Wednesday, November 12, 2008


Ibrahim Al-bakri Nyei


Children everywhere are termed as future leaders. And for this reason, every family strives to give their children the best foundation to grow up and become respectful and productive people. It is because of the importance of children in succeeding their parents as heirs apparent that religions emphasize moral training for children with care. The Qur’an warns parents who don’t take good care of children, and also advises for good training for children. The Bible also gives parents a good recommendation to train up their children in the way they should go, and when they are old they will not depart from it.

Socially, societies are communally organized for the welfare of their communities, in which moral standards are set. It is through the practices of these standards that children experience and learn, and exhibit when they take over as descendants and forerunners in charge. This practice is passed on from generation to generation.

With the emergence of political organizations and the nation-states, laws have been codified to maintain peace and order. Policies and plans are put together to set basic foundations that succeeding generations will flourish in peace and wealth. States are taking prime responsibilities of building schools, clinics and recreational centers for young people who need the best upbringing to take over the future of the nation-states. States also formulate programs and implement them for child protections against environmental and health disasters, societal vices -kidnapping, rape, child labor and abuse, etc. International organizations have accentuated the need for children protection and empowerment through various conventions, treaties and protocols.

With the existence of these modern opportunities and enormous increase in globalization and information technology, one wonders what will be the future of the children of Liberia when they are far from realizing the empirical existence of protocols and conventions aimed at protecting them, at a time when empathy had perished from the country, where no one cares anymore. In fact, when globalization and technology were gearing up to boom around the world, Liberia was deeply deposited in chaos. Today while some countries are promulgating policies that will assign one lap top to a school going child, Liberian children are yet to know what technology and globalization mean.

The Plights

For over a long time young people in Liberia have lived as a destitute class of people. For a few whose parents maneuver to gain access to state’s resources, or by other means, they were quickly transferred to foreign countries where all is planned and implemented well for children, thereby giving them significant edge over those who struggles through the rough terrains in Liberia.

Growing up as a child in present-day Liberia is quite a difficult one. Children born during the years of the civil upheaval can not adequately explain the nature and necessities of peace though they need it most. They grew up and saw violence and barbarism as a condition of life all over the county. Ironically, those vicious acts were perpetrated by those responsible to give them a future. They were taught to kill, smoke, steal and roughly survive. Consequently, most of them saw looting, stealing, and harassing as the easiest means of survival.

With the return of the country to normalcy, dozens of them in their adolescence or beyond, hopelessly ply the streets of cities as mendicants, drug addicts, and hijackers. Some are amputated and their survival left at the mercy of offering givers. The situation of kidnapping had existed for years, and still prevails in some parts of the country.

The Present Situation

Of recent, with the prevailing economic conditions in the country, another horrible specter has begun haunting the Liberian children in their infancies. Cases of rape against little girls between the ages of 0 and 17 occur weekly around the country. Sadly, reports of suicide are taking place involving children less than 15 years of age. One wonders what may be the psychosocial problems affecting those kids to decide on death as the only solution. It will be a conjecture to believe that these kids are sharing the problems of their parents who finds difficulties in making ends meet, some of whom (parents) cowardly escape from their homes. Just in less than six months, children are dying and disappearing under mysterious conditions. Two major cases that my thinking capacity had not absorbed and therefore finds it difficult to believe are the news of the alleged suicide by hanging committed by the two kids – thirteen year-old Angel Togba and seven year-old God’s Gift. Last year, nine-year old Janjay died after being raped and abused. Other cases breeding horrors in the lives of Liberian children are the circumstances surrounding the deaths of Alvin Davis (Monrovia), Augustine Golotor (Gbarnga), Vaywue Kesseley (Zorzor), and the disappearance of several children around the country, some of whom corpses are found with several parts missing. Issues of child labor and abuses are very common. These reports must alert everyone in the country that the children of Liberia are living in sheer vulnerability and no where in the country is considered safe for their survival. But we keep eagle eyes on our government viewing its commitment and ability to bring to justice those in the habits of ruining the future of this country by destroying its children in their infancies.

