Monrovia, Liberia – June 4, 2019: A fierce critic of the Weah Administration Martin K.N. Kollie is vowing to resist the ban on student politics at the state run University of Liberia.
In an interview on Tuesday, the vocal student leader confirmed that “on the direct orders of President George M. Weah, the University of Liberia issued a ban on all political activities on campuses of the institution.” This is the second time in the last 6 months that the Government of Liberia has moved to curtail political activities on at the University.
Kollie warned that the action of President Weah was what he described as “dictatorial” and warned that the Liberian President was treading on “dangerous ground. According to him, the authorities of the University have given no reasons for the “ban on politics” not did they back in last January when the first ban was issued.
Kollie accused the ruling Congress for Democratic Change (CDC) of dispatching “thugs” to the Capitol Hill campus on Monday, June 3, 2019 to intimidate and harass students who are opposed to the policies of the government. The incident, he said, led to the disruption of normal academic activities. The student leader further charged that in the run up to the June 7th protest, the Government was “importing former rebels” to attack protesters.
West African Journal Magazine is unable to independently ascertain the charge of Kollie. The UL Administration blamed the ban on the disturbance on Monday. “ Accordingly, no political group shall assemble or hold meetings or engage in any politically related activities on any of the UL campuses during this period of suspension,” a UL official said in issuing the ban on student political activities.
He further disclosed in the interview that the student leadership of the University of Liberia was mobilizing about 50,000 students in support of the June 7th Protest which he described as “the beginning of the revolution” against the Weah Government.
According to him, he is being followed by state security personnel because of his advocacy and critical views against the Government. “For the last 2 months, I have not lived at home for fear of my life”, he emphasized.
Kollie disclosed further that it was his information that the Government was planning to issue a “State of Emergency” on June 6th, a day before the protest to block the massive anti Government demonstration which is being organized by a group known as the Council of Patriots (COP).
The Liberian Constitution provides for the issuance of State of Emergency in Article 86 (a) and (b):
The President may, in consultation with the Speaker of the House of Representatives and the President Pro Tempore of the Senate, proclaim and declare and the existence of a state of emergency in the Republic or any part thereof. Acting pursuant thereto, the President may suspend or affect certain rights, freedoms and guarantees contained in this Constitution and exercise such other emergency powers as may be necessary and appropriate to take care of the emergency, subject, however, to the limitations contained in this Chapter.
A state of emergency may be declared only where there is a threat or outbreak of war or where there is civil unrest affecting the existence, security or well-being of the Republic amounting to a clear and present danger.”
But the student activist said critics of the Government are prepared to ignore any “unorthodox and illegal imposition of a State of Emergency” by President Weah.
In a previous paper, I underlined possible trends impacting Liberia economy in 2019 and proposed series of recommendations which preceded the IMS report.
In this article, I focus on leadership and why it is important for leaders to “eat last”.
This is important because the circumstances unfolding in Liberia is disquieting and shocking. The lack of leadership is why we have economically and socially fallen of the cliff. It is unfortunate, because it doesn’t have to be this way. For over a century, we have failed to educate and improve the standard of living for our people. That is why the ability to make decisions that benefit them or know right from wrong is limited.
We cannot blame our people for the lack of social insecurity and failure. It is because of this confusion and indecisiveness that Liberia is in a chaotic state and given rise to the Yekeh Kolubah, Abraham Darius Dillon and Henry Costa of the world. It is because most Liberians under 30 (majority of the voting age population) feel they have no future and these individuals feel their pain, even if they are in it for themselves. And so I predict that we are in it for a long haul.
To correct the gross social imbalances of the past, individuals who aspire to leadership must understand Liberia’s lessons from a historical context and correct it. Neither this current government nor the previous ones have done anything to turn the tide; so history is destined for reappearance.
First, I’ll conceptualize leadership.
One can equate a leader to being a parent. He or she is the core of the family, who makes sacrifices to see that his or her child interests are advanced so that, later in life, they would follow the right path and become successful. So, in the process sacrifices are made by the parent; lot of them.
