multitude of people gathered in my name. Therefore, those who are rejoicing that the peaceful protest at the UN did not succeed are not true believers in what the Lord our God is capable of doing.

The efforts on the part of the anti-protesters supporting Liberia’s President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf is futile. Their undaunted advocacy is interpreted or at least appeared to support the corrupt practices of the president and the Unity Party government of Liberia. The anti-protesters would have yielded success and gained momentum had they identified and highlighted the government’s contributions versus failures. It would have resonated much better in the Liberian and international communities had it preceded the Movement of Liberians Against Corruption and (MOLAC) and the Concerned Liberians Against Corruption and Impunity (CLACI’s) protests against corruptions in the City of New York at the United Nations (UN).

It seems a bit late even though better late than never, when Liberians are bringing pressure to bear on the government. Their attempt is less effective as they exhibit support for the government, its allies and cronies accused of corrupt practices.

Collaborating bodies such as the Staten Island Chapter of the Union of Liberian Associations in the Americas (ULAA) planned anti-protest activities which support the government deserves questioning. Are they protesting against corruption or supporting the corrupt practices of the government? What are they supporting?

These are difficult times for Liberians communities at home and in the diaspora, which must distinguish right from wrong and elect good over evil. Most of the times some Liberians do not know the way forward because they are ill informed, bought over or simply chicken out due to potential retributions. They need to be mindful and pay heed to the advice by Robert Heinlein that reads: “A generation which ignores history has no past and no future.”

It is very difficult to justify support for a government that has earned the global distinction as the most CORRUPT GOVERNMENT. Instead, some Liberians and other individuals misled the world on the eve of the protest by posting misinformation reflected below:

It is reported that CLACI and MOLAC's executives struck deal with Pres. Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf and left other members in the cold. The report said these so-called executives in the early morning of today met with some of Ellen's delegates and came to an agreement. The report continues that these executives were only interested in themselves and not any of their small number of members, some of whom traveled at their own expense. Sad! Details coming soon!

Such practices of misinformation and deception emanate from sycophants and favor seekers. Find below another misnomer beautifully created for crying out loud:

Report reaching our desk indicates that Madam Sirleaf in her desperate attempt to stop the peaceful protest on the world stage on September 24, 2013, has made several attempts to bribe the leaderships of CLACI and MOLAC to halt the protest. She is expressing willingness to meet with the protesters through Ambassador Sulonteh and others. The leaderships have however, rejected that offer. News speculating around the protesters' leadership seem[s] to be leaning in the direction of calling for an open all Liberian National Conference to discuss the public matter openly rather than engaging in any backdoor meetings. Some members of the group are even calling for the resignation of Madam Sirleaf on several constitutional grounds.

These developments and much more are primary reasons prompting current anti-Liberian Government demonstration at the UN.

MOLAC and CLACI congratulate the Association of Members of Unity Party in the Americas (AMUPA) for respecting the constitutional rights of Liberians to stage a peaceful protest against their government for its failures to live to its promises. Unlike the other pro corruption supporters of the president and the government, AMUPA wrote in its press statement:

The Association of Members of Unity Party in the Americas (AMUPA) is pleased to inform the general public that Unity Party, as an institution, will not hold any form of demonstration or counter protest against any groups of concerned Liberians, who have elected to peacefully assembled and express their constitutional right through free speech. As members of the ruling Unity Party, we hold a passionate view on human rights which encompasses freedom of speech and other inalienable rights that are incontrovertible or unchallengeable.

Let it be known to fellow Liberians that the officers and members of MOLAC and CLACI applaud the AMUPA’s position and expressions indicating that the president’s Unity Party is not the only voice of the Liberian people. Genuine objective oppositions from other citizens have a role to play in the good governance of Liberia.

Those against Liberians exercising their constitutional rights are on the wrong side of the political divide and history. In due time if not now, they will be ridicule while the protesters will be applauded for their gallant efforts.

As a young lad growing up in Monrovia in the 60’s, I perceived corruption as a legal practice. I developed this view because perpetrators of corrupt practices in those days were repaid as they were transferred from one position to more lucrative areas within government with impunity. Instead of being recriminated for crimes committed they were rewarded as if they had made some meaningful contributions to the larger society. Today, I am witnessing the same occurrence all over again in our country.
This reminds me of a statement made by Dr. H. Boima Fahnbulleh, Jr. in May 1981 at a program in New Kru Town. The program was sponsored by the New Kru Town Youth Development Movement at which I presented a paper entitled: “Liberia’s Role in the African Liberation Struggle: 1924 – 1980.”

