Social Rebel

By Ezekiel Pajibo

The Perspective
Atlanta, Georgia

May 7, 2004

On February 11, 2004 the BBC ran a story on rebellion and a number of very intelligent people came on the airwave and spoke about rebel, rebellion and revolution. I like the part that said: our role as thinking people is to challenge and question the status quo and work to bring about non-violent social transformation. The presenters argued that we should be “clear” and “focus” and seek to tell the truths. We may not always speak the truth but our lives are committed to seeking the truth and to work for social justice. The people who are social rebels, according to the broadcast, are not distracted by the fleeting pleasures of the moment, they are not spending their time amassing ill-gotten wealth, chasing the skirts of girl-children and they do not scramble for jobs they are not qualified to do. Instead, they study the global order, interrogate it, and scream and yell about the miseries, which the system has compelled the majority to suffer and endure. They condemn the destitution of the poor majority and put forward a workable framework that attempts to lift them out of their impoverished conditions.

That is why I may be the only Liberian who is not grateful to those who attended the donor conference on Liberia at which time a miserly $520 million was pledged. I believe that this amount is “peanut”. Already we have been told that since the United Nations Mission in Liberia (UNMIL) has been on the ground, the United States Government has disbursed at least $100 million for their activities. I have read that UNMIL’s budget for 2 years may pretty much be in the neighborhood of $500 million. In La Cote d’Ivoire, the UN peacekeeping troops are reportedly going to spend $300 million dollar in six months. Peace, peacebuilding and development require massive amounts of money for it to be durable and sustainable. The pronouncement that Liberia lacks the absorptive capacity to benefit from a more generous international assistance is insidious. The assessment carried out in the country in the four months prior to the donor conference admitted that most parts of the country were not accessible due to security concerns and therefore the level of destruction, destitution and misery, which a great deal of the Liberian people are exposed to, did not inform the assessment.

Voinjama, Gbarnga, Sanniquellie, to name a few cities, are reportedly almost t razed to the ground. Monrovia dailies carried pictures of Zwedru in which it was reported that the “bush’ has taken over the city. Schools, hospitals and clinics are all destroyed, road networks, neglected for the last 23 years are in total disrepair, our communication system is in total disarray. In Monrovia the sewage system is archaic, overwhelmed and a health hazards to its inhabitants. There are at least 800,000 Liberians who have to be resettled and probably a million homes have to be constructed. Liberian businesspersons have no access to credit and chances of reviving their businesses are closed to nil and we are expected to be grateful for $520 million dollars in pledges? Give me a break!

A very good and respectable Liberian woman had the privilege to travel to parts of Liberia recently. By the way, she has always been here on the “ground” during the conflict. She tells me that she had the great fortune of seeing some family members whom she had not seen in more than 23 years. Then misfortune struck!. For the last week since she met her kinfolks, she has been depressed because of the depth to which her family members have fallen given their impoverished conditions. This woman has visited almost all displaced camps in and around Monrovia and she tells me that the poverty in rural Liberia, few miles outside the capital in Margibi County, is not comparable and that it is extremely dehumanising. Yet, we are expected to take $520 million dollar to correct this grave injustice against the people of Liberia.

There is another complacent view emanating from what is supposed to be the enlightened among us. This view suggests that the amount of money is just the beginning, and as such it is a good start. I disagree. This is it and there may not be another donor conference during which our current situation would be the focus of the global community. At the donor conference, a reporter asked a UN official, whether the amount pledged for Liberia was not too little compared to that earmarked for Iraq. The UN official answered that Iraq had a greater population almost 10 times that of Liberia lacked the absorptive capacity to spend more money. For the sake of argument let us say that Liberia population is 1 percent of that of Iraq so why can’t Liberia get one percent of the monies being allotted for Iraq? This must be the campaign for Liberians especially those who are keen on building sustainable peace. Unless Liberia addresses the human insecurity of our people brought about by desperate poverty and misery, the political demagogues will continue to have sway and appropriate legitimate social grievances and could like be offered opportunities to again take the country down the path of violent anarchy and misrule. This is the challenge, for those who consider themselves social rebels and are dedicated to the principle of non-violent social transformation of our society.