Before 1847, there was no Sovereign State called the Republic of Liberia. According to our history, twelve (12) delegates from 3 counties gave birth to this new African Republic on July 26, 1847. The promise of declaration made by our forebears was not only resounding, but ground-breaking after Africa’s first independent nation was conceived.
In an effort to firmly uphold those fundamental values and cherishable pillars upon which our nation was formed and modeled, these were inevitable promises made:
1. To uphold the Constitution and the Rule of Law
2. To guarantee human dignity and civil liberty
3. To ensure economic freedom and political pluralism/cohesion
4. To promote peace, reconciliation, and justice for all
5. To equitably distribute the nation’s wealth by maintaining public accountability, integrity, openness, and transparency.
After 171 years, the Vanguard Student Unification Party of the University of Liberia is compelled to ask ‘Have these fundamental promises been met’? There seems to be no reasonable and apt response to this piercing question. But prevailing actualities in this 21st Century prove otherwise. Furthermore, over 4.6 million Liberians seem to be losing faith and hope in those very same values and promises upon which our collective interest and destiny have since been anchored.
The Independence Day Celebration has lost its taste to a larger extent evident by the poor euphoria that comes along with it these days. The hope of the masses has since been dashed as extreme poverty and economic hardship remain virulently crushing across the nation.
All our people often get during and on Independence Day are fancy speeches eloquently wrapped in rhetoric, cliché, and paradox. So it was especially with the 171st Independence Day Oration delivered by the Minister of Finance and Development Planning, Hon. Samuel D. Tweah, Jr., a pro-Weah devotee.
Why Independence Day Oration in the opinion of SUP:
The relevance of every Independence Day Oration in any country cannot be overemphasized. In the opinion of the Student Unification Party, every Independence Day Oration must intrinsically focus on these basic parameters or rationales:
a. Concisely inspiring the people and their government for REAL CHANGE
b. Realistically Identifying and rectifying historical inaccuracies
c. Patriotically reechoing those basic values upon which the nation was formed
d. Practically proffering genuine recommendations/solutions for a paradigm shift
e. And sincerely renewing calls for an equal, just, united, and a reconciled nation.
Any oration that misses out on these empirical and explicit truths can be reasonably branded as a DISCONNECT in the context of an Independence Day Oration. Such was the case with Liberia’s 171st Independence Day Oration. Therefore, SUP has got every rational justification to tag Minister Samuel Tweah’s Speech as a “Pro-poor Paradox, Polished Rhetoric, and Popular Cliché.” The facts will objectively speak as we go along.
X-raying Tweah’s Address
As we critically and painstakingly read through the 171st Oration of Liberia titled “Renewing The Ambition That Drove Our Nation’s Founding”, the speech rarely focused on the real drive of our nation’s founding, but rather showered unrealistic acclaims on President Weah and his 6-month-old government. The speech further rhetoricized the suffering of the Liberian people, elasticized old stories, and contradicted Weah’s invisible pro-poor agenda.
In the first place, Tweah began his oration by indirectly jabbing at the patriotic and national call made by the Student Unification Party on the eve of the July 26 for Liberians to boycott the Independence Day Celebration because there was really nothing to celebrate after 171 years of nationhood.
Tweah remarked in his speech, “On the eve of these celebrations, some of our compatriots have even questioned the value of holding these ceremonies when the majority of Liberians remain jobless and when our economy is challenged. Those calling for cancellation appear to have reasonable arguments.”
At least, Tweah agreed with SUP to a certain extent that it appeared to have reasonable arguments. But our arguments resonated far beyond reasonability and rationality. Even two lawmakers (Hon. Yekeh Kolubah of Montserrado and Hon. Tanpowerh of Margibi) had to boycott.
How could this ‘pro-poor’ government expend over US$500,000 just for celebrations when over 5000 Liberians still remain homeless as a result of flooding? Amidst joblessness and a collapsing economy coupled with extreme poverty and hardship across Liberia, Tweah and other ‘pro-poor’ prophets/prophetesses were dinning and winning in extravagance and pageantry.
When Tanzania was widely affected by cholera in 2015, President John Pombe Magufuli cancelled Independence Day celebration and diverted the huge sum of money for such celebration to combating this outbreak. President Magufuli himself led a national clean-up campaign on Independence Day.
Magufuli said to Tanzanians, “It would be shameful to spend huge sum of money on the celebrations when our people are dying of cholera.” In the opinion of SUP, Magufuli’s thoughtful action is a reflection of a TRUE and PATRIOTIC LEADERSHIP. Whenever there is a national emergency which poses threat to the survival of the people and the sovereignty of the nation, the extravagant celebration of Independence Day must be secondary.