In the keynote message delivered by Dr. Fahnbulleh, he made the profound statement (paraphrased): “In order to change society, you must first change the individuals, because it is the individuals that make the rules by which society is governed.”

My understanding and interpretation of his statement was and still is if the citizens of a country removed a government from power either by revolution or democratic election for not serving their interests; the people have the inalienable right to change the government and the system. If the citizens only change the people who caused the problem and leave the system intact; they have not change anything.

It is like the proverbial phrase: “New wine in old bottles.” By changing the system, you change the mindset (old behaviors) so that the people will not return to “business as usual.”

Fortunately for us, we have history on our side. Our demands are very simple; if the government implements its own General Auditing Commission and related Commissions’ reports, we will be left with few things to protest against.

Provided below is a laundry list of what President Johnson-Sirleaf and the Unity Party have failed to do:

Many Government Institution Reports have Met Same Fate as Audit Reports--NO Action

  • General Auditing Commission Audits
  • Several Anti-Corruption Reports (LACC said it had to unilaterally take the case against the police director to Court because Justice Ministry said not enough evidence).
  • Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC)
  • LEITI, Moore Stephenson Audit Report on Contracts and Concessions, 2 of 68 met legal standards
  • Global Business Solutions Audit of LWSC

Many of Ellen Sirleaf's Own Commission Reports have Met Same Fate as Audit Reports--NO Action

  • Dunn Commission Report, Knuckle Gate II Corruption Email Scandal
  • Nagbalee Warner's Commission on Carbon Harvesting Report
  • Ndobor Jallah's Commission on Private Use Permit Report
  • Justice Minister's Investigative Committee on Harry Greaves and Aloysius Jappah,  Zakhem Contract
  • Tiawan Gongloe's Commission Report
  • Dr. Boima Fahnbulleh's Commission Report

Many International Reports Have Met Same Fate as Audit Reports--NO Action

  • U.S. State Department Human Rights Reports
  • U.N. Panel of Experts Reports
  • Global Witness Reports
  • International Crisis Group Reports

(Information obtained from the article: “John Morlu Rebukes Chris Toe, Deputy Minister Of Information, Justice Minister, and Solicitor General” by John Morlu II, published in The Perspective online newsmagazine on September 5, 2013)

Again on September 12, 2013, Morlu wrote another article in The Perspective under the title: “Presidential Committee to ‘Further Investigate’ MOJ Findings on Dismissals: Pearine David Parkison?” In this article, Morlu asked the following questions that have yet to be answered or refuted:

…I wish journalists in Liberia could follow up with the Minister of Justice to get the Justice Minister's Findings and Committee members to get more details on why only investigate the case of Pearine Davis Parkison. In January 2010, in her State of the Nation Address, President Sirleaf reported that more than 21 officials have been dismissed for corruption.

Why not investigate the dismissals of Dr. J. Chris Toe, Mr. Harry Greaves, Mr. Ambulai Johnson, Mr. Chris Bailey, Mr. Lawrence Bropleh, Mr. Albert Bropleh, Ms. Munah Sieh, Ms. Ellen Cockrum, Mr. Aloysius Jappah, and a long list of other officials and civil servants dismissed for corruption and violation of law, etc.

Minister of Information, Deputy Minister of Information, Minister of Justice/Attorney General, Solicitor General of Liberia and the Deputy Minister of Justice for Economic Crimes have denounced GAC audits. These officials have argued that audit reports by the General Auditing Commission are "unprofessional" and require "further investigations" before prosecution. Liberians, the GAC, the National Legislature, Liberty Party and the international community have all rubbished the claims of these government officials, with the Legislature calling these statements "troubling and misguided." The President, too, says Justice Ministry's Findings need "further investigation."

Justice Ministry signed 68 concessions. But Moore Stephens' audit shows that only 2 of the 68 concessions were legal. The remaining 66 or 97% were illegal and marred with irregularities. No one has been held accountable.

