Ellen Johnson Sirleaf has offered up Liberia as a possible location for the headquarters of the new United States Africa Command, also know as AFRICOM. The U.S. has yet to decide. Before long, a decision will be made.
Should Liberia be selected, we must by all means ensure that AFRICOM serves the interests of the masses rather than an individual or group. This is particularly important considering the administration’s misuse of the U.N. second largest force currently deployed in the country. This professional, highly-trained international army is being gradually reduced to Ellen’s private goon squad the muscle - to enforce her bankrupt policies.
With the best of intentions, the international community in the aftermath of the protracted war deemed it necessary to deploy a robust military force that would counter non-progressive elements bent on using violence to disrupt reconstruction; thereby creating space for a visionary leader to implement changes critical to the survival of this nation. Unfortunately, Madam Sirleaf has used the peacekeepers to manhandle university students and law-abiding citizens standing up for their rights after exhausting all available options.
The UNMIL’s presence in large part has contributed to Ellen’s refusal to reconsider her failed policies and entertain suggestions for sustained recovery. Rather than promote understanding and cooperation; she has spent more time away from the people, ignoring sensitive issues that could result to an implosion.
As Ellen endeavors to establish the all-time presidential flying record, tension between Mandingoes and other Nimbaians continues to fester. The crisis involving labor and management at both the Weala and Salala rubber plantations has reached the boiling point with threats of murdering expatriates. In Gbarpolu there have been consistent reports of “strange men” roaming the forest while violent crime, particularly armed rubbery, is overtaking the Capital. And, in addition to these threats, former combatants have been left to their own devices.
The lack of leadership is evident in all areas, including the treatment meted out to rape victims in River Gee as well as other parts of the country. These women have no protection under the law.
The country gradually is slipping into chaos. Mass discontent on a number of occasions has forced the shutdown of Gbarnga, Ganta, Kakata, as well as other key cities. And in the absence of a national food policy, the price of rice has risen well beyond the means of the average citizen. And after two years of governance this administration has yet to present a serious plan to address corruption. But why should Ellen concern herself with these issues when there are 13,000 troops standing by to muffle the citizens? Hope the UNMIL does not lose focus of its mission; protecting the people must remain its highest priority.
The recent killing of the Belgian national - a direct result of longstanding dispute between the Liberian Agriculture Company and the citizens of Grand Bassa took place during one of the president’s many trips abroad. Needless to say, this is bad public relations. It must be obvious by now the current strategy if there is one clearly is not working.
Likening Liberian to a building, Ellen continues to beautify the exterior while failing to recognize the bearing walls have extensive termite damage. Madam President, it’s high time you reassess this nation’s resources and utilize them effectively. Time is running out!
We are afraid should the U.S. accept Ellen’s offer to base the headquarters of AFRICOM in this country, she might interpret this as an endorsement of her failed policies; believing the command will support her administration at the expense of the Liberian people.
Therefore, it is imperative Liberians take time to understand AFRICOM’s mission in order to ensure that present as well as future generations reap maximum benefit should the U.S. decide to place the command’s headquarters here. For information regarding the newest of America’s five military commands log on to: http://www.africom.mil/index.asp
Unlike those who at the moment are surreptitiously establishing beachheads throughout the Continent for political and economic reasons; America is saying overtly with the formation of AFRICOM that Africa in the coming decades will play a significant role in the creation of wealth, influence and power globally; therefore it intends to be at the center of this evolving reality. To this end, the U.S Defense Department has consolidated the efforts of three existing headquarters commands into one that is focused solely on Africa.
Now that it’s possible this nation might host its headquarters, Liberians can take comfort in the fact that AFRICOM is accountable to the U.S. Congress; hence the American people. Its activities, therefore, must fall within strict guidelines. The same cannot be said of others with similar objectives.
Furthermore, AFRICOM’s mission includes “building security capacity and improving accountable governance; …strengthening stability and security, as well as dealing effectively with human rights abuses”. This said; Ellen’s endorsement of AFRICOM may have finally given us a shot at a war crimes court as well the infusion of resources to properly address inequality, land reform, rule of law, as well as other critical issues that are contributing to this nation’s instability. Without a commitment from the United States government that it will assist in resolving these pressing issues, accepting AFRICOM would be further dressing of this building’s exterior knowing full well the bearing walls are termite infested.
The Author: Mr. T. Q. Harris, Jr. is currently the General Chairman of Liberia Contemporees United Patriotic and Strong (Contemp UPS: www.contemporees.org) and a former vice presidential nominee. He can be reached by phone in the US at (562) 394-0285 or (979) 599-2295; in Liberia - (231) 652-4295, or email him at firstname.lastname@example.org
© 2007 by The Perspective
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