To President Weah, Minister Tweah, and others, it would be a NATIONAL SIN to cancel Independence Day Celebrations even if Liberians are dying from extreme poverty, economic hardship, and flooding as a result of rising prices, swelling exchange rate, and heightening climate change. To them, the celebration by a few group of political elites and opportunists is more important than rescuing over 5000 homeless flood victims and millions of poverty-stricken and jobless Liberians.
Tweah goes further, “The men and women who founded this country were made of ambition. They left the scourge of slavery to establish for themselves a society in which all would be free and equal.”
Though Tweah didn’t outline preponderance of ambitions that drove our founding father, but SUP is basically concerned about connecting such conclusion with prevailing realities. Yes, our forefathers aspired a free and an equal society, but has this 6-month-old government under President Weah demonstrated these values (freedom and equality) so far?
The assertion made by Tweah is not only a pro-poor paradox, but a polished rhetoric and popular cliché only meant to woo the hopeless and entice the few political elites/hustlers. It makes no sense to talk about freedom and equality when this Weah-led government has been very intolerant to free speech and free assembly.
There can be no freedom and equality when those in authority especially the President continue to violate almost all of our laws including the Constitution. Adherence to the Rule of Law is the basis for freedom and equality. After 6 months in power, President George M. Weah has violated our Constitution, Maritime Law, LEITI ACT, National Lottery Law, etc. Isn’t this a fact?
We understand that Tweah had no choice but to pleasingly quench the thirst/appetite of his “earthly god or master”, President George M. Weah. His address was never bold, realistic, and honest in terms of pointing out Liberia’s real problem and real solution. Tweah punned on words and jested in cliché only to lure pro-poor enthusiasts into compelling and sycophantic applause. In the opinion of SUP, such applause was pro-CDC and pro-Weah.
Tweah uses almost 16 loaded paragraphs to only explain the history of Liberia which almost everyone knows including past orators. These repetitions which in some cases were flooded with historical inconsistencies and inaccuracies can better be described as a “POPULAR CLICHÉ” that most previous orators highlighted in their speeches. It didn’t worth the time using over 3 pages just to talk about Liberia’s history. Tweah actually seemed to have had pocket-sized insight of Liberian history. In fact, the Liberian people expected new ideas, fresh alternatives, and concrete solutions to prevailing economic complexities and menaces confronting them.
Who doesn’t know about Elijah Johnson, Jehudi Ashmun, King Zolu Duma, King Sao Boso Kamara, Chief Suah Koko, etc.? Who doesn’t know that Weah’s root is Clara Town popularly known as Gibraltar? Who doesn’t know that President Weah rose above the slum to stardom? Who doesn’t know that Weah is an ex-Soccer Legend? Tweah made his speech lazy by using sufficient time and energy to focus on immaterial issues that almost every Liberian knows.
Instead of Tweah occupying the post of Finance Minister, SUP suggests that he be hired as a history instructor probably at his alma mater, William V. S. Tubman High School. Tweah uses almost 8 paragraphs to shower praises on President Weah alone.
Anyway, SUP didn’t expect otherwise, because the vetting committee’s ultimate desire was to choose a pro-Weah praise-singer who could further idolize him. And Tweah was best suited to get the job done. In fact, this vetting committee told us that this year’s orator would had been 35-year-old and below. Is Tweah 35-year-old and below? Another contradiction!
This justifies SUP’s initial argument that the entire selection process was a farce and fiasco. Anyway, SUP has no intent to focus on mere popular cliché and polished rhetoric. Let us now focus on those five (5) ‘issues’ that Tweah may have considered important in his oration. Contrary, SUP considers those issues romantic, biased, and Weah-enticing.
The entire oration delivered by Tweah did focus on only five (5) issues, namely:
1. Intensify the fight against corruption
2. International Development Partnership
3. Political Parties and Politicians
1. Intensifying the fight against corruption
Tweah said in his speech, “No problem in Liberia is bigger than the problem of corruption. Corruption has been the root cause of the conflicts that have run through our history. This generation of Liberians and this new government must renew its pledge to fight and end corruption. The first step toward this goal is to abolish the culture of impunity that has surrounded the misuse of public funds.”
This is another big pro-poor paradox, polished rhetoric, and popular cliché. Tweah talks about fighting corruption even though he is yet to declare his assets in line with prescribed legal principles (Part X Section 10.2 of the 2014 Code of Conduct Law). The declaration of assets is the basis for fighting corruption in public service. Unfortunately, Tweah’s boss (President Weah) is yet to declare his assets. Isn’t this a pro-poor paradox and polished rhetoric? Of course, it is! What example are they setting? President Julius Maada Bio of Sierra Leone has already declared his assets.
