“Everyday for Rogue (Thief), One Day for Master”

By Siahyonkron Nyanseor


The Perspective
Atlanta, Georgia
January 28, 2005

Since the beginning of 2005, Liberian daily newspapers as well as the international media have reported about the corrupt practices of Government officials. The one that caught my attention is, “Police chief suspended for stealing generator”. This story was reported by the IRIN on January 11, 2005. The story reads, “The government's police chief, Chris Massaquoi, was suspended last week after diverting a US$20,000 generator that was meant to light up the national police headquarters, for his personal use”.

For God’s sake, what has Liberia become? From all indications, Liberia today, looks like a crime lab, where unscrupulous individuals find their way to practice their art of thievery. Or so it seems! Recently, we were informed that certain individuals in the Liberia legislature are lobbying right now on behalf of Mr. Massaquoi for him to have his job back. We don’t know how true it is, but given the call by the West African Youth Secretariat of ECOWAS Member States (WAYSEMS) on Chairman Gyude Bryant to re-consider his decision and re-instate the Director of Police, Col. Chris Massaquoi, while the case is under investigation, make us to believe that such a thing is going on.

I find it contradicting for WAYSEMS to call on the …Chairman of the NTGL to conduct a house to house search in the homes of every government official to gather evidence on how they got their belongings and facilities they presently enjoy”, while at the same time, “expressed dismay over Col. Massaquoi's suspension adding, he is a government official and must enjoy those immunities that other government officials are enjoying”. What are the immunities that other government officials are enjoying? I find their approach unwise, very troubling and disingenuous. Liberians must be sincere in the fight against corruption. For once, let justice be done here! Liberians cannot afford to carry on “business as usual”. And if corrupt practices continue unchecked, it will be that the few good people do nothing about it.

Based on some accounts, it is said that corruption is as old as humankind. They go on to say, corruption started with the first family in the Garden of Eden, and that it exists in all human societies - from Genesis to Revelation. While this claim may have some truth to it, in almost all societies, there are laws against corrupt practices of any kind. Why? The answer dictates that if society allows corruption to go unchecked, it will flourish and collapse empires as it has done in the past.

Unlike a tip that is given as an expression of appreciation for services rendered, bribe for services rendered or to use Government resources on one’s personal account is a form of corruption that prevent resources to be used for the purpose they were intended.

As James Foley, U.S. deputy secretary of state noted, "We all recognize that the cost of bribery is high. Bribes undermine good governance, harm economic efficiency and development, distort trade, and penalize citizens around the world." Likewise, Arnaud Montebourg, a French lawyer laments, "Corruption is like a heavy pollution that weights on people's spirit." And in addition, the British magazine, The Economist writes, "corruption is but one form of oppression."

For me, it is hard to fathom how individuals who were nurtured, schooled and acquired the taste of American democracy - the citadel of world democracy - would easily abandon these important virtues once they acquired power. Their corrupt influence has spread like wildfire destroying even the most basic structures for building a democracy in Liberia.

Sometime ago, this magazine (The Perspective) published several accounts of allegation involving Mr. Fred Bass-Golokeh, Chairman Bryant’s Adviser on International Affairs regarding the illegal sale of Liberian passport and the Board of Governors (Elie Saleeby, Sandei A. Cooper, Sr., Deputy Governor, Willie Belleh, Jr., Member, Dr. Charles A. Clarke, Member, and Nathaniel Barnes, Member, who replaced Hilary A. Dennis as Member) of the Central Bank of Liberia (CBL), which drew up elaborate contracts covering salaries, tenure, severance packages and miscellaneous expenses for themselves. These matters were brought to the attention of the current Liberian authorities, yet nothing has been done about these issues.

As I write this article, there are many individuals in the present government whose characters are marred with “financial malpractice". Chairman Bryant is aware of these individuals because The Perspective made public some of their dealings, yet the Chairman has elected to do nothing about what has become public knowledge. Chairman Gyude Bryant promised zero tolerance for corruption because as he argues, “it is one thing that the international community would like to see eradicated and because it would undermine the nation's restoration and reconstruction efforts”. Saying what one intends to do, is one thing, but seeing to it that it is done is all together another story. This is what the Liberian people referred to as “empty drum makes plenty noise”.

What is taking place in Liberia today, reminds me of the chicken coming home to roost of what the Liberian people commonly refer to as, “everyday for rogue (thief), one day for master. Therefore those who engaged in these corrupt and other illegal practices must not only be exposed, they must bear the full weight of the law for their crimes; if they are allowed to go unpunished, they will continue to steal from the Liberian people. Because it is these kinds of practices that have helped to prolong the sufferings of our people.

It is true that all humans are guarded by universal principles first, and that laws are enacted by civil society, so, it behooves us to live according to these laws. Therefore, we must not allow these criminal elements to continue to make life difficult for others while behaving as Machiavellian the Prince to the rest of society. In short, those who commit crimes against the Liberian people should be made to suffer the consequences, when they are found guilty, and not be allowed to engage in similar unscrupulous activities.