"Redefining National Leadership for Liberia’s Transformation"

A Keynote Speech at the 1st National Convention of the All Liberia Party
February 5, 2016, Gbarnga City Hall, Bong County

By Tiawan S. Gongloe
 


The Perspective
Atlanta, Georgia
February 8, 2015

                  



 
 
 
 

Mr. Acting Chairman and members of the organizing Committee
Partisans and sympathizers of the All Liberia Party
And other distinguished ladies and gentlemen

This is the second time in less than a year that I have been invited to deliver a keynote speech at a convention of a party that I am not a member of. The first was on July 6, 2015 at the 35th Convention of the True Whig Party in Bentol City, Montserrado County. I am pleasantly surprised by these invitations. I am not a member of the True Whig Party. I am also not a member of the All Liberia Party. But both parties have given me the highest platform any person can have at a party convention. Yet, it is a known fact that my views, over the years, about Liberia, have been diametrically opposed to the views of the leaders of these parties. I must say publicly that the credit for transcending our differences goes to the leaders of these two parties. I want to thank the organizing committee of this party for such a great honor. This says a lot about the social and political transformation that is taking place in our country. Liberian people are getting more open-minded about their country and transcending the little barriers that divide them.

As a people, we have found that narrow-mindedness in whatever shape or form and for whatever reason or purpose, has failed to serve our collective interest. Narrow mindedness has brought about exclusionary politics and exclusionary governance in our country and this has led us, as a people, to state failure. We have all recognized the fact that we are all Liberians and are bound to live together in peace and harmony, irrespective of the origins of our parents, our ethnic identities, our religious affiliations, our looks, our fraternal associations, our secret societies. We must not judge each others by the history of our settlement in this part of the Africa. The question of who settled in this part of Africa first and who settled last, as well as, who is just settling, cannot help us to sustain the peace, strengthen our bond as a people and build a strong, prosperous, progressive and great nation for ourselves, our children, their children’s children and many more generations unborn. We must not also, allow the issue of Liberians who have acquired citizenships in other countries and still want to maintain their original citizenship of Liberia rise to a level where, it will constitute a new barrier to the promotion of our oneness, as a people. I hope that this issue will be resolved as quickly as possible and in a manner that does not portray us as a narrow-minded and mean spirited people.

Liberia is a unique country in Africa. It is not a product of colonial rule, like most African Countries are. It is a place of refuge for people from various parts of the world. Some of its citizens are remnants of great ancient empires such as the Mali Empire, the Songhai Empire and the Ghana Empire. Some of its citizens are descendants of some of our ancestors, who having been subjected to the worst form of human suffering in the Americas returned to this part of Africa to find a place they can call home. Yet still some of its citizens are descendants of people who came to this part of Africa, as a place of refuge from the repression of European colonial rule in various parts of Africa. So historically, most Liberians came to this part of Africa from somewhere. Our challenge as a nation has been a lack of the full appreciation of this historical fact. As a consequence of this collective ignorance, some of us have over the years, emphasized more, our differences, rather than focusing on our common identities and our shared aspirations of living in peace, happiness and building a progressive and prosperous country based on the respect for the rule of law and human rights.

We have done things that have undermined our efforts to build a great country, a better Liberia in which resources and opportunities provided by the state can be made equally accessible to all citizens. Instead we embarked on building a nation based on exclusionary politics and governance. This led us to the brutal removal of two of our presidents and fourteen years of extremely brutal and senseless civil conflict.

We must seek to build a better Liberia, in which our collective security is guided by emphasizing our oneness as a people, and disregarding our differences. Let me start on the road to finding and emphasizing our common identities, by reminding all of us here about one word that is probably the only word which means the same in every Liberian language. That word is “keh”. In all Liberian languages, the word “keh” means but. So at least we know that we are Keh people. This means that all Liberian ethnic groups have historically, perhaps, for hundreds of years or thousands of years being together. This is one way of explaining how one word can have the same meaning in so many languages. It is strange that the word keh means the same to Mande, Kwa and Mel speaking people. We must, therefore, accept the fact that we are one people, not by choice, but by natural history. Nobody can, therefore, can succeed in dividing us. Many persons may attempt to do so, “keh” they will not succeed.

We need a leadership that will not only keep the “Keh” people united, but a leadership that will stimulate them to be self-reliant, independent, confident, self-respecting, creative, hardworking and with these values lead them to build a better Liberia.

Mr. Acting Chairman, members of the leadership of the All Liberia Party, it is against this background that I find the theme of your Convention “Redefining National Leadership for Liberia’s Transformation” a very meaningful and appropriate theme for this period in our national history.

