Participatory Engagement

A Speech Delivered by Cllr. Mohamedu F. Jones

The Perspective
Atlanta, Georgia

September 3, 2002

Mayors, representatives of local municipalities, other honored guests
Newly installed officers of the Liberian Community Association of Willingboro and Its Environs
My Fellow Liberians
My Friends

I wish to thank the Liberian Community Association of Willingboro and Its Environs for the honor you extend me in asking me to serve as your guest speaker at this Inaugural Ceremony. I wish to thank the leaders of the local communities for welcoming Liberians in these communities; I trust that your Liberian neighbors are good neighbors.

I invite you to join me in examining some of the pertinent issues facing our homeland, Liberia. In terms of the state of human development in the 21st century, Liberia’s current conditions are among the worst that may be found anywhere in the world. The people of Liberia are living a "reality show" that is beyond the curse of the devil. The Republic of Liberia and its people are in a state of total and complete dysfunction; Liberia is a wholly dysfunctional society.

There are many reasons and rationales that inform why we are where we are today. It is not my purpose to present those rationales and reasons, but rather I wish to share with you my thinking, and perhaps inspire you to begin to think about how we as a nation and people can begin the process of removing ourselves from this current state of national infamy.

As you may realize, even today, as we are gathered, Liberia has begun what its President Charles Taylor, has called a peace and reconciliation conference. There is no way that we can predict the outcomes of this conference, but we certainly must pray for peace and reconciliation in Liberia, and hope that the conference can move us closer to those goals.

We also have to recognize that most informed observers of the current Liberian leader, President Charles Taylor, are skeptical that peace and reconciliation in Liberia can be achieved under his leadership. The public record just simply does not support the proposition that the Liberian president is capable or even interested for that matter, in administering good government in Liberia. I think it is fair to say that President Taylor’s model of governments has been to embrace and institute in Liberia some of the worst excesses of some of the worst presidents in Africa’s post independence history.

Even in the face of this, to support war in Liberia is to perpetrate a crime against the people of Liberia. It is not that I believe that war is always wrong as a means to achieve justice, but I do believe, unequivocally, that the current war in Liberia is wrong and a violation of the human rights of the people of Liberia. Minimally, you cannot resort to war to remove a president serving in his first term, regardless of how much you disagree with him, and especially with elections prescribed on a date certain. Additionally, we Liberians already used violence to remove the last two previous constitutional leaders. We ended the terms of President Tolbert and President Doe by murdering them, and look where we are now.

Our future prosperity lay in developing new directions. I submit for your consideration a concept of governance that I call "participatory engagement." We must begin to practice governance through participatory engagement in organization such as the Liberian Community Association of Willingboro and Its Environs, and extend it to our national life. The core values of participatory engagement are (1) people focus and (2) collaboration.

Participatory engagement requires the active engagement of members of a community or country in its governance. It demands that members or citizens share ideas, commit time and resources, and take action to bring about the desired objectives. Participatory engagement requires the institution of a form of governance, and leadership practices, that encourage the people to participate in making decisions regarding community and national objectives, and becoming involved in determining the means of arriving at those objectives. It offers participation to community members or national citizens in outlining the results they seek, and the way the leadership should develop and nurture those results.

Under the framework of participatory engagement, community and national priorities are set in collaboration with the people who must sustain them, members and citizens. Decisions regarding those priorities are determined in partnership and cooperation with members and citizens. In participatory engagement, leadership, whether at the community or national level, is accountable to the people, and makes itself accountable. To succeed, participatory engagement means that community and national leadership actions and policies must be directed to strengthening national or communal capacity, and improving conditions and opportunities for all in a sustainable way, and without discrimination.

Participatory engagement requires good character traits. Good character traits, not levels of education, are key to Liberia's national success. They are key to the success of your organization. The foundation of good character is "good citizenship." When leaders are good citizens, their policies and programs, as well as their actions are community directed and oriented, and always in the best interest of the people. In respect to Liberia, I submit to you that President Taylor needs to demonstrate that he is a good citizen.

Let us briefly examine some of the qualities of good citizenship required in participatory engagement, whether of an organization like yours, or of a nation like Liberia: I believe that four principles of good citizenship, as the foundation of participatory engagement are: Ethics, Personality, Fidelity and Direction

1. The "Ethics" of Leadership: Honesty, Reliability and Respect

Participatory engagement require leaders who can be trusted and counted on, and who acknowledge that good cooperation and good communication benefits the entire community and the nation.

2. The "Personality" of Leadership: Self-discipline, Persistence and Resourcefulness

Participatory engagement demands self-control and restraint on the parts of leaders, as well as commitment that assures completion of tasks, and a dedication to equitably resolving the problems the community or country face.

3. The "Fidelity" of Leadership: Caring, Patience and Loyalty

Participatory engagement means that leaders are considerate, concerned and compassionate; they are enduring and tolerant and they stay the course. Leaders have a duty to be faithful and devoted, and maintain allegiance to the offices they hold.

4. The "Direction" of Leadership: Integrity, Goal-setting and Creativity

Participatory engagement calls for moral standards and ethics to be applied to leadership actions. Greater communal or national achievement is the fundamental objective of leadership, and bringing innovation to achieving this objective is continuous.

In respect to Liberia, participatory engagement means that the President and his administration must always act in compliance to "The General Principles of National Policy" found in Chapter II of Liberia's Constitution.

Participatory engagement for Liberia means that the goals of the government of Liberia, and the actions of its officials, should be undertaken with a view to be conducive, and committed to broadening access of the people to the country's wealth and to the society’s decision-making processes.

Participatory engagement for your organization means that the goals of this leadership should be to achieve your community objectives and to enable full participation by members.

In closing, I say to our American friends on the eve of September 11 that we remember the victims and their families and say resoundingly - God bless America. We also remember the victims in Liberia of its wars and say God bless Liberia and its entire people, wherever we may be.

Thank you and congratulations.

© The Perspective
P.O. Box 450493
Atlanta, GA 31145