MacDella Mackie Cooper – also known by many as “Liberia’s Angel” – was born in Monrovia, Liberia. She enjoyed a happy and loving childhood until her life was deeply affected by the Liberian Civil War. After witnessing unthinkable and unspeakable atrocities, she sought refuge in Côte d’Ivoire before migrating to the United States in 1993. Cooper achieved academic excellence in high school and was subsequently awarded a full academic scholarship to the College of New Jersey (TCNJ), where she earned a degree in Electronic Communications. Cooper’s success continued into her professional life, and shortly thereafter, she established the MacDella Cooper Foundation (MCF). MCF’s mission is to Educate, Train and Motivate Africa’s most vulnerable children, disadvantaged youth, and marginalised women to become productive contributors to their nation’s economic, social, and political development. MCF Academy, a tuition-free boarding school, opened in 2010 and provided the children of Liberia with quality education and the opportunity to attend college.
In 2022, the MacDella Cooper Foundation also opened a STEAM Academy for Girls. The foundation strives to foster future leaders who take pride in themselves and their country. MacDella Cooper’s dedication to social welfare has transformed the lives of hundreds of vulnerable women, children, and youth. Ms. Cooper continues to promote effective leadership and inclusive governance in Liberia. As an advisor and board member, she actively engages in leadership roles with international humanitarian organisations. Pushing forward, Cooper, a 2023 Liberian Presidential candidate, is leading the way by pursuing ‘The Movement for One Liberia’ (MOL). This accredited political party provides democratic rights and civil liberties to every Liberian. Cooper’s unwavering desire to build a political environment representative of all its citizens will foster a robust, fair, and inclusive republic. As Liberians go to the polls on October 10 to elect their president, Cooper told The Guardian that she has stepped down and formed an alliance with former Vice President Joseph Nyuma Boakai. She spoke on the election and other issues with IYABO LAWAL.
• We Cannot Afford Six Years Of Children Dying Of Illegal Drugs
• Boakai Will Create Jobs, Stop Domestic Violence
How prepared are you for the forthcoming presidential elections?
For the forthcoming October 10 presidential and general elections, we have formed an alliance with the Unity Party. And so, within the Unity Party Alliance, we have become the rescue party of the nation. That’s what we call ourselves: Rescue Mission.
I was initially a candidate, however, following the alliance and collaborations we’ve built, we have selected a former Vice President, Joseph Nyuma Boakai, as our presidential candidate. I stepped back to push him forward, because after conducting a national opinion survey and polls, we realised that he had a better chance of getting us a win.
I was a philanthropist for about 20 years of my life. To support women and children coming out of the war, I started a charity called MacDella Foundation in the early 2000, because they were the most vulnerable during the crisis.
After doing that for several years, building schools, giving women micro-loans, I saw that charity was a different solution to long-term national problems that we were facing in our country, we could not depend on charity to run our nation. I thought of going into politics; impact and support the right policies so that we could have the right policy on education, not just on paper, but implemented.
I wanted to see not just a few thousands supported by my philanthropic initiative, but I want to see a country that benefitted all children of Liberia. I was tired of seeing this discrimination, especially towards the female child. I really want to see a Liberia that provides equal opportunities across board, without the concept of this is mine first before the people. Maybe I’m too much of an advocate, advocating for the rights of women, children, and underdogs, minority groups that have been over looked. I was not just content being up there in the continent when my region, my people are not okay.
And at this critical moment in our nation’s history, I don’t think I need a participation trophy. My desire is to see a change of administration, because Liberia is at a crossroad, and if we don’t change the administration, we are going to regress to a point that will bring us back into the years of conflict again. And since we don’t want that to happen, we have decided to give Liberians, the leader that will unify them, unite the country and keep our peace and stability.
So, we have joined forces with the former Vice President to fight for this win and be able to give Liberians the leadership that they need to keep peace and stability within the region.
But Boakai was in government for eight years, he had opportunity to change the situation, but couldn’t do that. Why do you think that he would do something different this time around?
Vice presidents, by their positions, are to support the agenda of the president. And as the vice president, he couldn’t override his boss on decisions, opinions or visions. She came in with her vision for the country and he could not, by any means, try to override. So, she created the agenda, and they were there to execute it.
