Days after he and his delegation suffered gross indignities at the hands of a violent mob in Zwedru City, Grand Gedeh County, Alternative National Congress Political Leader and Collaborating Political Parties Chairman Alexander B. Cummings Wednesday delivered a scathing indictment of the George Weah government, blaming the Liberian leader for the country’s woeful state, and outlining myriad reasons why President Weah has failed Liberia.
In a special nation-wide address held at the ANC headquarters in Monrovia, Mr. Cummings said while the CPP cannot suggest that all of the problems facing the country are the making of the Weah administration, however, the current worsened socioeconomic and political conundrums are directly exacerbated by the Weah administration’s incompetence, lack of vision, extortion, and appeals to division and lawlessness.
“…By the overwhelming evidence of their lack of leadership and duty to care – in only three years, this George Weah-led Administration has quadrupled the problems they inherited. Where it was bad, they have succeeded to make worse, and where it was good, they have effectively destroyed. They have reversed the gains our country struggled to make, and for which we were recently considered a good example of a developing post-conflict nation.
Without biting his tongue, Mr. Cumming nailed President Weah and his administration on the rising tide of bad governance.
“Like many before him who our people honored with the duty to lead our country, President George Weah has carelessly and selfishly abandoned Liberians, and Liberia. Wastefully bleeding the country, by his bad examples, President Weah is encouraging a few of his friends to generate and display wealth they did not have, and were not able to declare, before assuming public offices,” Mr. Cummings enjoined, noting that rather than President Weah investing in making young Liberians productive and ready to lead the country into a better and brighter future, this government is investing in militarizing them, inciting them to violence, and teaching them that it is acceptable to lie, steal, cheat, be dishonest, and intolerant of others.
“Our young people, desperate to improve their lives, are being misled into thinking that such despicable acts are formulas for success, and a measure of successful leadership. In the CPP, we are worried about our young people, and deeply concerned about the future of our country. Thanks to the lack of leadership of Mr. Weah, our young people, who are the future of our country, are being wrongly impressed that education is not important; that without taking personal responsibility, and making sacrifices for a greater cause, somehow their circumstances, and the conditions of our country, will miraculously improve,” the CPP chairman lamented.
Expounding further on why the CPP believes President Weah has failed Liberians in just three years, Mr. Cummings said while citizens of other nations are basically dealing with the COVID-19 pandemic, Liberians must also fight COVID, along with the poverty and rape pandemics.
“Our ship is sinking. Too many of our people are suffering. We are increasingly seeing a culture of moral bankruptcy being promoted with a determination to destroy the last piece of the moral fabric of our society. This is wicked. It is immoral, and it threatens our long-term peace and security,” Mr. Cummings blasted.
He said, rather than deliver basic services, foster a unified and productive nation, and care for the Liberian people, those given the mantle of national leadership are busying themselves with dividing Liberians.
“They are too busy enriching themselves that they have either forgotten, do not know how, or just do not care, about the most important duties for which they were elected. And so, while countries of the world are struggling with one pandemic, in Liberia, we are confronted with three, the Poverty Pandemic, The Rape Pandemic and the COVID 19 Pandemic,” Mr. Cummings said.
Corruption breeds poverty – most corrupt government ever
On the issue of poverty, Mr. Cummings government poverty alleviation program is so dysfunctional that the Pro-Poor Agenda is now officially the “Make Liberians Poorer Agenda”.
“According to the 2020 Report of the World Bank, under this administration, over half a million Liberians are expected to drop below the poverty line this year! The actual number is 526,000. 526,000 Liberians – friends, relatives, neighbors, people we know, and some we may not know; people we went to school with, or pass by in the streets every day will live on less than one dollar and ninety cents or less than 380 Liberian Dollar a day. This will put our poverty rate at 65% up from 54% in 2016. The Pro-Poor Agenda is now officially the Make Liberians Poorer Agenda,” Cumming stated, noting that one would never have imagined that only three years on, the Pro-Poor Agenda would be a code to keep the Liberian people poor rather than lift them out of poverty.
“As an opposition community, the CPP is troubled by this. In fact, we are deeply troubled by it. It is in response to the suffering of our people that we have come together. For me, and all of us, the suffering we see has compelled us to try to do something different to change it. We have come together because we know that we cannot continue like this,” Mr. Cumming lamented.
Identifying corruption as one of the root causes of the extreme poverty in the country, Mr. Cummings observed that where ever corruption thrives, as it is currently in Liberia, poverty will rise.
