A MESSAGE WITHOUT SOLUTIONS: President Joseph Boakai’s SONA, High on Clinches and Barren Rhetoric, Low on Specific Policy Prescriptions

A RESPONSE BY THE COALITION FOR DEMOCRATIC CHANGE TO PRESIDENT JOSEPH BOAKAI’S 1ST State of the Nation Address – CDC Headquarters – Congo Town, Monrovia, Liberia – January 29, 2024


Members of the Governing Council and the National Executive Committee,

The Speaker, and Members of the CDC Legislative Caucus,

Members of the Mighty Coalition for Democratic Change

Members of other affiliating political parties,

The people of Liberia.

Today, we have gathered here at this sacred and historic national headquarters of the CDC to respond to the State of the Nation address delivered a few hours ago by H.E Joseph Boakai in fulfilling a requirement enshrined in section 58 of our constitution.

Before doing so, we must first extend our deepest appreciation to the close to one million Liberians, who through their votes expressed confidence and appreciation for the many achievements carried- out by the CDC-led government over the last six years. Even though we lost the legal authority to govern by less than a percentage point two months ago, the verdict of the Liberian people, as I mentioned in our concession speech a fortnight ago, was practically split in the middle.

This decision makes our country a divided nation in critical and urgent need for reconciliation, inclusion, and the maintenance of peace and stability. Despite the results of the elections, the CDC remains grateful to all Liberians for their peaceful participation in our recent presidential and legislative elections. We note, however with regrets, acts of violence perpetrated by the current ruling party – the Unity Party, which resulted in the brutal killings of members of the CDC including partisan Tamba Momo in the Foyah’s unprovoked attack at the home of Hon. Thomas Fallah. We are still grieving the killing of partisan Joshua Solomon, who is alleged to have been murdered by a partisan mob of the Unity Party under the command of one of President Joseph Boakai’s confidantes, Queen Johnson; and we cannot also forget the sad murder of partisan Aloysius Bain in Nimba, Carrie’s out by MDR operatives.

Ladies and Gentlemen, may we kindly take a moment of silence as we remember those falling heroes just mentioned, and other victims not here mentioned, but who fell prey to the systematic acts of violence sponsored and perpetrated by the Unity Party during the period of our elections last year. As we moved forward under a different responsibility, the CDC still takes pride that our democracy is stronger, enviable, and envied by our friends in West Africa and many parts of the world because we chose peace over violence.

The CDC chose Liberia’s stability over maintaining power. We chose setting an unprecedented democratic process, and credentials over the pleasantry that comes with holding power. We sacrificed our ambition for continued governance for the peace and growth of Liberia.  And so, even while we were being murdered, we were more concerned about the safety of our dear country; At the same time, we were being cheated, we were more concerned about upholding the integrity of our election process, which is an essential cornerstone of our democracy.

Additionally, CDC is proud of all that it achieved in the last six years, which many have agreed is unprecedented for any president and government to accomplish in its 1st term in office, especially the conditions under which we took over the mantle of the state, in-spite of the Covid 19 pandemic, which was effectively contained and prevented from derailing our development goals.

As we highlight those conditions, and what we did accomplish, let me quickly remind all of us that though CDC narrowly lost the presidential election, it will never lose its commitment to fighting for good governance, and the well-being of all Liberians.  The CDC has therefore made it clear to all its lawmakers, amongst whom are the speaker and deputy speaker, to uphold this commitment, and use it as the most important measure of cooperation between the legislature and executive branch of government.

Boakai’s Blind Vision

The President of Liberia while addressing the legislators unveiled a vision he termed as ARREST. Clearly, without mentioning how this vision may be implemented or paid for, and lacking strategy and specification for its implementation, is nothing more than an unrealistic campaign sloganeering. Said vision is built on impracticality, vagueness, and dishonesty. The entire address by President Boakai was high on bland clichés, bereft of even the rudimentary ingredients for a sound legislative agenda, falling short of substantive economic or transformative details.

The State of the Nation

Contrary to President Boakai’s claim that the ‘State of the Nation is in distress’, even though he offered no policy prescription or solution on how he intends to “Rescue” this situation, except for saying he would “think outside the box”. We like to report to you that the CDC left the state of our nation stronger than it met in 2018.  For example, President Boakai is inheriting 222.7 million US Dollars in the net international reserve, and over US$40 million in the consolidated account as of January 17, 2023. This amount was left behind by the CDC government compared to the under 7 million the CDC inherited when it took power from the Sirleaf/Boakai-led government in 2017.

