Africa: I Can't Breathe! I Can't Breathe! Any Lessons Learnt From America?


Developments unfolding in the United States of America since the killing of a black man, George Floyd by a Minnesota Police officer, have revealed the depth of outrage that ordinary people in America feel and have expressed about the unjustified killing of an unarmed and handcuffed man by a white Police officer.

And they have showcased their anger in a rash of street protests and demonstrations in all fifty (50) states of America. Undaunted by the presence of armed Police and later National Guardsmen protesters have pressed forward instead, virtually ignoring the curfew which has been put in place in cities most heavily affected by the protests and attending violence, looting and burning.

One clear message which such action has amplified is that when people are tired and fed up, they are tired and no amount of threats of the use of force or the use of force itself can stop them. Only days ago, for example, the push by demonstrators pressing forward towards the White House fence, scenes of the teeming crowd beamed on TV screens around the country were perhaps intimidating enough to have sent President Donald Trump scurrying like a prairie dog to its burrow -- in this case the Presidential bunker, presumably located and buried deep beneath the White House.

Recalling history, President Trump called IS leader Al Baghdadi a coward and that "he died like a dog". In Trump's own words, he said of Baghdadi: "The thug, who tried so hard to intimidate others, spent his last moments in utter fear, in total panic and dread, terrified of the American forces bearing down on him".

In a strange twist of fate, the leader of the free world, apparently terrified by the surge of the teeming crowd advancing towards the White House fence, found himself fleeing into a bunker just as Al Baghdadi did. So even the fire-spitting powerful US President Donald Trump could cower in fear of unarmed but angry Americans despite all his threats of the use of unprecedented force against his own fellow Americans were enough to deter or dissuade the protesters from continuing their action.

Indeed, a clear message has been sent to all and sundry that when a people are tired and fed up, they will not hesitate to take matters in their hands. However, it remains unclear whether this message has had any import on our leaders here at home. The manner in which our officials conduct themselves suggests that their arrogance, feigned or real, leads them to believe that there is no tomorrow, that they will continue to plunder the resources of this country for 12 years without remorse or forethought of the inherent consequences.

And this goes to past and present leaders of this country, particularly former President Sirleaf under whose rule, stealing and looting of the national treasury by her relatives and cronies was a virtual sport. She should remember that a day of reckoning is sure to come.

In this regard, it would behoove President Weah to take note. The economy under his watch has continued to spiral downwards. Unemployment, very high under his predecessor continues to rise while real incomes continue to fall. Hardest hit are those at the lower income levels especially those without income and just eking out a daily existence surviving on less than two (2) dollars a day.

At the writing of this editorial, employees of some government agencies have not taken pay for months and the continued slide of the Liberian dollar against the US dollar is only making matters worse. Worries about meeting up with school fees when the COVID-19 subsides are mounting and there are genuine fears that many parents will not be able to send their children to school.

Additionally, the displayed lasciviousness and ostentatious flaunting of ill acquired wealth by President Weah officials have not helped him. His cabinet ministers, many of who hail from impoverished family backgrounds are now filthy rich but are now our latest set of nouveaux riches and noblesse obligés.

Former Finance Minister Amara Konneh came to public office virtually penniless. But today he is a multi-millionaire. His oil palm plantation in Gbarpolu County is said to be one of the largest in the country.

This is not to mention Robert Sirleaf, under whose watch the viable National Oil Company of Liberia (NOCAL) went bust. Perhaps it is because nothing has or did happen to those Sirleaf era officials who stole the country's wealth, some officials of his government see it as an opportunity or carte blanche to plunder.

Vice President Jewel Howard Taylor did not mince her words neither was she jestering when she declared to chiefs in Bong County, "dat our time to eat". Our officials convey the impression that either they are not aware of the sufferings of the Liberian people or they simply do not give a hoot.

Some are even reported to boast that they will maintain their hold on power for 12 years whether Liberians like it or not. President Doe probably may have felt that with the backing of his army he could do anything and get away scot free. Similarly did, Charles Taylor who fell convinced that with his powerful Anti-terrorist Unit (ATU) and an array of well-armed irregulars, he could maintain his hold on power indefinitely.

Suggestions from some quarters that a strike force of 500 men military trained in Burkina Faso and allegedly recruited into the ranks of the Executive Protection Service (EPS) plus a motley array of ex-rebel generals and-ex fighters will provide a mainstay for this government grip on power for 12 or more years, is indeed laughable based on past experience here and further afield.

An enraged Burkinabe people sent dictator Blaise Compaore fleeing. An enraged American people sent Donald Trump fleeing to a bunker. I can't breathe! I can't breathe!!!

Any lessons learnt from America? Only time will tell.

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