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Patronizing the Step Child

Secretary of State Clinton Sees Progress in Liberia

When we watched President Obama in Ghana, we saw an American President treating African leaders as equals and confronting them vigorously on issues of concern. There was no beating about the bush or using flashy words just to play the guest. In fact the message started before his trip by picking and choosing where to visit on the continent based on some tough criteria his administration has set. On the other hand, when we saw Secretary of State Hilary Clinton in Liberia, we witnessed a high degree of patronage and overcompensation which is in line with the step father-step child (mentality) relationship that has existed between Liberia and America for so long. Like an absentee parent trying to make up for lost time in his/her child’s life or a very nice parent trying hard to evoke good behavior out of a poorly performing or trouble child, Liberia consistently gets a pat on the back from the US even when she falls far below standard.

Clearly President Obama was awarding Ghana with a State visit for the strides the Black Stars have taken towards political, social and economic viability. Liberia was not on his list for the same reasons Kenya wasn’t. Like those other countries which President Obama chided, Liberia is plagued with corruption. Her Freeport is still one of those horror stories of indecency, dishonesty and thievery. The government is still dominated by one selected class of Liberians in strategic areas, the same group that had dominated political and economic power for ever so long. Much of the interior of the country is like no man’s land, neglected and ignored with no opportunities for rural dwellers who migrate to urban areas in droves while grant money for those areas continue to swell the secret accounts of a few insiders.

Just before her arrival, there were two demonstrations: one pro-government and the other anti government. The pro-government rally was allowed while the one calling for the implementation of the TRC recommendations indicting the president for her role in the NPFL rebellion was banned and its leader arrested. In the middle of all these reports, Mrs. Clinton undercut the message president Obama took to Africa over a month ago by praising Liberia for all the bad things her boss has earlier condemned.

Overcompensation can have disastrous consequences. But some parents think that is a good way to boost a child ego or encourage a failing child to try. A father training his little child to play foot ball would yell “excellent” any time his son caught the ball. Any time the child missed or dropped the ball, he would yell “nice try” with the same intensity. The child held onto those two until he started playing wild receiver for his high school football team. Anytime he dropped the ball even when he was not covered, he would he hear boos instead of “nice try.” Long story short, he did not make his high school let alone succeeded in his foot ball career.

I have the feeling that because not much is expected out of us from our so-called step father or traditional big brother and friend, every little baby step whether forward or backward is celebrated as a major accomplishment. History tells us no lie. After rigged elections in 1985, American president and the State dept said it was okay for our level. After all, this was Africa-the Dark Continent where there were hardly elections except coups and counter coups so any semblance of democracy or an election that was haphazardly done was okay for our standard.

Then a very brutal war came led by Charles Taylor who was schooled in the Boston area and later became a fugitive. He broke jail from a maximum security prison in the same area to return to Liberia with the bloodiest rebel war ever on the African continent. According to him, he was helped out of jail by American security officers whom he did not know or ever met. The atrocities he and his rebels committed were horrendous; he made no secret of his desire to kill everyone and destroy everything that stood between him and state power. Yet Americans like Jesse Jackson and others said the only issue was to remove Doe from power. As long as Doe was removed, the problem would be solved. After all, these were people already accustomed to harsh treatment and abuses and were only resistant to the American style democracy Taylor was about to institute. For our level, those deaths were okay or at a level where they could be tolerated.

Remember Hilary and her husband Bill Clinton came to power at the peak of the notorious octopus of 1992. These two are so powerful and so good that you can’t help but to take them as a package as it is so difficult to know who is really calling the shots. I was in Taylor’s rebel land at that time, Kingsville, Margibi County to be specific where I was driven as a result of the renew hostilities. Rebels rejoiced at the Clintons’ ascendency to state power claiming that everything would work for Mr. Taylor because of the Clintons’ victory. “Bill Clinton and the Pahpay are from the same party!” They celebrated letting few shots in the air every now and then to welcome Mr. and Mrs. Clinton to the White House.

I believe Taylor who had a complete control over those boys whom he had nearly domesticated might have told them of his Democratic Party affiliation. True or false, it was just hard to find out what kind of relationship existed between Mr. Taylor and the Democratic Party or its leaders or the congressional Black caucus. But what is clear is that Democratic government headed by the Clintons and the Republican government of Bush and his father’s friends that succeeded it saw and responded to the Liberian atrocities differently.

Mrs. Clinton was quoted saying “But it is also true that there are paths toward that future which will lead in a positive direction, and there are others that will lead in a negative direction. The choices that are made every day will determine which path Liberia chooses.” But surprisingly, Mrs. Clinton was quick to ignore the path many Liberians were choosing by coming in a head-on collision with the TRC recommendation urging Liberians to listen to the “indicted” president instead of the TRC. In addition to such contradiction, she patronizes and over-compensates the Sirleaf government for what we all know as a dismal three year performance:
“In just three years, there are encouraging signs of progress…” and you will wonder where Secretary Clinton was looking. Building on such false premise, she proceeds,
“So it is, I think, important to note that given the progress you’ve made, you must hold on to that and continue up that mountain together.” I thought that was a shame to reward us for a bad performance.

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