MONROVIA – There may not always be the luxury of time and opportunities available for one to accomplish a task and politicians being people who will always want to seize the faintest chance possible to squeeze through their message to the people will not allow any chance to pass by. Cllr. Tiawan Saye Gongloe a presidential aspirant on the ticket of the Liberian People’s Party(LPP) in far away United States of America just did similar thing when on the invitation to speak to students and faculty of the Department of African Studies, University of San Francisco, he took the center stage to give an insight of his perspective on politics as it relates to his ambition and the 2023 general elections. The Analyst Reports.
It appears to be the passion and determination of Presidential hopeful Cllr. Tiawan S. Gongloe attaches to the ensuing 2023 general elections has no boundary or border how and where he communicates the message of his ambition as he seized the opportunity afforded him in far away United States of America to tell his audience, mainly students of the African Studies Department of the University of San Francisco that the 2023 elections “present the opportunity for Liberians to strengthen the rule of law and sweep corruption out of the country and expand economic activities for sustained peace, progress and prosperity”
Addressing students of the African Studies Department of the University of San Francisco, California, USA, on November 16, 2022 where he was invited to speak on the topic “Liberia, the Past, Present and Future”, Cllr. Gongloe said the founding dream of the forefathers has been betrayed by past and current leaders of Liberia. He said widespread corruption betrayed the dream, but it is still alive, so the time is now to resurrect it for Liberia to be free of corruption to allow all Liberians to benefit from the promise of the dream.
“The opportunity for Liberians to begin the historic task of making Liberia a free land of liberty for all Liberians is the 2023 legislative and presidential elections. It provides every Liberian the chance to sweep corruption from Liberia and choose people who are capable of making a country that functions well for all its citizens. All Liberians and friends of Liberia should support free, fair and transparent legislative and presidential elections in 2023. Liberia is a historic country that Africans and all people of African descent should be proud of and collectively work to make the country that it was meant to be.
“The view that colonization by European power was a benevolent action because many formerly colonized countries are doing better than Liberia is not a view that any proud African should allow to be a prevailing view. There is nothing morally good about slavery or colonization. But then if Liberia does not improve its governance process, this distorted moral argument might be taken even by Liberians to be true. We can only change the situation by finding effective ways to fight corruption”, Gongloe said.
The LPP standard bearer turned the occasion to more of a classroom scenario where he provided some graphic historical antecedents of modern Liberia, beginning with the arrival of the freed slaves from America who founded Liberia, their struggle to find suitable dwelling places, their interactions with the natives, the colonial rule, the declaration of independence, the recognition from western power, the various political upheavals and the present dispensation.
“We cannot begin to understand Liberia’s past, present, unless we understand the context and the facts that have shaped Liberia since the country was established. Allow me, therefore, to give you a little bit of background information that highlights the salient aspects of the major events that have had a tremendous influence on who we are today.
“I will begin with the rather unique political history of Liberia and speak a little bit about the civil conflicts, as well as the current state of Liberia and conclude with what direction Liberia needs to take to become a better country for all of its citizens. The Liberian experiment of establishing a colony by a non-governmental organization and not a sovereign country like the history of other countries in Africa makes it unique. The violent removal of two presidents, the 1955 political crisis, the 1979 protest against the rise in the price of rice, the civil conflict and the endemic corruption and lack of respect for the rule of law, as well as the retrogression in the social political and economic development of Liberia are all the result of a flawed venture in state building as shown by the establishment of the Liberian state”, he said.
Tracing the failure of the state to address the myriad of problems plaguing the country since independence, Gongloe told the audience, most of whom were students and researchers on Liberia that corruption has been one of the most if not the most problematic area that has held the nation backward as successive leaderships have failed to exert their political will to combat the menace and pointed out three instances of well documented corruption that produce major upheavals in the Liberia’s pulsating history.
