Header Ads


No Putting Bullfrog in Taxi: My Hope for a New ULAA

The news I am hearing speaks of yet another ULAA elections on the horizon. I have not ascertained as to when exactly or who the potential candidates might be but I know it is coming; soon. ULAA is the Union of Liberian Associations in the Americas. It is suppose to be the umbrella organization of all Liberian associations in the USA. Of late, ULAA has not really represented what it should be or accomplished what it was organized to accomplish. It all started with the 2008 elections when the Union split into ULAA K and ULAA S; K for Kesselly as in Anthony Kesselly and S for Seton as in Mariah Seton. Tension mounted, insults were traded in public and the chaos was just unstoppable. It became so tense that I thought this was due to “African sign” which prompted my poem “ULAA Bedeviled” in 2009:

Grand March - 2012 Inaugural Ball
ULAA Bedeviled

When I look up to ULAA sky
So pale and not very bright
Really marred they can’t get it right
Good people sadly adrift with all their might
They rumbled and jumbled with no end in sight 

When things went from bad to worse, the Eminent Council, a group of former ULAA presidents stepped in and ruled on the side of ULAA-K. Although ULAA-S still functioned till this day, it took the air out of the rival ULAA faction and gave the bigger side its blessings. We who sat on the fence, throwing rocks here and there once a while agreed with the Eminent Council and recognized the ULAA-K faction as the legitimate body. With or without such recognition or acquiescence, the ULAA-K faction did not bulge as it continued to function as the main body ever since the 2008 elections in Pittsburg, PA. Truth be told, with the verdict, the Eminent Council really put a lot of wind in its sail. It is worth noting that Mr. Bai Mayson Gbala, a member of the Eminent council did not go along with the majority decision and wrote, as if he was on the Supreme court, a dissenting opinion.

The tenure of Mr. Anthony Kesselly ended and his vice president Mr. Gaye Sleh succeeded him in what many saw as a perpetuation of a dress-right-dress system of friends, relatives and birds of the same feathers. As a result, many grew weary of the bickering and the direction ULAA took under Mr. Sleh and his predecessor. Not surprisingly, the Union took a nose dive in its role as the umbrella organization of Liberians in the USA. Under its Board Chairman Mr. Wilmot Kunney, a fellow Sinoean of the Left Bank who by then has become the Karl Rove of the dress-right-dress system, the mission of the Union was modified to an NGO type organization therefore abandoning its advocacy role that made headlines in the 1970’s through the early 2000’s. So ULAA lost its steam and became a lame dog organization with a very narrow scope. It looked the other way when many transgressions took place in Liberia – the same things it was famous for speaking against during the Tolbert, Doe and Taylor Administrations. There were many voices calling on and pleading with ULAA to act but all appeared as wasting water on the back of a duck. Most of the activities of the ULAA we have come to know were now dominated by either a “sumptuous meal" and photo-op with the president of Liberia or the dual citizenship campaign under former president Emmanuel Sunnyboy Wettee as the Dual Citizenship Czar. To his credit, Mr. Wettee gave all he got to the effort of dual citizenship and even his detractors can attest. There is no single social media that has been left untouched by his flashy dual citizenship flyers and blurbs.

ULAA moved on with business as usual with little or nothing to show for its continual existence. There were some who advocated that the Union has outlived its usefulness and therefore needed to be dissolved. Every now and then, there were whispers of money not being accounted for and unauthorized credit card transactions occurring as news of “Air Force One” landing and taking off filled the listservs and chat rooms from the illustrious SG Nyumah. But these whispers did not develop full legs to warrant a probe or public scrutiny and so ULAA rolled on. As more and more Liberians developed a bad taste for the endless bickering in Diaspora organizations and tried to just “forget about ULAA,” President Gaye Sleh ran unopposed and received a white ballot for a second term. Hallelujah, his friends cheered! The ULAA Caucus which until then operated behind the curtains was formalized and the “dress-right-dress” or hand-pick succession which drove many away seemed to flourish! 

But every good thing must come to an end. Mr. Gaye Sleh has served his two terms and there are signs that this dress-right-dress system which has not helped anyone may be broken. The ULAA-S faction is still hanging on to dear life and there are also good signs that they can be welcomed back into the fold with pride and dignity. The door to ULAA can be widened to allow competition and the diversity of views. Four terms of two administrations since 2008 have failed to win back many of those who left ULAA (or ULAA left) but this may soon change. There is an opportunity to reunite what used to be ULAA-K and ULAA-S and others who sat on the fence or decided to concentrate their energies somewhere else so that the Union can once again be what it was set out to be. There is a high likelihood to end once and for all the old order that transfers power from one member of the gang to the other. Yes, the door is wide open to broaden the umbrella and allow some of our finest and brightest to compete for the presidency of ULAA so that whoever wins can truly represent the cream of Liberian ingenuity and astuteness. But to make that happen, all of us have to rally to defeat any potential transfer of power that will perpetuate the dress-right-dress system. We need a well functioning and potent ULAA even more than ever before. As the Government of Liberia is about to change hands in Monrovia come 2017, there is an urgency for a vibrant ULAA to play a major role in that transition. And in order to make that dream a reality, the coming ULAA elections are crucial to break a cycle of bad luck and chart a new course for this and the generation behind us. Make no mistake, for that to happen in, there should be no “putting bull frog in taxi." Yes, to make ULAA what it ought to be, no more "putting Bull Frog in jacket," a colleague agreed. That is my hope for a new ULAA; that is our hope for a body that we all will be proud to call a true umbrella organization of all Liberian associations in the Americas.

Please note that ULAA's list of accomplishments for the past eight years found here on the Union's website may speak to the urgency of the issue more than I am able to describe in ink. Let's rally around the union and "together we strive for a better Liberia."

No comments