11 Questions: George Kieh, Politician

Kieh was a presidential candidate in the 2005 presidential election; he is also a long-time Liberian political activist. He is currently professor of political science at the University of West Georgia, USA. Prior to that, he held several teaching and administrative positions in Liberia and the United States, including lecturer of political science, at the University of Liberia, Chair of the Political Science Department at Morehouse College, Atlanta Georgia, Dean of International Affairs at Grand Valley State University, Michigan, USA, and Dean of the College of Arts and Sciences at the University of Georgia.

1.  You ran for the Liberian presidency unsuccessfully in 2005, but didn’t run again in 2011. Some say it’s the departure from the norm in Liberia, and especially Africa where politicians run again and again. Is it safe to say you will run for office in the coming years?

First of all, it was a great honor to run for the presidency of Liberia in 2005. In addition, I was humbled by the fact that some Liberian found me worthy of their confidence by casting their ballots for me. Third, although, I was unsuccessful in my bid for the presidency, I learned a lot from the process, including from Liberians in the rural areas. Two of the experiences that left indelible imprints on my mind were during my visit to Saclepea, Nimba County. During a meeting with the elders, one of them gave me a tutorial on leadership, and climaxed it by giving me an old 1966 Liberian silver dollar as what he termed “The symbol of leadership. The other profound experience was when the people of Saclepea made me an adopted son. And let me make it clear that it was totally unexpected and unsolicited. In addition, I did not give them any material reward for their act of generosity and humanity. The lesson was that, by and large, the people of Liberia are generous, welcoming and not wedded to this notion of ethnic chauvinism. The evidence was that I, who hail from the Kru (paternal) and Bassa (maternal) ethnic groups, was made a son of Saclepea and Nimba County (with the name Saye Flomo) by members of the Mano ethnic group. This was simply amazing! Put in the broader context, it means that ethnic pluralism is not a barrier to democracy and development in Liberia! Instead, the people of Saclepea, Nimba County vividly demonstrated by their action that all of our people from diverse ethnic backgrounds are prepared, willing and committed to working together for a better Liberia on the basis of mutual respect, fairness and social justice. By God’s grace, that Liberia that the people of Saclepea, Nimba County demonstrated can be constructed will become a reality! Also, my campaign did some things well, and others poorly. In short, some things were done correctly, while, on the other hand, in other cases, mistakes were made. I have learned from these. With regards to the Liberian/African norm of people running over and over again for the presidency, while I respect those individuals right to do so, that is not my approach. Particularly, after the 2005 election, I decided to spend some time on reflecting on the experiences. And one of the conclusions that I reached was that I was not going to run in the 2011 presidential election. And moving forward, if I decide to run for public office in Liberia in the future (and I emphasize the word IF), my decision will be determined by several factors.

2.  Your fight for social justice in Liberia is well noted beginning with your activism at the University of Liberia, where you were a student leader. How far has Liberia come given the country’s turbulent history?

Indeed, Liberia’s recent history has been quite turbulent. One of the major reasons is that we did not learn from our past mistakes. For example, the Doe administration that came to power through a military coup on April 12, 1980, based on the promise of transforming Liberia by promoting people-centered democracy and development failed to do so. Hence, the country’s perennial crises of underdevelopment—cultural, economic, environmental, political, security and social—were made worse. With this “missed opportunity,” the stage was set for the first Liberian civil war in 1989.

However, the Taylor regime, which also made the same promises of promoting democracy and development, did not live up to its own pledge. So, another opportunity was missed, and Liberia began another round of “false start,’ and the associated exacerbation of the country’s crises of underdevelopment. Again, the horrendous performance of the Taylor regime provided the context for the second Liberian civil war in 1999.