Besides the threats of kidnapping, raping, and killing hanging over the children of Liberia, a good number of them live in harsh social and economic conditions resulting from problems in their families. Expressions in the faces of children in the streets signal lot of things- hunger, force labor, family problem, and maltreatment at home. Most of them live today as breadwinners for their families by selling petty goods in markets and street corners, and running between cars for customers at the peril of their lives. With several promises to take them from the streets and markets and send them to school, they remain in disillusionment because the promises are yet to be fulfilled.

Looking into the Future

A brighter future for this country depends on building a good foundation for the children of Liberia. What can save the day now and set the future properly is taking steps from promising, policy writing to implementing and enforcing existing laws and policies. The Free and Compulsory Primary Education and the Policy on Girls Education are potential enough to contribute enormously to the problems if and only if they are enforced and their implementations monitored and evaluated regularly. Moreover, Liberia needs modern localized and legal provisions to protect the children in consonance with other international documents like the Convention on the Rights of the Child, African Chatter on Human and Peoples’ Right and the Universal Declaration on Human Rights. Robust child protection and education policies with proper implementation and monitoring are needed to rescue these harsh situations. Child protection needs to be complemented with legal actions. A fast tract court to adjudicate cases involving child abuse, rape, kidnapping, and maltreatment will be very essential to the process. Cases concerning children can pass through the Women and Children Protection Section of the LNP that will investigate them and send them to court. This means that the Women and children Protection Section of the LNP needs to be vibrant and equipped with officers trained as Children Monitoring Officers.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008


A Need for Practical Actions

Ibrahim Al-bakri Nyei

05 694498/

When the euphoria of political activities beclouded the country in 2005, we did not only see myriad of political candidates, and parties; we also saw documents in the forms of project proposals and research papers dubbed as platforms. With nearly 800 persons vying for 94 seats in the legislature and 21 battling for the presidency of the state, each plying street corners and villages with poster of all kinds; all had something to say about the emancipation of the Liberian people from diseases, illiteracy and poverty-the worst state of human socio existence. The most pressing needs of the people had been peace and an environment to reconcile and live safely. Giving peace and better lives to the people meant social security that will improve their status from poverty, barbarity and violence to a symbiosis of mutual coexistence. The elections would have drawn the divided line between the days of the past when the nation’s wealth and resources were in the hands of a club of mischief makers, and a new day that will awaken patriots to national services for the amelioration of all and the state. This in the minds of the downtrodden can only be achieved with strong-hearted and courageous people who can translate the natural resources and the people’s labor into consumer goods and services accessible to all. Yes indeed, the elections were successfully held, but had the divided line been drawn, had there been any socio-economic transformation besides the one being experienced by the presence of a UN peace Mission? Are the people seeing or experiencing any radical or revolutionary changes in their lives as they expected when they sang and voted in 2005?

As it had usually been in our electoral history, our post-election lives have been literally the interpretation of our campaign slogans. In 1997 as a little boy growing up in Monrovia, I witnessed activities of the 1997 elections. I can still remember two slogans: ‘the oldma is number five, she will play her defend’, and ‘You kill my ma, you kill my pa, I will vote for you’. Being so inquisitive, I began to ask for the meaning of these slogans. The first one was interpreted as Madam Ellen Johnson Sirleaf is on the fifth position on the ballot paper, therefore if elected president she will defend the Liberian people in all aspects of life. For the second slogan, I was told that the people are tired of war, and the only way for peace was to elect Taylor as president. They were prepared to live with him and his attributes, whether he is cruel or barbarous. I still pondered on the rationalities of the latter interpretation.

Surely, the elections were held with Charles Taylor winning about 85 per cent of all votes cast. I interpreted his victory as nearly everyone was willing to accept him and swallow the pills associated with him because by endorsing him, they were at peace. Taylor was president and the slogan began to transform into practice with gross incompetence in public service, armed robbery and secret killings. Yet all accepted it, because it was endorsed.

