Letter to the Electorate

 

Vol. 1

March 3, 2017

 

Dear Electorate,

I am writing you this personal note to inform you that our Country Liberia needs us most in moments as such. Currently, the period of voter registration is ongoing and ends on March 14, 2017. I want to urge each of you to go out there and register to vote.  Voting is your civic right and responsibility as guaranteed under a democracy. I know that a few of you my fellow citizens and compatriots are weary of going to register and vote due to the failed promises of politicians you’ve trusted in the past. I share and understand your sentiments. Nevertheless, the hope of tomorrow depends on your action taken today, and registering to vote is one of the single most important steps in securing the government you so desire.

While you take on the solemn act of registering to vote, may I please remind you of the following:

Don’t allow any Politician to ask you to register in a location he’s running other than your place of domicile. Any Politician running within a specific location should be popular with the people he intends to represent. Please register only in the location you live because; by agreeing to be trucked to register in a location other than where you live, you are conspiring to put the wrong person in office, disenfranchising yourself from holding the politician accountable to you for his actions and reducing the number of actual residents in your district. Register where you live and vote peacefully.

Don’t indulge or close a blind eye to any electoral irregularity.  Don’t attempt to register twice through any fraudulent means, nor attempt to sell your voter registration card to any unscrupulous person. These two actions are not only criminal, but undermine the essence of the democracy we intend to uphold in building a wholesome and functioning society. Also, if you have reason to believe that a foreigner or alien is attempting to register, report the matter to an electoral authority or a law enforcement officer. The presence of aliens attempting to interfere in the elections of another Country exposes that Country to weaknesses and electoral shocks. Don’t ever ignore that. It concerns Liberia. If proven that the person is not an alien, you weren’t wrong, but simply trying to protect a democracy that took blood, sweat and tears to reach to this level.

Encourage others to go and register. Talk to friends, family, and neighbors who are reluctant to register to go out there and register. Tell them the importance of being change agents in a democracy. Speak with youth groups, members of your local soccer teams, lecture mates about the need to register as soon as possible. Lastly, speak with the first time voters about the need to go and register. When you sit down to talk with them, recount all of the above things I’ve listed in this letter.

Thank you for your time. May God bless Liberia.

 

Sincerely,

Lekpele M. Nyamalon

Founder, Africa’s Life.

Letter to US President Barack Obama

January 19, 2017

Dear Barack,

As I write these lines, in few hours from now on January 20, 2017, you will be turning over power to your successor and will retire to private life. Your rise to President of the United States is a motivation not only to the black struggling political class in America’s history, but all those who dare to dream. Yours has shown that every child living in the darkest spot of the earth can dream of owning the stars and shredding the skies of success and live forever as long as his dream lives. Yours is an accomplishment that shows that dreams can build castles with the strength of character and the power of belief.  Born to a black Kenyan Father and a white Mother, your birth shows that destiny travels beyond oceans and failure is never an obstacle to what we can achieve.

As an admirer, I saw you deliver a powerful oration at the 2004 Democratic National Convention that propelled you to global stardom. That was a defining moment to the world that got to see a glimpse of the toil and sacrifice of an African American Senator from Illinois and the man poised to lead the ‘Free World’ Your rise was never sudden, but a culmination of preparation, setbacks, sacrifice and the overarching belief in what you described in your book as ‘The Audacity of hope’

You were elected during the great recession of 2008, the worst economic crisis since the great depression of the 1930s and signed the economic stimulus package and tax relief, amongst others, in response to the recession. This signifies that the character of a man is not only measured in good times, but during periods of enormous hardship and uncertainty. You ordered a military operation that resulted in the death of the greatest face of terror and the mastermind of 9/11 Osama Bin Laden and you used the power of diplomacy and negotiation to solve diplomatic stalemates by reintegrating countries like Iran and Cuba. This move of yours showed the world that crisis can be solved without the use of force and mass destruction.

