Moses Uneh Yahmia
The Monday, September 24, 2018’s stampede of the masses on the streets of Monrovia demanding the government to return the stolen 16billion Liberian Dollars was a dress rehearsal to the imminent and inevitable wrecking of a rogue government that has no determination to roll out revolutionary programs for the social transformation of the West Africa republic and its wretched people. Regime elements used threats to scared away the masses. Money was dished out in the media for propaganda in order to break the back of the mass movement of the people. Opposition leaders were accused of inciting the people. Regime surrogates were spotted in slum communities begging the people to not come out to protest. The thing is, no external subjective factor has the ability to evoke the revolutionary movement of the people. It is the objective material reality that pushes the people to struggle for the qualitative transformation of society. The material condition of the people determines whether they should struggle against a particular social system or not. Subjective roles of individuals are just necessary not only guide but also reach the masses struggle for change to a logical conclusion.
If the regime is rolling out social transformation to change the material condition of the people, no force can lure them to stampede on the stage of history. But if the regime has frustrated the hopes and aspirations of the people and is obsessed with creating a new indifferent social class that runs with the determination of turning the nation state into a casino, the people's revolutionary potency will always be demonstrated as was done on Monday, September 24, 2018. Moving forward, the latter will be the staple of the masses if the government of George Weah remains adamant, something this writer is convinced it will do. If the people continue seeing this callous indifference from those they had so much illusion in, the people will continue to struggle to change their wretched and despicable existence. The people do not have money to pay their children's tuition. They strenuously struggle for a day's meal. Hospitals are without drugs and equipment. The people's income cannot provide them the basic necessities of life. Some were victimized by flood without the intervention of the state. Some were crushed by fire outbreak. Yet, they watched their government despised them. Yet, they everyday see their leaders lavishing in pomp and pageantry. Their leaders are purchasing and building private properties overnight. The President is always seen having weekend parties with all the latest wines, vodka, champagne, and whiskey.
The progressive forces have been in the vanguard telling the people that their leaders are looting the national treasury which is dependent on taxes and rent pay by foreign monopoly capital. Thus, the reason they are mysteriously acquiring properties and living lives of the Wall Street Billionaires. The people were told that this is a tragic farce that would do nothing to increase their understanding of the laws of nature and use such understanding to devise tools that can be used for the production of goods and services for the benefit of man and his offspring. The people were told that the new social elites in the CDC –led government are no different from the ones that existed in the Ellen’s epoch. These are the same office boys of foreign capital that is raking the resources and labor of our people on the altar of Neo-colonial Capitalism. Yet, the people did not believe the progressive forces that were unearthing these contradictions. But no fuss was made with the people. The progressive forces held no contempt for the people because of not giving receptive ears to their cry against social snobbery, injustice and indignity. The conscious vanguard is aware that the people are not philosopher kings to sit in the ivory tower to decipher the complex logic of history and draw revolutionary conclusions.
The people are practical and learn from their confrontation with reality. They tend to hold on to the values of bankrupt institutions and systems for a very long time until big events shift their consciousness and everything turns into its opposite. Unconsciousness turns into consciousness. The point of stasis turns into a break in the point of stasis. The missing 16billion Liberian dollars is the big event that has played such role in the developing of the Liberian society. The money scandal has shifted the consciousness of the people. They who did not believe the progressive forces are now reading the contours and drawing revolutionary conclusion. They now know that the missing money was stolen by George Weah and his handlers. The people now know the source of the finance that is building the mansions, buying the cars, importing the girls from East Africa and the Caribbean. So, as the CDC elements begged the people to not protest against the stolen money, the people kept asking about the whereabouts of the money! The looters said there is no missing money but the people kept asking about the source of the money George Weah is using to build houses, have parties, and organize football matches!
So nothing could have stopped the stampede of the people on the stage of history on September 24, 2018!! They cried out their indignation. They expressed their disappointment in a clique that they had so much confidence in to transform the society. The masses were heard singing: “I never knew that Weah was so bad I have been wasting my time.” The people went out and informed the world that the band of looters in Liberia has no determination to move civilization forward. The people are now convinced Weah and his handlers are part of the obstacles to their desire to progress and live a better and decent life and they are now taking the right actions to move from such backward reactionary state to a more progressive stage of their existence. The turnout rattled the regime. Its stooges are unsettled. The march is the biggest ever in the political history of Liberia. At no point in the history of Liberia have the people taken to the streets in such huge number to voice out their dissatisfaction against bureaucratic parasites that prey on the tax dollars of the suffering masses. And the lumpen scavengers in the CDC –led government still cannot get over the fact that the people could have come out against the eight-month old regime of the popular footballing president in George Manneh Weah! Well, never underestimate the revolutionary potency of the people to change the course of history.
The Liberia National Police for the first time in the political history of the state did not allow itself to be used as a tool of the possessing class against the non-possessing class. Throughout the course of the protest, the security forces exhibited the highest level of professionalism. They stood with the people! They guided the masses towards a peaceful march against the broad day pillaging of 16billion Liberian dollars from the national treasury. The level of professionalism and solidarity from the security forces has no origin in the democratic credential of the ruling-CDC because such credential is wrapped with intolerance, hooliganism, and barbarity. The police’s decision to have professionally coordinated the march instead of sabotaging it demonstrates that officers of the police too are victims of the industrial looting orchestrated by the Weah’s government. Service men and women are paid delayed paltry sum in wages. They struggle to pay rent, tuitions, and make available other basic means of life. Their uniforms and equipment are deformed beyond repair. They live in barracks that are equivalent to piggery. Therefore, the cordiality of the police on September 24, 2018 cannot be attributed to the ruling party’s adherence to the tenets of democracy. The police was conscious of the fact that the cry of the masses on the streets was also the cry of underpaid and poverty stricken service men and women of the Liberia National Police, the Armed Forces of Liberia and other security apparatuses.
