Wednesday, November 25, 2015

How China fits in the Industrialization Drive of Liberia

By Amjad M. Nyei

The recent State visit (November 1-5, 2015) of President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf to the Peoples’ Republic of China (PRC) epitomized and reaffirmed
the depth and scope of the strong bilateral relationship between Liberia and China. During that visit both President Sirleaf and her Chinese counterpart Chairman Xi Jin Ping reaffirmed their commitments and mutual support to advancing the national development agenda of Liberia. China was once again assured that Liberia firmly believes and remains committed to the “One China Policy”.

To further seal the two countries’ commitment to the already solid relationship, three major agreements were signed- Economic and Technical Cooperation Agreement for bilateral aid worth approximately $ USD47.35 million, Agreement on Mutual Visa Exemption for Diplomatic Passport Holders from both Countries and Agreement on Maritime Program and Ship Registry.

A very important note taken from the meeting between the two leaders is President Sirleaf’s clarion call to China for the latter’s assistance in economic diversification and value addition to Liberia two main exports; namely iron ore and rubber. The Post Ebola Economic and Recovery Plan of Liberia focuses on, education, agriculture and infrastructure. The remaining 2 years of the administration could make a significant difference with its plan for industrialization and a manufacturing base economy with help from our dear and great friend China.

To spur industrialization- a key factor to sustain economy in poor countries- is to develop infrastructure including electricity and road network. Like most African countries, Liberia is poorly under-industrialized because of weak infrastructure and this drives up the cost of making things. The African Development Bank found in 2010 that electricity, a large cost for most manufacturers cost three times more on average in Africa than it does in South Asia.

As the engagement between Liberia and China on jump-starting industrialization begins, evidenced by the proposal from Wuhan Steel, a majority owner in China Union Investment Ltd, equal committed cooperation with China and other developing partners must be payed to electrifying the whole country.

Certainly China is sincerely committed to the development agenda of Liberia through its tangible development assistance programs. However, Liberia should be aware of this famous and instructive quote from the great Chinese philosopher, Confucius: “Rather teach a man to fish than give him fish” (shou ren yi yu bu ru yi yu). China’s economy itself is struggling as numerous jobs are already threatened due poor growth. It has been predicted that China’s growth rate for this year would go below the normal 6.5%. This is not very pleasant news for countries receiving Chinese aid and investments, as their economies could equally suffer the shock. Therefore learning how to fish rather than receiving fish is certainly a way forward for Liberia.

The effect of the ‘Dutch Disease’ primarily because of the heavy reliance on iron ore and rubber exports continue to undermine other important sectors, and this is proving perniciously terrible to the Liberian economy. Liberia’s Finance and Development Planning Minister Amara Konneh is quoted: “Liberia is struggling with the two back bones of its economy- iron ore and rubber. The commodities price shock has affected these two commodities to the extent that if we do not take action now to work with the rubber and mining sectors, the economy will have a problem”. This caution from the country’s economic architect points to the need of diverting economic dependency from raw material export to opening up other sector such as industrialization and if you will, large scale agriculture for domestic and international markets. Liberia already has great potential in crop farming because of the climate and fertile soil.

Ethiopia and South Africa for example have strategically managed their separate cooperation with China in a fashion that has accommodated out sourcing from China. Chinese factories- shoes and textile have set up manufacturing bases in Ethiopia which are attending to markets in Africa and the other nearby regions. Addis Ababa, dubbed historically as the “diplomatic capital” of Africa continues to benefit from Chinese investments in numerous sectors, including real estate and construction. Africa has also benefitted as a whole by the construction of a new and giant edifice of the African Union headquarters by the Chinese. China’s generosity seems endless and is changing the face of Africa. In September this year, Ethiopia inaugurated a light rail metro in its capital with 85% of the $USD 475 million used for the project being secured from the Export-Import Bank of China. Not surprisingly, however, South Africa being a BRICS member state is tapping on its relations with China for value addition in the former’s mining sector, notably in steel processing.

Meanwhile, the future of Liberia-China relation remains promising and very cordial for a win-win scenario for both countries. The move toward industrialization and economic diversification is imperative to Post Ebola recovery of Liberia, and China stands as an indispensable partner to such industrialization given its current role in the Liberian economy.

What Mary Broh Does Not Get — The Case of Monrovia and its Beautification

By Ivan Forleh

The name Mary Broh has resurfaced in Monrovia. Wherever this lady passes, some residents clamor in total frustration while others salute her as she enforces her mandate to clean Monrovia —
what should be a function of a city mayor.

Broh’s task force, requested by President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, often leaves homes in total ruins, hopes broken and families homeless. Is the work of the task force worth that much, to the detriment of these families?

Monrovia is home to about 1.1 million inhabitants. This number includes a jobless and youthful population, a growing poor class, and an uneven distribution of wealth among other things. This reality can be seen from some of the slum communities of West Point and New Kru Town, where more than 80% of the people are living with just a dollar per day — as we say, hand to mouth.

With little or nowhere to settle, these people have over time and out of choice, built shacks that would seem barely habitable, while striving to provide for their families by selling on the sidewalks of streets, and in traffic, all in a rather collapsed economic system. Since the beginning of the civil wars, this has remained the case, causing the influx of debris which often results in massive floods due to inadequate drainage systems.

It is in this regard, that the “General” – and now Hurricane Broh – comes into action, smashing market stalls, demolishing shacks, destroying properties and ruining lives. But is this right?

Mary Broh is missing something here, and if the project is not terminated, it could end up as a fantasy and a government-sponsored machine simply for the destruction of homes.

Random demolition of family homes and a few community clean-up campaigns are not effective tools for cleaning an entire city. While one must be keen to realize that some of Broh’s efforts have yielded basic results, we must also realize that the continuously littered and flooded streets of Monrovia are evidence of a failed system.

Broh’s draconian methods show a total disregard for human rights and dignity as homeowners are whipped mercilessly for disobeying her.

Perhaps what Broh and the Government of Liberia must come to realize is that in a struggling economy, the slums are inhabited by people who cannot afford an air-conditioned apartment that is fully fenced and electrified – some of the many amenities enjoyed by government officials – and as such, they must not be regarded as garbage.

Even after a new government is elected in 2017, these slum communities will remain as they are. Monrovia will still be cluttered in debris.

So the question remains: will Mary Broh continue to sweep Monrovia, demolish shacks, destroy market stalls without contemplating a systematic solution to the massive growth of slum communities and inhabitants who have no other means for survival? Is this entire project a gimmick?

One would not take too long to realize that Broh’s actions follow the adage of “doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results.”

Serious people would always seek rational alternatives to persisting problems, a change of the non-workable way of doing things to a rather realistic and systems-based policy that would identify the cause and provide a solution.

For a city with electricity and safe drinking water available to less than 5% of its inhabitants, a structurally challenged road network, and an inadequate drainage system, the problems do not emanate from poor people who are victims of institutional failure and are found in the trappings of a collapsed economy.

These random initiatives to break down homes and market stalls and cripple sources of income are burdens borne more by families. Does Broh under the mandate of the Government compensate these people for their property? Is there temporary housing available for people whose homes are demolished?

When the family — whether small, poor, rich or strong — is divided and destroyed, our communities are soon broken down. Either we have families, the nuclei of the society, strengthened or we don’t have a country at all.

Instead of bringing in heavy equipment into communities, a supported decentralized community leadership can prove better at preserving and cleaning the environment.