Being a human, you have your flaws, but have taken great strides to face adversity with calm, poise and ease. You, your gracious wife and elegant first lady, Michelle Obama and your wonderful daughters, Sasha and Malia will go down in history as one of the most authentic, admired and a model family for generations to emulate.

As you take your bow, we remember the words you uttered on the night of your victory speech, ‘Yes we can’. Though out of the oval office, I hope you’ll carry within your heart the light and dignity of the world’s most powerful seat, for duty and honor are traits of the heart and not bestowed by the office one occupies. Go in peace. Yes, you did it!

Sincerely,

Lekpele M. Nyamalon

nyamalon23@gmail.com

The Girl Child in 2030

 

By: Lekpele M. Nyamalon

Monrovia-When the world wakes up in 2030, I hope the vision for adolescent girls would be realized into tangibles. As a father of a seven year old girl child, I look forward to an era when my daughter, like the millions of girls worldwide her current age, would blossom into a world that embraces them with hope, promise and a future as they walk into adulthood.

Today, major gaps continue to exist in the areas of Health, Education, Unemployment, Political Participation, etc. Girls remain victims of institutionalized violence, human trafficking, rape, etc. There remains limited access to education, and structural barriers have prevented girls from attaining their full potentials. Other factors like early marriages and general societal neglect in many parts of today’s world have affected the dreams of girls worldwide.

  • According to the World Health Organization, about 16 million girls aged 15 to 19 and some 1 million [i]girls under 15 give birth every year—most in low- and middle-income countries. Complications during pregnancy and childbirth are the second cause of death for 15-19 year-old girls globally.
  • Every year, some 3 million girls aged 15 to 19 undergo unsafe abortions.
  • Babies born to adolescent mothers face a substantially higher risk of dying than those born to women aged 20 to 24. Adolescent pregnancy can also have negative social and economic effects on girls, their families and communities. Many girls who become pregnant have to drop out of school. A girl with little or no education has fewer skills and opportunities to find a job. This can also have an economic cost with a country losing out on the annual income a young woman would have earned over her lifetime, if she had not had an early pregnancy.

Access to education remains distant in some parts of the world, with some cultures denying girls’ rights to education. The Pakistani adolescent- Nobel Prize winner, Malala Yousafzai is an example of an adolescent girl who was shot in the head by the Taliban because of her advocacy for girls’ education. There are millions of buried stories of other girls, like Malala, that never faced the dawn of day. Despite Global efforts, according to UNICEF, girls continue to suffer severe disadvantage and exclusion in education systems throughout their lives. An estimated 31 million girls of primary school age and 32 million girls of lower secondary school age were out of school in 2013. Sub-Saharan Africa has the lowest proportion of countries with gender parity: only two out of 35 countries. And South and West Asia has the widest gender gap in its out-of-school population – 80 per cent of its out-of-school girls are unlikely to ever start school compared to 16 per cent of its out-of-school boys. Furthermore, many countries will still not have reached gender parity. If that trend continues, it means that millions of girls would lose out on the path to achieving quality education and thus remain lagging in the vision to self empowerment.

Women access to Political participation is often influenced by the education they receive as young girls. Women educational levels affect their participation in formal politics and their participation in other political activities. The educational gap between adolescent girls and their male counterparts affects their ability for political participation and formal engagements in the political discourse of their Countries.

According to UNICEF, to date, millions of girls around the world are still being denied an education. Slow education progress for children today will have lifelong effects: Almost a quarter of young women aged 15-24 today (116 million) in developing countries have never completed primary school and so lack skills for work. Young women make up 58% of those not completing primary school. Two-thirds of the 774 million illiterate people in the world are female. The full power of the girl child can only be realized when access to health, education, employment, political participation, global leadership and respect for gender parity is assured.  By the turn of the century in 2000, when the millennium development goals were adopted, most of today’s adolescent girls were babies. Today, our hands are full with millions of adolescent girls that would turn into adults by 2030. The road to that vision is faced with enormous challenges that need to be addressed.  Four years after the UN adoption of the International Day of the Girl Child, the rest of the world looks forward to the dreams of the Sustainable Development Goals and the promise of the Girl Child.

