The Curse of Leadership in Liberia: A Review of the Legislature in Post Conflict Liberia


Karweaye writes that Liberians must confront their lawmakers

Karweaye writes that Liberians must confront their lawmakers

For any society to prosper, it needs to have a government to run its affairs. The government helps to sustain the social contract that binds every member of the state. Thus, the price that is paid for a state to be prosperous is for it to have an established government that enforces the social contract. Members of an ordered society, called a state, must pay taxes sufficient to carry out the functions assigned to the state.

In post conflict Liberia, costs associated with the running of government have increased dramatically over the years such that an increasingly reduced proportion of public revenue is available to support and implement the primary functions of government. Consequently, the discharge of beneficial government functions has been hampered.

It’s no news. The curse of leadership plagues Africa, and Liberia is chief amongst its sufferers. In the past year, I made a clear determination to steer clear talking about government without being able to do anything.  However, I am forced to write in clear terms in this article about the attempt by members of the House of Representative to seek additional US$73 million in the 2014/2015 national budget to be divided among the country’s 73 districts in the name of spurring direct district impact projects in spite of the Social Development Funds and the County Development Funds mere with corruptions.

Last year, we were served another national comedy when Montserrado County District #16 Representative Edward Forh was caught on tape reportedly suggesting to the County’s former Superintendent Grace Kpaan how the remaining County Development Fund of 2012 should be shared by saying “You eat, I eat and the Minister eats some.”

One of the unintended consequences of the legislature’s unilateral  pending action brings to the front-burner questions about the size of government, the excessive cost of governance, and the fraud and corruption in Liberia.

An examination of the operational style of successive Liberian legislatures since 2006 would reveal an array of demagogue politicians who always pretend to mean well in the kind of policies they have pursued in the running of government, but a perusal of their factual performance records would disclose only deliberate and systematic pillage of our common wealth, reckless misappropriation of scarce resources and brazen disregard for the needs of the people.

These pretentious politicians, who always claim to have people-oriented and focused leadership qualities, are in fact, the least endowed with the virtues of transparency, probity and accountability in the running of government business. The end result of all these debauchery is the emergence of a powerful privileged class which has suddenly supplanted the yearnings and aspirations of teeming Liberians with its bloated appetite for opulent and ostentatious lifestyles.

Meanwhile, in spite of our bloated and behemoth government bureaucracies, the pre-occupation of our  lawmakers  has ceased from being service to the Liberian people, to maintaining and protecting themselves and their numerous cronies. While corruption and cronyism continue to fester in government circles, the people continue to wallow in inexplicable squalor and denial.

Liberians generally observed and agreed that Liberia is a nation blessed beyond belief but, as at today, a nation in abject poverty, with confused leadership, and obscurity. Many articles, opinions, suggestions, etc. have been written about Liberia in the recent past. More of these critical but constructive viewpoints have been adjudged by the very objective minded as poignant, relevant and indeed requisite for all those leaders who wish Liberia well. It is depressing that several years of huge democratic investment in Liberia have yielded no fruitful gain, rather, a downturn in development and growth.

The national legislature is neck-deep in corruption, is made up of unserious elements and peopled by self-centered individuals. Our lawmakers are not justifying their monthly pays, vis-a-vis the number of days and hours they sit in a week and the number of times they go on vacation every legislative calendar. Why our lawmakers playing on the sensibility of the people by still asking for additional US$73? Is Liberia under a curse of Leadership? Is leadership Liberia’s greatest challenge? Is it corruption? What will we do about it? Will there ever be an end? Are we at a tipping point? Is there hope? Is there a way out?

I would like for you to take a little glimpse of the present crop of leaders who govern our affairs, starting with the lawmakers and others in subsequent articles. These are the leaders we have employed during the past elections, and some appointed, to serve our interests. Most of these leaders collect huge funds from the Liberian government and not only spend them lavishly but steal others.

