The Importance of Culture from the perspective of Poro Socieety

francis-portraitCulture and tradition is practiced in every region of the world, of which Africa is no exception. But what is amazing is that the belief pattern varies according to ethnicity and region. African tradition and religion-culture is an integral component of the African gradation school system that is been taught based on ethnicity and regional believe. Although there are variations in the practice, the core objective is that it serves as a basis for early childhood development and sets the standard for administrative and governing structures, especially for determining ascendency to power and enforcement of laws.  Although culture in every region of the world served as a core that ignite a value of unity and humanity in its members; however, the practice are not the same based on ethnic and region and Africa is a continent with over 33 countries with more than 350 different tribes each with  its own culture. With this in mind, this work will be more focused on the poro society cultural practice in Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea.

Poro is a male culture widely practiced among the Mende, Kissi, Lorma, Gola, Vai, Kpelle and Gbandi ethnic group in the West African sub-region. It’s an African traditional gradation school system that primarily focuses on training young men with the skill of administration, farming, hunting, fishing, caring and love. The teachers in this school don’t teach from a written manuscript instead, they orally present their lessons and the new initiates are expected to memorize.  All teachers of this school are very retentive and new initiates are graded based on their oral presentation and retentiveness. It’s a culture that teaches it members to be brave, truthful and secretive but to remain respectful to authorities and caring for humanity. The practice of poro society doesn’t involve in anyway a ritual of sacrificing human life.

But like all other cultural practices in the world, the practice of poro society has both advantages and disadvantages.  This has over the past 75-100 years kept the poro society intact and admirable among its members.

  1. Advantages of the practice of poro society include:
    • Build social network among members
    • Skill development in the area of domestic management
    • Submission to authorities and respect for each other
    • Fast thinking and retentiveness
    • Security mindedness-curious to know about who is around and what is happening around
    • Members are mostly active listeners and less talkers
    • Speaking the truth is a matter of must
    • Makes decision making easy and timely
    • Confidentiality and early self-actualization; taking on of early responsibilities
  2. Disadvantages of the practice of poro include:
    • Segregation-non initiates are in most cases not consulted and invited for meetings
    • Culture of secrecy-don’t want to discuss any issues with people who don’t have any major role to play in the planning  and execution processes of the issues
    • Reduction of one’s power-submissiveness to authorities

The combination of both the advantages and disadvantages has over the years kept the poro society sacred and has also helped to keep laws and order and stability in the society. Continue reading

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Why democracy is not working in Africa?: Liberia as a case study

 

francis-portraitUnder the principles of democracy, government everywhere has an inherent responsibility to provide an enhancement for its citizens to have access to basic services such as health care, education, shelter, food among others and to communicate important information to its citizens in a timely and consistent manner. But in Africa, the measure of democracy is only based on elections. My friend, election is not the end none the beginning of democracy. In-fact frequent elections have caused more problem in building the state than we think. Democracy is not guaranteed once nations’ social and economic institutions are not strengthen to the point that the citizens approach to issues of governance is coherence to developmental agenda of the country especially the involvement of the young people from the genesis of policy planning and implementation. Additionally, when these policies do not relate to the day-to-day economic wellbeing of the majorities of the citizens who have surrounded their rights for the purpose of maintaining peace, order and economic viability of their society, the revise might be brutish.

Even though election is one of the pillars upon which democracy is built, but if care is not giving in analysing elections related events, the nation will be in terror. We would argue that collective participation of people in structuring of power is at the core of all human rights- it is impossible to  uphold democracy, support and protect human rights without an understanding of tools to support citizens participation and commitments to those rights. In this way, democracy is foundational- to all rights ranging from the right to vote, to the right to health and education, to the right to free speech and the right to information. Timely access to information is one of the determinant factors to all of these and it has to be done through mature and independent media.

It’s globally known  that one who has power determined who get what and as such everyone want to be in the position of authority. Hence, people who want to be in this positions’ of trust will do anything within their reach to get to power and to remain in said authority. Therefore, the will craft a slogan that will resonate with the poor who are in majority and without better understanding of what the slogan is about, the poor majority will make sure that the progenitors of the slogan ascend to power.

But the irony is that these poor majorities when the power has already been given to someone or group of people who really do not understand how to adequately administer the affairs of the state can get frustrated and become violence at the end. Additionally, these people are always living in a visual circle of hope with less or no confidence in the government and their welfare and the future of their children keep retrogressing. In Liberia, for example, the same promise made by William V.S.Tubman in 1944 about improving the lives of the people of Liberia is the same platform many of our politicians are still moving on today. But the reality is that the lives of the people truly remain the same. Then how will democracy really work when the government keep crying of poor economics yet government officials lived in a very expensive and well-furnished compound; drive a car worth US$60000, send their children are in foreign countries for schooling; seek medical attention in developed countries such as the United States of America; take home for themselves a monthly salary of US$13000 plus other benefits. Whereas the electorates lived on less than US$1.00 per-day; died of common illness because of lack of quality medical services; their children are attending schools that lacked quality educational services and they walked for about 2 hours every day to access school; go to school on empty stomach; lived in shanty building and possessed only a pair of shoe and wear one suit for at least four days.