In 2005, two popular slogans came again: ‘you know book, you na know book, we will vote for you’, and ‘when you up, you up’, “UP” up, we will go Up’. By experience, the Liberian people were prepared to live up to any of these slogans. With Weah becoming president, illiteracy and ignorance would have loomed at lunatic rates. He will have no reason to improve the education system because he had ascended by the appreciation of the people to his limitations and ignorance in governmental affairs. To the people then, the state needed someone that just ‘have the country at heart’, it did not matter who understands the calibration of ideals and the machination of policies for transformation thereof into social benefits. With this anti-education slogan saturating every political gathering, the illiterates and those who had earlier opportunities to learn but refused began to appreciate their statuses. Surely, they got the highest vote in the first round of the elections, and it was more time to appreciate and celebrate their statuses with more justifications been provided by some people from the intelligentsia. This made the elections to be dubbed as the ‘Educated Vs. the Uneducated’. As many pundits observed, the peoples’ vote were in protest against the deplorable states of affairs of the country and its people caused by those ‘educated ones’ who had led the country for decades, but dumped all in turmoil and agony. Unfortunately, for them the canoe somersaulted on November 8, 2005 in favor of the ‘Educated’. This victory was the result of numerous promises not to repeat the past, but set a new pace for peace and sustainable development.

To fulfill these, a lot has to be done. The slogan, ‘when you up, you up’ represented the peoples’ popular desire to see Liberia regaining its political and economic status on the continent of Africa. Despite the incinerated state of the nation, the people enthusiastically assumed that a leadership under a former civil servant, a vociferous activist from the 1980s, an international economists, and humanitarian worker, could champion that cause. Thus Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf was elected and inaugurated as president on January 16, 2006. She had brought to the presidency a team of officials with monumental experience from international organizations, and voluminous policies relative to poverty reduction, female education and empowerment, and the provision of basic social service to the people.

The skills of these experts and the brilliant works of their hands need to go beyond policy writings and delivering platitudes to the economically traumatized people. The experts need to effectuate radical changes that the regime can not end without the people practically experiencing the fine economic policies and theories propounded to them. Transforming the electoral slogans sang by the people means to give them the opportunities to build their lives as they felt then when they envisaged and brilliantly coined the wordings. Effective regulations to control prices of basic commodities that the minimal salary of a civil servant or a private employee can graduate from a mere state of eating to a state of maximizing benefits from his and build a future for his descendants is paramount to the process of practically interpreting the victorious slogans of the 2005 elections. Currently, it has become difficult to understand the economic effects and benefits of the past two increments made in the civil servants salaries during the last two fiscal years because as they are announcing the increment, prices of basic commodities are proportionally increasing. As a result, one can not easily identify any tangible benefit or good that a civil servant earning USD 55.00 can accrue after purchasing a bag of rice for USD 30.00 and still having other liabilities of purchasing clothes, paying tuitions in thousands, and regular home maintenance and feeding.

The vision and interest of a government to deliver the anticipated results are different from its will to enforce its policies. But the two can be juxtaposed with a set of committed and determined officials who understand the people’s plights, and are courageous enough to alleviate them. For the people to go ‘up and up’, there must be an effective deterrent to stop public officials from stealing from the people, and at the same time recycling those resources to retain power. Public stealing or corruption is a major virus that have stagnated the people of this country in poverty by keeping them down. For the people to go ‘up and up’, this government must build in itself a determination and an inner army to fight corruption, and begin to set the examples by exposing and prosecuting those who may see themselves as untouchable members of the kitchen cabinet, but are by themselves corrupt.

A Well informed and educated citizenry are essential in the building of peace and durable democracy. Vibrant and prosperous nations are also the products of their existence. The pillars of constitutional democracy- freedom of speech, transparency, elections, equal rights, etc, are more applicable in an informed and educated society. The people’s will and their inalienable right to freely express themselves through public media or any other means available must be sacred and respected to the fullest. Paramount to the observation and protection of these rights is the availability of quality education to the people, and a laissez fair policy on the exchange of information amongst them. Thus, the need for the people to be informed and educated needs not be underestimated if their lives are to progress proportionally to their aspirations of ‘going up and up’.