Even in cases of demolition of shacks situated in alleys and street corners, the families must be compensated, treated with dignity and respect, and given due notice to vacate the area within a reasonable period.

Many would argue that Broh’s actions are appropriate. To such proponents: this is not about whether one isn’t futuristic or looking out of the box to see what Monrovia would become as a result of Hurricane Broh’s project. It is rather the failure of it all.

Modern democracies have shown stories of success when the central Government is supported from the bottom to the top.

The creation of community-supported task forces, which could provide employment for vulnerable youths, could beautify Monrovia’s streets and communities.

What claimed the attention of many Liberians recently is FrontPage Africa’s November 12 publication that read in boldfaced ‘WHIPPING MARY,’ MARY BROH SPECIAL TASK FORCE PARADES ‘CHILD PROSTITUTES.’ With total shock and dismay, many serious and conscious Liberians stood for what is right by demonizing such criminal act, which was a total disregard for human dignity and a gross violation of the right of children.

Liberia has long passed the days of culturally-inspired justice or corporal punishments. In the case of this “General,” when misuse or abuse of power is not subject to continual challenge and questioning, it eventually becomes the new normal.

Not only has Broh under the appointment of President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf violated the rights of these poor girls — who evidently are forced into what they do because of institutional failure — but she has also violated their privacy, pride, and dignity.

Will 50 lashes on a vulnerable young girl take away the apparent hardship and sometimes unthinkable things she has to go through to find a meal every day? One must be under an illusion to think so.

Perhaps what the Government and Mary Broh must recognize are the tremendous difficulties and frustrations these young girls have and feel and that with no provision for their protection and welfare, they are left with few choices to survive.

Such disregard for the rights and welfare of these girls ironically occurred under a woman president.

Even after the nightmare of Ebola, Broh does not realize that these demolished shacks, destroyed market stalls, and lost hope lost are the only possessions of many people facing extreme poverty.

Until this regime or the one after begins to think of a systematic way out, Monrovia will still be as it was nearly 12 years ago and West Point, the largest slum community, will lie there without any opportunity for advancement.

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Of What Use Is A Beautiful Monrovia to Poor Residents?

Ibrahim Al-bakri Nyei

A middle-aged woman with a little market stalls in the Jallah Town community in Monrovia wailed as the ‘General’ of the Sirleaf administration supported by armed men broke down her market stall. She wept profusely and her greatest concern was ‘how will I sell tomorrow to feed my children’. But that question is of no issue to the ‘General’. From her cries, one could tell she is amongst about 70% of Liberians living on less than a dollar a day. Her survival is dependent on an informal and micro-business popularly known in Liberia as ‘from-hand-to-mouth’. Yet, she is hopeful every day that she will survive, with or without government.

“Let’s go everybody, we have more to do, we will force these people to be clean”, the ‘General’ called out to her men. This is all in the name of beautifying the city.

But In his last Pan African Post Card, the late Secretary General of the Pan African Movement, Dr. Tajudeen Abdul-Raheem challenged this beautification campaign which is replete across Africa. He wrote: “In the name of ridding cities of illegal constructions, returning to the original city plans and ‘beautifying’ our cities, City councils and governments at all levels are creating more poverty ruining lifelong savings accumulated through extreme sacrifice and hard work. Of what use is a ‘beautiful city’ peopled by citizens who have lost their livelihoods? Would they appreciate the beauty?”

Breaking market stalls in the usual violent and unprovoked manner does not in any way hold the solution to a clean and beautiful city. I, like all other Liberians, including the General and the Commander-in-Chief (CIC), share the same dream of seeing Monrovia a beautiful, flourishing and livable city. But I doubt if the ‘General’ and the CIC have any idea on making Monrovia a beautiful, flourishing and livable city; because it is ten years now and they are leaving Monrovia as they met it in 2006 without basic services. Thanks however to foreign merchants who are putting up some sky rises in the Sinkor area, even though those merchants have to procure their own electricity, water, and sewage systems in the heart of the city. Less than 2% of Liberians have access to these basic services. Liberians would appreciate more were the CIC to direct her energy to building a system of participatory governance through which basic services are delivered, than deploying a ‘General’ to beautify a city with hungry and dismally underserved inhabitants.

If the ‘General’ and the CIC could take a retrospect of what they have done in the last ten years about the city, they would quickly realize that they have done the same thing – an overzealous and uncontrolled exercise of power over weak and poor people - over and over and the results have not changed; and they are likely to do the same in the next two years, unless they listen to the rest of us who think differently, and, indeed, progressively. But Albert Einstein had a word that properly describes ‘the act of doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results’.

It is important that they ask themselves this question: Why do we have to do the same thing every year, yet the problem persists? I really won’t venture into answering that question, but would rather go into what they have not done, and that is where the solution lies. They have not mobilized the people into collective actions, and they do not work with the communities in their work. Critical to making Monrovia clean, beautiful and prosperous is mobilizing the people into collective actions or self-governance structures. All previous governments and the current one has failed to work with local people in solving local problems. The only disappointment is that this current regime has not learned from the failures of the past regimes, or perhaps it’s deliberately ignoring the lessons.

From all indications, the hegemonic and imperial state has only used raw power to get things done in our communities and in most cases its agents abused power particularly when it is in the wrong hands – like Chucky Taylor, or like the current ‘General’. They see the local people, mostly poor, weak and vulnerable people as lazy and dirty. However, the poor social state of those people and the products of their interactions with their own communities are the outcomes of the incompetence of their leaders, for example, the former Mayor of Monrovia, the fierce ‘General’. For the ‘General’ and her likes, they must leave their offices and clean the environment. They don’t believe that the state or the government must work along with the communities through local structures to produce peaceful and desirable local outcomes. But their perception of local people is not only wrong and selfish; it is equally an attempt at creating false impressions and inflicting personalities beyond their natural scopes.
Our communities have survived far better than the state which has fallen in numerous instances. The recent triumph of the communities over the Ebola virus is an example of strong local organizations in Liberia. Communities were succeeding while state institutions like the National Oil Company were collapsing as a result of poor leadership and unforgivable thievery.

Therefore, beautifying Monrovia is not just about breaking stalls and shacks; it is more about organizing and giving local institutions more power for self-governance particularly in the areas of waste management and sanitation. But bigger than that is about organizing the state properly to deliver basic services, particularly in the areas of water and sanitation and other programs in poverty reduction. This should not be too much to achieve in ten years with well-intentioned leadership.

The number of international and domestic support and increased in foreign direct investment (FDI) had all provided enormous resources and a propitious environment for transforming the lives of the poor people. Unfortunately, as the sun sets on the CIC and the “General’, they are yet to point to anything meaningful they have done about transforming the lives of the people whose living conditions will continue to dictate the outlook of the city of Monrovia.

Now without proper sanitation services, and in the midst of serious poverty, they still think that they can make Monrovia look like an elite city, but as Taju would ask ‘Of what use is a ‘beautiful city’ peopled by citizens who have lost their livelihoods’ - like the poor woman in Jallah Town?