Then, we had the interim period led by the National Transitional Government of Liberia (led by Gyude Bryant). Again, we had the opportunity to lay the ground work for setting into motion the process of building a new Liberia based on human-centered democracy and development. But regrettably, the two year interregnum was spent by some of the officials of the interim government on the primitive accumulation of wealth, which has historically been the central reason for the epic death and life struggles over government jobs. In short, the norm is that people fight for government positions, in order to use them to acquire wealth quick without risking the investment of their own money. To use the Liberian parlance, “They get rich quick on charro.”

We now come to the Sirleaf administration. President Sirleaf came to office, amid high hopes among Liberians, the international community, as well as others, who wish Liberia well. How would I assess her tenure thus far after six years (in 2011, she was elected to a second term)? In terms of the fundaments, in spite of the “lip service,” much has not been done to promote genuine national reconciliation. For example, the fact that we still have a national seal with a motto that does not represent all Liberians is noteworthy. Also, the fact that our highest civilian national honor continues to be “The Most Venerable Order of the Pioneers” is mind boggling. In addition, the fact that our flag, which is not inclusive, remains one of our major national symbols is troubling. Now, I am aware that President Sirleaf has appointed a commission to study our national symbols and honors. This is a good first step. Beyond this, I hope that the commission will recommend changing these national symbols and awards so that they can be inclusive by being representative of the cultural and historical experiences of our country’s ethnic mosaic. The other overarching issue is transitional justice. In this vein, the Sirleaf regime has done nothing to provide the critical leadership that is imperative for bringing to justice those who were responsible for committing war crimes and crimes against humanity during Liberia’s two brutal civil wars. This failure on the part of President Sirleaf does not only continue the “culture of impunity” in our country, but emboldens future militarists to visit carnage, death and destruction  on our country, knowing full well that they will not be held accountable for their actions. Frankly, if we are to begin the process of building a new Liberia, social justice must be one of the major cornerstones. In this vein, an excellent starting point would be to bring closure to the two civil wars. In terms of natural resources, especially the great potentials for oil, the manner in which the various oil blocks has been allocated does not reflect the exercise of care in ensuring that the revenues generated would benefit the people of Liberia. In fact, we might be on the verge of widening the social and economic gap between the “two Liberias:” one for the economically well-off and politically connected, and the other for the poor and the marginalized. Another fundament is the land issue. Again, the Sirleaf regime is mortgaging our country’s land to foreign businesses for long periods of time for the so-called purpose of promoting “foreign investment.” To make matters worse, the government has not included the people of Liberia, especially those who are living in the areas where the land is being leased to the foreign businesses, in the critical discussions that are needed.

In the cultural sphere, the Sirleaf administration has not done enough to promote a sense of nationalism, the respect for, and the promotion of ethnic pluralism and peaceful co-existence. The government needs to go beyond the Council of Chiefs and Elders approach to formulating and implementing plans that address the divide between the so-called indigenes and settlers, the Krahns and the Manos and Gios, and the Mandingos and others. The centerpiece must be the establishment of a framework of inter-ethnic relations that promotes mutual respect, ethnic pluralism and peaceful co-existence. In short, we can be a better country because of the rich cultural-historical experiences of our various ethnic groups and stocks. So, we need to harness this rich diversity for the promotion of human-centered democracy and development for the benefits of all Liberians. As well, we need to be united in our firm opposition to ethnic chauvinists, entrepreneurs and gladiators, who use ethnicity instrumentally to promote their own selfish political and economic interests.

On the economic front, the performance of the Sirleaf regime has been horrendous. For example, much has not been done to address the urgent problem of mass abject poverty, class inequities and inequalities in wealth and income between the “two Liberias,” mass unemployment, including among the youth, and underemployment. To make matters worse, the Sirleaf administration has failed to demonstrate the requisite political will in reigning in corruption by bringing the culprits to justice. This monumental failure has led to the continuation of “corruption as a national sport.” Again, to use another Liberian parlance, it is about “you chop, and I chop.”Another major shortcoming concerns the gross disparities in salaries in the public sector. For example, some government officials are making in excess of $20,000.00 per month, while the average government worker makes around $100.00 per month. Unfortunately, the members of the National Legislature, who should be advocating for a fair salary structure in the public sectors, are themselves grossly overpaid: Their base salaries, allowances and perks are just too much, especially for a developing country like Liberia that is coming out of two devastating civil wars. As a solution, we need a new salary structure for the public sector that is fair and reasonable, and has as one of its major ingredients ensuring that the average government workers, teachers, doctors, nurses, police, military, firefighters and security personnel make livable salaries that can meet their basic human needs.