The Weah’s regime will do everything to manipulate the outcome of the investigation. As Weah compromised the committee that was set up to review all concession agreements, so will the so-called missing 16billion investigative committee be compromised. As President Weah threw in the trash-pile the report of the committee that probed the Global Witness’ exposé on the National Oil Company of Liberia (NOCAL), so will this investigation accrued a feeble outcome. President Weah is a prime suspect. His key handlers are also suspects. They cannot bullet themselves in the leg. The 16billion played a major role in buying and building properties not only for Weah but also his closed confidants. Only the mass of the people can demand that the General Auditing Agency (GAC) and the Liberia Anti-Corruption Commission (LACC) with help from external partners can achieve a logical outcome from the investigation. The people do not only want to know who authorized the printing of 16billion Liberian dollars, they also want to know the whereabouts of the money. This is what the bankrupt social elites in the ruling clique do not want and they will do everything to compromise the investigation.
Matthew Nyanplu, an acclaimed journalist and student of law writes about the scandal and how the government is strenuously fighting to save the face of the perpetrators: “You can spin everything that has happened in country. But trust me, your image out there is done. Damaged. Finished. Irreparable. No matter what you do moving forward, you're stained. Go on and try to spin, we know what happened. You can fool some, you can't make fool of all and especially those who hold the stereotype that African leaders are corrupt. This is just a confirmation of that perception that Weah, the former soccer star will be no different and indeed you are no different.” Nyanplu is right! The government and country’s image is stained as the result of stolen 16billion Liberian dollars. The government may politically maneuver to save the presidency of George Weah. This is the staple of neo-colonial governance in Africa. What is obvious is that the repercussions the scandal will bring to the country especially the economy will further provide the motor for the people to struggle for revolutionary change.
Scaring away investors
Already, the global capitalist crisis of overproduction has decreased the owners of capital’s demand to expand production. This has hit the Liberian economy hard. Due to decrease in demand for iron ore and rubber (Liberia’s two major export commodities), the prices of the commodities have fallen on the world market. Thus, current investments are scaling down operation while there has been little or no additional massive capital investment in the extractive, industrial, and service sectors of the Liberian economy for the past two years. The story of the missing billion will further compound the economic malaise. One of the indicators that investors look at to inform their decision to invest in an economy is how strong the system is against graft and for the protection of investment. With this 16billion LD scandal, investors who had the intent to invest in the Liberian economy will hold back their capital.
If the government could not save 16billion from going in the pockets of few parasites, what more about the capital of an investor? This might even hinder the much heralded natural resource swap deal with a Chinese firm. Even future bilateral agreements with the Bretton Woods institutions might likely not be possible due to such this unprecedented broad day looting of the country’s billions.
High Possibility of International NGOs withholding Financial Aid to Liberia
Liberia, like many sub-Saharan countries is still wrapped in the blanket of neo-colonialism. It is one of the many countries in Africa that still look up to Non-governmental and governmental organizations from the former colonial masters for financial aid. Although foreign aid has not substantially eradicated poverty on the continent, it is a channel through which African politicians and the aid givers feather their nests. Great Britain has organizations that provide aid to former British colonies while the United States through USAID has been the highest donor to Liberia. Recently, the UK cut aid funding to Zambia due to corruption.
Already, the coming of Donald Trump and his “America First” Isolationist rhetoric has cut funding meant for aiding third world countries including Liberia. There are reports that many USAID projects in Liberia have closed due to lack of funding. Besides humanitarian purpose and the historical tie Liberia has with the US, the country is of no strategic interest to America. So no one can argue that aid will keep flowing in despite the high level of graft that has taken over the country. In his address at the 73rd United Nations General Assembly, Trump listed as friends, countries that either have oil, capable of buying weapons for defense purposes or willing to give up their nuclear arsenals. Liberia did not even reach the lips of the cleaner in the White House least to say President Trump. With this news of stolen billions of dollars, Liberia will be considered as nothing but a “shithole” country.
Continue development of Underdevelopment
Consequently, the economic crisis will deepen. Prices of commodities will continue to skyrocket. The income of workers will continue to fall and lack the ability to meet demand for goods and services. Petit traders, market women, “pen pen” riders, etc. will continue to be victimized by the inevitable poverty, disease and ignorance. While the people will continuously be crushed by unemployment and inflation, bureaucratic gangsters will continue feasting on the taxes and rent through a predominant recurrent expenditure budget. The crisis will further sharpen the contradictions and create a deeper shift in the consciousness of the people. With this, change cannot be achieved in the plenary of the National Legislature nor the Executive or the Judiciary. Change will be effectuated through the popular power of the people as was demonstrated on Monday, September 24, 2018. History abhors vacuum. Therefore, as the masses are rapidly gaining consciousness and coming to the realization that the Weah’s phenomenon is not only a gross disappointment but also a tragic farce, the people must be directed by revolutionary program and leadership that will lead the process of social transformation not on the altar of neo-colonial capitalism but instead a new social system that allows the productive forces of society to be managed, controlled and developed by the mass of people. This is why we struggle and struggle we must!
Moses Uneh Yahmia is a student of Political Science and Economics at the University of Liberia. He can be reached via [email protected]