Rejoinder To: Commentary: AFRICOM: Ghana, Morocco, Others Say No to U.S. - Why Sirleaf Wants it Badly, written by J. Yanqui Zaza, and published by FrontPageAfrica


By R. Wesley Harmon

The Perspective
Atlanta, Georgia
July 17, 2007


The desire to criticize everything about anybody, at any given time, seems to be a character trait, or flaw, which permeates Liberian society. Almost every Liberian, with very few exceptions, considers himself expert at delineating the faults of others. More often than not the venomous manner and the haste with which criticism is spewed out, suggests that the author may not have taken time to do due diligence prior to his/her invective(s).

In J. Yanqui Zaza’s “AFRICOM: Ghana, Morocco, others say no to U.S. – Why Sirleaf Wants it Badly”, he asserts, “President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, in her eagerness to have the American security network (AFRICOM) established in Liberia, did not only violate Liberia’s Constitutional provision on consultation with the Legislative Branch, but also violated foreign diplomatic protocol.” He went on to say further, “While campaigning for AFRICOM, she did not consult with the Legislative Branch of government to explain why she is undertaking a major security decision, a violation of the Liberian Constitution?

Reference is herewith made to Article 57 of The Constitution of Liberia, which states, “The President shall have the power to conduct the foreign affairs of the Republic and in that connection he, is empowered to conclude treaties, conventions and similar international agreements with the concurrence of a majority of each House of the Legislature.” There is little or no ambiguity as to the spirit and intent of the provision. In other words Mr. Zaza, in matters of foreign policy of Liberia, the president has imminent domain. When the framework of a deal has been reached, then she is required to seek concurrence of the legislature; in which case they may either accept or reject the deal by voting for or against it. A learned man, of which Mr. Zaza is of very high caliber, would be expected to have done due diligence to determine what The Constitution has to say regarding such matters, prior to rendering judgment on the president’s effort to conduct the foreign policy of Liberia as she sees fit.

On the merits of the president’s desire to have “AFRICOM” based in Liberia, Mr. Zaza challenges the president to study or heed the examples of Ghana and Morocco. I daresay, the president has studied the example of both countries, and because her country, Liberia, has been found severely wanting, hence her desire to advocate the hosting of “AFRICOM”. Contrary to, what may be considered conventional African wisdom, everywhere America bases her command structures, rapid development has been the norm for those societies, and societies where they have been forced to leave, severe economic depression has been the consequence. The president very eloquently laid out her case for why she is pursuing this foreign policy direction, and why she feels this major shift in U.S. foreign policy could be a harbinger of great economic benefits for Africa. However, some of us are so busy seeing a half empty glass that we are sometimes blinded to the fact that the glass may also be half filled. In our haste to criticize, many have forgotten that it was America, and American installations which spurred the development and continued prosperity of Western Europe, and Asia after World War I and II. It is my opinion, and I guess by inference, the president’s also, that if they could do it for those regions of the world, they might just do the same for Africa, if given the chance.

The recognition then, as it still is today, (except among Liberians), is that reconstruction must follow the devastation that results from war. Reconstruction requires massive amounts of capital, of which Liberia has very little. What then is the president to do to advance the reconstruction of Liberia? If you ask the pundits, many postulate that the president should drastically reduce her foreign travels; others say she should consult the legislature on all and sundry prior to speaking to foreign leaders; yet others want her to incorporate the opinions and plans of every political party which participated in the past elections, into her agenda. The question I would like to ask is, if she did that, whose agenda would it be? Certainly it wouldn’t be the president’s.

I may be wrong, but I have not seen a single commendation from any of the opposition politicians, on the occasion of the agreement-in-principle, by the G-8 countries and others to cancel or waive Liberia’s outstanding bi-lateral debt of 3.5 billion dollars. I guess the president should have “consulted the legislature” prior to pleading and negotiating the removal of those debts. What about her visit to China, and China’s subsequent pledge to expend 25 million dollars to rebuild the University of Liberia infrastructure; including a modern sports stadium on the campus; or what about the ongoing restoration of electricity to Monrovia and some of its environs? What about the fact that she has produced a budgetary surplus within eighteen months of assuming the presidency? Just to name a few of her accomplishments within less than two years.

Is there anyone out there who thinks the president deserves “a little pat on the back?” Please step forward. So far all I have seen and heard are empty criticisms, sometimes coming from the mouths of individuals who were major players in previous administrations, and whose only claim to fame was that they tried, and more times than not, succeeded in being more corrupt than the administration before them. If I may add, these criticisms are usually devoid of any substantive ideas as to how to remedy the grave situation the country finds itself in.

Most Liberians seem to have forgotten the precarious state of affairs the country was in when this president assumed the mantle of leadership. If it were possible to locate anyone who had no idea of what had happened in Liberia over the past fifteen to twenty years, and that individual were exposed to the invectives that are being levied against this woman, the individual would believe that the president inherited a government that was properly staffed, and well functioning, and she proceeded to mess things up. That individual would be shocked to learn that in reality she is actually the president of what was considered a few months ago, by the international community, to be a failed state.

Opposition politicians refusing to honor the invitation of the president to dialogue, pretending to want to champion the cause of the Liberian populace, hurt the ongoing political dispensation that is developing in the country. Auditors, speaking off the cuff without an iota of proof to substantiate his claims, hurt the very hard won affection and goodwill this president has garnered within the international community, and threatens to reverse the gains.

I challenge every Liberian pundit to come up with meaningful suggestions on how the government can improve the livelihood of the Liberian people, and publish same in the same media that are now used to castigate the government. Remember the famous words of John F. Kennedy when he said, “Ask not what your country can do for you but rather what you can do for your country.

May Almighty God help us and save Liberia.
© 2007 by The Perspective

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