In the environmental sphere, the regime’s record is not encouraging either. And there are several examples to prove this: 1) pollution of the land, the air and water continues unabatingly. In fact, the widespread use of generators as the a source of electricity is contributing to air pollution; 2) deforestation continues to be a major problem; and 3) the country, especially the greater Monrovia area, including some marketplaces, have become cesspools of dirt and filth.

In the political domain, the Sirleaf regime has made some major laudable strides for which it needs to be congratulated and encouraged. One major area concerns the respect for political rights and civil liberties. For example, unlike the Tubman, Tolbert, Doe and Taylor regimes that inhibited the freedoms of association, of the press, and of speech, even to the extent of harassing, arresting, imprisoning, killing and forcing people into exile, the Sirleaf regime has allowed for the unfettered exercise of these critical political freedoms. Although, there is still work to be done in this area, but the regime has done quite well. Also, the regime needs to be commended for promoting the decentralization of powers between the central and local governments. Again, this is commendable. However, the decentralization plan needs to be implemented, so that Liberians can be empowered to help shape the decisions that affect their lives. In addition, decentralization will help promote democratic governance, an indispensable requirement for the building of a new Liberia. On the other hand, the Sirleaf regime has increased the size of the Liberian government by, among others, creating new agencies, and several new positions, including deputy and assistant ministers, directors-generals, deputy directors-generals and commissioners and their deputies. Alternatively, Liberia needs a small, efficient and effective government that delivers “public goods” to all of our people throughout the country.

In terms of security, the process of security sector is incomplete. For example, much work needs to be done to rebuild the Armed Forces of Liberia (AFL). Three major issues are critical in this direction. Our military needs to be a development-oriented one. Hence, military personnel need to be taught about more than just drilling and shooting a gun. In addition, there is the need to develop military occupation specializations. By this I mean our military personnel would need to develop professional skills in various fields, so that they can contribute to national development. Another issue is the size of the military. The decision to build a 2,000 member military was not informed by critical factors such as the threats and the peacetime functions of the military. Instead, the number was arbitrarily determined based on the amount of money DynCorp and the United States Government provided. Also, the organization of the AFL needs to be restructured, including, for example, the establishment of four major regional commends. In terms of the police force, although it has been restructured, yet much work still needs to be done. The other security units—immigration, customs, fire, etc.—need to also be restructured.

Socially, the regime has not done a good job in the areas of public health services, public education, public transportation, public housing, and the provision of clean drinking water and acceptable sanitation. For example, our public educational system is in crisis, as evidenced by, among others, inadequate funding, and the inadequacy of school buildings, administrators, teachers, instructional materials, equipment and supplies. To make matters worse, junior high and high schools are charging tuition and fees. And this has placed an undue burden on parents, who are poverty stricken. As a result, a lot of our children are out of school, because their parents cannot afford it. Similarly, our public health system is a tragedy. This has led to people dying from curable diseases. More efforts need to be made to expand public transportation. In fact, there is a need to establish a national public transportation that will include air, land, rail and water. The urgency of this matter is evidenced by the fact that most Liberians at home are becoming increasingly reliant on the “pempem” (the commercial motor cycles). But, the lack of regulations, especially in terms of safety, has made this mode of transportation very dangerous, as is evidenced by the many accidents, injuries and deaths. Then, you add the fact that there is no pipe borne water, and the country is seriously challenged in terms of sanitation. To add the proverbial “salt to injury,” there is the increasing rate of food insecurity, as thousands of our people, hamstrung by the strangulating effects of poverty, cannot afford even a decent meal a day.

