Wednesday, December 9, 2009

What Does The Legatum Prosperity Index Mean For Liberia?

A fortnight ago one of the world’s leading development and research institutes published what is called the Prosperity Index, a rating of nations on the basis of development and the livelihood of individuals.

The Legatum Institute surveyed 104 nations for the 2009 Prosperity Index. More African nations, as usual ranked among the lowest with Zimbabwe taking the 104th place. Interestingly, Africa’s peacekeeping hero and one of the continent’s power center, Nigeria, was ranked 98th. Above all, a critical look at the index tells that African countries have a lot to do to improve the satisfaction of their people in terms of physical and economic securities, fundamental freedom and rights, and basic social services to support standard and happy life.

Liberia was not part of the 104 nations surveyed. But the indicators used by the Legatum Institute, if applied to Liberia will rank the West African nation no farther from the lowest ten if not amongst the lowest countries on the index. The problem is that the impacts of reform and development policies have not reached the lives of the ordinary citizens.

The institute used nine specific areas identified as ‘building blocks of prosperity’. They include economic fundamentals, entrepreneurship and innovation, education, democratic institutions, governance, health, personal freedom, security, and social capital.

Does Liberia have high scores in these areas considering the livelihood of its ordinary citizens from rural to urban setting? How effective and efficient are the responses of government institutions to socio-economic and political issues in the country?

Recent reports on the country are encouraging on economic issues. Two reports this year predict higher economic growth. Before the Prosperity Index was launched the World Bank ranked Liberia as one of the best 10 countries for doing business in the world. Just after the Prosperity Index was published the IMF Director for Africa announced report of a study that predicts higher economic growth for Liberia in the tone of 7.53%.

However, there is a problem with local entrepreneurship as many Liberians doing business lack the capital and the capacity to engage in bigger businesses, and free their economy from foreign merchants. Liberian businesses are commonly described by the phrase ‘from –hand-to-mouth’ indicating that what is earned can only provide daily meal therefore no capital for saving or growth. The issue of innovation among local Liberians is discouraging because motivations are very low and gains are negligible.

Illiteracy and human resource deficit are major problems for Liberia. The country has less than 20% literacy rate, and currently there are no encouraging signs of growth in literacy because of the lack of educational institutions in most parts of the country. Observers comment that Liberia’s older generation is educated than its younger generation.
Good Governance and economic prosperity are threatened by corruption. There is currently no effective mechanism of deterrence for corruption in the country. All of the institutions of reform put in place to combat corruption are being defeated by the lack of political support, official shielding or cover-ups and massive defrauding.

What the Legatum Institute index will mean for Liberia is innumerable. While countries like Zimbabwe, Botswana, Nigeria, and Kenya know their status in terms of prosperity, Liberians need to know their status too, to set the stage for evaluation, reform and were necessary make adjustment for the better.

The reforms that are sweeping across postwar African countries are also visible in Liberia. Aid comes every year and from numerous sources since the return of the country to democratic civilian rule in 2006. It is important for the people of Liberia to know at what level their individual lives have gone considering the high level of aid coming to the country.

Personal freedom and security of the people come under threat daily. The judiciary is plagued with problems of corruption and lack of capacity. The services of the police do not reach most parts of the country, particularly the rural settings. Crimes such as rape and armed robbery are surging. There is also the issue of land dispute that threatens the general peace of the country.

Effective social services in education, health, electricity, water and public transportation are lacking in almost every part of the country. The national census conducted in 2008 put the poverty rate of the country at 68%. The government’s major policy response to poverty and the restoration of democratic governance and human rights to the country is articulated in its poverty reduction strategy called “Lift Liberia’, intended to be implemented in three years. Unfortunately, the first year was a failure as announced by the Government of Liberia.

Happiness and Prosperity are every individual’s goals in life. All of the Building Blocks of Prosperity as outlined by the Legatum Institute, if pursued decisively and sincerely, can solve Liberia’s political and socio-economic problems. The primary focus is placed on the individual citizen – his economic situation, his right to associate, participate in governance and to choose for himself, his security in the pursuit of his goals, and the opportunities at his disposal to advance himself like any other person in the world.

It is only government that can provide the necessary ambience for the attainment of the aforementioned by an individual. The programs articulated in Liberia’s PRS can be linked with all of the Legatum indicators, and if the PRS can be accepted as a collective national development agenda instead of a regime-based platform, then the prospects for national prosperity are higher and far beyond the intent of the regime that carved it. The Building Blocks of Prosperity must therefore be adopted locally as indicators for measuring the progress of our PRS with dual focus on advances made by individual citizens and the government.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Open Letter to the Chairman of the Mano River Union

H.E. Ellen Johnson Sirleaf
Chairman of the Mano River Union
President of the Republic of Liberia
Executive Mansion
Republic of Liberia

Ref: Policy Advice on the Crisis in Neighboring Guinea

Greetings of Peace!

This is my second time writing to you since you took over the leadership of our war-ravaged country. Over the years, I have made attempts to call your attention and the attentions of other decision makers, the citizenry, and the international community to major issues relevant to the socio-economic conditions of our people, the sustenance of the peace, the nurturing of our nascent democracy, and the overall development of our country. I have been speaking through my series entitled ‘Critical Issues of National Concern’ which is widely published by the Analyst Newspaper, the Public Agenda Newspaper, the Daily Observer and several online news outlets. In recent times, I have been opportune to secure a permanent column in the Nation Times Newspaper called ‘Cocorioko’ with the same aims, objectives, and mission of the series ‘Critical Issues of National Concern’.

As we hope to continue to live in peace and that those who wish to advocate for us and fight for freedom will continue to do so constructively, and this time through the democratic process and in the towns, rather than going to the bushes with the bullet, we have seen significant strides in the growth of democracy under your regime occasioned by the level of free speech, an ambience for free media operation, and the submission of the regime to criticisms from all ends. This progress is however, largely accredited to all of the democratic forces that rallied and agitated for change in this country.

In my last communication to you (see the July 30, 2007 of both the Daily Observer and Public Agenda newspapers) I addressed several policy issues regarding corruption and the need to go beyond policy writing to practical implementations in order to address local needs. That discussion was centered mostly on local issues.

Today, I am taking you off the shores to present a foreign case but with much local implications bordering on both the physical and economic securities of the people of Liberia and the entire Mano River Basin.

It is with great acknowledgment of your authority as a leader in the basin that I select you amongst four leaders to direct this note for immediate policy considerations and actions which if pursued decisively will avert what seems to be a threatening danger hanging over the innocent and impoverished people of Guinea, and the people of the Mano River Basin at large.

Guinea has been a shadow state for several years, largely due to the level of instability and violent military operations in its neighbors. Today Guinea is on the brink of completely falling into the vortex of violent conflict. As you may be aware, violent conflict in one country has the proclivity to spew out negative consequences on neighboring countries, and the international political system as a whole.

Liberia’s descent into a violent and internecine feud in the late 1980s was exploited by economic and political strongmen in the sub-region as a means of counterbalancing and getting through with parochial interests successfully. This was what led to the participation of multilateral actors in the Liberian civil war. As you may recall Madam Chairman, interests became complicated and the strategies of the warlords were to either support oppositions against regimes that checkmate their interests or to establish and unleash their own dissidents as a means of getting through with their objectives. Consequently, Sierra Leone’s weak state became a conflict-state, Guinea a shadow and fragile state, and Ivory Coast, the route of Liberia’s dissidents, lastly succumb.

This was ho w the Mano River Basin became polarized by instability, crimes, wars, economic decadence, and consequently, became an unnecessary burden on the international community. Liberia, Sierra Leone and Ivory Coast tasted full skill military wars; while Guinea remained unstable and fragile thereby making the then regime suspicious and overly autocratic.

The same ghost of violent crisis is haunting Guinea, and the lessons learnt from Liberia, Sierra Leone and Ivory Coast must be applied quickly to save the people of Guinea. You have the ball in your court as Chairman of the MRU to act, even though the Union has been a ‘sleeping watchman’ and ‘a toothless bulldog’ over the years, but you need to exert yourself beyond all to save the people of Guinea from dying.
My concern now is not whether the junta leaders participate in the ensuing elections or not. My concern is about calling for a concrete and forceful international action in favor of the innocent, unarmed and impoverished people whose freedom, right to happiness, and liberty are being suppressed by a politically unsophisticated and popularly rejected military junta.

Madam Chairman, may I now call your attention to several mistakes by the international community which they direct at regimes, but in no way threaten the livelihood of the elites and leaderships targeted. On numerous occasions, the international community as a means of punishing regimes imposes economic sanctions and travel bans on leaders. These leaders on the extreme use local resources for to consolidate their authority and manipulate systems at the expense of the people. They and their families live happily, and the purpose and intent of the sanctions become irrelevant. Adversely, the same people the international community intends to save suffer the worst.

