Sunday, January 24, 2010

The risk of impunity and Corruption in Liberia

By: Sam K. Zinnah

(Clayton, Delaware) As the much anticipated 2011 elections draws near in Liberia, works are beginning to come to lights from clever politicians. Those works will either serve as political points or political bullets for those smart politicians. Recently, a bill to repeal the more than seven year old TRC act was submitted to the Liberian Senate by Grand Gedeh County Senior Senator Isaac Nyenabo. Although Senator Nyenabo will not be contesting the 2011 senatorial race, his clever bill presentation may be highly influenced by interest to protect his alleged war criminal colleagues and later his own interest after his nine year tenure.
The questions that swing the chest of many Liberians and friends of Liberia are “while is this outspoken Senator just presenting this bill now when the TRC act is nearly a decade old? Wasn’t this Senator (Nyenabo) amongst the 30 or more senators that were swear into office in 2006? Is the Senator trying to design a clever impunity exit for him and his alleged war criminal colleagues? Is Senator Nyenabo representing his own interest or the interest of Grand Gedeh in the Liberian Senate?
The essence of representation is for the representative to express the view of those represented but this has not been in the case of Liberia. Political and self interests have been some of the biggest problems in the Liberian legislature thus leading serious political and patriotic sanity at the capital building in Liberia. Sanity ‘in this case’ is a matter of appropriateness of response to a choice between two choices of distinct interests, the first, a merely habituated sense, “certainty” and the second, reasons the lies within the domain of those efficiently universal principles which exist beyond the direct reach of human sense of imagination. To understand and investigate the reason(s) for writing a hatchet bill of impunity by a law marker, Liberian electorates must begin to evaluate the credential of people running for elected positions in their constituencies. Election of candidate(s) should be based on patriotism, accountability, moral and transparency in order to curtail the culture of impunity and the danger of running into yet another round of chaos in Liberia. Today, a commercial politician like Isaac Nyenabo is writing clever hatchet bill of impunity that would price tag his political journey but considering the level of electorate education in his country or county (constituent), Nyanebo might be rewarded ‘for contributing to the slaughtering of half a million Liberians during the fourteen year civil war’ by being re-elected to the post of Senior Senator for Grand Gedeh County.
There is sometime a tendency to forget or over look what should have been recalled as the plain fact of occurrences. Obviously, the end of alleged war criminals might be narrowing comes 2011 elections. The likes of Senators Price Johnson, Adolphus Dolo, Isaac Nyenabo, Saah Gbolee and other human hawks who shares intimacy through political war criminal acquaintance seems to be the covert hands behind this clever hatchet bill of impunity. They are all a case of a ‘zombie-like’ synthetic personality taken over by psychopathological equivalent of the body snatchers from outer space waiting to swallow any bills that will set them free even if it is at the detriment of the country.
Imagine the commonly heard expression both at home and in the Diaspora today, “alleged war criminals must face the full weight of the law”. Senator Nyenabo and his partners in crime may not feel that the concern of the Liberian people should be raised to address the impunity problems in Liberia. The culture of impunity may not be the direct factor of concern to Senator Nyenabo and his partners in crime but they are of decisive importance to Liberia in the struggle to define a solution to the culture of impunity in Liberia. Senator Nyenabo’s continues quotation of portion of the 1986 constitution as his defense for his clever hatchet bill of impunity is not a matter of facts but simply a ‘feeling’ which does not have any legitimate place in the efforts to address the relevant risk of impunity in Liberia. Nyenabo’s kind of emotion-driven is a major factor of mass political behavior motivated by a pathological use of the “1986 constitution of the Republic of Liberia” as substitute for rational behavior. The notion of bill to repeal the TRC act is distinct from reasoning which is a fatal contradiction in terms of the essence of his job as a law maker. This expresses a large overdose of feeling but virtually no exercise of reasoning.
Senator Nyenabo and his alleged war criminals watched many Liberians perish of hunger, especially those of tender years while they relaxed or hustle for political positions at the expense of the very people they victimized. Mothers “with scarcely strength to support themselves” carried their famished and malnourished infants in their arms and died with them. Many felt victim to stray bullets, cold, whilst others to intense thirst while the (now) Senator carry his body guards for his personal protection. Today, Isaac Nyenabo and others who overtly violated the rights of other Liberians are walking the streets of Liberia in grand style while their victims roam the streets in search of daily bread. They are referred to as “Senators and Representatives”. They have even become more corrupt to the extent that they did not see the TRC act that has existed since 2003 (three years before they were elected). It’s a disgrace to see a Senior Senator presenting a bill to repeal an act that is almost eight years old.