“This government is very corrupt. In fact, it is the most corrupt we have had. This is not only the opinion of the Liberian opposition. It is the result of a global assessment. As a result, despite being blessed with many natural resources and endowments, our people are becoming poorer and even more destitute,” he said.
Mr. Cummings said, while the people continue to endure untold economic hardship, the prices of goods and services are increasing daily.
“According to the World Food Program Monthly Market Price Index Report, from February 2017 to Sept 2019, the price of a 50kg bag of rice bought in the Redlight Market has increased from LD $3,700 to $5400; a bag of cassava has gone up from $1300 to $1650; so too is a gallon of palm oil from $413 to $685, and a gallon of gas from $345 to $600. These are not even 2020 prices!” he lamented, noting that with the exchange rate of Liberian to US dollar which was LD125 to 1USD in Jan 2018, rising astronomically to LD200 in July 2020, any serious government will recognize this and look to improve fiscal discipline, eliminate waste, and minimize corruption.
“This government is too irresponsible to even care,” he alarmed.
“In just three years, President George Weah and his administration have shown that they lack the ability to lead us to peace, prosperity and development. All they have succeeded in doing is leading our people into abject poverty and destitution. More children are now crowding the streets and risking their lives to provide for themselves and their elderly parents. At street corners, the elderly, disabled and other vulnerable Liberians are queueing up in increasing numbers to beg for help. All across the country, our people are losing their dignity as they struggle to take care of themselves and their families,” Mr. Cummings lamented, wondering how can anyone claim to love Liberia and pillage, destroy, disrespect it and suffer the people at the same time.
Government nonchalant on rape
“Under this government, RAPE has become a pandemic,” Mr. Cummings noted. He said, unfortunately, the administration of justice appears to weigh favorably for accused persons than it does in support of victims and survivors.
“This imbalance is so bad that it is actually more difficult to report and investigate cases of rape and sexual abuse. As a result, many victims and survivors opt to endure in life-long silence and mental agony,” Mr. Cummings noted.
He said, the underfunding of our judicial sector, and the flagrant efforts to politically influence and undermine justice is clearly destroying the lives of far too many of our citizens. “It is also weaning public confidence in the justice system. A prime example is the case of a CDC lawmaker and executive of the ruling coalition, who continues to use his political influence, proximity to the President and affluence to imprison and try a young woman who is alleging that he had sexually harassed her. This is the height of silencing. Where officials of this government should give voices to alleged victims and survivors of these crimes, they are effectively silencing them”.
“Today, the statistics are grim. Not since the civil war has there been such a massive number of cases reported. It must be said that this government is credited for passing the Domestic Violence Law. But it can also be credited for shelving the law after passing it because cases of Sexual and Gender Based Violence (SGBV) continue to rise. By their own numbers, the total number of SGBV cases for 2018 was 2,145 but increased in 2019 to 2,590 cases. So far this year, about 600 cases were reported from Jan-March with only 32 cases prosecuted. This is unacceptable!” Cummings warned.
He said it also unacceptable that out of the reported statistics, over 90% are allegedly male perpetrators.
“Shame on us, Liberian men! Recently, the stepfather who raped his 15-year-old stepchild, was apprehended and is under investigation. Similarly, a male officer of the Liberian National Police, allegedly raped a 15-year-old girl in the King Gray Community. The young girl had gone to the Police Station to report an attempted rape! There is also the case of the young girl allegedly raped by a Pastor. The list is endless,” he said.
“We cannot continue to sit idly, and fail these innocent victims many of whom are being deprived of their adolescence. We must end rape, and sexual abuse and violence. To do this, we must fix the justice system. We can do this by repairing the prevailing institutional weaknesses to include: providing psycho-social support to survivors, as well as logistical, financial and other technical support to our health and legal systems to improve their investigatory and prosecutorial capacities,” the CPP chairman stated, calling for end to this sense of male entitlement.
“A woman is not to be owned, nor is a man right to feel entitled to the body of a woman. A woman is a partner who, like a man, is entitled to the protection and preservation of her body. It is therefore time to teach our young men that respecting a woman for the totality of her worth is not only a good thing but it makes for a better man,” he said.
Men, as the primary perpetrators of rape, Cummings said, must stop the scourge.
“It is time we did. The survivors of SGBV crimes, especially rape, need justice, and the perpetrators need just punishments. Our society needs confidence that the rights of the least and the greatest will always be equally and fiercely protected and defended in our society,” he assured.
