Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Open Letter to the Liberian Legislature: Drive Out the Unholy Trinity in Liberia

Open Letter to the  53rd Liberian Legislature
By J. Aloysius Toe
Dear Members of the Liberian Legislature:
Be a balm in Gilead to make the wounded whole, to heal the sin-sick soul of Liberia: Drive out the Unholy Trinity of Nepotism, Impunity and Corruption (NIC)
1.     Criminalize Nepotism in the public sector;
2.     Create the Office of an Independent Prosecutor to implement GAC audit reports;
3.     Pass the Code of Conduct Bill ;and
4.     Insist that the President of Liberia makes periodic report on the implementation of the TRC report. (NIPCCT);
Looking back on reality at home. I see clearly that Liberia is crying and bleeding! But is she crying from the corruption, cronyism and nepotism of William V.S. Tubman and William R. Tolbert? No. Is she crying and bleeding from the criminality of Samuel Doe? No! Is she crying and bleeding from the bombs and bazookas of Charles Taylor, Prince Johnson, George Boley, Alhaji Kromah and Damate Conneh? No!  Is she crying and bleeding from the neglect, hypocrisy, insensitivity and indifference of a current generation of supposedly 'reasonable politicians' in all three branches of the Liberian government? Yes!"
 Do you hear the groans and feel the pains of the citizens expressed in the pulsating beat of massive discontent throughout the country? Do you see the writing on the wall from the youth bulge in the country?
Liberians are crying and bleeding in their hearts! Their cries and groans are articulated by the inaudible sorrow of their hearts and the sadness of their faces. They are crying because of abuse of official power and the misuse of government resources. They are crying and bleeding because of the defying presence of the  "unholy trinity" of Nepotism, Impunity and Corruption (NIC). Liberians see bribery and growing conflict of interest in public service. They see NIC as an adultery of illicit intercourse between the greed of wicked politicians and the appalling indifference and do-nothingness of a few good people who have the power to act but sit on the sidelines.
The people have been searching for help but can't find any. They look to the current civil society and disappointedly find that it is nothing more than a club of project proposal NGOs with no or little commitment to the sacrifices required for the achievement of real social change. They look to the activists and student leaders of yesterday in the current government but find that they have become, political IDPs and refugees of conscience – conveniently working for a regime that represents everything they stood against yesterday. They turn to the traditional progressive movement and realize that some of them have become 'surrendered generals and belly politicians'.  They look to the self-proclaimed and opportunistic advocates of today and realize that they are nothing but dissident intellectuals. Unperturbed, they look to the media, but find that some media practitioners have become corporate journalists who see social responsibility and profit as mutually dependent. They look to the Christian Church and realize that the church has become a protector of the status quo. As lamented by the British writer, Paul Gilford, "Liberian Christianity - far from being a force for justice and human advancement – diverts attention from the cause of Liberia's ills, left change to God's miraculous intervention, encouraged obedience and acceptance of the status quo, and thus served to entrench …" injustices in society. Gifford maintains that the Christian Church in Liberia was (and I still think is) a "contributing factor in the oppression, illiteracy, underdevelopment, impoverishment and destruction of an entire country". And finally the people of Liberia look up to the Hill from where cometh their help and the Hill said them: 'look down on Capitol Hill and you will find some good men and women to champion your cause… it may not be all that perfect and nice but they have the power to make laws and regulate behavior'.
The woes and enormity of their pains drown out their voices and force the people into acceptance of the status quo. They have come to realize, albeit late, that the Harvard-trained "economist" and public administrator is on an escort-train on a highway of desperation towards a city of mortgaged and rigged future. They know fully well that just as Tubman's open door 'prosperity' distributed poverty among them, so is Ellen's economic policies looting and draining their natural resources like some demonic suction tube with no benefit to them.
