By Alfred P. B. Kiadii
It is now blatant even to the not too keen observers of Liberian politics that George Weah is a dangerous fraud and spiffing disaster. He has become a disgrace—a disgrace to our country, a disgrace to the people, and a disgrace to even the few persons who genuinely thought he could have propelled the country into greater heights. He is a hedonistic junkie choking on personal animus and lacking in political graces and pedigree to preside over a backward country, but yet he emerged victorious in an electoral process which was everything a hatchet register of fraudulence. He, along with the forces of ignorance and backwardness — the dangerous mob of the latest fad of intolerance—are plugging a knife in the Republic’s heart while lolloping in the soiled garment of jingoism and mobilizing primordial prejudices as a bulwark against progressive mobilizations that try to rescue the country. The more he stays at the helm of leadership — this spendthrift charlatan would never stop auctioning his saturated idiocy while his toxic failings are becoming unbridled for the Liberian public to see and the entire world stands in staggering shock at his fierce lack of ideas and political emptiness.
Some of us too well knew that this vanity king was not up to the task to manage a kitchen, let alone a war-torn nation haunted by the ghost of a devastating past and held hostage in layers of contradiction. What George Weah is doing to the country is precisely what the other short-sighted leaders before him did, although the vices vary in magnitude and immensity. The reactionary playbook is the same, but the leading figure is different. Not only that George Weah is bankrupt on ideas but also that his taste for material possessions coupled with his lust for unlimited pleasure always made him a veritable political degenerate who would be consumed by his own devices. Liberia has held many appalling distinctions regarding the sheer failure of leadership and the utter moral collapse of the society. George Weah is in a wretched pantheon alone, although he shares some pedigrees with certain horrible undesirables who preceded him and that misgoverned the country. Against this backdrop of economic collapse and political sclerosis, I venture to say that the fatherland has a leader who is a fop and barracked by a gaggle of flunkeys who themselves are irredeemable social degenerates, very short-sighted and unsuited for national leadership. It must have taken a novel rigged system to dole out this collection of offensive buffoons to our people. And the Liberian people have Ellen Johnson Sirleaf and her exploitative cabal to blame for allowing this plague to befall the nation and humiliate the dispossessed masses.
It is thus hard to imagine in the recent past of the homeland to see the most scandalous lowering of the bar of leadership and the outright contempt for the rule of law as it is with the tragi-comedy we have seen during the Weah administration. Here you have a pathetic scofflaw urinating on even the most facile convention of democratic pretensions. Like the Emperor in Hans Christian Andersen’s ‘Emperor’s New Clothes,’ Weah is basking in sartorial debauchery but is treated to the comforting lie of the inner circle elements of sadistic milquetoasts who refuse to explain to him he is messing up, fearing the gallows of excommunicating.
The Stagnation of democracy
Under the Weah regime, Liberia has bagged a new low. Its putrid smell has created deep fissures in the arena of governance. And its manifestations are creating severe problems for ordinary people and the whole of society. This new phenomenon is a new decline and the new decline is thus the stagnation of democracy. Under this condition, near independent apparatuses of the government have been emasculated of their vitality and hemmed in. Justice Ja’neh was one of the earlier human victims of this rampaging phenomenon. The defanging of the judiciary to play as a department in the executive branch of government, the hollowing out of the Anti-Corruption Commission and other anti-graft agencies say much about the menacing stagnation of democracy.
Theorising about the stagnation of democracy in Liberia will be a labour of pleasure I will undertake to explain its development, laws of motion, inherent contradictory and counteracting tendencies, dynamics, and how the working people and the vanguard of the oppressed can oppose it and carry through the struggle for genuine transformation. Further, I will highlight the social forces that have created and contributed to this rot. Based on hindsight, the succeeding paragraphs are an attempt to grapple with this phenomenon in anticipation of the thoroughgoing analysis I will do about it sometime shortly.