I look forward to seeing my seven year old daughter and the millions of girls worldwide turn the curve in 2030 with the full power endowed by the adolescent era.

Lekpele M. Nyamalon is a Liberian writer and poet and lives in Monrovia. He can be reached at nyamalon@yahoo.com

[i] http://www.who.int/mediacentre/factsheets/fs364/en/

 

Liberia: The Cultural Gap

 

By: Lekpele M. Nyamalon

Monrovia- Growing up in Liberia, whenever I call my name, I garner the stares and expressions of a name that sounds too strong or otherwise traditional. Infact, I get the feeling from facial expressions that that name belongs to another world, especially in my case, both names are purely Liberian indigenous names. While in secondary school, it was worse. The calling of my name was greeted with instant laughter, jeers and intentional mispronunciations, intended to instill humiliation and fear. I remember many colleagues couldn’t bear the emotional bullying associated with bearing Traditional African names and opted to have their names changed. This is typical of the average Liberian classroom where western names are pronounced with distinction and claimed with pride but traditional Liberian names are wrongly pronounced and treated with disdain. The name carrier bore the burnt of the struggle and left to face the accompanying degradations.

The name scenario is a tip of the iceberg of the extent to how wide Liberians have negated their culture with Western Cultures and in some cases other African Cultures over their own cultures. A Liberian would prefer to be proudly called by another West African name and claim lineage to that Country or Ancestral History, but would refuse to proudly bear his name given under sacred conditions by Grandparents. Treasured and rich names with deep history are relegated to borrowed names. There are varying examples to the nature and breadth of how Liberians have abandoned their cultural over the years to diffusing and assimilating completely into another culture. This trend has affected generations to a far dangerous extent that there remains a major gap in the culture.

Major tribes have histories of their founding fathers and how they came to being but have chosen to ignore those stories, completely forgotten to speak native dialects, hence a whole generation of young children grow up unable to speak their dialects. Ironically, the inability to speak one’s language comes with a false sense of sophistication. The ignorance of one’s history and cultural practices meant a man was too ‘civilized’ to conform. The reality is sad. A society without a clear definition of its history and culture has no foundation to build upon and no purpose.

We have a completely shattered appreciation of our culture from clothing, cuisine, language, history, etc. Every society has a signature delicacy that is known by foreigners upon entering that Country. We have several dishes from hot cooked palm putter and bitter roots to potatoes greens with red palm oil, bitter balls mixed with okra and fresh water palm oil to torborgee and rice, palava sauce and rice, domboy and pepper soup and GB with wollor soup. These are delicious delicacies that can be marked and possibly exported to showcase the kind of food we eat as Liberians.

Culture is the melting pot of a group of people and the lining that bind us together. How many average Liberian kids understand the relevance and role of Traditional Chiefs, traditional dance ceremonies for birth, funerals, and other occasions, etc?

There is a surge in learning how to speak like other West Africans, copying their accents but afraid to identify with our own accents. We have to develop ourselves and develop a spirit of Cultural Identity.

Cultural identity is often defined as the identity of a group, culture or an individual, influenced by one’s belonging to a group or culture.

A developmental psychologist, Jean S. Phinney, formulated a three stage model describing how this identity is acquired.

The first stage, unexamined cultural identity, is characterized by a lack of exploration of culture and cultural differences – they are rather taken for granted without much critical thinking. This is usually the stage reserved for childhood when cultural ideas provided by parents, the community or the media are easily accepted. Children at this stage tend not to be interested in ethnicity and are generally ready to take on the opinions of others.