Tweah runs around beating the ‘anti-corruption drum’ and at the same time dancing to the ‘lyrics of transparency’ even though he is yet to declare his assets? Tweah has refused to declare his assets, which is in violation of Part X Section 10.2 of the 2014 CoC Law, especially when he is directly managing a budget of US$50,235,490 as Minister of Finance. Tweah cannot be the new prophet to preach the holy gospel of anti-corruption. He only fits in the category of a false prophet.
Furthermore, Tweah refuses to tell the world that the government of President Weah has deliberately refused to audit ex-President Sirleaf’s administration and economic scavengers who pillaged public resources. Besides, the budget of the Transparency and Accountability Sector under Weah as President and Tweah as Finance Minister has been drastically reduced from US$44.9 million to US$21.2 million, which accounts for 53 percent decrease (This constitutes just 3.8 percent of the 2018-2019 budget under Weah).
Tweah may have forgotten to talk about the private businesses and palaces Weah is constructing. How about the US$200,000 private home purchased by Minister Samuel McGill of the Ministry of State for Presidential Affairs? What about the US$1.5 million given to First Lady Clar Weah to fund her private foundation (Clar Hope Foundation). Why use public resources (taxdollars) to fund a private foundation? The progress of the Liberian people cannot be built upon rhetoric and cliché. STOP playing politics with the people’s business and destiny.
2. International Development Partnership
Tweah said, “…the development of Liberia cannot be done alone considering the difficult situations we face. This is where we have to turn to our bilateral and multilateral development partners to recast our relations in the context of diversifying our economy and empowering the private sector.”
In these lines, Tweah makes frantic effort to entice our international partners by indirectly begging for foreign aid and assistance. As a government under President Weah, Tweah along with his pro-poor colleagues is yet to develop any genuine development plan for Liberia that would attract foreign direct investment. The July 1, 2018 deadline has passed for such plan to be launched. Where is the plan you promsed to launch on July 1, Min. Tweah?
The government of President Weah is operating on a ‘scattered agenda’ in the opinion of SUP. This is the only government we have seen without any blueprint or plan even after 6 months. The guesses are too many and these guesses or conjectures are not even based on empirical basis in the context of good governance. Almost everyone is guessing while President Weah remains committed to breaking grounds and making unfulfilled promises. Like Weah, Tweah has told the Liberian people to bear patience while the enrich themselves!
The fact is that Tweah and this government have got no concrete plan or strategy to attract direct foreign investment and international support. In the opinion of SUP, the government has more theoreticians than technocrats. In fact, no serious donor or partner will give any country money without a plan. China reemphaized this global reality about few months ago. What is Tweah waiting for to launch the plan?
Furthermore, the continuous and blatant violation of Liberia’s Laws especially by the Head of State coupled with harsh prevailing economic realities is creating established fear in investors and international partners. The Weah-led government has not proven its worth yet to attract donors’ funding and foreign aid. Probably because Tweah and others are more interested in showering mere praises on President Weah than focusing on concrete actions that would generate immediate foreign resources or support!
3. Political Parties and Politicians
Tweah seems to be shifting blame on the past regime, political parties and politicians when he said, “Political parties and politicians have a serious role to minimize the politics of pettiness that aims to score trivial political points. There is really no points to score against a government that is barely six months old. Let us all abandon the politics of bewitching evil because we are out of political power. This is the old politics that drained the blood of our country.”
SUP is compelled to ask Tweah about the kind of politics he and CDCians were playing when they were in the opposition. Was it a politics of bewitching evil or a politics of inspiring good? Can Tweah and his likes point to any concrete proposal or policy prescription/alternative that the CDC made to the Sirleaf-led government? Tweah has got to be sincere in his thoughts because this government has been largely leeching and feeding on dishonesty, propaganda, conspiracy, and popularity stunt. The REAL SOLUTION is not found in these short-lived attributes and misdeeds. The masses will soon get to know this chicanery or shenanigan.
Tweah has asked political parties and politicians to abandon the politics of evil, but SUP is asking the CDC-led government to as well abandon the politics of witch-hunting and intimidating critical voices. Tweah may have probably forgotten to inform the world that his party’s chairman, Mulbah Morlu, said few days ago that those who are not CDCians will be placed in the firing line. Almost similar statement was made by Vice President Jewel Howard-Taylor in Bong County. So, who is witchful even more? Tweah’s rhetoric seems not to be resonating even up to now.
