A Memo To The President Elect, Senator George Manneh Weah

By James Thomas-Queh
Contriubuting Writer

The Perspective
Atlanta, Georgia
January 3, 2018


I want to extend my heartiest congratulations to the President elect – Senator George Manneh Weah. Undoubtedly, you have handled the uncertain electoral sequences with a very high degree of patience, intelligence and statesmanship. Bravo! And now you should be the President of all the Liberians and not just a particular class, group or a clique. As you begin your long and tedious 6-year mission, herein  is my initial advice.    

Adhere Rigorously To The Values And Principles Of Democracy

Curiously, Mr. President elect, despite the fact that you have proven over the last 12 years to be a true democrat, many of your main opponents think the opposite. And take their concern seriously; or else some neo-progressives or human rights activists and even the docile Legislature and  Judiciary could become the immediate thorn in the flesh.  Thus your first line of defence must be a scrupulous adherence  to the core values and principles of democracy to curtail any eventuality.

In fact, permit me to give you a brief historical flashback of some clear examples. President Tolbert  acknowledged the values and principles of democracy, but failed to take his conviction to its final conclusion; he was assassinated in office. President Doe was elected “democratically”, but turned out to be a dictator; he was butchered in office. President Taylor too was “democratically” elected, but came out as a ruthless tyrant; and now serving a 50-year prison term in Britain. And Madam Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf was also “democratically” elected - and all that we may have said about her - in general, she respected some of the essential elements of democracy. Or else, I doubt whether she could have stayed those 12 long years with such a tremendous self-assurance. Thus it is fair to say that she has blazed the trail of democracy, and the heritage torch is passed on to you; so the burden is now on you to uphold, respect and protect Liberia’s young democracy to the letter.

Respect Your Own Vision First

You know, while standing with Liberia’s first interim President one evening at the foot of the J.J. Roberts monument on the Ducor hilltop - looking over a Monrovia in total darkness and dissolution without a sign of life - the man said to me in a very grave tone: “Jimmy,  I don’t know why people are fighting and killing just to become President of this country; this thing is full of so much headaches.” We were in the early 1990s.

So, Mr. President elect, to be frank with you I still do not know why you have fought so hard - democratically - to be President of Liberia. Look, you now have the future of 4.6 million people on your shoulders; the economy is in shambles; country absorbed in mass poverty -  no jobs, roads, schools, hospitals, water, light, order, discipline, and you name it. It is an enormous challenge.
But, very cleverly you did not run for the Presidency on a grand demagogic “vision” for Liberia. I guess you knew that for the past 12 years our nation has been depending wholly on opaque foreign financial aid, loans  and hand-outs on which no sound politician could make promises to commit himself without ridicule.

Notwithstanding, Mr. President elect, I believe you do have a certain vision on how best our nation should progress for the benefit of us all. I urge you to first follow that vision that has been kept to your heart  for Liberia. And to achieve it, Mr. President elect, always remain yourself; do not try to mimic or imitate Presidents Tolbert, Doe, Taylor and Ellen - then you shall fail. Or, do not try to be an “imperial” President – it is not your style. But keep in mind where all your predecessors  have failed, and let that experience serves you as a guide to accomplish your dream for Liberia.
Besides, we all know that the masses that brought you to power do not expect you to perform miracles to solve all Liberia’s chronic problems in six years. I think they voted for you, first and foremost, because they see you as one of theirs – real, simple/humble, no arrogance, no artificial glamour, no snobbishness, no cronyism, no favouritism, and the rest. And while this popular confidence is still in your favour, if only you could stay,  at least,  80% of your time in the country to galvanize and organize the youths, peasant farmers, petty traders, micro, small/medium enterprises, etc – with a genuine political will, honesty and an experienced, professional  and devoted patriotic team – history will remain positively on your side.

National Reconciliation Priority And Not “This is our time”

Mr. President elect,  I lauded your exceptional audacity for selecting Senator Jewel Taylor as your VP. And the fact that you made that daring choice and still won the presidency with such a high mark (61.5%) means that if we Liberians were really honest and sincere, this is the  time to be asking ourselves some hard questions on the path to a genuine national reconciliation, unity and lasting peace. That we bury our differences, tribes, egos and personal interests and focus on a “national development road-map” that would uplift all our citizens and not just an enlightened few or be “This is our time. “
That said, Mr. President elect, you have a delicate balancing act to perform here. Because on the one hand, the families of the civil war victims and many Liberians see a culture of impunity when 250, 000 innocent citizens were massacred,  and no one has been punished. Worse, there is the sentiment that the principal actors of this crime against humanity have all been compensated with state jobs and having good time while the living victims and entire country are in the slums and poverty.
Then on the  other hand, the international community that brought sanity to our country with a strong 15 000  multinational troops, instead of first assisting us to bring all the war criminals to justice, they compensated us instead with two (2) Nobel Peace Prizes. For what purpose, we never thought to ask. But in return, we distributed all our natural resources to them for little of nothing. And twelve (12) years later they all packed their bags and left us on our own; no solid national security apparatus or state institutions. And yet with much emotions some are still vehemently calling for a war crime tribunal in Liberia.