 

The second stage of the model is referred to as the cultural identity search and is characterized by the exploration and questioning of your culture in order to learn more about it and to understand the implications of belonging to it. During this stage you begin to question where your beliefs come from and why you hold them, you are ready to compare and analyze them across cultures. For some, this stage may arise from a turning point in their life or from a growing awareness of other cultures and it can also be a very emotional time. This is often the time when high-school students decide to go on an intercultural exchange program.

 

Finally, the third stage of the model is cultural identity achievement. Ideally, people at this stage have a clear sense of their cultural identity and are able to successfully navigate it in the contemporary world which is undoubtedly very interconnected and intercultural. The acceptance of yourself and your cultural identity may play a significant role in your other important life decisions and choices, influencing your attitudes and behavior. This usually leads to an increase in self-confidence and positive psychological development.

 

It seems we’re walloping in the first stage of cultural identity and are mimicking other cultures and taking the opinions of others about ourselves. Until we realize who we are, where we come from and what we want, the road to the future would be blurred and we risk becoming cultural chameleons.

 

Lekpele Nyamalon is a Liberian writer and poet, an OSIWA Poetry fellow and can be reached at nyamalon@yahoo.com

The Dream of Abraham Keita

 

By: Lekpele M. Nyamalon

Monrovia- When the Liberian teenager Abraham Keita walked to the stage in the Hague to receive this year’s International Children’s peace prize, he took with him the hopes and dreams of millions of children in Liberia, Africa and the rest of the World.  The face of Keita represents the hopes of many unheard kids in the unforgotten corners of the earth whose voices may never be heard. There are regions in parts of today’s world where children are being forced to bear arms as child soldiers, forced into early marriages to men twice their mothers’ ages and several others who go to bed hungry. Some children are being sold into sex slavery by human traffickers. These are scary realities of the vulnerabilities of today’s children.

The International Children’s Peace Prize, a prestigious award was previously given to Nobel laureate Malala Yousafzai, the Pakistani school girl who was shot in the head allegedly by the Taliban. Malala has gone on to win the Nobel Peace Prize.

The 17-year-old, Abraham was presented with the award for demanding justice for child victims of violence and for successfully campaigning for the Liberian parliament to adopt the children’s law. Since its inception, the Children’s Peace Prize has grown to become the international recognition for children standing up for their rights and has inspired over one billion people worldwide, according to the International Business Times.

It is reported that since 2008, Abraham has played a prominent role in the Liberian Children’s Parliament, organising peaceful demonstrations and petitions, and lobbying successfully for children’s participation to be funded directly from the national budget. He also pushes for free quality primary and secondary education for all children

While the road to ensuring the voices of children are heard, there are millions of children globally that are still dying of curable diseases, no access to safe drinking water, inadequate health facilities, no access to education, being conscripted as child soldiers and forced to early marriages.

According to the World Food Program, One out of six children — roughly 100 million — in developing countries is underweight.

  • One in four of the world’s children are stunted. In developing countries the proportion can rise to one in three.
  • 66 million primary school-age children attend classes hungry across the developing world, with 23 million in Africa alone.
  • WFP calculates that US$3.2 billion is needed per year to reach all 66 million hungry school-age children.[1]

UNICEF reports that Approximately 300,000 children are believed to be combatants in some thirty conflicts worldwide. Nearly half a million additional children serve in armies not currently at war, such that 40 percent of the world’s armed organizations have children in their ranks.[2]  War Child UK estimates that 40% of all child soldiers are girls. They are often used as non-combatant ‘wives’ (sex slaves) of the male combatants.[3]

UNICEF defines child soldiers as “any child—boy or girl—under eighteen years of age, who is part of any kind of regular or irregular armed force or armed group in any capacity.”

Water aid estimates that Over 500,000 children die every year from diarrhoea caused by unsafe water and poor sanitation. That’s over 1,400 children a day.

Diarrhoea is the third biggest killer of children under five years old in Sub-Saharan Africa.
(Child Health Epidemiology Reference Group (CHERG) 2012).