In Liberia, the Lone Star Republic, it is without question that the master class disallow the masses from dreaming. They have no time to sit and reflect on the future, including to bring their children up in a society of culture and human flourishing, as the nation is an excellent case in leadership deficit. The hoi polloi—that scum of society are vectors of abuse and social exclusion. They live with their children in squalid spaces, in spaces of contradiction, battling the invading swarm of rodents for survival. Some parents have become hapless spectators at the sight of the death of loved ones. With their faces emblazoned with grimaces and truckload of tears in their eyes while hunger and diseases take a toll on them. Any mention of dignity looks like an aberration. The battering ram of poverty, the dehumanization of mystery, and the implacable trail of misfortunes make the people veritable junkies of social alienation.
Looking at the drudgery and ugly realities of social dislocation—the Weah government is callous—and it displays its callous streak by unleashing suffering and destruction against the people. In its quest for unchecked power, it hollows out institutions of governance. The state has turned into a veritable terrain of accumulation for the container bourgeoisie. When professionals set out to perform the tasks for which they are paid—they are hounded and executed. GiftyLamah, Matthew Innis, Albert Peters, and George Fahnboto—their phantoms cry out for justice. Sadly, mysterious killings have become the de rigueur of the regime.
For almost three years, the defenceless masses of people have been opposing the regime and have developed appropriate epithets to describe the scoundrels and found alternative ways to imagine freedom. These people, despite their limitations, in the apt phrase of George Orwell, only want ‘to stay human’. But when the masses take to social media to express grief, they are attacked—with stratospheric increments in surcharges, intended to keep them in their place. The attacks against professionals, against the people, and progressive dissenters have taken a fever pitch and near-religious fanaticism — if not unleashing the battering ram of cyber-bullying and vulgarity, the regime reach for its useful idiots to inflict pain and violence on an already suffering people—while it sends its cutthroats to commit mayhem.
Not a day has passed without the new masters of the country unleashing bile and venom against the great masses of our people. They use the cudgel of power to stalk the masses, seize their future, and turned them into vectors of abuse. They have no answers to the big questions of governance but have mastered the act of resurrecting old fault lines and tribal cleavages. When the masses complain about hunger and the devastation of economic collapse, they are told to be patient while Weah throws a party for the clique. Patience for the masses, hedonism and profligate enjoyment for the bankrupt fop Weah and his motley collection of ridiculous sidekicks. The masses are everywhere in chains—the chains of domination, social exclusion, and inequalities are the crises they battle every day while their humanity is being assaulted.
This odious regime has evicted our people from the island of dignity and human flourishing. As a result, the Liberian people live in the tempestuous archipelago of dishonour. Our people cannot purchase essentials to lead lives of dignity and decency as they are brutalised by hardship. This social reality speaks not only to the moral bankruptcy of the government but highlights the crisis of political hegemony of the social order. The neo-colonial system that pushed African countries as dependencies for countries of the capitalist centres has also fuelled the intolerable scale of social desperation in the country. This asymmetrical relationship of dependency is being further exacerbated by the IMF which is working hand in gloves with the kakistocracy to impose the poison of austerity, cuts in social spending, and the further neoliberlisation of the economy in the service of international finance capital. The neoliberal manifestation has come full circle where the masses of the people are now paying for the crisis, while the political scumbags enjoy the spoils and suffer nothing. This sad state of affairs is capitalism at its finest in the global South.
In the introduction of her tour de force ‘The Shock Doctrine’ the left public intellectual and author in Naomi Klein enlightened us that neoliberal acolytes—the animate (the human adherents) and inanimate (IMF, World Bank, WTO) forces always see crisis, whether economic or a sort of force majeure as ‘an exciting market opportunity’ to roll out policy prospectus that under normal conditions would be rejected. She developed the coinage for this kind of fundamentalist capitalism: ‘disaster capitalism.’ Since the proposal for a New International Economic Order was rejected, and in the vortex of the third world debt crisis in the 1980s, the IMF has interacted with countries based on their poisonous stabilisation fiat which has done nothing to bring economic salvation to the oppressed peoples but opens up these economies for the most virulent form of exploitation by foreign monopoly capital from the triad.
