SPEECH BY AMBASSADOR JOSEPH NYUMA BOAKAI TO THE NATION AND THE PEOPLE OF LIBERIA ON CRITICAL ISSUES CONFRONTING THE COUNTRY AND ITS PEOPLE.
Thank you, members of the Fourth Estate, for responding to our invitation. We have invited you today in fulfillment of your sacred duty to serve as a useful link between the public and the state machinery. It is also of compelling interest to us, members of the opposition community, to ensure that the excesses of government are kept in check in order to ensure that the benefits of democracy are delivered to our people. It is in realization of this that we have invited your presence to this press conference.
On the heels of critical national events and continued hardship being suffered by the Liberian people around the country, such as the rice shortage and the poor process of conducting our National Census, we continue to witness other acts of poor leadership, irresponsible behavior, lack of concern, impunity and wanton misuse of our finances on the part of the President in the midst of hardship on our people.
As I speak to you, President Weah has left the country and will be away for the next seven weeks without any tangible explanation to the Liberian people for such a long stay abroad, visiting countries and meetings to which other government officials could have represented the country. It is needless to say that his long stay away from the country with no tangible reason is unprecedented in the history of the Liberian presidency. Of course, we are aware that president Weah’s presence and absence are the same, but at least with minimum effect on our financial resources.
So, it is fair to say that Liberia continues to drift like a rudderless ship on open seas without a captain.
Fellow Citizens, Liberia’s major problem right now is the lack of leadership. The country is on autopilot and lacks direction because there is no trusted leadership to move the nation in the transformative direction that it deserves.
My Fellow Liberians, as noted earlier, the National Housing and Population Census preparation has been marred by controversies, characterized by outright corruption and lack of well-defined policies. Recently, we witnessed the hauling and pulling in a saga of stealing of money intended for the Census by corrupt officials at the Liberia Institute for Statistics and Geo-Information Services (LISGIS), the government agency responsible for collecting national data and conducting the National Census. Imagine the Census, which by law must be conducted every ten years, has not been conducted since 2008. The census should have been conducted in 2018, but the Weah/CDC-led government was not prepared to do so, and seem not prepared for it to be done.
After many delays, the National Census was scheduled to begin last Friday, November 11, 2022, a day that was declared a national holiday. At least two important questions come to mind:
(1) Is LISGIS really ready to conduct a comprehensive National Census?
(2) Are the Cdcian staff who were hurriedly recruited and claimed trained able to efficiently and effectively collect the critical national data needed to set benchmarks and policies that will transform the development of the country?
Fellow Citizens, the haphazard partisan training, which was also marred by dissatisfaction, demonstrations and protests across the nation, points to the fact that the CDC-led Government has not realized the seriousness and critical nature of our National Census, as without these realistic empirical data, all planning for the country will be based on falsehood lacking the basis to make critical national developmental decisions.
It is not surprising that before the actual counting of citizens begins, it is already allegedly reported on the eve of the Census that the Deputy Director-General for Statistics and Data-Processing of LISGIS, G. Alex M. Williams, (now dismissed) has predicted that the National Census exercise will be a ‘flop,’ and a banner headline on one of our local newspapers has screamed out: Enumerators to boycott census. The question then is, what action does the president contemplate against the Board Chair of LISGIS, Finance Minister Samuel Tweh and others implicated in this census saga? Was it not the advice of Mr. Tweh to the President that everything about the census was on course that prompted the declaration, by the President, of a Census Holiday on Friday, November 11, 2022? So, what are we to believe here, that the President is serious? Certainly not!
Because the acts of gross mismanagement and unaccountability of budgetary funds at LISGIS, I believe such corrupt acts have undermined the process that is very crucial to the nation and to our partners for national development purposes. However, while I doubt that the process of counting citizens around the country will be done efficiently, we want to encourage citizens to cooperate when it happens that they can be counted. Let’s us remember that ‘two wrongs cannot make a right.’ For participating in the census is a patriotic duty! But let me add that the dismissed officials and all persons associated with fraudulent acts be immediately prosecuted and held accountable for funds misused.
Fellow Citizens, despite my call to you to participate in the census process, that does not mean we will continue to tolerate the carelessness, heedlessness and dishonesty that is associated with this CDC-led government. In fact, we should be critical as often as possible, of the poor leadership qualities of President Weah and other government officials, which are returning our country to a pariah, failed state.
Today, we therefore want to categorically denounce, condemn, decry, and deplore the haphazard manner in which the Weah Administration is handling the affairs of the State, especially his government’s disregard of the rights of the people of Liberia to be rightly and correctly informed on matters that affect their lives; and on matters of presidential actions, which include travels of the president with unusually large and unprecedented entourage that is costing the Liberian taxpayers millions of dollars, which could have otherwise be used for development projects and basic social services.