They see a Liberia, Inc and Ellen Ltd. It's all about the Sirleafs and their inner-circle members. Their aim is simple and common: build massive economic and financial wealth by any means necessary. It is a game of Ellenery and Ellenism. But like the Taylor regime, this regime has a perfect formula. Like Taylor who made the likes of Urey rich while the likes of the late Joe Mulbah (living in poverty) were defending a decadent regime, the current regime is making the Sirleafs rich while the likes of Piahs, Broplehs, Siehs and Badios (with crumbs left for them) are providing the intellectual justification for the pillage. What a pity! 
What a mighty goliaths Liberians face![1] The Goliath of nepotism, mpunity and corruption (NIC); the Goliath of neglect; the Goliath of deception, lies and sweet month; the Goliath of dubious and questionable oil, mining and forest concessions; the Goliath who presides over a paradise of thieves; the Goliath of the budgetization of corruption and hidden figures; the Goliath of marginalization and exclusion; the Goliath of "I put my neck on the line" for corrupt officials; the Goliath of vendetta; the Goliath of the secret Nigerian oil deal; the Goliath of fraudulent tax waiver, the Goliath of unaccounted for revenues, the Goliath of unjustified expenditure; the Goliath of anti-poor policies that continue to spread hunger in many wrinkled stomachs and cause wide spread sufferings across the country.
The Goliath that keep their children and family in the safe havens of America and Europe on state resources while masses of our people languish in poverty. The Goliath that presides over the butchery of Liberia's resources like pitiful cow meat. The Goliath that accrue huge, fabulous and massive allowances to themselves and their associates while civil servants are given crumbs that fall from the table. The Goliah that gave her son, Robert Sirleaf, two posts in Government---Senior Advisor to the President and Chairman of the Board of the lucrative Oil Company NOCAL—and another post acquired through influence peddling as Chairman of the Board of First International Bank (FIB). What a confluence of conflict of interests, which makes President Tolbert and Stephen Tolbert appeared like Saints. Three jobs in a country of reported 85 percent unemployment?
Even though the people are well aware that some of you in the Legislature are also involved in these vices of nepotism, impunity and corruption, but they see still see you as the God-given David armed with the sling of legislative power loaded with the five stones of courage, nationalistic dedication, loyalty to country, perseverance and the ethical commitment to bring to light the treacherous maneuvers of darkness, amid the raging storm of discrediting campaigns. Don't let them down! The need and urgency for NIPCCT is now. Your attempt to checkmate the excesses of NOCAL is a worthy good beginning that must be expanded vigorously, as you are the direct representatives of the people. You are the people's first line of defense. Wake up and act.
Our historical path has been a long and desolate corridor without exit sign and NIPCCT is only the exit route. This is a situation that can no longer be evaded. You must assume courageous leadership on this issue - knowing fully well that "human progress never roll on the wheels of inevitability – it comes thru the tireless efforts of dedicated individuals who are willing to save their country. Without this effort, society and human progress fall victim to the primitive forces of social stagnation" Let us learn from the United States and build institutional walls against nepotism, impunity and corruption in government.
What you need to do
There are no laws in Liberia prohibiting the appointment of sons and family members in government by a sitting president. So enact a new law banning public officials (especially the President) from appointing family members or relatives to public position over which he or she is serving or have jurisdiction.
Follow the example of the United States of America and address nepotism. The US too was  faced with nepotism, learnt its lessons and enacted preventive laws.  For example, thirty (30) family members of former US President, Ulysses S. Grant, prospered financially in some way from either government appointments or employment.  John F. Kennedy appointed his brother, Robert Kennedy, as Attorney General in 1961.
