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A Historical Phenomenon in Liberia: Fulfilling the Expectations of Liberians

Ben Browne ~ (November 17th 2005)  

"...Mrs. Sirleaf must not only see her election as a challenge to our growth, security and respect; but also as a challenge to the value, meaning and purpose of our beloved country. Moreover, we the people of Liberia must accept nothing short of the fulfillment of these challenges....”

Liberia continues to make history in Africa. As the first independent nation in Africa, Liberia has just added another page to the history book of Africa, the first to elect female to the presidency. However, this new page will only be written differently if Mrs. Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf is able to prove to Liberians, Africans and the rest of the world that she is going to be significantly different from the rest of the 22 Presidents in her country’s past.

In order for Mrs. Sirleaf to have a better start, it is important that she be willing to bring professional and experienced Liberians on board to work for the over all good of Liberia regardless of political parties, Religious, Social, Tribal or other affiliations. It is very important that Mrs. Sirleaf creates a society wherein the qualified people will end up in the right positions. During this century Liberians can not afford to have a government based on “trial and error” because of nepotism, tribalism, sectionalism or “who know you?” What Liberians need is a government base on appointment by qualifications for the overall good of the nation and its people.

It is common knowledge that the problem with leadership in Liberia, or Africa in general is deeply rooted in the leader’s inability to distinguish between personal and national interest. The endless socioeconomic and political inconsistency that have blemished Liberia’s struggle for democracy, political stability and social justice are deeply rooted in our past, particularly in leadership styles. The attitude of business as usual (Corruption, Tribalism, Favoritism and Greed) should be eradicated in the new Government.

Mrs. Sirleaf must allow the failed history of past leaders in Liberia and Africa to guild her in taking Liberia forward. J. R. Strayer, a distinguished Medievalist, once said, “No community can survive and no institution can function without constant reference to past experience. In every society people are usually ruled by precedents fully as much as by laws, which is to say that we are rule by the collective memory of our past. It is the memory of occurrences that makes a scattered individual into community.”

As Mrs. Sirleaf prepares to take over the leadership of Africa’s oldest nation as the first female President, it is important for her to allow our history to enable her deal more knowledgeably with changes in the Liberian society. The understanding of the past is a fundamental component to appreciating and understanding the present as well as anticipating the future. After years of struggle for political and democratic freedom, social and economic equality, justice and co-existence, the ball is now in the court of Mrs. Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf to transform our bitter and failed past to a beautiful masterpiece of brotherhood.

Mrs. Sirleaf must not only see her election as a challenge to our growth, security and respect; but also as a challenge to the value, meaning and purpose of our beloved country. Moreover, we the people of Liberia must accept nothing short of the fulfillment of these challenges.

Additionally, this period in the history of Liberia must not be seen as an opportunity for revenge, nor shall it be seen as a window of opportunity for the return to the old failed system of the so-called elite “so say one, so say all.” The so-called “Congo vs. Country” ideology that often undermines our democracy must be eradicated. All Liberians must be treated with respect, equal justice, and have equal access to social, political, educational, and economic opportunities. We should ask for nothing less.

As a nation, we should want total freedom and equality, which, of course will dictate the constitution of a government that will seek the interest of the people. We should want a government we will not fear but that will fear us as a people. Thomas Paine once said, “When the people fear the government, you have tyranny. When the government fears the people, you have freedom. We must accept nothing less.

Now is the time to make real the promises of democracy by our failed leaders. Now is the time to bridge the chasm that divided us for so long on tribal, religious, political, gender and factional lines. Now is the time to unite the oppressed and the oppressors. Now is the time to create an environment that will welcome the illiterates and the literates. All these things can be done if Mrs. Sirleaf and her government officials will become the servants of the people. Former French President, Charles de Gaulle once said, “in order to become the master, the politician poses as the servant.” Mrs. Sirleaf, we the people of Liberia must expect nothing less.

For too long Liberians have induced everything bad, ugly and nasty, now is the time to enjoy the good, the better and the best in everything we deserve. We should not accept “so say one, so say all.” The prospects of successful female politicians in Africa will greatly depend on Mrs. Sirleaf’s ability to make a difference. Liberians will be watching, Africans will be watching and the rest of the world will be watching. We must receive nothing but the best.
Now we the people must understand that the ultimate question is not how we can extricate ourselves heroically from the affair, but how the generation after us shall continue to live in peace.

About the author:

Ben Browne is a Liberian living in Minnesota.

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