Hon. Olubanke King Akerele

To the Government of Liberia-all the Branches and fellow Liberians!

As I clock 75   years on 11 May 2021, I am penning this Patriotic “Cry” to the Government (all three Branches) of the Republic of Liberia. Whether my “Cry” is appreciated or not is not the issue –history will assess it as well as future generation of Liberia! This is in my personal capacity as an elder in our society.

Some time back our NOBEL laureate, Leymah Gbowee wrote a letter to “Mama” Liberia, lamenting certain “going-ons” in our nation. As usual she was criticized with little or no appreciation of what she was about or the significance of her constructive critique for corrective action. Any true patriot would have extracted lessons for action in the interest of the future of “Mama” Liberia. I also recall Aunty Miata Fabnbulleh’s Musings in Women’s Voices, (1 August 2017.) along related lines, as regards our beloved “Mama” Liberia and where we are going!

                     Yet, one must not be deterred. It was, I believe, Eleanor Roosevelt who penned the basis for the establishment of the United Nations High Commission for Human Rights. She was also amongst those who, like the renowed Edmund Burke, left the world with the maxim that “the only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men (or those who know better) to do nothing” in the midst of what may not be acceptable.

                     In short, if one knows that “X” is not in order, then one must not keep silent since, at the, end of the day, we are all caught up in the real cost of that silence. We cannot but recall the words of the late African – American US Congressman John Lewis who coined the concept of “Good Trouble”, indicating that there may well be times when it is worth getting into “Good Trouble”, or indeed when getting into “Good Trouble” is the only answer! Hence if my Cry means “Good Trouble”, then so be it.

I am ready for the consequences or “fall out”! This notwithstanding, it is my turn to pen this CRY – along the lines of the late G. Henry Andrews, former Minister of Information and Cultural Affairs under President Tolbert’s administration, in his landmark book, CRY, Liberia. CRY some 40 years ago.

        To the extent that we are Patriots, we cannot; we must not remain silent when speaking out is called for, in keeping with the legacy of the late Ruth Ceasar; Ma Mary Brownell; Mary Antoinette Brown Sherman, (first woman President of  the University of Liberia, and first woman to head a University in Africa); Angie Brooks, first Liberian and African Women President of the United Nations General Assembly; Ruth Perry, Chairman of Liberia’s Council of State and of Liberia’s National Transition Government, amongst whose successors, I count myself.

                    People say, “Why bother”! “They”do not care, “they will not listen”- you will be labelled “an enemy of the state”. But who are the “they? My “Cry” is in the interest of the Republic of Liberia – the Lone Star − and its future, – not just for today, as I am concerned about what Legacy that this our Generation is leaving for future Generations? Why is this important? Because, in the words of Liberia’s former Director General of the Civil Service Agency, Dr. C. William Allen, “the sustainability of the Lone Star – Republic of Liberia – will depend on the ability of future generations as well as on what legacy they inherit.”

                    Thus, my Cry relates to six issues. Part I of this article tackles three of them.  Foremost is that of the recently announced results of the Referendum a few weeks ago by the NEC. The NEC announced that the major propositions of the Referendum were rejected. Indeed, that there was no effort to manipulate the results about which we must credit the NEC, as the extraordinary delay in its announcement had left the public in suspense, with suspicious galore!

Having said that, the reality is that various segments of the society (LNBA; the religious and faith based organizations; Civil Society) had urged postponement of the Referendum as it was felt not timely; that much more civic education was needed. But the Government would not listen to those voices (many of whom had voted for the Government) – I was amongst those who spoke along the same line, at my AMEU graduation address late last year. Instead we heard from the powers that be that if you did not vote “yes” to the Referendum issues, you did not love your country. This was unacceptable! I was so offended at the arrogance of it all that I refused to and did not participate in the December elections.

During the elections, the Citizenry as a whole voted against passage of the main items on the Referendum. Bottom line, Government must listen to its citizens. At the same time I was impressed by the recent workshop held by NEC with support of the UNDP at the Monrovia City Corporation (MCC) to assess what happened and draw lessons from the December 2020 elections. I attended that workshop and made my contributions, and do commend the NEC on the quality of the professionalism I observed.

                   My Second Cry relates to that of yet another planned printing of new and more Liberian currency. Here again, informed opinions, have either argued against printing or called for postponement until certain issues outstanding on earlier printing and related matters had been clarified. Former Minister of Planning & Economic Affairs, Togba Nah Tipoteh cautioned against the printing and highlighted the real issues some months ago in his article entitled “Better money management not money printing is the solution” in the 21 January 2021 Daily Observer. More recently, Mr. Alexander Cummings, the Leader of the ANC has sent a well – structured letter to the Liberian Senate on this very issue. It had been reported upon in the papers while he has been on the radio on it.

                    I want to commend the substantive dimensions that Mr. Cummings has raised. He said “I am not against the printing per se” – but we need answers to outstanding issues before more printing. In that regard I do agree since, the KROLL report called for a forensic audit of the earlier funds printed, for example, and other issues yet to be addressed. There remains the issue of the $25million “mop-up” exercise- We have yet to see a satisfactory accounting of that!