It is this kind of leadership Liberia requires to move forward. Unfortunately, this isn’t the case. The CDC lead government under President George Weah came with all the hope and aspiration that they had the magic wand to solve Liberia’s problem only to drop the ball, because they were not prepared and had no plan; all talk and no substance. So, they are stuck.
Here is why I think that John C. Maxwell had a right when he said “A leader is one who knows the way, goes the way, and shows the way.” Similarly, Dwight D. Eisenhower the 34the President of the United States once said “The supreme quality of leadership is unquestionably integrity.” The rationale is that without trust and honesty first to yourself and others, success isn’t possible. You cannot force it.
In Simon Sinek’s book “Leaders Eat Last” he laid out evidently that leaders should create the environment that allow people to feel a sense of purpose, fulfillment and self-actualization from what they do and why leaders must build trust so that people can thrive. In order to build trust, a leader must be transparent and everything he or she does. When they have nothing to hide, they are challenged less because people are aware of what they do and there are no hidden skeleton in their closets. He or she is a teacher and a coach, not a dictator. They communicate what they want to do so the vision is clear.
A leader that eats last is selfless, self-sacrificing; not driven by honor and power with the single-mindedness upon making everyone better. Your success as a leader must come from the vision and accomplishment of your people. Put your people in the spotlight and you will shine. Surround yourself with the best and brightest and you will gleam and standout. A leader that east last is careful of abuse of public office for private gain, since it impacts economic growth and livelihood.
One writer sums it this way with respect to how leaders must eat last “…Although leaders may not be asked to risk their lives or to save anybody else’s, they should be glad to share their glory and help those with whom they work, succeed. More importantly, in the right conditions, people with whom leaders engage with should choose to also share their glory and take risk. And when that happens, when those kinds of bonds are formed, a strong foundation is laid for the kind of success and fulfillment that no amount of money, fame or awards can buy.”
This is what it means to work in a place in which the leaders prioritize the well-being of their people and, in return, their people give everything they’ve got to protect and advance the happiness of one another; a kind of shared purpose.
This is why we all owe it the opposition in Liberia as well as well Yekeh Kolubah, Abraham Darius Dillon and Henry Costa because leaders must be checked or you will breed monstrosity and gargantuan.
I have been fortunate to engage with many organizations and have determined that those that are exceptional, whether public (government) or the private (business), are ones in which leaders set clear visions and where people implement those visions. And so, they push harder and harder, take risks to achieve shared-objectives and better the lives of their people. You can only achieve this if there are empathy and compassion for individuals; not self. People!.
Leaders that eat last see aggrandizement and braggadocio as obstacles to progress and not the other way around. This is fundamental to creating a culture in which folks effortlessly pull together to advance the public good; not the good of an individual.
Leaders that eat last create a sense of belonging that limit stress and reduce threats. Everyone feel a part of something bigger; a greater purpose. They give their all, more time, and energy to protect others from the constant dangers outside and seize the big opportunity to impact lives. Smart leaders can accomplish this because it is not about them. Unfortunately, most of our leaders don’t see it this way. They are mostly driven by tittle-tattle, scuttlebutt and gossip.
This is why we need leaders; good ones – Leaders who would look out for people on both sides of the political spectrum (ruling and opposition) and the willingness to sacrifice their comfort for others, even when they disagree with you; a kind of trusted leadership. Trust is not simply a matter of shared opinions. Trust is a biological reaction to the belief that someone has others well-being at heart. Trusted leaders are those who are willing to give up something of their own for others. Their time, their energy, their money, maybe even the food off their plate. When it matters, good leaders choose be the last to take from the plate; Not the first.
In addition, a leader that eats last encourage others to do the right thing even if it is popular. When human-beings feel that they have the control to do what’s right and supported, even if it sometimes means breaking the rules, they will more likely do what’s right. Audacity and courage comes from good leaders. Chaos and uncertainties exist from those that are unscrupulous and immoral. A person’s’ poise and timidity to do what’s right is determined by how a person trust his or her leader. A leader that eats last isn’t often fooled because he or she uses common sense and moral judgment.
