By Togba-Nah Tipoteh
-constituting 10 per cent of the world’s population (UNDP Multi-dimentional Poverty Index; WHO). A month later, WHO reports that the total number of corona virus cases has reached the sixteen million persons figure, more than double the figure a month ago.
Given the forgoing WHO Report about the current number of corona virus cases globally, some persons are concluding that the corona pandemic is the most important pandemic to be given attention. Isn't it true that were global poverty to have been given top priority in the alleviation of pandemics, the world would be better prepared to handle any public health pandemic? Certainly, with the poor population being given highest poverty alleviation priority, notably with better public health conditions, the world would be better prepared to handle any other pandemic.
In the industrialized or developed countries, like the United States of America (USA), with the world's largest economy, there continues to be life-threatening inadequacies related to corona virus testing, mask wearing, ventilators and social distancing (CDC; Johns Hopkins University Health Center).
With these inadequacies in the developed countries, the public health inadequacies in the developing countries would be even greater, as they are shown to be currently. In fact, the best evidence to make the point about the Poverty Pandemic is seen in the current surge of corona virus case in the USA and Brazil.
There are typical cases of the bad public health situation in the developing countries. First, there is the irrelevant curative system rather the relevant preventive system. Second, many patients get to a public health facility and there is no public health personnel to attend to them and they end up dying because of this lack of attention.
Third, many patients die because of the attention given to them by unqualified and incompetent public health personnel, including medical doctors. Fourth, many patients die because of the lack of medicines, which get stolen by medical practitioners who run their respective private businesses with impunity, and fifth, many patients die because of the lack of electricity.
The corona virus pandemic is yet another Wake-up Call to the Global Community for top priority attention to be given to solving the perennial and pervasive problem of poverty.
Meanwhile, delivering his special message on the occasion of the observance of the 173 Independence Anniversary of Liberia, President George Weah called on Liberians to put aside their political, religious and social differences for the good of the country. "We are one people, who pledge allegiance to the same flag," the President said.
A week later, the country President Weah governs was plunged into yet another violent turn, dealing a painful reminder of Liberia's bitter past, just when the post-war nation is nurturing its bourgeoning democracy.
IT all started early Thursday morning when some residents in Zwedru, Grand Gedeh County, the home of late President Samuel Kanyon Doe, launched an attack on Mr. Alexander Cummings, leader of the Collaboration of Political Parties(CPP) and the Alternative National Congress(ANC) and Representative Yekeh Kolubah(ANC, District No. 10, Montserrado County), while on their way back from Maryland County where they had traveled to celebrate the 173rd Independence anniversary of Africa's oldest republic.
OVER the past decade, Africa's oldest republic has held three successive elections, and one successful transfer of power from one government to the next.
WHEN FORMER PRESIDENT Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf transferred power to Mr. Weah in January 2018, it was the first time in 75 years that presidential power had been transferred peacefully and democratically in Liberia.
THE TRANSFER BEFORE in 1944, saw William Vacanarat Shadrach Tubman receive the baton from his predecessor Edwin Barclay.
TUBMAN was elected unopposed and went on the rule for 27 years until his death in a London hospital on July 23, 1971.
BUT EVEN AMID THAT TRANSITION, Liberia remains a fragile state. Institutions are still young and are being tested, and resources remain scarce. Nations in a state of fragility, particularly post-conflict nations, need special attention and support.
THIS FRAGILITY was made even more complicated following last Thursday's attack. Mr. Cummings believes that the attacks were orchestrated by the county government. "To come to Grand Gedeh and to have rock throwing, threatening our lives. It's just unacceptable. We have a constitutional right to be here, to express our points of view, we did so peacefully. And to have some Grand Gedeans - and I believe this was orchestrated, this was not spontaneous, to come and threaten us, it is just unacceptable. This is not the Liberia we all want to live in, we all are striving for, we all trying to improve."
KAI FARLEY, Superintendent of the county, told FrontPageAfrica after the incident that it is unfortunate that Mr. Cummings) would say that as a political leader of an institution. "For Hon. Cummings to say I came forcibly asking him out of the county-that is not true. It was something that was suggested by the Deputy Police commander in the county in the presence of Hon. Cummings. Hon. Cummings even asked me, but what's your suggestion? And I told him that based upon the advice of the Joint Security; I think that this is something that we should go by".
THE EXECUTIVE BRANCH has not said a word since the incident took place although the activities of two officials on the social medium Facebook are raising eyebrows, triggering concerns from the opposition community that the attacks may have the backing of the administration.