COVID-19 Poor Handling
The CPP chairman blasted President Weah and his government for their poor leadership in dealing with the Coronavirus pandemic.
“Here, again, the George Weah-led administration’s inability to lead is also obvious. Other than the scattered selfish schemes to line a few pockets, appeal to partisan sentiments, and bolster attempts to pervert the electoral system, the national health response is haphazard and politicized. From declaring a State of Emergency instead of using the Public Health Law, to illegal extensions of the SOE, to announcing a food distribution plan that many of our people are yet to see or benefit from, to not paying our front liners and government employees their already harmonized salary, to shutting down businesses for an extended period thus further crippling the economy, to politicizing the quarantine protocols – here again, the missteps are endless – this President and his government has poorly handled the COVID-19 Pandemic,” Mr. Cumming observed.
He however praised the health workers and medical personnel for their passion, gallantry and commitment in working against all odds.
“While the president and his men siphon funds intended for COVID-19 response, we would be dealing with worse,” he noted, further thanking Liberian doctors, nurses and other healthcare workers, for their individual and collective daily sacrifice.
“While the system in which they continue to work have failed them, our healthcare workers have continued to demonstrate the selflessness we need from our national leaders. We join in prayers for their continued safety, as they fight this deadly health pandemic at risks to their own lives and those of their families, and often without the implements they need, or the pay their services deserve,” Mr. Cummings enthused.
The way forward amidst hopelessness
Mr. Cummings said, it is clear that the Weah-led government is not concerned about the burning issues with which Liberia is faced with. “Instead, they are concerned with interfering to undermine the independence of the Supreme Court including the political and unconstitutional impeachment of an Associate Justice. They are concerned with further weakening the Judicial Branch of government with cuts to its budgetary allocation, as well as risking the integrity and credibility of the National Elections Commission. As a result, the rule of law, and our young democracy, are under severe stress and grave threat.”
On the other hand, the CPP, he said, is concerned about the current conditions and the future of our nation, and our hard-won democracy.
“The tomorrow we see through the eyes of today’s reality does not inspire confidence that the poverty in which too many are trapped today will not extend to their children tomorrow, or that the integrity of our democracy will be preserved. The bottom line is we deserve better. Our country deserves better. To get better, we must do things differently. First, we must lead selflessly. Selfless leadership is a calling to help others – to provide opportunities so that others may climb out of poverty. It means putting your country first. It is not choosing to build political parties over the nation; employing based on partisanship rather than citizenship, or threatening and excluding others who disagree with you or criticize you; selfless leadership means using the authority and influence of the offices we hold to advance the lives of others with humility and accountability for the resources used in the public’s interest. It means, regardless of our differences in tribe, age, gender, political affiliation or religion, all Liberians must have equal opportunities, as well as a share in the wealth that Liberia is blessed to possess,” he stated.
As a country trapped by too much anger, pain, and division, Mr. Cummings said Liberians need to reconcile because no nation can be built on foundations of unresolved anger and division.
“We must pull ourselves together through processes of reconciliation and healing. Difficult as it is, we cannot continue to pretend that the body politic is healed and whole when it is not. By reconciling also, we improve our chances to be united. A united people have a better chance of preserving and protecting their independence and aspirations than a people burdened by divisions. The CPP knows we need serious leadership to reconcile our nation, and that this current leadership has failed in that responsibility. A president who calls the opposition, hate-position, who is yet to reconcile with some of his former national team members, and who ostracizes his friends who dare to criticize him, does not have the ability to reconcile us. As such, we cannot wait for him to do so. It is time to take our reconciliation matters into our own hands, and put an to end the hatred and bitterness toward each other,” he said.
“Today, on behalf of the Collaborating Political Parties, I have come to offer a simple message to our country: We hear you. We see you. We feel your disappointment. We know our country deserves better. Our people deserve better. This is why we will make this failed Weah Administration a one-term presidency! We know they will try to cheat, and as they have already begun, will try to use fear and intimidations to keep themselves in power. We promise you: None of this will work! We are not easily frightened. We will not be provoked into violence. We do not have to be violent because our cause is just. We stand not for ourselves but for our people who have suffered too much. Mr. Weah has failed the country. He has failed our people. He knows it, and the Liberian people know it. The CPP desires to build up our country, and lift up our people. We are not interested in destroying our country. We will democratically defeat you because our people deserve better!” the opposition leader promised his fellow citizens.