MONROVIA: President-elect Joseph Nyuma Boakai has lauded the Liberian Diaspora community for playing a pivotal role in the political, economic and social development of Liberia, a fact he said that cannot be overemphasized. Recalling how the 2022 International Organization of Migration estimates put Liberians living abroad at about 500,000 with an estimated 100,000 living in the United States alone, Ambassador Boakai said Diaspora Liberians have had direct and indirect engagements with the country by contributing to its development, promising that his government will nurture and cultivate the Liberian Diaspora as a serious partner in implementing the country’s development agenda.
“I have been involved in some of the toughest election campaigns in the last four presidential election cycles, I have been stretched physically, financially, mentally, and emotionally; I have been hit personally by a barrage of falsehoods.
“While I am blessed to have the most loving wife, Mrs. Kartumu Boakai and a loving family that have agreed to join me through this crucible, I have come to realize that it is the people of Liberia that matter most. It is on their giant shoulders that we stand to see the common good and beyond our narrow interests and our insular political culture. It is their unwavering resolve to choose their leaders freely and make their voices heard that will continue to make these globally heralded transitions in Liberia -especially the 2023 elections- a thing to admire about the democratic credentials the country is now enjoying.
“If this past campaign should make us strong and help prepare us for the tasks ahead, it would largely be on account of how the people of Liberia have rallied around us in a historic fashion for the change they want, and I must say, the Liberian Diaspora community has been an integral and crucial partner in all this. Indeed, the Liberian community in Providence has been magnanimous!
“Similarly, I am in this public manner proposing a yearly conference on Diaspora engagement to help facilitate Liberia’s contribution to the community in the development of the homeland. We are aware of how financial remittances from you to your families and friends in Liberia have created social safety nets and closed gaps in the provision of social services by the government.
“Your remittances have not only provided means for people back home to feed themselves, provide housing, health care, and education, but they have also contributed substantially to the economy in many ways. Your expertise and networks in the diaspora have also contributed in meaningful ways to the development of private ventures in the larger economy.
“Against this background, I am pleased to announce that the Liberian Diaspora will be nurtured and cultivated as a serious partner in implementing our development agenda. Similarly, I am in this public manner proposing a yearly conference on Diaspora engagement to help facilitate Liberia’s contribution to the community in the development of the homeland,” President-elect Boakai said Saturday, December 16, 2023 when he addressed a gathering of Liberians in the USA, on the occasion of the formal welcoming program by the JNB Movement New England Chapter and the Liberian Communities in the Northeast.
Further expressing his gratitude to the Diasporan Community, especially Liberians residing in the United States, Canada, the United Kingdom, and continental Europe, Africa, Asia, Australia, New Zealand, the Caribbean, among others, Ambassador Boakai applauded Diaspora Liberians for joining hands with their counterparts in the motherland in creating a spontaneous people’s movement, a popular groundswell and the critical mass that undergird the country’s democracy.
“I would, therefore, like to take this time to thank you for your financial and material donations, your expertise, your media outreach, your activism, and your critical voices that created awareness and popularized our message of change, transformation, and message of rescue.
“The history of the struggle for democracy and transformation in Liberia has always had a link to the work of Diaspora communities, their organizations, and associations that have worked tirelessly to address some of the vexing issues confronting our country. I believe you invested in this process because you wanted a change in the political, social, economic, and material conditions that occasioned the steady stream of emigration, particularly in the last thirty years,” President-elect Boakai said.
Challenges and the way forward
Expounding further on the theme of his address, “The people and their voice: Sustaining our democracy”, Ambassador Boakai said during his July 26 message this year, he spoke on the state of Liberia and delved into what he saw as some of the foundational challenges confronting Liberians.
“As I reflect on that day about rebranding our society and creating an equal future for all Liberians, I want to highlight the need to address the crisis of governance by promoting inclusivity and popular participation in the decision-making process. I believe the power of government must come from the people, whose unfettered participation in the democratic process always establishes the legitimacy that ensures political stability and social cohesion.
“The nature and structure of our economy have promoted so much inequality and partly caused some of the social tensions and strains in society that have led to conflicts. We must rethink how concession and enclave should work for our people across the entire value chain with deliberate decisions on value addition over raw extraction.
“More than that, natural resource exploitations must not only bring growth; that growth must equally come with development in that income is plowed back into the delivery of social services and other public goods. I also want to make the case for a productive economy, which is why I believe as a mainly agrarian country, Liberia must leverage its comparative advantage in agriculture to increase its economic output. With sixty percent of the population made of youth and therefore its most productive cohort, and more than fifty percent of those working in the agriculture sector being women, we will ensure the critical investment needed in agriculture for agro-based production.
“Our society has historically and unreasonably been bedeviled by inequality with the majority below the poverty line and at the lowest rungs of the social ladder. Historical structural barriers have not only made it difficult, especially, for those in the interior of the country to access social services, they have curtailed their ability to earn and sustain respectable livelihoods. These have created fault lines along wealth, class, ethnicity, and many more fractures that are the seeds of conflict. We may not remove these historical barriers overnight, but I believe we can manage them by empowering the people and providing opportunities and access to services.
“There are other social concerns such as the lack of respect for one another, dishonesty, hate messages, and the culture of impunity. These we can assure you will become things of the past.
“Ladies and gentlemen, I have outlined all these because I see them as some of the recurrent and most critical problems facing the country that will certainly confront the incoming government. We will explore the means available to us to address these problems including the drug epidemic and health and sanitation challenges. Still, it is important to establish that we cannot do it alone as a government. Certainly, the results of interventions will not be immediately evident in some of the cases. This is why the diasporan community would be a crucial partner in developing our country. Let me throw the challenge out to you,” Ambassador Boakai intoned.
Concluding, the President-elect noted that Liberians at home and abroad have an opportunity to change the course of their country, and that is up to Liberians to seize the moment and transform the country for all to have a fair chance of a better livelihood.
“I will repeat, as I have always maintained, that Liberia is not a poor country, but the problem of this country is the lack of sound and honest leadership. The election is now behind us, and it is time to do the hard work. I ask all Liberians at home and in the Diaspora to join me as I lead in the fashion of a servant leader to help build our country together to promote a functional and equitable society for generations to come. It will not be an easy road, but God above all, we will work together to change and transform our country. Thank you so much as we together think Liberia, Love Liberia, and Build Liberia. May God bless us all and save our Nation,” Ambassador Boakai said solemnly.
The auspicious program was graced by the presence of Mrs. Kartumu Boakai, First Lady-Elect; Mr. Jerry Barcon, Chairman, Rhode Island Chapter of the Liberian Associations in the US; Mr. Joe E. Norris, Chairman, JNB Movement New England Chapter; Mrs. Fatima Khadar Johnny, Chairlady, Program and Mobilization; as well as members of the Diompillor Community.
Remarks were proffered by Mr. Sahr E. Johnny, Chairman of the Board,JNB Movement, New England Chapter, USA; Rhode Island State Officials and Representative; and Mr. Gabriel Monger Zarwea.