Deputy Information Minister Eugene Fahngon posted on Facebook Thursday: "Racoon Supposed to Know Le Stick to Clean His Butt on... Go and Try Palm Tree Again, Ehn You say Da You alone Crazy?"
Also, Presidential aide Sekou Kalasco Damaro changed his profile photo to that of former President Samuel Kanyon Doe, who hailed from Grand Gedeh County. Damaro defended the post insinuating that changing his photograph to the former president's is not a crime.
PRESIDENT WEAH owes it to Liberia as its leader to put his officials in check, especially within close proximity to him.
THE FAILURE of the administration to speak on the issue is getting the attention of stakeholders.
AT THE WEEKEND, the Catholic Diocese of Cape Palmas, whose pastoral and administrative jurisdiction cover the five counties of the southeast of Liberia, has expressed grave concerns about the incident of intimidation and threats of violence by some residents of Zwedru, Grand Gedeh County against a political grouping of Liberians exercising its constitutional rights to free movement and peaceful assembly, which occurred on July 30, 2020.
IN A STATEMENT ISSUED in Monrovia Friday, the Cape Palmas Diocese described the attacks as a gross violation of the fundamental rights to free movement and peaceful assembly goes against the principle of political tolerance and peaceful co-existence despite differences of political association and ideology. "We have seen that when we become politically intolerant, we invite ourselves to breakdown and destroy, and undermine the foundations of Liberia's peace, stability and development," the statement said.
THE DIOCESE'S statement signed by Bishop Andrew Jagaye Karnley, said the response was necessary due to Liberia's tragic history that it is democratically unhealthy and portends danger to the peace and stability of the country.
SAID THE DIOCESE: "It also violates the fundamental rights of the members of the Alternative National Congress (ANC) and other collaborating opposition parties to free movement and peaceful assembly as enshrined in Chapter 3, Article 17 of the 1986 Constitution of the Republic Liberia which states, "All persons, at all times, in an orderly and peaceful manner, shall have the right to assemble and consult upon the common good, to instruct their representatives, to petition the Government or other functionaries for the redress of grievances and to associate fully with others or refuse to associate in political parties, trade unions and other organizqtions."
WE AGREE WITH the Diocese that in the face of these presenting threats to Liberia's collective peace and security , silence, including from the Church or State, offers the wrong signal to the perpetrators that their actions are acceptable, and makes us collectively complicit.
THE WEAH ADMINISTRATION must strive to always been seen as taking the high road, even against those perceived as enemies or strong critics of the administration.
FAILURE ON THE PART of the administration to respond is likely to open old wounds and disagreement that could plunge the country into chaos.
THE COUNCIL of Patriots (COP), organizers of last year's June 7 successful protest, has urged the administration to muster the courage to show leadership by condemning such actions and launch a full-scale investigation into the gravely disturbing matter. "The CoP believes that this is a calculated attempt ahead of the Special Senate Elections to intimidate the opposition through violent tactics. This will NOT work!" the statement said.
THE WEAH ADMINISTRATION must sanction a fair and impartial investigation and erase the perceptions in the air that it approved of the attacks on the opposition figures.
ALL THIS when many are concerned about the integrity of those appointed at the National Elections Commission (NEC) and their ability to oversee free, fair and transparent elections both in 2020 and 2023.
ACCEPTING THE 2018 Charles T. Manatt Democracy Award, shortly after leaving office, former President Sirleaf trumpeted that Liberia's successful political transition was reflective of Africa's quest for democracy. "It is a continuum of the continent's struggle for liberation and freedom. This is particularly important in Africa, where we tend to focus on elections and celebrate them as "the milestone." But, as it is often said, "elections do not a democracy make." We must look behind the process and examine the barriers that shut down competition before the campaigns ever start."
AFTER 173 OF INDEPENDENCE, Liberia is still struggling to find its footing. With every passing day, month, year or decade, new problems emerge, and new leaders or rulers arrive on the scene with lofty promises and ideas, pledging to be much better than the previous bunch of actors.
THE SAD REALITY is that the more things change, the more they seem to remain the same. As fragile as Liberia is at the moment, a lot remain uncertain. If the government cannot address unfolding developments, now compounded by an emerging political crisis that has the potential to disrupt the country's hard-fought peace, Liberia and the Weah administration may be sitting on a ticking time bomb on the verge of explosion.
Liberia officially the Republic of Liberia, is a country on the West African coast. It is bordered by Sierra Leone to its northwest, Guinea to its north, Ivory Coast to its east, and the Atlantic Ocean to its south-southwest. It covers an area of 111,369 square kilometers (43,000 sq mi) and has a population of around 4,900,000. English is the official language and over 20 indigenous languages are spoken, representing the numerous ethnic groups who make up more than 95 per cent of the population. The country's capital and largest city is Monrovia.