For me, Mr. President elect, under the circumstances I would put  Liberia’s long-term national security first over all the emotions. This is not to  mean that I condone impunity, far from it. To eradicate impunity, I was among the first to echo the creation of a “National Truth Commission” back in 2005 (see:www.theperspective.org/articles/0401200502.html – April 1, 2005).  Because among those more the 250 000 innocent victims of the civil war were too many of my own family members  (my father, sisters, uncles, aunts, nieces, etc, and our village burned down to ashes). But believe me, after these twelve (12) years of disappointment, reflection and realism,  I have no malice against anyone. I have turned the page and convinced myself that we ourselves are the problem – especially the educated ones who are prospering on the mass ignorance and poverty of our people.

Notwithstanding, Mr. President elect, the most I expect from you  is an unconditional exemplarity of discipline – the same trait that took you to the highest heights of your profession. That there shall be a zero tolerance for impunity under your administration, and that your leadership will pursue the national recognition of the memory of our innocent civil war victims. How?

In my paper mentioned supra, I also proposed the construction of “National War Memorial Monuments throughout the length and breath  of our country to honour all our fallen compatriots since April 14, 1979.  Well, almost 10 years later (May 2014), it was the US ambassador, Madam Malac, that dedicated the first War Memorial on the US embassy compound to honour our civil war victims in your presence, Mr. President elect. And because at that time you were also at the head of the “Peace and National Reconciliation” initiative, I encouraged you then with these words:

“You have to be focused, bold and decisive in order to succeed in your current challenge. If I were you I would plug deep into these symbolic and very important gestures of the United States Ambassador and make them big and memorable rally points for a true and genuine National Reconciliation, Unity, Peace and Stability of Liberia. I would roll up my sleeves and mobilize our young talents (sculptors, artists, architects, poets, etc) and begin to prepare a blueprint for the establishment of National War Memorial in every county. I would travel into every village and town throughout the length and breath of Liberia and ensure that a plague is installed, engraved with the names of their civil war victims; so that they be perpetually remembered in our minds, hearts and souls. And, to further drive away our demons and revengeful instincts from the month of April, I would press the National Legislature to pass an Act, declaring April 12th as a “National Reconciliation Day (and even more significant if this date was also the birthday of the late President William R. Tolbert, jr)….” (see: www.theperspective.org/2014/0528201403.php).

Mr. President elect, this proposal of mind yesterday is definitely within your reach today. What is more, Madam Sirleaf recently unveiled her government’s first War Memorial on March 8, 2017, after 12 years in office. From my visit to this  monument in April 2017 - at the river bank of the Du-port Road (a notorious massacre site), and documents obtained later– there are 155 massacre sites identified so far around the country, and there could be many more. The project cost US$59,000.00, financed by the United Nations’ Peace-building Fund (UNPBF),  and not the government of Liberia – what a shame.

Mr. President elect, if you were  to dissolve all the commissions, exorbitant board fees and do a drastic salary and expenditure cuts within the three (3) branches of the  government (Executive, Legislature and Judiciary), you could build more than 155 War Memorials in six years; a school and dispensary in each village; train a professional corps of teachers and nurses; create thousands of youths employment projects, etc, etc. And for me, that would be a giant step to consolidating a genuine national reconciliation, unity, peace and stability.

Avoid Foreign Policy Missteps

Mr. President elect, one of your greatest challenges will be your foreign policy. Though there is no more “East” and “West”, but the battle for influence and natural resources by the “Big Powers” is even more ferocious  and constitutes a permanent danger for a nation as ours. So, never tell a secret to one and leave out the others; when you visit one, try to visit the others and repeat the same script to all of them -with an utmost sincerity and honesty - on how you want to be helped to uplift our country and people from mass poverty to a sustainable economic development and  prosperity.

Corruption Headache

It would be too naïve to ask you to keep Liberia corruption free, especially when the state coffers are empty; all our natural resources already distributed to our “foreign partners”, and the country already laden with debt.  Notwithstanding, whatever amount they may give you as rent or token, please do your best and use it to benefit all our people. Or, if you have to chop, then let all our people chop first at your table.

Personal  Security

Mr. President elected, some are concerned about your personal security, and rightly so. But I think  anyone who is scare to die or afraid  of witchcraft, should never try to be the President of Liberia. For me,  your surest security are your people – genuine investment for their empowerment, development and general welfare. These are the attributes  that build the trust and confidence of the people in their national leader and thus guarantee his or her security the most. Additionally, do away with the security morale of long convoys of presidential motorcade constantly embarrassing citizens and traffic in an already congested capital city.

Mr. President elect, I close this short Memo with these words of an unknown author on a card glued to my desk:
“God grant me the Serenity to accept the things I cannot change,
Courage to change the things I can and
Wisdom to know the difference.”

GOOD LUCK Mr. President elect, and Long Live LIBERIA.





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