About the author:

Francis Egu Lansana studied Sociology and Political Science at the University of Liberia and he has over 10 years working experience with Non-Governmental Organization, Private Sector and Government. For further information, Francis can be reach through E-mail:fraela79@gmail.com and Phone #: +231886156316

 

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Education and thinking; A gateway to building a stronger nation

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I know someone is out there asking; “what is about education and thinking”?  My friend here I come to you with the answer that might not be the perfect one but it entails some details answers to your question. Education is the practice of sustaining learning, gaining of knowledge, talents, values, principles, and tradition and acquiring it involved different methods which include storytelling, dialogue, coaching, exercise, and fixed investigation. Education often takes place under the management of instructors, however, apprentices may also acquire it by themselves. Education can take place in formal or informal settings and any knowledge that has a formative effect on the way one thinks, feels, or acts may be considered educational.

Thinking can be considered as the act of generating thoughts. Proving that thought is an ultimate human activity accustomed to everyone, therefore, there is no commonly known covenant to details as to what thought is or how it can be generated.

The fact is that thought triggers many human activities and collaborations, ranging from its fleshly and abstract heritages, methods, and effects has remained an enduring objective for numerous disciplines.

Thinking provides the humans with the ability to sort logic of, construe, characterize, perfect the ecosphere and make forecasts about what they experience. Hence, it’s indeed helpful to  human as a guiding tool for setting up needs, goals, wishes and as tool for  making the agenda  in the pursue of accomplishing every dreams.

In every region of the world and with every human, development starts with thinking and education. When the citizens of a country become positively thoughtful, they will become patriotic and educated and will be adequately informed about their government. Thus, their ability to monitor, investigate and make the government functions adequately and more pro-actively will become easy and the affairs of the citizenry will be considered as a priority by the government. Adequate information sharing and quality education are very much cardinal to the growth of any country.

However, this need to be put into a context so that its fits into the cultural dimension of a region or country in-order that the people who are perceived to be the ultimate beneficiaries can easily understand the methodological approach. Once you connect a new idea to what someone previously know, learning will become easy.

When a leader of any country provides quality education and build policies that are developmental friendly, transformation and growth will force its way into that country. The way you think influences your behavior and the way you behavior helps to direct your destiny. One of the core reasons for Liberia’ 14 years war was triggered by our thought patterns.

To the citizens in general, self-esteem, integrity and personal accountability should be the core guide in the quest for quality education. Building a social capital is vital in actualizing development. More coordination and networking among different kinds of professionals and sector is the bed rock and the road map through which ideas can easily be cross pollinated and solution can be found to those problems that existed before.

About the Author:

Francis Egu Lansana is a civil society leader in Liberia. He works for Accountability Lab Liberia. His passion for community participation, governance and development is inspired by humanitarian groups and the world leaders who strive for global stability. He studied Sociology and Political Science at the University of Liberia. He has written several articles including his recent article on “Media for Change Makers” published by Peace Journalist Magazine in the USA and other media institutions like the bush chicken and  heritage news paper.

Contacts:

 

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Democracy is not a system that can be transferred  or imported. It can manifest only if it germinates and takes root. In order to have a thorough democratic function, each country needs to absorb democracy into its traditions, politics and its socio-economic situation. Democracy cannot be reduced only to a legal framework measuring only civil and political rights. The purpose of democracy is to empower every citizen to have a better living through the full improvement of economic, social and cultural rights.

Therefore for democracy to take effect, the citizens of the country must be knowledgeable of the laws governing them and they must have access to it and there must be an independent and mature judiciary system. There must also be freedom of expression through a mature and responsible press. The citizens must have the right to cautiously express themselves if they feel ambiguous of a situation; this means you have the right to say what you want to say but you will be responsible for any outcome of your action. Democracy is a system of government in which decision making is reached with the consent of the majority of the citizens but respecting the views of the minorities.

Elections are not the start nor the end to a democratic system of governance. Elections are just one of the systems through which citizens decide to change the leadership of a state.  And in order to reach to the peak of a democratic state, citizens need to build up the sense of nationalism, sense of belonging, social cohesion, and strong and independent political party system. Political parties need to be institutionalized, managed and controlled by people with vision.

Though election is very cardinal to building democratic institution but the outcome of an election does not guaranteed democracy instead legitimacy after election is one of the core pillar to measuring democracy. Legitimacy is the medium through which elected officials make sure that citizens are harness and willing to drive their leadership project.