Liberia began as a settlement of the American Colonization Society (ACS), who believed black people would face better chances for freedom and prosperity in Africa than in the United States. The country declared its independence on July 26, 1847. The U.S. did not recognise Liberia's independence until February 5, 1862, during the American Civil War. Between January 7, 1822, and the American Civil War, more than 15,000 freed and free-born black people who faced legislated limits in the U.S., and 3,198 Afro-Caribbeans, relocated to the settlement. The settlers carried their culture and tradition with them. The Liberian constitution and flag were modeled after those of the U.S. On January 3, 1848, Joseph Jenkins Roberts, a wealthy, free-born African American from Virginia who settled in Liberia, was elected Liberia's first president after the people proclaimed independence.
Liberia was the first African republic to proclaim its independence, and is Africa's first and oldest modern republic. It retained its independence during the Scramble for Africa. During World War II, Liberia supported the United States war efforts against Germany and in turn, the U.S. invested in considerable infrastructure in Liberia to help its war effort, which also aided the country in modernizing and improving its major air transportation facilities. In addition, President William Tubman encouraged economic changes. Internationally, Liberia was a founding member of the League of Nations, United Nations, and the Organisation of African Unity.
The Americo-Liberian settlers did not relate well to the indigenous peoples they encountered, especially those in communities of the more isolated "bush". The colonial settlements were raided by the Kru and Grebo from their inland chiefdoms. Americo-Liberians developed as a small elite that held on to political power, and indigenous tribesmen were excluded from birthright citizenship in their own land until 1904, in an echo of the United States' treatment of Native Americans. Americo-Liberians promoted religious organizations to set up missions and schools to educate the indigenous peoples.
In 1980 political tensions from the rule of William R. Tolbert resulted in a military coup during which Tolbert was killed, marking the beginning of years-long political instability. Five years of military rule by the People's Redemption Council and five years of civilian rule by the National Democratic Party of Liberia were followed by the First and Second Liberian Civil Wars. These resulted in the deaths of 250,000 people (about 8 pc of the population) and the displacement of many more, and shrank Liberia's economy by 90 per cent. A peace agreement in 2003 led to democratic elections in 2005, in which Ellen Johnson Sirleaf was elected President. National infrastructure and basic social services were severely affected by the conflicts, with 83 per cent of the population now living below the international poverty line.
The Pepper Coast, also known as the Grain Coast, has been inhabited by indigenous peoples of Africa at least as far back as the 12th century. Mende-speaking people expanded westward from the Sudan, forcing many smaller ethnic groups southward toward the Atlantic Ocean. The Dei, Bassa, Kru, Gola, and Kissi were some of the earliest documented peoples in the area.
This influx of these groups was compounded by the decline of the Western Sudanic Mali Empire in 1375 and the Songhai Empire in 1591. The area now called Liberia was a part of the Kingdom of Koya from 1450 to 1898. As inland regions underwent desertification, inhabitants moved to the wetter coast. These new inhabitants brought skills such as cotton spinning, cloth weaving, iron smelting, rice and sorghum cultivation, and social and political institutions from the Mali and Songhai empires. Shortly after the Mane conquered the region, the Vai people of the former Mali Empire immigrated into the Grand Cape Mount County region. The ethnic Kru opposed the influx of Vai, forming an alliance with the Mane to stop further influx of Vai.
People along the coast built canoes and traded with other West Africans from Cap-Vert to the Gold Coast. Arab traders entered the region from the north, and a long-established slave trade took captives to north and east Africa.
Between 1461 and the late 17th century, Portuguese, Dutch and British traders had contacts and trading posts in the region. The Portuguese named the area Costa da Pimenta ("Pepper Coast") but it later came to be known as the Grain Coast, due to the abundance of melegueta pepper grains. European traders would barter commodities and goods with local people.
In the United States there was a movement to resettle free-born blacks and freed slaves who faced racial discrimination in the form of political disenfranchisement and the denial of civil, religious, and social privileges. Most whites and later a small cadre of black nationalists believed that blacks would face better chances for freedom in Africa than in the U.S. In 1816 the American Colonization Society was founded for this purpose in Washington, DC by a group of prominent politicians and slaveholders, but its membership grew to include mostly people who supported the abolition of slavery. Slaveholders wanted to get free people of color out of the South, where they were thought to threaten the stability of the slave societies. Some abolitionists collaborated on the relocation of free blacks, as they were discouraged by racial discrimination against them in the North and believed they would never be accepted in the larger society.
