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Dissociating with the Sirleaf Empire: A Late Call

Author, Blogger & Teacher
The Liberian story gets complicated every day. Understandably, President Sirleaf has not delivered. Critics and fans alike will agree that Mrs. Sirleaf was an outstanding politician who was a thorn in the flesh of many administrations that came before hers. With such background even those who voted for or against the proverbial Iron Lady could hang their hats on the fact that she would lift Liberia higher than what her predecessor did. Above all, she would be tolerant of dissenting views and fair in the discharge of her duties as president. She was the candidate who “been there, done that” and so corruption and nepotism which she spent years fighting against would not be her portion.

But since her election as the first democratically elected president of Africa, things have turned to be quite the opposite of almost all expectations. Allegations of nepotism, corruption, injustices and failure to implement programs and policies to dig the country out of the hole created by years of misrule and a 14 year uncivil war have been persistent throughout her presidency.

First, came her inaugural committee which was mainly comprised of people of her own tribe. The argument against any whisper of ethnicity was, inauguration committee was not a government position. It was like planning a wedding where the bride selects family, close friends and people from her innermost circle. So president Sirleaf was not charged; she got a pass and we moved on.

When her government was formed after a polarizing election, it comprised mainly people from the Tubman/Tolbert era most of whom Mrs. Sirleaf had worked with or knew personally or had family ties with. The explanation we got when the nepotism charge was levied again was that she needed people with experience and those she trusted after all, cabinet positions are allocated at the will and pleasure of the president.

The trust in Madam Sirleaf’s ability to lead was high; enthusiasm for the first post war president was at its peak. So Liberians again reckoned that Mrs. Sirleaf knew better not to repeat the mistakes of past governments. With Mrs. Sirleaf at the head, whoever she puts in position was definitely going to fall in line and obviously do the right thing. Although everything pointed to a false start, many believed that as long as it was the Iron Lady in charge, things were going to be fine. This was the case of someone perceived to have a 20/20 vision leading and consequently, even the blind could hold on tight and just sail along.

It did not take long in President Sirleaf’s first term when Mr. John Morlu appeared on the scene as Auditor General. When Mr. Morlu handed down his first verdict, he charged the Sirleaf government for being three times more corrupt than the Gyude Bryant government it succeeded. While few agreed with Mr. Morlu, he was nearly stoned to death by Mrs. Sirleaf and her supporters. After all, this was Liberia’s Iron Lady and the darling of the International community he was indicting. It was inconceivable for the one whose work and transparency helped cancel Liberia’s debt to be more corrupt than those whose corrupt practices saddled such a poor country with so much debt.  So John Morlu was kicked to the curb under the fancy reasoning of his contract expiring or not being renewed.

All these happened in the open. Charges of President Sirleaf being corrupt, nepotistic and vindictive mounted. Members of Unity party got the best of everything in a country still struggling to recover from war and this created a wave of movements from opposition parties or no parties to the Unity party in droves. Even elected officials joined the carpet crossing to the ruling party. Before and during that time, everyone complained that Mrs. Sirleaf’s children especially the one called Robert Sirleaf, self appointed and Mama ordained Senior Adviser to the President, took over the affairs of the country got whatever he wanted and sometimes dictated how things should go. He wielded so much power including hiring and firing of presidential appointees. Like the sons of the Priest Eli who thought that by virtue of their  sonship they were entitled to everything in the temple and therefore started messing with everything including God’s offerings, the Sirleaf sons did almost everything that supposed to be the prerogative of the president  including being disresprctful to other people's women. I can still recall the cries of former Rep Montserrado county District #10 Mrs. Reginald Sokan Teah crying from the unruly behavior of Mr. Robert Sirleaf against her over the Doe Community Bridge. Examples from the books of Saddam Hussein and his sons, Gadhafi and his sons or Charles Taylor and his son Chucky among others were cited but none of the horrible ends of the sons of those dictators could scare either the mother or the sons.

So when elections came, an opportunity presented itself to change leaders. It was clear that Mrs. Sirleaf had done little to move the country forward and even without looking into any political crystal ball, the Sirleaf dog was not going to hunt any differently from what had already taken place for six long years. Whatever their persuasion might have been, two very loud voices surprisingly joined the Sirleaf re-election campaign. The first was former Speaker of the House of Representatives Mr. Edwin Snowe and the other was Nobel Peace Prize winner Ms Leymah Ghowee. When Mr. Snowe was dethroned as Speaker of the House of Representatives, many said that President Sirleaf had a lot to do with it. So when the carpet crossing wave came, Mr. Snowe was among those crossing from the opposition to the ruling party which some critics have dubbed as the gravy train. Miss Leymah Gbowee had just co- won the Nobel Peace Prize along with the president and the two became buddy-buddy. Both Mr. Snowe and Ms. Gbowee had joined Mrs. Sirleaf at the height of the outcry against how she and her sons were managing or mismanaging the affairs of the state. Imagine a referee or assisting referee in a crucial game making a call after a goal is scored and play has resumed. 

Not too long, when I heard that Miss Leymah Gbowee was dissociating herself from her fellow Nobel laureate for the same charges that others including John Morlu had levied against the Sirleaf administration, I said to myself “if Gbowee did not believe John Morlu, why should she expect anyone to believe her now?” Then for Mr. Snowe, I only wonder what would had happened, had he been allowed to join the country’s shadow Prime Minister Robert Sirleaf in the inner house instead of being ushered a seat under the palava hut. What really would Mr. Snowe be saying or doing now had he not been screwed out of the oil deal? We can only speculate based on how long it took for Mr. Snowe to let the cat out of the bag or how forthcoming he has been regarding his activities at the LPRC where he was Managing Director and his association with former President Taylor - the terror or the Mano River Community.

One lesson I learn from these fall outs is that whenever you agree to partner with an alleged crook to do business amid all the outcries and then you get duped, many will not think you are credible when you come out to tell the story. As my fellow refugee teacher from Bossou once said “you can’t help to dress the devil and then dissociate yourself when the devil’s leg begin to show during a performance.” That is why when President Sirleaf or her surrogates came out with counter attacks claiming that Miss Gbowee is too young to criticize the Sirleaf administration or that it was Mr. Snowe who tried to bribe the president, the story gets muddier for all of us to digest.

I join others in thanking Mr. Snowe and Miss Gbowee for their (better late than never) revelations or repentance but what will happen if we all will need to have similar experiences with the president before exposing or taking a stand against the wrong direction into which she is taking the country? Just what will become of the future of our country if we complain only after being dealt a bad hand by the one whom we join against all the complaints and mounting allegations of nepotism, corruption, mismanagement and incompetence…? We are in a mess, a real mess and it gets complicated each day.

Referenced Stories:
  1. Edwin Snowe
  2. Leymah Gbowee
  3. Robert Sirleaf

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