Diarrhoea is the second biggest killer of children under five years old worldwide.
(Child Health Epidemiology Reference Group (CHERG) 2012)
Every year, around 60 million children are born into homes without access to sanitation. [4]

Beyond the pomp and pageantry that characterize the awarding of the International Children’s Peace Prize, it is hoped that Global Policy makers will ensure that every child in all the slums across today’s world have access to basic healthcare facilities, proper nutrition at birth, and ensured a place for the future. National leaders should ensure that policies at home don’t overlook the rights of children and their inclusion as tomorrow’s people is never underestimated.

May the dream of Abraham Keita, those before him and the many others to follow continue to live on.

About the Author

Lekpele M. Nyamalon is a Liberian writer, poet, essayist and the founder of Africa’s Life- a nonprofit initiative dedicated to engaging youths through motivational speaking. He can be reached at nyamalon23@gmail.com

 

 

 

 

[1] https://www.wfp.org/hunger/stats

 

[2] http://www.cfr.org/human-rights/child-soldiers-around-world/p9331

 

[3] https://www.warchild.org.uk/issues/child-soldiers

[4] : http://www.wateraid.org/what-we-do/the-crisis/statistics

Inside The Samaritan’s Purse

By: Lekpele Nyamalon

Monrovia- The Christian International Relief Organization, Samaritan’s Purse, has demonstrated its true meaning. In their words: ‘Samaritan’s Purse travels the world’s highways looking for victims along the way. We are quick to bandage the wounds we see, but like the Samaritan, we don’t stop there. In addition to meeting immediate, emergency needs, we help these victims recover and get back on their feet’. They demonstrated every bit of those words.
When Jesus told the parable of the Good Samaritan in the Holy Bible, he iterated that the Samaritan was a stranger, quite unlikely, under normal circumstances to have helped the man believed to have been beaten by robbers. Amongst the passengers was a Priest, Levite, who presumably out of fear for their own safety, chose to look the other way and moved on.
Strangely, the Samaritan subordinated his safety and moved to help the afflicted man. He delved first into his heart, bandaged the wounds of the victim, placed him on his donkey, took him to an inn, looked inside his purse and paid his expenses. Inside his purse came humility, compassion, unconditional love, generosity and selflessness. He looked beyond the nationality of the victim and stepped out to help him.
Samaritan’s Purse has demonstrated this act of bravery and selflessness by her actions in Liberia. Liberia is one of three West African countries that got struck by the deadly Ebola virus with a massive outbreak occurring almost simultaneously. According to the United States Center for Disease Control (CDC), August 11, 2014, the Ministry of Health and Social Welfare of Liberia and WHO have reported 670 suspect and confirmed EHF cases (including 166 laboratory confirmations) and 355 reported fatalities.
The World Health Organization, in partnership with the Ministries of Health in Guinea, Sierra Leone, Liberia, and Nigeria announced a cumulative total of 1975 suspect and confirmed cases of Ebola virus disease (EVD) and 1069 deaths, as of August 11, 2014. Of the 1975 clinical cases, 1251 cases have been laboratory confirmed for Ebola virus infection.
According to the CDC, Genetic analysis of the virus indicates that it is closely related (97% identical) to variants of Ebola virus (species Zaire ebolavirus) identified earlier in the Democratic Republic of the Congo and Gabon (Baize et al. 2014).