The development of every democratic society depends on the effectiveness of all of its sectors- the government, the civil society, political institutions, media or the press and the citizens. All of these sectors work in diverse fields with different ethics, but with one ultimate goal. And that goal is ‘the peaceful advancement of the society’. They are not mutually exclusive. The work of one group depends on the outcomes of a first group. The media for example, does not work in the absence of a government and a people. The media works with the causes and consequences of the works of all sectors of society. That is, the media links the rest of the people or institutions in a society to each other by taking information around from one group to another.

As the world advances with complexity of societies and ideologies, democracy and human rights are the most desired concepts every society strives for, but in this conceptualization, peace and democracy are threatened by conflicts of interest and rebellions in nations. Amidst these estranged conditions, rights are abused and people kept separated from each other involuntarily without information and messages. Fortunately for the world today, the freedom of the press is being promoted as more media facilities like the information technology is developing. People in conflicts are getting access to information through radio, and internet based magazines. Messages are being transmitted through the emails and mobile phones.

The existence of independent media organizations makes it possible for the public to stay abreast of societal events and problems. It allows the public to form positive or negative opinions of the direction of public policy. The formation of positive opinions toward public policy promotes development and maintains peace in society, while the formation of negative opinions toward public policy turns the people against the government or the government against the people, and sometimes the people against each other. The media must therefore be independent and objective in information dissemination. The state must also avoid control of the media and ensure that the freedom of the press is promoted at all levels. This is eminent in democracy and peace building because when a free press exists in a society, the fundamental right of freedom of speech can be freely exercised.

In this twenty first century when societies and individuals are facing many challenges ranging from conflicts to undemocratic rules, peace has become a demand like water. The media must see itself as essential to the maintenance of good governance and the prevention of deadly conflicts in society. To achieve this, the media must be neutral and take oversight on the activities of government and every sector of the society. Media outlets should balance the national interest, keep loyalty to the people, shape public opinion, and serve as a point for constructive debates. The media should also be involved in entertainment for the healing of wounds of conflict and traumas, and education for the civil consciousness of the people.

The advancement of the information technology system and improvements made on other media outlets like the internet, newspaper, magazines, television and radio, have greater roles to play in peace building and maintenance. In most third world countries, many people can not afford the cost of television, internet, and magazines. Media institutions need to increase production of news outlets that the people can afford according to their economic standards. Radio news and programs should also be read in local vernaculars for the benefit of those who do not understand official languages. Televisions must lay emphasis on visual display of events, and must avoid ethical misconduct, like the showing of pornography and restricted films.

A world of peace means a world where people are united and mutually working for the advancement of each other and their society. The media must strive to unite the people of the society. Television and radio stations must initiate programs for connecting people in different areas. Civic education programs through drama or any forms must be aired and televised for the education of the society. Newspapers and magazine columns should be used for people to give opinions on national issues through articles, letters and poems. The internet is one of the simplest ways of uniting people throughout the world. Media institutions like local newspapers and radio stations must build websites for citizens outside their countries to have access to local news and contribute to the shaping of public policy. Media experts in the area of information technology should avoid privacy invasion and the erroneous transmittance of messages.


Ibrahim Al-bakri Nyei

The ongoing marketing competition between the GSM companies in Liberia is a clear indication that a market of competition reduces prices and produce quality services to customers. In this market, the consumers sit and witness the race between the competitors. Their role now becomes getting services for little or nothing and sometimes on silver platters. And the role of the service providers reduced from maximizing profits to customer’s search, at which time the customers receive much olive branches. This may not be the first of its kind in Liberia, but this is sufficient enough for everyone to understand the significance of competition in a market.