In 1822 the American Colonization Society began sending black volunteers to the Pepper Coast to establish a colony for freed blacks. By 1867 the ACS (and state-related chapters) had assisted in the migration of more than 13,000 blacks to Liberia. These free African-Americans and their descendants married within their community and came to identify as Americo-Liberians. Many were of mixed race and educated in American culture; they did not identify with the indigenous natives of the tribes they encountered. They intermarried largely within the colonial community, developing an ethnic group that had a cultural tradition infused with American notions of political republicanism and Protestant Christianity.
The ACS, supported by prominent American politicians such as Abraham Lincoln, Henry Clay, and James Monroe, believed repatriation of free African Americans was preferable to widespread emancipation of slaves. Similar state-based organizations established colonies in Mississippi-in-Africa and the Republic of Maryland, which Liberia later annexed.
The Americo-Liberian settlers did not relate well to the indigenous peoples they encountered, especially those in communities of the more isolated "bush", knowing nothing of their cultures, languages, or animist religion. Encounters with tribal Africans in the bush often became violent confrontations. The colonial settlements were raided by the Kru and Grebo from their inland chiefdoms. Feeling set apart from and culturally and educationally superior to the indigenous peoples, the Americo-Liberians developed as an elite minority that held on to political power. It excluded the indigenous tribesmen from birthright citizenship in their own lands until 1904, in a parallel of the United States' treatment of Native Americans. Because of ethnocentrism and the cultural gap, the Americo-Liberians envisioned creating a western-style state to which the tribesmen would assimilate. They promoted religious organizations to set up missions and schools to educate the indigenous peoples.
On July 26, 1847, the settlers issued a Declaration of Independence and promulgated a constitution. Based on the political principles of the United States Constitution, it established the independent Republic of Liberia. The United Kingdom was the first country to recognize Liberia's independence.
The leadership of the new nation consisted largely of the Americo-Liberians, who initially established political and economic dominance in the coastal areas that the ACS had purchased; they maintained relations with U.S. contacts in developing these areas and the resulting trade. Their passage of the 1865 Ports of Entry Act prohibited foreign commerce with the inland tribes, ostensibly to "encourage the growth of civilized values" before such trade was allowed in the region.
By 1877, the True Whig Party was the country's most powerful political entity. It was made up primarily of Americo-Liberians, who maintained social, economic and political dominance well into the 20th century, repeating patterns of European colonists in other nations in Africa. Competition for office was usually contained within the party; a party nomination virtually ensured election.
Pressure from the United Kingdom, which controlled Sierra Leone to the west, and France, with its interests in the north and east, led to a loss of Liberia's claims to extensive territories. Both Sierra Leone and the Ivory Coast annexed territories. Liberia struggled to attract investment to develop infrastructure and a larger, industrial economy.
There was a decline in production of Liberian goods in the late 19th century, and the government struggled financially, resulting in indebtedness on a series of international loans. On July 16, 1892, Martha Ann Erskine Ricks met Queen Victoria at Windsor Castle and presented her a handmade quilt, Liberia's first diplomatic gift. Born into slavery in Tennessee, Ricks said, "I had heard it often, from the time I was a child, how good the Queen had been to my people—to slaves—and how she wanted us to be free."
Early 20th century
American and other international interests emphasized resource extraction, with rubber production a major industry in the early 20th century. In 1914 Imperial Germany accounted for three quarters of the trade of Liberia. This was a cause for concern among the British colonial authorities of Sierra Leone and the French colonial authorities of French Guinea and the Ivory Coast as tensions with Germany increased.
First World War
Liberia remained neutral during World War I until August 1917, when it declared war on Germany. In 1919 Liberia attended the Versailles Peace Conference. Liberia was one of the founding members of the League of Nations when it was founded in January 1920.
Middle 20th century
In 1929 allegations of modern slavery in Liberia led the League of Nations to establish the Christy commission. Findings included government involvement in widespread "Forced or compulsory labour". Minority ethnic groups especially were exploited in a system that enriched well-connected elites. As a result of the report, President Charles D. B. King and Vice President Allen N. Yancy resigned.
In the mid-20th century Liberia gradually began to modernize with American assistance. During World War II the United States made major infrastructure improvements to support its military efforts in Africa and Europe against Germany. It built the Freeport of Monrovia and Roberts International Airport under the Lend-Lease program before its entry into the Second World War.
After the war President William Tubman encouraged foreign investment in the country. Liberia had the second-highest rate of economic growth in the world during the 1950s.