Thus, the Liberian people live in an upside-down society. In this upside-down society, the forfeit of virtue is colossal, while vices roam the streets with impunity. Auditors suffer ghastly murder because honesty is a transgression, lack of scruples get coronation, while the government defecates on the people with no fear of backlash. The dammed will always remain the dammed—that stupidity of fatalism saturates the actions of Weah and his sidekicks. In this warped thinking, the place for the masses is exclusion, depravity, while the government exhibits an inbred addiction to plunder.
In the upside-down society, there is a mirage of luxury side by side the desert of human mystery. This awful condition reminds the poor about the permanent lot of debasement, as cars, decent life, mansions, fat bank accounts are only for the rich—the new masters of the country. While the human avalanche, the masses, are cut off from the luxuries of modern life. In this space of darkness, this space of contradictions, the defeated are the masses who are poverty treated as an incidental condition to amass wealth.
This outpouring of debasement makes the country the land of the living dead. Graveyards are all over the country. Deaths come for the suffering people as hospitals give up on curable illness. In this land of the walking dead, they have sanctioned the truth from being told. They chase out people who defy the odds to expose the paralysis because they refuse to assert that Liberia is a paradise. Perhaps Liberia is a paradise for the plundering elite, but not the masses of the people who are living on the scrap heap of society.
In this land of the walking dead, the people are fighting back to recover freedom and dignity at their peril. Even with everything thrown at them, they exhibit mad courage and relentless determination. When the criminal regime increases surcharges, the people defy the odds and recharge to continue to expose the bestiality of the government where the world stands in witness or find other means to articulate their discontentment. So, the local colour of the country is not only abuse, plunder, and oppression. It also highlights the people are not leaving their suffering to the chance of history. The story of the homeland is also a story of fight back, and resistance—of a people trapped in the mausoleum of frustration but yet have not given up hope. Even when the regime makes all efforts to sap them of energy, the masses reject that the dastard state of affairs would be their lot.
Montserrado County goes to the polls, so do the rest of the other counties. Fifteen seats are up for grabs. In liberal democratic paradigm, they call the people out once every four or six years to legitimize a state which produces and reproduces inequalities and creates conditions of alienation. In the quest for legitimacy, the state needs the so-called democratic votes to fill legislative seats at least that is the deafening leitmotif of liberal democracy — participation of the people in the democratic process while they are brutally excluded from participating in the economic realm as sovereign humanity but are relegated to the status of objects of exploitation. The exclusionary tendencies of this form of political configuration are ghastly seen in third world countries that operate in the capitalist world economy as dependent satrapies. It is in third world countries where the endogamous quislings of the comprador variety work with the exogamous forces of imperialism to exploit the working people. In this arrangement, the vilest, bilious, and brutal manifestations of elite theory can be found in these peripheries of capital.
The December election in Montserrado looms large in the political imagination of all and sundry of Liberian extraction for obvious but critical reasons. As for the masses of the people who have been saddled with the landslide economic collapse and reeling from the ghastly incompetence of the CDC apparatchiks, these elections could not have come at a more opportune time. Clearly, amid the crises of economic, social, and political, these elections are a gauge that gives us an insight into the thinking of the people regarding the character of the state and the edge of the rapacious political vagabonds in power, especially so when the country is barrelling into the abyss with no strategy of redemption in sight.
The bourgeois opposition in the homeland is fighting the elections on highlighting the failures of the government, from the spates of scandals to the emergence of Columbian-style paramilitary death squads dotting the country like an invading pandemic to the riding roughshod over established legal canons by Weah, and the sweeping waves and waves of official abuse. But it is in Montserrado County that the opposition is investing its energy, as the county is the nerve centre of the polity. The opposition adherents have articulated to the pitch of crescendo that the election of Fallah would mark a sweeping endorsement of the lurch to backwardness and the malignancy of scandal, among others, that have become the defining traits of the Weah regime.
The points of the opposition could not be any clearer. These elections are existential for several reasons. They would tell us what direction people want to take the country and whether Weah and his mob of scoundrels can play clean in conducting a free, fair, and transparent process. Are we satisfied with the situation of fear, the reign of terror, the nakedly dictatorial tendencies running riot in our society, and the wave of corruption sweeping through our society? Or do we want to correct these aberrations? It is for the Liberian people to answer—that is if their votes will be counted and not stolen—as they did in the 2017 process. If Weah gets his way, the cancer of terror will metastasize. The ramifications could be far and fatal for progressive dissenters and sections of society that refused to be browbeaten into submission. When tinpot dictators win major victories in electoral processes, they take them as an endorsement of their politics and are thus emboldened to sharpen their tools of oppression and domination.