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

Friday, October 30, 2015

Oration Delivered in observance of the 2015 National Youth Day under the theme: “Promoting Community Development through Peacebuilding and Sexual and Reproductive Health Education”

Ibrahim Al-bakri Nyei, National Orator 2015 National Youth Day

The Minister of Youth and Sports, Hon. Lenn Eugene Nagbe; Deputy Minister for Youth Development, Hon. Saa Charles N’Tow; Deputy Minister for Sports Hon. Henry Younton, Assistant Minister, Hon. Lance Gbayon; Mr. Augustine Lamin of the Ministry of National Defense; other officials of government; Mr. Augustine Tamba, President of the Federation of Liberian Youth and Officials of the FLY and other youth and student organizations
Members of Youth Organizations from across the country
Distinguished ladies and gentlemen

It is with profound gratitude and humility that I accepted to speak to you today on this special occasion marking the celebration of the National Youth Day in the year 2015.

It was exactly 46 years ago in 1969 when the Liberian government chose to celebrate the lives and contributions of the young people to the progress and development of this country by setting aside this day today – October 29 – as National Youth Day. This was not meant to be a day for just pomp and pageantry as important as that maybe to us young people.

Largely, this day is a day of recognition of the enormous contributions of the young people to the political, economic and social development of this country; it is meant to be a day of reflection on the challenges faced by young people in the ordinary business of life, and the progress made by society to transform young people into productive citizens in the course of the transition to adulthood; it is meant to be a day of renewal for both government and society to renew their commitments to the development of the young people of Liberia; it is meant to be a day of inspiration and motivation for young people to feel challenged, pursue their life goals and aspire for greater roles in society; it is meant to be a day of remembrance of the contributions of great and promising young men and women whose innocence were stolen, and their lives lost to the avoidable tragedies that befell this country during the civil war and during the recent outbreak of the Ebola virus disease; and finally it is meant to be a day of celebration of the gallantry, courage, heroism and enormous sacrifices of young people to the peace and development of this country, majority of whom have made it to become statesmen and women in a terrain bereft of opportunities for social progress.

The youth of Liberia are tied in the greater struggle of the youth in other African countries who are struggling to survive and fighting economic injustice in their countries. This collective struggle was shown in the course of the last two weeks when students in Liberia and South Africa protested against increment in university tuition fees at the same time without planning and organizing together. While both seem a coincident of events, the timing of the protests epitomized the commonality of the struggles of the mass majority the African youths and their continuous demand for socio-economic opportunities.

The young people of Liberia have the same aspirations as the young people in the Middle East whose vision for peace and stability in their homelands have been blurred and disrupted by the arrogance of superpower diplomacy. This dream for peace and stability shared by young people everywhere are the concerns of global humanity, and Liberian youths stand tall for their roles in promoting peace and stability in their homeland.

Today while we observe this day in Liberia, lest we forget that thousands of young Africans are drowning in the Mediterranean Sea on a journey for a perceived good life and better future in Europe. Majority of them are escaping poverty, injustice, and conflict. Liberian youths have had their share of these vices and continue to be victims of state failure occasioned by poor service delivery as the present weakness and shambles of the health care and education systems show. Liberian youth continue to be victims of an unjust society where young women are raped, abused and assaulted with limited attempts by the state to ensure justice particularly in cases involving affluent families and elites. Mass plunder and wastage of state resources as was the recent case at the National Oil Company of Liberia (NOCAL) continue to undermine the capacity of the state to invest in the young people. These are factors that are driving young Africans including Liberians away from their homelands. It is unfortunate that African governments cannot see the mass exodus of their young people as a loss of a vital resource needed for the development and progress of their countries.

Therefore ladies and gentlemen, as we observe the day today we should consider all of the elements above and begin to ask ourselves questions like: ‘where are we as a society in respect to providing opportunities for the social progress of the youths of this country’? This is the question we should be asking ourselves on every October 29 in Liberia. At the heart of this question are the growing demand for education – both academic and vocational; the need for industrialization and economic development to accelerate job creation; the need for the provision of basic health services for young people; and the need for security and safety of the youthful population. I am talking here about 64% of the total population of this country.

The theme of the occasion today -“Promoting Community Development through Peacebuilding and Sexual and Reproductive Health Education” - is very critical to the prevailing events in our dear country. We are at a critical crossroad in our democratic transition and this has significant bearings on the peace building and state building agenda. Community development is the foundation of national development, because a nation is an amalgam of several communities coming together in their diversities, with different resources, different aspirations and needs, weaknesses and strength, but with a common goal of uniting all of the differences and similarities under a common political sovereignty that secures and protects their rights, mediate their differences and forge a common relationship and identity. Liberia therefore is a nation that represents our singular identity and political sovereignty even though we are from different communities. Contrary to the saying of the great Samora Machel that ‘for the nation to live the tribe must die’ I would say here today that for our nation Liberia to survive, our communities that also represent tribes in most respects must be strengthened and empowered.

Community development is not an abstract concept. It is practical and the key to community development is a governance arrangement that entrusts power, wealth and authority to local people through a system of decentralized and participatory governance. Through such a system, communities are capable of delivering basic services and by extension, the state makes it easier for people to access basic services in water, health care, education, sanitation and security. Young people are the principal users of these services, particularly in a country were majority of the citizens are young and below the age of 35. If given the opportunity young people in Liberia can be the key producers of these services. Key producers are community leaders, employers and employees of local businesses and officials of government. Community development therefore is tied into youth development and peace-building. I am trying to construct this nexus properly in light of our theme for today and this nexus is very instructive that government must empower communities to deliver services for the advancement of the youth who are the ultimate custodians of the peace.

In a democracy, the state works with the communities through local governments structures, and ensures that development programs originate from within the communities. This practice is at times being mimicked in Liberia, but in most cases at the discretion of a sitting government official, but not as a matter of public policy or legal requirement. The failure to liaise with communities have made us to ignore a vital resource needed for social development, and in all of our crises we have seen how young people in communities have led self-governance initiatives that have made communities to survive during the civil war and during the Ebola outbreak. During the civil war, youth in communities mobilized to establish transport services taking the sick to hospitals in wheel barrows and hammocks, provided health care services, ran recreational programs and in some cases where communities were threatened by armed bands, the youths formed vigilante organizations to protect their towns, villages and communities.

Again the failure to consult with communities has led to situations of mistrust between local communities and government. This mistrust symbolizes a broken relationship between the people and their government. We have learned lots of lessons from our two recent crises which I continue to refer to – the civil war and the Ebola epidemic. Both events were critical junctures in the contemporary history of our country and the lessons from both events provide us with opportunities for doing things differently, particularly in rethinking the idea of this hegemonic and powerful centralized state that has proven ineffective, inefficient and in some cases dysfunctional thereby weakening the bond between the communities and the state, and flaring despair amongst the citizen. It was this lack of proper relationship between the state and the people and the hopelessness that set in that led to the unfortunate incident of August 20, 2014 in West Point when the government reintroduced armed violence in the streets against a peaceful assembly of citizens resisting the militarization of a health crisis. The victims of this incident of August 20 were all young people who have gathered and mobilized their people in conscious resistance and protest against a state that they thought was failing them due to the trends of event then. A young man named Shaki Kamara was murdered and today he is the symbol of that courage and resistance. It is his memory, his heroism, and his gallantry that we should be celebrating today. May peace be to his remains!