I don’t think he had a chance to actually make the impact that we know he can make once he is not the decision maker, the leader, and the one running the show and calling the shots.
What are the challenges confronting Liberia and solutions your coalition, led by Boakai, have to these problems?
The problems are many. Liberia is a very small country, the oldest democracy in Africa, we were never colonised. Last Wednesday, we celebrated our 176th independence, we were never colonised by any colonial power. When nations in Africa, West Africa, especially, were trying to find their own independence, Liberia was its beacon of hope on the continent and in the region.
I still remember that period in history, when the late President Kwame Nkrumah of Ghana, and all the great leaders of Africa of that era, who were part of the liberation movement, coming to our president and asking critical questions as to how we did it? How did you gain this level of independence? You never had any colonial master overpowering you; you always constantly made a decision to develop your country. Build your nation. How did you do it? And we were the ones inspiring and empowering other countries within the region, who were struggling for the independence away from the colonial powers. And so, Liberia has since moved on, but instead of the right direction, democracy was disrupted and it regressed.
There was a coup d’etat in 1980 and several other coups came in, and there were constant disruptions in the country, the Constitution was put on hold and was re-created, which gave indigenous people their rights, because the so-called ‘Miracle Liberians’, the freed slaves that came back from the United States, dominated the economy, politics, leadership and educational sector. So, there was a bit of imbalance.
And this is where our problems came in the late 70s and 80s, because then, the indigenous people that were on ground at some point said, why are they the ones leading? Why are they the ones always having the best of things that Liberian has to offer? And so, the coup d’etat happened, the change of Constitution happened to include indigenous rights for access to leadership and governance, real economy and all of these things. That was a problem in those days.
In 1990, another war came to us back to where we used to be, but that was not done right. So, you have 14-year-long Civil War, fighting for the resettling of things to bring things back to where they were, and that never happened.
Ellen Johnson Sir leaf was the first democratically elected female head of state on the continent. Liberia took a decision that put us on this track of being trailblazers. There have been several women presidents before, but they were never democratically elected. They were appointed. And so Sirleaf administered the country for 12 years, ran a government out of people, who fought one of the most brutal civil wars. I would say as a woman to another woman, she did very well, in my view.
In 2017, she handed over to George Weah and again, Liberia set another record electing an ex-footballer as president. And he came in as a symbol of hope and inspiration for young people, especially those who felt he came from the slums and he was going to understand what it meant to strive and struggle.
But once he was elected, corruption became the focus of his administration.
He came in with a pro-poor agenda, but the poor people became poorer than they ever were in the history of Liberia. We lost more jobs over the years; we have lost a lot of companies that came in under the previous government, led by Ellen Johnson Sirleaf.
The hospitals have no medication because when the international community comes in and bring resources, they take those medications and resources for their private hospitals and clinics and citizens of the Republic of Liberia have to pay for them.
And we have similar things with education. You have countries that are there to assist Liberia through foreign aid, but when they bring in resources and grants, it goes to government officials’ private schools, leaving the poor people whose children attend government schools, without teachers in the classrooms, because the classrooms are filled with volunteer teachers, who still have to leave the classrooms to go and hustle, to find resources to take care of their children.
And so, we found ourselves in a slew of problems. The young people asked themselves, where’s the leader we thought we found in this man? Same question the old people from the indigenous villages and towns of Liberia asked.
And so, the country has been left without an economy, there are no jobs; Liberia has been labelled 113 on the list of 121 nations with the highest level of hunger in the world, young people graduate college and the best job they can find is to buy a motorcycle and become riders for very little money, and most of them get killed in the process, because the roads are not safe, and there is no law and order.
Police officers are not being paid, and so, on the streets, they are constantly harassing motorists.
So, when you ask of the problems and solutions, Boakai has a plan to revitalise the economy by bringing investment partnerships.
Liberia is a very wealthy country in terms of resources- iron ore, diamond, gold, rubber and timber. We have the rainiest rain forest, it rains six months of the year, so, you can just drop a seed, next year you have a tree bearing fruits, but there are no investments.
