Liberia: 'Liberia's Problems Have Quadrupled in Three Years Under President Weah' - Alex Cummings

Monrovia — The Chairman of the Collaborating Political Parties (CPP) and Political leader of the opposition Alternative National Congress (ANC), Mr. Alexander Benedict Cummings says due to the George Weah-government's incompetence, lack of vision and duty to care, Liberia's problems has worsened within just three years.

In a landmark speech delivered on Wednesday at the CPP headquarters in Monrovia, Mr. Cummings said instead of delivering basic services, fostering a unified and productive nation, and care for the people, those given the mantle of national leadership are busying themselves with dividing Liberians.

Said the CPP Chair: "Our ship is sinking. Too many of our people are suffering. We are increasingly seeing a culture of moral bankruptcy being promoted with a determination to destroy the last piece of the moral fabric of our society. This is wicked. It is immoral, and it threatens our long-term peace and security, Cummings declared."

Reversing the Gains

In his speech, Mr.Cummings said although the CPP is aware that the current administration is not responsible for all the problems Liberia faces today, it has reversed the gains the had country struggled to make over the years.

"By their incompetence, lack of vision, extortion, and appeals to division and lawlessness - by the overwhelming evidence of their lack of leadership and duty to care - in only three years, this George Weah-led administration has quadrupled the problems they inherited," he charged.

"Where it was bad, they have succeeded to make worse, and where it was good, they have effectively destroyed. They have reversed the gains our country struggled to make, and for which we were recently considered a good example of a developing post-conflict nation."

Like many leaders before President Weah who were honored by the people with the duty to lead the country, Cummings said the President has "carelessly and selfishly abandoned Liberians, and Liberia."

Mr. Cummings also charged that the President is 'wastefully bleeding the country, by his bad examples and encouraging a few of his friends to generate and display wealth they did not have and were not able to declare before assuming public offices.

'Weah Government Militarizing Youth'

Mr. Cummings' statement comes on the heels of recent attack against him and his entourage including Representative Yekeh Kolubah (District #10, Montserrado County) in Zwedru, Grand Gedeh County while returning from the southeast where they had gone to celebrate Liberia's 173rd Independence anniversary. Their team was stoned and chased out of the city by some group of people claiming to be supporters of President Weah.

With the Zwedru violence fresh on his mind, the CPP Chairman said rather than investing in making the young people productive and ready to lead the country into a better and brighter future, the government is investing in militarizing them, inciting them to violence, and teaching them that it is acceptable to lie, steal, cheat, be dishonest, and intolerant of others.

Sadly, he said, the young people, who are desperate to improve their lives, are being misled into thinking that such despicable acts are formulas for success, and a measure of successful leadership.

Said Cummings: "In the CPP, we are worried about our young people, and deeply concerned about the future of our country. Thanks to the lack of leadership of Mr. Weah, our young people, who are the future of our country, are being wrongly impressed that education is not important; that without taking personal responsibility, and making sacrifices for a greater cause, somehow their circumstances, and the conditions of our country, will miraculously improve."

Addressing a wide range of topical issues, Cummings termed the selection of an all-male candidates on the ticket of the ruling coalition as an affront to Liberian women.

"The current all-male candidate's slate of the Weah-led ruling party is an insult to Liberian women! I promise you that the CPP will not only include women in leadership as it already has, but will also support them for elected offices on CPP tickets for all elections," he pledged, as Liberty Party's political leader and the only female Senator in Liberia, Nyonblee Karngar Lawrence looks on.

He noted that in this age of inclusion, any government, political party or coalition which marginalizes women and does not value their participation enough to include them for consideration in the electoral process, is a joke and that party needs to re-examine their commitment to women inclusion and participation.

Fighting Three Pandemics

Cummings stated thatwhile countries of the world are struggling with one pandemic, Liberia is confronted with three including "the Poverty Pandemic, the Rape Pandemic and the COVID 19 Pandemic."

On poverty, Cummings, citing the World Bank 2020 Report, revealed that under this administration, over half a million (526,000) Liberians are expected to drop below the poverty line this year, increasing the country's overall poverty rate from 54 to 65 percent.

Aiming a jab at the government's much trumpeted Pro-Poor Agenda for Prosperity and Development (PAPD), he brands it as a code to keep "our people poor" rather than lift them out of poverty, adding "it is now officially the Make Liberians Poorer Agenda."

As an opposition community, he furthered that the CPP was "deeply troubled'" by this fact and has compelled it to try to do something different to change it.

Blaming corruption as the root cause of poverty, he added, "Where corruption thrives, as it is currently, poverty will rise. This government is very corrupt. In fact, it is the most corrupt we have had."

He asserted that this is not only the opinion of the Liberian opposition. But a result of a global assessment despite being blessed with many natural resources and endowments, the people are becoming poorer and even more destitute.