The years of sanctions and bans on Zimbabwe did not affect the personal lives of politicians in the ruling class, but economically and socially relegated ordinary families, with girls as tender as 12 and 13 turning to prostitutes. The coup leaders in both Madagascar and Honduras who seized powers have local resources at their disposals which they manipulate for the survival of their families and to consolidate their local themselves against the intents of international sanctions against them.

In the same way sanctions will not directly affect the juntas in Guinea. The juntas must be persuaded to a deal with the oppositions and the civil society to restore calm immediately.

People are dying, and there are fears around the borders of war and terror. It is our people whose survival is being endangered by the situation in Guinea.
Liberia stands to suffer from all fronts if the appropriate actions are not taking to restore calm and reduce the chances of war in that country.

Madam Chairman of the MRU, you and I may recall that in the heat of the crises in Liberia, all of the nations in the basin became diplomatically hostile to each other. There were claims and counterclaims of support to insurgent groups in the basin to the extent that diplomats were expelled and leaders refusing to attend summits protesting the participation of other leaders.

In July of this year (2009), while preparing for an MRU heads of state summit in Guinea, similar thing occurred when the juntas claimed that dissidents were training in Foya, Lofa County (Liberia) to destabilized Guinea. This opened up a feud between the two countries and led to the cancellation of the planned MRU summit in Guinea due to your abrupt decision to boycott the meeting as Chairman. This decision came just after some members of your entourage had arrived in Guinea awaiting your departure.

The issue of how a conflict in one MRU country affects another or the entire sub-region needs not be overemphasized. Guinea now is a major exporter of local products to Liberia, and the security of traders between the two countries must be highly considered at this critical time.

Your positions on the situation since the self-catapulting of the purported National Council for Democracy and Development (NCDD) to power in Guinea have been highly laudable. Your call for an immediate international action must be supported by sufficient political will which you must rally with your colleagues in the basin and in ECOWAS to ensure the safety of the people.

May I now give several recommendations that you may need as Chairman of the MRU in the resolution of the political instability in Guinea.

It has been taught by history that emotional and power-drunk military leaders transform themselves easily into civilian leaders by stage-managing elections. We have an example in our records like many other African countries. You must therefore impress upon your colleagues that the NCDD must be encouraged to dialogue with the opposition as a means of establishing a government of National Unity closely monitored by the international community to pave the way for democratic rule. To believe that the NCDD will relinquish power and bar its members from contesting elections is inconceivable at this time considering Africa’s political history with the military. To further harass the NCDD as a means of encouraging civilian up-rising will give rise to mass civilian casualties or war as we have seen over the last few days. The most appropriate international action needed now is the facilitation of talks for a power-sharing government with a longer life span and the deferment of elections. Guinea needs an overall reform in its system of governance. There have been no effective constitutional authority and democratic system primarily due to the iron-fist style of the last regime that was very autocratic.

You must put, above everything, the safety and survival of the masses in Guinea. The CNDD must be warned against further civilian casualties, and must be given an immediate notice that it will one day account for its terror against our people.

Second, I also recommend that you build the most necessary security fortresses around the sub-region and warn your colleagues against harboring dissidents in their various countries. As Chairman of the Union, I admonish you to please consider the need for an MRU Peace and Security Council as a sub-regional body to preside over security issues and to promote peace initiatives in the basin.

Finally, as we all pray for and anticipate an immediate end to the crisis, it is prudent that we begin to liberalize immigration and cross-border trade policies so as to promote the spirit of integration in the basin as envisaged by the founders of the MRU.

May God Bless you and save Liberia and the Mano River Union.

Respectfully yours,

Ibrahim Al-bakri Nyei
Citizen of Liberia
+231 6265366

Thursday, October 1, 2009


Ibrahim Al-bakri Nyei

A wave of transformation is blowing across the world. It is blowing from all hemispheres, and even those who stand to detest it in support of traditional leadership systems, ironically accept some of its tenets. This wave is gradually sweeping across Africa, and Liberia is rising up to the moment to benefit from the goods that come with it. It is breaking down the wings of tyranny; disestablishing oligarchies shaking the foundations of imperial and autocratic rules. It is implanting the popular will of the people as the most appropriate means of governance. It is installing justice, and awakening common people to the light of government. The wave is building strong public service institutions and leading to the eradication of poverty. That wave is the wave of democracy.

The pace with which governance is changing across the world to fundamentally address the interest of the masses who are the true custodians of power and authority is highly attributed to the growth of democracy in the 21st century. Democracy, in simple terms, is a system of government in which the people rule either directly or indirectly through their elected representatives.

Liberia is a growing democracy with a representative form of government. The country went through decades of conflicts that resulted into a full-scale military and violent conflict that lasted for fourteen years.

Today the country is recovering and rising to the demands of good governance by instituting the rule of law and building effective institutions for adequate service delivery. The above are all aimed at consolidating democracy and avoiding the recurrence to violent conflicts. The country has a constitution that gives power to the people, guarantees free speech and association and the right to worship in any form. Notwithstanding, the constitution has several lapses that pose major challenges to the growth of democracy and the rising political and economy order of the century – globalization.

It is however clear from the constitution that the country theoretically supports democracy, but the problem lies in practicing it as a culture of life and governance. If these were done, it would be impossible for one to have imagined that the country would go to war.

Since the end of the civil war, with the election of the first postwar government, the country is gradually rebuilding its institutions and putting in place appropriate mechanism to ensure that the government is answerable to the people, and representative of their interests at all levels.

Some of the greatest opportunities available to the people of Liberia today, particularly activists, are the growth of a free media community and the open environment to register and operate pro-democracy or civil society movements. The country currently has over eighteen local newspapers and more than thirty radio stations nationwide. The amount of civil society organizations operating in the country is about four hundred.

The only alternative to the problems of governance and economic development in Africa is democracy. It is the only system that can hold our leaders accountable for their numerous excesses in the management of our resources. In Liberia, precepts of transparency and accountability are very strange concepts that we find difficulties in dealing with.

But there is much to be gained if we truly understand and comply with those principles. The first thing we need to do is to open up the process of choosing our leaders freely. If the people openly and freely elect their leaders, the leaders feel accountable to the people. On the contrary, when leaders are imposed on the people, they have the tendencies of imposing their wills against the general interest of the masses they claim to lead.

The second is the issue of transparency and accountability. These are two inseparable concepts of democracy that demand openness in transactions, and taking responsibility for actions. The applicability of the two is a means by which corruption, which has for centuries impeded growth and development in Liberia, will be minimized.

This time, I will name decentralization of power as the third important precept which the new dispensation demands for accelerating growth in poor and underdeveloped countries. The overly centralization of power in Africa which is historically rooted in the legacies of colonialism has proven to be a failed system. The need for the decentralization of power and the equitable distribution of resources cannot be overemphasized at this time.

Under a decentralized governing system where power is in the hands of the people, and authority closer to them, democracy will flourish. This system will also take development closer to the people and reduce poverty in so many ways. When local leaders are elected and made to control their own resources under a transparent and accountable system, the issue of service delivery becomes effective and efficient, thus economic and social development.

As stated earlier, Liberia is a growing democracy, with glaring prospects. For the first time, young Liberians have the opportunities to participate in all aspects of governance. Through international and locally made programs, youth employment and empowerment is growing in Liberia.

It is through these processes that the consciousness of the youth is awakening to government and public debates. The country currently has about 376 youth organizations with a majority of them having programs of human rights and democracy advocacy, a few are in the area community development while some focus on other areas such as health (HIV/AIDS), environmental affairs, education, etc, according to a Federation of Liberian Youth report.

The National Youth Policy drafted by the Federation of Liberian Youth with support from donors is a real means to achieving the real end of increasing and legally positioning the youths in public activities. The policy is yet to be passed into law by the legislature due to some clauses that conflict with the Constitution of Liberia.

At present, there are numerous opportunities available to youths in the country particularly when it comes to the issue of governance and civil society activism. Notwithstanding there are daunting challenges as well since the youth face problems of limited resources and the lack of technical and professional know-how in planning and implementing programs.

All of the political parties in the country have youth wing structures that are very powerful and critical in decision making due to their population, exuberance and ability to move around. The latest census conducted in Liberia (2008) puts the youth at 60 percent of the total population.

In 2005, the openness of the first postwar elections in Liberia saw democracy at work in Liberia. The support of the youth was highly craved by political parties. There were also several young persons under the age of 35 who contested for various seats in the legislature. There were about eight young persons elected to the legislature that year.

That was a defining moment for Liberia’s emergence from conflict to peace and from anarchy to democracy. The youths were very much significant to that process. Several youth organizations participated as monitors and observers while individual youths were employed by the National Election Commission as election workers.
That was not the end. Since the inauguration of the first post-war government youth participation in public affairs and government is increasing steadily. Several mainstream civil society organizations are headed by young people, and they presently represent the most independent structures for public advocacy and civic activism in the country.

Youths are no longer chastised as agents of violence as they were. Much is being done in the areas of community peace education and dialogue to promote non-violence approaches in resolving conflicts.

