ROCKVILLE, Md. – From the author of “Liberia: The Heart of Darkness” comes a new account exposing how “Corruption is Destroying Africa: The Case of Liberia” (published by Trafford Publishing). In his latest book release, Gabriel I.H. Williams narrates the prevailing reality in his home country Liberia, and in Africa as a whole, where corruption has become a major hindrance to national and continental progress.
Williams writes that the book is intended to contribute to the ongoing discourse about Liberia or about Africa, which has often left people perplexed. According to a 2013 World Bank report, Africa has 30% of the world’s minerals and proven oil reserves equivalent to 10% of global stock. How is it that Africa, which has such enormous mineral and oil wealth, is the poorest continent in the world?
The author also notes that a similar question would suffice for Liberia, which became independent since 1847, has been a sovereign nation for over 170 years but is ranked as one of the poorest countries in the world. This is irrespective of the fact that the country is endowed with abundant natural resources. Accordingly, Williams herewith submit that Africa or Liberia is not poor but poorly managed, and that corruption is a major source of bad governance, widespread poverty and instability on the continent.
“There can be no question that corruption is like a cancer eating at the vitals of Africa, my beloved country Liberia being one of the worst affected on the continent. This is why this book is titled, ‘Corruption is Destroying Africa: The Case of Liberia,’” he asserts. “Because of corruption, critical public services such as health and education have remained in a state of dysfunction.”
According to Williams, the book is penned “To contribute to the ongoing discourse regarding measures that are needed to contain corruption and other acts of bad governance that have caused instability, poverty and underdevelopment in Africa and my home-country Liberia.” Through this, he urges for the proper management of Africa’s resources in order to improve the conditions of its people.
The book is a strong call for Africa’s natural resources to have value added, and to empower Africans through education, skills training and equal employment opportunities. Ultimately, the book relates to the prevailing reality of life affecting Africans and people of African descent.
“Corruption is Destroying Africa: The Case of Liberia”
By Gabriel I.H. Williams
Softcover | 8.5 x 11in | 358 pages | ISBN 9781490795713
E-Book | 358 pages | ISBN 9781490795706
Available at Amazon and Barnes & Noble
About the Author
Gabriel I.H. Williams is a diplomat and former deputy minister of information in the government of Liberia. A career journalist, he has worked with several news organizations in Liberia and the United States as a reporter and editor, including serving as managing editor of The Inquirer independent newspaper in Liberia, and staff writer of The Sacramento Observer Newspapers in Sacramento, California.
Capitol Hill, Monrovia, Liberia – June 20, 2019: A lawmaker from the sub political division of Grand GedehCounty in southeastern Liberia G. Alphonso Gaye is challenging the country’s Ministry of Justice on what he believes is a wrongful procedure being used to indict former and current government officials implicated in prior audit reports.
Senator S. Alphonso Gaye
This week, authorities of the Justice Ministry released past audit reports to the public saying,the Ministry reserved the right to invite anyone of interestthatis named in the reports.
The action by the Liberian Justice Ministry comes barely three weeks after President GeorgeWeahdeclared that his government will audit past government transactions.
The Weah Administration is facing pressure to address several financial scandals.
But Senator Gaye, in an apparent reaction to the Ministry on Thursday, June 20, 2019 wrotethe Senate Pro Tempore, Albert T. Chieinforminghimof the ‘wrongful’ procedures being applied by theJustice Ministry to indictindividuals named in the General Auditing Commission (GAC) audit reports.
“My attention is drawn to media reports naming former and/or current officials of government that are either indicted or to be indicted by the Ministry of Justice based on GAC reports that they may have in their possession. This is wrong and it should be halted immediately”, Senator Gaye’s letter is quoted as telling the Senate leader.
Letter From Senator Gaye
According to him,whileheapplaudsthe Ministry of Justicefor performing its dutiesand responsibilities in keeping with statute,such actionshould be done in the framework of the law and established procedures.
Therefore, he said, “…the Ministryshould not be in the business oflooking for cases to prosecute,rather it should wait for cases forwarded to it for prosecution.“
The Senator, in his letter reminded his colleagues that the GeneralAuditing Commission(GAC)is obligated bylaw to report to the National Legislatureuponthe completion of audits.
“After GAC completes an audit, the report is submitted to the National Legislature who in return mandates the Public Accounts, Audit and Expenditure Committee for scrutiny through a public hearing conducted by the JointPublic Account Committee (PAC)”, he further stressed.
Liberia Minister of Justice Cllr Frank Musa Dean
Senator Gaye said,“it is upon completion of the scrutinyand validation by the Committee thatvalidated repot is submittedto thePlenary of both Houses for endorsement.
After the endorsement by both Houses of the Plenary, Senator Gaye divulge that theendorsed report is then submitted to the President whonow forwards same tothe Ministry of Justice for action based on the findings and conclusion contained in the validated report.“
Against this backdrop, the GrandGedehSenator concluded thatGAC report that is not validated by the Legislature and cannot be used as aninstrumentto indict anyone,be it former or current government officials.
Former Information Minister Lewis G. Brown
Former Deputy Finance Minister James Kollie Jr.
Meantime, a former Deputy Minister of Finance and Planning James Kollie Jr and a former Minister of Information and UN Ambassador Lewis G. Brown are also challenging the inclusion of their names in the GAC Reports saying they were not contacted during the mentioned audits.
Day one of what appears to be several days of planned protest has endedin Monroviawith no compromisereachedbetween the government of Liberia and Protesters under the banner,Council of Patriots (COP).
Liberian Protesters On June 7th
The much publicized protest began Friday, June 7, 2019 with the protesters demanding that theycanonly deliver their petition to President GeorgeWeahorVice President Jewel Howard Taylor.
Earlier, President GeorgeWeahdesignated his Vice President Jewel Howard Taylor to be the one to receive the petition from the Council of Patriots.
Is not clear why the Vice President did not show up as expected, but multiple sources close to the office of the VP said, she was unable to show up due to illness.
Protest Organizers Henry P. Costa (in white top) Marching With Protesters
However, the government requested the leadership of COP to hand deliver their petition to Foreign MinisterGbezongarFindley – a decision protesters vehemently rejected, saying, they cannot present their petition to an appointed official.
Among other demands, the protesters are demanding that Finance Minister SamuelTwehand Central Bank Governor NathanielPatraybe dismissed and turned over to the Justice Ministry for prosecution for their roles in the mismanagement and misapplication of the US$25 million allocated for a mop up of excess Liberian dollar liquidity.
The protesters also want the government to find solution to the persistent skyrocketing of the US dollar against the Liberian dollar.
The protesters further indicated that they want animmediateend towhat they described asmassive corruption and bad governance, which, according to them have hampered Liberian’simage abroad.
ECOWAS Official AddressingProtesters
The protest which has been described by many including international media outlets as the most peaceful post war protest,was by monitored by both local and international observers including Economic Community of West African State (ECOWAS). Local officials of ECOWAS in Monrovia were seen working alongside their Liberian counterparts to ensure peaceful and orderly protest.
Liberian Security Officers
Elites forces of the Liberian joint security were also seen posted at various points to ensure that things were under control.
Observers say this was the first time in several years in Liberia that a mass protest has been held without any scuffle between the police and protesters, even though tension heightened between the police and supporters of one of the leaders oftheprotest a day prior to the much publicized June 7 protest.
Meanwhile, after several failed attempt to deliver the their protest petition, the leadership of the protest appealed to their supporters to go home and prepare themselves for the next course of action, which will be announced on Monday, June 10, 2019.
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.
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!