“Corruption has undermined the peace and progress of Liberia. In fact, it is more appropriate to say that corruption has greatly contributed to the retrogression of Liberia. The first incident of corruption in Liberia was the controversial loan obtained from Britain by President Edward James Roye in 1871. The President reported that after obtaining the loan he bought some goods for the state while still in the UK. It is reported that of the $500,000 that he borrowed, he reported $300,000 after paying the agent who negotiated the loan and buying goods for the country. His action was arbitrary because under the Constitution of Liberia he needed to report the amount to the legislature and for the legislature to appropriate the same before he could spend any portion of it. This was an abuse of office on his part. He also abused his office when he refused to hold an election on the ground that the referendum of 1870 extended the presidential term from two years to four years. Since he was the incumbent president at the time of the referendum, he could not have benefitted from the result of that referendum without participating in the next election and winning it. It was because of these two corrupt acts on part of President Roye that he was removed from office”, he said.
He said the second case of documented corruption was the involvement of former President Charles DB King along with his Vice President Allen Yancy Sr where engaged in abuse of office by selling slave labor to Spanish Farmers in Fernado Po. “The other abuse of office on his part is that fact that as an incumbent he organized an election in which he won by 140,000 votes even though the total number of registered voters was 15,000. He and his Vice President were forced to resign from office”, he said.
“The third case of the negative effect of corruption on Liberia is the military coup of 1980, that ended 133 years of Americo-Liberian rule, 110 of which was by The True Whig Party alone. The two reasons given by the military junta were rampant corruption and abuse of office. Yet some members of the military junta engaged in corruption and got rich faster than those whom they violently removed from power”, Gongloe said.
He further said that many leaders of Liberia have promised to fight corruption, but they have not shown the political will to do so or developed the method to fight corruption, stressing that some politicians are evasive about fighting corruption and not be definite for fear of being held accountable.
“This promotes impunity in the same manner that impunity is being promoted around the issue of the TRC recommendations. I have maintained the view that all the recommendations of the TRC recommendations should be implemented in the same manner. There has to be closure to Liberia unfortunate past as Sierra Leone and Rwanda did for Liberia to have a better future. The suspicions and pains generated by Liberia’s civil conflict must not linger forever. Accountability is the only way to end corruption and to prevent a resurgence of conflict in Liberia”, he said.
As a panacea to weed out corruption in the polity, Gongloe did not only critique it, he also provided some suggestions that to stamp out one of the major ills in the society.
“Here is what I consider to be an effective way to fight corruption in Liberia. One, the value of the president’s total assets, his salary and benefits should be published on the internet, read on the radio and published in leading newspapers in Liberia. This is consistent with the provision of the Liberian Constitution that says, “… there shall be no limitation on the public right to be informed about the government and its functionaries.” Similar information should be published about all government officials in the three branches of government. This is important because when the salary of government officials is known the people will monitor whether officials of government are spending above their incomes.
“The next step in fighting corruption is for the president and his entire minister to subject themselves to a quarterly lifestyle audit with the report of each audit immediately published. The next step is that any minister who is found to be spending more than his income should be immediately dismissed by the President and turned over to the Liberia Anti-Corruption Commission (LACC) for full investigation and prosecution. Every Liberian that I have spoken to has agreed with me that if at least five ministers are dismissed, prosecuted and all their stolen assets seized by the state, no other minister will steal public money. The stealing of public money must be stopped because the government is a place to serve, not to steal.
“Once, we stop the stealing in the government of Liberia, it will be easy to provide free access to medical treatment for pregnant women in order to curtail the high maternal mortality rate and children under the age of five as well as Liberian seniors beginning with the age of 65 years. Additionally, Liberia cannot make progress without making primary and secondary education free for all Liberian children, providing free adult education to all Liberians and technical and vocational training for all Liberian young people in the fifteen counties of Liberia”, he said.
The former President of the Liberia National Bar Association(LNBA) who thrilled the audience and had them spellbound in his scholarly presentation, bemoaned how Liberia is a huge disappointment and betrayal for which it was founded, asserting that the dream by the founding fathers has not yet been realized.