The CDC is appalled that even at this early stage, President Boakai would seek to mislead the public about the financial situation of our country by disputing the figures quoted by former President Weah during his farewell statement on 21st January 2024 which are available. We challenge President Boakai to publish the statement of the consolidated account of the period within 48 hours or the CDC will make public copies of the same.

On the question of his asserted comments on the budget deficit, it must be noted the FY 2023 budget was recast after actual revenue collection amounted to USD 710 million was achieved. This actual collection represented the highest amount of revenue collected in contemporary Liberia; While serving as Vice President of this republic, his government never got close to this amount of revenue actualized.

The Unity Party government, at the close of 2017, concealed several domestic debts, including USD 107 million from the IMF through the CBL, and USD 65 million from commercial banks, amongst others, and willfully failed to recognize these debts as part of the domestic debt stock. This represented a gross understatement of debt stock. Of the 2.2 billion debt stock reported, about 60% was contracted under the Unity Party regime.

Agriculture in Limbo

During the campaign, then Candidate Boakia prided himself as the Agriculture Czar and could use agriculture for immediate economic revitalization and social transformation. On the contrary, while addressing the legislature in his State of the Nation, President Boakai offered nothing new, nor any specific strategy for agriculture growth except that he provided a vague vision of “strengthening collaboration with international partners and local farmers to improve production.’’ How such will be achieved, or will achieve growth is left to the imagination of Liberians and our partners alike.

Legislative Agenda

The President seems to have forgotten that many of the bills he seeks to propose as a pillar of his legislative agenda were already submitted to the previous National Legislature. The CDC offers its support in this regard to ensure those bills, of which it is the progenitor, are passed.

President Boakai during the campaign and his inaugural speech was very direct and forceful on an Establishment War and Economic Crime Courts for Liberia. This commitment is even heavily backed by our international partners and the locals, but two days ago his strongest ally Senator Prince Johnson mocked him and went further to attack the physical look of the President on such a stance.

We are convinced that President Boakai’s refusal today to reiterate his call for the Establishment of a War and Economic Crimes Court, and set out a legislative pathway to ensure its establishment, is straightly predicated upon the threat coming from the Senator.

The president must act by submitting such a bill to the Legislature or the CDC will again petition its lawmakers to do the needful.

However, the world stands shocked that the President, who has boasted that he could establish the war and economic crimes court would backslide so early due to political pressure from his God-father ally. The CDC believes nothing is more urgent and pressing now than the call for justice and the rule of law of which the establishment of the War and Economy Crimes Court is a cardinal cornerstone as was contained in former President Weah’s letter to the previous legislature, to begin steps to ensure transitional justice in Liberia.

Civil Servants

‘To make the government more effective and efficient, we must focus on public service deliveries. The people, not the government, must come first’ This sloganeering from President Boakai in dealing with the growth in the size of the civil servants is no strategy in mitigating or addressing the issue of civil servants’ growth and wellbeing. The CDC introduced harmonization which it believes is the best policy and strategy to contain and sustain the growth of civil servants’ salaries.

That President Boakai did not offer any new policy in contradiction to this policy is a veiled acceptance that all of his and the Unity party’s criticism was vainglorious and pandering to the voters.

Fellow citizens, in 2017 you embraced the Change for Hope manifesto that laid the foundation for the Pro-Poor Agenda for Prosperity and Development (PAPD).  The plan sought four different but interrelated pathways in achieving goals including human development, macroeconomic stability, job creation, infrastructure development, and sustainable peace and good governance.

For example, the CDC inherited a messy educational system, as described by the Unity Party’s former Standard Bearer, Madam Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, and turned it into a success story. The CDC government restored confidence in the educational system by admitting Liberia to the West African Senior School Certificate Examination (WASSCE) regional examination, expanding access, and increasing learning outcomes of the WASSCE score from 38% to 85%. With the payment of WASSCE fees for all 9th and 12th graders in public schools, about 240 thousand students benefited from the government-free WASSCE program. This program reduced the financial burden on poor families directly.

In addition to the renovation and improvement of health facilities, the government constructed three major hospitals in Gbaporlu, Rivercess, and Margibi while an additional four regional referral hospitals are under construction. With the deployment and employment of more qualified health workers, more than 85 percent of births are now attended by skilled health attendants, which has contributed to the reduction in home deliveries and maternal mortality.

