Cllr. Brumskine’s speech at Liberty Party convention

Counsellor Brumskine promises reforms in all sectors of governance in Liberia when accepting his party’s nomination to contest the presidency. Photo: Jurah A.M. Sanoe

Yesterday I greeted the news with humility and a deep and abiding sense of joy, that you have once again placed my name in nomination as the Standard Bearer of our great party, and for the presidency of the Republic of Liberia. Today I stand before God and within the hearing of our entire nation to announce that “I accept” your nomination to lead our party to victory in October and lead our nation into bounds of unprecedented peace, prosperity, and unity for the next six years.

I thank you for having overwhelmingly endorsed my selection of the Honorable Harrison Karnwea, as my running mate. I am grateful to all of you, and I say a big “thank you” to the great city of Gompa, and the people of Nimba County for your hospitality and for the rousing welcome that greeted Estelle and me upon our arrival on Thursday. Your action throughout our National Convention has spoken volumes of the love and respect you have for your son Harrison, and the excitement with which Nimba has embraced the prospect of being the home of the next Vice President of the Republic of Liberia. Harrison has become my friend and brother, with whom I look forward to working, as a partner, in governing our country.

I would be remiss should I fail to mention another great leader of Nimba County, Madam Edith Gonglo-Weh, although not physically present today, I know she is with us in spirit. I would like to thank Edith for leading the way in assisting us to re-open the doors to Nimba County, the birthplace of Liberty Party, where we held our first National Convention in 2005; and, the County that gave us our first National Chairman, the Honorable Larry Yanquoi.   

Liberty Party is the political trail blazer of Liberia’s new political dispensation, which began with my return from exile in 2003. Ours is a party of ideas! We seek to lead and govern our country not as an entitlement, not because we desire to exclude others based on religion or ethnicity; but because we have a vision, we have the plans to translate the vision into action, and we possess the political will to transform our country for the better, for all Liberians. 

Our Vision, as you know too well, is based on four strategic principles; they are the four Rs—Reconciliation, Reform, Recovery, and Rebuilding.

Harrison and I, our wives and children, and our partisans and friends must go across the length and breadth of this republic, meet with our citizens collectively and individually to inform them of the benefits and urgency of our 4 Rs, and the integrity of those who would lead them. Together, we will talk about Reconciliation—healing the wounds of a country that is deeply divided; traumatized by decades of war and civil strife, and the rebirth of demagoguery, whose only platform is the tantalizing simplicity of divide to rule, and ultimately destroy our country. We will reconcile Liberians to ensure domestic peace.

We will Reform government to ensure justice and the rule of law; the renewal of a country in which the fundamental rights of all are respected, and each is accorded equal protection under the law. We will reform our education and our healthcare delivery system. We will reform our governance system so the city mayors and chiefs will once again be elected by the people whom they should serve.

Recovery is about our national pride, those values that made us one people—our brothers and sisters’ keepers. Recovery is about the soul of a nation, long made hallowed by the seeming excesses of those who ruled it in the past and the cunning pretenses of some who now seek national offices. We believe that Liberia will wake up to the true meaning of what it was meant to be; a dream that has yet to be realized, because other administrations have been unable to transform a nation of powerful men and women into a nation “of the people, by the people, and for the people.”

We will Rebuild our infrastructure; and restructure our economy to open more opportunities for jobs, self-employment, and for producing wealth. We will move away from the Tubman economic policy, the core of which is the dependency on the export of extractive resources, rubber, and oil palm. We will diversify the economy, with emphasis on the agriculture sector; we will strive to develop Liberian entrepreneur, and add value to our raw materials.  

We will meet Liberians, in palava huts, in halls, on the streets and the village paths; together, we will talk about how we can rebuild this country into a magnificent mosaic of what the founders, both repatriates and those who never left our shores, intended. 

