We Are On Our Own… Dr. Sawyer

By Sidiki Trawally


The Perspective
Atlanta, Georgia

November 19, 2003

Dr. Amos Sawyer
Former interim president of Liberia observes there is a fundamental problem when people put electoral politics at the center of their transformation process, adding, “It does not help any process.” Dr. Amos C. Sawyer called on Liberians to engage in constructive dialogues in order to move the country forward.

Sawyer said if Liberians fail to trash out their differences through dialogues and fail to engage in the reformation process prior to elections, they (Liberians) would not be able to make any significant change in the country. “Believe me, mark my words,” said Sawyer.

The Liberian scholar noted the nature of the political regime in Liberia, which he said is highly unitary system of government centralized in the office of the President, contributes substantially to problems in Liberia, including the bitterness and distrust among the citizens.

“The office of the president links economic power to political power in a zero sum game. If John Brown becomes president, it is John Brown and his friends having the prize. The other people are left at their mercy.” He said such a practice creates a lock jam, “a fight to the finish.” Sawyer said too much power has been placed in the Liberian presidency where the president is allowed to hire and fire at will. He said such system of government must be reformed and decentralized.

Speaking at the Inaugural Ball hosted by the Liberian Association of Pennsylvania Inc, at the Twentieth Century Club in Lansdowne, Saturday urged Liberians to engage in positive dialogues in the view of eliminating those problems.

Sawyer challenged Liberians to fully realize that every Liberian has entitlement to the country. “No one group can wish the other group away, so we better sober up and face ourselves with all our hurts and pains to find a way to reach some kind of understanding among ourselves as to the future of our country.”

The former interim government said the challenge of finding a way to the future has to be grounded in “serious reflections, serious thoughts and serious analysis.” He said, “Too often we give into discussing in platitudes. It does not help us with our problems.” He urged Liberians to study their own problems, “if we must go forward.”

He noted Liberians are divided by historical layers of bitterness and distrust. “Everybody here got some enemies among everybody here. It is true that we’ve done terrible things to each other, but why can’t we engage each other in a discussion on those things? Can we muster the courage to face ourselves?” He emphasized: “We are first and foremost on our own. We need to come together and take ourselves seriously.”

The Liberian scholar raised eyebrows when he said 65% of Liberia’s young generation is less educated than their parents. He said Liberia is among the few countries worldwide that are retrogressing in term of its human capital.

Sawyer said the 65 % at the age 30 “know nothing but war.” This, he observed, has distorted “our value system, so it is no longer the merit of education that drives us; it is the capacity to manipulate the means of violence that becomes the vehicle that catapult us to the top.”

Meanwhile, former interim president has called for a national conference to be convened in Liberia where issues affecting Liberia would be put on the table for discussion to find a way forward for Liberia. “We need a Liberian agenda, a Liberian road map that we will all embrace as the basis to move forward.”