5 December 2012

Liberia: LACC's Alarming Tearful Portrait of Irresistible Corruption

After serving 19 years walking on chalkline as vice president under the towering powers of President William VS Tubman, William R. Tobert, Jr., assumed the presidency upon the demise of Tubman in 1971.

Tolbert had been handpicked by his predecessor following the mystery death of vice president-elect B.G. Freeman of Careysburg. Tolbert's long tenure as vice president must have prepared him to first zoom on punctuality and hard work for government officials and employees just as he was exemplary for workers on his Belefanai farm in Bong County.

That example focused on sound practice of honesty and probity for which Tolbert's detractors misunderstood and satirically accused him of selling charcoal and bitter balls at the Executive. His disgust that corruption permeated government circles and society at large led Tolbert in 1974 to create by executive ordinance the National Force for the Eradication of Corruption (NFEC), comprising law enforcement gurus and legal luminaries having teeth enough to investigate graft cases and recommend appropriate penalties for guilty persons.

But corruption outlived the NFEC so much that young AFL soldiers who overthrew the government in 1980 accused it not only of corruption, but "rampant corruption". Soon on his second day in power, Master-sergeant Samuel Doe, made the following independent statement to then Principal Robert Kemokai on corruption while on a tour at Central High School in Buzzi Quarters: "There are some people...when they receive 25 loaves of bread for their students, they eat 15 and only 10 reach to the students. That is rampant corruption...anyone found doing that will not live to tell the story".

Soon than later 'you will not live to tell the story' became a household expression in Liberia.

As the crackdown waned with time while the junta enjoyed the paraphernalia of power, Doe once publicly declared: "Corruption cannot be completely eradicated, but can only be minimized."

Therefore it became an irony that he later perished in a gorilla rebellion whose masterminds accused him of being a dictator engaged in rampant corruption.

Earlier this year, corruption typified itself to me at one Hathai shop downtown Monrovia where some young people castigated persons outside their midst for being corrupt. Upon hearing them in the debate, a keen passerby suddenly invited one of their kind to follow him for "something" for them to buy their tea. Their envoy later came back with US$20 saying the man: "I accompanied sent this for us all."

Everyone expressed delight for the offer and began ordering more tea. But it was not too long when the giver appeared, asking: "Did you guys see what I sent you?" "You mean the 20 dollars," one of them shouted. He replied, "No! I sent you 100 dollars." His colleagues suddenly got raged, knocked him over and forcibly ripped pockets where 80 dollars found hidden was removed by the group.

Upon hearing the true story, some onlookers at the scene commented: "But he did well she, he should have divided the money 50-50"; he should have gone home with the whole amount and not return to the Hathai shop".

So, see how corruption is alive with us even after President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf declared it was "enemy number one" during his first inaugural speech seven years ago."

Now Cllr. Frances Johnson Allison, head of Liberia's Anti-Corruption Commission, is shedding tears over the entrenchment of corruption, though expressing courageous optimism that it can wiped out or minimized through wholesome involvement of every citizen in the battle against this menace.

Cllr. Allison complaint that inadequate human and logistic capacity posed a challenge to investigate corruption cases clearly indicates that her agency is being overwhelmed by graft cases due to these constraints and uncooperative attitudes of partner institutions.

Furthermore, her assertion that "corruption is entrenched within the society; it cannot be fixed in a single day; it takes time," is a warning to Liberians to get ready now to put on their armor for an epic battle with corruption, otherwise it will sooner than later ruin the fabric of our society.

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