17 August 2012

Liberia: Memo - Our Anniversary Message to You


Your Excellency:

As you may know, The Analyst family last Monday observed its 14th Anniversary – a journey of existence full of hills and valleys, rough seas and calm shores. We are celebrating quietly, taking stock of the largely winding journey, recollecting all that we have seen, heard, and reported.

A group of penniless journalists, back in 1998, gave birth to this newspaper. Those were the days when Charles Taylor had just taken the mantle, which you currently possess. Our reportorial duty got us in a series of trouble with the regime, which more than thrice torpedoed our offices, hijacked our operations, and clawed away a senior editor of ours. Despite these difficult conditions, we reported. We covered the news as it occurred. We did so without fear and favor. And God willing, we survived!

Then came the two-year transitional period, following the days of doom, at which time the delicate processes of disarmament, demobilization and elections unfolded. All the belligerent factions conglomerated in Monrovia, and their throngs of armed fighters were let loose to roam the countryside. Despite the volatile social and political weather, The Analyst dug up, analyzed, and released the news without discrimination to those who came to the media limelight. And since your incumbency, we have never faltered. We have never rested. Our pens are still on the move, until the 14th anniversary of ours.

Madam President, we have given this brief trail not to make a bluff; we simply want to say that throughout this more than a decade of existence, we have set our ears sharp and focused; and we have heard, documented and reported so much from research, interview and investigation. Even during your administration, our ears and eyes are sharper – sharper not because we love or hate you more than we did your predecessors, but because we consider this period of our national existence under your leadership as the most crucial political epoch. Your incumbency is crucial principally because it represents a bridge between a decadent and chaotic past and a new day of national renewal. And more so, it coincides with the understandable caveat – which also is a challenge – that this period of international intervention and goodwill is our country’s last chance and opportunity to cultivate a new start rooted in the principles of law and love of country.

Your Excellency, Liberia cannot afford to ignore that stern admonition. There should be no reason to pay deaf ears. This is why the expectation is so high amongst Liberians. This is why, also, the people want you to accelerate the ship of state and push it far from the borders of the perilous waves that it just survived; this accounts for the enormous and spontaneous nature of criticisms against you, particularly when you make a policy gesture or decision that tends to remind the citizenry of the bleak past.

As our random sampling of views toward writing today’s front page story indicates, Liberians are divided over the gains and failures of your administration. There are those who exalt you and your regime, particularly because according to them, you have made a radical difference. These often refer to your “demonstrated political will” to resist the temptation of kleptocracy or the misuse of public funds by accepting GEMAP to the fullest, and for keeping your hands off the grooming of the national security forces to suit your political interest. That is great of you, because, we also confess that you excelled in this dimension of statecraft, which has been troubling to the peace, harmony, and development of the country.

However, Madam President, we think you should particularly be attracted to and animated by critical comments. You and, by extension, the entire nation have more positives to reap in listening to and assimilating criticisms than in being amused by eulogies. These are key concerns that make a lot of sense and are urgent imperatives for your government if you are truly to prove to be the Messiah that would take Liberians through and from the Red Sea to the Promised Land. The concerns are clear and to the point: you are not reaching out to key protagonists and stakeholders systematically and determinedly enough, as far as concerns for Liberia’s stability and citizens’ reconciliation demands. You are administering a political regime, in our estimation, to what amounts to the running of an NGO, finding job placements only for internationally vetted Liberians. Bitterness and hatred are still boiling in the hearts of Liberians and against Liberians, even within the ruling party. National reconciliation, though much sung as a national priority, is yet to find its roots in the schemes of things for national revival. Some say, and we are tempted to agree, the roadmap is yet to be laid on solid ground, or if laid, it is yet to be given the attention it deserves, considering the difficulties that are assailing the TRC. Many are out of job, simply because you asked them out in the name of downsizing, retirement, and SSR. You say that is the remedy for a bloated wage bill and delayed salary disbursement; but as we see it, the nation will only rest when the fruits of that remedy become apparent with improving standard of living for all Liberians. That is the challenge beyond creating a manageable administration.

Your Excellency, the current picture is not that accommodating: you are reporting growth in revenue, but are yet to pass on the proceeds to the ordinary people. And the critical concerns go on and on. There is urgent need to improve on this picture, for delays could subtract terribly from the gains made thus far. We just thought, on the 14th Anniversary of ours, to acquaint you with those positive and negative concerns, which our future memos to you shall expound.

Thank you very much, Madam President, for your time and consideration and for pledging to be a pivotal part of “Those who strive for a better Liberia”.

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