Expatriate workers working with the Samaritan’s Purse put themselves on the frontline by catering to patients infected with the virus at the Ebola isolation unit at the ELWA hospital in Monrovia.
While taking care of those victims, two of their employees including a medical doctor contracted the deadly virus. This struck a major turning point in the fight of the virus and the care of infected patients. The expatriate workers became isolated and were eventually evacuated to the United States for intensive care and treatment. The actions of the Samaritan’s Purse expatriates continue to herald a strong message of service to humanity and global consciousness.
The Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr, in his sermon speech “I’ve been to the mountain top’ contextualized the parable told by Jesus about the Good Samaritan. According to Dr. King, the road from Jerusalem to Jericho, the setting of the parable, looked like a dangerous path and a perfect trap by robbers. Dr. King, explained that he understood why the previous passers refused to stop. He reversed the question the Samaritan might have posed to himself upon seeing the battered victim. Unlike the previous travelers-the Priest and Levite, who out of fear of their personal safety and considering the history of the locality where the man laid, apparently asked themselves ‘what would happen to me if I stop and help that man’ the Samaritan described as being a good man instead asked ‘What would happen to him if I don’t help him’? Like Dr. King referenced, this is the question I believe those heroes asked themselves when they chose to help under extremely dangerous conditions. With the right question, there were able to bring to us the necessary help.
The act of selflessness by Samaritan’s Purse highlights a lot of lessons for Liberians and humanity at large. There are lots of lessons to cue from and we can emulate in whatever form in helping the fight against Ebola. From joining the efforts of the government and other organizations in raising awareness, creating sensitization centered on constant hand washing, avoiding physical contacts, shifting from cultural practices that tend to undermine the fight, etc.
It involves leadership at every level, state, religious, traditional, cultural and community level. Each of us, who leads in our communities, ought to show some sort of leadership by stopping denials, exposing runaway suspects, reporting suspected cases, and enforcing the message of universal precautions. We could choose to hide in the safety of our homes, comfort zones and ask ourselves what would happen to us if we step up and volunteer or reverse the question like the Samaritan and ask what would happen to our country if we don’t volunteer and join the fight. We cannot keep standing and let others die for us.
It is noteworthy that no one is assured of immunity when a neighbor is infected. We unknowingly give more to ourselves when we gave back to society by joining the fight. As we keep praying for the lives of the two infected members of the Samaritan’s purse, we also laud the heroic efforts of the health workers in Liberia and other nationals, including the expatriate staffs at the St. Joseph Catholic hospital, and the sacrifices of all those who lost their lives in the fight, trying to save others. By sustaining the fight and ensuring that Ebola becomes history, we ensure that they did not die in vain. We can only truly honor their memories when we someday bury Ebola.
Like Christ said after his parable of the Good Samaritan, ‘Go and do likewise’.
The time is act is now.