Risk of Corruption

Corruption increases the marginalization of minority groups including women. It leads to contestation of the state’s monopoly of force or radicalizes opposition to the State and most times contributing to conflict, destabilization and failed State (UNDP). According to the UN, most recovery programs’ aim at restoration of peace and stabilizing the economy through sustainable economic programs.
Corruption posts a threat to these efforts hence the need to deal with corruption from the onset of recovery is vital. In recent years, there has been increasing attention to the effects of corruption in post conflict and recovery environments. Various studious (by; UNDP, World Bank & Transparency international) confirm that about half of the post war countries revert to war within one decade and corruption can be considered as one of the major factors that contribute to fuelling a conflict and the return to violent. Therefore, overcoming corruption in post-war Liberia is essential to restoring the confident of Liberians at home and abroad.
Post conflict reconstruction is normally characterized by large scale injection of resources in an environment where the legal and institutional frameworks are weak, fragile or inexistent and the expertise scarce. Detection of crime is very low and enforcement difficult or ignored. The surviving governing structures are weak with financial, fiscal, administrative and regulatory capacities and limited oversight is informal and sometimes criminalized sectors. These institutions are often transitional in nature, carrying very little or no legitimacy, and therefore prone to capture by the privilege elite with access to power and resources. This lack of popular participation in reconstruction is vulnerable to hijacking by local elites, which leads to corruption, waste of available and scarce resources, lack of maintenance and monitoring by beneficiaries and eventual rejection in the long run.
The main purpose of zero tolerance on corruption in Liberia should be to assist post conflict Liberia in developing anti-corruption strategies. These strategies will be used to develop programs on anti-corruption in post-war Liberia and recovery process which will be a tool that will assist affected areas.
Development will never come to Liberia if Liberians continue to rely on foreign companies to do everything. History attests to this. The Indian, Ghanaian, Nigerian and Lebanese business communities in Liberia have never productively participated in Liberia's development. In fact, they have always tended to set themselves apart from Liberia. It is now up to the government and people of Liberia to build-up the credibility to attract investors to boost the Liberian economy.

Monday, January 04, 2010

Liberia to benefit from France’s “orange” telecom

By: Sam K. Zinnah

Clayton, Delaware.
What appears to be the biggest technology turning point for Liberia seems to be underway as “Orange” one of the world’s leading telecommunications operators is set to link Liberia to Europe via broad band connection. Orange is the brand used by France telecom for it mobile network operator and it internet service provider. Orange is the world’s fifth largest telecom operator with over 189 million as of 2009 (
The lack of fast and reliable internet connection is amongst the hurdles faced by Liberia in the creation of dynamic 21st century economies. If Liberia is to catch up with the rest of the world in education, trade, and investment, its leaders has to encourage investment in the area of modern technology and broadband communication system. In recent years, work has begun on initiatives to connect eastern and southern Africa-the only major populated region (Africa) with the least broadband network of fiber optic cables- to each other and the rest of the world through high speed internet lines.
After observing the submarine cable lights up of Kenya by South Africa’s SEACOM in July of 2009, this author began wondering about the possibility of connecting Liberia via broadband to the rest of the world. In the efforts to establish the possibility, an inquiry email was send to Washington DC based telegraphy researcher Alan Mauldin. When asked whether South Africa’s SEACOM “the company that undertook the multi million dollars project to link Kenya via broadband would extend operation to Liberia? Mauldin said SEACOM only serve the east coast of Africa and has no plans of expanding to the West Coast of Africa, however, France telecom “Orange” is planning to construct the “Africa Coast to Europe, (ACE) cable that would link Liberia as well as Gabon, Cameron, Nigeria, Benin, Togo, Ghana, Cote de’ Voire, Sierra Leone, Guinea, Guinea Bissau, Senegal, Gambia, Cape Verde, Mauritania, Morocco and South Africa to Spin, Portugal, and France. According to Mauldin, Orange has not sign a contract with any equipment suppliers yet but the company is hoping to have this submarine cable project completed by 2011. If all works smoothly, Liberia will become a member of the global electronic community. Mauldin also disclosed that there might be terrestrial networks plan to link Liberia to other countries that have access to existing submarine cables or other planned West Coast cables such as main one or the West Africa Cable System (WACES).
Broadband cost more in Africa than anywhere else in the world. According to the World Bank, consumers in Africa spent the average of USD$366.00 each month on speeder internet access in 2006. Users in India, meanwhile, paid $44.00 per month for the same service.
Gauging by the incredible spread of cell-phone use in Liberia, there is plenty of encouragement to enhance the communication system that will yield more revenue for the Government at the affordable cost for almost every household in Liberia. Over the years, Liberia’s cell-phone market has expanded faster than anyone could ever imagine ten years ago thus contributing immensely to the growth of the Country’s economy.

Security implications
Internet and cell phone introduction in Liberia over the past years has been perhaps the most outstanding in the area of communication in Liberia but the open sale of subscriber identification module (SIM) card has some serious security risk that is yet to be addressed by both the cell phone companies and the Liberian government. As with every field, technology or communication has it own advantages and disadvantages but great magnitude of advantages usually out weights it disadvantages.
With the level of crime rate in Liberia and looking at Liberia’s post-conflict status, it is highly important to pass a law mandating GSM companies and future land line phone companies in Liberia to collect data (including but not limited to: names, address, photograph, next of kin) of subscribers. Such information or data should only be collected and store by the GSM company (ies) concern. It is technically dangerous to have unregistered and activated SIM cards sold in the streets of Liberia when criminals are already strategizing robbery on the daily basis.
The case of Keith Jubbah’s murder is a clear example. To date, government investigators are yet to establish the actual perpetrators of Jubbah’s murder. Had SIM card identity been in place, the callers to Star radio and other media institutions would have been exposed by now.