19 July 2012

Liberia Clocks 165 Years - What Is There to Celebrate?


Liberia will on Thursday, July 26, celebrate 165 years of independence. In fact, Liberia is the oldest independent African nation, having attained republican status in 1847. The country was founded in 1822 as a haven for freed black slaves from America. Liberia eventually became a beacon of hope for suppressed members of the Black Race from all parts of the world.

Accordingly, politicians from many African countries at the time, including Nigeria's first President Nnamdi Azikiwe is said to have sought refuge in Liberia and gained inspiration from President William V.S Tubman. Azikiwe eventually returned to his native Nigeria and became its first president. Even the iconic former South African President Nelson Mandela is said to have visited Liberia at the time his country was in the throes of Apartheid. The late Zimbabwean politician, Joshua Nkomo is also said to have visited Liberia and gained inspiration from President Tubman.

Apart from individuals, Liberia is also said to have inspired struggles in many African nations. According to Liberian Historian Dr. Saye Guanna, "The origin of the OAU can be traced largely to two historic conferences; namely, the Accra conference of Independent African States held in 1958 and the Sanniquellie Conference of July 1959.

The Sanniquellie Conference convened by President Tubman and attended by Presidents Kwame Nkrumah of Ghana and Sekou Toure of Guinea, in July 1959, discussed questions of African liberation, cooperation and unity. It was decided at Sanniquellie that efforts for African freedom, cooperation and unity be increased and the question of a United States of Africa continue to be discussed until the majority of African colonies attain independence. Four years later in 1963, the OAU was founded.

Tubman, Liberia's 17th President, indeed played a pivotal role in the realization of African solidarity and African independence, when the wind of change was blowing across the African continent in the 1960s. It was during the Tubman administration that Liberia sued the Apartheid Government of South Africa for suppressing the majority Black Race in that country. Indeed, historically, Liberia inspired the independence of African nations then under the scourge of colonialism and the unity of the African Continent.

At home, however, development has eluded Liberia. Even though 165 years old by July 26, Liberia lacks the infrastructure, including a standard road network that can be compared to those in countries like Ghana that attained its independence more than 100 years after Liberia joined independent nations of the world. Liberia also lacks health and educational facilities commensurate with its age.

There is a dearth of qualified teachers and doctors to meet the country's educational and health needs. It is shameful that Liberia currently boasts of far less than 300 medical doctors, and 'Big Brother' Nigeria has had to pitch to address the deficit. There is a deficit of qualified personnel in all sectors, and Liberia is currently constrained to tap into other countries' manpower to meet its needs. Even as the country is on the verge of becoming an oil exporting nation, it lacks trained manpower in mining engineering.

Even more shameful is the fact that many government ministries and agencies still operate from rented buildings. It is commendable that the current government has deemed it feasible to finish buildings started by Samuel Kanyon Doe who, along with William R. Tolbert (who were both assassinated) will go down in history as the most development oriented leaders to ascend to the Liberian Presidency.

The Unity Party-led Government is exerting some effort to develop the country. Its achievements in the health and education sectors, including providing scholarships to Liberians to pursue advanced studies abroad in all disciplines are commendable because they will help to transform Liberian society. The capital Monrovia is being transformed into a modern metropolis comparable to any city in Africa.

Unfortunately however, streets and alleys need to be improved in the capital so that they will become durable. Lack of drainages is becoming a major threat to residents of the city. Indeed, the roads need to be built in a more durable fashion and drainages should be part of any road construction project. It is also commendable that democracy is taking root in Liberia. Everybody can now criticize the government without the repercussions we knew in the past.

We now have an Anti-Corruption Commission to raise the red flag about graft in government, as well as a General Auditing Commission that is clothed with the authority not only to conduct audits in public offices but also publicize any unwholesome acts in the expenditure of government funds. Nonetheless, corruption has continued to pose a major threat to the country's development. The dream of a better Liberia is still being thwarted by unconscionable officials who shamefully engage in graft to meet their selfish ends at the detriment of the nation.

Another disturbing aspect of life in Liberia is the re-emergence of the "Class System", social exclusion and nepotism that once plunged the country into civil conflict. There is no system in offices; as a result administrators run offices as if they are their private kingdoms, contrary to set rules and regulations. Some officials are denied their just benefits with no action taken against such perpetrators. When are we going to graduate from such injustices which seemed to be the norm in the past? Policies enunciated to put the country on the right trajectory are not adhered to. As a result, these policies develop mould on shelves.

There is no code governing the conduct of public officials. As a result, these officials perpetrate injustices; violate the rights of others and deny other workers under their jurisdiction their just benefits. Even though the country seems to be graduating from the past in many aspects, injustices continue to be perpetrated with impunity. Let's refrain from such acts and let Liberia move ahead not only in physical terms but as a nation that has a system in place.

We cannot continue to condone such acts when we should be setting examples for other African nations to follow.


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