The same Justice Minister headed a Presidential investigation that determined that former Managing Director Harry Greaves and Presidential Advisor Aloysius Jappah committed a crime of bribery.

My late mother (may her soul rest in perpetual peace), Worhwinn Mardea Sarkpah’s philosophy about life, which I have adopted, reads thusly: “There is nothing impossible in life that you cannot achieve with God’s help; but the greatest obstacles you face, is your indecision to make every effort to achieve your dreams.” This philosophy can be applied in whatever we as a people can do if we make up our minds. These days nothing is impossible. The well-known statement, the sky is the limit is really true! Instead of engaging in exercise that will have mutual benefits for all Liberians, some of these individuals are preoccupied with what Dr. Nat Galarea Gbessagee described as:

Everyday on this listserv and elsewhere, we tell ourselves as Liberians that we want to build a better homeland where justice and fairplay and respect for one another will be the order of the day. Yet most often than not we are afraid to identify and evaluate the weaknesses in our society and work to correct those weaknesses. So somehow, we think we can "deny, deny, and deny" every negative aspect of Liberian life and culture and the problem will go away in due course. (From:  NGee  ngg06@yahoo.com, Date: Sun, Dec 13, 2009 at 10:14 AM. Subject: Institutionalized Corruption, my take)
 
In the classic work of William Ryan titled Blaming the Victim, Ryan explained how and why we prefer to put the blame of poverty on its victims rather than on the inequalities of the American society. He added: the generic formula of Blaming the Victim is to justify inequality by finding defects in the victims. Blaming the Victim is an ideological process by which a set of ideas and concepts are systematically manipulated with unintended distortions of reality. Blaming the Victim is not a process of intentional distortion although it does serve the class interests of those who practice it. Karl Mannheim on the other hand, described it as 'collective unconscious,' a state of mind rooted in a class-based interest intended to maintain the status quo. Blaming the victim is similar to blaming the messenger for delivering the message. This is a common practice in Liberia and the Diaspora.

The true shall set you free (John 8:32 KGV) is actually a profound statement that is intended to warn wrongdoers and their supporters. For example, one staunch supporter of Ellen has finally realized the truth - for which he wrote the statement provided below to Honorable Patrick Oliver Sawyer, the Unity Party government’s new Minister of Explaining Things. It reads:

If Liberians in the Diaspora are unaware of the achievements of the current administration according to you, then one wonders whose fault could that be? Did it occur to you that the information you are now peddling could have been posted for public consumption on the web sites of the entities that generate them and not after the fact, when the proverbial house is already on fire? That underscores my point in labeling people like you and scions occupying critical aspects of government as incompetent, slothful, lazy and don't know what the hell you are doing about anything in Liberia.           

And do you believe in your little head, that the planned demonstration by anti-establishment elements is about the successes or lack thereof you are showcasing? Corruption! Corruption! all over the place happens to be the song hounding us and fueling this disenchantment mister, in case you haven't heard.
  
Even me, an ardent supporter and sympathizer of this administration, I too, am bewildered by the apparent lack of stance against this cancer in our society by not necessarily the president, but those whose purview the responsibility to curb this menace directly falls under, including the Anti-Corruption  Commission and the Ministry of Justice. But all you ever hear from these entities is one excuse after the other, as to why they haven't done this or the other in carrying out their required or expected functions. How about people working with what they've got? That's the norm everywhere else!

But mind you, our do-nothing officials don't produce but get paid every month and handsomely at that for doing nothing but driving around Monrovia, with 500 gallons of gas allotment per month to facilitate that. Add that to the colossal and depressing underachievement of the Ministry of Justice in cases Vs. Republic of Liberia. That unparalleled losing record supposed to reassure us that we are making progress with crime and punishment in Liberia.  And why? Because the GOL is now losing cases unlike in the past when such never happened, we are told. Can you imagine that for deterring anything, or for allying people's misconception (real or imagined) about corruption and other concerns in Liberia? Add investors' apprehension in that regard and you get the whole picture.    

Brother or should I say Bo? You are the comrade with whom I agitated along with for “RIGHTS and RICE” in the 70s.  Bo, thank you plenty and coming back from sleep walking and waking up to the reality of our time.