Liberia will never go forward without an appreciation of what each ethnic group, religion, or political group contributes to our common heritage.  Under a Liberty Party government, we will strive to highlight our cultural, ethnic, and religious diversity and educate our nation of our heritage. Within the first six months of a Brumskine/Karnwea Administration, we will appoint teams of experts from every ethnic group of our country to document the history of each, revealing the contribution of each ethnic group to the founding and the growth of our country.

While we do not believe that national symbols such as the national seal, the flag, the pledge of allegiance, and the national anthem should be changed simply for the sake of change; we do believe that the meaning of those symbols need to be made relevant to Liberia today.  Therefore, a national conversation on those symbols will be initiated with a goal of making them more inclusive and relevant to our future as one nation indivisible.

About 20 years ago, I left the life of a successful corporate and transactional lawyer to live the creed of my father, the late poor man lawyer of Grand Bassa County, who is still revered and respected today, as I realize that “to whom much is given, much is expected.” I entered a life of public service during a period when most chose to shy away, preferring the personal comfort of opposition in exile to the heavy-lifting of directly confronting tyranny in government. Even when I felt that my life was threatened, I chose a short path to return home, leaving in exile the timid opposition, others who would not dare leave the comfort of a foreign land, meeting upon my return many who had given up on a better Liberia, who had lost hope and had settled for only surviving day by day. I risked the ultimate confrontation with tyranny, while thinking of the writing of an unknown author, which says:

“I’m tired of sailing my little boat, far inside the harbor bar. I want to go out where the big ships float, out on the deep where the great ones are. And should my frail craft prove too slight for waves that sweep those billows o’er, I’d rather go down in the stirring fight than drowse to death at the sheltered shore.”

Now, with your support and that of most Liberians, I am on my way to being the next President of the Republic of Liberia. I believe that because I know that the salient issues of the ensuing elections are trust and integrity. Of all the Presidential candidates, which one can Liberia truly trust—who was he that stood up for Liberia when you needed an alternative voice in 2003; which of us has the integrity to lead our country; which of us has served in the Liberian government at such high level as that of President Pro Tempore of the Liberian Senate, and left with his character intact and free of scandal? 

Of all that the enemies of change may say about me, fortunately, they cannot say that I do not possess the requisite education; they will not say that I do not have the relevant public service experience; and, they would be hard pressed to say that I am not a man of integrity. I have not been mentioned in any public scandal, government audit, or corruption report. I have never enriched myself from the public treasury, while the disadvantaged and vulnerable, young people and old folks remained unattended by their government. 

During my sojourn as a Senator and Leader of the Liberian Senate, I refused to be known as a blind follower of the leader of the day. I instead chose to represent the interest of the people, rather than enjoy the fleeting pleasure of accumulating wealth. As a result, I was constrained to leave the Liberian Senate. I, therefore, stand before you today as a public servant deeply rooted in integrity and a system of values, which I bring to governance.

My fellow conventioneers, as grateful as I am by your nomination, I am humbled and challenged by the task of nation-building that lies ahead. Our task today is by far greater, and the challenges more daunting, than it was for the founding fathers. The challenges of twenty first century Liberia is neither to create a home for a certain group of people, nor to demarcate territorial boundaries, but to develop all groups of Liberians into a community of people, to build a nation we can all call home—a place where the rights of every individual are protected, and responsibilities of all are clearly defined. 

And so, I can confidently stand before you and make “15 Commitments to the Liberian People” of things to be accomplished in the short-term of my presidency, should the Liberian people elect me:

1. Government will underwrite all WAEC fees, and make all government schools free of charge. 

2. Establish a Student Service Corp to draw high school graduates and college students into community service, working for government during their annual vacations. The government will in turn pay for their college education. 

3. Expand the education sector with more formal and informal teaching and training opportunities for school-age children, adult learners, and vocation and technical education.  We will computerize the schools, and use the Internet as a tool for learning.