Some youth organizations are mostly engaged with organizing public debates on national issues and promoting initiatives of dialogues amongst young people. These activities are helping to strengthen the peace and nurturing our nascent democracy.
It is no doubt that the role of the youths in the current democratization of Liberia is highly remarkable and unprecedented. This needs to be supported and sustained. What the youths needs are empowerment in education and employment to be self-sufficient and independent in their campaigns. This call is not just for young people who are activists, but for the entire youthful population. If the young people are kept busy with productive activities, it is unlikely that they will be involved with lawlessness or negative activities in society.

It has been established that the young people were used as proxy warriors to represent the interests of warlords on battle fields during the country’s civil war. Today most of those young people have been abandoned, and their participation in the civil war has been widely attributed to poverty and ignorance and idleness. This future of this new generation must therefore be protected by every means necessary. Again, the most appropriate securities needed are education and economic empowerment.

The productive energy of every society is in the youthful population. The talents of the youths need to be tapped for society to utilize that productive energy in them. Currently, many agencies of government are employing young people to work in communities either as volunteer teachers or health workers as a means of helping local people to reducing poverty in their communities. These are all some of the good products of the emerging democratic order we have in the country.

Over two thousand students were recruited to work in public and private offices in the country between July and August of 2009 while some were assigned in various communities as community volunteers to help local citizens in the areas of civic education and local community development services.

Haven worked as activists for many years, mobilizing youths and animating communities, we are still contributing, this time our services have gone at the level of national government. For years, we work with regional organizations like the Mano River Union Youth Parliament through which we were used to carry peace messages on a caravan in the Mano River countries – Liberia, Guinea, and Sierra Leone. We have also been working with other local civic organizations helping to promote civic education in our country and promoting good governance principles.
At present I and four other university students are working with the Governance Commission on the Liberia Decentralization and Local Development Program. Through this program, we have been able to travel around the country, meet local leaders, and organize workshops and dialogues with local people. It is through this program that local leaders and citizens alike have appreciated the need for government to be decentralized so that local fiscal, administrative and political decisions can be taken by local leaders. This they believe will give them the opportunity to elect their own local leaders, take ownership of their own budget and development programs.
Our roles at the Governance Commission, like other youth volunteering on other programs have been very important to the successful promulgation and public awareness campaign of major government’s policies to people all over the country.

There is also a free media community in the country which one youth leader once described as a product of the democratic forces that agitated for change in the country. This has been a point of public debate as to whether the present ambience of free speech and expression are gains of the present government. But majority, mainly activists believe that it is a collective gain attributed to the entire population that went against tyranny and oppression. Today, youth groups, civil society actors, as well as opposition leaders use the press freely to speak out against social and political ills. The government on the other hand exercises much restrain and tolerance in upholding press freedom and freedom of speech and expression as a means of consolidating the peace and democracy we have today. It is of much interest to note that instead of using security agents to clamp down free speech and media institutions as it was done in the past, the government today uses the courts to try violators.

This is the level at which the wave of democratization is blowing on our shows with young people playing significant roles. Indeed, democracy is blowing a wind of change in Liberia and the youth are at the center of that change.

In The Cause of Democracy And Social Justice, The Pen Will Never Run Dry!

Tuesday, August 25, 2009



Ibrahim Al-bakri Nyei

What is emerging as a blow to development efforts initiated by this current leadership under President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, and also against the general aspirations of the people to move the country forward on a trajectory acceptable to advance human civilization and international standards is not only found in the widely public outcry against corruption in government. Every other government has suffered this in the history of our country. It is in a cycle of mistrust, distrust, lack of patriotism from within government, civil society, and the general citizenry.
Corruption at all levels of society, and the lack of patriotism and national consciousness in the citizenry are part of the forces militating against the collective desire for peace and economic growth in the country. And specifically, those are direct offenses against the current administration.

The driving force behind the development of any given society is the people who benefit from the outcomes of policies and projects. The same people must therefore be the ones to participate in policy formulation and at the same time initiating self-empowerment and local development programs that will ameliorate their collective wellbeing.

Like the political scientist Bruce Bueno de Mesquita argues, governments and political leaders only seek the welfare of their subjects because they want more opportunities to enjoy their stay in power, and to avoid being ousted; not because they are particularly interested in seeing their subjects live happily. Mesquita’s argument is a source of support to validate my premise that the people are the driving force behind their own development.

On July 1, 2009, US President Barack Obama spoke in Accra, Ghana and stated that the ‘future of Africa is up to Africans. That was a part of numerous popular calls to make us know that no one can solve our problems, not donors, and not governments operating through agents, for they do because they target an ultimate goal which is the unhindered access to and, the perpetuation of power.

It is therefore left with the ordinary people to catalyze their own development and growth. In Liberia today, the syndrome of dependency grows increasingly, despite the numerous civic education and community awareness programs, and local empowerment initiatives conducted by CSOs and NGOs in the country.

While resources are being galvanized and efforts exerted towards local empowerment it is saddened to witness the level of distrusts and complete carelessness of the local masses towards the plight of each others. In most instances, particularly in the control and regulation of prices, the government’s regulatory and control mechanisms initiated toward stabilizing prices are challenged by the citizens who are the targeted beneficiaries. The questions now are – what functions do we as citizens recognize in the government we elect; in whose interest does government intervene; and when do we recognize the role, power and authority of our government; it is only when we feel subdued by someone else then we begin to trust the government by referring to law enforcement officers? If so, then we are in a vicious circle of delusions and deceits.

For example, while the government arranged and announced transportation fares for various destinations in the city of Monrovia, commercial drivers went on a spree of defiance and extortion. This act was also supported by impatient passengers.
When the government announced new regulations and prices for petroleum products, petrol dealers went the other way in defiance. The same continues to happen on both the cement and rice markets where the criminal acts of sabotage through hoarding and re-bagging are very common.

The most recent and troubling event that blew a wave of shock among the citizenry and at the government is the ongoing tuition and extra-curricular fees crisis in private schools. Both the Poverty Reduction Strategy of the Government of Liberia and the 2008 National Census reported mass illiteracy rate in the country.
The government has however seen as a challenge, the reduction of illiteracy through building schools in local communities, monitoring private schools effectively, promoting enrollment, and encouraging more essentially- the enrollment of women. At the same time, there is a free and compulsory primary education program which has been on-going for a number of years. But this is limited to government primary schools. Some missionary schools have kindly joined the scheme.

In the wake of these developments, with the ensuing financial crisis, private schools, including some missionary schools, have launched a completely high level of profiteering scheme through exploitation and extortion by increasing tuition fees exorbitantly, imposing unnecessary extra charges, opening markets on campus for the sale of uniforms and books. Interestingly, this exploitative scheme is very bare and absurd for the mere fact that schools authorities will with no regard and understanding of measurement considering body size, weight and height, are charging the same for a set of uniform for every student. This is the most recent debate in the country since the month of August 2009.

There are many instances of such in the country, and no one seems to care from amongst us the citizens. Yet, we blame the government for most of these misfortunes.
Does the government pursue her self-made regulatory policies and framework to ensure compliance through monitoring and sanctioning when violators are caught red-handed? This is the question, and the answer is a capitalized, italicized and bolded ‘NO’.
The responses of government have usually been through the establishment of ‘Investigatory Commissions’ whose reports are sometimes treated in secret, discarded or trashed. There is the case of the Ad-Hoc Price Commission set to investigate the causes of the hike in prices of basic commodities. It is over one year the report of this commission or the status of the commission itself remains an issue of oral history; the case of the commission set to investigate a riot at the Free Port of Monrovia involving officials of the Liberia National Police on one hand and the Seaport police on the other hand; the case of the commission set to investigate the death of SSS of popularly known as ‘Silver J’ during a fight among top security heads. Then there is the case of the commission set to investigate the controversial email scandal that linked the presidency to alleged influence peddling and corruption.

Now the president has mandated an investigation into the tuition crisis in Liberian schools. But this investigation is taking place after the exploiters have succeeded, and the victims have already wiped their tears. Whatever the investigation produces will be for the future, which we hope will serve the popular interest of our poor and vulnerable people.

The President’s intervention is very late because the damage has been done. And it is an affront to her policies and development programs. What is needed now is to act decisively, but not to wait and suffer damages before acting. There is an urgent need to enforce policies and regulations and demand full compliance from all and sundry.

It is only the government that can curtail corruption in the private sector by enforcing regulations and setting up safety nests for the economy against the barbarity of economic vampires. But the problematic of fighting corruption in the private sector by the government is that the government pays lot of rents (rent is a favor or reward political leader give their supporter in return for their loyalty and support) to supporters and elitist cronies. Besides, there is a serious case of conflict-of-interest in the Liberian political and economic class setting. Those in Government are major entrepreneurs and investors. They are partners and shareholders in foreign investments that come to the country. They are most likely to soften and bend the rules in favor of their partners, and their supporters. At the end, the circle of corruption becomes wider, and the government takes all of the blames. This is why all eyes against corruption points at the government. And there is much reason to accept all. Then the government will cry that the people are not complying, and there are not enough resources to enforce laws and regulations. And the cycle goes around and round. Who then takes the blame?