Further backing his claims, Cummings accused the government of systematically breaking down and destroying the integrity institutions created to fight corruption by either underfunding them or staffing them with incompetent loyalists. He charged that integrity institutions are receiving far less resources now than they were when this government took over.

Comparing the approved budget of Fiscal Year 2017/18 to the current draft appropriations for FY 2020/21, the Public Procurement Concession Commission (PPCC) draft budget has been reduced from US$1.4 Million to US$752,754; Liberia Extractive Industries Transparencies Initiatives (LEITI) from US$553,356 to US$220,849; General Auditing Commission (GAC) from US$5.3 Million to US$4.5 Million; Liberia Anti-Corruption Commission (LACC) from US$2.3 Million to US$1.3 Million, and the Governance Commission from US$1.9 Million to US$1.1 Million.

While the actual budget performance reports tell an even more alarming tale of underperformance, Cummings says these cuts are expectedly leading to lesser quality of services provided by government-run educational and health institutions.

"Under this government, not only are we not moving forward, we are actually sliding backward. As the quality of the education and health services of the government have gotten poorer, the costs of private services have become even more expensive. This makes it difficult to access, thus leading to the overall increase in the cost of living."

Referencing the World Food Program's monthly market price index report from February 2017 to Sept 2019, Cummings bemoaned the 'gloomy' state of the economy, pointing out that the prices of goods and services are increasing daily as if the sufferings of the people were not enough.

The WFP index report show that from February 2017 to Sept 2019 shows the price of a 50kg bag of rice bought in the Red Light Market has increased from L$3,700 to L$5400; a bag of cassava has gone up from L$1300 to $1650; a gallon of palm oil from L$413 to L$685, and a gallon of gas from L$345 to $600.

At the same time, the exchange rate of Liberian to US dollar which was L$125 to 1USD in January 2018, is now L$200 in July 2020.

"Any serious government will recognize this and look to improve fiscal discipline, eliminate waste, and minimize corruption. This government is too irresponsible to even care, he lambasted.

"Owing to all these hardships," Cummings reiterated, "the CPP was more determined to make the Weah administration a one-term presidency in a peaceful and democratic manner".

"Today, on behalf of the Collaborating Political Parties, I have come to offer a simple message to our country: We hear you. We see you. We feel your disappointment. We know our country deserves better. Our people deserve better," said the CPP Chairman, to a rapturous applause by party faithful who had gathered to listen to him.

"We stand not for ourselves but for our people who have suffered too much. Mr. Weah has failed the country. He has failed our people. He knows it, and the Liberian people know it. The CPP desires to build up our country and lift up our people. We are not interested in destroying our country. We will democratically defeat you because our people deserve better! While you are trying to be violent, too many Liberians cannot afford to buy food, or pay school fees; too many cannot pay their rents or pay their medical bills."

Nonchalant Approach Against Rape

On rape, he said the government's moral bankruptcy and hopelessness felt more than in its nonchalant approach to the rape Pandemic, the astronomical rise in cases of rape, sexual abuse and violence perpetrated against our babies, children, and women.

Under this government, rape has become a PANDEMIC and unfortunately, the administration of justice appears to weigh favorably for accused persons than it does in support of victims and survivors.

This imbalance, he said, is so bad that it is actually more difficult to report and investigate cases of rape and sexual abuse; and as a result, many victims and survivors opt to endure in life-long silence and mental agony.

Speaking further, he mentioned the underfunding of the judicial sector, and the flagrant efforts to politically influence and undermine justice is clearly destroying the lives of far too many Liberians, thereby weaning public confidence in the justice system.

Without naming the official, he pointed out a prime example in the case of a CDC lawmaker and executive of the ruling coalition, who continues to use his political influence, proximity to the President and affluence to imprison and try a young woman who is alleging that he had sexually harassed her.

"This is the height of silencing. Where officials of this government should give voices to alleged victims and survivors of these crimes, they are effectively silencing them," he denounced.

Cummings asserted that since the civil war, there has not been such a massive number of cases reported, and while the government is credited for passing the Domestic Violence Law, it can also be credited for shelving the law after passing it because cases of Sexual and Gender Based Violence (SGBV) continue to rise.

Statistics show the total number of SGBV cases for 2018 was 2,145 but increased in 2019 to 2,590 cases. So far this year, about 600 cases were reported from January to March with only 32 cases prosecuted.

Citing several alleged rape cases, mostly perpetrated against children by men and law enforcement officers, he called for an end to rape.

To do this, he called for the fixing of the justice system and repairing the prevailing institutional weaknesses including the provision of psycho-social support to survivors, as well as logistical, financial and other technical support to our health and legal systems to improve their investigatory and prosecutorial capacities.

Addressing the President directly, he called on him to muster the courage to lead.

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