Many young Liberians live in the same condition as Shaki Kamara did. They are live in slums that lack basic services, they peddle the streets to make a living, and they all have great dreams for a better future. We all see the efforts of young people in long lines at various universities and high schools trying to get registered, we see the huge crowd of youth assembling seasonally at the Ministry of Youth and Sports or the Monrovia City Corporation in search of vacation jobs; and we see the rise of community discussion centers or ‘intellectual forums’ established by youth in their areas to dialogue, build relationship and forge peace. All these are happening in the midst of huge challenges. Indeed, Liberian youth are determined to progress and this is symbolized by their courage amidst the shortages of opportunities. It is that courage and determination to persevere that we should be celebrating today.

Young people need opportunities, inspiration and hopes to move on, and this is what we want to encourage our government to do – to develop programs that educate, build capacities and deliver services to the young people. There are reports about continual decrease in female enrollment at higher levels of education Liberia. We believe that girls should have the necessary support to continue to go to school in Liberia, and we think the best thing to do now is for the Government of Liberia to cover the education of all girls from the primary to the secondary levels, particularly a government that has campaigned on slogans of women’s empowerment.

This is what the Federation of Liberian Youth and other youth organizations should be advocating for. FLY should continuously make the case for the youth of this country, and ensure that youth concerns are matters of public policy. The Federation of Liberian Youth, The Mano River Union Youth Parliament and the Liberia National Students Union should be the vehicles for advocacy, capacity building and voluntary services to the youth community. These organizations should not be seen as permanent employment opportunities. Therefore if you serve in the leadership for one or two years, you should strive to make an impact, and give other young people the chance to serve, but not to perpetuate yourselves.
Through the works of these organizations, many young men and women have become leaders, entrepreneurs, and teachers in our country, and their roles in society continue to inspire many of us.

In spite of these efforts and contributions, young people are often condemned as “troublemakers” in Liberia, they are criticized for being “violent”; they are dubbed to be “lawless” and “unserious” people. That has been the argument of those who fear the current wave of a youthful generation taking on key leadership positions in this country, either in civil society, religious organization, academia, or government. Those who cannot stand the competence, vision and energy of an emerging generation blowing the wind of change have found those misguided descriptions of young people as justifications to perpetuate themselves amidst plunder, incompetence and social stagnation. That argument has largely been biased because it ignores the resourcefulness, integrity, intelligence and contributions of many young people today who are making significant gains in Liberia whether in public service, private sector, sports and entertainment and the international community. The argument therefore that youth are violent and unserious is not only counterintuitive, but absolutely counterproductive.

Finally, ladies and gentlemen it is worth mentioning here that the Federation of Liberian Youth is making steady gains in ensuring that the views and aspiration of the young people are heard at all levels of national policy making. Ten years ago, precisely in 2005, the National Youth Policy was drafted in Kakata and after years of advocacy and engagement, we have succeeded getting it through the Legislature. The President is yet to sign it into law. This instrument is very important to the political, economic and social inclusion of young people as a critical mass in the development of Liberia. It is important that all of us, young or old, add our voice and follow this through until it becomes a law, and not just that but a functional instrument that is implemented. In the meantime I would like to challenge the officials of the Federation of Liberian Youth to work towards greater awareness and mass mobilization of young people around its programs. When we sought the leadership of FLY about five years ago, it was our vision to see the Federation of Liberian Youth as a motor for youth advocacy and an organization to which youth in all parts of Liberia and all sectors would turn for leadership , for capacity building and for hopes . This vision is still alive, and we believe that this organization under the current leadership is making strides towards that end through its numerous policy dialogues and community engagement programs. The greatest challenge and risk is that the Federation continues to survive on government’s subsidy and donor grants as its lifeblood. This is a risk to the survival of any organization particularly one with an advocacy agenda. It is high time that the Federation begins to explore opportunities for self-reliance as a means of not only raising money for projects, but principally for securing its integrity and independence.

Long live the Federation of Liberian Youth! Long live the youth movement! Long live our collective dreams! And Long, Long Live the Republic of Liberia.

Thank you all!!

Buchanan, Grand Bassa County
October 29, 2015

Saturday, October 17, 2015

Education: The Role of the Youths in Sustaining Peace in Liberia

By: Amjad M. Nyei

Liberia has proven to the world that our dark years of violence and vandalism are now a history that can only serve as a lesson for the direction and future of the state. Twelve years and counting, Liberians have had no reason to weak up in fear of gun battle or fear of whether they will remain alive till the end of the day. I recall when stray bullets and rocket propelled grenades brightened the night; the question was not only about the survival of the fittest, fastest to run, but also the survival of the luckiest. Our lives were at the mercy of the bullets. Sad moments! Weren’t they?

Retrospection on these bloody days and hopeful of the future, Liberia is thankful to God and very grateful for the intervention of the United Nations for the organization’s tireless efforts that have brought us peace. Particular tribute must be paid to the gallant men and women in sky blue berets that have served and continue to serve in the UN Mission in Liberia. Their sacrifice to stay away from their beautiful families and enter a terrible Liberia in 2003 is beyond dedication to humanity and mankind.

Twelve years on, Liberia is still not in absolute peace until the youths of this “glorious land of liberty” take on their role in sustaining the peace. Most commutators and blogger have argued that the creation of employment opportunities by government is the ‘golden answer’ to bringing stability among the youth and in essence driving the nation to evergreen peace.

However, my take on the above argument is a ‘NO’ to employment opportunities first, and a massive ‘YES’ to better, improved and affordable education environment and opportunity to all Liberians as a key imperative to sustained peace and economic development. This national campaign should not be limited to secondary and tertiary education but also a very vibrant vocational education- thanks to the Chinese government and people for the reconstruction and expansion of the Monrovia Vocational Training Center.

I understand the problem of unemployment has been a major component of Liberia’s macroeconomics genetic for a long time and also has to be solved. However, when jobs begin to flow in Liberia; we can be assured that fewer than 10% of the youths will be prepared for those jobs. Evidence of this calm is vivid in on going concession companies’ employment structure. Young Liberians are for the most part, not employed in technical areas that require university education or at least 2 years of advance vocation education. They are left vulnerably employed to harvest rubber in Firestone and LAC, off load and arrange palm nurseries for GVL and Sime Darby and perform other unskilled or semi-skilled task for Mittal Steel. With these developments, the preference of job over education is a half bark solution or a quick fix that could potentially deny the human capacity growth of Liberia.

Statistics from LISGIS informs that Liberians 35 years of age and below amount for an alarming 75% of the country’s population. This revelation advised that government has to be more practical, systematic and ‘hasty but slow’ in transforming the education system which has more than often been duped as ‘messy’.

In all fairness, this regime has shown more commitment to education than the previous 2 regimes (NTGL and Taylor) combined. The size of the education budget, attention paid to state owned and private universities, management and delivery of foreign and local scholarships are among other examples to give government credit in its commitment and enthusiasm for education. However, there remain some major and serious efforts to clean the system to which I shall like to proffer few humble suggestions later.