Liberia also began to take a more active role in international affairs. It was a founding member of the United Nations in 1945 and became a vocal critic of the South African apartheid regime. Liberia also served as a proponent both of African independence from European colonial powers and of Pan-Africanism, and helped to fund the Organisation of African Unity.
Late 20th-century political instability
On April 12, 1980, a military coup led by Master Sergeant Samuel Doe of the Krahn ethnic group overthrew and killed President William R. Tolbert, Jr. Doe and the other plotters later executed a majority of Tolbert's cabinet and other Americo-Liberian government officials and True Whig Party members. The coup leaders formed the People's Redemption Council (PRC) to govern the country. A strategic Cold War ally of the West, Doe received significant financial backing from the United States while critics condemned the PRC for corruption and political repression.
After Liberia adopted a new constitution in 1985, Doe was elected president in subsequent elections that were internationally condemned as fraudulent. On November 12, 1985, a failed counter-coup was launched by Thomas Quiwonkpa, whose soldiers briefly occupied the national radio station. Government repression intensified in response, as Doe's troops retaliated by executing members of the Gio and Mano ethnic groups in Nimba County.
The National Patriotic Front of Liberia (NPFL), a rebel group led by Charles Taylor, launched an insurrection in December 1989 against Doe's government with the backing of neighbouring countries such as Burkina Faso and Ivory Coast. This triggered the First Liberian Civil War. By September 1990, Doe's forces controlled only a small area just outside the capital, and Doe was captured and executed in that month by rebel forces.
The rebels soon split into various factions fighting one another. The Economic Community Monitoring Group under the Economic Community of West African States organized a military task force to intervene in the crisis. From 1989 to 1996, more than 200,000 Liberians died and a million others were displaced into refugee camps in neighboring countries. A peace deal between warring parties was reached in 1995, leading to Taylor's election as president in 1997.
Under Taylor's leadership, Liberia became internationally known as a pariah state due to its use of blood diamonds and illegal timber exports to fund the Revolutionary United Front in the Sierra Leone Civil War. The Second Liberian Civil War began in 1999 when Liberians United for Reconciliation and Democracy, a rebel group based in the northwest of the country, launched an armed insurrection against Taylor.
In March 2003, a second rebel group, Movement for Democracy in Liberia, began launching attacks against Taylor from the southeast. Peace talks between the factions began in Accra in June of that year, and Taylor was indicted by the Special Court for Sierra Leone for crimes against humanity the same month. By July 2003, the rebels had launched an assault on Monrovia. Under heavy pressure from the international community and the domestic Women of Liberia Mass Action for Peace movement, Taylor resigned in August 2003 and went into exile in Nigeria.
A peace deal was signed later that month. The United Nations Mission in Liberia began arriving in September 2003 to provide security and monitor the peace accord, and an interim government took power the following October.
The subsequent 2005 elections were internationally regarded as the most free and fair in Liberian history. Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, a Harvard-educated economist and former Minister of Finance, was elected as the first female president in Africa. Upon her inauguration, Sirleaf requested the extradition of Taylor from Nigeria and transferred him to the SCSL for trial in The Hague.
In 2006, the government established a Truth and Reconciliation Commission to address the causes and crimes of the civil war.
Tropical rainforests cover the hills, while elephant grass and semi-deciduous forests make up the dominant vegetation in the northern sections. The equatorial climate, in the south of the country, is hot year-round with heavy rainfall from May to October with a short interlude in mid-July to August. During the winter months of November to March, dry dust-laden harmattan winds blow inland, causing many problems for residents.
Liberia's watershed tends to move in a southwestern pattern towards the sea as new rains move down the forested plateau off the inland mountain range of Guinée Forestière, in Guinea. Cape Mount near the border with Sierra Leone receives the most precipitation in the nation.
Liberia's main northwestern boundary is traversed by the Mano River while its southeast limits are bounded by the Cavalla River. Liberia's three largest rivers are St. Paul exiting near Monrovia, the river St. John at Buchanan, and the Cestos River, all of which flow into the Atlantic. The Cavalla is the longest river in the nation at 515 kilometers (320 mi).
The highest point wholly within Liberia is Mount Wuteve at 1,440 meters (4,724 ft) above sea level in the northwestern Liberia range of the West Africa Mountains and the Guinea Highlands. However, Mount Nimba near Yekepa, is higher at 1,752 meters (5,748 ft) above sea level but is not wholly within Liberia as Nimba shares a border with Guinea and Ivory Coast and is their tallest mountain as well.