Preying on the Poor

By: Lekpele M. Nyamalon

Monrovia- Liberian Electorates represent one of the most exploited groups of people, yet remain the most sought after during elections. The recent certification of the All Liberian Party (ALP) brings to eighteen (18) the total number of political parties in Liberia.
By 2017, that number is expected to swell. All Political machineries ride on the back of the poor to power. The Poor, as surrogates of power, oblivion to their manipulation, remain the victims in the game of power play.
According to the National Elections Commission, There were 30 (thirty) registered political parties in Liberia as of 2011. A total of 25 political entities contested the October 11, 2005 elections. This includes two political alliances and one coalition – Alliance for Peace and Democracy (APD), United Democratic Alliance (UDA) and Coalition for Transformation of Liberia (COTOL) – and one independent candidate.
According to a report from allafrica.com in February of 2014, the National Elections Commission, (NEC), took 20 political parties to court for revocation of registration and accreditation. According to the Petition, the political parties violated Articles 83(d) and 79 (c)(i) of the 1986 Constitution of Liberia as well as Part II Chapter IV of the Guidelines Relating to the Registration of Political Parties and Independent Candidates. Article 83(d) of the Constitution of Liberia makes it mandatory that every political party in Liberia shall on September 1, of each year, publish and submit to the NEC detailed statements of assets and liabilities. These shall include the enumeration of sources of funds and other assets, plus list of expenditure while Article 79(c)(i) in relevant part, mandates that no association shall function as a political party, unless the headquarters of the association is located in the Republic’s Capital. This means that most Political Parties are handbag machineries that are temporarily revived during elections for the purpose of making compromises and seeking jobs in return of pronouncement of support to candidates/parties.
According to the World Bank estimate, Liberia remains poor with more than 80% of its population living below the poverty line. A continuous recycling of political figures from previous regimes, metamorphosed as political saints come by and ride the wings of the poor to power, fame and prominence. Until the average electorate understands the game of systematic subjugation to poverty and ignorance, the vicious cycle of poverty and perpetual manipulation would remain.
In recent electoral history in Liberia, the landscape is highly fluid, void of issues and policies. It’s rather a gamble of actors fighting for a piece of the pie. It mimics a football match with substitute players reading the game better from the sidelines but becoming blind when put on the pitch. Some loud Members of opposition political parties have accepted political positions and remain perpetually silent on issues they once roared about. Sadly and most disgustingly is that some members of Civil Society and the media have used their various platforms to gain fame and prominence and joined the bandwagon of politicians, acting as proxies in media campaigns. The losers are the electorates-the poor.
After the 2011 elections in Liberia, key media personalities got appointed to senior government positions, thereby validating deeply held speculations of their roles in campaign efforts of Political Parties. That was a morality gap in Institutions that were supposedly neutral in the political sphere.
According to a recent FrontPage Africa report in Liberia, members of the legislature have reportedly crafted a pension bill that keeps them perpetually living off the state for the remainder of their lives.
There are persistent reports of elected members of the legislature allotting to themselves huge salaries and benefits without advancing the basic interests of their constituencies. This has led to every single member of the Senate {safe Nimba & Bong} during the midterm senatorial elections voted out of office for either failing to live up to promises made during elections or poor representation. There is a recent uproar within the senate, because a member of that body is opting for a reduction in salaries and allowances. Every other member, including the leadership of the senate has differed with him for the stance.
If the path to public service is not to serve, but to live off the state, riding on the back of the poor, then politics is sickening. According to the Front Page Africa, ‘An ambitious, costly but controversial pension bill aiming to provide whopping pension and retirement benefits for the President, Vice President, the Speaker and Deputy Speaker of the House of Representatives, the President Pro Tempore and members of the Liberian Senate as well as elected members of the chambers of the national legislature, the Chief Justice and Associate Justices of the Supreme Court and judges of the Subordinate Courts of Liberia, may not get the backing of the President’ The Front Page Africa report continues…Despite high earning in an underdeveloped country by the lawmakers, they are still pushing for the state to continue to provide for them during their entire lives by passing the pension bill which will obligate the country to pay them during their entire lives, even transferring to their spouses.
Members of the Liberian media, Civil Society and those of the enlightened citizenry should use their platforms to sensitize and educate voters that short-term relief brought to them in exchange for votes are not sustainable. They should begin to ask those asking for their votes the real hard questions on issues of policy, methodologies for achieving promises made during elections, etc. The Civil society and the Media should ensure that Politicians are constantly checked to ensure that they don’t get away with defrauding voters. In this game of Elections, the poor gave their backs for politicians to ride and stare at the circus with folded hands, left in destitute for the next elections when they are useful.

Lekpele M. Nyamalon is a Liberian writer and poet and can be reached at nyamalon@yahoo.com

The Oil Anxiety: Managing the Expectations

By: Lekpele Nyamalon
Make no mistake; the prospect of Liberia becoming an oil producing Nation has sparked a boomerang. From every enclave, village, town, city, the story is being debated with utmost fierceness. The fury and suspicion are so grave that one cannot even trust a friend. The story is reminiscent of a typical gold/diamond mine where the word trust is elusive and roaming suspicion breeds.

Of course the exercise is good. Liberians need to brace themselves for this resource filled with promises of a better Liberia. But the expectations are just so wide and gloomy, if not managed; it could just ignite an unlikely fury that might just bring the nation to its knees. Absolutely no doubt, there are suspicious. Members of the legislature seem overprotective and are poised to checkmate the Executive through its “oversight” mandate to regulate the Oil Industry. The doubts and anxieties raging through the minds of the citizenry are unimaginable and only proper information management can harness the overzealous expectations. The anxiety about Liberia’s oil discovery is so overwhelming and no doubt those expectations need to be managed to avoid looming distrust from the citizens about government’s commitment to judiciously use the revenue expected from the potential oil discovery.

