By: Sam K Zinnah
On January 11, 2012 the news of Gbarpolu County Superintendent Boima Quaye Taweh and his deputy for development Rev. Emmanuel Kerkula’s dismissal spread around the world like a hurricane wind blowing sand in a Far East desert. Gbarpoluians in Gbarpolu, Liberia and other parts of the world are now looking forward to the constitution of a new team to join the newly elected law makers of the county.
Several Liberian news papers reported that the Gbarpolu County Superintendent and his deputy’s dismissal were as a result of misapplication of county development funds. With the schedule induction of the newly county elected law makers on January 16, 2012, there is a huge need for alternative county wide introspection in Gbarpolu County.
Ahead of the official announcement of the Superintendent and his deputy for development dismissal, report surfaced that the newly elected junior Senator Armah Zulu Jallah had already submitted the names of Mr. Isaac Varmah as acting Gbarpolu County Superintendent and Mr. Thomas Koiwu as development superintendent but sources closed to the internal affairs minister described the junior senator’s recommendation as a mere political joke. One source said the trend of political governance in Gbarpolu County needs to be seriously review by the incoming law makers.
Reliable sources have confirmed that the current and incoming law makers are faced with the dilemma of selecting the replacement of the outgoing Superintendent. According to the source, previous selections have been done differently. This time, the source note “we are not basing our selection on district preference, we will be choosing our next superintendent base on qualification and delivery capability”.
In my personal opinion, the main objective for political governance in post-war Gbarpolu County and Liberia should be to secure democracy by instilling checks and balances, which have been absent throughout the County and Liberia's long history. Such political system “in a way” would limit or reduce the abuse, misuse and misapplication of the county and public funds and to limit certain group of peoples’ extraordinary influence over the fate of the majority and by so doing provide the conditions for sustained growth and development.
Political democracy on the other hands has produced different definitions based on continent and form of Government. In matured democracies, political democracy is expressed and practiced in different ways because of systems put in place to track, monitor, identify perpetrators or violators of the system and provide punishment based on laws and rules put in place by the system. In Gbarpolu County and Liberia as a whole, the first task of political democracy should be to ensure equal and unhindered access for all to decentralized form of Government, which as history has shown had been the most contentious issue in Liberia’s political system that to a large extend continued to fueled the level and form of imperial leadership in Liberia.
Since the creation of the county development funds which is meant to decentralized government control over the level and process of development in Liberia, local leaders have either lacked a vision or the will to enforce whatsoever vision they had for the development of the county (ies).
In order to put some form of system in place to punish wrong doers, there’s still a need for constitutional reform. In my opinion, The objective of constitutional reform is the decentralization of state management - giving more power to the regions to determine local policies and development priorities, including such areas as education, social infrastructure and human development, as well as the power to implement these policies such as forming their own budgets, financing developmental policies, collecting certain types of taxes etc.. Likewise local authorities should be held accountable for what happen in their regions and they should be made less reliant on central authorities.
Local authorities should have a share in managing state assets on their territories and gaining incomes from it as well for financing projects. To avoid outright manipulation of local authorities, particularly Paramount, Clan and Town Chiefs, article 56, clause B of the 1986 Constitution be revisited and the power of the President to remove these local officials be transferred to a credible and well scrutinized National Legislature acting upon a specific number of signatures of the local population in the respective localities of these officials, certified by the national elections commission as valid. In this way, we might not have town chiefs coming to bring resolutions of support to high ranking government officials out of fear of losing their jobs.
Social transformation has been one of Liberia’s’ complex issues yet to be well analyzed by Liberian government or Liberian sociologists. From all indication, what has worked for one county or group of people have not work for the next. Triggered by the planetary crises, Liberia should be undergoing a whole-system of transformation of all aspects of it society, from consciousness to economy, from values to politics, from technology to organizations. Some of these forms could be used to transform cultural, society, and community in Liberia.
Liberia’s social aspect’s long-term goal should be to rebuild the country's damaged social infrastructure in such a way to serve as a stimulus for economic growth, as well as to provide opportunities for ex combatants, internally displaced persons and refugees to get involved in productive activities. In this respect, the things that matter most to ordinary Liberians would need to be addressed such as health care, infrastructure, education and jobs. One of the mistakes of the past was that development in Liberia was never people-centered. It was always centered literally speaking in the Executive Mansion & in the President’s inner circle’s pockets. This time, the government is allocating county development funds which audits have shown been skimmed into the pockets of either county officials and their cronies and the rest to the counties. Once these funds land in the local areas, the intended beneficiaries are left waiting in limbo. This explains why the people as a whole feels themselves estranged from the process of state governance and this in turn provide an inducement to the population to eventually take to violence as a means to realizing themselves when and as soon as this became possible.
The simple fact is that there will never be integration or healing the wounds in Liberia unless people begin to feel empowered, that they have a stake in the county or country's future. The Liberian legislature should pass a historic law that will comprehensively establish national development benchmarks that will serve as a blue print against which all current and future national development policy from one administration to the next in a consistent manner to ensure speedy and systematic development of Liberia.