Finally, it is no doubt that there are corruptible practices outside government on a general scale like it is in government itself. But the one in government must be publicly condemned because what is abused and corrupted represents popular ownership. The Government must therefore must therefore muster the courage and exercise the necessary will and authority to cleanse itself of corruption, the success of which may cut across.

Again, as government builds security to protect the weak citizens against the stronger ones, it must also protect the poor from being exploited by businesspeople whose urge of profiteering is as restive as the egregious and invading armies of Hitler. The people, too, must see themselves first at the ultimate beneficiaries of the actions of government, and begin to build trust for each other while reposing the soundest confidence in the sovereign authority. Then the vicious cycle of deceit and hypocrisy will compress. This is how credible and progressive societies are built.

I end this edition of the series with a call for local people empowerment in a system of power and administrative decentralization. There has been a very high level of dependency on central government. This in some way can be traced to the historical growth of the country, and the culture of politicking characterized by high degree of zero-sum politicking in which the winner takes all and the loser takes none. All of these are further complicated by the high centralization of power at the presidency and the cabinet.

When power and authority are left with a few who sent agents to represent them to the people, they (agents) become only answerable and accountable to those who sent them not those they are sent to serve. Thus development becomes very slow and sometimes completely absent. Conversely, when power and administrative decisions are in the hands of the people at all levels, they become more proactive in managing their own affairs locally. Thus transparency, accountability and the rule of law and development becomes effective and more productive.

-In The Cause of Democracy And Social Justice, The Pen Shall Never Run Dry-

Wednesday, August 12, 2009



Ibrahim Al-bakri Nyei

America’s most senior diplomat and apparently the most powerful voice in the international political system is expected to visit Liberia this week, specifically on Thursday August 13, 2009. The position of Secretary of State in the U.S Government automatically gives an individual the above description. Madam Hilary Rodham Clinton, with her experiences in U.S politics, gaining highlights first as First Lady of the United States, later as Senator, then lastly a contender for the presidency, is best suited for this post. Clinton came to the post under a liberal regime headed by the first Afro-American president of the United States of America whose lineage can be directly traced to an African village in Kenya, unlike millions of others who cannot find any trace of their ancestries on the Dark Continent.

Obama’s ascendancy to the U.S presidency increased the hopes of African leaders and their people for more aids in development, partnership, and foreign trade with the United States. But this is yet to be actualized since Obama is committed to supporting only pro-people and democratically functional governments something that is only sung in words in Africa, but not felt in practice.

In July Obama himself came to Africa for the second time, the first being in Northern Africa. This second visit which was widely publicized as Obama’s first visit to the least developed part of the continent – Sub-Saharan Africa – gave Ghana, an emerging democracy, sufficient applause among fifty-three other countries for its outstanding democratic and good governance credentials. In Ghana President Obama called for a partnership which he suggests “…must be grounded in mutual responsibility and mutual respect”.

Like Marcus Garvey, who preached philosophy of ‘Africa for the Africans’, so Africans must take full responsibilities of their own development, Obama said, “…Africa’s future is up to Africans”. This is indeed a challenge to African leaders and their peoples who are endowed with abundant resources in nature and human capital.

For Clinton, she is particularly in Africa to affirm a commitment by the Obama administration to tackle trouble spots from Somalia and Zimbabwe to the DR Congo and Liberia according to the State Department.

Naming Liberia as a ‘trouble spot’ with nations like Somalia, DR Congo, and Zimbabwe is a terrible label which undermines the strides made so far.

However, as she comes to Liberia, there must be something to collect and put in our basket as we struggle with a balance of about 1.9bn debt, mass poverty, and deplorable infrastructure. The controversial report of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission is also one of those things that have called the international community’s attention to our country again which the Clinton delegation may not ignore. Besides, we need to display something to prove to the Obama Administration that Liberia is not a trouble spot any longer.

As she roams the continent, four African leaders, including our own Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf have called for more partnership instead of increasing patronage. Clinton however does not have the will and power to seize the patronage style of relations. Again, it is how Africans govern themselves will determine whether they will live on patronage or be considered as potential partners in development.

In Kenya, where she began her tour of Africa she called on African’s to open borders to each others in trade. This is a demand that has been made for decades in Africa. Opening trade borders is now overdue, particularly in a continent that is highly dependent on foreign handouts. Opening borders to fellow Africans to promote trade and education as well as free movements of people is very necessary as we strive to integrate our economies and peoples. So Clinton’s call to Africans is highly laudable and Liberia as the oldest sovereign state on the continent must take the lead in liberalizing trade policies and limiting restrictions on goods and peoples of African origin.

Several other development issues were discussed in South Africa and the DR Congo. Emphases were placed on health issues mainly on HIV/AIDS in South Africa and in the DR Congo, the issue of women’s rights and violence against women was highly condemned, and the Kabila government was urged to find an end to the violence in the eastern region of the mineral rich country. In Angola the talks were highly centered on trade between the two countries in oil where she promised that US oil firms would give greater helps to other sectors of the Angolan economy.

It is our turn. We must take something. Since this administration took seat, several world leaders and business moguls have paid official visits here. What these visits signals are not in material gains, but the trooping of foreign leaders to our country radiates bright light on our peace and stability and also indicate that the future is brighter. In all, we hope that the gains from our visitors will translate properly to improving the lives of every citizen.

As for President Bush, he promised books and chairs. We don’t know what Obama may promise through Clinton. But like our president jointly said with her counterparts, we need more partnerships, and if the US still believes that we are what many call ‘America’s Stepchild’ then there must be a direct plan to rebuild Liberia like it was done to rebuild Europe through the Marshall Plan after World War Two.

In the Cause of Democracy and Social Justice, the Pen Shall Never Run Dry

Wednesday, July 15, 2009


Statement issued in Monrovia by Ibrahim Al-bakri Nyei ahead of the LINSU National Congress

For immediate release July 15, 2009

As we go through these experiences of reconciliation and transition to restore total peace and tranquility to our country, we have been shocked by a major situation which puts us at a crossroad to determine the next direction of our country. The findings and report released by the Truth and Reconciliation Commission have met serious challenges and have sparked controversial debates in the country. It is important that the students of Liberia and the academic community provide true direction and intellectual leadership on this issue.

The report released by the TRC has interestingly been interpreted with sentimental and parochial interests thereby making it difficult for the illiterate Liberians to determine what destiny the country is headed for. I therefore call on the youth and student community to thoroughly read and research all related documents of the TRC void of prejudices, interests and biases. This will help the ordinary Liberians who have always been the victims of misinformation, disinformation, and political crises in understanding the state of reconciliation and peace in our national patrimony.
Interestingly, this has come at a time when the students of Liberia under the banner of the Liberia National Student Union are heading for a national convention to elect new code of officers and carve plans and strategies for the student community. I also call on the Congress Preparatory Committee of the Liberia National Student Union to include the report of the TRC as an agenda item during the plenary of the National Congress so that the student community can deliberate the report and take a decisive position in the interest of national peace and unity.

For the first time over decades we as students of Liberia will be assembling in the provincial city of Gbarnga to attend the National Congress of the Liberian National Student Union. As we move towards this Congress, I recommend the following:
• That we assemble peacefully and ensure that all activities of the Congress be guided by the constitution of the Union and all of the Memorandum of Understandings that were signed to ensure the hosting of this Congress; and that we work to ensure that the Congress observe the tenets of democracy for a peaceful deliberation in the interest of the student community, yea the nation

• That the Ministry of Youth and Sports, the Ministry of Education and the National Elections Commission fully participate in this process, and monitor it to the end to ensure that all of the MOUs signed are implemented to the fullest. In the absence of that, there are great fears that the LINSU Congress may end like the Federation of Liberian Youth general assemblies that were disrupted in Gbarnga and Kakata in 2007

Finally, I want to reaffirm my support and full endorsement of the candidacy of M. Boakai Jaleiba, Jr. for the Presidency of the Liberian National Student Union. Mr. Jaleiba has for the past years been a consistent and result-focus student activist and leader whose astute advocacy and leadership has accrued immeasurable gains to the youth and student community.

LINSU needs a vibrant and progressive leadership that will advocate for the advancement of the students of Liberia and provide the necessary leadership for their future. We believe that Mr. Jaleiba is up to the task of providing such leadership. I therefore call on all progressive student activists and leaders to support and rally around Mr. Jaleiba and his team for the revitalization of LINSU, and a vibrant and decisive leadership for the student community.