                    Yet again, Hon. Yusador Saadatu Gaye, Government’s own, the former Auditor General (AG) of the Republic of Liberia, with reference to the article on November 11, 2020 in the Daily Observer Newspaper, titled “GAC to Legislature: ‘Do Not Waver” on Stance Against Printing New Currency”, communicated that the AG is not against the printing or changing to new Family of new banknotes; but, her stance in summary was that prior to printing money or changing to a new Family of banknotes the root cause has to be addressed. She maintained that internal controls have to be in place. Further, there should be clear implementable policies on hoarding of monies by traders, etc. if the fundamental problems are not addressed, every couple of years there will be the need to print more money or change the family banknotes.

         Indeed, a Government of the people; for the people, must listen and take into consideration the views of the people. Outstanding are the many cries asking for fixing the underlying controls to make it economical and effective. We are printing money again without addressing an outcome for the 25 million US Dollars mop-up exercise, the internal controls that Kroll pointed out that the Central Bank needs; hording of currencies and the costs to print, especially changing the family of bank notes.

Here I must ask what has our international Partners said? Where are the IMF and the World Bank, What are they saying? If indeed they have endorsed this, then let the Liberian people hear from them directly so that we get some measure of comfort. It is not acceptable that they wait and we experience possible adverse impact on the economy and continued loss of confidence in the Banking system; further downward trends in the economy and then stringent measures to correct the situation, have to be endured. Lastly, where is the Liberian Bankers Association. Are they on board with all of this? Can we hear from them as well?

                    My Third Cry relates to the garbage all over the city and Desecration of the Palm Grove Cemetery, now becoming another “dump” pile. Indeed in a first class and Patriotic article in the Daily Observer, entitled “Desecrated Decoration Day: Apologetic Typical of Present Day Liberia.” of 11 March 2021, a Liberian Scholar and Development specialist, Mr. Mwdimu Koh Blanksor Jackson, lamented on the situation, with which I am herewith identifying wholeheartedly. I called to commend him.  

There have been several such calls to no avail. No action whatsoever! There is clearly another major health epidemic in the making. Your Lordship, the Mayor, Madame Minister of Health, and Executive Director, of the Environmental Protection Agency; and Madam Minister of Commerce and Industry – do you all not see this? “Cooking” all   on the streets, every sidewalk is occupied; Ah mehn! Ah meah! Ah meah!

And this after Mayor Kojee hosted the Freetown city Mayor recently, who, amongst her team, was her Sanitation expert. Can you not call on them, Your Lordship? Do we not have City ordinances and zoning laws? Africa’s oldest Capital City is becoming nothing short of one big “Waterside” – what indeed we are seeing is the “waterside-zation” of the Capital of the Republic of Liberia. Where, pray tell me, is our pride and dignity for God’s sake! Have we lost it?

       As regards the Desecration at the cemetery at Palm Grove pointed out above there is a MAXIM (a Saying) that goes as follows: “Show me how a people treat their dead and I will tell you what kind of people they are”, the message is clear! Here I must add that even amongst our various ethnic groups the dead are regarded with respect and it is believed that they are still connected to the livings –even carrying food to them in some cases.Your Lordship, the Mayor, Executive Director of Environment/ Madam Minister of Health there is need for urgent action here- My Cry is to do something! We understand drugs proliferate in the cemetery as well. Indeed, we will come back on the drugs problem in Part II of my “Cry”.

       Perhaps President Weah need to do a ‘City tour” like what he is doing in the Counties? Indeed he may need to see “first-hand” what the Capital has become, – such a tour should include a visit to the cemetery and throughout the streets of Monrovia; to Mamba Point sidewalks to see the cooking going on’s and throughout what is supposed to be the nations’ Capital – Broad and Ashmun streets; – Mechlin street which at its end in Waterside, the sewage is a major sanitation and health hazard – complete disgrace and a shame! Such a tour should be by President Weah, accompanied by his officials with appropriate portfolios. 

               In this regard, in the Daily Observer on 16th April, a young Liberian – Ruvelle Jones − in his article “Solutions to Increase in Trash Piles” offered some practical solution. He talked about the danger to the Du River. He talked about the health hazards, he highlighted the growing incidents of Typhoid and that it’s only the tip of the iceberg. He talked about the need for action now. He is part of two environments non- profits, ready to engage with Government for immediate solution. He pleaded with all of us- Government and the Citizenry in general – that environment cleanliness is a life and death situation! Your Lordship, the Mayor please call on the above – mentioned waste management NGO and accept their offer to assist your response to this crisis which is real; is serious and dangerous – deserving priority.

      In this regard, I would like to advise that you may wish to take the opportunity to call on the UN System for what is known as south south cooperation to finance support from the sanitation team of the Mayor of Sierra Leone, to assist this process in Liberia as one of the MRU sister Countries. Serious attention to this would also reflect Liberia’s response to several of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) while tapping into the expertise and advice of the International “Cities Alliance,” an office of which is part of UN House here in Monrovia, for practical action.

Lastly, please let it not be another case like Liberia’s own National Orator Dr. Dougbeh Chris Nyan during Madam President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf’s administration, and a renowned scientist who offered his expertise to the Government of Liberia almost a year or so ago on the Corona virus but GOL never responded to his offer, despite interventions by several of us. Yet Rwanda reached out to him and is benefiting from his expertise, as others are, on the African Continent and the scientific community would wide (Part II continues with 3 more of my Patriotic “CRY”)

                       Signed in my personal capacity                                                             

OluBanke King- Akerele

Chair of Board,

Angie Brooks International Centre

For Women’s Empowerment, Leadership

Development, International Peace & Security

Former Minister of Foreign Affairs

                                                                             Former Minister of Commerce & Industry  

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