Open letter: The better Liberia agenda

Fellow Liberians: Liberia is 168 years old, but remains backward and underdeveloped in absolute terms and also in comparison to other African countries that are in fact younger. The cause of Liberia’s underdevelopment is complex, but due in large part to the collective failure of Liberians to work for, demand and make the necessary hard choices and sacrifices for good governance and inclusive growth.

A chronic deficit of leadership characterized by greed for power, wealth and self-interest as opposed to the welfare of the nation is one significant single factor for the current state of Liberia. Indeed successive Liberian governments and their officials have demonstrated no capacity or vision beyond protection of their narrow interest, thus leaving the country basically the same in attitude, work ethics, orientation and character.

The decadent culture of impunity and complacency is killing the Liberian nation across all aspects of governance, thereby not only stalling but reversing development. In our nation’s early history, we witnessed several failed interventions led by reformers whose dreams of a better Liberia were skillfully undermined and destroyed by the ruling elites. 

Then, in the 1970s and 1980s, the Liberian State witnessed the campaign for political pluralism including civil and political rights for the under-represented population that had no real place in their country’s history. A new wind of change was blowing across the country. The leaders were mainly indigenous enlightened Liberians who mobilized and represented the ordinary Liberian people and championed their cause.

The current Liberian reality of diminishing space of social and economic, cultural opportunities, continues to remind us that mere political pluralism has provided little benefits to our people and has not been enough. This reality has placed upon us a responsibility and re-enforced our resolve to work towards the achievement of “A Better Liberia”.

Accordingly, to undertake this new responsibility and challenge, a national voluntary movement named and styled the Volunteers for Change (VO!CE) founded to rally mass interest, build consensus, mobilize support and deliver a PEOPLE-ORIENTED LIBERIAN NATION is pleased to avail itself for the purpose of promoting economic, social and cultural rights along with civil and political rights in the new Liberia, extending democracy, good governance and ensuring greater local power. 

Our message is that “A Better Liberia is Possible” despite all the failures of the regimes and the loss of hope by the ordinary Liberian people. We bring you this renewed hope as an outcome of three (3) years of dialogues and consultations amongst Liberians and friends of Liberia.

To pursue and achieve a Better Liberia will require collective and sustained civic engagement, social solidarity, socio-political inclusion and justice founded on the following key pillars or themes of reforms:

1. Building an equitable, accountable, rights-based, and merit-based Society
This time around, we must leave no Liberian behind. The economic management of Liberia should include building public infrastructure to directly translate into the reduction of social inequalities. Our history has shown that the widening disparities in incomes and access to services can create resentment and disharmony, serving as breeding grounds for violent conflict. Hence, a key objective of public spending is to provide quality social services which will improve the welfare of the Liberian people.

2. Genuine economic empowerment
We shall work for a departure from the large-scale concession model to empowering individual Liberians to take up and play meaningful roles in the economic life of the country through quality education including skills training, credit support and loan schemes, recognition of customary land rights, fair labor laws.
Consistent with the employment provisions of the Liberian Labor laws, we will work to ensure gainful and sustainable employment for all as a fundamental right. This will contribute to the survival of the individual and the family, as well as development and flourishing of the various communities across Liberia. We will abhor the politicization of employment and promote the enhancement of capacities for suitable job-placements for all Liberians.

3. People (Human) security for all
Every Liberian should enjoy a life free from want and free from fear. To achieve this, we shall work to ensure human security for all Liberians in seven key dimensions: economic security, food security, health security, environmental security, personal security, community security, and political security. There are a number of critical challenges constraining the adequate enjoyment of human security in Liberia within the means of available resources. These include lack of state and community capacity, lack of sufficient political will at national and sub-national levels, and failure of citizens to effectively demand and support actions leading to the realization of human security. We shall tackle these challenges to protect Liberians from destitution, hunger, disease, environmental hazards, violence, breakdown of their communities, and violation of their natural and human rights.

4. Rethinking education for development

Our schools should be dedicated to creating capable and confident young people who are equipped to lead Liberia. Our schools should build a vibrant student community that will, again, serve as the critic and conscience of society and a place for academic freedom and excellence, social justice and peace. The school system would be geared towards producing highly skilled professional Liberians capable of functioning in any work environment anywhere in the world. We aim to ensure quality free and compulsory primary and secondary education for all Liberians. We will ensure the mainstreaming of technology in Liberian schools to get Liberia’s education sector on par with its neighbors. The educational system will emphasize the development of science and medical related disciplines.

5. Ensuring effective and meaningful participation for change
We must sensitize the grassroots constituencies on the merits of effective and meaningful participation in national decision making as a means of nurturing a compelling atmosphere for the devolution of power. This would entail support for decentralization; free, fair and regular elections; and freedom of information, expression and assembly. We must amplify and bring to attention the hopes and aspiration of the poverty-stricken Liberians and mobilize them around their choices for making a BETTER LIBERIA possible.

This strategy cannot be achieved from the comforts of our homes and offices. VO!CE is committed to walking into every community across Liberia in ensuring that the Liberian people are involved in engendering the needed transformation that will ensure the realization of a Better Liberia!

We know that this new journey will not be an easy one and will not be completed on a silver platter. It will be rocky, muddy, and tough. Indeed, the journey for a Better Liberia will be challenged by the persistence of opportunism among segments of our population and the increasing tendencies of some vested interests to protect their selfish interests and privileged positions through proxy wars at the expense of the majority of society. But rest assured, with determination, unity, and firmness of purpose we shall overcome these tendencies to ensure a Better Liberia!

Yes, a Better Liberia is Possible!

The Founding Volunteers

1. Mahamed BOAKAI
2. Tien BORTUE
4. Francis K. COLEE
5. J. Kerkula FOEDAY
6. S. Herron GBIDI
7. Tiawan S. GONGLOE
8. Alvin JOHNSON
9. Kamara Abdullai KAMARA
10. Jesefu M. KEITA
11. Karsor K. KOLLIE
12. Roseline HUNTER-KONNEH
13. Lamii KPARGOI
14. Tata J. KRAH
15. Louise Marpleh
16. Beatrice T. NYENEWAH
17. Urias Teh POUR
18. Aaron C. SLEH
19. F. Augustine C. TAMBA
20. T. Negbalee WARNER

Bah-Wah Brownell