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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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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Where bad governance exist, citizens are denied certain basic social eminities such as transportation. Inhabitans of Monrovia srcambling over commecial vehicle in Monrovia.In the absent of priority in setting up developmental agenda, achieving the goal of this agenda is far from reach. Since Madam Sirleaf was elected into power in Liberia as the first female democratically elected president of Africa oldest republic, there has been conferences putting together a road map for better Liberia ranging from Poverty Reduction Strategy (PRS), Vision 2030, etc, yet nothing much is done. Every system in Liberia is getting worse. Common example is, commuters from sub-urban settlement around Monrovia are finding it very difficult to get to central Monrovia for business transaction, a place where 90% of the government ministries and agencies are located.

If you live or visit around  Monrovia city sub-burb specifically Duala on the Bushrod Island, Gardnerville, Paynesville and Old Road you will realized that bad governance in Liberia has denied the citizens of Liberia the right from some basic social services such as transportation. Life is getting difficult day-by-day. Liberians are tired of empty promises said some college graduates whose spent their days to coffee shops in Monrovia not because they are without skill but because there is or are no space  for them to practice what they know.

Education in Liberia is like a waste because there is no system set for placing people on job based on what he/she knows. In fact getting job in Liberia doesn’t depend on what you know but “who know you”. The youth stressed. If you look around the streets of Monrovia today, you will realize that many young people in the streets are either selling or riding motor cycle. This is because they are not seeing actual transformation in the lives of their peers who have gone through the walls of academic institutions. As such the value or enthusiasm for quality education is dropping in Liberia.

University of Liberia, the oldest institution of higher learning in West Africa and the state only own institution of higher learning in Liberia is not among the first 100 ranked Universities in West Africa.  Yet, Madam Sirleaf whom majorities of Liberians voted because of her academic profile, instead of building the medium to give quality to the nation educational system, she condemned it by saying “the educational system of Liberia is a mess”.  We accept your condemnation Madam president. Yet we want to know your role as a head of the state in cleaning the “mess” you mentioned. A leader most condemn and recommend way forward.

Majorities of Liberians in Liberia today are like refugees in their own country. To afford daily meals is imaginable as the streets of Monrovia is getting flooded with petty traders whose income can feed them for only a day. Food prices are sky rocketing day-by-day, rise in school feels are not to be over emphasis and access to quality medical care for 98% of Liberians in Liberia is out of reach.

Judicial is a central pillar for building democratic state, yet this institution is no more trusted proven by many  inhabitants of Monrovia/Liberia always using violence to attain justice for themselves, read here .  Also it is noticed that  a good number of the state security personnel are in the service just for mere job seek but not for the protection of the state as their code of conduct says through the oath of allegiance.  This is evidence by  police corruption according to Transparency International Index report2014.

A member of the house of legislature will prefer to ride a car value at US$40000 while his or her constituency is without a clinic or a high school yet they claimed of been working in the interest of the masses.  Police are without proper uniform yet the directors of police are riding US$ 40000 worth of vehicle. Boarders are without proper security, even though polices are find in every street corners of Monrovia, immigration cars with the inscription “Boarder Patrol” can been seeing plying the streets of Monrovia there by leaving boarder entries without security.

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KoC 4th Round

 

Introduction

 

The Accountability Lab is an incubator for the world’s most creative accountability ideas. The team works with innovative people and organizations in Liberia to develop tools- and the communities around them- that can make power-holders more responsible. The Lab supports almost a dozen imaginative projects around the country, with a focus on youth and sustainability. We also strive to set a radicalexampleof transparency and integrity with our own operations; and ensure monitoring is fitted to context. The Lab has won several awards for its work in Africa and Asia and for the impact that this approach has had on the larger accountability agenda.

 

Concept

 

Sport is one of the medium that pull people of all sector together, based on this, Accountability lab has chosen it to help spread the message of Accountability and Anti-corruption message to the young people of Liberia.

