Wednesday, July 4, 2007

A Critique of the President’s Visit to RiverGee

Recently the President of Liberia paid visits to theSouth East of Liberia. Amid the many utterances of thePresident the one which struck me the most is thereinforcement/restating of the Ministry of InternalAffairs mandate banning the practice of trial byordeal. Since this issue was widely heralded throughthe media in the report of the President’s visit toRiver Gee, I believe that was her central theme. It isbased on this premise that I articulate the followingobservations:1. There is a demonstration of the lack ofunderstanding of the fundamental issues facing theLiberian people. I think the President’s advisors dida very poor job by allowing her to raise the ordealtrial issue on her nation wide tour. The problemsLiberia faces have nothing to do with trial by ordealbecause the practice itself is a result of the need tocompensate for those basic things that are absent fromthe people of Liberia. Trial by ordeal is tocompensate for the absence of an appropriate judicialsystem. It is the result of the absence of appropriatemedical and scientific systems for the improvement ofthe standards of living of the people. 2. Singling out River Gee or the South East to deliverthe statement was inappropriate and politicallypremature because it stigmatizes one section or regionof our country. It is polarizing, to state the least.The problems Liberia faces are unique though manyregions of the country may adopt different ways ofaddressing them. So what is needed from the Presidentis a central theme which unites the nation insteadthat divides it. In fact, viewing the statement from abroader angle, it is an affront to the hosts (thepeople of River Gee). It is against the norms that avisitor has to be polite and civil to the host. Youcan’t visit someone then castigates them. Thepresident showed little respect for the people ofRiver Gee by repudiating them on their own soil. (Thisis an approximation of telling your hosts that his/herhouse is filthy). The President needs to apologize tothem3. There is a failure on the part of the president andthe government to acknowledge some forms of judicialpractice existing in our present system which areparallel to the ordeal which banning highlighted hervisit. Some forms of judicial practice which has to dowith coercion, indoctrination, sleep deprivation,testimony with the promise of lesser sentence orpardon, etc.The Way to go, Madam PresidentThe problems Liberia faces are enormous and must beviewed keenly from a broader perspective. Some candidways of dealing with those problems involve thefollowing: There is a need to review and over haul oureducational system. Our educational system shouldreflect our values and must be valuable to thecommunities. The need for teaching science applicableto the society must be encouraged and fully financed.In so doing some make beliefs and superstitions couldbe dispelled. The Liberian Judicial system must be strengthenedthrough the training of judges and others responsiblefor the dispensation of justice. The system has to beindependent and fully financed as well. Law enforcersneed to be fully trained and equipped in order toserve the nation well. The county administrative system should bestrengthened by placing responsibilities and somepowers (financial and administrative) into the handsof county/community leaders. By so doing some of ourbrightest must be deployed in the counties instead ofcrowding them in the Capital city. There is a need that government relinquish someof it powers of trying to do it all and perhapsdomestically ‘out source’ some of itsresponsibilities. In so doing government can identifysome responsible and capable institutions orindividuals then delegate some of it projects to them.Let’s consider for instance the Catholic Diocese, theAssembly of God Mission, and other credibleinstitutions getting loans to undertake projects likehousing, road constructions, and health care delivery,amongst others. Finally, it does not augur well for the Presidentto choose as a central theme to deal with one of thesymptoms long existing of chronic problems. Thismatter involving trial by ordeal must be left with theInternal Affairs Ministry which will tackle it throughthe local officials. The President needs to identifythe central issues that connect the entire nation. AndI know for sure that we do not need to look too far orelsewhere for find those issues.

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