OP-ED: Liberian Lawyer Blasts ECOWAS and Gets It Wrong

A recent Bush Chicken article, cited a Liberian lawyer, Pearl Brown-Bull, who “criticized the presence of ECOWAS and African Union leaders in the country, saying that the country’s judicial system can handle the current situation without outside interference.”

These are critical and crucial times in Liberia. When such an inflammatory statement is made, especially by a “prominent” lawyer, one reads further for proof. How is the conclusion derived that the ECOWAS and AU leaders were indeed on a mission that could be reasonably described as “outside interference”?

A rational mind didn’t have to look further to debunk the statement. The article goes further:

Guinean President Alpha Conde, who heads the African Union, and Togolese President Faure Gnassingbe, who chairs ECOWAS, recently ended a one-day political stakeholders’ meeting in Liberia with heads of various political parties. The two leaders’ visit was meant to ease tensions following a decision by the Supreme Court to put a stay order on the runoff November 7 presidential election scheduled between Unity Party and the Coalition for Democratic Change.

It is clear that the ECOWAS and A.U. leaders were not in Liberia to “interfere in the judicial system of Liberia,” but to ease tensions and curb potential future crises. There is a good reason why this is a reasonable and necessary position for these stakeholders to take: The last time Liberia went into the self-destruct mode, the crisis spilt over into neighboring countries.

It cost our neighbors tens of millions of dollars to contain our escalating war, and it even cost them the lives of a number of their soldiers who were on peace-keeping missions. Most importantly, displaced Liberians became refugees in these neighboring countries at a tremendous cost to the hosts; some Liberians still remain abroad as refugees.

One has to wonder, is the lawyer not aware of these crucial occurrences in our most recent past? How does one blow such hot air about Liberia’s self-inflated sovereignty when we have had to rely on the humanity and generosity of not only our immediate neighbors and regional counterparts, but the global community as a whole?

Have we forgotten the role the U.N. has had to play for over a decade to stabilize our nation? If we recognize and appreciate the foreign contributions, then we are compelled to show our gratitude, instead of marginalizing them. They have a stake in our affairs, and rightfully so!

The fact that Liberia is a founding member of the O.A.U. (which eventually became the A.U.) and ECOWAS, as the lady stressed, is immaterial and irrelevant. Yes, we are an older country in terms of chronology, but any evidence of modern advancement is scant, compared to our neighbors. It is time to recognize that and face it honestly; our fall out of grace is our own doing and no amount of self-aggrandizement or delusion of grandeur will change that reality.

The counselor ended on a sour note, and it is not clear whether her remark was meant to be a joke. If so, we must have different senses of humor, because I didn’t think it was funny. She went on to bash and belittle Liberian men by blaming them for the pending crisis and the general lack of leadership in the country. She lavished praise on President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, and said to the men, “If y’all not able to rule this country, give it to the women.”

Several points are necessary to be pointed out here. First of all, the pending crisis is directly attributable to President Sirleaf; this is still her administration. She appointed all the members of the National Elections Commission, and the unfolding crises can easily be attributed to the incompetence of that body.

Several complaints have been brought against the commission. There have been numerous complaints of mismanagement against the NEC chairman, yet nothing was done to replace him. Isn’t the president, by default, to blame for any incompetence or disregard for the law? Doesn’t the ‘buck’ stop with her?

Counselor Brown-Bull is playing a dangerous game by defining our national problem along gender lines. She can’t be serious about turning our leadership over to women; our president for the last 12 years has been a woman, and she has created this mess we face. For the last two terms, the president has failed to initiate any innovative leadership style to generate substance. It has been business as usual, except this time our national captain at the helm of leadership has been female, instead of male.

Some other women understand that Sirleaf’s leadership may be more about her and the glorification of global accolades than it is about feminist leadership. This is how two women, writing an eye-opening article, saw it:

“The over glorification of Sirleaf as a feminist icon is particularly troubling since her 12-year presidency has actually served the interests of a small, elite group of women and men in politics and thus upheld long-standing patriarchal norms in Liberia.”

– , “Is Liberia’s Sirleaf Really Standing Up for Women?”

The two outstanding female authors ended on a sour note: “If the current political landscape in Liberia is any indication of future trends, it may well be a century before we elect a female (or male) head of state who is truly committed to a feminist agenda.”

Perhaps it is necessary to caution the good counselor that Liberia’s political problems know no gender lines. We are in this mess together, and it will take all of us working together harmoniously, for the sake of our common humanity, to solve this problem.

Pointing fingers at the various demographic groups, male or female, on the ground or in the diaspora, young or old, rich or poor, country or city, will not work. We are all in the same boat now and we need our international partners, both in the West African region and further to come to our aid. Disparaging and marginalizing them is not a wise alternative; we’ll never know when we might need them again.

Featured photo by Zeze Ballah

Theodore T. Hodge can be reached at imthodge@gmail.com.

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