The paramount role of the youths in sustaining the peace in my view is to simply get educated- take ourselves at the level of our mates in Ghana, Kenya and Namibia where young people are making headlines in science and technology and business. But we can only take on this role with real, committed and coherent government legislations, if you will policies, to improve the system.
I have seen on social media few computers being provided by the Ministry of Education to selected schools in South-Eastern Liberia and paraded as a milestone deliverable. That’s a generous move by the esteem Ministry of Education in it struggle to take science and technology across the country. I also see it as a God given opportunity to kids in that part of the country to have access to computer. We need to answer our problem with everlasting solution which calls for commitment and set aside window dressing the issues. Liberia, confront the issues of education head on!
My humble suggestions:

1. A rebirth to the culture of education: a committed campaign, not one to put money in anyone’s pocket, but a campaign that would encourage parents to sacrifice their today for the future of the kids. This is a campaign to the communities on radios, billboard pictures and slogans depicting the benefit and essence of education for a better Liberia. Other countries succeeded on this, Liberia too can.
2. District Schools and learning Centers: this is a step by step process because it will involve a lot of finance. So we could get started with the most populous counties, say Montserrado and Nimba counties. All the electoral districts in Montserrado for example, should have a government owned and fully supported primary, secondary school and a library. Children in each district will attend the school in their district. With this, the district’s inhabitants will take these schools are their own and rally moral support for its up keep. It will ease the livelihood of people as well. My neighbor’s 4 year old daughter won’t have to wake up 5am to leave from Chocolate City to attend J.J. Roberts United Methodist School in Sinkor. It is indeed a very ambitious plan and capital intensive but just 5 months salary of the Commissioner of the Bureau of Martine, an entity of no real essence in Liberia, can at least secure a land to initiate the project in a single district. Rome was not built in a day.

3. Curriculum, Syllabus and study Material: What are the kids being taught? Is my nephew’s Nursery School in Gardnerville teaches the same thing as his peers’ in Gbalasuah, Tubmanburg? We need a coordinated educational system wherein a 9th grader from Lutheran will be at the same level with a 9th grader from Special Project. The Ministry of education most monitor and supervise schools to ensure all schools use the same curriculum to maintain standards. The Ministry should also take charge; own a printing press. If operating one is expensive, it should order for printing of study materials abroad.

We pre 1990 youths, remember very well the Blama and Konah Doe books. What has happened to a story like that, that is connected to Liberia? It makes learning fun. The names and characters are all unique to your own society and culture.
Science and Mathematics, English and Literature, History and Geography study materials for elementary and high schools should written by specialized Liberian professors under the supervision of the Ministry of Education. Students will study from these book undiluted and not summarized into pamphlets. This could reduce the exchange of monies on school campuses between teachers and students.

4. The knowledge givers, teachers: Mr. Kemi Weeks in his 2006 independence oration said: “I visited schools in Liberia were teachers made multiple spelling errors...” Now this is a shame on the system. We need a system wherein teachers will be trained and evaluated before they stand before students has more than before become important. A standard board under the Ministry of Education if not in existence be established to administer exams to would be teachers after which certificates will be awarded to successful candidates satisfying them to teach in Liberia. In this process, schools will be monitored to ensure all teachers are certificated.

5. The ultimate, strict but easy university matriculation: Like the Bush ‘no child left behind’ policy in America we should encourage large university turn out but we should remain attentive to students’ admittance into programs befitting their potential and talents. Encourage the few academically deficient into equipped vocational programs and professional studies institutes.
Liberia, with the firmness of our development partner by our side and patriotism and nationalism we can overcome most of our problems in education, employment, food security and all other important sectors of society that would be helpful in sustaining the peace. Among all these sectors named, the huge uneducated youth population has always been our problem and as such; it should be government’s number one priority in realizing better and peaceful life for all.

Amjad M. Nyei is a Liberian student in China, Msc candidate International Economics and Trade. He is a diplomat in training, speaks fluent Chinese and studies other foreign languages during his spare time. For other articles and opinions of the author, you can kindly visit:

Thursday, September 24, 2015

The latest round of the Christian state and citizenship controversies in Liberia’s Constitutional Reform Process

The much-anticipated constitutional reform, which is predicted to bring about radical political changes before the 2017 elections, has taken a controversial turn. In a recent letter, President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf sharply differed with delegates at the National Constitutional Conference, who put forth recommendations on the key issues for constitutional reform:Read more

Monday, June 15, 2015

Celebrating Amos Sawyer at 70: A tribute to a distinguished African Statesman

Ibrahim Al-bakri Nyei

Today June 15, 2015 marks the seventieth birth anniversary of Prof. Amos Sawyer, a man who has for over forty years played a leading role of a
scholar, activist, leader, and mediator in Africa’s most troubling and sometimes complicated political crises. Sawyer was born on June 15, 1945 in Sinoe County in Southeastern Liberia to a lower-middle class family. His parents meant well for the family and wanted to change the social status of the next generation of the family, thus they strove for young Sawyer to attend one of the best schools then in Southeastern Liberia, Cape Palmas High School. After Cape Palmas High School, all of Sawyers’ education financing were funded through scholarships gained through outstanding academic performances. This is just to give a brief background of the humble beginning from which, Prof. Amos Sawyer, one of the greatest Liberian of his generation started it all. The clear message from the life of Sawyer and probably many others around us is that one can change his own destiny and from a humble beginning, make far-reaching contributions to the advancement of society.

An attempt to write a full biographical sketch of an outstanding statesman like Amos Sawyer would require extensive research and probably end up producing thousands of pages. I therefore seek not to go on such an expensive route. This tribute in commemoration of his seventieth birth anniversary is an attempt to highlight his contributions to his dear country, Liberia. But again, one cannot discuss Sawyer’s meaningful contributions to academics, politics and conflict resolution by limiting the exposition to Liberia. It would be an incomplete discourse. Thus we consider Sawyer, not just as a Liberian statesman - as proud as we Liberians may be of his numerous achievements and contributions - we also share him with the rest of Africa as his services and ideas have had penetrating influences on African societies from civil society movements, to governments and regional organizations. This tribute therefore calls attention to Sawyer not in the limited role as former Head of State of Liberia, but as a distinguished African Statesman.

Originating from Southeastern Liberia, Prof. Amos Sawyer rose rapidly in educational attainment and acquired a PhD at a very young age in 1973. At the time he completed his PhD opportunities abound for him to join the existing system of amassing wealth and living large by endorsing the then political establishment. While many young people with good education would seek material advancement by submitting to the status quo, Sawyer rather chose what Robert Frost would call at that time the “The Road Not Taken”. He chose to defy the system by working to transform his country into an inclusive and functional state at the service of its entire citizenry. Indeed, this road was risky, dark, and dangerous and was not often taken, but with courage, Sawyer and others thought through and navigated a way out for themselves, thus liberating the vast majority of Liberians aspiring for change in an inclusive polity. In the early 1970s he joined others and founded the Movement for Justice in Africa (MOJA), a Pan-African political organization aimed at supporting liberation movements in countries still struggling with vestiges of colonialism like Mozambique, Namibia, Zimbabwe, Guinea Bissau and South Africa under Apartheid. While MOJA worked locally and campaigned against the extractive economic policies and political dominance of a minority settler government in Liberia, they actively supported groups like the African Party for the Independence of Guinea Bissau and Cape Verde (PAIGC) in Guinea Bissau, South West African People Organization (SWAPO) in Namibia, and the Mozambique Liberation Front (FRELIMO) in Mozambique. Sawyer was actively involved with the PAIGC and even visited their camps in Conakry, Guinea at the height of their struggle. As a result of their efforts, MOJA was invited at the independence declaration of Guinea Bissau. Sawyer’s advocacy continued throughout the 1970s until the popular struggle well thought-out and carried out by the progressive was short-changed by a military coup. Sawyer supported the reform of the country and engaged the military with constitutional reforms. He was appointed by the Head of State Samuel K. Doe to chair the Constitutional Commission, a position he took thinking it was a grand opportunity to introduced real change through the constitution making process. His commitment to constitutional democracy and advocacy against excessive presidential powers landed him into troubles with the military government thus leading to his illegal imprisonment at the notorious Post-Stockade prison in Monrovia. Several years down in the early 2000s, Sawyer continued his role as an activists working with the civil society movement through the Center for Democratic Empowerment (CEDE). CEDE’s campaign for democratic governance and peace in Liberia clashed with Charles Taylor’s penchant for strongman rule, autocracy and illegal accumulation of wealth. This again led Sawyer into troubles with Taylor and his ragtag militias. CEDE’s offices were ransacked and staff including Sawyer were violently assaulted. Like Mark Twain the great litterateur said at his 70th birthday dinner: “I have achieved my seventy years in the usual way; by sticking strictly to a scheme of life which would kill anybody else....I will offer here, as a sound maxim, this: That we can't reach old age by another man's road”, so has Sawyer pursued a scheme in which he had paid numerous prices, made sacrifices at the expense of his life on the road he chose - just in the pursuit of his values of free, inclusive, and democratic society. That is Sawyer the activist.

