Which Liberia, Mr. President?

…. In 5 years, Mr. President, you have remade Liberia. It is not a “port of democracy”. It’s a hellhole of autocracy. With too many mysterious deaths and unsolved homicides, people are rightly afraid and live in constant fear and trepidation at government wrath, which can take the form of police brutality, targeted armed robbery, economic strangulation or thug squad attacks.

Editor’s Note: The views expressed in this letter are solely those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of the Daily Observer newspaper. Julius Jaesen

Dear President Weah,

Seeing you speak to the world gave me clarity as to why your sanctioned Minister of State led the government. Experts say that reading at third grade level is also equivalent to understanding at third grade level. After 5 years, not only has your reading not improved, even if we limited ourselves to the issues you talked about, the state of our country has deteriorated.

On your government’s commitment to the fight against climate change: Rising waves dangerously sweep the coast of Liberia without the government noticing. Heavy rains are driving families away while dirt and grime continues to accumulate in urban areas, particularly in Monrovia, which is rated as one of the dirtiest cities in the world. The world may take your “commitment” to the climate at face value, but no one living in Liberia will believe you because we see what your “commitment” has made to our lives and our environment over the last 5 years.

On empowering women and youth: Mr. President, which Liberia are you talking about? Is it the same Liberia under your leadership, with rising incidents of rape and other domestic and violent crimes against women and girls, including babies, often with impunity? Is it the Liberia you lead, with a justice system that makes it difficult for victims and survivors of rape and other crimes to be heard, let alone hold the perpetrators accountable?

Are you talking about the same Liberia under your leadership, where increasing numbers of young people are falling into drugs and crime, and where those with a duty to protect our communities and children are actually peddling or protecting the drug dealers? Are we talking about the same Liberia under your leadership where too many of our young people are overcrowding ramshackle prisons with no opportunity for their rehabilitation so that our children go to prison for petty crimes only to come back as felons?

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Most of your support in 2017 came from young people who were excited and hopeful that you would understand their dissatisfaction, their hardships and their demands for ways to improve their lives. Today, too many of these same Liberians are unemployed, lack employable skills, and are becoming increasingly hopeless.

The “vulnerable” youth you tout to the world as political fodder have seen the real risks to bettering their lives increase under your administration. For 5 years Mr. President you have shown that you do not care and have no real interest in uplifting Liberian youth, particularly those who are at risk. So today Liberia has more “Vulnerable” youth, “Vulnerable” children, “Vulnerable” elders and “Vulnerable” families because you have done nothing for five years to show that your government really cares about life in Liberia for change for the better. When another choice arises; How dare you politicize your conditions that you have worsened?

Specifically on the empowerment of women: Mr President, I am counting on the leader of your governing coalition, Mr Mulbah Morlu, who knows you better. He aptly describes your treatment and consideration for women as abusive rather than empowering. Liberian women deserve better, Mr President. Liberian women deserve to be appointed and elected to public office on the basis of their skills and qualifications, which they have in abundance. You don’t have to be exploited, as your party leader described.

It seemed somewhat providential that no sooner had you finished your speech than two senior officials in your government, including a Liberian diplomat, were arrested in Korea on suspicion of the rape of teenagers. Their foreign minister is under constant suspicion of abusing his office to sexually harass a female employee while he was serving as Liberia’s Permanent Representative to the United Nations. That was before you nominated and appointed him to represent our country in the world, Mister self-proclaimed Feminist-in-Chief.

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You see, Mr. President, the test of women’s empowerment isn’t just picking the words. It’s in the actions we’re taking to empower women. You failed that test with increasing impunity for rape and violence against women in Liberia, and when you and your ruling party failed to put a single woman on the list of 15 candidates for the Liberian Senate in the midterm elections. As if that weren’t bad enough, you and the ruling coalition have expended the power and influence of your tenure to resist and campaign against qualified female candidates. Even when a rural woman in Gbarpolu County won, you and the ruling party humiliated her and resisted taking her seat as a representative of her people.

On Liberia as a “port of democracy”: Peaceful Liberian protesters will vehemently disagree. For months, a University of Liberia student has been fighting for his life after he was physically attacked and abused by thugs and thugs loyal to you for peacefully protesting your failed leadership of our country. Nothing has been heard of the trial against the perpetrators. This is contributing to the brutalization of peaceful demonstrators who have gathered to protest the courts’ arming of critics of your government and opposition leaders. Bloody actions and other violent threats against opposition leaders and members have erupted without investigation or remedial action by your government to curb this undemocratic practice.

In 5 years, Mr. President, you have remade Liberia. It is not a “port of democracy”. It’s a hellhole of autocracy. With too many mysterious deaths and unsolved homicides, people are rightly scared and live in constant fear and trepidation from the government’s wrath, which can take the form of police brutality, targeted armed robbery, economic strangulation or attacks by idiot squads.

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Finally, Mr President, as you addressed the world, I couldn’t help but think about the background. Credible reports say they were confined to a 25-mile radius around the United Nations district. This unfortunate situation suggests that you are not welcome in the United States. The relationship between the United States and Liberia is so important that conjuring it up with an undesirable status is worrying.

As always, your government has sought to engage in denial, deception and distraction. Posting a video purporting to show you can travel outside the 25 mile limit is only fooling yourself and insulting the intelligence of the Liberian people. Your home in Queens is 12 miles from the UN Headquarters via Interstate 495 West. 12.2 miles is within the 25 mile radius imposed on you, Mr. President.

In just 5 years you destroyed everything good about our governance and extended your destruction to our most important bilateral relationship. Less than a month before your speech, the United States government sanctioned three of your closest associates and officials, one of whom ran your presidency, for corruption and abuse of office. Earlier reports from the United States painted a bleak picture for international investment in our country. Corruption, shady dealings and international scandals, including the illegal sale of Liberian diplomatic passports to international drug dealers, terrorists and other criminals, continue to haunt your government and tarnish our country’s reputation.

In order for international companies to invest in Liberia, Liberia’s political leaders must be seen as trustworthy and of integrity. Unfortunately, Mr President, labeling you as a pariah and your government as obsolete by corruption and irresponsible leadership is harmful to our country, unattractive for investment and can only further worsen the living conditions of ordinary Liberians in need of work and other opportunities, their to improve life. Things are not only bad for too many Liberian families, Mr President, they are getting worse every day.

I agree with the saying: Liberia deserves better.


Julius Jaesen

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