Signed: Ibrahim Al-bakri Nyei
Department of Political Science
A.M.E. University
Camp Johnson Road



It has been almost a year now since the series Critical Issues of National Concern under my authorship appeared in the public domain as a contribution to the national recovery, reconciliation and reconstruction process. This is an attempt to spark debate and sharpen contradictions on issues affecting the country. Interestingly, the series have remained vocal, constructive, and unequivocal in its advocacy for social and economic justice, and fundamental changes necessary to remake a nation espousing democratic credentials. Towards that end, I have always attempted to call public attention and awaken mass consciousness on malpractices in society. Unlike those who chose to fight for their freedom of speech in the bush, most of us today, aware of the human toll and tragedy that attended such violence and uprisings in our country, have resolved to counter every form of injustice, or official misconduct that has the proclivity to undermine the democratic aspirations of our people. This is why the theme of the series has been ‘In the Cause of Democracy and Social Justice, The Pen Shall Never Dry’. And to rekindle this, I can affirm again, that no amount of intimidation or heat can dry out the ink.

While preparing series XIII of Critical Issues of National Concern, I stopped to collect papers from which I collect basic information and news in the country. In the Friday, June 12, 2009 edition of the Inquirer Newspaper, I came across a farrago of misinformation, loosed arguments, and a laughable diatribe prepared by the Research Department of the Central Bank of Liberia. This was, in the limited wisdom of their apparently vacant seat of thought, a reaction to the 12th edition of ‘Critical Issues of National Concern’. In that diatribe, the research department pretended to respond to the major debate, but in a rather confrontational style, with rudimentary and disjointed arguments far removed from the real debate. Whether this was an attempt to evade the issues and shy from the main debate or to have me distracted and placed in a trench of self defense, is left with the consciousness of the intelligentsia. But what is clear is that the duffers and greenhorn researchers at the Central Bank of Liberia could not provide any relevant information to disprove the arguments of edition 12, but chose to run after eavesdroppers around town seeking to know who the author is, and how can he be tracked down. And the result was a publication of frivolous and malodorous bravados on my person. The failure of the CBL Research Department to respond to the issues instead of my person validates the popular maxim that says ‘great minds discuss ideas, little minds discuss individuals…’

In their futile adventure to discredit the content of my argument and to lure the public to believing that there is no stealing going on at the CBL, three things were simultaneously happening: A consistent campaigner against corruption was on a hunger strike displaying placards before the CBL with the slogan ‘fifteen shares 1.1 million, while 2 million people sleep hungry’; public opinion was against the CBL, and on nearly all radio talk-shows, the victims of their gluttonous predatory behavior were calling for an immediate and unconditional change in management; the Deputy Governor of the Bank, apparently on the basis of personal principles red-carded herself. Where were the researchers, and what defense can they build on these issues. There is no reason to wonder why the CBL is a vulnerable institution in our financial and monetary system. The utter shortsightedness of its research department, displayed by its inability to regularly inform management and keep the public abreast with major issues reference to the economy, banking, and foreign exchange keeps the bank and the Liberian people in a complete shadowy cloud. Let it be emphasized that the research department of the CBL currently suffers chronic intellectual poverty. And it has now resolved to adopt propaganda and PR activities to secure a reputation.

In their rambunctious fallacy, they opined that the 12th edition of Critical Issues of National Concern was a sponsored article, and as if they are in possession of receipts, the intellectually-malnourished ‘researchers’ put the price of the publications at 300 USD, and with a baseless inquiry to know: ‘How could a student afford US$300 purchase of a center page in the Analyst newspaper which carried the publication for three successive days, June 8th -10th?’ I intend not to delve into the shallowness of a logic lacking epistemological foundations, but for the record let it be made clear that as a campaigner for social justice, I have been involved with the media for many years. Many newspapers have expressed interest in publishing my articles, and this has gone for about four years without paying a cent. In fact, my commentaries are regularly published by four papers: The Analyst, The Public Agenda, The Renaissance and The Daily Observer. Most editions of the series are sometimes repeated on the basis of the relevance and national frequency of the issues discussed. The 11th edition that discussed the issue of poverty in Liberia was carried in the Analyst for a week. And during the peak of the debate of the President’s appearance before the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, my commentary on that issue was published continuously in three papers with the Analyst carrying it for about four times.

In the wake of the resignation of the Deputy Governor of the CBL, it is saddened to note that one of the miscreants at the Research Department of the CBL dubbed as ‘Advisor’ has launched a serious public relations campaign in a bid to have himself sold as a possible replacement. This individual with no experience with a financial institution in the world, even a local ‘susu club’ was brought back to Liberia as a campaigner for the Liberty Party. He would later fall-out with the party and its leaders as a means of getting closer to those controlling the ‘gravy’. It is laughable and completely delusive that he would dream of becoming deputy governor. His only recorded and official job experience is that of a motorcycle rider for the DHL in the United States responsible to transport packages from door to door. He has been at the center of controversies and is only known for his role in undermining credible people through mediocrity and well organized hypocritical flatteries wherever he works. I will however not waste public space to say things that everyone knows him for.

This is also the man who held the pen to demean what have had much pubic applause. In their collective reaction, the ‘advisor’ to the research department pointlessly stated that I am yet to reach where they are. On the basis of sincerity and consistent principles, let it be made clear that no one wishes to reach a peak in society where he will use his position to rob his country and keep the suffering masses in agony of dispossession and intentional deprivation. Again, no one wishes to reach a peak of riding motorcycle for DHL in the United States where he will be dismissed for stealing customers’ packages.

Central to currency and foreign exchange regulation, the issue of national reserve is very important. This information is a chorus to high school students reading fundamentals of Economics. But what save an economy from running out of reserves are effective management and a transparent and accountable system that can properly control the banking system. In a situation where our national treasury suffers serious leakages at the Central Bank of Liberia, the issue of reserve remains a farce. This is because what should be calculated and declared as reserves continuously leaks in private pockets through ‘professional robbery’.

Finally, as we all strive to consolidate gains of peace made in our country, we look forward to more contextual debates in all aspect of our political and socio-economic existence. Let the Research Department of the CBL now begin to do ground-breaking research in the country to help address the monetary concerns of our war-torn economy, and should refrain from callous propaganda meant to defend acts of fraud and economic gangsterisms in their own ranks and files. This is very critical to our economy and the current Poverty Reduction Strategy. The next publication will take an in-depth analysis of the CBL Research Department with much emphasis on the credentials of each of the chaps perambulating as researchers.


Ibrahim Al-bakri Nyei

The persistent reports of financial improprieties at the nation’s regulatory bank (CENTRAL BANK) must claim the attention of President Sirleaf’s Administration.
This has become necessary given the negative consequences that may follow should the authorities fail to act decisively and promptly.

A year has gone in the implementation of the Poverty Reduction Strategy which is tied among other things to economic revitalization backed by a prudent fiscal management system in order to restore domestic as well as international credibility. It is only the irrational people or put it bluntly “mad” people that would invest their monies in a spoilt system.

The recent actions by the management of the Central Bank led by Mills Jones have caused lots of embarrassment to this Government and steps must be taken to save our country from such unacceptable negligence in our banking system. The fundamental question that was not addressed in a hastily arranged press conference by the Bank management was ‘why did the management ignore the Executive Order #3’ which specifies the procedures involve inter-banks transactions. The assertion by the Bank Governor that he personally detected the fraud in the transfer of over 1million Dollars from the Central Bank to ECOBANK is yet, another charade meant to save a badly managed situation.

This should not be the end of the story but rather a clue to a saga that continues to erode the credibility of Central Bank and if not nib bed in the bud could spread across our entire banking system. It is clear that what we have witnessed at the Central Bank in recent times is antithetical to what is being preached by the current Administration. Right from the onset, President Sirleaf declared war on corruption and numerous attempts by the President to discourage people from engaging in corrupt practices and to sanitize the system. Yet, it would appear that in the absence of stringent measures including instant dismissal, this menace would continue to pull us back into the ugly past that brought us to this point.

Indeed, the public is anxiously watching to see what steps would be taken against those whose actions or inaction have caused such humiliating situations for our principal financial institutions namely the Central Bank and the Ministry of Finance. In any case, the decision to charge the board with the responsibility to opine on the fate of the Deputy Governor is unnecessary since the case involved is criminal in nature, the matter be referred to the relevant security apparatus for proper investigation and then forward those that would be found culpable to court for trial and possible prosecution.

It may be necessary here to point out that any attempts to down play this criminally and deliberately executed plan, would send out a wrong signal that this Administration is paying a lip service to fighting corruption a charge that has been persistently denied by this Government. Would President Sirleaf act and now?

Monday, June 8, 2009



Ibrahim Al-bakri Nyei

There is nothing more relevant and imperative to ensuring transparency and accountability in any given economy than a strong and credible financial system under the supervisions of a policy driven institution. The current post-crisis economy of Liberia, ruined and poorly managed cannot progressively compete in the global economy in the absence of efficient financial institutions properly controlled by a central bank. In 1999, the National Bank of Liberia became the Central Bank of Liberia with broad functions and new managerial system with its purpose of directing the monetary policies of the Government of Liberia and playing supervisory role over financial institutions in the country.