4. We will not re-create the old Liberian education system—with its bias towards Liberal Arts training leading up to the college level.  We will make education more relevant to existing and the future jobs and skills needs of the economy. We will extend the school days to late afternoon, initially on a voluntary basis, to give our children the opportunity to learn more, and to have the benefit of adult supervision while their parents are at work. 

5. We will use the Armed Forces of Liberia as a vehicle to assist with the development of our country. We will establish auxiliary units, such as the Agriculture Battalion, the Engineering Battalion, and the Medical, in which Zogoes and other troubled youth, as well as the average young Liberia, who may so desire, to be trained as carpenters, painters, masons, electricians, plumbers, farmers, medical technicians, among others.

6. We will reintroduce the militia, as a means by which young Liberians may be trained and become reserve soldiers, and in exchange therefor have four-year college education paid for by the government.

7. Use government procurement of goods and services to give priority to Liberian-owned

businesses, build the domestic entreprenurial class, and attract talented Liberians in the Diaspora.  This will be supervised by a small business institute (SBI).  

8. We will reactivate and recapitalize the Agriculture Cooperative & Development Bank, establishing branches all over the country, so that our farmers will be able to secure loans to grow more food, with the aim of making Liberia self-sufficient in rice production. 

9. Emphasis will be placed on preventive healthcare as opposed to curative medicine. Liberty Party government will focus government health programs on the true causes of ill health such as poverty, poor nutrition, inadequate housing, and unsafe drinking water, among others. We believe that preventive health measures and improved sanitation are less costly and more effective, which will include a network of mobile clinics that will be placed in each of the 73 electoral districts of the country.

10. Our social welfare system will be enhanced to include benefits to Liberians over the age of

65, who have not worked in the monetary sector of the economy, primarily rural dwellers who lived off subsistence farming. These citizens will be given a monthly package, sufficient for each to afford at least a bag of rice every month.

11. Make the Southeastern counties and Lofa and Gbarpolu accessible year-round by road. We will also acquire ferries to connect our coastal counties.

12. We will create the enabling environment, and provide incentives, to ensure employment of Liberians with disability.

13. Once I discovered that over the last three years, the Office of the Vice President has received about US$9 million from government, Harrison and I have agreed that should the people of Liberia elect us, we will reduce the salaries of the President, Vice President, and appointed officials of the Executive Branch of Government. We will challenge members

of the Legislature to do the same. The savings from these reductions will be used for, among other things, to increase the salaries of civil servants.

14. We will reform the land law so that every Liberian who, as rural dwellers, possess land their ancestors lived on for time immemorial will be given deeds—fee simple title for their land.

15. We will create the enabling environment for the establishment of free zones in Liberia, and recommence transshipment, which was a major source of revenue prior to the war.

I want my candidacy and then my presidency to unify our country. As I listen to the other side talking about “Country and Congo,” I am energized more than ever to provide the kind of leadership that will bring our people together, heal our historical wounds, and build Liberia, as one nation, indivisible under God, with liberty and justice for all.  Liberia cannot afford to hand this country over to the agents of division, who have promised to tear Liberia apart. Liberians are asking, if they succeed in excluding Congo people, who next?” What other minority group do they plan to exclude from our body politic?

My fellow Liberians, today I invite you to join Harrison and me, as we look forward to a new, reconciled, and prosperous Liberia. I am optimistic about the future of our country. Under a Brumskine/Karnwea Administration, the spirit of hope will displace the spirit of despair; Liberians will be inspired to believe that we are one people—that together we will rise, but divided, we will again fall. 

Liberia must come together because our nation deserves better than what is being offered by the other side; our nation needs a government that will unite all Liberians, not one that seeks to once again divide and destroy us. 

My fellow partisans and my fellow Liberians, regardless of your political persuasion, Liberia is

about to experience a new era of real change; let us hold as true that, “Together we can do better.” Go out there, campaign like we never done before; let’s win these elections, and change Liberia for the good of all.

I thank you; and, God bless.