Which then brings me to Thomas Fallah. I know Thomas Fallah because I had the time to sit in his so-called District Youth Council. I interacted with him as youth secretary of my community during the height of the Ebola Crisis. My interactions with him gave me a window into who he is and what he represents, especially concerning his shallowness, anti-intellectual inclinations, incapacity to deal with complexities, and his politics of divide and rule. Thomas is a wholesale criminal and lumpen urchin—a ruthless and cunning gangster who has dabbled in fraud, trickery, and indecency to accumulate wealth. Not only did he abandon our community to its own devices during the tumultuous period of the Ebola crisis, but he also plotted the nefarious agenda to steal the only recreational facility of our community under the ruse of wanting to construct a district office. He even considered the possibility to defanging our leadership by dangling favour and pitching political goodwill before us—attempts we ferociously opposed.
Another Liberia is possible
In 2001, a slew of predominantly left social movements converged on the Brazilian city of Porto Alegre. The World Social Forum, the assembly of the people—a counterweight to the World Economic Forum—was organized to move people’s agendas. The World Economic Forum has been the front of the global elite, where the bosses and strategists of capital along with their political allies converge to devise methods to keep the suffering masses of humanity in the yoke of capitalist drudgery and subjugation. Conversely, popular movements organized the World Social Forum to oppose the Davos elite in the national territories and internationally, and to forge a common front to save humanity from the vagaries and destruction of capital. If the political and economic forces of the liberal order have an organization where they meet to strangulate the people and keep them out of history, the exploited people must have an organization to build an agenda to oppose the Davos elite. It was that thinking that underpinned the creation of the World Social Forum as an international against disaster capitalism.
When the World Social Forum was organized, it was a period of darkness where the world was in the vice grip of the war on terror, and hope seems to elude the masses of the global South. These social movements garnered strength and increased in their clarity and vision. It was a period of despair, but the political imagination of the democratic forces of the people knew that the prevailing order was a creation of sections of society who cripple dreams, undermine mass struggles, and desiccate territorial spaces. In the meeting in Porto Alegre, the people’s forces were talking about bread, healthcare, education, a life of dignity with the abundance of exigencies that condition human creativities and lead to a new trajectory. Not seeing so clearly but with the vision Panglossian optimism, the assembly of the World Social Forum proclaimed that ‘Another World is Possible’. In this hope, came the election of Brazilian Workers’ Party. Hence the election of Lula Da Silva which became the portal that ushered in the Pink Tide era in Latin America. People could see their life-changing. They saw attempts to stamp out poverty, to eliminate illiteracy, to make education affordable for all, and to provide healthcare for the plundered people.
It was the question of dignity that people like Margaret Walker, an African-African poet at the centre of her poetic imagination during the heydays of the Civil Rights Movement, illuminated our imagination with the literary genre of poetry. A leading figure in the Chicago Black Renaissance, she became one of the spokespersons of the persecuted black people, releasing her critique about empire and its Jim Crow laws from space of creativity that is poetry. She has many poems to her credit, but the one entitled ‘For my people’ strikes a chord with this moment and expresses the cry and hope of the Liberian people. I have reproduced the last stanza of the poem. It calls for resistance in chaos, to find happiness in sorrow, and to mobilize tenacity under the climate of fear. It reads like a dirge, but in it is this luminosity of hope, a hope of a better future, and articulate the answers lie with ordinary people.
Let a new earth rise. Let another world be born. Let a bloody peace be written in the sky. Let a second generation full of courage issue forth; let a people loving freedom come to growth. Let a beauty full of healing and strength of final clenching be the pulsing in our spirits and our blood. Let the martial songs be written, let the dirges disappear. Let a race of men now rise and take control.
Kiadii is a Liberian residing in Accra, Ghana, and can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org
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