This theme is saying that the current definition of national leadership, or the definition of national leadership that we have accepted in this country, cannot lead to the transformation of Liberia. Therefore, in order to transform Liberia, National Leadership must be defined in a different way. In other words, if National Leadership continues to mean the same as it has always been, then Liberia will not transform. My understanding of the old definition of leadership is lack of love of country; lack of respect for a majority of the citizens; promoting divide and rule; lack of respect for human rights and the rule of law; ignoring the suffering of the people; failing to provide shelter, food, education, good health, electricity, water and sanitation; failing to provide telecommunication services for a majority of the people; seeking the happiness and welfare of  a select few; being a master and not a servant; being arrogant; being dishonest to the people; being unsympathetic  and insensitive to massive human sufferings; being dictatorial and autocratic in decision-making; being persistently inconsistent; promoting selective justice;  demonstrating greed for money and being corrupt; amongst other things. Certainly, a definition of leadership that encompasses such negative values can only transform Liberia into a perpetually poor and backward country, finding its place at the bottom of every international index.

How should we redefine national leadership for the transformation of Liberia into a better country? The new definition of leadership must include the opposite of all the characteristics of bad leadership that I just named a few minutes ago.

In finding a new definition of national leadership in Liberia that is capable of transforming Liberia into a better country, we must consider, above everything, being humble and showing respect for the people; maintaining consistency between what is said and what is done; demonstrating respect for the rule of law and human rights; demonstrating love of country in every action; providing equal access to opportunities provided by the state; promoting collective interest over self-interest; promoting the collective security of the people over the security of a few  and demonstrating commitment to seeking the happiness and welfare of  the people on a fair and equal basis.

The next question is can such a leader be found in Liberia. My answer is a resounding yes. I am an eternal optimist. I believe in my country and have great respect for the judgment of my fellow Liberians. If we want a leader that can transform this country, we can find one. The way to begin is to look at the track records of those who have put themselves forward for national leadership and not to look at what those persons are capable of offering as gifts to voters. I call those who do good only during election period as election time humanitarians. Because they invest so much money in the political process, I also describe them as political investors.

If we want Liberia to be transformed, then we should not vote for election time humanitarians. Yes, we must do everything to prevent political investors from winning any electoral post in the 2017 election. One reason for my advocacy against the election of political investors is that the basic motivation for investment in any business is to earn profit on what is invested. If we elect to office people who are political investors, we should be aware that when they get to office, they will do everything to earn profit on what they have invested. This means that they will use their offices to convert public funds and resources to their private property. Let us ask for the plans that candidates have for us and not what they have for us to eat or put in our pockets.

One way for a political party to avoid the election of a leader who is not capable for transforming Liberia is to promote internal democracy. Through the process of internal party competition for leadership, the partisans get to know the leaders who have the qualities required for the transformation of Liberia into a better country. I urge members of the ALP to promote internal democracy. Open every position in your party, including the position of standard-bearer-ship for competition.

Open competition for electoral offices in your party will make your party strong. I urge you to rely on the student political parties at the University of Liberia, especially SIM, STUDA and SUP. These student parties are older than most of the existing national parties. Their leaders will tell you that their parties are stronger than the national parties because they have remained free and open internal democracy. Any national party that wants to be a strong party must, as a matter of priority, learn from these student political parties. I am giving you this advice because, I strongly believe that no party can produce a presidential candidate with the ability to transform Liberia for the better, if it does redefine the process of producing party leaders.

Any party that produces party leaders, including its standard-bearer by the process of “So say one, so say all” cannot produce a leader that can transform Liberia for the better. So, I urge you to muster the courage to redefine the process of producing party leaders, if by making the process free, open and transparent, if you want anyone to take you seriously as a party that wants to redefine national leadership for the transformation of Liberia.

I thank you.


Dempster Yallah
Very honest and pragmatic template, the paradigm shifts outlined by my friend and brother, Cllr. Gongloe, as roadmap for our future trajectory as a progressive nation.

There may be psychiatric underpinnings to some of the heavy-handed leadership styles we have suffered also, as another area to add to this list. Had some of our past leaders been evaluated for their psychiatric equillibrium, for example, perhaps the necessary prescribed psychotropic regimen as panacea could have saved us some of the causal factors that necessitated our resort to war.

That, plus the outright managerial or administrative ineptitude demonstrated by some of our leaders are obviously responsible for our sad fate today. For how could anyone continues to do the same things year in, year out and yet, expects different result? That smacks of insanity, as they say.