It is often said that the environment has an impact on the individual. Sometimes if respectable and honest people work in a bad culture, one in which leaders do not relinquish control, lack respect for the law, immoral, shady and corrupt, then the odds of the good habits go down and bad habits go up. Individuals will be more likely than not, to follow the bad rules out of fear of getting in trouble or getting in trouble with the boss, losing their jobs rather than doing what needs to be done.
The current global economy will continue to see stock market volatility, decline in commodity prices, trade wars, falling oil prices, hyper-inflation, and the depressing economic prospects for Sub-Saharan Africa. The challenges of reducing poverty and the impact of high inequality across the region will continue to dampened progress and economic activity. And so the challenges of poverty reduction can only be realized through robust economic growth and equitable distribution of the national pie which would require effective and efficiency leadership.
We have by our own nature created a country that is politically and economically out of balance for ourselves and generation to come. It has been so for over 170 years. It will soon self-destruct unless we are smart enough to correct it methodically and with a sense of urgency. Given our inclination for instant enjoyment, satisfaction, pleasure and the weaknesses in our organizations, nevertheless, our leaders may not have the poise or patience to do what needs to be done even if it is the right thing.
For some reasons, there’s this strong feeling that Liberian leaders don’t see their people as individuals but rather pawn in a chess game; a means to an end and why empty promises are often made and they often take the bit and fall for the trap from individuals who are only in it for their own concealed motives. Now more than ever, the Liberian people live daily in a society in which they are total strangers in their own land; in which they struggle to make ends meet.
Liberia is in an imbroglio. How the current government overcome the current entanglement needs to be seen, but leadership should be at the core because effective policies requires sound thinking and facts based on the data to inform policy and drive decision-making.
I have always argued that good governance and effective headship is essential for success in any organization and for implementing policies whether fiscal or monetary. In most instances, crafting effective policy option takes time and requires weighing the pros and cons so that prescriptions drive results and outcome.
So my recommendation for every Liberia leader is to do the following:
Fight to bring people together
Create balance between selfish pursuits versus selfless pursuits
Talk less and listen more
There’s always two sides to a story. Listen, listen, listen
Get the job done
To sum, leadership is not about doing less. It is striving to do more. And that’s the dilemma. Leadership takes effort and work. It takes time, energy and a ‘get-up-and-go’ attitude. The effects are not always easily measured and they are not always immediate. Leadership is always a commitment to people to do the right thing.
This is the change Liberia yearns for; – “A leader that eats last, not first.”
Thousands of supporters, on Thursday, May 16, 2019 came out to welcome the man who is seen by many including the government of Liberia as the “instigator” of the much publicized June 7 protest.
Supporters Of Liberian Talkshow Host Henry P.Costa
According to our correspondent in Monrovia, the Liberian popular talk show host and political commentator, Henry Pedro Costa returned to Liberia from the United States of America to join his colleagues to lead the June 7 protest in demand of change. Many supporters who spoke to West Africa Journal Magazine said, they came out in solidarity with the planned June 7 protest.
Speaking to our Monrovia Correspondent, scores of supporters,mostly young men and women said, their courage to welcome Henry Costa is driven by what they term as the “unprecedented economic hardship” being experienced under the GeorgeWeahgovernment.
Banner Carrying Supporters of Henry P. Costa
A motorcyclist who identified himself as Nathaniel said he parked his commercial motorcycle only to come and welcome the man he called his hero. According to him, his motivation to stand in the hot sun for hours waiting for one man is based on the message that he (Costa) preaches on the radio about corruption.
“Iam motivated to stand in the Hot sun because Costa is the voice of the voiceless”, said Nathaniel.
He told our reporter that he will be part of the June 7 protest, and called on other well-meaning Liberians to join what he termed a campaign for “emancipation of the poor people.”
Chelsea William, a lady who joined the welcoming crowdfrom the Monrovia suburb of ChocolateCity told PresidentWeahto see the momentum of Costa’s arrival as a clear message.