 

On Saturday May 3rd, 2014, the Accountability lab had its fourth session of the Kick out Corruption (KoC) sport outreach in Whein Town Community, Paynesville. The event that has over 150 persons participating directly and directly was used to educate the participants about Corruption, Cheating, Favoritism, Nepotism, Bribery, etc.

Mr. Gborboe T. Gblinwon (simply known as coach Gborboe) presented the event like this;

Knowing that Accountability serves as driving force for sustaining developmental agenda, needs to be preach in all sectors. Upon this, when I heard about Accountability lab and the work they do, I thought to myself if I could fit into any of the program. Then I answer it myself by saying YES.

So I went to the office and I said I’m a coach and I want to work with your organization, but the concern to them (Accountability lab) was “How”.

I told them that sport is one of the tools that has the power of breaking all barriers and young people love it, using it to propagate the message of Accountability will help to easily spread the message you are preaching. So I was given the first chance to have it organize at the Tubman High School on 12th Street.

 

I am only trying to tell this story to let you know that what you are doing here today is very important and it has the power to change the story of Liberia into a positive situation.  I also want you to know that   unaccountability issues we are crying with in our Country today start from us. Corruption is everywhere and today we will interact with you about corruption in sport (football).

 

Response

During the first round were the referee was favoring one team, this were their comments;

Coach Gborboe. What is strange about this match and how do you feel?

 

  • Torkpo Kollie, I really felt bad because the referee was never balance, I mean he was refereeing in favor of one team. I almost decided to leave the game. This game is marked with serious corruption and it is  full of cheating
  • Morris Kpahn, I was very happy about the game because everything was in my favor.

On the overall level, the first round of the exercise created serious tension in the game that if we were not fast to have stop the game, it would have resulted into a violent.

Having heard their view Francis Lansana, Accountability lab representative on the field, told them that this is what corruption does. It will make you to feel that you are the best person and on the other hand, it will make you feel like you don’t know anything. Corruption is one of the forces that drive away development. It is an agent that breed violence, you saw what you were doing among yourself.

The skill we have come to give you today is to train you in the fight against corruption with the use of nonviolence approach. Those whom the referee was blowing in their favor thought this is one of the best referee in Liberia and as such want him to continue refereeing. Now that we are going for the second round, let watch and see and then you will compared the first with the second round.

 

At the end of the second round, we again asked them for their view and this what they have to say;

  • Kollie Mulbah, for me I think such exercise should be organize among CSA members (Ministries and agencies). It will help to cut down corruption in the government. If possible we should invite the president. From the starting this morning, some of us thought that this exercise is just a mere exercise, but now we have understood it to be very much educative.
  • Torkpo Kollie, during the first round, the referee was against me I was feeling very bad but in the second round I know that the referee was in my favor so I am very happy. Although I am happy, but have now understood why Liberia is not develop. I want this exercise to be organize between counties. It will help to involve many persons because all of the county authorities will attend the game and the education or Accountability message will help to change the minds of some the authorities. Doing this will help to change Liberia.
  • I was feeling bad because the game went against me during this second round. Now that I have understood that cheating hurt, I don’t want this practice to be limited to us rather it must go to the various high schools.

The second round brought back the friendship that got clash during the first round and they all were happy and promised to preach accountability message down to their various homes.

 

The third and final cycle in which the two teams wore the same Jessy brought about more understanding into the exercise. They stressed that it is this pattern that is under mining the development agenda of Liberia. Today we have realized that every fabric of our society needs accountability and obtaining accountability doesn’t necessary have to start from the top. Everybody need to do something.

 

Thank you for taking part in this exercise, we all have different skill compounded with what we have acquired today,  I hope we can now wisely use the lessons learned  to help preach the message of accountability and continue the fight against corruption, Said Francis.