All in all, I agree with Cllr. Gongloe, that we need to get past tribal, religious and those other parochial considerations in the election of our national leaders, and rather dwell on the contents of their characters. Mindful of impressionists or is it opportunists? that come bearing gifts around election seasons, with promises of manna if elected. So help us God! ...Carpe diem!
Dempster Yallah at 01:06AM, 2016/02/08.
Amos Frank
True, Mr. Dempster Yallah, past leaders should have been "evaluated for their psychiatric equilibrium"! BUT DONT YOU THINK IT WOULD HAVE BEEN VERY VERY WISE TO "HAVE EVALUATED THE PSYCHIATRIC EQUILIBRIUM" OF THE CURRENT ONE- ELLEN JOHNSON SRLEAF,ESPECIALLY AFTER A WAR SHE FORMENTED, AND FINANCED?

Why ONLY past leaders, Mr. Dempster Yallah, WHEN "OUR SAD FATE TODAY" with secret killings, summary executions, and the very Ellen Johnson Sirleaf bringing in dubious pathologists (for autopsy) who are barred from carrying out autopsies in their own countries ARE DECISIONS MADE BY OUR PRESENT LEADER ELLEN JOHNSON SIRLEAF?

Don´t you think by you not also calling for the psychiatric evaluation of Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, you are also repeating or suggesting "the same things year in, year out and yet, expects different result?" Does that not "smack of insanity" on your part, Mr. Dempster Yallah?

Or is it mere prejudice and discrimination on your part against "some of our past leaders" but the award of impunity by you for our present leader - Ellen Johnson Sirleaf; whom your "friend and brother, Cllr. Gongloe" long described as "a leader whose rule or mindset is associated with DICTATORSHIP, IMPERIAL PRESIDENTIAL MESS, CORRUPTION, AND AUTHORITARIANISM TYRANNY, AND DESPOTISM"?
Amos Frank at 05:02AM, 2016/02/09.
Charles Cheapo Price
Mr. Tian Gongloe

This is a well prepared and well delivered speech in that it explores some of the fundamental problems which beset us as a people and it also offers some sound ideas for a better way forward.

What I thought was the real eye opener was the suggestion he made for the various political parties to practice “internal democracy”. I feel that it is a good one because internal democracy is the building block for fostering a genuine “national democracy”. If the standard bearer of a political party is dictatorial and does not tolerate criticism, he will carry the same values with him to the presidential office.

One strange event that I have observed about our electoral system is that no open debates are held among the opponents, and therefore the voters do not know where each candidate stands on the issues. Neither do they know how qualified the candidates are to run for public offices. So it all goes back to the old saying, “Never buy a pig in the bag.” Unfortunately, we have been buying pigs in the bags for the past elections.

The Press Union of Liberia (PUL) in consonance with the Elections Commission should set up a debate format and ensure that Liberians are well informed about the candidates who are vying for elections particularly the elective positions such as the president, superintendents and the legislators.


Thanks Mr. Gongloe. You have said it all in these phrases, that Liberians should beware of, “…political investors,” and “…election humanitarians.”


Charles Cheapo Price at 07:04AM, 2016/02/09.
sylvester moses
Indeed, "honest and pragmatic", and getting all of us to think that way is the challenge of the next two years.
sylvester moses at 07:07AM, 2016/02/09.
Josephine Higgins
anything there in the speech about the wave of political murder in Liberia?
Josephine Higgins at 10:03AM, 2016/02/09.
James McGill
Ms. Josephine Higgins


Are you saying that Mr. Gongloe should have centered the theme of his message on the murder of Mr. Harry Greaves? I personally think that it would have been inappropriate of him to do that.

Why? The All Liberia Political Party (ALP) invited him to speak on a particular topic, and he adequately expounded on it. Let me reiterate the theme of Mr. Gongloe's speech to re-enforce our understanding. It says, "Redefining National Leadership for Liberia's Transformation."


I am not saying that Mr. Greave’s death is trivial given the huge role that he had played in the socio-political and socio-economic life of Liberia. Notwithstanding, major newspapers in Monrovia have announced that the president has invited a team of forensic pathologists to probe into the causes of Mr. Greave’s death. So, I do not think it would have been befitting of him to start second guessing on who is the killer.

This matter is now in the hands of the criminal justice system. Do you not think that Liberians should have some reservation on pointing fingers of accusations at one and other and give chance for the investigation to take its course?

Thanks for your thoughts.

James McGill at 03:47PM, 2016/02/09.
Josephine Higgins
Cllr. Gongloe speaking on Harry Greaves does not necessary mean he has to point finger at somebody. Autopsy is never conclusive,it establishes what causes death, not who caused the death. The regime security apparatus should be called upon not to zero-on autopsy report as a conclusive closure as was done in previous deaths, including Allison. Person like Gongloe adding his voice to the call will add more weight to it Mr. McGill.