“GeorgeWeahmust see thisasa message for our desire for change”, she intoned. According to Ms. William, she was tired of the difficulties and would appreciate if President GeorgeWeahcould see reason to resign if he is not capable of leading the country.
Young Liberians Welcoming Henry P.Costa
Bystanders who trooped in from their various quarters were heard describing the crowd as a prelude to June 7 protest. The arrival of Costa was characterized by parade fromjust outside of the city center In Sinkorto Central Monrovia where he addressed crowds of supporters.
Political spectators described the euphoriasurrounding the welcome of a “common” talk show host as a display of frustration by the young people who are said to be feeling the difficulties associated with the country’s economy.
Monrovia, Liberia – In the wake of comments from allies and Government officials which have embarrassed the President and Government, the President is now moving to instill some control of the narrative of his officials, especially on issues of national concern.
Late on Wednesday the Executive Mansion in Monrovia issued a press statement in which it said, “The President of Liberia, H.E. Dr. George Manneh Weah, has issued an Executive Memorandum directing all Ministers, Deputies and Assistant Ministers, and Heads of Agencies and Commissions, and their deputies to refrain from making public comments on policy issues of national concern on both conventional and social media without first seeking authorization from the appropriate authorities. The President’s Executive Memorandum, issued Wednesday, May 8, 2019 through the Director General of the Cabinet, Hon. Jordan Solunteh, also instructs all government Ministries and Agencies to direct their communications on public policy matters to the Minister of Information or his designee. The Memorandum further indicates that there would be grave consequences for any member of the Executive Branch of Government found in violation of the directive. The President therefore cautions all members of the Executive Branch to take heed and govern themselves accordingly…,” the statement concluded.
Earlier during the week, the U.S. Embassy chastised some Government officials and lawmakers over their public comments. “…It is unacceptable for Senator Prince Y. Johnson, Representative Yekeh Kolubah, “ex-generals” or other former actors in Liberia’s civil wars to incite unlawful acts through ill-considered rhetoric that could jeopardize Liberia’s hard-won peace and security. It is equally irresponsible for people within leadership positions in government or the ruling party to promote such division as Deputy Minister Eugene Fahngon has done on social media. To take such a public stance and suggest it is a private opinion or a personal right reflects a misunderstanding of the nature of public service in a democracy…,” the U.S. Embassy said.
The Chairman of the ruling Congress for Democratic Change (CDC) Mulbah Morlu and Representative Kolubah have both welcomed the statement of the U.S. Embassy.
The Presidential directive does not cover the ruling CDC but observers say they expect the fiery rhetoric and accusations against the opposition of Chairman Morlu to be toned down.
Some observers say the action by the Liberian leader may have come following a closed door meeting with members of the Senate on Tuesday in which they made some suggestions to address the political tension in the country.
Monrovia, Liberia – May 7, 2019: A major opposition political group in Liberia, the All People Party (ALP) says it is suspending all talks or dialogue with the ruling Congress for Democratic Change (CDC) Government.
In a press statement issued on Monday in Monrovia, the political party said its decision to suspend dialogue is, “…until the Government fosters reasonable, fair and respectful approach towards the opposition, especially the opposition and the Office of the Chairman of the collaborating Political Parties…”
Mr. Benoni Urey heads the Coalition of Collaborating Opposition Political Parties in Liberia.
The 4-page statemment cited instances of unproven accusations made by the the Chairman of the CDC Mr. Mulbah Morlu, now suspended Deputy Information Minister Eugene Fahngon and Presidential Affairs Minister Nathaniel McGill against the ALP and others of the Coalition that they were plotting to assasinate President Weah. “The Leaders of the Collaborating Political Parties challenged President Weah and his party’s chairman to provide evidence to what the leaders described as false, malicious and baseless accusation, The CDC and President Weah failed to do so…”, the ALP said.
According to the party, President Weah, at a church Conference in Bong County, central Liberia earlier this year, confirmed the accusation.
