Liberia turns 165 years old today. As a matter of tradition its citizens, under the security protection of a two-time elected civil administration led by President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, are one way or the other commemorating the day in cities, towns and villages.
In observance of the day, reflections have often been made on the country’s political system which brings into question how the citizens have been served in terms of equitable distribution of their natural resources.
The formation of the country, according to current Liberian scholars given the negotiation tribal chiefs and freed slaves reportedly had to establish what is Liberia today might have been responsible for the seeds of discord that have grown for decades.
The fight against a longstanding “class system” Liberians seems to have derived from a struggle over ownership of the country including who is a Liberian and who is not. Those at the country’s political front at present still have such obstacle especially when during election period a divide and rule politics is preached to win electorate over either for one who is vying for presidency or legislative seat.
The extent at which cronyism, favoritism, nepotism and corruption has marred Liberia’s governance system appears unbeatable but disappointing to the custodians of power (the governed). Reactions from the public under every regime show that ordinary citizens-the voting populace can be influenced to vote politicians into power for handouts after which the doors are shut and the citizens left in the wilderness.
Under the Unity Party-led government and in particular, during the first regime, what was regarded as a decentralization policy took place for celebrating the country’s independence-by rotating the event in various counties with the aim of dislodging the perception that Monrovia is Liberia. Projects during those celebrations were either dedicated or launched but public outcries over marginalization due to few individuals pocketing allotted resources intended to underwrite expenditures did not go unnoticed.
It can be recalled that speeches which national orators delivered in the past six years at Independence Day celebrations in Montserrado, Margibi, Grand Bassa, Bong, Nimba and Lofa Counties did not escape calls for reconciliation and unity among Liberians following the 14-year civil war. However, pundits say calling for reconciliation and unity amidst attributes of hatred and exclusion only provides a sit-on-the fence situation and engenders qualms to keep those in power and their critics apart. Seeking comments from Liberians on how they feel about celebrating Independence Day; the backwardness of the country in terms of lack of remarkable growth and development overwhelms the good side of what has been done to lift the country up. Some say activities that mark 26 celebrations in the past and present remain a showroom for pageantry and flamboyancy for people who control the nation’s resources at the disadvantage of the masses.
“Liberians are victims of circumstances-because since Liberia became an independent country, politicians have exploited prevailing circumstances of power struggle to lead the nation in the direction of self-aggrandizement and this is why our democracy is usually undermined,” one senior citizen of Montserrado County noted.
The senior citizen, an old public servant, said once the self-centered attitude of people in higher-ups continues to abuse power by providing maximum protection to elites and the chosen ones, the sentiment of injustice and gross disrespect for human rights would equally permeate and keep Liberians divided.
He noted: “so long the resources are not benefitting those in dire need, but rather the selected few who find themselves in the corridors of power, we will still have a long away to go in achieving our national goals”.
The citizens will be listening to Orator Elwood Dunn today when he steps up and appears on the podium at the Centennial Pavilion on Ashmun Street in Monrovia to hear his side of the account of public address at the historical event. It is not known what message he intends to convey that would remind Liberians about their co-existence.
Nevertheless, on the surface, the theme of this year’s event is about Liberia’s transformation, development and democracy. Still fragile on reconciliation and unity due to the recent bitter past, speeches that focus the need for the war-ravaged citizens to forge ahead and forget the untold sufferings of civil conflict often characterize keynote speakers messages, but analysts say policy makers afterward remain far-flung to turning thoughts into realities; writes Lewis K. Glay firstname.lastname@example.org