No one needs to recount tales of adversity to know that Liberia is in a bad shape. This misfortune appears worse today than ever and the causes of Liberia’s social, political and economic problems lie not with the poor and uneducated, but with the politicians and educated leaders who have directly and indirectly caused wars and confusions while at the same time remained the beneficiaries of the spoils over others’ labor. This is wrong and must stop now! I urge all Liberians, with immediate effect, to develop a new strategy for effective social change. We must embrace peace and national reconciliation now.
Millions of Liberians in-country, in refugee camps and abroad are suffering. Thousands of Liberian mothers are dying from childbirth and infants are murdered by economically imposed malnutrition. School children go to school hungry. Young Liberian high school and college graduates do not even learn how to write grammatically correct sentences. Teachers, nurses, and police officers who earn unlivable wages are not even paid on time – sometimes for six to seven months - while millions of dollars are stolen and/or unaccounted for. Teen girls, instead of going to school, are forced to prostitute to feed themselves. The government has even abandoned a group of young Liberian girls who were forced into sex slavery in Lebanon because of hardship in Liberia. This seems somehow even more shameful in a nation headed by a woman president. It does not have to be this way! It does not have to be this way just because a select privileged few find comfort in insatiable greed and inexhaustible thirst for power and wealth. It does not have to be this way when the future of Liberian children looks even bleaker than it was 100 years ago. It does not have to be this way when those who continue to squander the country’s wealth while consistently creating economic and political havoc keep their children and families living in plush comfort. It does not have to be this way when other nations around the world, particularly those in our region, are making steady progress in human development while ours continues to plummet into impoverishment.
It is time for change. It is time for peace and reconciliation. Mahatma Gandhi once said: “There are many causes that I am prepared to die for but no cause that I am prepared to kill for.” I call upon every Liberian, citizens and politicians alike to come together to work for a better, peaceful Liberia!
I especially call upon those in power, those who have turned a blind eye while portions of the national wealth have been stolen and while mayhem has ensued. It is time to commit to and say that you are willing to sacrifice for Liberia and your fellow Liberians rather than continue to participate in our downfall. Together, we must become the change we want to see in our country and that must start today by a genuine peace building and reconciliation process that must include all, from Charles Taylor, Prince Johnson, G.V. Kromah, George Boley, Sekou Damate Konneh, Thomas Niminee Yaya, Amos Sawyer, H. Boima Fahnbulleh, Harry Greaves to President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf and every other citizen of our beloved motherland.
I urge President Ellen Johnson- Sirleaf and her administration to prioritize the need for real social and economic change with a push for national peace and reconciliation. We must move past selective justice and forge national unity for the future of our country. The world cannot and will not always help us if we don’t help ourselves. The time for progress is now!
I urge all opposition politicians, including Charles Brumskine, George Weah, Mills Jones, Benoni Urey and others to quiet their anxiousness for state power, cultist and tribal leaning politics and divisive tactics and join the effort for peace and national reconciliation beginning now! We must not stop because peace and reconciliation require ceaseless efforts. The challenge is for all of us, including President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf and the future leadership, to take the honest and tireless lead in this process for creating a better Liberia. Here is how we can begin:
1. Support and staff the National Peace and Reconciliation Commission with a mandate to seek and promote true peace and reconciliation from every village, town and city. This is a must because dwelling on the past when the present is worse and the future is gloomier than the past would not serve Liberia’s future.
2. Support transparency and the rule of law by ensuring that theft of public funds and resources is not only exposed but prosecuted under the full weight of the law.
3. Minimize the greed and corruption by focusing on collective national prosperity that ensure that national and regional development overshadows the questionable compensations of loyalists and friends in government.
4. Support and empower related watch-dog institutions in the country, especially those set up by the government, including the General Auditing Commission, The Liberia Anti-Corruption Commission, the Public Procurement Commission and others to do their work accordingly.
5. Ensure that political opposition does not translate into tribalism, personal and collective antagonism ––we must foster a culture of respect and tolerance in our political life.
As Liberians and a nation, we can do all of these things when there is a leadership and President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf must demonstrate that leadership now! We can fail to do any of these things when our president does not provide the leadership every Liberian needs from her now.
Williams is president and CEO of the New Liberia Foundation, and head of the U.S.-based Jewish Family Services’ International Refugee program.