Owing to the history of how revenue from Natural Resources has been used and how the wealth has been so unevenly distributed, there is a natural inclination for raised eyebrows about oil so as not to rekindle the nightmare that has been associated with handling natural resources revenue to the detriment of the often poverty-stricken masses.

Liberia is heavily endowed with abundance of natural resources, to include: Iron ore, gold, diamond, timber, and a rich vegetation and agriculture friendly environment that has hosted one of the world’s largest rubber plantations for years.

Amidst these natural endowments, Liberia has remained one of the poorest countries in the world. Past and successive governments have failed to employ or probably due to the lack of political will to translate these blessings into a reality for the average Liberian.
During the heydays of the civil war, rebel garrisons fought fiercely for control of resource-rich territories as a means of extracting resources like gold, diamonds and illegal timber trading. This practice helped to sustain most of the belligerent forces to perpetrate themselves in their sojourn of reigning terror on the ordinary citizens. The use of diamonds especially as a ‘curse-mineral ‘ during conflicts prompted the establishment of the Kimberley process-to avoid conflict diamonds otherwise referred to as ‘blood diamonds’ from going on the world market. Likewise, to avoid natural resources from becoming a curse inflicted on the people instead of a blessing in a form of a mineral paradox; the Extractive Industry Transparency Initiative came into being as a global effort to regulate the extraction of natural resources and to bring transparency into how revenue from resources are used.

Given this history of mismanagement and misallocation of revenue from resources, the anxiety and skepticism are understandable and just so high. The government has a momentous obligation to restore credibility unto itself that got eroded due to actions of past and successive regimes and to properly manage the constant growing expectations about the potential oil industry. The government needs to ensure that activities are not shrouded in secrecy as it had been the case with other resources. This is absolutely necessary to avoid problems in the foreseeable future.

By all accounts, the anxieties about the prospect of Oil are reaching an uncontrollable height. The euphoria is becoming almost contagious- from political parties, to civil society, to legislators to the towns and villages of Liberia.
For most of the ordinary Liberians, their imagination is gigantic; all their woes could be instantly solved with the oil discovery. Whilst the exploration is ongoing to determine the commercial quantity, the government must seize the moment to manage the expectations of Liberians about the oil industry. This must be done in an effective information dissemination campaign. Government must go beyond the traditional information arm – the Ministry of Information and ofcourse the PR arm of the National Oil Company of Liberia to begin a rigorous, robust and strategic information dissemination process.
If I may, let me outline five (5) key points that could form a part of managing the expectations:
1. Inform the entire citizenry on the current status of the oil exploration. People should be told clearly that a commercial quantity is yet to be discovered. This information should reach those in cape palmas, rivercess, and the unforgotten corners of Nimba, Bong, Rivergee, and all the other counties.
2. Inform the entire citizenry on the timeline for exploitation and when revenue from the oil sector should be expected.
3. Potential Liberians should now be sent for training in the Oil sector. Liberians should be the ones to take on professional roles in oil companies; hence their human resource capacities should be developed now.
4. Social development Plans should be clearly articulated and should hit every knock and corner of Liberia.
5. The role of the National Oil Company in the Oil Exploration & exploitation should be clear and concise.
The above points might just be a tip of the iceberg on how much information is needed to get out there and just what needs to be done along the way but they are very critical and cardinal. This trend will make it easier for government to manage the expectations that are building day by day so that people know what to expect and when. Attempts to subordinate this will leave citizens to feed on misinformation and manipulation about the sector which could incite the citizens against the government.
In the oil den, even a brother is not trusted, oil is so precious-no joke.

About the Author
Lekpele Nyamalon is a Liberian and lives in Monrovia. He can be reached @ nyamalon@yahoo.com

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