Meet New Deal's Presidential Aspirant, George Klay Kieh, Jr.
By Winsley S. Nanka
November 5, 2002
The place Trenton, New Jersey, the Date October 26, 2002, the time 10:30 AM, the occasion, an audience with the Northeast executives and members of the New Democratic Alternative for Liberia (New Deal Movement) to formally inform them about his campaign for the presidency for Liberia. The setting was like any American presidential campaign, the handlers (campaign staffers), the cell phones, and the www.Kieh-Tokpa.org logo were visible all over the place.
George Klay Kieh Jr., 46 and his running mate Alaric Tokpa, 44 met with the New Deal Movement Northeastern Region executives and members of the party to formally announce their intention to contest the New Deal Primary in the United States as President and Vice Presidential candidates. There are striking similarities between the Kieh-Tokpa team and another presidential campaign in the United States in 1992. George Klay Kieh, Jr. like Bill Clinton during the 1992 US presidential campaign, is 46 years old, and like Bill Clinton, he is well abreast with Liberian and international policy issues. His running mate Alaric Tokpa, like Al Gore, Clinton’s running mate, is 44 years old. Like Al Gore, Alaric Tokpa’s trademark is complex policy analysis.
The occasion began with the Liberian continental breakfast-cassava, plantain, yam and fish gravy. The breakfast reminded nearly everyone present at the occasion about the glorious land of liberty, Liberia. However, the breakfast was just a sideshow to what turned out to be an eventful and insightful occasion.
Dressed in his trademark Julius Nyerere like collarless shirt, the presidential candidate sat silently as one of his campaign staffers, a gentleman with a soft southern accent that could pass for a movie star, introduced him. The presidential candidate was greeted to the podium with a standing ovation.
During his remarks, Mr. Kieh spoke about what he calls a ‘human centered” social and economic development blue print that his campaign is developing for the reconstruction and development of Liberia. He explained that his program for the social and economic development of Liberia is divided three components- the short-range, intermediate and long-range components. Like the professor Kieh is, he briefly dissected the socio-economic in balances in the Liberian society and provided an overview of the prescriptive remedies in his blueprint for Liberia’s revitalization. He promised his audience that he would harness the resources of Liberia for the social and economic development of Liberia.
Mr. Kieh and his running mate are no strangers to the fight for social justice in Liberia. The two aspirants like another Liberian presidential aspirant Marcus Dahn, recognized the social and economic inequities that existed in Liberia during the True Whig Party regime. They joined forces with other Liberian political agitators to fight for social and economic justice in Liberia at the expense of their lives. Unlike other Liberian presidential aspirants like Charles Walker Brumskine and others, the problems of governance, accountability, transparency and democracy in Liberia did not start in the 1980s to Mr. Kieh and Tokpa.
Candidate Kieh stated that his education policy would be directed toward the establishment of three major universities in Liberia and the transformation of the William VS Tubman College of Science and Technology into the Institute of Science and Technology. He stated further that he would decentralize the secondary and primary educational system in Liberia to the extent that school boards will appoint the principal of schools and not the government of Liberia.
On transparency and accountability in his government, the candidate intimated that all his political appointees would declare their assets upon taking offices and his Justice Ministry will establish the Bureau of Public Integrity to monitor officials of government for corrupt behaviors.
On why he selected veteran political agitator, Alaric Tokpa has is running mate, Mr. Kieh said that he wants a vice president that will work with him as an equal partner in the social and economic development of Liberia and not a vice president of convenience. He disclosed that historically, Liberian presidents have always selected weak vice presidents, but his administration will be the exception.
Dressed in a black turtle neck T-shirt and a burgundy sport coat, Mr. Tokpa took the stand as the partner Mr. Kieh said he would be, affirmed that their goal for contesting the leadership of Liberia is simple, to bring a complete and balanced socio-economic development to Liberia.
During the questions and answers period, the two men were quizzed about numerous issues of concern including how their lack of experience in governance would impact their administration should they succeed? Mr. Kieh responded that experience in previous failed Liberian government must not be used as a precondition for the presidency and vice presidency. In addition, Mr. Kieh disclosed that his present position as the Dean of International studies at Grand Valley State University (Michigan) puts him in charge of the administration of millions of dollars and complex administrative and budgetary decision making.
When asked about the cost of his “human centered’’ national reconstruction and development blue print Mr. Kieh stated that when his blue print is completed for submission to the Liberian people, it will have a price tag attached to it.
Notably absent from Mr. Kieh and his running mate’s remarks were the usual attacks against Mr. Taylor’s failed policies by Liberian politicians and the self anointed opinion leaders. When asked about his failure to attack Mr. Taylor, Mr. Kieh intimated that he is looking beyond Mr. Taylor. His statement could be interpreted that nearly everyone knows the problems of Liberia and Mr. Taylor’s failure as a president.
The two men have had their fair share of successes in life. George Kieh, Jr. was educated at the University of Liberia and Northwestern University (Chicago), where he received a Ph.D. in political science in 1986. Mr. Kieh is currently Dean and Professor of International Studies, Grand Valley State University (on leave) and Chair of the Department of political science and professor of political science at Morehouse College in Atlanta. Mr. Kieh previously served as the Director of International Programs at this ‘Harvard’ of Black colleges.
Alaric Tokpa was educated at the University of Liberia and the University of Ghana, Legon where he received a graduate degree in political science in 1990. He once served as the Acting Chairman of the Department of Political Science, the University of Liberia. Currently, Alaric Tokpa is a doctoral student at Clark Atlanta University.
Mr. Kieh and his running mate’s knowledge of complex Liberian and international issues and their abilities to simplify these issues are very impressive. It remains to be seen if they will have the ability to translate their wealth of knowledge into the development of a backward nation like Liberia. Another obstacle the two men may face in their quest for the Executive Mansion would be if the present occupant will respect the constitution of Liberia (the document he has persistently violated) for a free and fair election to occur in Liberia comes 2003.