On the issue of gender relations, I must commend the Sirleaf administration for bringing some of the issues that concern women to the fore. For example, I am quite happy that we now have laws to protect our women against such heinous and dehumanizing crime as rape, and other forms of physical violence. Also, President Sirleaf deserves credit for appointing a lot of women to various positions of trust in her government. However, steps still need to be taken to help empower our women economically. This would help in arresting the troubling tide of prostitution. Clearly, the economic hardship that some of our women, including young girls are experiencing, have led some of them to prostitution. Steps must be taken to help them have financial security, so that they do not defy their dignity.

As well, the Sirleaf administration has not taken concrete action to invest in our youth. I know that there is a lot of talk by the administration about youth empowerment, but I am not aware of any major steps. What I have in mind are things like major sustained public investment in education, so that our young people can acquire the requisite skills, and economic empowerment through the provision of employment opportunities.

In addition, the Sirleaf regime has not undertaken serious efforts to help rehabilitate ex-combatants, and to make them productive citizens. We must remember that a good number of the ex-combatants consisted of children, who were conscripted by the various warlordist militias or who joined these armed factions for a variety of reasons. As a country, we have the responsibility to help give them a “second chance,” by helping them become productive citizens.

Another major issue is electricity. It is quite surprising that after being in office for more than six years, the Sirleaf administration has not made the restoration of electricity a major priority. It is not “rocket science” that electricity is indispensable to socio-economic development, security, sanitation and the addressing of air pollution. As a matter of fact, God has blessed Liberia with an abundance of water! So, why can’t we construct either a major hydro dam or four regional ones that would supply the entire country with electricity? Liberia has been without electricity since 1990. So, how long will it take to restore it? Even the foreign investors that are being heavily courted by the Sirleaf regime will not bring their own private electricity for their businesses.

3. Dual citizenship continues to be a compelling issue especially for diaspora Liberians. Do you foresee a closure to this important issue soon?

Let me begin by stating that I am still a citizen of Liberia and a permanent resident of the United States (permanent resident since 1985). So, I do not have any personal interest in supporting the establishment of dual citizenship in Liberia. Instead, my position is motivated by the interest of Liberia. As I argued in my op-ed piece, as well as the paper that I presented at the conference sponsored by the Union of Liberian Associations in the United States (ULAA), Liberia needs to adapt dual citizenship. This is because those Liberians, who left the country, and are now living abroad in various countries, did so for various reasons, including the two civil wars (security), and the search for economic opportunities. In spite of their physical absence from Liberia, some of these diaspora Liberians have remained fully engaged in serving Liberia’s interests through such activities as rallying international support for various Liberian causes, including during the two civil wars, mobilizing and sending humanitarian assistance to Liberia, and supporting relatives, friends, and others through regular remittances through money gram and Western Union. By giving those diaspora Liberians and their children, who are desirous of obtaining dual citizenship, the opportunity to do so, this would give them a stake in Liberia. Accordingly, they would feel confident to invest in our country, and to encourage others to do so. Frankly, I see no reason why Liberia should not adopt dual citizenship. It would not adversely affect the rights of those who are currently citizens of Liberia nor would it visit any general harm on the country. In fact, other African states like Ghana have dual citizenship, and are accruing the benefits. So, it is my hope that the Sirleaf government and the National Legislature will use the law-making process to establish dual citizenship without delay.

4. Charges of nepotism against Ellen Johnson Sirleaf have dominated the pages, and so far her critics say she has ignored public opinion on the issue. Call to impeach her has been proffered by Counselor Tiawon Gongloe. What precedent observers say is the president setting by her current posture?