Sawyer has blended activism with scholarship for the most part. His passion has been teaching and he proudly calls himself a teacher whenever he is asked about his life profession. As an academic he had written extensively and taught Political Science, and has directed studies in the practice of governance and politics of peace-building and reconciliation at Universities in Liberia and the United States of America. There is something interesting about Sawyer’s role as an academic which has positioned him well in the field of governance and conflict resolution. That is his ability to blend political theories with practice. Thus, he is both a practitioner and a scholar of governance. This has given him a strong anchorage performing extremely well in positions he has occupied over the last few years as Chairman of the Governance Commission of Liberia and as a member and Chair of the Panel of Eminent Persons of the African Peer Review Mechanism (2010 – 2013), an African Union affiliated organization working to foster the adoption of policies, standards and practices that lead to political stability, high economic growth, sustainable development and accelerated sub-regional and continental economic integration through sharing of experiences and reinforcement of successful and best practice. At the APRM Sawyer presided over or participated in country reviews of South Africa, Ethiopia, Mozambique, Zambia, and Kenya all of which are today doing fairly well in building good democratic cultures and attaining high economic growth. At the Governance Commission, Sawyer has presided over mega public sector reform programs that have aligned, realigned and even created new institutions aimed at addressing governance and service delivery challenges in Liberia. He has an unshakable confidence that the reforms will lead to an efficient service delivery system once implemented, but he always cautions that “reform outcomes, particularly in a previously dysfunctional state are felt mostly in the long term and not the short term”. He is currently engaged with two main reform projects that are to be Liberia’s largest postwar reform and expected to reshape power relations in Liberia significantly: constitutional reform and decentralization reform. Both are aimed at ensuring that Liberia adopts a system of local self-governance in which citizens are empowered at the local level for self-governance with active participation of civil society. Sawyer has committed his last few years of practice and scholarship to constitutional reform and governance reform in Liberia for which President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf referred to him as ‘the architect of governance reform in Liberia’. This reference to him by the President is just one evidence that Sawyer has earned for himself the distinction of being the intellectual leader of postwar state building in Liberia. That is Sawyer the scholar and practitioner.

As the French saying goes ‘Noblesse Oblige’ (Nobility Obliges), Sawyer’s strive for his academic and political values led him to nobility and that nobility has continued to bring upon him more obligations for service to Africa. He has been called upon to lead political mediations during transition periods in some of Africa’s most crisis-affected countries. In his native Liberia, he was petitioned by his peers to lead the country’s most critical transition in the beginning of the country’s civil war in 1990. Still thinking about his love for the classroom as lecturer, he reluctantly accepted to be President of the Interim Government of National Unity. He served in that position for four years, and during that period he focused more on making peace, mediating the warring factions, and promoting civil society’s participation in governance and the peace process. His tenure as President was during a challenging moment as the revenue base was low and most of the country was controlled by rebel factions. He however skillfully worked with international actors to stabilize the economy, protect the civilian population and secure a respectable position for Liberia among the comity of nations, despite the ongoing war. It is perhaps because of such distinguished service at a critical time that the African Union (AU) and the Economic Community of West African State (ECOWAS) continue to call upon him to lead electoral observation missions during critical transitions in African countries. These transitions are mostly electoral periods flamed with tensions with potentials to relapse into violence if not properly mediated. At these missions he assesses the political and security situations, engages and mediates the parties, engages the civil society movement and encourages all parties to work within the framework of the country’s law and other international laws. Successful missions led by Sawyer in recent times were in Mali in 2013 and Guinea Bissau in 2014. Both countries were in dire straits of political instability under military dominance (Guinea Bissau) and rebel incursion (Mali). In March and April 2015 Sawyer headed Electoral Observation Missions for the African Union in Nigeria and ECOWAS in Togo. His role as Head of Missions facilitated peaceful dialogues among previously aggrieved and fierce political opponents, electoral commissions and civil society thus paving ways for credible transitions and processes of inclusive politics even after elections. That is Sawyer the mediator and leader.

In 2011, he won two distinguished awards in his native Liberia and in Asia. In Liberia he was decorated with the country’s highest honor for the services rendered the country. Decorating Prof. Sawyer, President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf referred to him as someone “consistent in principle, consistent in courage and consistent in commitment”. He was also awarded the Gusi Peace Prize (a prestigious Asian Peace award) ‘for his work in the promotion of democratic governance and socio-economic development through regional integration in Africa’. Today he has been awarded a gift of life by the Almighty God and had reached 70. It is this that we celebrate most, and wish to celebrate more of such gifts with this eminent son of Liberia and the whole Africa as we strive to continuously benefit from his wealth of experience and knowledge and his courage to see a stable, progressive, and democratic society in Africa, particularly his native Liberia, to which he has dedicated his life. For those of us that appreciate his contributions to society, share his values for a free, just and democratic society, and modeling our lives within his shadow, we must emulate his virtues of humility, hard work, and patience, unquenchable desire for knowledge and consistency with principles. This, I know is a tall order, but like he always say, “Ultimately, everything is possible once you have good intentions and work hard”.

Friday, May 22, 2015

The Imperative for change from the Organization of African Unity (OAU) to the African Union (AU): A more responsive paradigm

By Baba Sillah

The transition from the OAU to the AU did not only come as a matter of time but also as a matter of recognized necessity. The OAU had faced serious structural challenges which impacted negatively on its ability to function effectively and efficiently. There was not an OAU Commission that could make clearly enforceable decisions as the AU has today. More importantly, there was a greater need for effectively addressing the new social, political and economic realities in Africa and for fulfilling the peoples’ aspirations for greater unity in conformity with the objectives of the OAU Charter and the treaty establishing the African Economic Community. Revitalizing the continental organization to enable it take on a more robust and proactive role in addressing the needs of the people; eliminating the scourge of conflict; partnering in meeting global challenges; and harnessing the human and natural resources of the continent to improve living conditions while proving necessary also seemed long overdue.

The structural and functional challenges that the OAU faced sometimes appear understandable because of the fixation of many African leaders at the time with the protection of their countries mostly; newly won independence and securing their territorial limits. However, one of the most significant challenges to the OAU was the imperative of good governance. Many leaders on the continent placed too much emphasis on territorial integrity and non-interference into their countries body polity than the wellbeing of their populations, as an obvious result routinely disregarding the rights and welfare of the peoples for whom the territories in fact exist.

