Thursday, 31 March 2011


Opposition Liberty Party leader Charles Brumkskine tells Colombia University forum in America ruling party government has failed to reprimand police officers involved in last week’s violence which led to the arrest and detention of several students of the Monrovia Consolidated School System.

New York-The political leader of the opposition Liberty Party, Charles Walker Brumskine has told an international gathering that the ruling Unity Party government has failed to reprimand police officers involved in last week’s violence which led to the arrest and detention of several students of the Monrovia Consolidated School System.

Addressing the Africa Forum at Colombia University last week, the opposition leader lamented that the UP government has taken no action against any of the offending police officers, but instead the students are nurturing their injuries without redress. Said Brumskine: ‘‘Some of them have been imprisoned, pending prosecution by the government.  All of this is happening because the students dare to exercise their constitutional right of freedom of expression in post-conflict Liberia.’’

Brumskine’s comments come in the aftermath of a statement by police director Marc Amblard in the aftermath of the violence that twenty three students arrested as a result of the melee would be responsible for properties damaged during the incident.

The March 22, 2011 protest was staged by pupils of the Monrovia Consolidated School System but it was students from two schools in particular, G.W. Gibson and William V.S. Tubman who bore the brunt of the assaults from police.

In Solidarity with teachers
Amblard said while he regretted the incident, under the constitution, protesters are required to obtain permits before engaging in public demonstration. Since the incident, a tripartite agreement was reached between the ministry of education, the ministry of finance and the MCSS Teachers Association to settle back wages of teachers. The students were protesting in solidarity with their teachers.

Addressing the gathering at Colombia, Brumskine said government security forces brutalized defenseless school children for staging a peaceful demonstration in support of their teachers, who had not received their salaries for several months. ‘‘Teachers had abandoned classes in protest of the nonpayment of their salaries by the government,’’ Brumskine lamented.

Brumskine also took the government to task over the issue of corruption as he suggested the administration was intolerant to opposing views on the matter. Brumskine said at least one presidential candidate, Simeon Freeman of the Movement for Progress Change has been summoned by the police to explain why he had called for public demonstration against the rampant corruption in government that is today consuming the very fabric of the Liberian society. ‘‘The economic ascent of Liberia and the rest of Africa certainly lies in the development of strong and vibrant democratic institutions!’’ the Liberty Party leader averred.
Brumskine further noted that the most important lesson Liberia and the rest of Africa may learn from the changes of the 1950s and 1960s is that the solution to the country’s problems lie in deep, comprehensive changes in the mindset of African leaders and not in superficial changes to prevailing systems. ‘‘The earlier example was one of colonialism: we changed the players and pretended to have changed the system, but we failed to change the mindset. So, half-a-century later some of the worst legacies of the colonial era persist.’’

Consider system of governance
The opposition party leader also noted that African nations would all do well to consider that the system of governance and management that has kept the continent underdeveloped is like Hydra, the many-headed monster in Greek mythology. ‘‘Cutting off one of his heads resulted in two new ones growing back. So, the mounting international pressure against undemocratic governance worldwide must not be allowed to give rise to new and different kinds of “Strong Men” or “Strong Women,” he said.

Continued Brumskine: ‘‘The new “Strong Men” might not have to destroy institutions by guns, but through such menace as unbridle corruption that deprives others of basic rights, and makes even the appearance of democratic institutions a sham. The Herculean task of cauterizing the neck of our Hydra, before its new heads have a chance to grow, requires a partnership of openness, evenhandedness, and vigilance among the people, their governments, civil society, and the international community.’’

Unfortunately, Brumskine told the gathering that the transition to political independence of African states did not necessarily overthrow this paradigm. Instead, the opposition party leader said, its continuing existence underlies poor governance, the bane of Africa.
Said Brumskine: ‘‘Quite a number of African nations continue the policy of the colonial masters, in that participation in the affairs of their nations is not extended to average citizens.  Instead, states created “Strong Men”—that is, men and women who, by virtue of holding public offices, rose above the law. Actually, these are men and women too weak to comply with the rule of law.  The system of governance that most African countries adopted has not supported the development of institutions that would sustain democracy and economic growth.  Just as the colonial masters had abhorred democratization by virtually outlawing participatory decision-making, and favoring one ethnic group over the rest, generations of African leaders have been committed to the politics of division.’’ 

Place of dishonour
Today, Brumskine lamented that poor governance continues to stymie Africa’s economic ascent. But said he believes strongly that the failure of leadership in Africa deserves the place of dishonor. 

The opposition leader also alluded to ongoing winds of change and protest movement s in Tunisia, Egypt and Libya as signs that things are changing for the better. ‘‘This year, Tunisia, Egypt, and Libya have been rocked by an upsurge in popular demand for democratic reform and regime change.  In Tunisia and Egypt, the uprisings succeeded in removing from power their “Strong Men.”  In Libya, a deadly and violent conflict has unfolded without a clear indication of how it will end.  In West Africa, a political stalemate in Cote d’Ivoire is rapidly degenerating into a vicious contest for power.  One would have thought that Africa had gone past these electoral situations by now. First, one has to fight to get elected, when running against an incumbent. Then, one has to fight some more to occupy the office, even after gaining the mandate of the people.  Not to make light the desperate situation of the Ivorian people, one cannot help but note that there always seems to be another twist or turn in the road to the presidency, and no respite for non-incumbent presidential aspirants in Africa. ‘’
The 8th African Economic Forum at Columbia University took place from March 25-26, 2011 and brought together over 400 participants. The forum has grown to be the largest Africa-focused event at Colombia and seeks to highlight opportunities and challenges through stimulating discussion, insights and strategies for a prosperous Africa. This year, the theme is Roaring Giant: Africa’s Economic Ascent.

Besides Brumskine, a number of other distinguished keynote speakers  were in attendance including Danny Jordaan, CEO of the 2010 FIFA World Cup Organizing Committee, J. Kofi Bucknor, Managing Partner of Kingdom Zephyr Africa Management, Dr. Shatayanan Devarajan, Chief Economist – Africa Region at the World Bank and Fola Adeola, co-founder of Guaranty Trust Bank.

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