There is indisputable evidence that President Sirleaf has appointed three of her sons and other relatives to major positions in her government. And this is a reflection of nepotism. In fact President Sirleaf has not denied this. Instead, she has made the indefensible argument that her sons and other relatives are qualified; hence, she does not see any problem with appointing them to positions in her government. In all due respect to President Sirleaf, her argument is indefensible for two major reasons. First, the issue is not about the qualifications of her sons and other relatives. Instead, appointing your children and other relatives to various positions in your government is simply inappropriate. Second and related, President Sirleaf’s sons and other relatives are not the most qualified individuals for the respective positions to which they were appointed. Third, with all due respect, President Sirleaf’s rationale is hypocritical, because she criticized the late President Tolbert for nepotism in her book “The Child Will Be Great.” Clearly, President Tolbert could have made the same indefensible argument about the qualifications of his children and other relatives, whom he appointed to various positions in his government. So, if, according to President Sirleaf, the late President Tolbert was guilty of nepotism, then how about her? In short, President Sirleaf cannot do the same things that she has criticized others for doing. Now, I am not sure whether Counselor Gongloe is calling for President Sirleaf’s impeachment on the basis of nepotism or whether he is alleging that she has committed an impeachable offense under the Constitution of Liberia. No doubt President Sirleaf is continuing a bad precedent of former Presidents before her. One of the major remedies would be to enact a law that would prohibit the President of Liberia from appointing his or her children and other relatives to positions in his or her government. However, the children and the other relatives can occupy merit-based positions in the government that are determined through competitive means untainted by political manipulation and favoritism.

5. Where is Liberia’s foreign policy today?

Since the Sirleaf regime has never made public its foreign policy agenda, at least not to my knowledge, it is therefore difficult for me to determine the direction of Liberia’s foreign policy, but that being said, we can do an assessment based on some of the foreign policy actions that the Sirleaf regime has taken. In terms of the promotion of cooperation in the Mano River Union Basin, West Africa and Africa in general, the Sirleaf government has done a good job in helping to ensure that Liberia remains an active participant in the quest to further build friendly relations among African states, and to explore ways in which African states can continue to work together to solve shared economic, political, security and social problems.

However, the way the Sirleaf regime dealt with the issue of the civil war in Liberia was troubling. For example, while the Liberian foreign minister was espousing one policy at the African Union’s ministerial summit, President Sirleaf was articulating a contradictory position during her visit to Europe. Clearly, this was quite embarrassing for the country. Moving forward, it is my hope that there would be better coordination between the presidency and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in the expression of Liberia’s policies on various issues. In short, the Sirleaf regime cannot simultaneously have two contradictory policies on an international issue.

6. Liberia was recently nowhere to be found when the historic vote on the Palestinian question for statehood came up at the United Nations. Observers both in and out of Liberia have said that they still see American influence dictating Liberia’s foreign policy. Do you agree with this assertion?

I have no information about the reasons Liberia was absent from the vote on the issue of changing the status of Palestine in the United Nations. Similarly, I have no evidence to suggest that the United States is dictating Liberia’s foreign policy. But, I have heard various anecdotes that the U.S. is indeed dictating Liberia’s foreign policy. However, without having concrete evidence, I cannot express a definitive position on the matter. In any case, let me say that I hope that Liberia’s foreign policy is dictated first and foremost by the national interests of Liberia. I define these interests as the Liberian government exploring ways in which the material conditions—job opportunities, education, health care, public transportation, public housing and food security, among others—of our people can be improved, and the political, cultural, social, religious and other rights and freedoms of our people protected, as well as the promotion of peace, social justice and human security in the Mano River Union Basin, West Africa, Africa and the world.

7. Still on the historic United Nations vote, critics have said Liberia voted for Israel’s creation in 1947 at the United States’ behest (Resolution 181). And although Liberian politicians like to call the Americans traditional ally, the United States and Israel did little to stop the civil war. Matter of fact, the critics also say both Israel and the United States armed Samuel Doe. In today’s world, how important is the United States to Liberia’s policy goals?

