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Political Clearing House for Liberian Organizations

It is stated that “every crisis presents an opportunity” and I hope we don’t waste this chance that the ULAA crisis has presented to over haul our organizational and governance structures. I am convinced that the one thing that is lacking in all our groups for which our quarrels never get resolved is that we don’t have any one or group to be a tie breaker or serve as the political clearing house in case we reach a dead-end although we may not realize that we are at such point. Clearly, the structures we adopt are not working for us especially in bad times. The constitution we always rely on to break our deadlocks is always subject to our own interpretations and I tell you Liberians are good at breaking it down to the lowest details.

Sometimes we say the board or the general assembly can take us out of these sticky situations but all these groups are almost always part of the in fighting and are often entangled in all major confusions, especially when the situation enters a crisis mode. Our own interconnectedness, group dynamics and the reasons we join these organizations in the first place often force members to take sides so when all is set and done, each member is either on this side or that side. Not a single member is ever left untouched by the resulting mud slinging and agitation. And since those organizations are non-profit, those exhausted by the ceaseless fights or disagree with the ones in power often leave to set up a parallel organization or forget it all together. After all, what do they have to lose by cancelling membership? The conventional wisdom is that they save time and money and sometimes headache by dissociating.

“I would rather put my time in working overtime at my day job and save my money often spent on membership dues and taxations.” They would say with a sigh. And I can purely understand their exhaustion and reasoning. In all fairness, our organizations have not positioned themselves to actually meet the needs of its members so being part of them is purely sacrificial. Already bogged down by membership responsibilities without any tangible derived benefits, it makes no sense to pile upon such burdens the quarrels, bitter feelings and sometimes slender often associated with those endless infightings. No one can deny that there is a stranglehold placed on the goals of those organizations as most of the time is spent fighting, tearing down one another and making the community “small” for ourselves. Frankly, not many persons are prepared to deal with an endless laundry list of problems on top of their own personal challenges especially during a global economic down turn.

What if we had some authority independent of our organizations that we can submit to, serving as a power broker or a clearing house? Not involved in the day to day running of the organization, but can be the final arbiter when all hell breaks lose. In time of crisis, we could bury all our hard feelings, our right and all the big talk about constitutionality to abide by the ruling of such authority. If we anticipate that the honeymoon with which we kick off these organizations will end and strong disagreements will emerge sometimes more than what we can handle, we can all agree before hand that incase the unexpected happens, there must be this one agreed upon way to break the impasse. Such can be the work of that higher governing body which for the lack of a better phraseology, I call a political clearing house.

I have toyed with this idea for some time now and recent post elections protests in Iran plus the experience of a Church I visited in Lowell, Massachusetts breathed life into my thoughts. One way to think about it is to picture the role of the Supreme Court in a mature democracy like the United States. I met this Pastor who before forming a church anticipated that one day some of those animosities, although often blamed on the devil would happen and therefore envision a “clearing house” for his church. So after the church was set up, they prayed and agreed upon one big church man to serve as a “covering” for the young congregation. His role is not to run the daily affairs of the church but some one to turn to incase the worse happens and everyone is at each others throat. The pastor indicated that he did not want his church to become wayward and so the Holy Spirit led him to find someone- a servant of God with a proven track record of a daily walk with Jesus whose earthly authority they can submit to. I thought that was a phenomenal move. Like other evangelical pastors, the godly man knows first hand all the pitfalls and temptations associated with a booming congregation and deep offering baskets pressed down, shaken together and running over. He therefore sought the godly wisdom of an older and more experienced God fearing man to keep him and his leadership in check. In doing so, he has tied up his own ego, the fruits of the flesh that have the audacity to throw disenchanted members out of the door lashing and fuming with pride “I am the pastor, if you don’t like it, find another church!”

Just as the pastor had feared, I believed there are many wayward and stand alone organizations in our Liberian community. While independence is a good thing, there are no political “clearing houses” to stabilize our organizations in terms of crisis or when our squabbles and fights reach the levels of mimicking WEC (world extreme cage fighting) wreckage. Take for example there are county organizations. There are district organizations or sub-tribal organizations but surprisingly, those districts or sub-tribes are on their own. It would be nice if the governing structures were set up in such a way that a District or sub-tribal organization would “submit” to the county organization and the head of association of county organizations have some form of jurisdiction over the individual county organization. For example if the Konobo District Organization is in a dilemma it cannot resolve, the Grand Gedeh association should be able (or required by the bylaws) to break the stalemate. And if the Grand Gedeh organization is in crisis, the leadership of the Association of County organization should be able to step in and its decision should be binding on all. That could be the same relationship between the State organizations and the Union of Liberian Associations in the Americas (ULAA). For ULAA, we could find an independent body or group like a council of clergy or an office like the Liberian Embassy to be able to break any stalemate. I am just using these as examples, to express the idea of “clearing house,” the actual implementation and the bodies involved may vary.

It is unfortunate that our organizations are so disjointed and as a result, “the one who eats alone, dies alone.” We need to connect these dotted lines and make each of our organizations not just accountable to its members but answerable to a higher authority that can push some things down our throats when it is necessary to restore order. The relationships represented by the dotted lines are visible to all of us; we only need to make them bolded by reflecting or incorporating them in our governance models.

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