While the rice shortage, the half-hearted manner that confronts the conduct of our National Census should not be overlooked, as these and other national issues of bad governance deserve strong criticism, given the fact that we see no improvement in the poor leadership that has been exhibited by President Weah and his cohorts of government officials who seemed incapable of redeeming themselves as we wake up daily to news of their numerous actions of poor leadership and mounting incompetency and corruption.
My dear citizens, we are a post war country. In the name of democracy, thousands of innocent Liberians and foreign lives were lost in Liberia’s successive wars that shocked the world. Reasons provided by leaders of our insurgencies as justifications were bad governance, corruption, misuse of public office, and in the case of the military government, its failure to properly organize and preside over free and fair democratic elections in 1985. Today, we are threatened by the same reasons that were used by insurgents to destroy our country. As responsible citizens, we will not fold our arms and allow an irresponsible Government to invite another crisis to Liberia.
Not only did the fourteen (14) year civil war destroy innocent and valuable lives. Liberians were degraded, homes and farms were destroyed, families were scattered and condemned to hopelessness, Liberians were displaced at home and abroad, and Liberia was made miserable. These are all history that is known to all. But because of our very history and sad national experience, it had been expected that post war governments would be mindful of the need to work hard and improve the living conditions of Liberians. On the contrary, Liberians are today suffering even more under the George Weah Government.
Never have we seen such a display of reckless disregard for the concerns of the people of this country. Never have we seen so much display of greed, selfishness, carelessness, corruption, and irresponsibility at the highest level of government. Never have we seen a president of Liberia become a laughingstock or joke in the world. Never have we lived under a government that brings so much shame and disgrace to our country.
These are the visible realities of our nation today. But as graphic as these bruising situations are, we have a President who takes on an attitude of indifference. While the nation finds itself in crises of varying propositions (the looming threat to the national census, non-payment of salaries, the rice situation, the gloomy electoral environment, etc.) President is on a grand safari, using the nation’s meager resources to support his pleasurable life style. To the best of our knowledge, a Presidential tour, especially one of an extended period of more than one month, should have a clear itinerary that shows not only where the President will be at a particular point in time, but also the intended benefits that would accrue to the nation. Here we are, unfortunately, with a President who leaves the nation for seven weeks with no information to the public detailing engagements he would have on behalf of the country, then he declares a public holiday that has no meaning but serious negative impact on the Liberian economy. Yes, we are aware, and with no surprise, that he will eventually end up at the World Cup events in Qatar. That is his mainstay.
The President’s posture of indifference, as stated earlier, is amplified by what is happening with the government’s inability to pay civil servants on time and its accompanying ripple effects on parents who cannot settle their kids’ school fees, and the prevailing conditions at the medical facilities across the country. It is now commonplace that civil servants are paid much beyond the middle of the next month. In some agencies of government, it goes much beyond two to three months. In our hospitals, there is gross short supply of medical drugs. Patients are being made to take doctors’ prescriptions to nearby pharmacies to buy medicines, usually at very high costs. The nation is thus in a spiral of crushing hardships superimposed by a president and his cronies who take pleasure in pomp and pageantry, feeding on the life blood of our ailing economy.
Members of the Fourth Estate, the recent rice situation in the country presents an early warning sign of a potential conflict. The rice shortage and rise in price of a bag of rice could only be explained by the inability of government to plan for the availability of basic commodities. All evidence available shows that greed and carelessness in the Weah government are fully responsible for the occasional shortage of basic commodities like food and gas in our small economy. Unfortunately, there is no other way in which the Weah government can demonstrate ability to lead Liberia in the right direction.
Unlike Mr. Weah and his corrupt officials, we are clear that the administration of government in a post war country, or any country for that matter, is not a play-play thing. So, what must be done to rescue Liberia and restore hope?
In the first place, the Weah government must be removed from power in 2023 so that serious efforts can be made to better Liberia and protect the interest of future generations. This will be done through the decisive and popular vote of the Liberian people in 2023.
That is why the electoral process will have to be free, fair, and credible. Hence, we insist on the timely registration of voters through the biometric system to avoid the duplication of votes and the manipulation of election results. We therefore challenge the NEC to provide timely the needed education and awareness to the population to ensure a credible outcome.
Fellow citizens, elections are very contentious issues, the conduct of which must be done with a high degree of transparency and fairness. Our history shows that the mishandling of elections has significantly contributed to conflict. As we endeavor to turn over the ugly chapter of our history that has been punctuated by elections-related conflict, we must strive to put in the best of ourselves so that we never return to the dark theater of shame and disgrace.
Let us be reminded all of the time that whatever we do as a nation and people should be epitomized by acts that promote peace and stability and economic advancement.
Fellow Citizens, when we vote in 2023, join me to THINK LIBERIA, LOVE LIBERIA, AND TOGETHER BUILD LIBERIA!!!