You are correct that the governments of the United States and Israel contributed to the first Liberian civil war in various ways. In the case of the United States, it has had the record of supporting various authoritarian regimes in Liberia, including the Doe administration, especially  as long as they served American economic, political and strategic interests. Clearly, it did not matter whether these autocratic Liberian regimes violated the political human rights of Liberians, and failed to improve their material conditions. Similarly, the government of Israel helped to provide weapons and military training for the Doe regime’s military (Israel trained Doe’s dreaded Special Anti-Terrorist Unit= SATU), because it believed that President Doe was serving Israel’s interests.

The United States remains important to Liberia’s foreign policy goals, because there are various ways in which the two countries can work together, especially on the basis of shared interests. That is, the Liberian government must have clearly defined and articulated interests, and then work with the United States on issues where their respective interests are at play, but on the other hand, there will be times when Liberia’s interests might diverge from those of the United States. In such cases, there is nothing wrong with having honest and civil disagreements. This is because in the final analysis the government of Liberia just like the United States will both have their own interest, but Liberian leaders should never relegate the country’s interest to the back seat in cases where the sovereign values of the sate are concerned.

8. Where would you rank Nigeria that put the sacrificial military boots on the ground in Liberia during the war and in the process having some of its soldiers killed? Shouldn’t Nigeria be Liberia’s most important ally, or is this far fetch? The question is important because some Liberians have said that American politicians do NOT consider Liberia the so-called traditional friend that is so frivolously used by Monrovia.

Undoubtedly, Nigeria, Ghana, Guinea, Sierra Leone, the Gambia, and other countries in West Africa should rank extremely high on Liberia’s foreign policy agenda. This is because, as you have indicated, these countries led by Nigeria, made the ultimate sacrifice in saving Liberians and Liberia from themselves. And this was done during Liberia’s greatest time of need. The United Nations, the United States and the world’s other major powers abandoned Liberia during one of our darkest historical moments. In fact, the Bush administration (Bush, Sr.) indicated that with the end of the Cold War, the United States no longer had any strategic or other interests in Liberia. This was after the United States contributed to the war by, as I indicated, supporting our country’s various authoritarian regimes—from Tubman to Doe—economically, politically and militarily. So, in short, yes, Nigeria and the other West African states that made the supreme sacrifice to save Liberia should be our most important allies.

Indeed, Liberia and the United States do not have any “special relationship.” Even, various American government officials have made this point recurrently. Instead, the United States’ central concern in Liberia is the promotion and protection of its economic and strategic interests. This is because the United States and other major global powers have permanent interests, not permanent friends. So, the important issue for Liberia is to formulate and implement its own national interest and agenda within the context of its relations with the United States and other countries in the world. This is because the United States will not serve Liberia’s national interests, but its own. Instead though, Liberia has to do so for itself time and time again. Simply put, you cannot blame the U.S. government for promoting its national interest over Liberia’s, because it has an overarching responsibility to do so. The Liberian government has to do likewise.

9. The Unity Party-led administration is saying that by 2030 Liberia should be a middle income country. Is this possible? What are your thoughts on the Vision 2030, and the current decentralization efforts headed by Dr. Amos Sawyer?

Let me address each of the issues you raised one at a time. On the issue of whether Liberia will become a middle income country by the year 2030, it will take more than the formulation of a vision to achieve this goal. Instead, the Unity Party-led government would need to begin the process by addressing the vexing problems of mass abject poverty, growing class inequities and inequalities in income, and massive unemployment and underemployment. Without addressing these critical issues, Liberia will not become a middle income country either by 2030 or thereafter. In short, the recipe for success is the matching of policy rhetoric with praxis.

Similarly, it is great to map up a vision from 2013-2030. But, ultimately, the vision will remain ensconced on paper, if concrete steps are not taken to implement it. So, “Vision 2030,” like any other vision is fine, as long as we move beyond the holding of conferences, the giving of good speeches, and the writing of fine policy papers to the realm of practice.

