By: Samuel G. Dweh (Freelance Journalist)
Author’s Note: The “Yeah!” Performance refers to the President’s actions or policy that caused happiness and a feeling of a ‘brighter future’ in (majority) of other citizens, especially the masses, while the President’s “urr!” performance that caused the opposite of the “Yeah!” performance.
Since the end of Liberia’s civil war in 2003, Liberian electoral voters have been on a “trial” of selecting, through their votes, another person (Presidential candidate) who they feel would empathetically lead their country into the “Promised Land”—a “new Liberia” with abundant economic opportunities and Human Rights for everybody.
What “actions” will the “new President”, after the Presidential election in October 10, 2023, exhibit to pull the Country out of the current depression-causing national economic situation?
CHARLES McAUTHUR TAYLOR (1997-2003)
In 1989, he “mysteriously walked out of America’s Maximum Prisoners’ cell” to “rescue” the Gio and Mano people (of Nimba County) under the knives, AK47, and grenades from members of President Samuel Kanyon Doe’s ethnic group (Krah) in the uniform of the National Army (Armed Forces of Liberia—AFL)
Eight years later (1997), he was overwhelmingly elected Head of State. During the Presidential campaign period, many Liberians (in marching groups) sang: “You killed my ma, you killed my pa, but I will vote for you.”
Two “yeah!” performances of President Taylor stood out over the rest. One was his keeping the price of a bag of imported rice (Liberians’ staple food) always “low” (below US$15), so that each family could afford a bag. This lowering of price automatically reduced commercial cooked rice at various street-food sale centers (called Cook Shops in Liberia) for the financially less-privileged masses. He empathized with the President’s bag-of-rice-reduction action was based on his recollection of the tragic fall (murder) of President William R. Tolbert at his Office at the Executive Mansion (1980), partially based on the President’s giving of “deaf ear” to impoverished Liberians’ cries on the escalated price of a bag of rice (US$22 from US$18) Another “Yeah!” action of President Taylor was his refusal to ‘surrender’ Liberia’s oil reserve to a “supreme foreign Government” stuck to a 20% (for Liberia) and 80% (for the foreign Government) deal. I am paraphrasing a comment from a male media of the President’s Media Team, who later became president of the Press Union of Liberia (PUL)
The “urr!” performance, the major one, was his often crushing of “Freedom of Speech”, from independent-minded Liberians, through the Media (radio or newspaper) or at public discourse points (called “Intellectual Centers” in Liberia) These Liberians were cautioning the President on his actions that could spark another round of national political outburst or killings. He often used his personal “Presidential thugs” in the Anti-Terrorist Unit (ATU) to flog, or sometimes kill, people who harshly criticized his “Presidential misdemeanor”. A Journalist living today (August, 2023) is one of President Taylor’s victim on speaking out one’s mind against the ‘nationally annoying action’ of the Head of State. A group of thugs, in ATU uniform, tied him in a mattress and beat the mattress (while the Journalist was in it) with big sticks. They stopped only when the Journalist fainted.
ELLEN JOHNSON SIRLEAF (2006-2018)
After playing a major part in civilian Charles Taylor’s “mysterious walk-out of America’s Maximum Prison” (an accusation from some Liberians living in the United States during that time), the former Minister of Finance (during Samuel Kanyon Doe’s Presidency) and graduate of the America-based Harvard Business School, and former U.S.-based Liberian, was elected President in the elections of 2006.
The “Yeah!” performances of President Sirleaf are several. Some of them are: persuasion of International money-loaning Institutions (including The World Bank) to waive Liberia’s debts (accumulated over the war years); creation of a ‘safe business environment in Liberia’, which attracted several US billion-dollars-worth of foreign business entities in Liberia (and pushed down the national poverty level); and attraction of International human resource development organizations (not-for-profit)—founded byy millionaires or billionaires—to support or empower local NGOs for post-war development. One of these foreign NGOs is Open Society Initiative for West Africa (OSIWA), founded by billionaire Mo Abrahim. Other “Yeah!” performances of President Sirleaf were: Construction of Liberia’s Ministerial Complex (take Government’s Ministries from houses of private citizens) through the Government of the People’s Republic of China; renovation of Liberia’s International Airport (destroyed during the civil war); and renovation of Liberia’s only International Soccer Pitch, Samuel Kanyon Doe Sport Complex (now in Paynesville)
On the “Urr! performances” of President Sirleaf, I will feature only three in this article. The first was her personal governmental employment policy (based on cronyism): calling Diaspora Liberians (most of them her former colleagues during her stay in the United States) back home (even though many of them were not practically experienced for the job), leaving out most of the experienced home-based professionals or making them “Deputies” to the “imported” less-experienced head. She was giving each ‘imported’ Liberian Minister or head of Government’s Agency between US$3,000 and US$5,000 (salary), while each home-based (with deeper experience than their professionally limited bosses) were being given between US$1,000 and US$2,000 (salary)
Another “Urr!” performance of President Sirleaf was her ‘pretense’ of being unaware of or ‘inability’ to wipe out the “moral evil” called Homosexuality. It became a “condition” ( created by many of ‘imported’ heads of Government Ministries or Agencies) for male applicants wanting to go on Government’s oversea training or educational scholarships. Those who refused to “comply” (allow the male head of the Ministry or Agency to have sexual intercourse with you) were “automatically disqualified”. One of the victims (disqualified for educational scholarship because he refused to be sodomized), Mr. Jacob Deebee (now a Representative Aspirant for Sinoe County) narrated his story to me in 2021. The third “Urr!” performance of President Sirleaf was her “soft heart” for rampant corruption (especially my “imported heads of Ministries” and Agencies) in her Government. A woman, nicknamed “Iron Lady”, couldn’t “bend” the “aluminum” named “corruption”—that was stalling development in the education sector, agricultural sector, health sector, and many other sectors. Two of her biological sons (top officials of a Ministry and a Agency) were caught in the corruption web by the General Auditing Commission (GAC) on a “huge” can’t-be-accounted-for portion of the Government’s budgetary allotment to each Government’s entity the President’s son was in. Under Pressure from a cross-section of Liberians to comment on the GAC’s finding, the President “took responsibility” for the “embezzlement” by each of her sons.