As our country gradually recovers, the need for a strong economic system need not be overemphasized, and the driving forces behind a strong national economic system are the financial institutions in the private sector and the financial agencies and bureaus in the public sector including the Central Bank, the Ministry of Finance, Ministry of Planning and Ministry of Commerce. The public sector agencies need to be strengthened and efficient in order to be able to control the system. Unfortunately, it seems that the bureaucracies of the agencies of government in both the fiscal and monetary sectors are still weak despite the impressions of experts from abroad.
Amongst all of these institutions, the Central Bank seems to be the most vulnerable and ineffective agency in the public financial domain. The ineffectiveness of the Central Bank of Liberia to respond to burning fiscal and monetary issues and its inability to control and regulate the financial system is deepening the wounds of our fragile economy: the uncontrolled price system spurred by a fluctuating foreign exchange market and a dual currency situation that has made the local currency to depreciate in value; extensively, these conditions are gravely affecting the livelihoods of low income earners and widening the poverty pool in the country, amongst a plethora of problems the Central Bank faces.

Beside its inability to initiate and implement vibrant fiscal and monetary policies that will build hope in customers for commercial banks, the trend the Central Bank has taken and its weak system makes it difficult if not impossible for one to trust the local system for major financial transactions. Corruption cases are routinely reported from the Central Bank. One wonders as to whether the Central Bank top officials including its Governor and his deputy do care to follow the laid down procedures governing the nation’s cardinal banking institution.

The poor services at the regulatory bank coupled with the lack of internal control have exposed the entire country to criminal operatives who regularly infiltrate the system and rob the country of millions of dollars. The situation is so serious that it has the potential to undo whatever measures is being put in place to guard against corruption and by extension defeat the very purpose of President Sirleaf’s anti-corruption crusade.

It is interesting to note that the Central Bank is still performing functions of commercial bank by serving individuals through bank tellers. Civil Servant salaries and other local transactions should be left with commercial banks. It is widely believed that the numerous scandals at the Central Bank sometimes spring from its preoccupation with lot of local transactions which it seems incapable to control. When a civil servant attempts to take thirty minutes of his or her working time to encash a single salary cheque at the Central Bank, he or she is likely to spend not less than two hours in queues, or if unfortunate, spend the whole day without a result.

These and many more are sufficient to tell that the bank needs massive reforms in all of its operations. The recent transfer of over USD 1,000, 000 from the CBL to a local commercial bank, ECOBANK appears to be the tip of the iceberg or signs of maby more things to come, and this scandal based on the mystery associated with it, need to be handled thoroughly if we are to get to the bottom of the crime, the criminals and their networks. Our investigation so far has raised more questions than answers. All reports and analyses suggest that the transfer of that amount from the national treasury to a private account was well organized, calculated, and effectuated with ease, and also suggests that a single criminal with all the wisdoms of an evil-genius cannot singularly succeed in such a high level deal. This must be a big deal with big hands, and the forger of the president’s signature must have just been used as a crime-carrier. However it may be, it remains a mystery and a complicated case. It does not stop remaining a mystery, it shows or exposes the reckless abandon at the CBL management in handling our postwar banking system in a terrain with growing crime rates. It stretches to a length of telling how deep-seated is corruption in the present regime, and the way it will end will tell how effective or serious this regime is in mitigating corruption. The said amount which is over one million US dollars was just about to be distributed among four to five persons, while thousands of people died of hunger, preventable diseases, and at the same time while thousands of children remain out of school.

Three cardinal issues are central to the success of every post-conflict nation, namely, security, respect for human rights and a sound economic management system. Of all the three items mentioned, economic management is of paramount importance since the other two cannot become a reality in the absence of a credible banking control system which does not only ensure the allocation and the use of the state resources, but the one that would ensure that a proper mechanism is put into place to regulate the circulation and transfer of the state fund/resources for whatever purposes. Perhaps the presence of GEMAP and the other control measures put in place by this Administration attest to this.

Regrettably, however, the news emanating from the two principal financial and banking institutions, the CBL and the Ministry of Finance is less than satisfactory. Employees of the two institutions apparently take undue advantages of the recklessness of administrators and go ahead with duplicating and recycling checques, something that cost the country millions of dollars. There must be an established chain in these issues because cheques missing at the Ministry of Finance can be encashed at the Central Bank of Liberia, and checques encashed at the CBL usually come from the MOF. This syndicate has to be uncovered to save the public resources from landing in unauthorized private pockets. In the one million dollars case, had it not been for divine intervention and for professionals at the commercial bank in exposing crime of this magnitude, the issue of that huge sum of money would be left as history to be discussed at public lectures and the criminals left to parade the streets as witnessed here in the past, a situation the current regime claims to be against.

There are more than one hundred more questions to answer around this one million dollar transfer, but we will not delve into listing them. The mystery surrounding it goes beyond the understanding of financial and banking experts, but what is clear and irrefutable is that mass corruption exists at the top level of the CBL and the MOF. All transactions in credible institutions are well documented with all necessary details, and requests are never made without stated purposes. Sadly, the purported letter that ordered the transfer of the money from the CBL did not state the purpose for which the money was requested. What a travesty of banking management procedures. Moreover the failure of the CBL to institute a signature verification system to validate signatures in transactions is unfortunate and speaks of professional limitations and inadequacies at the level of management. The most glaring of all the inadequacies is to ignore the presidential directives which set the financial regulatory framework for the bank in Executive Order Number Three (NO. 3). Whether it was a clever attempt to rob the process by intentionally ignoring this framework is another spider story whose explanations can only be found in traditional African tales.

-In The Cause of Democracy and Social Justice, The Pen Shall Never Run Dry-

Wednesday, May 13, 2009


Ibrahim Al-bakri Nyei

Ethnicity is a critical point of rally in political situations, particularly in Africa where ethnic politics has dominated at the expense of nationalism. Liberian politics is a good tool for experimentation of the test of ethnicity in African politics to be used in any political laboratory. The first ethnic group to dominate the politics and socio-economy of Liberia was the minority group of settlers referred to as the Americo-Liberians. In the 1980s emerged a group of indigenous African tribes who succeeded in violently overthrowing the Americo-Liberian hegemony that ruled for over a century.

The new class consisting of indegionous tribes could not unite on a front of pursuing a real political and economic agenda or ideology that could direct political and economic actions for the country, but soon sank into feuds stirred by ethnic alignments. Finally, the leader of the juntas and his tribe succeeded in the fight and his ethnic group succeeded in taking control of the state. What came after were raids, and attempted genocides on rival tribes. The attempt by the NPFL to physically eliminate certain tribes in the early 1990S by a declared genocide tells the rest of the story.

Varying dimensions of ethnic politics are all over Africa: Rwanda saw the Hutu-Tutsi horror. South Africa remains governed by black African tribes with no prospects for white minorities. Sudan is nearly divided into two states of Arab North and Black African South. Liberia presents a different typology because Americo-Liberians since 1980 are becoming assimilated into African tribes that neighbor their settlements. Additionally, no tribe in Liberia is so dominant to secure an electoral victory independently.
Electoral processes in Liberia, like the last one conducted in 2005, can further give sufficient evidence of the ethnicization of Liberian politics. In 2005, every tribe that had a popular candidate foresaw a chance to win the presidency. Like the Bassa saw a president in Brumskine, The Kru did in Weah, the Vai in Sherman, the Gola in Johnson-Sirleaf. The Mandingo was a visible monkey-range resulting from inner conflicts and the declaration of a lifetime loyalty by one of its organizations for candidate Johnson-Sirleaf. But the Western Mandingo went the other way and supported their son, G.V. Kromah as was demonstrated by the overwhelming success of his party in Lofa County.

These tribal dimensions of politics in Africa lay the basis for which politicians hide behind ethnic groups in pursuing their hidden agendas like the Krahns and Mandingoes saw their liberators in the 1990s. Since the civil war ended, lessons from the politicization of tribes as thought by the war has been well learnt by other tribes. The only ethnic organization that committed its members to a political party, and in the name of all its kinsmen, was the National Mandingo Caucus. This declaration of lifetime loyalty by the Caucus to the candidate of the Unity Party, according to observers, portrayed a loathsome betrayal to those who led liberation struggles when the tribe was nearly wiped out by attempted genocide. This is not however the issue. This premise has been set to give a brief look at the essence of tribes in African politics vis-à-vis the adverse political consequences (mostly persecution) that follow when a tribe falls on the wrong side of the coin.

With what Liberian Mandingoes went through before reaching this far, their professed role in the 2005 elections that was widely criticized and seeing as an internally divided tribe, and the way forward as some local organizations like the elite-based Mandingo Caucus ( NMC) and the so-called grassroots-based Concerned Mandingo Society are working toward are central to this article.
It is with no doubt that this writer declares that the Liberian Mandingoes are most often criticized and reduced to non-citizen status by other Liberians. This has been experienced all over the country, and in many cases they are referred to as foreigners - Guineans or Malians. The driving force behind this resentment has not been established, but several factors may be assumed to be stirring such unfounded hatred against the Mandingo tribe in Liberia.
First, there is plausibility in concluding that Mandingoes in Liberia are despised for their uncompromising religious belief in Islam. The Mandingo tribe has demonstrated a strong belief and commitment to Islam, and with all the challenges of the society, it has been difficult for them to be converted to other faiths. Therefore, as Islam is resented by non-Muslims, the Mandingoes are as well resented. To some extent, some people in Liberia have come to make Islam synonymous with Mandingo, and that whosoever is a Muslim, is a Mandingo.