We want to open the nation up to remove hindrances to doing business in Liberia so that investors can come in. We also want to revitalise the education sector under the leadership of Boakai, the public schools will serve the masses of the nation.
Out of five million inhabitants in Liberia, you have less than 10 per cent of the population currently attending decent high schools, under Boakai’s administration, we intend to make education mandatory for all children born in Liberia, because right now, access to education is a privilege.
If you’re not privileged, you will become 18 years old and have never entered a schoolhouse. And so, you have these young adults, who are 18 years of age, and have no idea how to read and write their own name, neither can they read the nation’s Constitution. That is the biggest human rights abuse I have ever witnessed in my existence.
Poor economy, lack of access to basic education and non-functional healthcare system are some of the biggest nightmare Weah has brought to Liberia. The lack country has become a hub for the transit of illegal substance across Africa. Drug cartels are coming from South and Latin America, stopping in Liberia and going into different countries within the region and beyond to deposit drugs.
Liberia has become the illegal hub for drugs in the West African region and the drug is killing our young people. There’s a new drug in the market called Coosh, when used, it is like a demonic force has possessed a human body, when they are high, they kill themselves, to release the pain, they go under cars and trucks. They hit their heads on concrete walls.
Weah has become a massive failure and that is why I am supporting Boakai to rescue Liberia from him. It is critical as a mother to put everything we can to rescue this nation otherwise, countries like Nigeria, Ghana, Sierra Leone and Cote d’Ivoire, would have an influx of Liberian drugs. It would be bad for the entire region. And so, it’s our duty to rescue Liberia before Liberians contaminate the entire West Africa.
Incumbency is a major factor in African politics, how do you hope to unseat the president in the forthcoming poll?
The incumbent has resources at his or her disposal. He/she controls the economy of a nation, has all of the contacts with the foreign development partners, so, he/she has a lot in his or her war chest to go and fight any opposition government trying to come in. But we are confident that based on a national opinion survey, we realised the president is wildly unpopular by the very youths that elected him. From the poll, the president came in at 32 per cent, while the former vice president has 45 per cent. His reelection would further pauperise the citizenry, it is up to us to continue reminding the Liberian people where they are, what has happened for the past six years, and there has been no progress, only regression.
Talking about women, it has been observed that they have low rate of representation in politics, what do you think is responsible for this?
Lack of resources is one of the major hindrances blocking women from being actively involved in politics. Since the Beijing Conference, when governments were asked to give women opportunity to sit at the decision making table, whether through elections or appointments, not much has happened in the region. Today, Liberia has nine per cent female representation, and other countries within the region are struggling with it as well.
Political parties are boys club. They were created by men, for men, to serve men and give many platforms they need to get their names on the lists that go to the electoral committee.
The political parties are one of the biggest problems in the country as to why women are not being elected. It is a reflection of the government those parties are going to lead. If women are on the board of executive of political parties, or executive committees of political parties, there is no way a woman won’t be on the list of candidates to go to the election commission.
So, it starts at the executive committee or board level, which is the decision making body of political parties. Usually, they are creating things for the women’s wing and the youths wing. The women are in a corner cooking the food, the youths are in another corner doing their thing. They are only called to go and execute and not to be part of the decision making process.
When you are a woman, it’s a problem for them, when you area young woman, its extreme problem for them, because you get held back.
When they win elections, the executive committee reflects what they have in the party. Women don’t have a chance of being appointed or having their names on the list that goes out for leadership positions.
We also talk about quota system, since women don’t have the numbers within political parties or the chance of getting their names on the list, lets trade the 30 per cent quota to give women a push.
What is your message to Liberians at this time?
Let’s make a right decision, we cannot afford another six years of our children dying of Coosh, illegal drugs, without jobs, another six years where women are being raped constantly and domestic violence, court cannot judge cases because there is no resources to investigate cases.
What is a leader if they cannot make decisions to assist the people. Liberia needs every citizen right now to rescue it and this is why I feel this rescue team is so important to our nation. It’s just like how madam Sirleaf came in in 2005 to rescue Liberia, we can do it again and even better because she was limited at the time. We have to fight for our nation, it is our duty as citizens to stand up for this nation now against the incumbent government. Source: guardian.ng