When the GSM services first came to Liberia with the Lone Star Communication Corporation (LCC) the only provider, we saw profiteering at its zenith. There was not a single day that customers were given ‘weekend credits’ or ‘toll free calls’. Customers were positioned at a complete disadvantage. No one knew that the mobile phone could be used to access the World Wide Web. It was even unimaginable to think that the price of a sim card could drop from 65.00 USD to 5.00 USD, in fact 3.00 USD, or to think that one could recharge a phone using only 65.00 LD. That was the market, and the Lone Star Communication Corporations was the only oasis in the communication desert in Liberia, therefore she speared nothing to profiteer for about three years without a single competitor. In 2004, the arrival of Cellcom, Comium, and Libercell set the stage for the competition. Now many averaged Liberians, or even below, living in urban communities can choose to use either of the four. Some people even move with two, three and some with all four for little costs. The fight has gone to winning residents of rural communities by importing mobile phones packaged with a sim card and other paraphernalia for amounts between 19 to 50 USD, something that in 2004 could not even buy the chip (sim card) least to speak of a mobile phone. All of these service providers have today exposed Liberians to lot of facilities in the Global Service Mobile community- GPRS (Internet), EDGE, multi-media, and so forth. Today, I enjoy a lot from my Blue Screen Motorola C113 mobile phone at the expense of the competitors, seeking to win more customers. The rules of the game are simple: ‘act poorly and remain poor’, ‘provide more and get more’.

There is a complete drama on stage now that has bedazzled the consuming public. A Senegalese born musical star, Alieu Thiam (Akon) has been invited to perform in Liberia on April 15, 2008 by Cellcom. This jamboree, though chargeable, is intended to create sufficient public relations for Cellcom and increase their market intake. This has been preceded by ample advertisements from both the marketing and public relations departments of Cellcom. With the competition in high flames, the Lonestar announced just two weeks to the AKON show, an admission free jamboree with local stars at the ATS another recreational sports ground. Considering the nature and effects of the competition between them, the economic preclusion here is that the consumers benefit the most.

Taking a bird’s eye view of the Liberian post-war economy, and juxtaposing the benefits consumers are accruing from the GSM market, one does not need to study Economics at doctorate level to understand that the more producers are competing, the more prices are stabilized, and the more consumers benefit. In our produce market, three commodities have always posed major problems to the stabilization of prices, simply because they are not in a full laissez faire- Rice, Cement, and Petroleum. The rice market was in the past dominated by two groups, the Bridgeway and the K&K Corporation both of whom left the market in disdain to paved way for an alleged pro-elite (government) Sinkor Trading that is today lingering with impotencies. Sinkor Trading has been perceived as a pro-government entity due to the way it enters and assumes monopoly of the rice market backed by the high power government delegation that went to welcome its first consignment at the Freeport of Monrovia.

If the market is allowed to operate freely, with more importers and distributors on the market, a competition similar to the GSM scenario will take the platform, and it will reach a point where importers will get involved in producing rice locally through mechanized farming. It may also reach a point where companies will offer pots or cook spoons for anyone who purchases a bag. Others may even get involved in offering after sale services of cooking for customers who may be too busy. Those in the petroleum business may offer bonuses to customers who buy certain quantities. And we should not be surprised if we have more producers or importers and distributors of cement, its price may be stable and affordable to the ordinary Liberia. Cement bonuses may come in the form of giving loads of sand or crushed rocks to buyers. This may sound funny, but the point here is that if the market is open and free, the forces shall determine the prices and the same forces shall determine the qualities.


(A Case Study of Liberia)

Ibrahim Al-bakri Nyei

Achieving universal primary education is goal number two of the United Nations Millennium Development Goals. This goal’s target is to ensure that by 2015, children everywhere, boys and girls alike, will be able to complete a full course of primary schooling. It also seeks to reduce, if not eliminate illiteracy in the world. It is believed that after completing primary education, a child will be able to read, write and communicate to others properly. Therefore, if this target is met there will be a considerable level of understanding amongst the people of the world.

Illiteracy has been defined simply as the absence of knowledge. Additionally, it is also been referred to as a disease that keeps both the society and the individual backward. Reducing or eliminating illiteracy through universal primary education will be a giant step for the world in the pursuit of peace and justice. In a soberly literate world, men will replace violence by dialogue; there will be mutual coexistence, reduction in the spread of diseases, and reduction in the cost of living. To ensure this, there is a need to build a literate society with a solid foundation at the primary level for every child.