The statement which was approved by the party’s National Chairman said, “The ALP believes in the face of rising economic challenges resulting to the growng tension in the country, the CDC led Government lacks better approach to finding remedy to the country’s current problems. As a result, the CDC and President Weah have embarked upon a campaign of scapegoating and diversionary futile political activities by engaing in slanderous attacks on the reputations of Hon. Benoni W. Urey, Cllr. Charles Brumskine, Ambassador Alexander Cummings and Ambassador Joseph. N. Boakai.”
The opposition party led by businessman Urey charged that its “…leadership therefore is of the conviction that both Chairman Morlu and President Weah’s Actions are anti-peaceful and hence a recipe for distrust and lack of confidentialty. The ALP believes what is being prematurely uttered by Chairman Mulbah Morlu, Ministers Nathaniel McGill and Eugene Fahngon is a direct reflection of President Weah’s instruction. Otherwise, we challenge President Weah to have Chairman Morlu removed and subsequently dismiss Ministers McGill and Fahngon immediately…”
In closing, the ALP announced its endorsement of the June 7 peaceful protests and called on ‘well-meaning Liberians” to join in. A major anti-government protest has been called for June 7th by organizers under the banner Council of Patriots to petition for redress to economic and political issues facing the poor West African Country.
The statement is the first response of the ALP to a series of attacks and accusations against its leader and his business by the CDC Chairman Morlu and allies of the Government. At a recent gathering at the CDC headquarters, Chairman Morlu gave an ultimatum to the telcommunications company Lonestar Cell MTN to distance itself from Mr. Urey or face “citizens withdrawal from the company services.”
The Weah Government is under serious political and economic pressures to provide relief for struggling citizens.
New York, U.S. – April 16, 2019: The Trump Administration is reportedly planning a crackdown on several countries whose nationals overstay their visas in the United States.
The Wall Street Journal newspaper citing Administration officials say as part of a toughened immigration policy, the Trump Administration is moving to limit the number of visa offered to nationals from Liberia, Nigeria, Sierra Leone, Chad and Eritrea. The Administration may also offer shorter visa stays.
The Wall Street Journal quotes an official White House spokesperson Hogan Gidley as saying the Trump Administration is considering prioritizing the plan “to reduce overstay rates for visas and the visa waiver program—and it’s well known that the administration is working to ensure faithful implementation of immigration welfare rules to protect American taxpayers.”
The countries are said to be “on notice” unless there is a change in number of their nationals who overstay their visas.
If implemented, the curb in issuance of visas to nationals to the African countries named means it will become harder to obtain such visas. Globally, countries are already seeing denial of visas from U.S. Consular offices for travel to the United States. A popular destination of nationals of the African countries named is the United States where large populations reside as permanent residents or have become U.S. citizens.
Monrovia, Liberia- April 15, 2019: The worsening economic reality in Liberia needs no amplification.
President George M. Weah of Liberia
In the local parlance, “People are sucking air”.
In a recent video shared widely on Liberian social media sites, desperate marketers openly voiced frustration with the Weah Administration and its inability to curb the economic downward spiral; especially the declining Liberian dollar. The marketers are simple and good indicators of the local strength of supply and demand which drive the economy.
No one is “buying” because of the lackluster economic environment and the diminishing purchasing ability of the ordinary Liberian.
The sentiment of economic disappointment expressed by the marketers is a reliable representation of the view held across all sectors of the Liberian society that the hard time is too much.
It is reasonable to establish that Liberians are making the effort to speak to President Weah and his Government about their concerns; whether it is through angry marketers, the position of Coalition of Opposition Parties, peaceful marches and protests, mob violence or silence.
The fundamental question is whether Government is listening and, if so, what is its response.
What is baffling to Liberian citizens, and perhaps to the international community of economic observers is the “loud silence” from President Weah to the “status quo” of frustration, hard time and hopelessness ordinary citizens are enduring under his Administration.
In challenging times, citizens expect leaders to step up and inspire, motivate and lead. The President is not speaking nor is he motivating or leading.
This business of the Administration’s silence is clashing with confidence in Government. That confidence was the “Hope For Change” and blank check that some desperate Liberians, who, against their better judgment, as it is becoming evident, gave to the ruling Congress for Democratic Change (CDC) and President Weah when they elected him in December, 2017.
