By J. Yanqui Zaza
The Late Harry Greaves
As the story of the mysterious death of Mr. Harry Greaves, Jr. fades away, just as others have faded before him, one wonders why violence continues to knock at Liberia’s door. For example, in 1820 the settlers killed indigenous Liberians in order to own territories; a college-graduate, rich businessman, and the fifth President of Liberia, Mr. Edward James Roye was violently killed in 1872; Mr. Welleh Didwho Twe, a former presidential candidate in 1952, fled from Liberia into exile because of a violent threat; Mr. Samuel David Coleman, a son of the former President of Liberia, William Coleman, was violently killed on his farm in 1955; hundred of unarmed demonstrators were gunned down in 1979; thirteen government officials were executed during the1980 coup; and subsequently, violence has now become a regular affair in Liberia.
Is violence knocking at Liberia’s door because of poverty, ignorance and disease, according to a great philosopher, Aristotle? Wouldn’t violence persist as long as these inequities continue, all because “…the economic system is rigged in favor of the top,” according to Hilary Clinton, the Democratic presidential candidate for the 2016 U.S. presidency? Wouldn’t the economic system be “…rigged in favor of the top” if Liberia’s economic system is “Winner Takes all philosophy,” “Survival of the Fittest,” or the “Private-Profits” over “Community-Profits?”
Pope Francis and U.S. Presidential candidate, Donald Trump say yes. Both men lamented at the “Private-Profits” economic system, which profiteers and greedy corporations continue to use and ruin society, according to Ms. Ross Douthat, (NY Times, 2/21/2016). Due to the spoils of “Private-Profits,” the pharmaceutical industry receives $50 billion yearly from the U.S. Federal government; undermining the fight against poverty (the mother of violence, according to Aristotle). Mr. J. M. Insulza, secretary of the Organization American States, reported that commercial banks, in searching for higher profits, are involved with the $320 billion illegal drug money. Liberian Ministry of Public Works shifted $100 million away from anti-poverty projects such as road construction, according to Congress for Democratic Change, a Liberian political Party.
How and why does an individual become the “Winner,” “Survival of the Fittest” or the “Profiteer?” Yes, in few cases, some are inventors. However, many are greedy government officials and, or greedy licensed professionals hired by owners of society’s lucrative assets. And since bribe greases the wheels of business, private-profiteers usually offer bribes in exchange for favors. Therefore, those who are in position of influence to negotiate, sell society’s lucrative assets or are hired to represent owners of society’s lucrative assets, do not only receive bribes in exchange of favors, but will also acquire more wealth at the expense of society.
Example 1: President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf government, according to the former Speaker of the Liberian House of Representative, Mr. Edwin Snowe, rejected a favorable oil concessionary agreement from a company from Russia, and accepted an unfavorable offer from ExxonMobil for an oil contract, all because of a higher bribe from ExxonMobil in exchange for favor. In another example, Robert Sirleaf, the President’s son, as head of the Liberian Oil Company, used $138 million out of the Company’s $142 million revenue without accountability. The Oil Company is now bankrupt.
Maryland County's Chiefs and Elders Meet President Sirleaf at Elexander Glen Tubman Airport, Harper, Maryland, on her way to SIFCA. Is it for more Kickbacks?
Example 2: The New Broom newspaper was forced to go underground after it reported on September 14, 2009 that President Sirleaf and Maryland County Caucus received 2 million dollars and $250,000, respectively, as kickbacks from SIFCA to operate Cavalla Rubber Corporation of Pleebo-Sodoken District. A Pleebo-Sodoken District student group wrote in a press release in 2009: “We are particularly troubled by the allegations of bribery…” to influence the decision of the Sirleaf Government to grant SIFCA the contract to operate the Cavalla Rubber Plantation in the Pleebo-Sodoken District.
The student group continued: “According to the documents we reviewed, SRI [SIFCA] offered to pay to the Government US $2.3m for the 50% share of the Government while BSP offered US $ 6.3m for the same equity. Besides, we read with deep interest the action plan of the BSP which contains more development initiatives than any other we have read so far. It thus beats our imagination that Government could leave 6.3 million dollars option from BSP and opt to offer the contract to SRI [SIFCA] which offered 2.3 million dollars for the same 50% share of the Government.”
Such one sided economic arrangements allow private-profiteers to shift wealth away from society; subsequently, leaving society with less revenue to reduce poverty, disease, ignorance, etc., thereby, sowing the seed for the masses to revolt. You don’t have to read about the beheading of Charles I of England on January 30th 1649; the execution of Louis XVI of France on January 21, 1793 or the Russian revolution in 1917 to understand why the unhappy masses usually use violence to demand a piece of the pie. Just look at the different upheavals around the world, and you might understand why the unhappy masses will always rebel. Mr. Thomas Piketty, the author of his book called “Capital in the 21st Century,” stated that, “When the rate of return on capital exceeds the rate of growth of output and income, capitalism automatically generates arbitrary and unsustainable inequalities that radically undermine the meritocratic values on which democratic societies are based.”
Have the deaths of Greaves, Allison, etc. erased the wrong belief that Liberia was building the tenets of democracy and violence was a thing of the past? Well yes, violence will increase as long as “Winner Takes All” policy generates arbitrary and unsustainable inequalities? Regrettably, Liberians have not only embraced the “Private-Profit” or “Winner Takes All” economic policy, but they are doing everything to sustain it. For example, Benoni Urey, a millionaire, is using his wealth accumulated during the Charles Taylor regime to ascend to the Liberian presidency, primarily to acquire more wealth. Or Mr. Alex Tyler, the current Speaker of the Liberian House of Representative, is using his wealth acquired during the last few years to ascend to the Liberian presidency; the same Speaker the Anti-Corruption Commission has accused of receiving bribes.
President Ellen Johnson is not just the architect and promoter of the “Winner Takes All” policy in Liberia; she has and continues to select lieutenants who will enforce her flawed policy. Family members, friends or inexperienced appointees are her candidates, since the relationship and inexperience might impair their judgment. Additionally, President Sirleaf and her family members have founded numerous businesses. For example, a longtime business partner of the president, Joseph Cashin, is managing one of Liberia’s prominent banks, International Bank. (http://www.panafricancapital.com/announcements/060807.pdf).
Common sense suggests that private-profiteers will always bribe officials and licensed professionals (lawyers, accountants, physicians, etc.) in exchange for favors; thereby, reducing government revenue needed for development. In essence, Liberia is not only encouraging bribery by transferring its natural resources to private-profiteers, it is also reducing the effective weapon (revenue) needed to fight poverty, ignorance, disease, etc. And when social contract breaks down because society fails to deliver services, violence is likely to occur. If Liberia is to collect adequate revenue to build and sustain the tenets of democracy through the fulfillment of social contracts, it should minimize bribery by reducing individuals’ motives (Private-Profits) in managing society’s lucrative assets.