The Lawmakers Budget in Post Conflict Liberia

Fiscal Year (FY) 2006-2007: US $ 9,456,230

FY 2007-2008: US $15, 615,456

FY 2008-2009: US $17,964,000

FY 2009-2010: US $19,145,624

FY 2010-2011: US $22,846,709

FY 2011-2012: US $ 29,722,670

FY2012-2013: US $ 35,166,002

FY 2013-2014: US $ 38,776,146

Office of the Speaker of the House

FY 2009-2010: US $ 605,412

FY 2010-2011: US $ 619,952

FY 2011-2012: US $ 631,167

FY 2012-2013: US $ 855,487

FY 2013-2014: US$ 816, 357

Office of the President Pro Tempore

FY 2009-2010: US $ 634,900

FY 2010-2011: US $ 517,904

FY 2011-2012: US $ 911,227

FY 2012-2013: US $ 906,979

FY 2013-2014: US$ 846,654

If these so called “representatives and senators” earn this much, do you expect them to defend the hapless & helpless majority against a cruel government or its policies? You know why! It’s why they ignored all the waste in the budget but instead jerked up their own budget every fiscal year.

Our lawmakers have been seducing underage girls, stealing public funds through budgetary allocation and generally being a nuisance since 2006. As indicated above, our lawmaker’s allocated to themselves US $ 39 million for the FY 2013-2014 and now asking for additional US$73 million in the pending 2014/2015 budget amidst the pervading abject poverty across the land. This is part of the reason why 83.2% per cent of the nation’s budget is allocated to re-current expenditure while capital expenditure stands at meager 16.7%.

This means that based on the government’s expenditure plan it will spend less on capital investment projects because we are using US $ 39 million, a huge chunk of the nation’s resources to service less than 103 legislators and their staff in a country of over 4 million people and yet they are seeking additional US$73 million. Where is the opposition in the legislature? CDC, LP, NDC? Birds of a feather flock together!

This is it. Liberia has never worked, and may never work if we don’t rise and confront this system. The combined salaries and incentives of the representatives and senators in the Fiscal year of 2012-2013 was US $ 35 million plus and in FY 2013-2014: US $ 38 million plus. What do these leaders contribute to earn so much? What are we paying them for? In the same country, millions are starving, millions are impoverished;  unemployment is high and poverty continue to increase!

Obviously, we can’t go on like this. It will take a fight. The slavery our children will be subjected to will know no bounds. We are enslaved by our very own, our blood, our kinsmen! They ridicule us with their plunder, getting audacious with every unchecked loot they take from the system. Once we can ensure frugality at the legislative, they will exert pressure on other sectors. We have allowed those meant to keep a check on the system become loose. Insanity! I can never entrust a primary school to any of these looters, they will ruin it!

We are close to a tipping point, a point where we are being reminded daily of why we should save our nation from their destructive hands. We are at a point where we must make strategic efforts to sacrifice now so we can gain tomorrow, for Liberia, amongst other issues, is not yet a country. Not yet!

How did we end up putting these guys at the helm of national affairs? How did we put those who keep pushing up waste and spending more? Most of these lawmakers are personal failures in their own system, hence the need to amass wealth by all means possible.

The wastes from Liberian legislature, when put together, will build schools, equip hospitals, et al. Is this why we were told to “sacrifice a little”?

What do we do? We must demand a cut down of these wasteful salaries, allowances and incentives accruing to the national legislature, at least 50% cut. Protest against the US$73 million request! We Must Occupy Liberia, this time strategically and ready for each and every move of the government. To achieve this, our ideology and strategy must be error proof, must be near-perfect! The enlightened man must get to the ordinary man. We need the middle class because we have to occupy again or we die in this slavery.

The ‘ordinary man’ keeps quiet, hardly knows; the ‘enlightened’ hardly engages them or ‘walk the talk’. This must change. When we enlighten and empower the common man, he would need no coercion when the elastic limit is reached! The streets, the grassroots; that’s where the power lies!

Leadership failure. Leadership curse. Leadership collapse. This is Liberia, at present, the land of the living dead.  We need a re-awakening!

Seltue Karweaye, the writer of this article, holds BA in Criminal Justice minor in Political Science from Metropolitan States University in Minnesota, USA; M.S in Development studies & M.S in Politics and International studies with specialization in Peace and Conflict Studies from Uppsala University in Uppsala, Sweden.