A successful government is responsive and accessible to its citizens. Democracy is a very big  tree that provides a huge protection which encompasses; regular elections, freedom of speech, freedom of movement, access to quality education, access to quality and affordable health care system, equal security for all, equal justice for all, etc. And in-order for this tree to continue flourishing, the following chemical must be mixed and put into use simultaneously.

The chemicals include but not limited to:

  • Responsibility-people must always take charge of what they do under the practice and principles of democracy and good governance. Democracy doesn’t feed on speculation; if you have no proof, don’t make it public as the principles of democracy will force you to provide convincing evidence.
  • Transparency-the doctrine of democracy says “for the people and by the people” hence the people must be aware of what you do for them.
  • Accountability-give to the people what is for the people
  • Respecting the rule of laws-this served as light to guide our path in the exercise of democratic doctrine and as such should be observed
  • Answerability-you must be ready to answer for what you do. Telling the people the reasons for doing what you do is one of the major pillars that helps to do away with doubt.
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A Nation in Transition.

Innovation for change

Since the start of Liberia civil war in 1989 till now, the security sector of Liberia has been in the hands of foreign nationals thereby leaving the citizens without trust in the national security. Many persons during this time were exposed to active participation into war-fare given them an insight of military and gorilla tactic, increase human right abuse ranging from rape, child right abuse, force labor, gender based violence, murder, drugs abuse, etc.

 Though the United Nation and other internationals bodies contributed to bring the state of Liberia to where it’s today, yet there still remain many challenges. These challenges encompasses, reintegration of ex-combatant, re-orientation of children associated with fighting forces re-building trust between the ordinary citizens of Liberia and the national security sector, etc. Today, there are 1000s of disbanded arm forces of Liberia along with members of warring faction that exited who are unpleased with the…

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A Nation in Transition.

Since the start of Liberia civil war in 1989 till now, the security sector of Liberia has been in the hands of foreign nationals thereby leaving the citizens without trust in the national security. Many persons during this time were exposed to active participation into war-fare given them an insight of military and gorilla tactic, increase human right abuse ranging from rape, child right abuse, force labor, gender based violence, murder, drugs abuse, etc.

 Though the United Nation and other internationals bodies contributed to bring the state of Liberia to where it’s today, yet there still remain many challenges. These challenges encompasses, reintegration of ex-combatant, re-orientation of children associated with fighting forces re-building trust between the ordinary citizens of Liberia and the national security sector, etc. Today, there are 1000s of disbanded arm forces of Liberia along with members of warring faction that exited who are unpleased with the current political, socioeconomic and administrative occurrence within the country. Now that UNMIL who has been in control of the security sector mandate is coming to end and there will be a political transition in 2017 if nothing is done  to address these challenges the nation Liberia and its citizens remain in serious threat and the likelihood of the out-break of uncontrollable violence remains eminent.

 

Insecurity is a primary development challenge of our time and a significant barrier to the achievement of the development agenda especially the upholding of democracy.  These challenges are further complicated by the changing nature of conflict that involves multi-level, intra-state conflicts of extended duration and marked by recurring cycles of violent conflict. The fourteen-year civil conflict in Liberia has led to the increase of human rights abuse and introduced many Liberians into deviant behavior. During the war, most of Liberians experienced the worst situation of violence ranging from rape, sexual abuse, economic exploitation, torture, etc.  Women and children rights were abused on a daily basis without concrete actions taken as a deterrent to this inhumane act.

 

Though the Liberian civil conflict is over, yet the use of violence by many citizens of Liberia is still on the increase.  This is because of the weakness of the Liberian laws and the corruption that has engulfed the judicial system thereby leaving the citizens without trust in the government especially the judiciary and the security sector. It also can be attributed to the lack of proper security civic education outreach.

Besides, inadequate financing of long term programs that will address a comprehensive judiciary and security sector and improve judiciary/security citizen’s positive relationship, there has existed   the situation where violation has been considered to be acceptable practice in the minds of the people. Children are being denied their fundamental rights to education, participation in community social issues, healthcare, etc as most parents and community leaders are with the view that children are people without rights. Up to now, children are still been grossly abused most especially girls children who have been frequently rape and killed.

Since the end of the Liberia civil war in 2003, the security sector has been in the hands of foreign security personnel especially United Nation Mission In Liberia (UNMIL). This has created many weaknesses for the national security sectors thereby making the citizens of Liberia to not  have confidence in the national security.