“That dream is contained in the preamble to the 1847 Constitution of Liberia. The relevant part of the preamble says, “Liberia is an asylum from the most grinding oppression. In coming to the shores of Africa, we indulged the pleasing hope that we would be permitted to exercise and improve those faculties, which impart to man his dignity–to nourish in our hearts the flame of honorable ambition, to cherish and indulge those aspirations, which a beneficent Creator had implanted in every human heart, and to evince to all who despise, ridicule and oppress our race, that we possess with them a common nature, are with them susceptible of equal refinement, and capable of equal advancement in all that adorns and dignifies man.”
“So the dream of the colonists who declared Liberian an independent country was that Liberia would be an example of Africans showing the rest of the world their ability to govern themselves as the Europeans and Americans were doing at the time. This is a dream that has been betrayed in many ways by Liberian leaders who have oppressed other citizens of Liberia. Firstly, whether unconsciously or deliberately, the colonists replicated the relationship that existed between them and their slave owners while they were still in captivity”
“The history of Liberia also reveals the denial of certain fundamental rights in a country that was founded on the dream of protecting the freedom of all its citizens. For example, the right to vote was denied women until 1946, nearly one hundred years after independence. Also, Liberians from the local ethnic groups did not have the right to vote until 1946, during the administration of William V. S. Tubman”, he said.
Speaking on the monumental failure of the governance system which he attributed to some electoral issues that have resulted to major national crises in the country, the radical lawyer spelled out three elections held in the past to authenticate his assertion, a clear pointer to the need to guide against such recurrence in the 2023 general elections
“In 1871, for example, the failure of President E. J. Roye to hold the scheduled presidential election was one of the causes for his removal from office by force.
“In 1927 a presidential election was conducted in Liberia that is recorded by the Guiness Book of Record as the most rigged election in world history. According to history in the election between the incumbent President Charles D. B. King and T. J. R. Fulkner, the total number of registered voters was 15,000. However, the result showed that King obtained 240,000 votes and Fulkner received 9,000 votes. It was after this election that Fulkner complained to the League of Nations about King’s involvement in the sending of forced labor to Fernado Po.
“The fourteen year civil conflict that ended in 2003 was linked to the banning of some political parties and the dissatisfaction of the participants in the 1985 election, over the election results. Guided by history, all Liberians must advocate at all times for free, fair and transparent elections in order to sustain peace and stability in Liberia”, he said.
Touching on Liberia’s quest for independence which was to ward off all the external threats from the British and French colonialists as well as taking a definite stand on being a sovereign state, he told the audience to their bewilderment that it took the United States of America 15 years to recognize Liberia as an independent nation after the declaration in 1847 for the obvious reasons of not sparking up controversies in the United States on how slaves were treated in the Americas.
“One reason given for the reluctance is that the US did not want to recognize the independence of Liberia “Because of fears of the impact this might have on the issue of slavery in the United States”. Just imagine what effect a black ambassador sitting in Washington, DC would have had on blacks who were still slaves and their relationship with their owners”, he said.
He earlier told audience about the difficult relationship that existed between the settlers and the natives, adding that the ex-slaves were settled among people who they could not communicate with because of language barrier.
“The natives of the land and settlers had different cultures. For example, the natives collectively owned land and found it difficult to accept the concept of selling land. The settlers on the other hand understood the meaning of purchasing land and getting a transfer of title as they had lived as slaves on the lands owned by their owners. As a result of these difficulties the settlers found themselves in constant conflict with the natives of the land, while at the same time they were in conflict with European colonizers, principally Britain and France.
“Additionally, there was no effort by the agents of the ACS, the colonists themselves or the African kings to integrate the black returnees from the United States with the local population. This failure created a perpetual division between the black settlers and those met by them on the ground in Africa.
Speaking on behalf of her Department of the School, Lilian Dube, Chairperson of the African Studies Department, said Africa is the future of the world, and “we need to hold the torch for the generation of Africa, not Liberia alone.
She described Cllr. Gongloe as the torch of hope and thanked him for his unwavering commitment to justice and human rights.
Meanwhile, Cllr. Gongloe is scheduled to visit several states in the United States at the invitation of his United States-based Liberians who are hoping to see rule of law and good governance in Liberia.