James Sirleaf, one of President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf’s biological sons opened what many are describing as a can of worms on the history of Liberia’s development when he lashes out at President William V. S. Tubman by comparing development progress in Liberia under Tubman and the current period of development under his mother. Sirleaf, who was responding to criticisms of his mother by Clr. Winston Tubman, nephew of President Tubman, was unable to hold back the disdain his mother’s government has towards President Tubman that seems to reflect in the policy of neglect that the Sirleaf government has shown toward Maryland County, the home county of President Tubman.
It has been exactly 40 years since President Tubman died, but it seems Mr. Sirleaf and some Liberians in a very crude way keep contributing Liberia’s current lack of development to President Tubman. Since Tubman, Liberia has had other governments and presidents, interim and transitional. Do these people have any responsibility towards Liberia’s development, or were all the developments Liberia needed the responsibility of Tubman alone?
While the purpose of this article is not to focus on Mr. Sirleaf’s tirades against Clr. Tubman which are riddled with a litany of unsubstantial claims but when he took aim at President William V. S. Tubman, a man known as the father of modern Liberia, a man who presided over Liberia’s longest period of stability, economic development, and infrastructural development. A man under whose leadership Liberia rose to the level of international respectability, under whose leadership Liberia’s championed world peace and African liberation, we believed Mr. Sirleaf has crossed the line. In addition, he contradicting himself in accusing Clr. Winston Tubman as being one who is living in a glass house and throwing stones. Sirleaf’s attacks on Clr. Tubman to score political points for his mother seem to suggest that it is he Sirleaf who is living in glass house and throwing stones when tried to compare Liberia under Tubman and Liberia under his mother’s presidency. While these attacks are expected since we are in a political season but drawing President Tubman into such line of fire, a man who is dead and not running for president, has created a new twist in the ensuring Liberian political campaign where it is now okay to play the guilt by association game.
When it comes to a leader who kept his promises and implemented his policies, President Tubman epitomized that. When Tubman took over the Liberian presidency, the Republic of Liberia was a backward country lacking no ounce of development, and worst of all; a clear line of demarcation was prominently placed between the Americo-Liberians and the native Liberians. Within months of taking the oath of office, President Tubman launched three major policies; (1) The Open Door Policy, alerting the world that Liberia was now open for business. In respond to the Open Door Policy, massive foreign investments began to pour into Liberia. (2) The Unification and Integration Policy was Liberia’s first and only genuine reconciliation policy used to reduce the political and social difference between the Americo-Liberians and the Liberian natives and pave the way for unity among the various peoples of Liberia. Under Tubman Liberia’s reconciliation process was for real not hindered by various maneuvers and excuses that we are now experiencing under President Sirleaf when it comes to implementing the TRC report. Tubman’s unification and integration policy was one of the best ever instituted on the African continent and claimed worldwide recognition. A powerful symbol of Tubman’s reconciliation policy is represented by the unification statute prominently located in the City of Voinjama, Lofa County. (3) Operation Production Policy, designed to set Liberia on the path to self sufficiency in food production. Under this policy massive farming activities were unleashed across the country, with Tubman and many of his officials leading the way.
All of Liberia’s current and major infrastructural development, economic power houses and national-wide development took place under Tubman. Such as modern roads, urban and rural electrification programs that led to 24 hours electricity in most of Liberia’s counties capitals. In 1945, Liberia had one electric generator in Monrovia. In the year 1949, the Government of Liberia (GOL), under President Tubman procured three 40-kW superior diesel generators through the United States Government Land Lease Program, and installed them at the Krutown power plant where the LEC central office is located today (http://www.libelcorp.com/history.htm) It was under Tubman, the National Port Authority was built that is now fueling the Liberian economy. (http://nationalportauthorityliberia.org/) The Liberian Refining Company, now the Liberian Petroleum Refinery Corporation, or LPRC, (http://lprclib.com/abttheme.php, the Mount Coffee Hydro-electric plant, the Executive Mansion, Temple of Justice, all of these, still relevant to Liberia today, were all built under Tubman and many more. But many of them were destroyed by a senseless war to which President Sirleaf admitted to have contributed $10,000.00.
It is very important to note that there is not a bit of comparison between progress made in Liberia in terms of preserving peace and stability under Tubman and Liberia’s current status under President Sirleaf. Liberia under Tubman was a beacon of hope for Africa, and Tubman’s desire for peace in Liberia went beyond the Liberian borders when he led an effort to form the Organization of Africa Unity, now the African Union. The first meeting of this continental unity vehicle took place in the City of Sanniquelli, Nimba County. Liberia’s became a founding member of the United Nations. These efforts by President Tubman to preserve peace in Liberia and beyond are in sharp contrast to President Sirleaf’s involvement with the Quiwonkpa Coup and as a contributor to Charles Taylor’s war efforts that led to the destabilization of not only Liberia, but to the entire West African Region. Today, millions of Liberian families are unable to up hold the African tradition of mourning their deaths of their loves mercilessly killed during the Sirleaf-supported war because President Sirleaf has refused to implement the TRC report.
Mr. James Sirleaf’s effort to bring President Tubman into the ongoing campaign debate is a counterproductive strategy, and a disservice to his mother’s campaign for re-election. It also raised a red flag as to how well Mr. Sirleaf is abreast about the issues that are driving this campaign, particularly the concerns of ordinary Liberians. This campaign is not about President Tubman. He has been death long time ago, as such; any mistakes he made towards Liberia’s development should have been corrected by Sirleaf’s mother and others who have been running things in Liberia the past forty years. Winston Tubman is not President Tubman. How will he Sirleaf feel after his mother has left this earth but keep associating him and other family members with her mistakes or failures. It would not be fair to him, and similarly it is not fair to Winston Tubman to associate him with personal negative opinions of President Tubman. Under no circumstances, anyone should hold the belief that Liberia’s development should have been completed under President Tubman. What happened under Tubman was laying the foundation for the continuing and expansion of Liberia’s development by those who came after him. But to many Liberians, development in Liberia seems to have stalled after President Tubman’s death, and maybe, and we say maybe, the response that the Tubman-Weah ticket is getting is a result of the people yarning for a Tubman-like development atmosphere in Liberia under Winston Tubman as president.
P. Nimley-Sie Tuon
Maryland, United States