BY ALFRED KIADII
When political power is given to tabulae rasae and political jesters, the tendency to misuse such power through the selective elimination and arrest of critics of the ruling establishment are hatched in full swing. Such reprisal action of the government against its critics have been used by decadent regimes to purge ‘voices of protest.’ A government with no strategic focus is always nervous about criticism from either the public or political opponents.
Previous regimes in Liberia have a well-documented history of state-sponsored clampdown against political opponents and citizens who were critical. During the height of those implacable tyrannies, political pluralism which is guaranteed under the aegis of the republic’s constitution was ignored by violent regimes that governed this state. The scars of that sad past still haunt the republic and it is one of the reasons for her backwardness.
In most instances, regimes that lacked focus and headed by nondescripts are the ones that strive on violence due to the lack of knowledge. The Christian Bible is right: ‘My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge.’Without knowledge ignorance reigns; when ignorance reigns in the state, the paralysis becomes pervasive. When opponents speak against bestiality, they become the victims of the ruthlessness of the ruling cabal.
CLAMPDOWN IN MOTION
Evidently, there are early signs of a creeping dictatorship in the making, which is being nurtured, by a large extent, by the complicity of a segment of the people who have elevated the new regime to the status of a righteous assembly. Due to this, some see nothing wrong with the manner in which the new administration is proceeding. But this attitude is not strange in the body politics of African countries, as poverty and unemployment lead many individuals to become praise singers of failed governments.
Currently, the new regime in Liberia is on the path of viciousness. So very early there is a creeping monster in the regime who is using his proximity to power to mete out vengeance and clampdown on employees of the government who are not members of the Coalition for Democratic Change (CDC). This character, in a month time, is fast becoming notorious for plotting trump-up crimes and allegations against people whose politics he disagrees with.
Nathaniel Mcgill, Liberia’s minister of state for presidential affairs, is one such person at the centre of such backward shenanigan. He is fast becoming the head of the governmental Klu Klux Klan. He is gradually turning into the prime minister and Machiavellian co-president who calls the shots and instructs law enforcement elements to get at political opponents in an illegal way. Such early sign is in sharp contradiction of the Weah-led governments promised to run a government which will not stifle political opponents. It is becoming clear that the statement is a classic political grandstanding intended to get the publicity of one line quote on the radio and in the newspaper. In truth, the new regime intends to dismember and harshly deal with political opponents.
Just in a month, the dictatorial proclivity of Nathaniel McGill has started rearing its ugly head. His first victim was Dionysius Sebwe, who got arrested by the Liberian National Police (LNP) on the instruction of Mcgill. A situation which led to Segbwe spending one night in a dingy prison cell with poor ventilation at the notorious Monrovia Central Prison.
Again, Mcgill ordered the National Security Agency (NSA) to arrest a Central Bank employee named Alfred Cheeks for allegedly leaking the financial details of Weah’s three-leg trip to Senegal, Morocco and France. The fellow got arrested under the pretext of a bridge of confidentiality law that does not exist. As I write, Alfred Cheeks is in prison at the headquarters of the NSA in Mamba Point. Sources tell this writer that the detainee is being subjected to severe torture to confess at whose behest did he photograph the travel document of Weah which went viral on social media.
Firstly, it is important to correct the myth that Alfred Cheeks, if he did what is alleged of him, bridged no clause of confidentiality. The Liberian budget is a public document. Funds for presidential travels are embedded in the budget, which makes it an open affair. If an employee, out of conviction decided to inform the public about the actual financial status of Weah’s travel—amidst the misinformation presented by elements of the government—it is no bridge of confidentiality. Instead, it is an act of patriotism on the part of that conscious citizen who wants the right information to be disseminated to the Liberian people. In addition, it says he wants to ensure that the government is honest with the people. No clause of confidentiality hinders the public right to declassified or overt information about the regime.
Further, Chapter 1 section 1.4 of the Freedom of Information (FOI) Law states: ‘Public bodies hold information not for themselves but as agents of the public and custodian of the public good.”
It added in Chapter 3. Section3.2: ‘Every person, irrespective of their nationality or residence, may request, receive, reproduce and retain any information held by (1) public authority or (2) private entity that receives public funds or engage in public functions or provision of public service; provided that in respect of the private entities, the information should relate to public funds, benefit, function or service.”
The FOI law protects whistleblower. Chapter 7 section 7.5 of the FOI law states: “Any person who discloses information or grant access to information, in good faith reliance on the provisions of the FOI Act shall be protected from any and all civil or criminal liabilities, even if it was later determined that the information was in fact exempted. Similar protection shall be accorded to all persons that receive information pursuant to this Act.”
Thus, the republic has relapsed into the period of tyranny. Violation of the FOI law is done by a regime which saw nothing positive in the previous one. Today, they are administering the state of affairs. In less than two months, violation of established law is becoming the order of the day.
History has it that one of the most vicious elements in the Taylor-led autocracy was Chuckie Taylor who shot people on sight, dismembered pregnant women, and executed poor drivers for overtaking him. So did the Doe government before it had Harrison Pennoh who executed a lot of folks in series of raids in Nimba County. Today, Mcgill, although a civilian, provides the instruction to torture people while he sits at the back and pretends as if he is not the one calling the shots. He thinks he has outsmarted everyone and his shady afterthought of an instruction will not be disclosed to the public.
Most people have not reckoned with the fact that tyranny starts with the purging of one or two individuals before it becomes systemic. Today, Sebwe and Cheeks are the newest victims. Tomorrow, journalists and other political persons could just be heading to the guillotine. Then, it degenerates to ordinary citizens and critical professors at various universities in Liberia. Later, then the homeland turns into a police state.
