By Tarty Teh
Whether we care to admit it, as individuals, the net effect of our citizenship comes in two forms — a blessing or a burden. In fact, this question was put to me not in terms of my Liberian citizenship, though it would have been equally relevant, but rather as a native of the Grebo tribe. I was asked if I wasn’t proud to be Grebo. It was not an easy question to answer. But I thought about it and decided that pride in being Grebo should come mainly from any contribution I make in upholding or advancing any greatness of the Grebo nation that was already evident before I was born. This applies easily and equally to my Liberian nationality.
We all are actors on our nation’s behalf. What we do individually have a collective effect in creating our country’s profile. If we project a shady profile, we will attract shady characters that are oftentimes much more adept in exploiting the weakness that is inherent in our penchant for subterranean dealings.
It is bad enough that we infuriate well-meaning adventurers in our national sphere with our crooked bent and matching ineptitude when executing even legitimate deals. But when we fail miserably in keeping up with the crooks we invite, the whole country suffers the consequences after the foreign crooks pay off a few domestic ones before settling down to suck us dry. A look around Liberia will confirm that our level of infrastructural development clearly belies the 161 years we have existed as a nation. The following could be a clue:
Dear Willis, You are the man! What would we do with out our PR man. It is only prove to me again that the issue of the pr men is extremely essential. Anyways please inform Madame President that her concerns will be addressed. Yoram told me that he has already informed you that the first payment of US$1 Million will be made after our contract is signed.
Avi Date: Sunday, August 17, 2008, 2:46 AM (On Thurs, 2/14/08, Abraham Avi Zaidenberg < email@example.com > wrote:) The man who wrote the e-mail, Avi Zaidenberg, is an Israeli citizen in charge of Yoram Cohen’s Cellcom GSM network and his LISCR field office in Liberia. If nothing else, Mr. Zaidenberg’s untidy syntax proves that English is not his native language. In fact both Cohen and Zaidenberg are Israeli citizens — although Cohen took the extra step of becoming an American citizen as well. And based on the official letter Mr. Willis Knuckles wrote to President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, 50% of the shareholders of Cellcom, Cohen’s GSM network in Liberia, are Israelis whom Mr. Knuckles implored President Sirleaf to meet during a trip to Israel. Mind you, Cellcom is billed as an American company; so if 50 percent of the shareholders are Israelis as Knuckles said in his October 22, 2007, letter to President Sirleaf, then the other 50%, or a big chunk of it, must be owned by Americans. Whatever is left might conceivably be in Liberian hands, which is mighty little in light of all the trouble Cohen’s larcenous scheme portends for the President of Liberia.
Of course both Cohen and his sidekick know that if this had been at home (United States or Israel, take your pick), they and the President would have been up to their ears in legal and political trouble. But this is Liberia where they have a good deal of control through money. In fact they have already suggested throwing “the first payment of US$1 million” at the foreseeable problem they know they are creating for President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf. The scope of the scheme may be evident in the fact that it is only the “first” million. If the legal or political trouble for President Sirleaf proves intractable — which I doubt given Liberia’s current legislative and judicial incompetence — the cabal can always throw in another million.
It certainly gives the appearance that paying kickback is, as those from the Unity Party boot camp are fond of saying, “not an event; it is a process” — a continuing process, that is. This could easily trigger speculation about how much money the LISCR/Cellcom syndicate is making away with if its operators are willing to throw a million dollars here and there to nail down ten more years of dealing under the table. Of course it doesn’t take only Sirleaf loyalists or her Unity Party members to feel the shame associated with the revelation of dirty dealings on this scale and this high up in our government. For me, as a member of an opposition party, the presidency is worth rescuing even if the President must swim or sink.
The way I see it, the presidency takes a hit when a foreigner writes as follows about the person who personifies our sovereignty: “Anyways please inform Madame President that her concerns will be addressed. Yoram told me that he has already informed you that the first payment of US$1 Million will be made after our contract is signed.” The person who embodies our sovereignty is President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf; the sovereignty is the Republic.
Evidently the crooks are in the driver’s seat and the President’s anxiety is palpable. The President’s concerns, of course, have to do with money, and the foreign crook who is baiting her into giving him a multimillion dollar contract for more crumbs says so matter-of-factly. So you only have to be a Liberian to feel hurt for your country or for your President or both. But the way to reclaim our pride even in the face of ignominy this grand is to do something in keeping with our Constitution and case laws. But a quick look at our Legislature and our Judiciary will reconfirm our misery. They can’t help themselves; how can they help us?
Copyright © Tarty Teh 2008
November 24, 2008, Monrovia, Liberia
Contact Tarty Teh at:
Phone and text: (231) 6-617-433
2008: From Siahyonkron Nyanseor’s Archive