 

 

 

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  Accountability Lab is an independent, “for-purpose” organization that works to harness the creativity of citizens in developing countries to hold power-holders accountable. The Lab provides financial, training, and networking support to social entrepreneurs with innovative ideas related to anti-corruption and accountability. By emphasizing civil society partnerships, technology, and youth engagement, the Lab strives to pioneer a new approach to international development that addresses the causes rather than the symptoms of poverty, inequality, and instability. For more information about the Accountability Lab, visit  HYPERLINK “http://www.accountabilitylab.org/ http://www.bloggingonaccountability.org  and follow the organization on  HYPERLINK “https://twitter.com/AccountLab” \t “_blank” Twitter and  HYPERLINK “https://www.facebook.com/accountabilitylab?ref=hl” \t “_blank” Facebook.

ABOUT THE FILM FESTIVAL

KARL MAX ONCE SAID “NO INVESTIGATION, NO TALKING” BECAUSE THERE IS OR ARE NO EVIDENCE.

In the history of Liberia, there has always been a complained of in-equality, corruption, joblessness among others especially within the youthful communities. In the wake of all the numerous complained and in-order to prove the realities in the various claims, the Accountability Lab Liberia office chose to train young Liberians in the areas of film making & editing and documentary. One of the basic facts for this is to enable those who acquired the knowledge to use their talent to investigate and come out with facts/ evidence and to contact relevant authorities for way forward. In light of the above mentioned, the accountability Lab Liberia office hosted the world first accountability film festival. The films were done by students who went through five weeks of accountability film training and the showcase of this came to past on September 17, 2013 with more than 60 persons attending the festival. Accountability Lab partnered with iLab to have this day a success at iLab 20th street Sinkor office in Monrovia. The films by their titles and the realities in them, made participants to share tears and had made many of those who weakness the show to stage another program so as to enable many persons to see and develop different approach in solving the unaccountability problems in Liberia. The film festival served as an eye opener for donor, Liberians, other nationals living in Liberia and the world to see the actual problems of Liberia. The films did not only speak ordinarily but gave clear evidence of true situations in Liberia. Before now, people and institutions have been discussing Liberia without facts or proving evidence but Accountability film festival spoke to the heart, soul and minds Liberian. The turn out and the comments from the viewers of the film tells that Liberians have long been waiting for the way forward. Such a project according to comments from attendees should not only be limited to Monrovia, the capital of Liberia rather it needs to go to every corner of the Country . It should be one of the best priority in all of the civil society’s projects in the fight against corruption, in-equality, nepotism and other ills in the Liberian society. It is the best tools for building good governance not only in Liberia but in the world at large. This medium is not about attacking individuals rather the situations and because of the quality and the truthfulness that was presented during this festival, many individuals, civil society organizations and government officers are becoming conscious of what they do and what they say. In the eyes of an ordinary Liberians, it is like the messiah has come because the Accountability Lab film festival lay bare the true secret of how Liberia is been kept from development. It also made the citizens and other nationals residing in Liberia to see the unaccountability in the leaders of Liberia. Every other time they claimed more progress but the film festival has built even in the minds of donors the consciousness on how their funding have been miss-used in Liberia, viewers lamented.

NEXT STEP FOR FEMALE CAPACITY IN FILM MAKING/DOCUMENTARY

 ImageImageImageWe at the Accountability Lab are grateful to be able to support young Liberian filmmakers, who we believe have great potential to mobilize their communities for change. We hope to work towards building a nation of accountable leaders who can use their power in responsible ways for the benefit of society. In this light, we have established a film school to empower young people with both documentary filmmaking skills as well as understanding of accountability issues. The school is focused on helping them to produce short, low-budget documentary films on accountability issues in their communities. In September, we hosted the country’s first Accountability Film Festival, at which Dorcas Pewee was awarded the People’s Choice Award for her film “Say It” on the sexual exploitation of women. We are now registering the Liberian Film Institute as an independent, Liberian-run organization to take this work forwards under the leadership of Divine Anderson. We would also like to let you know that we are launching a film school session in January, specifically for Liberian girls and women. Our goal is to empower women and girls to be self-reliant, give them a voice to share their stories, and to provide them with the tools to promote accountability in Liberia in a realistic and engaging way.

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