The issue of crime is on the increase and the life of citizens is threatened. When you visit the principal streets of Monrovia today especially around central Monrovia, you will see many young Liberians considered as (car loaders) chasing taxi with the hope of snitching people valuables such as lap-top computer, smart phone, etc. Of recent, there was clash between the Liberia National Police and the commercial motor cyclists which resulted into burning of police station in Redlight community in the city of Paynesville. Many of similar violence has been occurring and it continue to occur in other parts of the country. During the out-break of Ebola in Liberia, when West Point one of the communities considered to be hardly hit by Ebola was quarantined, the residence of this  community has clash with the national security and it resulted into the loose of life and leaving several others injured and also led to damaging of properties.

Considering  UMIL draw down and the 2017 political transition, there is a need to closely work with chiefs, youth and other local authorities to identify those potential threat that are related to this transition and work with them in-order to avoid to re-occurrence of what the country went through during the 14 years civil war. Causes which led to the 14 years’ war such corruption, nepotism, etc are still perceived to be on the increase in the country. During 2005 general and presidential elections second round between Unity Party of Madam Ellen Johnson Sirleaf and Congress for Democratic Change of Georgw M. Weah, there was an election violence that resulted into damaging of properties and leaving many people injured. In 2011, the same act was repeated between the same parties. Understanding that Liberia is a post war country, many people were exposed to military knowledge and Liberia also lies between two post war countries; Cote D’voire and Sierra Leone which has placed Liberia in a highly risky security zone especially when UNMIL shall have pull out in conjunction with the 2017 political transition.

 

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Jugbeh Kekula, a nurse from Grand Bassa, wins Liberia’s First “Integrity Idol” competition

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francis@accountabilitylab.org; 0886-156-316; 0777-726-095

Jugbeh Kekula, a nurse from Grand Bassa, wins Liberia’s First “Integrity Idol” competition

Yesterday marked the end of the first Integrity Idol campaign in Liberia. The Accountability Lab asked citizens all over the country to nominate public servants that they feel embody the values of integrity, transparency and accountability. The team received over 1,400 nominations from every corner of Liberia. With a panel of independent experts, the Lab narrowed down the field to the top 5 nominees (see descriptions below). These nominees were filmed doing their jobs and talking about how they demonstrate integrity.

The videos (at www.integrityidol.org/liberia) were shown on LNTV and SKY TV last week; and audio versions were broadcasted on a number of radio stations including Radio LIB, LIB24, SKY Radio and others. Liberians were encouraged to vote for their “Integrity Idol” by watching the episodes and voting online on the website or by texting their choice to the free shortcode 8355.

The five finalists were:

  • Daniel Gbety Nyenkan – Maryland County; Court Clerk – Ministry of Justice
  • Jugbeh Tarplah Kekula – Grand Bassa County; Nurse -Ministry of Health
  • Seorweh Dlayee Jaycheneh – Maryland County; Prosecuting Attorney – Ministry of Justice
  • Oliver K. Kuson – Maryland County; District Education Officer- Ministry of Education
  • Comfort Nimely – Grand Kru County; Caretaker Ministry of Internal Affairs

Over 5,000 votes came in from all over Liberia and Jugbeh Kekula, a registered nurse at the Government Hospital, Buchanan City, Grand Bassa County, was crowned Liberia’s 2015 Integrity Idol with 51% of the vote.  UNMIL generously provided transport for the finalists from the south east of the country to Monrovia; and Paynesville City Corporation provided the city hall for the ceremony yesterday, December 14th. Upon learning that she was Liberia’s Integrity Idol, Jugbeh notes that she feels “fell very honored.” We should all practice honesty, we should be faithful, we should be sincere, we should do everything to the best of our ability.  We should do the right thing.  You may not be appreciated on the spot but as time goes by you will be rewarded as I have been today.

As grand prize winner, Jugbeh received a robe made from fine country cloth and a rooster.

Another incredible lady, Comfort Nimely, a caretaker at the Grand Kru County Commissioner’s Office came 2nd with 30% of the vote; with Oliver Kuson, a District Education Officer in Maryland finishing third with 8% of the vote.  However, the Lab’s Executive Director, Blair Glencorse, observed that “this is not about who won the most votes- there are many reasons why some finalists may have got more votes than others. The value of Integrity Idol is in the process, not the outcome.  It celebrates individuals, but those that serve the collective good.”

The event attracted representatives from a number of prominent government agencies, civil society organizations and international partners, with representatives from the British Embassy, iLab Liberia, Internews, the Business Start-Up Center, Action Aid and the National Democratic Institute capping each of the finalists with an Integrity Idol sash.

Entertainment was provided by Balawala Cultural Group and the Accountability Lab’s hip co Ambassador, Henry ‘Amaze’ Toe.  President Sirleaf was personally represented by her Minister of Public Works, W. Gyude Moore, who delivered the event’s keynote address.

The five finalists, who will remain in Monrovia for several days, also partook in a high level, invitation only dialogue with key national and international governance figures, co-sponsored by the National Democratic Institute.

 

 

 

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