Tweah goes further “Even the Country Giant cannot wave a macroeconomic magic wand in six months.” Nobody has asked this Country Giant to do so. But also the Country Giant cannot be constructing and reconstructing private properties with tax-dollars just in a period of six months. His action does not only seem magical, but pro-Greed.
It is unfair for him to be asking us to bear patience when his budget in 12 months is over US$3.3 million while his wife gets US$1.5 million in 15 months. Tweah forgot to tell us that the budget just for food of our President is US$15,000 per month (which is US$500 per day). Can this be a pro-poor President? SUP vehemently detests such polished rhetoric and pro-poor paradox!
Instead of Tweah concluding his ‘partisan-driven oration’ with concrete recommendations about how Liberia can rise above this current economic crisis, he chose to unfairly blast and indict the independence/integrity of Liberian journalists by describing them as ‘partisan journalists’ in context.
Tweah says “Members of the media too should get beyond the elections. The media has an important role in a democracy and the Government is under obligation to respect this role. The persistent reporting of non-truths is a grave disservice to democracy and our country.”
To Tweah and this ‘pro-poor’ government, all media institutions must bow in cowardice to this regime. In as much you remain critical of government’s wrongdoings as a media institution, then it means that you are still in election mode. Tweah has got it wrong altogether by questioning the credibility of those media institutions that do not dance to the tone of this government. SUP remains a GENUINE PARTNER to the Media in Liberia and will always STAND UP to defend all journalists against any form of repression, censorship, and harassment.
But did Tweah forget that this government has been very repressive to the media just in six months. Rodney Sieh and FrontPage remain a target. What about the public outburst against BBC Stringer Jonathan Paye-Layleh? Why are they refusing to grant a frequency to Patrick Honnah’s Punch FM. Didn’t Smith Toby of OK FM run away from his home because agents of this government was targeting him?
Press freedom and critical voices have been under attack by this government just in six months. This government ordered the flogging and imprisonment of 5 student and youth students in 6 months. Ruthless and heavily armed police officers have invaded the campuses of the University of Liberia 8 different times and brutalized students for no reason. Recently, the government sent heavily armed police officers to fire tear-gas and flog peaceful protesters who were led by SUP on July 26.
Why didn’t Tweah mention all of these harsh realities? It seems like Tweah forgot about them so soon. But we know that he forgot on purpose. However, SUP has got every reason to remind him and this government about the increasing wave of police brutality in just 6 months. Tweah cannot hide from these hard truths. Since he chose to do so, SUP considers his oration as a “pro-poor paradox, polished rhetoric, and popular cliché.
Tweah again runs to history to end his oration by reminding us about Liberia’s role in the formation of the United Nation, African Union, ECOWAS, African Development Bank, and Mano River Union. Are we not aware about these histories? Of course we are! There was no need for all these repeated histories. Trending in this path was ‘nullius essentiae’ (nonessential).
Tweah missed out on the entire point. His oration didn’t correlate with the realities of the day. Tweah even failed to give us hands-on remedies to Liberia’s failing economy. He offered no short-term, medium-term, and long-term solutions to offset the prevailing economic tremor that poses threat to our collective security and sovereignty as a nation.
Tweah says in his conclusion “We were at the founding of the United Nations and the Organization of African Unity, now African Union, and hosted its annual meeting in 1979. We were at the founding of the African Development Bank. We inspired the formation of the Mano River Union and the Economic Community of West African States.”
Who doesn’t know all of these? Even an elementary student would say what Tweah said on July 26. In fact, too many previous orators have referenced these same histories in their speeches. Tweah only copied and pasted. SUP believes that his entire oration found solace in repetition and popular cliché.
The speech of Tweah didn’t really reflect his subject: “Renewing The Ambition That Drove our Nation’s Founding.” In fact, we are yet to see any real ‘ambition(s)’ that he highlighted in his speech that drove our nation’s founding. Tweah entire construct of ‘ideas’ which seems mostly borrowed didn’t address the real issues.
It was rarely impressive, inspiring and impacting. Howbeit, that was the best he could offer to pro-CDCians and Liberians in general. SUP hold you not for giving your best, Tweah. But for the sake of the nation and its interest, selecting a better orator next time whose address would focus more on the issues rather than praise-singing could inspire the hope of the Liberian people.
Done and issued on this 29th Day of July A.D. 2018 by the mandate of the Central Committee and Politburo concomitantly.
Cde. Martin K. N. Kollie
Secretary General, SUP
Cde. J. Butu Levi