After my brother ‘finished’ speaking the truth about what is going on in Liberia, there comes a BLIND SUPPORTER or SYMPATHIZER of the CORRUPT Unity Party government. He calls his brand of support biblical based; even our Lord Jesus Christ was crucified for defending the POOR, CHILDREN and PREACHEING AGAINST the CORRUPT practices of his day. But when one doesn’t have anything credible to contribute to a debate, that person will resort to throwing in the kitchen sink. This is what this loyal supporter of Ma Ellen did by addressing the note below to Bro. Toe & MOLAC. It reads:

The Mandingo man, Amara was met with a demonstration as little as it was, as poor as it was.  But there came a Kpelle or Lorman [Lorma] man in Ohio who served as a Keynote speaker on the convention of ULAA, there was no MOLAC; though it was the talk of the time that there was going to be a demonstration in Ohio against the first Minister of the cabinet, Foreign Affairs Minister. If you guys are not able to balance issues, do not waste your own time. For this reason, any one can say the demonstration in MN was Mandingo man affairs. Good judgement [judgment]!

What his got to do with the protest in New York? However, after reading it, all I had to do is laugh. By the way, what was he trying to communicate? In the English Language there is a WORD called PRIORITIZE. With the limited resources that MOLAC and CLACI have, which were not stolen from the Liberian people; but from their own sweats and tears; they had to decide which place was more important to have the rally; in New York not or was Ohio? They considered New York more important than Ohio. This is sound decision making! It has nothing to do with tribalism! Only people who cannot defend their own position will see every issue in Liberia from a tribal perspective. We are above this elementary argument.

Based on the reactions from several quarters, it is safe to conclude that our protest against CORRUPTIONS is producing credible results. On the day of the protest rally in New York, a disclaimer from the Town Chief himself was posted on the listserv. Things seem to be crumbling fast in the arena of the SUPPORTERS of Ma Ellen and her CORRUPT Unity Party government. It is like plots in the classic novel - Things Fall Apart by the late Chinua Achebe.

Now dig this! The great and indisputable Town Chief wrote:
   
…As a life-long democrat who cherishes the tenets of democracy, I will do nothing to interfere with the right of any Liberian to express his/her opinion on any issue in Liberia through any legal means, especially approved public demonstration;

I have absolutely no kind of special relationship with President Sirleaf that would encourage her to give me any money to deliver to anyone for any political or covert reason;

President Sirleaf has absolutely no kind of special relationship with me that would encourage me to accept any money from her for delivery to anyone for any political or covert reason;

On the basis of the clarifications above, I encourage those who fabricated the falsehood to shove it…!! Anyone who has reason to go after President Sirleaf and/or anyone else should feel free to do so without feeling obligated to use my name to create credibility for his/her work.

May God bless Liberia, save the state, and sanctify the works of the good hands among us.

Wow! What a disclaimer! Does he really mean it? Anyway, we thank him.

Now, there comes another devastating BLOW from a research paper titled, “The Promise and Perils of the Diaspora Partnership for Peace: The Case of the US-Based Liberian Diaspora”. This gentleman is a Ghanaian scholar. The author’s main point is - once upon a time, ULAA was the umbrella organization of Liberians in the Diaspora but it has since lost that position for the reasons specified below. According to the writer:

Some Diaspora leaders lack dedication towards working on behalf of Liberia and seek leadership for narrow parochial interests. One of the criticisms often leveled against the leadership of the Union of Liberian Associations in Americas (ULAA) is that some of them have been too cozy with the government in power in Liberia to the point of trading their advocacy for political appointments. The leadership of U.S-based Diaspora organizations enjoy high-profile and respectable status in Liberia. As such, some in the Diaspora seek leadership as a spring board towards future political careers at the expense of much needed peace-building. (Osman Antwi-Boateng, Ph.D., “The Promise and Perils of the Diaspora Partnership for Peace: The Case of the US-Based Liberian Diaspora”, Political Science Department, United Arab Emirates University).

This is what we have been saying and writing about for which the leadership of ULAA see us as “Troublemakers”. But this is a badge I’ll wear with HONOR. Since this criticism is coming from an independent observer; perhaps, the leaders of ULAA will take it serious.

Conclusion

In Liberia yesterday and today, TROUBLEMAKERS are individuals who put country first by calling “a spade, a spade” and raising concerns about corrupt practices in the country. Liberia as you know is a country where government officials are engaged in nation-wide corruptions, but they and their supporters have the nerve to accuse those of us that advocate for fundamental changes as not having nothing better to do; a classic case of blaming the messenger. 

