Saturday, October 22, 2011

Liberia- Freedom or Bondage, Which?

Talking about politics is a slippery slope upon which that I rarely slide. However, every now and then for the sake of my own soul, I need to exhale If only for the sake of having my opinion heard. I will not be stifled; after all, even when I sneeze up my sleeve to prevent spreading germs, I have still sneezed.
Before I go global, first let me stamp my feet in my own playground. Politics is a dirty game that, from my na├»ve vantage point, no one ever seems to win, particularly the common person. We are handed the historical hype that America was founded on freedom but from my vantage point the roots of America are rebellion, classism and…I’m going to say it, RACISM.

Here in America, our current president, Barak Obama is hounded by racism, which the media and polite liars attempt to shroud under a dozen other names, but which in the end, is still racism; racism so deeply rooted in the tradition that has become the American way, that it threatens to strangle this country.
What I see in Washington is a bunch of rebellious and employed people, on both sides of the aisle, who don’t seem to be able to come together to create policies that are equitable and fair and untarnished by corruption. We are a country where corporations and corrupt mega interests deemed ‘too big to fail’ call the shots, conspire and profit upon the misery and hard work of the ordinary working Joes and Jills.

However, for all that is a mess in America, it looks damn good compared to Liberia. What I know about Liberian politics, I learned from living in Liberia for 11 years, from talking with Liberian friends, the news, foreign and domestic, books and the Internet.

I am nervous about the election in Liberia. On October 11, President Sirleaf did not win handily and has to face a runoff on November 8. I’m not alone when I say that I want to see Liberia, my adopted homeland, whole. I believe President Sirleaf; given time and resources can accomplish that. I love Liberia and plan to spend time there in the next couple of years. I want find it peaceful, stable country.
When we escaped Liberia during the 1989 Civil War, I could not believe that anger could fester to the point that a country that had a burgeoning infrastructure, pockets of progress and an increasing literacy rate could catapult itself backwards 100 years. In my wildest imagination, I never believed that a country could go from 1990 to 1890 in 15 short years. President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, the first female elected president of an African nation shares much in common with President Barak Obama. Both are victims of situations beyond their control, inheriting countries on the precipice of disaster. President Obama began his presidency amidst economic crisis months before taking the official oath of office. President Sir leaf has battled to rebuild Liberia from the devastation of 15 years of war.

As Liberia prepares for a run- off election in November, I hope Liberia is ready to be free, personally I am rooting for President Sirleaf but I don't get to vote, that is a right reserved for Liberian citizens. However, it is hard for me to imagine that there could be a doubt that reelecting a president who has proved her love of and loyalty to Liberia, who has won the coveted Nobel Peace Prize, a president that understands the principles of government and of a sound fiscal management, with established international connections and respect would have trouble being reelected.

From where I sit, it perplexes me that she didn’t win by a landslide. Then I remember that Liberia destroyed 95 % of its infrastructure during the war. Liberia is a country where, 3.6 million people, 80% of the country lives on less than $1 a day. In Liberia 90 % of women and 75% of men are illiterate. People are uneducated, desperate, and perhaps unable to think long term. Like many of us, they may be waiting for a savior of charisma and guile. I hope this is not the case in Liberia. No, I pray that is not the case in Liberia.

As an avid fan of Star Trek, I recall that as the Starship Enterprise visited new worlds, one of the rules of engagement was never to give a less developed planet a weapon or a concept that outstripped their evolution. Primitive planets, using primitive weapons did not get phaser technology to defeat their enemies; there was a delicate evolutionary balance to be maintained. I hope Liberia is evolved to the point of being able to embrace democracy.

The investment community is waiting for the outcome of this election. Robert Johnson, owner of RLJ Companies (founder and former owner of BET), has invested 30 million in a five star hotel, the RLJ Kendeja Resort in Liberia. The Chinese government is a major investor in Liberia. America, Liberia's god pa, is watching. Liberia is rich in natural resources that, if properly administered, might bring prosperity to Liberia, but companies are cautious, wondering what will happen if the country is once again subject to regime change or worse yet, violence.

Who will suffer if President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf does not win the runoff election on November 8? It won’t be the Liberians living in the Diaspora, who are involved in Liberian politics from afar, but the common everyday Liberians, the ones that live on less than $1 a day.

As much as I love Liberia, with its industrious people, gritty red dusty roads, gracefully bowing palm trees, glistening ocean,saucy rhythms and Club beer, I wonder if Liberian citizens are ready for real freedom. I wonder if Liberians are ready for a stable democratic government. I wonder if Liberians are ready to leave tribalism in the rear view mirror and harness the collective energy of all Liberians.

For information on one way that you can help Liberia visit: http://www.liberianliteracyfoundation.org/liberianliteracyfoundationhome.html