Liberia clocks 165 Years: What is there to celebrate?By TERRENCE SESAY in Monrovia | Wednesday, July 25 2012 at 13:20
Liberia will on Thursday, July 26, celebrate 165 years of independence.
Often bypassed by some historians, Liberia is still the oldest independent African state having attained Republican status in 1847.
The country was founded in 1822 by an American charity, the American Colonisation Society (ACS), as a safe haven for freed black slaves from America.
Liberia eventually became a beacon of hope for suppressed members of the Black community all over the world.
Accordingly, African freedom fighters who later rose to prominence in their countries, including Nigeria’s first President Nnamdi Azikiwe, are said to have sought refuge in Liberia and gained inspiration from Liberia’s 17th President William V.S Tubman.
Mr Azikiwe eventually returned to his native Nigeria and became its first president.
Even the iconic former South African President Nelson Mandela is said to have visited Liberia at the time his country was in the throes of apartheid.
According to Liberian Historian Dr Saye Guanna Liberia is also said to have inspired freedom struggles in many African nations.
Giving examples Dr Guanna says the origin of the OAU can be traced from two historic conferences; the 1958 Accra conference of Independent African States and the Sanniquellie, Liberia Conference of July 1959.
He says the main agenda at the Sanniquellie Conference was African liberation, cooperation and unity.
It was decided at Sanniquellie that efforts for African freedom, cooperation and unity be increased and the question of a United States of Africa continue to be discussed until the majority of African colonies attain independence.
Birth of OAU
Four years later in 1963, the OAU was formed.
Tubman, Liberia’s 17th President, indeed played a pivotal role in the realisation of African solidarity and African independence, when the wind of change was blowing across the continent in the 1960s.
It was during the Tubman administration that Liberia sued the Apartheid Government of South Africa for suppressing the majority Black community in that country.
Historically, Liberia inspired the independence of African nations then under the scourge of colonialism and the unity of the African Continent.
At home, however, Liberian leaders, including Tubman, have performed dismally.
It would seem that development has eluded Liberia because the country has nothing to show for its existence as an independent state for the last 165 years.
Liberia lacks the infrastructure, including a standard road network that can be compared to those in countries like Ghana which attained independence more than 100 years after Liberia.
All roads from the capital Monrovia to Grand Gedeh, Rivercess, Maryland, Sinoe and other counties in the east, to Lofa County in the north, Bomi and Grand Cape Mount Counties in the west and Bong and Nimba Counties in the northeast are still not paved, making travel to these areas, especially during the rainy season, a herculean task.
The only paved road is the highway to Grand Bassa County currently under construction.
Liberia also lacks health and educational facilities commensurate with its age.
There is a dearth of qualified teachers and medical doctors to meet the country’s educational and health needs.
The Western African country currently has barely 200 medical doctors, and ‘Big Brother’ Nigeria has had to pitch in at some point to address the deficit.
In fact there is a deficit of qualified personnel in all sectors, and Liberia is currently constrained to tap into other countries’ manpower to meet its needs. Most of the government ministries and agencies still operate from rented buildings.
Today, the government is exerting some effort to make the government less dependent on rented buildings, including completing buildings started by President Samuel Kanyon Doe and President William R. Tolbert (who were both assassinated), who will go down in history as the most development oriented leaders to ascend to the Liberian Presidency.
The current government under the leadership of Africa’s first elected female President, Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, has put some efforts to develop the country.
Its achievements in the health and education sectors, including providing scholarships to Liberians to pursue advanced studies abroad in all disciplines, are commendable because they will help to transform Liberian society.
The capital Monrovia is being transformed into a modern metropolis comparable to other city in Africa.
Unfortunately however, streets and alleys need to be improved. The roads now being constructed by Chinese companies are not durable.
Some have developed potholes barely three months after their construction.
Sadly, the roads being constructed lack drainages, making the capital flooded each time it rains.
Indeed, the roads need to be built in a more durable fashion and drainages should be part of any road construction project.
It is also commendable that democracy is taking root in Liberia.
Everybody can now criticise the government without the repercussions we knew in the past.
There is now an Anti-Corruption Commission to raise the red flag about graft in government, as well as a General Auditing Commission that is clothed with the authority not only to conduct audits of public offices but also publicize any unwholesome acts in the expenditure of government funds.
However, the much touted democracy taking root in Liberia seems to be only in the public glare.
In everyday life: in public offices dictatorship is still rife. There is no system in offices; as a result administrators run offices as if they are their private kingdoms, contrary to set rules and regulations.
The actions of these administrators in fact negate the tenets of democracy. They in fact infringe on or even violate the rights of other Liberians they lead.
Corruption has also continued to pose a major threat to the country’s development.
The dream of a better Liberia is still being thwarted by unconscionable officials who shamefully engage in graft to meet their selfish interests at the detriment of the nation.
This is partly because there is no code governing the conduct of public officials.
Officials perpetrate injustices; violate the rights of others and deny other workers under their jurisdiction their just benefits.
Even though the country seems to be on the progress path, injustices continue to be perpetrated with impunity.
Another disturbing aspect of life in Liberia is the re-emergence of the “Class System”, social exclusion and nepotism that once plunged the country into civil conflict.
Policies enunciated to put the country on the right trajectory are not adhered to. The government’s inability to prosecute even one out of the 39 officials accused of corruption is a case in point.
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