Since John F. Kennedy, no president has appointed a family member in Government, although their family members are well qualified. Nepotism is not about qualifications, as it provides unfair advantage. For instance, no matter how much educated and experienced Robert Sirleaf is, he was never appointed by Tolbert, Doe, Taylor, Sawyer or Bryant to serve as Senior Advisor to the President and Chairman of a major public corporation like NOCAL. In fact, the claimed Wall Street and oil qualification and experience of Mr. Sirleaf which constitute the justifiable basis for his appointment at NOCAL is highly questionable and misrepresentative, if not fraudulent. There is no known public records that Mrs. Sirleaf has any of these qualifications or experiences. At best, Mr. Sirleaf was a retirement bond salesman at former Wachovia Bank in North Carolina, now Wells Fargo Bank. To equate retirement bonds salesmanship to experience and qualification in the oil industry and Wall Street is an absurd piece of hypocrisy and a manifestation of lack of integrity in public service.  Mr. Sirleaf's appointment stems mainly from the mere fact that he is the son of the President of Liberia, pure and simple. President George H.W. Bush did not give his sons positions in his Government, although Jeff Bush and George W. Bush were equally qualified IV league graduates.
Public outcry in the US later forced congress to enact a law banning nepotism in 1967.  The law is found in Title 5, §3110 of the United States Code and clearly states
"A public official may not appoint, employ, promote, advance, or advocate for appointment, employment, promotion, or advancement, in or to a civilian position in the agency in which he is serving or over which he exercises jurisdiction or control any individual who is a relative of the public official."
This basically meant that Presidents families were banned from employment in the public sector and each President since John F. Kennedy has obeyed this law. In fact, President Sirleaf also criticized President Tolbert for nepotism in her book, This Child Will Be Great. Stephen Tolbert and the entire Tolbert family were eminently qualified but President Sirleaf correctly felt then that it was still nepotism. Why is she doing the same things today is the biggest question on the minds of Liberians and our international friends.
We need a law to establish the office of an Independent Prosecutor on Fiscal Discipline and Accountability to implement the GAC recommendations, and prosecute corruption cases from other agencies such as LACC and Independent Commissions such as the Dunn Commission and the Nagbalee Warner Commission, etc.
Corruption has been a long standing problem in Liberia and so far the Executive through the Ministry of Justice have failed to prosecute officials who have abused the public trust.
Corruption is such a tragic thermostat that controls Liberia's blood pressure. It is so engrained and largely supported by every ruling class. In fact, most and nearly every political leader and military adventurist since 1979 came to power on the promise and aggression of stamping out corruption. But the irony is they too become its chief protectors. For instance, Master Sargeant Samuel Doe overthrew President William Tolbert on charges of rampant corruption in 1979. The Rebels of Charles Taylor and Prince Johnson attacked and removed Doe due to corruption and human rights abuses in 1990. Amos Sawyer, an interim president of Liberia between 1990 and 1994 justified corruption in his government as a "trade-off for peace". Charles Taylor, slapped by international sanctions accused the international community as "accessory to corruption" in Liberia. Gyude Bryant, another transition president declared zero tolerance but became corrupt that his government became a laughing stock. The fact the Bryant was found non-guilty doesn't render him innocent. Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, elected on the promises to fight corruption, declared corruption as public enemy number 1. Paradoxically, corruption has become public friend # 1.  This little formula sums it all up: Corruption, Public Enemy #1 – (minus) Lack of Political Will + (plus) No Action / (divided) by Ambivalence = (equals) Corruption, Public Friend #1. It is clear that President Sirleaf and her government have falling helpless before the surging power of corruption, if not already consumed by it. The President has demonstrated ambivalence, lack of political will and no concrete action to sustain the fight against corruption to its logical conclusion. With over 60 audit reports indicting most of the president's inner circle members and with the president herself and legislature unwilling to be audited, the fight against corruption is far from over.
Corruption is a threat to peace and stability. If no concrete action is done to control or put a stop to official corruption, corruption will control and put an end to peace in Liberia.
The determination and decision to fight corruption cannot and must not be the president. Beneficiaries of a system cannot be expected to end that system. Moreover, the nature of competitive politics is that no government would go out of its way to embarrass itself in the eyes of the electorates. Self-preservation is inherent in government and makes tackling corruption head-on vulnerable to partisan consideration. Additionally, so long as the power to prosecute or not to prosecute ultimately lies in the discretion of the Minister of Justice  - a Cabinet Minister –serving at the will and pleasure of the President, partisan consideration will supersede and political opposition and ordinary citizens will become scapegoats for meritless prosecution.