Make no mistakes, these incidents of arbitrary arrest of individuals cannot be relegated to the status of isolated incidents which don’t reflect the policy of the government. This assertion is extremely foolhardy when one takes into consideration that the minister of state for presidential affairs of the republic is the chief of staff in the office of the president. In addition, only a trusted ally and an entrenched member of the inner cycle of the leadership serves in such capacity. Therefore, when Nathaniel Mcgill, who is the minister of state for presidential affairs, initiates a clampdown, it is only fair that one infers that it is from the presidency.
Lest we forget, the government of the CDC is a coalition. To understand why Nathaniel Mcgill is becoming outright reckless in the misuse of power one ought to trace his formative political leaning. The muddleheaded junkie was an operative of the National Patriotic Front of Liberia (NPFL)-National Patriotic Party (NPP)before aligning with Winston Tubman in 2005 and subsequently joining the CDC in 2011.
Unless we have forgotten, there is a sense in which the punctuated history of Liberia, whether during the rule of the moribund True Whig Party or during the misrules of Charles Taylor and Samuel Kanyon Doe, Liberians were targeted to be eliminated and thus executed. All these got into motion when the previous regimes wanted to, on one hand, consolidate their grips on power. And, secondly, went everything seems to be crumbling. This has been the modus operandi of past tyrannies in the history of Liberia, and the CDC-led government is on the verge of following that trajectory.
THE LACK OF POLICY DIRECTION
Typically, sycophancy is not new to Liberian politics; it is as old as the formation of the republic. Because previous regimes did not encourage merit, it was a commonplace attitude of rascals to peddle misinformation against opponents to win the admiration of the president or other higher-ups in the government.
In thirty days, the Weah-led government is sailing the state with no blueprint and no copy of their so-called “pro-poor” agenda. It is increasingly clear that this leadership has absolutely no plan to transform the country, but was just filibustering and blathering about igniting change. They think governance is a child’s play or is as simple as a guy asking a girl for love.
Now, since they have no plan, it is fair to wonder whether the new administration tends to govern the state based on abracadabra and other mystical approaches. Increasingly, there seems to be no confluence of ideas and a coherent approach to governance. These early signs of disintegration are symptomatic of the psychosis which has contracted the new administration.
The anti-education rhetoric purveyed by imbeciles of the regime during the heydays of the campaign has come back to slap them in the face. Now, even the negligible people who they managed to convince with such crap are wondering as to why the new regime has not gotten its act together.The unsuspecting masses and others who were euphoric about change are beginning to realize that the banditti at the helm of the state are a bunch of empty vessels with no idea about statecraft.
Yet there is no indication in the corridor that the new regime will present one in the soonest possible time. The affairs of governance is gradually turning into an opaque venture and trapped in the try and see syndrome. Those who promised to run an efficient government in consonance with openness are yet to present a paper to which we can hold them. They only run amok with the dull repetition of the catchphrase “change for hope.”
Without presenting anything to the public, George Weah goes around making lousy promises to the people. At every occasion, he takes the microphone and talks big without taking into consideration the implications of his promises. He has made a slew of promises and is yet to implement one.
This bankruptcy has even extended in the foreign policy cycle of the state. With no plan to tackle the domestic challenges, Weah hurriedly commences a globetrotting spree to beg friendly governments for money without presenting a single plan to them, let alone the agenda of his administration for the next six years. To measure the height of emptiness of the new regime, Weah used an official open platform for a press briefing in Senegal and France to openly beg his counterparts for money, which, according to diplomatic veterans, should have been done in camera during bilateral discussions.
While the President of Ghana is beseeching African countries to take charge of their own affairs, President George Weah went to France and virtually asked the French imperialist to colonize Liberia. His mission at the Elysee Palace was to showcase to the world that Liberia has change slave master. Our old slave master in the United States of America has been changed to France.
While the enlightened President of Ghana is beseeching African countries to take charge of their own affairs, President George Weah went to France and virtually asked her to colonize Liberia. He has essentially left the nation’s traditional slave master in search of new slave masters. Our sovereignty has been sold.
George Weah has made it easier for France to colonize Liberia; he has told France that she doesn’t have to use militaristic adventurism and other subterranean diplomatic tactics to have a sphere of influence in Africa like the days of the ‘Scramble for Africa.’Just bring capital and Liberia will surrender her sovereignty to you. Our people, out of desperation for employment, will become wage slaves.
Weah is not conversant with the fact that foreign policy is an offshoot of domestic policy and not the other way around. A nation’s foreign policy is predicated on its national interest. The national interest of a nation is its goal, objectives, whether in the military, economic and political realms. It is based on the pursuit of the national interest that nations formulate their foreign policy. The National interest doesn’t exist in isolation of domestic policy objectives. The domestic policy objectives of a state are its national interests that are sold by its diplomats as the foreign policy.
Aside from selling our sovereignty to France, it is unclear what the mission of President Weah to France was. The big question which has not been answered is what he presented as the republic’s national interest when he has not formulated a plan.
Most likely, political pundits have concluded that the domestic disarray in the government has extended on the international stage. That is why President Weah violated all diplomatic norms when he openly read a long speech begging France to make Liberia her sphere of influence.
The nation is duped; the people have been robbed. No real sign of change is on the horizon. The CDC agitated for state power because of its love for the blue light convoy and the trappings of power. Nothing is going to change in the foreseeable future. The nation is dogged in another quagmire. Change is now a chain which has imprisoned the people.
Alfred P Kiadii is a social and political critic, and also the secretary general of the Movement for Social Democratic Alternative (MOSODA). He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org