It is interesting to note that Liberia still has individuals who do not mince words to criticize the powers that be even when they are serving in government. Nobel Laureate Leymah Gbowee who was appointed chair of the National Reconciliation Commission in 2011 has fallen off with her fellow Nobel Laureate, President Johnson Sirleaf over government’s lack of will power in fighting graft and nepotism and reconciling the nation.
Madam Gbowee told international media outlets abroad that she agreed to head the Reconciliation Commission with the hope that she would have held a tete-a-tete with the Liberian leader on these issues, but regretted the changes she hoped to see were far from being implemented.
The Nobel Laureate and rights activist regretted that President Sirleaf would condone the very issues she once advocated against when she was an opposition figure, and cited nepotism, corruption and government’s lack of will power to reconcile the country.
Madam Gbowee explained that three of President Johnson Sirleaf’s sons were occupying lucrative and influential posts in government, and tendered her resignation as head of the Reconciliation Commission established by President in 2011.
“She is doing exactly what she advocated against, like appointing relatives to top positions,” Madam Gbowee told the BBC in an interview Monday.
We applaud Madam Gbowee for reminding the President about the need for her to continue her legacy as a trail blazer in the fight for democratic tenets and good governance in Liberia. Madam Johnson Sirleaf flagged anything that contravened democratic tenets and good governance during the administrations of Presidents William R. Tolbert and Samuel Kanyon Doe, forcing her to flee the country on many occasions.
Why should President Sirleaf condone the very issues she advocated for in the past? Corruption is still rampant in the Unity Party-led government, seven years after its ascension to power. Despite the enunciation of several policies and establishment of institutions to fight graft in government, corruption is still rampant. As Finance Minister Amara Konneh admitted last month, government is losing an estimated USD20 million annually on payroll padding and the duplication of names on government payroll.
[L-R]: Nobel Laureate Leymah Gbowee and President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf
This is indeed troubling. The age-old vices of ‘favoritism, nepotism, class system and patronage’ are still being practiced, despite the fact that these were the very vices that gave rise to the years of civil conflict Liberia experienced.
The rights of workers are still being abused in government offices. Workers are sometimes relieved of their posts for failing to dance to the whims and caprices of their bosses. There is no Code governing the conduct of officials. As a result, they run government offices like their private farms, dismissing workers without reference to their rights as citizens of Liberia. Some officials summarily dismiss or marginalize female workers who refuse to succumb to their sexual advances.
Indeed, the much touted democracy taking root in Liberia is mere rhetoric. It is not being put into practice. People’s human rights are abused on a daily basis in government offices.
Also, if we take a close scrutiny at appointments in government, we will observe that there is no opposition member in the real sense of the word serving in any government post. The so-called opposition members serving in government are those who have fallen off with their parties, yes those who see wisdom in “hanging their clothes where the sun is shining”. And this is happening despite President Sirleaf’s commitment to form a government of inclusion.
Indeed, we say hats off to Leymah Gbowee, and hope that more Liberians will wake up to their responsibilities to their country and point out discrepancies in our governance system.