The blank check of “political capital” that the CDC led Government obtained from the people of Liberia, was, in the real sense, a “credit” which needed to translate to tangibles that will put food on the table, a job and escape from poverty.
The crises of confidence in Government are not just localized to the home theater. International business analysts and observers see a direct correlation between poor governance and Government’s inability to attract investments and infrastructures which are critical drivers of any economy; Liberia being no exception.
Liberia is identified by the International Monetary Fund (IMF) as one of several sub Saharan countries with slower growing countries and where “there is a need to pursue reforms to facilitate economic diversification, and address remaining economic imbalances, many of these cases, private investments remain weak, and a strong focus is needed to address the constraints that are holding such investments back…”
A successful Liberian international business executive Mr. Sage Thomson, in an analysis of the Liberian situation, says, “…with our current inflation rate north of 30%, my goodness… why would any investor or bank want to do business with us? We don’t have a great story to tell the world. The President is jetting off without a serious business pitch. And that pitch starts with stability in your country. But guess what…food inflation is at 31% as of December 2018 and it is fair to say that it is very much higher currently in Q2 19.
Basically, government officials consume our GDP without understanding that you cannot run a nation or have any serious currency without productivity! Growth is driven by capital, labor and productivity… and productivity is 60% of what determines if a country is going to succeed or not.“
Thomson also cites the contributory challenge of uncontrollable “urbanization”. According to him, “another area of massive concern is urbanization.. Monrovia is tremendously overcrowded without any plans, for a secondary city for people to migrate to, for example, Ganta, Nimba County, Gbarnga, Bong County, Zorzor, Lofa County, etc…”
He attributes this uncontrollable factor to the frantic free -fall situation that Liberia is experiencing.
The series of anti-government protests in the last two years are indications that non- Administration supporters are effectively controlling the narrative to the disadvantage of Government. Control of the narrative that the Administration is corrupt and ineffective is winning over independents and some supporters of the Government who see confirmation everyday of some of the questionable actions or inaction by Government.
The once popular CDC is being openly challenged in debates in the public square and electoral contests for public office. Some Liberians are even accusing the Weah Administration of choosing to violate the Constitution rather than face the public embarrassment of losing by-elections due to its declining popularity; case in point being the delay in formally informing the National Elections Commission (NEC) about the vacancy in the Senatorial seat in Montserrado County in order to trigger preparation for and holding of a by election.
While it may be true that the Weah Administration may have simply forgotten to inform the NEC of the vacancy, equally, so, they’ve created room for opposition and independents to point to ineffective governance. This lapse contributes to sustained erosion of confidence and the desire to find an alternative leadership to the present Government.
It is no secret that political and social tensions and divisions are rising due to the economic malaise. And the creeping realization is that Liberians are slowly but surely reaching the point of no return when they would rightfully and peacefully call for a change in Government by invoking Articles 1 and 7 of the Constitution.
Article 1 says,
“All power is inherent in the people. All free governments are instituted by their authority and for their benefit and they have the right to alter and reform the same when their safety and happiness so require. In order to ensure democratic government which responds to the wishes of the governed, the people shall have the right at such period, and in such manner as provided for under this Constitution, to cause their public servants to leave office and to fill vacancies by regular elections and appointments…”
Article 7 maintains that, “…freedom and social justice enshrined in this Constitution, manage the national economy and the natural resources of Liberia in such manner as shall ensure the maximum feasible participation of Liberian citizens under conditions of equality as to advance the general welfare of the Liberian people and the economic development of Liberia…”
The Weah Administration must “speak” credibly to citizens and begin to lead in all areas. It will require making some difficult choices which would include discarding some entrenched economic and political positions, realization that government critics are not “enemies of the state” but patriots; and even adopting some solutions offered by the opposition bloc.
If Liberia wins in the end, regardless of who is in the Executive Mansion, it will validate that Liberia is greater than any one person or political party.
Mr. President, citizens are trying to get your attention. They are suffering! Speak to them!