The absence of the Office of an Independent Prosecutor and Fiscal discipline (OIPFD), charged with the responsibility to implement the findings of the audit reports and require public officials to show proof of their acquired assets and wealth is a critical need
In the absence of an independent prosecutor, it is hard to see how this administration will garner the 'political will' to prosecute corrupt officials. As a result, corruption has continued to undermine the development and well-being of Liberians. How costly will it be in the future if the current level of corruption remains unabated. It is argued correctly that in the past 6 years, Liberia could have advanced far ahead of where it is today but it is the high level corruption that has retarded the growth of Liberia and improvement in the living condition of the people. Legislative action is needed.
U.S. Department of State Human Rights Report on Liberia (2012) reported this: "The GAC continued its ministerial audits and referred findings to the legislature. On March 25, the president announced she was not re-nominating the auditor general for another term. The legislature did not recommend any cases to the Ministry of Justice for prosecution."
This is to show that Legislative inaction on the audit reports is being reported globally. This means  a wake up call for action.
Code of Conduct Bill
Article 5(c) of the Liberian Constitution urges the government to take steps by appropriate legislation and executive orders to eliminate sectionalism and tribalism and such abuses of power as the misuse of government resources. Consequently, a Code of Conduct which was signed by President Sirleaf on January 9, 2012 is yet to be acted upon by you.
Pass a revised Code of Conduct Bill to include the executive, legislative and judicial branches of government. The Code of Conduct Bill must also address such issues as former Liberian citizens who renounced their citizenship in favor of foreign nationalities but are holding public offices and influencing policy decisions in contravention of the Liberian constitution.
As you are aware, the TRC report has been on its dying bed awaiting final pronouncement from the coroner. The funeral procession has already been arranged. Ellen Johnson Sirleaf is the cross-bearer who leads the procession to the graveyard to bury the TRC report. Legislative leaders like Cletus Wortorson, Alex Tyler and supporters of the president – including warlords are bearing the casket. Some members of the Supreme Court are delivering the eulogy – declaring some parts of the TRC recommendations "unconstitutional". Yet one question looms defiantly high, facing every peace-loving Liberian. "How costly will be the funeral of the TRC report for the future stability of Liberia?"
Here, members of the legislature can make a difference. Pass a resolution calling for the implementation of the TRC recommendations on actions against perpetrators, and reparation and compensation for victims. Hold the President accountable for failing to implement the TRC report, as it is required by law for her to implement it.
Give us NIPCCT and we will no longer have sons and family members of the President appointed to public position of financial and political influence. Give us NIPCCT and we will break through the thick fog and dark clouds surrounding many government contracts involving conflict of interest and bribery. Give us NIPCCT and will follow the growing economic and financial wealth of the president and her immediate family members; give us NIPCC and the dastardly acts of wicked politicians who hoard money out of the country like some demonic suction tube will be curtailed.
Is this a difficult task? I don't think so. I believe there are still some good men and women in the present legislature. You are the Davids of our time. I am also aware that there is a mighty Goliath with an avalanche of foot soldiers and Machiavellian schemes poised to defeat you. Indeed a David must kill D Goliath and bring him to his needs. I know you may get discouraged and bewildered along the way; but keep it up. You are on the side of truth. You are on the side of justice. In the tension at the heart of the universe between good and evil, you're the good. In what Hinduism refers to as the struggle between illusion and reality, you're the reality. In what Platonic Philosophy calls the tension between body and soul, you're the soul. In what Zoroastrianism – a religion of old calls the tension between the god of light and the god of darkness, you're the god of light. In what traditional Judaism and Christianity call the struggle between God and Satan, you on the side of God. In what our Judeo-Christian heritage calls truth and lies, you are the truth.
Said Frantz Fannon, "every generation must out of relative obscurity discover its own mission, fulfill it or betray it." I have discovered mine and prepared to fulfill it and not to betray it. How are about you, Sir and Ma'am?
Yours truly,
J. Aloysius Toe
Citizen of Liberia


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