The very topic "Redefining National Leadership for Liberia’s Transformation" did not end well without mentioning insecurity. How can you redefine or transform national leadership when security is not one of the prime priorities. That is big fiascos. How can transforming take place amid perpetual fear, insecurity and witch-hunt? Installing fear of death, harassment,torture,suppressing free expression are sacrosanct in the process of "Redefining National Leadership for Liberia’s Transformation". See political leader Freeman, house being barricaded with police like a common criminal just for expressing his views. His entire family who reside in the house is put under compulsory house arrest and denied their exclusive rights to buy food and water and get their generator on.

All freeman said is: “There are rumors that the government has formed a death squad, these rumors are all around even in newspapers that there is blacklist of critical persons, ten people that are critical on this government and am told that I am one of the persons even on that list that supposed to be eliminated,”. When UNMIL leave Liberia how secure Liberia going to be? How will this transformation that Gongloe talked about take place when the security of would-be transformers and their relatives are in danger.

I have always been an admire of Gongloe, but for this one, I am disappointment .
Josephine Higgins at 06:10PM, 2016/02/09.
Dempster Yallah
Firstly, I don't often waste my time and energy after spineless nonentities who cannot muster the gumption to even post in these public discourses in their own names, save for the singular opportunity to clear the air with this other heckler posting under the pseudonym, "Amos Frank." The only Liberian by all accounts with such a peculiar surname.

That cowardice aside, my comments happen to be in addition to the panoramic excursion Cllr. Gongloe already painted for us as his estimation of Liberia's past political malady, it's prognosis in his humble suggestion as panacea. Cllr. Gongloe's cannot be considered exhaustive by any means, much less the footnote I added. Meaning, "Mr. Amos Frank," too, could add to it other vices he recognizes as sapping at the fabric of our body politic, needing adjustment Iin the realm of paradigm shift.

Meanwhile, let me assure Mr. "Amos Frank" that were the Ellen Johnson administration equally guilty, or even as near guility as the level of mass murder and brutality reminiscent of our past immediate leaders, she too, would have been peppered the same way those tyrrants and murderers were.

As the case may be, ours is a tactical posture by the way in defference to peace. No personal accrual, nothing self-seeking. For future reference and to preempt any further insinuation. ...Carpe diem!
Dempster Yallah at 09:23PM, 2016/02/09.
Amos Frank
Mr. Dempster Yallah or whatever you really call yourself, you must be simply a fanatic for Ellen displaying your "insanity" as you have displayed and alluded to in your comment to a speech By another who not too long aptly described the very leader to whom you are a fanatic as a "DICTATOR, IMPERIAL PRESIDENT, SMELLINGLY CORRUPT, AUTHORITARIAN, A TYRANT AND A DESPOT"?

In other words, if Ellen Johnson Sirleaf weren´t "equally guilty, or even as near guility as the level of mass murder and brutality reminiscent of our past immediate leaders," the speaker of the above speech (Tiawan S. Gongloe) would have never quite recently imputed such bad leadership characteristics upon Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, nor would we be experiencing these dissapearances,summary executions, "our sad fate today" as you mentioned, national unsafety, and numerous bloody political killings,- all of which have now become THE TRADEMARK AND EMBLEM OF ELLEN JOHNSON SIRLEAF - THE WAR CRIMINAL!
Amos Frank at 04:19AM, 2016/02/10.
Dempster Yallah
The unfortunate death of some of our citizens under suspicious circumstances have claimed our attention as well, if it pleases you "Mr. Amos Frank." Because no sooner than later such uncivilized proclivities will take roots as the norm in our society, and we all are no longer safe. Such resorts therefore have serious implications for all of us. Not only you and by extension, all other conspiracy theorists.

That is why we welcome, call for and encourage all efforts by government to probe each and all of these barbaric killings, with the objetive of identifying the evil forces behind them, prosecuting them accordingly thereby cleansing our country of such unwholesome elements. Because, and as said earlier, today it is Harry Greaves; yesterday it was Allison; before then Saah Gborlee and few others, by tomorrow it could be me, or a friend or you. That's not the kind of society we want. Where people are killed secretely because of some social, political, economic or whatever the difference with another.

The big difference between the Ellen administration and the past others however, is the indisputable fact that neither she directly, nor her administration indirectly can be remotely linked to any of these murders. The level of freedom of speech is my witness in that regard, minus the ever present illinformed pundits and sworn detractors that will always paint the administration black no matter the availability of other colors to the contrary.

But it has been evident that this administration has at least made the attempt to investigate those presumed crimes. Pathologists and other experts have been chartered in that regard, to investigate those incidents in some cases. And though the results may have not been what people already decided on them would have wanted to hear, but at least that determination was not totally left to the GOL as under previous tyrranical administrations. - More-

...Carpe diem!



Dempster Yallah at 06:06AM, 2016/02/10.

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