Second, another reason behind the public resentment of the Mandingo tribe could be on the basis of sheer jealousy as a result of the economic and commercial strides made by Mandingoes in the country. Currently there is a reported dominance of certain local trade industries by the Mandingoes – transportation, motor garage, petroleum industry, etc.
The above are just cited as sources of external hatred for the Mandingo community which are baseless and unfounded. This needs not to bother the community. What the community needs is to push forward in unison with purpose and objective.
The most important thing is the internal dispute and sometimes negative classifications that occur within the Mandingo community, and this is where the outsiders see as leakages in their attempts to demeaning the Mandingoes in Liberia: there is a complete disunity amongst Liberian Mandingoes, and the Mandingo ethnic group is the only ethnic group so far seeing in Liberia with a well established elite organization riding and collecting political olive branches using the name of the entire tribe.

The most controversial and what by chance made the National Mandingo Caucus popular in Liberia was its declaration of the vote of the Mandingoes for candidate Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf in the 2005 presidential elections. So many reactions have been written to that effect, and debates have opened and closed on that matter. But the mere fact that such declaration of support by a club of less than twenty men in the name of thousands of innocent people nursing souls of persecutions simply because of the same tribe was a social disservice and complete misrepresentation tantamount to an act of quisling. No one has a moral ground to question a club of less than twenty for their personal political opinions, but to be brave and use the name of an ethnic group in a country where political persecutions are targeted at tribes on the bases of their proximity to presidents or politicians was a mournful and dreadful political error.

Most of the arguments against the caucus at the time can now have sufficient evidence to prove that the few guys used the tribe as canon fodder to obtain positions and business contracts in the government of the candidate they supported. The following are true and indubitable: Most of them are holding positions in the current government; some of them have government contracts; the Caucus has not been heard since 2005; it has made no representation for the Mandingo community anywhere since they attained their objective of entering government and winning contracts; it cannot boast of a roster with fifty registered members.

If this had happened and the community remains loosely connected or its source of unification for purpose remains undefined, then there is a need to revitalize, reform, remake, or design some institutional mechanism that will give leadership direction to the entire Mandingo nation in the Liberian state. The Mandingo nation in Liberia stretches across the territorial landscape of the country. It is one of the few tribes that adapt and settle nearly in all parts of the country. This ubiquity of the tribe in the country which is primarily due to the meaningful trade and commercial activities of its members should be seen as a solid point of rally and strength, not as a point of division as it is unfortunately happening. It is regrettable to observe that people most often refer to others as Lofa Mandingo, Bong County Mandingo, Nimba Mandingo, Monrovia Mandingo, and sometimes Gbonyiaka or Konyianka.

On the other hand, there is a considerable number of people of Mandingo origin who are currently identified with other tribes like the Vai, the Gbandi, The Gio, Manos, Kpelle, etc. Some of these resulted from intermarriages. And some people who are by nature and origin Mandingo are currently identified with tribes in settlements where their grandparents settled during commercial or Islamic missionary activities. These people are most often seen differently by other Mandingoes and sometimes face serious identity crisis as a result of resentments in their settlements and even the tribe (Mandingo) of their origin. The Vais, for example, would refer to people in their settlements-The Kannehs, Nyeis, Kromahs, etc- as Mandingoes, and the Mandingoes would refer to them as Vai. The Massaley’s and Dukuly’s, like the ones from Gbarpolu and Bomi County would be called Mandingoes by the Kpelle, and the Mandingoes would call them Kpelles. There are many other cases of identity crisis for people who are originally of the Mandingo tribe.

These references are made in attempts to question the true identity of people. But what happens in the final analysis is that it further divides the community and opens spaces of distrusts amongst members of the Mandingo tribe.
The tribe is numerically large and economically potent to make significant impacts in the country that no one can question or detest. But making positive impacts can only be achievable with a untied community fronting a common cause. Descriptions in the forms of the regional or dialectical differences in the community are only tantamount to weakening the strength of the community.

I n the midst of these challenges, the current social and political discrepancies that exist in the community with two organizations claiming supremacy or control, further frustrate the prospects of uniting the Mandingo nation in Liberia despite its unique culture, religious commonality and economic viability of its members. These two organizations, the National Mandingo Caucus of Liberia (the elites) and the Concerned Mandingo Society of Liberia or COMASL (the so-called grassrooters) are struggling daily to terminate the existence of each other. The COMASL which has membership in various Mandingo dominated communities pays political loyalty to the perceived liberators of the Mandingoes, but it did so in 2005 by actions left with the discretion of its members, while the Caucus openly declared its loyalty to the candidate of the Unity Party (perceived to be a supporter of the movement that attempted a genocide against the Mandingoes). The dividends from politically auctioning the Mandingo community in 2005 is currently being enjoyed by the Caucus, and it is on the basis of its political propinquity to the status quo and the financial muscles of its members that the caucus is claiming absolute supremacy and it is now inviting all Mandingoes to a national convention with attempts to also merge the COMASL into the structure and objectives of its organization either overtly or covertly. COMASL on the other hand claims supremacy on the basis of its nearness to the people and ability to spontaneously mobilize the people at any given time.
The struggle between the two groups is creating more distrusts in the community as Caucus members and COMASL members are usually engaged in destructive criticisms, but none can actually boast of a meaningful social benefit to the people for the past two years. Does the community actually need them, or does the community really need an umbrella organization? The essence of their existence shall only be determined by the Mandingo community if indeed they are engaged into meaningful programs that yield benefits to the community, or if they actually provide true leadership to the people.
As the Caucus convention nears, it is prudent to find common grounds and allow for the emergence of more Mandingo organizations in the country that must compute with development activities, but not to compute for supremacy only to impress upon others that it has full control which lends it the authority to determine which political movement the Mandingo community should support when national elections nears.
We expect to see from all Mandingo organizations in the country efficient systems of governance, social service programs, cultural activities to unite the people, and empowerment programs that will help the community to continue making meaningful contributions to the development of the country.

The Gbarnga convention, as called by the National Mandingo Caucus, must not be left with the tradition of the caucus, but must see as a priority the need to serve the community with a sense and commitment void of cynicism and cronyism. This convention must be able to carve out ways of intervening and addressing some of the problems face by the Mandingo people in Liberia, including the looming land disputes, and if possible the mandate and function of the caucus must be clearly defined, so as to make public its function and essence of existence. In this way, one would easily know which organization is specialized in social services, development activities, cultural affairs, or political activism and mobilization in the community.

Finally we expect to sharpen lot of contradictions in Gbarnga, and to perforate some of the balloons of impression-making and impersonation. But above all, we hope that the Gbarnga convention will be successful and will provide for a new beginning.

See you in Gbarnga.

Friday, May 1, 2009



Ibrahim Al-bakri Nyei

In attempts to discuss chronic poverty and living standards in a country with abundant resources and favorable climate for agricultural activities – considerable amount of rainfall and sunshine - this edition of the series will assess the meaning of poverty in the Liberian context and its impacts in the rural and urban settings. Intermittently, the writer will attempt to provide recommendations through the analysis.

Finding suitable meaning to poverty in Liberia and its implications in both rural and urban communities will put us in better positions to determine why poverty exists in Liberia, who is poor, and why; and who is rich and how. At present, Liberia is one of the world’s poorest countries, and its people are positioned on a line of disadvantaged in measuring human and social developments – poor maternal health, high level of illiteracy, high level of teenage pregnancy, and prevalence of diseases (TB, Malaria, diarrhea, etc). The country also lags behind in the achievement of the UN Millennium Development goals. These developments, regularly blamed on the 14 year civil wars, are prevailing in a nation rich in rubber, timber, iron ore, gold and diamond, and a vast virgin forest, and a virgin tourism industry. This article does not dismiss the current progress and prospects that lie ahead; its focus is to discuss poverty as it is in Liberia. It is however optimistic that the nation will rise and surmount the problems posed by chronic poverty, but believes that this can only be achieved with a people –centered and visionary leadership.

According to Ted K. Bradshaw, poverty in its most general sense is the lack of necessities. On the basis of shared values of humanity, basic food, shelter, medical care, security and freedom are necessary for the growth and sustainability of an ideal life. When a family, like most Liberian families cannot send their children to school; cannot afford better meals, and lacks economic security and protection from threats and harms, that family is considered poor. Socially, families in such conditions stand the risks of being torn apart badly, and real family life with values become relatively absent. In most instances the children lose confidence in their parents thereby breeding terrible attitudes of indiscipline which soon become burdens on society at large. This is how crimes, illiteracy, prostitution, teenage pregnancy and many social ills are borne in Liberia. In 2005 Save The Children – UK reported that 90 percent of high school girls from a survey conducted in Monrovia survived on prostitution. Recent reports from Gbarpolu and Lofa counties indicate that teenage pregnancy is on the increase. The two counties are in rural Liberia that hosts 73 percent of the country’s poorest (Liberia PRS). If one is to interpret the facial expressions of school-going children in Liberia, it is psychosocially possible to discover that besides thinking of his/her lesson, a child may be worrying about getting a meal to have lunch, tuition and fees, after school meal, and other necessities parents fall short of providing.