This conceptual framework lacked the foresight to address the real needs and demands of the peoples of the continent and could not long survive. Therefore, it dawned on African Leaders at the 37th OAU Summit in Lusaka, Zambia that there was a need for a departure to a new framework which could revive the continent and address in a comprehensive manner its perennial, contemporary and emerging challenges (The adoption in Lome, Togo of the Constitutive Act of the AU in terms of the Sirte Declaration of 9 September 1999 was the highlight of the 2000 OAU/AEC Assembly of Heads of State and Government and a watershed for continental governance).
The adoption of an historic document which was to become known as the New Partnership for African Development (NEPAD) was a resultant effect of the compelling need for a better conceived and more people-centered approach to continental governance based on the tenets of democracy and good governance.

Nonetheless, while NEPAD expressed goals; Declaration on Democracy, Political, Economic and Corporate Governance have committed participating Member States to an African Peer Review Mechanism (APRM) –which seeks to promote adherence to and fulfillment of its commitments, and to ensure among other things , the rule of law, the equality of all citizens before the law, individual and collective freedoms, the right to participate in free, credible and democratic political processes, and adherence to the separation of powers, there still remains some seriously challenges on the continent considering both the persistence of coups d’√©tats and the bypassing of the democratic and constitutional means of obtaining political power.

The use of terror to press selfish demands such as the case in Mali and Guinea Bissau which have witnessed West Africa’s latest cases of coups d’√©tats have impressed more on the minds of the speedily multiplying African population, the need not only for strong continental security response machineries but also for improved and responsive systems and approaches for dealing with the challenges of health care delivery, education, the rights of women and girls, youth empowerment among others.

The menace of Malaria by itself poses a serious challenge to the continent and takes a huge toll on the populations of African countries each year. It is worrying for the African Leaders Malaria Alliance that Malaria affects approximately 200 million people annually on the Continent and costs Africa at least US$ 12 billion annually in direct cost to development.

As we commemorate the 50th Anniversary of the OAU/AU on May 25, we must bear in mind that we have got yet another platform not just to make grandiose speeches and indulge in the pomp that traditionally attends celebrations of the sort but as a time to soberly review the achievements that we have made as a continental body and the hurdles that remain, and seek to renew our commitments (in practicum) to the framework of the New Partnership for African.

We must work assiduously to promote and uphold Democracy, Political, Economic and Corporate Governance. We must ensure that the rule of law prevails; we must work towards improving the quality of the living standards of our citizens, we must never seize from protecting the individual and collective freedoms of our peoples, we must ensure free, credible and democratic political processes, and protect the separation of governmental power, it is only by doing and ensuring these things that our people will become stronger thus the continent.

Baba Sillah is a Liberian political analyst. He works at the Liberian Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

Wednesday, May 20, 2015


By Amjad M. Nyei

On an Airbus A380 heading from Beijing to Brussels, after my undergraduate studies in China, I shared the same seat row with a lady from Zimbabwe. This lady sat by the window while I was in the middle seat. She is paranoid about flying and asked me to exchange seat so that the window view won’t make her feel thousands of feet above the ground.

The flight was 7 hours, very long and tiresome. After a brief exchange of pleasantries, she told me her name, Anotida Chikonda and we opened a long conversation. We spoke on variety of subjects: education,business and economy, sports and entertainment and of course a bit of politics. Anotida is a Zimbabwean middle level government official in her late 20s and was heading to another official function in Helsinki, Finland after just participating in a weeklong meeting in Beijing.

As our conversation intensified my “travel companion” paused and asked about my education level and where I have been schooling. I replied, “except for about 2 years of primary education in Freetown, I had all my basic education in Liberia and just about concluding my undergraduate studies in China”. Interestingly, Anotida had just followed that news that all students who wrote the 2013 entrance examination of the University of Liberia failed. So she flattered me by saying “hadn’t it been for your ‘very young look’ I would have thought you are working on a doctorate degree”. Well, I should have actually begun a PhD program as far back as 2010- but factors such as instability and personal choices couldn’t permit. Anotida added that she hope Liberia could one day be like Zimbabwe were young people have very good appetite for seeking knowledge. Not surprisingly, I found out later that Anotida works in the education sector and so we began talking about the possible causes of students’ dismal performance in the UL entrance examination. She asked of my opinion and I outlined the following:

• Lack of Motivation: Students and teachers alike at all levels have lost the taste of academic motivation. Students on their part have found grave interest in other immaterial aspects of life such as: all week day entertainment, alcoholism, sexual relationships and assuming early family responsibilities- most high school students are mother and fathers. On the other hand, teachers do not feel challenged by students anymore- I remember during my days in school Andrew Jallah, Fred Fundo, Muniru Nyei Martina Woto and myself, just to name a few kept teachers on their heels. We made teachers to come to class every morning fully armed intellectually because they knew the strength of their audience. This challenge had long been lost in Liberia and one of the probable causes of bad quality of high school graduates.

• Government Spending and Supervision: It is only in Liberia that the accumulative salaries, allowances and other benefits for legislatures is more than the money allotted in national budget for education in a country that has a huge youth population. Government has to be real on the paradox that it prioritizes of education. You can’t say education is a top priority and yet the money in national budget (2013) is infinitesimal to meet the targeted goal. If vegetable is good for your health as compared to fruit, spend more on the former.
Another issue is the poor supervision of academic activities by the Ministry of Education. MOE has sat back and watched government-run schools go in the drainage and reluctant to come down hard on private schools, especially for keeping tuitions at certain reasonable standards. It is important that MOE set parameters for tuitions in private schools, in view of the fact that some private schools are given subsidies by government. With the sky-rocketed tuition cost, parents are for the most part, finding it very difficult to maintain their kids in school. It has resulted into dropout and early pregnancies and parenthood. To curb these and many more, government has to dispense more money into education and have strict supervision to include monitoring academic performance.

• Corrupt mentality of Students: It is sad when some young people with potential to enrich their minds but will voluntarily act lazy because of connections to people for job hunting. Some depend on the prominence of their parent, “sugar daddies and mommies” and other relations for better paid jobs. Imagine these negative thoughts popping through the minds of young people; it just sickens our society academically. We as young people need to step up our game, be independent and rely on our personal abilities, not that of others. Look deep inside yourself, the hero you looking for lies in you. We should compete in the class room to adequately advance ourselves for the struggle ahead.
In Hong Kong, academic challenge and pressure commences when you are a toddler. Toddlers of about 8-9 months old go through study camps to prepare them for nursery schools interview . Parents want their kids to enter the best nursery school and eventually lead them to the top primary and secondary schools and ultimately high ranked universities. So maybe Liberian students should copy cat the hard work of these toddlers who are not reliant on their parents wealth- Hong Kong is one of the regions in the world with more affluent citizens, billionaires.

After my lengthy opinion of what is unfolding in the Liberian education sector, Anotida thanked me for sharing with her and showed appreciation for my passion for structural reform in our education system. She told me that her country, Zimbabwe, was at similar point until 1980 when education became free and affordable.

Top 5 High rate Literate Countries in Africa
No. Country Rank Literacy Rate
1 Zimbabwe 1 90.70
2 Equatorial Guinea 2 87.00
3 South Africa 3 86.40
4 Kenya 4 85.10
5 Namibia 5 85.00
6 Liberia 34 57.50

Zimbabwe spent about $750Million on education and related matters in 2013 and has got a very vibrant regulatory and supervision policy for quality in both public and private schools. Being number one in terms of number of educated people in Africa, it is not surprising that the Zimbabwean President, Robert Mugabe, is amongst the most educated world leaders rating.

