BY HONORABLE JOSEPH NYUMA BOAKAI
FORMER VICE PRESIDENT OF THE REPUBLIC OF LIBERIA AND STANDARD BEARER OF THE UNITY PARTY ON THE OCCASION OF THE OBSERVANCE OF HIS 76TH NATAL DAY NOVEMBER 30, 2020
Members of the Boakai Family,
Relatives and Friends,
My Fellow Liberians:
On this joyous occasion of my 76th Birthday, I lift up my voice in praise and thanksgiving to Almighty God for His grace and bounteous blessings showered upon me over the years. I must also pay deserving tribute to my dear wife and lifetime supportive partner, Kartumu, for standing by me throughout the years. We have together been blessed with and raised wonderful children who have all made us proud.
I extend my gratitude and deep appreciation to the Liberian people for the overwhelming support they have given me in my political sojourn.
A birthday celebration conjures up moods of joy and reflection. I, therefore, ask your indulgence as I reflect on my years past, the state of affairs of our country today and what I see as troubling trends in our body politic.
I look back on my life’s rugged journey from a humble beginning in Worsonga, Lofa County, to the lofty heights of Capitol Hill as Vice President of the Republic of Liberia. I made stops along the route by way of Firestone where I briefly became a rubber tapper and moved on to Monrovia to further my education. I then went on to the Liberian Produce Marketing Corporation (LPMC) rising to the very pinnacle as Managing Director. There I realized the power of people-centred policies and their impact on the lives of ordinary farmers with sustained and reliable service delivery.
From LPMC I was appointed Minister of Agriculture with responsibility for the agricultural program of the entire country. Later, following the induction of the first interim government, I was given the portfolio of Managing Director of the Liberian Petroleum Refining Company (LPRC) where we were entrusted with the duty of ensuring a constant supply of petroleum on the market to keep the wheels of industry running.
It is clear therefore that mine was not a rise from sudden flight to the top but one propelled by character forged from toil, discipline, determination and commitment. I have travelled throughout the length and breadth of this country. I have seen the needs of our people. I know what the country needs.
This is why I felt it was an honour and privilege to serve the Liberian people as Vice President to President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf for 12 years. The Unity Party under her leadership could have decided to change course after six years but we determined to move ahead for the full two terms.
We inherited a country not only broken by civil war but one that had been turned into a failed state and an international pariah. We endeavoured, with scant resources, to restore basic social services, rebuild infrastructure and re-establish local administration and the rule of law throughout the country. We quickly gained the confidence of development partners and major lending institutions to be able to negotiate the write off our massive debt and restore the country’s creditworthiness.
The Unity Party led government under the Sirleaf-Boakai Team took our country from a relief and emergency assistance case to recovery and set it firmly on the path to sustainable development in record time. Liberia took its rightful place of respectability and honor within the comity of nations. The national budget rose from a mere US$85 million in 2006 to more than US$500 million by the end of the first term. The economy grew at a whopping rate of nearly 10% annually and was only slowed by the global financial crisis of 2008-2009.
With the proper mix of fiscal and monetary policies, the economy had begun to return to the growth trajectory when the deadly Ebola Pandemic hit which nearly brought all economic activities in the country to a halt. Again we worked assiduously with our development partners and mobilized the entire international community to prevent total collapse.
Above all, we maintained the peace uninterrupted for 12 years and kept the country united.
I am therefore bemused when critics say the Sirleaf-led government in 12 years did NOTHING! Some of us are very gullible and I believe many are blind. Former President Sirleaf and I are very proud of our record of lifting Liberia, elevating her image in the comity of nations, and raising our fellow citizens from abject poverty to an appreciable standing of living after 14 years of a brutal and most devastating civil war.
I often wonder if these critics ever stop to imagine what would have happened to this country had the CDC government taken over the leadership of this country in 2006, judging from their record from 2018? I am convinced the situation would have been too ghastly to contemplate. Let us take stock of the CDC government and Mr. Weah’s leadership:
Governance and the Rule of Law
Liberia began to suffer rapid setback by poor GOVERNANCE and an assault on the Constitution immediately Mr. Weah and the CDC came to power in 2018. Mr. Weah and his officials refused to declare their assets after taking office, in keeping with the law. Mr. Weah himself only did so surreptitiously under threat of protest by the University students to disrupt the July 26 celebrations that year and rumours began to circulate wildly that he and his officials were allegedly using public resources to amass private wealth. Up to date, the Liberian people still do not know the veracity of Mr. Weah’s asset declaration or how many of his officials have declared their assets.
Mr. Weah’s government has failed so far to give a proper account of the missing L$16 billion (US$104 million) and the US$25 million allocated to mop up excess Liberian Dollars on the market, which prompted massive public protests in July 2019 and January 2020, respectively.
Diplomatic representatives of our development partners and international organizations accredited to Liberia have had to take the unusual step of issuing a public rebuke of the Weah government’s misapplication of their taxpayers’ funds intended for development projects.