Concerning the decentralization program that is being designed by the Governance Commission(GC) under the leadership of Dr. Amos Sawyer, I had the privilege of working with Dr. Sawyer and his colleagues at the GC on this important project for about a month and half(from July to August 2012). Based on my vantage point, I can categorically state that the decentralization program is excellent! This is because, if implemented scrupulously, it would help address our country’s perennial governance crisis that has been accentuated by the concentration of powers in the hands of the central government and the marginalization of citizens in the making of the decisions that affect their lives. So, it is my sincere hope that once the decentralization plan is completed; the Sirleaf government and the National Legislature would work together in enacting the requisite laws for its implementation. In short, decentralization will be a major contributing factor to the building of a new democratic and socially and economically developed Liberia.

10. What is Dr. George Klay Kieh doing today? What takes up most of your time? And what do you do for leisure?

Well, since I have multiple roles as a church worker, husband, father, grandfather, sibling, friend, political activist, a citizen of Africa and the world, and an academic, I have to find ways to devote time to the performance of the responsibilities of the various roles. And it is not easy doing so; but, I am continuing to make efforts to ensure that I do so well. However, most of my time is taken up by the performance of my responsibilities as a professor of political science.

In terms of leisure, I like to walk on the trail near my residence. This is because it is both an excellent form of exercise, as well as the opportunity to reflect. In addition, I am an avid fan of African movies. The major reason is that they teach me a lot about our cultures, and some of the major challenges that continue to face the political systems of various African states—corruption, the abuse of power, nepotism, the exploitation of women and young girls, among others.

11. There is always more to say. What would be your last thoughts sir?

During my last visit to Liberia in August 2012, I was troubled by the fact that it seems that we have not learned the lessons that led to the two devastating civil wars in our country. For example, as I indicated before, there is still the existence of “two Liberias,” and the social and economic gap between them is growing wider. For example, there is mass abject poverty, high rates of unemployment and underemployment, and food insecurity among others. The majority of our fellow Liberians are living precariously on the margins of our society. Also, there is widespread corruption in the government. Clearly, the Liberian state remains akin to a “buffet service” in which some state managers and their relations “eat all they can eat for free” through the process of predatory primitive accumulation. Unfortunately, as I have argued, the Sirleaf administration has not shown the inclination or the willingness to hold the culprits accountable. In addition, there is a growing youth bulge, as evidenced by the increasing alienation of our young people from our society. Frankly, these and many other continuing pathologies do not portend well for the building of durable peace. But, since our dear country and people cannot, and must not be subjected to any form of mass violence, it is my prayer that the Sirleaf government and all of us, irrespective of whether we currently live in Liberia or the diaspora, will work to improve the material conditions of our people. This is our most urgent national task! In this vein, in order to put my “action where my mouth is,” I will shortly be launching “The Liberian Grassroots Initiative” as a contribution to helping to address our country’s enduring social and economic problems. The Initiative will consist of several development projects, including agriculture, economic empowerment, the provision of clean drinking water, micro-loans for economic empowerment, scholarships for students, and the provision of school supplies and equipment, among others. These efforts will build upon the “Liberia Universities Instructional Resources Project,” which the National Forum for Public Policy and Development-USA, under my leadership undertook about three years ago. It involved the donation of over $250,000.00 worth of books and other instructional materials to the various universities in Liberia through the Association of Liberian Universities. I applaud those Liberians, as well as others, who have, and continue to undertake similar projects in Liberia. We need as many of these development projects as possible.

Finally, it is my continuing prayer that our people will live in a new democratic, prosperous and peaceful Liberia based on the respect for, and the promotion of their cultural, economic, environmental, political, religious and social rights and freedoms. But, we all have to work toward achieving the building of such a society.

Thanks for granting for this opportunity.

It was a pleasure. Thanks for providing a forum that disseminates news about Liberia, as well as provides an arena for the frank discussion and exchange of views on some of the critical and vexing issues that are facing Liberia. Prayerfully, these exchanges coupled with the undertaking of concrete action can lead to improvement in the material conditions of the vast amount of Liberia

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