The same issue was raised by President Sirleaf’s host AJAZEERA an International Television Station, but the President didn’t take “responsibility” as she had done in Liberia.
GEORGE MANNEH WEAH (22018-2023)
Author’s Note: He is going for the second Presidential term (of six years)
In 2017, he was “rewarded” (through electoral votes) with the Presidency (after failing in the Presidential election in 2005)—on getting the majority votes—for his placement of Liberia on the Global Soccer platform with his winning of the three top Global Football titles (when he was playing for Italian First-Division Team—AC Milian): “Best African Best Player”, “Europe’s Best Player”, and “World’s Best Player” (all won in one year—2005)
The “Yeah!” performances of President Weah are several. I will feature some in this article: He has connected most parts of Liberia through roads network (none of his post-war presidential predecessors had done such); he has mad University education tuition-free (none of his post-war presidential predecessors had done such); he has offered the highest number of scholarships to 12th graders who had passed the exams administered by West African Examinations Council (WAEC) or the West African Senior Secondary Certificate Examination (WASSCE)— none of his post-war presidential predecessors had done such; he has adjusted civil servants’ salaries (called “harmonization”), up from the ‘huge amount’ the Government of Ellen Johnson Sirleaf often ‘dished out’; and he is not “moved” by the ‘insults’ from his “political opponents”—ordinary persons or nationally influential persons through the radio, newspaper or the Social Media. (This is his style of promotion of “Freedom of Speech”)
The “Urr!” performances of President Weah are several. For this article, I will feature some: His leniency with drugs smuggling into Liberia, which has rated Liberia as “transit point for drugs around the World” (reference to U.S. Government’s report), and caused more than 40% of Liberia’s “future leaders” (youths) being on drugs (you will see them everywhere in the streets in Monrovia and mining sites in some of Liberia’s other Counties) A group of foreigner caught with one million US Dollars (US$1m)-worth of smuggled drugs in 2023 were “mysteriously released” and returned to where they had come from (outside of Liberia)
Another “Urr!” performance of President Weah is his ‘shielding’ his “Governmental appointees” (Ministers, Directors of Government Agencies, etc) into rampant corruption, which has caused the flight of many foreign business people out of Liberia and is preventing foreign business people (Americans, Britons, etc.) from coming to Liberia. Such actions were featured in the U.S. Government’s 2023 Investment Climate Report on Liberia, relayed by the FrontPage Africa newspaper in the Monday, July 31, 2023 edition. On the general level, Liberia’s economy is “crippled”—many Liberian-owned businesses have collapsed. Jobs are scarce in the private sector, while the Government (over a Nation blessed with huge reserves of iron ores, gold, timber, diamond, tropical forest, and many other abundant natural resources) depends on “financial hand-outs” from European Union, America and other Countries.
President Weah has a personal “Urr!” attitude. He has turned himself into a symbolic “Golden Image” (similar to the Idol of King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon as recorded in the Bible) that should be “politically worshipped” (politically battle cry, praise, on his name, place his photos at various public areas, or wear a T-shirt with his photo) as his “condition” to anybody who wants a job in any Ministry or Government’s Agency, or for the President to financially support your national development project.
Another “Urr!” attitude of the President is his “protection” or “reward” to anybody who brazenly criticized or insulted his political opponent (in the Presidential race in 2023) A Journalist who called Mr. Alexander Benedict Cummings, Presidential candidate of the Alternative National Congress (ANC), “gay” (homosexual) on his Talk Show in 2021 is now the owner of a Radio Station named “Voice of Liberia”, located in Central Monrovia. The journalist insulted Mr. Cummings on his Talk Show named “Freedom’s Morning Ride”, over Freedom FM. The Radio Station is owned by a President Weah’s “Presidential Appointee” holding top position in the National Security Agency (NSA), the Government’s Security arms that are in plain cloth throughout.
What will be the “Yeah!” and “Urr!” performances by or actions of the next post-war President of Liberia to come out of the Presidential elections slated for October 10, 2023? Will the “majority votes” retain the current President (re-election) Or will the “majority votes” bring into Liberia’s Presidency somebody who will legalize “Gay Rights”—just to please a supreme foreign Government to pump in money for the Government of this new President? Or will the person’s national poverty-production action engender “terrorist actions” (bombings) by some “frustrated” Liberians?
Liberian voters will continue doing “try and see” with Presidential candidates throughout their Country’s post-war time…until they get the real “Moses” that will empathetically lead them to the “Promised Land” of equal economic opportunities and Human Rights for ALL LIBERIANS!
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Samuel G. Dweh (a member of the Wedabo ethnic group of Grand Kru County) is a professional writer (fiction and non-fiction) He is a member of the Press Union of Liberia (PUL), and member and former president (22017-2022) of the Liberia Association of Writers (LAW) He had worked as Proofreader, News Editor, Editor-in-Chief, and Senior Editor-Reporter with seven different Liberian Print Media Institutions (beginning as Proofreader at Daily Observer in 2011) and Reporter-Assistant Editor with one Magazine (IMAGES Magazine owned by veteran Liberian Photo Journalist Mr. Sando Moore) in 2013.