LPUSA on Recent Unrest 7/16/2014
First Released July 2014
Over the last few weeks, the media have reported a series of stories that paint a rather bleak picture of where our beautiful country, Liberia, finds itself today. These seemingly unconnected stories, when viewed in the context of Liberia’s history over the last 30 plus years, give cause for alarm and concern. We are once again witnessing violent rampage being used as a public expression of frustration in response to poor living conditions, lack of jobs, absence of economic opportunities for the masses, poor healthcare, corruption at its best, and an educational system that is far below standards.
Initially, it was a group of citizens destroying the fence at the President’s residence to express concerns about what they believed to have been man-made flooding in their neighborhood. Recently, a group of youths was reported to have gone on a rampage causing an extensive destruction of property at ArcelorMittal. Earlier this year, a similar but less destructive incident occurred at China Union in Bong Mines when a group of local youths went on a rampage to demand full implementation of the Mineral Development Agreement (MDA). Golden Veroleum in Sinoe County, Equatorial Oil Palm in Grand Bassa County and Sime Darby in Grand Cape Mount County have all seen citizens oppose their operations for either encroaching on community land or not meeting social responsibilities to the communities as called for by the respective MDAs. The recent incident in Nimba is to date the most destructive, and could be a precedent Liberia cannot afford.
First, Liberty Party-USA wishes to express its disapproval for the use of violence as a means of addressing grievances. Violence will always retard our country’s progress and consume the country’s meager resources, even if the violence is a result of legitimate grievances. No matter the issue, we must learn to resolve our differences in a peaceful manner. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. has shown beyond doubt that non-violent opposition is the resistance tool that accomplishes the most constructive results in the fight against injustice. We must adopt this method in our fight against what we see as social injustice.
Second, Liberty Party calls on President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf and her government to resist the temptation to respond to the recent incident in Nimba County in a way that will only aggravate the situation and jeopardize the country’s long-term peace and stability goals. The temptation in this situation is for the government to be preoccupied with demonstrating strength and making an example of the alleged perpetrators. While the government must take all necessary steps to maintain the rule of law, it must, at this critical juncture in our country’s recovery from war, be guided by the need for long term peace and harmony. The rule of law has meaning only when the citizens feel its impact in the form of justice and fair play. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. said, “…law and order exist for the purpose of establishing justice, and that when they fail to do this they become dangerously structured dams that block the flow of social progress.” The government must see these past events, though inexcusable, as evidence that our people are frustrated with their living condition and disappointed with the manner in which the nation and its resources are being managed, without leaving a marked positive impact on the people’s living conditions or the prospects for a better future. As would be expected, Liberians are concerned they would once again be left penniless when the multi-nationals leave after depleting the local minerals and other natural resources, as they once did with similar investments.
The issues being highlighted by the agitations in the country cannot be resolved with band aid solutions specific to any one incident; instead, solutions must target the root causes for why peace loving Liberians would be so bold to take such drastic actions as going on violent rampage. Until we can stop the actions (or inactions) that generate such reactions from our citizens, we will continue to see seemingly unconnected events escalate, thereby endangering the stability and peace of the country. The late Steve Jobs stated that what made him and others like him successful was their ability to connect the dots where others saw seemingly unconnected ideas. “You can’t connect the dots looking forward you can only connect them looking backwards. So you have to trust that the dots will somehow connect in your future.” (Steve Jobs) As we look back to Liberia’s past and recent history, LP USA is connecting dots where others see unrelated issues. And it scares us.
We ask our regional and international partners to impress upon our government the need for a change in policy, implementation and governance. With the level of financial resources that we have received as a country since 2006, Liberia should now be laying the foundation upon which future governments could build and posterity would embrace. Instead, the nation has regressed into what is now all too familiar to our people. The idea that Liberia is progressing, an illusion held by a few who now have jobs or enjoy some privileges in this administration, should give way to realism that we need help to get back on the course of providing basic services and opportunities for all Liberians. The comfort of few Liberians enjoying the resources of the country while a vast majority of Liberians live below impoverished conditions should give way to the reality that true relief is only sustained if all Liberians have access to basic human services and opportunities. Our government has failed in these regards.
Lastly, we call upon all Liberians, particularly opinion makers, community leaders, and others to use their influence to diffuse the current problem. It is time we learn from the mistakes of past generations and seek new peaceful ways to move Liberia forward. Our party will continue to push for change in Liberia but one that builds us up, not pull us apart.
We continue to hold to Liberty Party’s mantra that “Together we can do better.”
Philip B, Suah, Jr.
Chairman, Liberty Party USA