The Weah Government instituted a bogus impeachment proceeding to remove Associate Justice Kabinah Ja’neh from the Supreme Court Bench because of his unwavering commitment to the law. That action has now become an embarrassment for Liberia and has earned us the unequivocal scolding by the ECOWAS Court.
The Weah government has endeavoured to turn the Liberian National Police into a partisan unit to be used against perceived enemies, despite the fact that the LNP was trained as a professional force by UNMIL financed by donors’ money as part of the Security Sector Reform; allegations are rife that the CDC is in the business of training private militias and assassins to target opposition figures and intimidate opponents. There has been a spree of mysterious killings and disappearances, most of which the Police has yet to investigate or submit credible reports. Liberians now live in fear and insecurity.
Mr. Weah has sought to undermine integrity institutions that we painstakingly set up to fight CORRUPTION; he has filled these institutions with cronies to render them ineffective.
The Mid-Term Senatorial Elections
The foundation for any credible, transparent and accountable elections is a CLEAN Voters Roll. We went to court over this very issue during the 2017 elections for which the Supreme Court enjoined the National Elections Commission to institute appropriate remedial action to clean up. As we approach the December 8 Mid-Term Senatorial Elections, political parties have not been informed about the STATUS of the Voters Roll, a matter of compelling necessity. I, therefore, call on all Political Parties, the Churches, Civil Society Organizations, Professional Groups, and the Liberian people to join in demanding and ensuring that the Voters Roll is CLEANED prior to the elections.
We do not support the Government decision to collapse the eight (8) proposed amendments to the Constitution adopted by the Legislature into three (3) proposals. We equally DO NOT SUPPORT the holding of the Referendum during the Mid-Term Senatorial Elections, especially because no MASSIVE awareness campaigns have been undertaken by the Government or the NEC to educate the citizens about the ramifications of these amendments to our Constitution. Most people in some parts of the country DO NOT even know that they will be voting on a Referendum.
I associate the present economic hardship in the country not only with the POOR management of our Fiscal and Monetary policies but also with a high degree of PUBLIC CORRUPTION, fueled by an impetuous level of GREED by most of our leaders in the three branches of our government. Today, we are experiencing the precipitating fall in the value of the Liberian Dollar vis-à-vis the US Dollar without regulatory actions to curtail high prices in the marketplace, further affecting the cost of living. To say the least, our people are suffering. Most of our people cannot provide food for their families, pay school fees for their children, and meet other basic necessities of life.
My Fellow Liberians: Today, the majority of our people live in FEAR! I believe Liberians have not experienced this high level of fear as they do now, since the end of our civil war. Fear and insecurity are palpable throughout the country. This can be attributed to the unexplained deaths of government officials, extra-judicial killings, announced Police investigations with no disclosed FINDINGS, and the police-state tactics being used to deprive PEACEFUL citizens their constitutional rights to assemble and petition Government of their grievances.
Impunity reigns supreme in the land which could embolden others to engage in similar acts for self-defense. I call on the Government for speedy investigation and prosecution of all crimes in order to alleviate the situation of fear and uncertainty in the country.
Our hard-earned PEACE remains FRAGILE because today the Weah-led Government seems to place the responsibility of maintaining and sustaining of PEACE on the citizens, especially the Opposition, rather than on itself. The Government seems to forget that its ACTIVITIES and INACTIONS also threaten the peace. Our leaders FAIL to understand that there can be no sustained peace, economic growth, and social development if it is not GROUNDED on adhering to our Constitution, respecting the rights of citizens, supporting an independent Judiciary, providing Security, and fostering the Rule of Law.
Liberia is in a DIRE STATE OF DECLINE due to the blatant disregard for the sanctity of life; serious human rights violations and crimes against humanity; lack of respect for the rule of law; the increasing rampant corruption; and the staggering decline in the living standards of the Liberian people.
I DO NOT BELIEVE that the next three years under this government will show any improvement and that things will only get WORST for the state of the nation in general.
I, therefore, wish to state categorically that this CDC-LED GOVERNMENT HAS THUS FAR FAILED THE LIBERIAN PEOPLE!!!
I welcome the Decision of the ECOWAS Court in the case involving the illegal and politically-motivated IMPEACHMENT of His Honor Kabineh M. Ja’neh, former Associate Justice of the Supreme Court, Republic of Liberia and urge the government to honour its obligations under the ECOWAS Charter and Protocols as a founding member of this all-important regional organization. It was ECOWAS that first came to the aid of Liberians when the country was tearing itself apart during the civil war.
We urge all our development partners and the international community to take a cue from these unsavoury developments in Liberia as early warning signals.
Finally, during the 2017 Elections campaign, I described my role as Vice President to be like a ‘parked race car.’ Today, I want to say clearly that I AM NO LONGER A PARKED RACE CAR. I AM ALERT, IN GOOD HEALTH, READY TO PARTICIPATE, AND WIN ANY RACE I FIND MYSELF IN GOING FORWARD!
Thank you. And God bless Liberia!
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