As early as 1967, Zimbabwe had some 91.5% of youth aged between 5-14 years old enrolled in school. Meanwhile, Time Magazine reported in 2008 that in the mid 1990s Zimbabwe National O-Level pass rate was 72%. Liberia on the other hand performs poorly in WAEC every year. The failure rate has been increasing since 2006.

Zimbabwe had had its own problems in recent years due to hyperinflation and economic crisis; this has led to many rural schools closure because of unpaid and or low teachers’ salaries but they still strive to maintain standard.

It seems Anotida Chikonda has been following developments in Liberia since our encounter in the sky. She wrote me regularly during the height of the Ebola Virus Disease epidemic in Liberia. Recently she wrote me on the subject of 10,000 University of Liberia students being placed on academic probation. This news has again pointed to the fact that structural changes in education- increase spending, building motivation and stepping up supervision and evaluation are needed to save Liberia.

It is sad and it’s a shame that 10,000 student at you leading state run university can be on probation but it is also a sign of good leadership by the university’s authority. We hope that this exercise will lead to quality and encourage students to keep focused and spend more time on their studies. May this system also be introduced in other universities and technical institutes to ensure maximum efficiency in our education output.

Amjad M. Nyei is a Liberian student in China, Msc candidate International Economic and Trade. He is a diplomat-in-training and speaks fluent Chinese. Amjad is also studying German as his third foreign language.

Friday, May 1, 2015

What do the people want? Demands for expansion of rights and a Christian state through constitutional reform in Liberia

The most comprehensive review of the 1986 Constitution of Liberia is coming close to its final stage with the completion of the Constitutional Conference in Gbarnga, where delegates from across the country reviewed and voted on issues to be addressed through constitutional reform. Since the promulgation of the 1986 Constitution, the Gbarnga Conference and the extensive consultation process leading to it have formed the most comprehensive public debate on the Constitution. For the first time, Liberians have engaged on the constitution from all walks of life. Even though the Conference had no legal authority to make binding decisions on the constitution, it engaged a mosaic of Liberians from different regions and sectors. Read more...


Amjad M. Nyei

Europe in the 1600s recognized it regressions and unwanted division was because of religious differences- in their case, same religion in principle but different doctrines. This is what led to the Westphalia Treaty, 1618-1848. Westphalia united Europe and ironed their religious differences in a way no emperor or king was able. At that time in Europe you have Catholics against Presbyterians, Lutherans antagonizing Methodist and the likes of many of those kinds of wrangling if you will. But let us ask ourselves. What has come out of Europe today? Four in the world’s top ten peaceful countries are European states; Europe has in addition, more countries ranking high in the world happiness index survey. On top of these, Europe is one of the world’s largest economic zones with an integration of 28 countries, clearly trashing out political, religious and social differences. This is how strong Europe has become today.

Religion is a belief on which people measure the standard of their ethics. It sharpens and gives direction to the way people think and most importantly a reservoir of hope and spiritual deliverance. Therefore people take their religion very sacrosanct and others must show at least some degree of respect. The world’s hotspot trouble regions today have a religious undertone, if you will; religion is the latent cause of their sufferings. Belfast in Northern Ireland, Yemen, and part of Iraq and Syria are examples of how religious disputes should be avoided length particularly in Liberia.

I laughed at the news of a certain group in Liberian, namely, the delegates at the Conference organized by the Constitution Review Committee, voting in favor of a proposal to Christianize Liberia- even though without a clear definition. Initially the idea was laughable but reflecting on the premise I just told, a spare hit me in the chest for fear of the Mother Land. I acknowledge that it is a smart idea for a country to decide or outline plans of action and direction the country should proceed. What Liberia needs most is not immaterial issue(s) that will divide us the more; Liberia rather needs real deals, for instance, “Five Years Economic Plan”, “Five Years Education Plan”, or “Five Years Foreign Relations Plan”. This is what other civilized societies do, China for example.
It is hard for me to imagine that we will remain to be the architect of our own failure. We are not through with wiping off the tears Ebola put on our face and here are we trying to inflict more injury on our self. The proposers of this divisive idea must know or agree with me that Christian state or Secular state, Liberia has still got to face its real “Kilimanjaro size” problems in education, health, infrastructure and employment.

The Muslim community is regarded a minority but I want to get the language right. Minority according the Merriam-Webster Dictionary is the group that is the smallest part of a large group. Be reminded that Liberia has a percentage of traditional believers and group of non believers (religion less) which if put together is less than half the number of Muslims. The idea that the Muslims community is a minority is therefore preposterous and baseless.

Oh dear! I am a very private man, mostly keep away from the public domain but I have decided to come public on this because I feel a deep responsibility for our unborn generation. Bad things happen when good people remain silent and so this is the time I spoke with my heart on my sleeve. Not only that I am a private man I am also very tolerant, a man who believes in the existence of God in all true religion. I did part of my primary education in Freetown- at the King Hammar Preparatory School, a school firm in the Christian faith. I eventually graduated from the Seventh Day Adventist, a very respectable group of Christian believers. I attended Sabbath Services on couple of occasions and attended Chapel Services every Monday morning. Never mind, I was unwavering to my Islamic upbringing and still believe strongly in the “Loneliness of God” and that Muhammed (SHW) is his messenger and I performed my daily swalate (prayers). This is the kind of Liberia we dream about, the kind of Liberia that will bring unity and prosperity.

I learned one thing from Sierra Leone even at my teenage and I instantly knew it was something right and honorable. Sierra Leone is a very religious tolerant country in fact it ranks number one in Africa. I saw Non Muslims dress modestly during Ramadan, being cautious not to alter abusive language or eat before a Muslim who is fasting; all these to try as much as possible to show respect to their compatriots.

Contrarily, in Liberia, Ramadan is the month of dirtiness- many Liberians will say the Madingo people are about to be spitting all around. This is a shame. Liberia must grow. We have been silent for too long, that is why our religious
festivities are not recognized or given a holiday. We say keep your holiday! We been silent too long, that is why we have been mocked at and disrespected. We say keep your respect. We been silent too long, that is why number of Muslims in the cabinet is easily counted. We say keep your jobs. We have been referred to as Guineans and aliens. We say introduce the National ID System.

Oh dear! We stand united, firm peaceful and resolute that this proposal ( or whatever it might be termed) disguised to marginalize us further will be killed in parliament and a national memorial service be held to bury it six feet deep in the Central Street Grave Yard.

All Hail Liberia Hail!!!!! All Hail Liberia!!!!!!! All Hail Liberia Hail!!!!! All Hail Liberia Hail!!

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Lack of Money or Lack of Political Will: What is Stalling Constitutional Reform in Liberia?

Ibrahim Al-bakri Nyei

It is nearly three years now since Liberia’s constitutional review process was launched with the establishment of the Constitution Review Committee (CRC) by the President. It came after several demands for constitutional reform towards more inclusive and participatory governance. In addition, there seems to be a consensus among Liberian technocrats and international development partners that the extant legal framework – the constitution and age-old pieces of legislation, for example, laws on land ownership, citizenship, or local government - do not support proposed reform measures intended to strengthen democracy, good governance and peace. Read More...