Poverty in another term means the absence of development, and the absence of favorable alternatives to an individual in the pursuit of maintaining his human dignity through better living standards. I coined this definition after a tour of several poor communities in Monrovia and its suburbs where I saw the extent to which poverty had consumed the human dignity of people that up to present they use bushes, swamps and beaches for toilets, eat anywhere, and no one can distinguish children from elders because they are all competing for basic life needs at the same time. These people, I again realized were only victims of failed governance systems and poor management of resource that have made the abundant natural resources inaccessible to a small population that have not crossed 3.5 million for over 20 years.

Those communities, most of which are slums, need long term programs in microfinance assistance or grants to help individuals and families get involved with productive activities. And affirmative action through development programs are needed as well to provide for them sources of safe drinking water, good environment and accessible medical care. Sound and efficient local leadership systems that will give communities ownership and managerial control over their own resources will also take us steps forward in reducing poverty across the country.

Development reports continue to present the case of poverty as prevalent in rural Liberia, while this series does not intend to challenge that, its author believes that urban-based poverty is also prevalent and it is the worst because it is a major cause of crimes and prostitutions, and also political uprisings. Reports of poverty in Liberia must therefore present fair cases base on threat potential and security analyses.
Urban communities are sensitive to lot of things, including political situations, prices in commodities, and new technologies. While the rate of poverty relative to the affected communities threats people in varying ways, the tendency of urban-based poverty to get terrible reactions that destabilizes nations is very high. It is believed that most people migrate to urban areas due to the lack of viable economic activities, and efficient social services in the rural settlements.
Most of those that sometimes migrate to urban areas are young people in search of greener pastures or in pursuit of educational goals. With their resettlements in the urban areas without available jobs also lead to mass urban youth unemployment. The Government of Liberia and development institutions must therefore be sensitive to these facts. To avoid mass urban migration that is sometimes a cause of mass urban unemployment, Liberia needs to focus on a more pragmatic system of decentralizing economic and educational activities. The rural communities must be given better incentives to promote agricultural activities and employment. Better education and health services must also be extended to communities in rural Liberia.

Above all, government must ensure a transparent and equitable distribution of the natural resources across the landscape. Concentrating resources in one place with few people threatens peace and security everywhere in the country. Finally, it is prudent to reemphasize that addressing poverty in Liberia needs to be done with a pragmatic approach that must ensure the opening of rural communities. This can be done through affirmative action mainly for counties or communities that are mostly affected by poverty.
-In the Cause of Democracy and Social Justice, The Pen Shall Never Run Dry-

Wednesday, April 22, 2009


Ibrahim Al-bakri Nyei

Ethics in every profession requires nothing more than rules of integrity and procedures that ensure rights of clients and the responsibility of the practioners to the clients. Professionalism on duty can be simply described as the practical demonstration of ethics.
Media ethics stress among other things, confidentiality and the protection of source(s). It also emphasizes the rights of newsmakers in any case, and spurns privacy invasion. This is a rudimentary premise set for the common reader to understand the issues that sometimes appear to be complicated to a bedazzled state where editors and writers found canopying shields to vent out individual frustrations or rancor against other people, particularly when caught in self-made disputes.
It is so obvious that the current dispensation has allowed for much press freedom. This is a great victory for all activists of press freedom and democracy. What remains a major challenge in consolidating true democracy is to build in the press traits of ethical responsibilities and professionalisms that will ensure the rights of the readers and the rights of the newsmakers as well from the hordes of privacy invasions in today’s media that are mostly blown out of extreme emotions, senile ambitions, incompetence, and individual bitterness.
The current media landscape in Liberia can boast of at least 15 local dailies on the newsstand every working day. This unhindered presence of papers on the newsstand tells of the level of freedom media houses and practitioners enjoy in the country currently. This is however not the issue, because it was advocated for and it has been achieved.
The issue here now is how to have the free press sustained. Can it be done through arrogant reportage or ridiculous flippancies that bring no real news, but mere stories associated with news makers? Of course not. The element of prominence in news writing does not mean whatsoever a prominent person does is news. The issue must be newsworthy before the aspect of prominence is counted.
The above analysis of professionalism and ethics in news writing is attempted to make a decisive intervention in what seems to appear as a rancorous outburst against Information Minister Lawrence Bropleh by the Front Page Africa Website.
In several articles, the FPA had been overwhelmed with personal grief and emotions at the expense of the journalistic profession which among all of its requirements emphasizes objectivity and neutrality of a news writer. Over the years, the FPA has become a popular site for its groundbreaking news on corruption, e.g. The Email Scam. Whether the FPA has been right in entering or hacking into personal emails, a real example of cyber crime is a question. But that does not in any way radiate any commitment to the anti-corruption fight launched in this country, and it is also no indicator of good journalism, because a public relations media outlet for an overzealous “Accountant” harboring future political ambitions does not signal objectivity to the intelligentsia.
The FPA has been finally brought to the fore, and all skeletal bones of its operations as a propaganda machine of the politician wearing mask and garment of an “Accountant” is now made public as everyone sees its articles and the sides of the pendulum it swings particularly when the “Accountant’s” interests is known.
In its 2008 purported Cabinet grade sheet, the FPA in flagrant ignominy and audacious show of odium against Lawrence Bropleh, graded the venerated Information Minister an ‘F’ indicating, according to Liberian local schooling system, that the Information Minister and his Ministry ‘performed dismally’, and ‘did not achieve anything for the year’. This grading was however laughable because lot of professional Liberians working in the Cabinet who have made significant strides in reforming and accelerating our development process were also stab by the spineless saw of the FPA. What a sheer fallacy and frivolous show of ethical misconduct and professional crime? Was the Front Page on the Back Page when the MICAT was making significant gains in 2008 including programs of empowering and trainings for local journalists, or was its lenses covered with dusts when the MICAT in partnership with CSOs finalized and presented three draft media laws for enactment into law? Generally, can the FPA tell under whose administrative direction has the MICAT ever organized an uninterrupted weekly press briefing in this country, or under whose leadership has the MICAT ever been vibrant in all functions-information, culture and the newly explored virgin tourism industry? Though all empirical evidence can speak of the visionary leadership of Lawrence Bropleh that has transformed the MICAT, the FPA is yet to appreciate that. But Bropleh’s achievements or that of any other Liberian cannot be left to be measured by a mercenary media outlet, but by the Liberian people whose confidence Bropleh and his likes of level-headed and concerned citizens continue to feast with pride as a result of their invaluable service to the nation.
The most recent and controversial version of FPA’s smear campaigns against outstanding public servants is its futile attempt to distract Lawrence Bropleh from the speed at which he is moving with progress in the Information Ministry, and his information revolution that has now made Government widely open and visible like a public theatre. This move by the FPA, as can be described by the British media expert, James Shell, is nothing other than abusing the rights of press freedom ‘to fulfill illegal mercenary duties’.
In an article entitled “Did Bropleh Mislead ‘Investor’? Minister Denies Peddling, Misusing Sirleaf’s Name”, the FPA neglected all professional responsibilities in an attempt to destroy Lawrence Bropleh. With all clarities from the Minister, the FPA concluded by listing the Minister among those in the habit of influence peddling by using the President’s name. The article also refused to appreciate all the nationalistic steps taken by Bropleh to salvage the natural resources form the ‘profiteering-philanthropist’, but the FPA rather kept on frivolity expecting to be on the side of the truth by rallying unfounded grounds that would at all cost implicate the Minister. Any objective analysis of the interaction between the Minister and the Belgian trader under the guise of a ‘philanthropist’ cannot indict Bropleh for influence peddling as the FPA would want people to believe. It takes a dedicated public servant to take the position Bropleh took during his interactions with the Belgian trader.
In this propaganda piece, the FPA committed sixty-five grammatical errors ranging from poor sentence construction to unparallel flow of ideas and from careless mechanics to serious conflicts between the subjects and the verbs. Seven illogical arguments and numerous breaches of professional ethics from the article were also discovered. The FPA however does not care as to whether the intelligentsia will form an opinion against this article considering its bold-faced absurdities, poor construction, ill-fated logic and disjointed arguments. What the FPA cares for is to tarnish, and discredit people of distinguishable records who fail to succumb to their overtures. What a futile adventure? This cannot in any way discourage or minimize the enthusiasm of Lawrence Bropleh nor can it have him distracted from his services to this country.
The next part of this article will expose the source of FPA’s support or the station that is fueling it propaganda machine against hardworking Liberians.