Primary education for every child should be seen as a global challenge in this twenty first century when the world is gradually becoming a single community. The growth of the digital world and the information technology systems can not be utilized in an illiterate society. Information dissemination institutions like the mass media, both print and electronic can not also meet there objectives in a society where the majority of the people are illiterate, or can not read and write. These developments among others in this century, and the ones to come, emphasize the needs for at least a primary education for every child in the world.

The challenges of meeting this goal are enormous, but significant progress has been made in some countries. In Liberia, the government is currently enforcing a free and compulsory primary education policy aimed at ending illiteracy by requesting parents to send their children to public schools free of charge. In Sierra Leone, many children in the rural areas are benefiting from free education schemes provided by the government and some non governmental organizations. Statistics have shown that Sub-Sahara Africa has made significant progress over the last few years, but it still trails behind other regions with about 30 per cent of its children of primary school age out of school. One of the resounding prospects of this goal of achieving universal primary education is that the societies are becoming conscious and refined, demands are getting higher and there is a rapid growth in the number schools every year in the world. Parents are also taking advantage of these opportunities to educate their children and get them prepare for the challenges ahead.

While the prospects are encouraging, the task of achieving this goal is daunting. There are no equal opportunities for education in some regions of the world. Girls are still excluded from education more often than boys. This happens mostly in Western and Southern Asia and in some African communities. Children from poorer families are most often to drop from schools at tender ages and become street sellers or manual laborers. Moreover, children in rural communities have limited access to schools as compared to those in urban communities.

Liberia is an empirical example with unequal access to educational opportunities and facilities. The disparities range from locality, gender, financial, and social status. There are more schools in urban communities with equipped facilities than the rural areas. The dichotomy of getting quality education in the urban settlements is shown by the social status. Children whose parents have worked in governments or are in government, the breeding ground for riches in Liberia as proven by our experiences, have more access to schools and resources than those whose parents have not had any access to the state resources. But very few Liberians engaged in luxurious businesses can afford same.

In the rural communities, the gender disparity is widened. More girls are out of schools than boys. Traditionally, people have limited the capacities of women to housewifery, cooking, and family upkeep. For this reason their education has been limited to the bush schools and experiences they gain from their mothers and guardians.

With the change in time, and the growing wave of developments around the world, the stage has been set for all to come on board and participate in the corporate developments of our communities and nations. The challenges are such that everyone has realized that illiteracy is dangerous and capable of ruining a whole system of life and an entire society. Liberians should now realize that it is important to forcefully combat illiteracy and to also achieve the Millennium Development Goals, particular Goal Two. In this effort I recommend the following to the National Government for consideration in the fight against illiteracy if there is any:

The Government must assume the responsibility of educating every Liberian Child at primary level. This can be done by passing into law an act to make primary education free in the country. After this has become a law, the government must build primary schools in every district in the country and sustain them with regular subsidies.
The government must pass legislation against illiteracy that will indict families with children of ages between 15 and 16 that have not completed Grade Six.
The government must set attractive salaries and benefits for public schools teachers in the country. This will drive more professional to the public schools, and will also improve the quality of lessons in the schools.
The government must regulate the activities of private schools and monitor them against exploitations. The government must also subsidize the private schools in order to make its regulations more effective.
Government must establish more teacher training facilities around the country to train more teachers that will benefit both the government schools systems and the private schools.
The government must enforce its licensing of teachers if there is any such system of licensing.
The Government must establish county schools consolidated systems like the Monrovia Consolidated Schools System in every county to be run by the County Education Officer. Each county will have its own education office to manage its own funds and affairs. Under such a system, public senior high schools will pay tuitions to support the annual subsidies provided by the government. The County Education Officer will be responsible to register schools (both private and public) and supervise all educational activities in the county in regular consultations with the Ministry of Education.

In my sense, I believe that if a robust and effective system for education is put in place considering these recommendations and the need for Liberia to have a reputable position amongst the civilized nations of the world, illiteracy will be drastically reduced.