We took a giant step to ensure prudent fiscal management policies leading to a reduction in inflation from nearly 40 percent in 2018 to about 7 percent in 2023. The most drastic reduction in inflation in the region.  The Administration also restricted using overdrafts from the Central Bank to bridge financing gaps in the national budget and also used effective tax administration to increase domestic resource mobilization from 445M in 2017 to 668M in 2023.  We increased Liberia’s net reserve from 94M in 2017 to about 223m in 2023. Our consolidated account turnover balance increased from 7 M in 2018 it about 40M in 2023.

Fellow Liberians There have been significant efforts made to build infrastructure to facilitate economic growth including the pavement of primary roads up to about 289.7km meters and also urban roads of about 96.4 km as of June 2023. At the end of 2023, it is projected that about 454 kilometers of road shall have been paved by the CDC government. The cost of electricity has drastically decreased from 38 cents to an average of 18 cents per kilowatt and access has increased from 22% in 2018 to 30% in 2022. Additionally, power theft has been substantially reduced, from 60 percent in 2017 to 43 percent in 2022, and now stands at only 30.5 percent, this being accomplished by 100 percent Liberian management of the Liberia Electricity Corporation (LEC).

In our effort to maintain the rule of law, the judiciary has remained independent in its work while coordinating to improve the overall system of jurisprudence. With the training of new magistrates, most of our courts of original jurisdiction and first instance are now manned by highly trained personnel.  The case adjudication rate has increased within the judiciary while the magisterial setting mechanism has been instituted to reduce pretrial detainees and the overcrowding of prison facilities.

The government of Liberia succeeded in passing two landmark acts including the Local Government Act and the Land Right Acts to address self-governance, tenure of rights, and a mechanism for the formalization of community land rights.  In 2009, the government conducted a harmonization process that provided an opportunity to reduce waste in the public wage bill, eliminated duplications, and provided means for equal work for an equal pay system within the government.

On July 30, 2020, an online platform: The Electronic Document Management System (EDMS) was launched under the theme: “Public Financial Management Reforms (PFMR) for Institutional Strengthening Project while establishing an online procurement system linked with IFMIS deployed to 25 Ministries, Agencies and Commissions (MACs). In continuation of the equal work for equal pay process, there has been a uniform compensation scheme established for all State-Owned Enterprises (SOEs).

In the fight to restore integrity to the financial system, the government supported the deployment of the Internal Audit Agency (IAA) in more than 70% of government institutions and introduced the scorecard system that monitors compliance with financial regulations. Moreover, the audit of the government consolidated account has become regular with significant improvements in financial management. Today, the government receives unqualified opinions from the GAC on the audit of the consolidated account as compared to Disclaimer in 2017 during the UP regime. In simple terms, the Auditors were saying “We cannot touch your report and saying to the CDC thank you for the way you managing the country’s money. Meaning auditors could not heretofore recognize the flow of accounting to determine whether government revenues were being spent and accounted for wisely.

While we think the President is completely out of touch with the realities in Liberia or may have been misinformed by his cronies, the CDC with its thorough understanding of the real-life situation of the Liberian people after six years, would like to proffer this constructive advice to the Unity Party-led government if they are serious about announced plans to transform the livelihood of the Liberian people.

The government should build on the gains made under the PAPD and strive to make Liberia a middle-income country by increasing the wealth of the country; reducing the vulnerability of the people through the creation of multiple sustainable livelihood opportunities for all Liberians. The pathway to achieving this will be to invest in human capital development, improve the governance mechanism of the country, continue to unlock the binding constraints to economic development, create more jobs through competitiveness, and green our economy.

Fellow Liberians, while we are bracing ourselves and our president for the level of stability we have maintained since the departure of UNMIL, we see danger ahead of Liberia with the early indications shown by President Boakai. Firstly, the appointment of CLLR Cooper Kruah, a direct protégé to one of Liberia’s notorious Warlords adds to the pronounced national security threat made by his power-wielded puppet master, Senator Prince Johnson. Cllr. Kruah’s confirmation will undermine our legal system and the quest to establish a War and economic crimes Court for Liberia.

Fellow Liberians, the CDC reiterates its commitment to a democratic Liberia even whilst in opposition. Under the leadership of our standard bearer, we will continue to uphold our solemn pledge to the Liberian people to speak out in the name of peace, prosperity, and development.

We will continue to provide alternative prescriptions and offer policy options for the forward march of our beloved country. This is what we set out to do when we founded the Masses Movement in 2004, and this is what we will remain committed to.

Long Live, Long Live Liberia!

Long Live, Long Live the CDC!

Amandla, Ngawaytu

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