This belief exposed Liberia’s CORRUPT political culture, and the thinking of the group that staged the “RALLY IN SUPPORT OF PEACE AND PROGRESS IN LIBERIA”. These individuals misinterpret ‘individual’s rights’ guaranteed by the Liberian Constitution. They view our expressions of concerns as “picking fuss” or “causing trouble” for the government. Why, because from the very inception of the nation, the government had the people believed that the only group who had such rights were the settlers and those that joined them later. Now they have added their WARDS to feast from the elephant meat.

The native majority or those the “Love of Liberty” met in the place they named Liberia were exempt from enjoying those RIGHTS and PRIVILEGES. From that time on, Liberians have been conditioned to see rights as privilege dispensed by either the president or his/her officials. But they are JUKE this time! The rank of the concerned citizens, are growing each day. On Wednesday, September 25, 2013, a day after the protest rally at the UN, A. Omaska Marks of the Public Agenda Online published an article with the caption: MOLAC Joins Anti-Ellen Forces. He wrote:
MOLAC has described as weakness and failure on the part of the Sirleaf regime to fight corruption, which according to the civil group has become an epidemic, eating the fabric of the Liberian society, “with Pres. Sirleaf family and friends at the forefront.” the group said.

The group also alleged that the Sirleaf regime is infested with former rebels, rebel leaders and combatants whom MOLAC asserted are in cohort with their master, Madam Sirleaf and placed in high political offices.

Speaking on behalf of the group, Mr. Bongolee added that some of these people perpetrated heinous crimes against the Liberian people but they were freely roaming the streets simply because the President, their friend, has favored them and employed them.

Finally, as long as there are MOLACs, CLACIs and other concerned Liberians and friends of Liberia, the government and its supporters are fighting a losing battle. God and History are on our SIDE! Take our words for it! The struggle has just begun!

With Love, Peace and Happiness!

The poem below tells the rest of the story.

Home, Sweet Home!
©7/26/1995
By Siahyonkron Nyanseor
I
There was once a land called home
Sweet land of liberty
A land in which everybody was referred to as
“My Good Friend,” and men referred to
As “Jack” or even “Joe Blow”
A land for which we developed
A special handshake
A handshake that is referred to as
The “Liberian Handshake”
This handshake, My Good Friend
Is like no other in the whole wide world

II
But something went wrong, somewhere
With this sweet home of ours
For it to have become so bitter
To the point where we could not
Honestly talk about it
Perhaps, we were too afraid
Or took too much for granted

III
Because when things were going wrong
We said they were not our business
So we went about minding our business
Advising our children
To leave the “people’s Thing Alone”
So, what got sweet in Billy Goat’s mouth
Started to run its belly

IV
Our sweet home began to fall apart
And everybody else was going
About their own business
Hoping that somebody will fix it for us
So, the home that was once sweet
Became too bitter to talk about

V
Now, there is no more Good Friend
Everyone has become a suspect
The only free persons are
The sidewalk Preachers
And people we called Craky
They are the only people in town
With the nerve to speak the truth
Yet, nobody listens
Because they are still considered
Craky and Crazy people
Therefore, our home, sweet home
Has become too bitter to talk about
Everyone is too busy minding their business
And leaving the “People’s Thing Alone”
So, the land that was sweet
Has become too bitter to talk about
Everyone, including Country and Congo people
Have ended up in the same boat


*“Leave the People’s Thing” is a phrase used in Liberia to make reference to politics or the discussion of “vexed/pregnant issues”; parents used to advise their children not to get involve in “The People’s Thing”  in order to keep them from getting in trouble with the Liberian government authorities.

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About the Author:  Siahyonkron J. K. Nyanseor is a poet, a Griot, journalist, cultural and political activist, and an ordained Minister of the Gospel. He is Chairman of the Liberian Democratic Future (LDF); publisher of theperspective.org online newsmagazine. He serves as Senior Advisor to the Voice of Liberia newsmagazine as well as Senior Advisor to MOLAC and CLACI. In 2012, he Co-authored Djogbachiachuwa: The Liberian Literature Anthology. He can be reached at:
siah1947@gmail.com.