Liberia Progress: Role of Liberians in the Diaspora

Published on 14th October 2013

First and foremost, in order to contribute more effectively to peace and development in Liberia, Liberians in the Diaspora must endeavor to utilize every opportunity that their presence in the Diaspora brings to develop themselves academically and professionally.  If being in the Diaspora offers them the opportunity to acquire the best education and skills, they should  not shortchange themselves and their nation by settling for mediocrity and a tenuous livelihood where they can barely afford to feed themselves. In this regard, the key question to Liberians in the Diaspora is, “Are you considered an asset in your host nation or a liability, a scum, flotsam and jetsam that your host county can easily afford to offload to remain on an even keel?  By developing yourselves into solid professionals in the Diaspora, if the and when you return home, you will be better positioned to contribute more significantly to the forward march of your motherland in the public or the private sector. 

Better prepared Liberians in the Diaspora are able to assist their families and friends in Liberia in significant ways; and by so doing, help a good number of our people to cope with the many challenges of living in a post-conflict fragile state.  Failure on the part of Liberians in the Diaspora more often not makes them to sink into social deviancy and other unwholesome behaviors that may land them in jail. The most depressing spectacle for many of us back home is to see a relative or friend, who went abroad to seek greener pastures, climbing down the stairs of a plane at the Roberts International Airport (RIA) in handcuffs, having being deported from the host country for being involved in some unwholesome act. 

A good number of these deportees come back home terribly frustrated and extremely desperate. Sadly enough, they dump their frustration and desperation on the country by replicating in Liberia some of the very bad behaviors that occasioned their deportation. This undermines the peace and progress of the country. To avert this depressing phenomenon, Liberian organizations in the Diaspora must initiate programs and policies that assist or encourage the capacity building efforts of their constituents and discourage deviancy and crime.

Another way Liberians in the Diaspora can help erect the bulwarks of many more decades of peace and progress in Liberia is for them to work for peace among Liberians in the Diaspora, especially peace within Liberian organizations in the Diaspora.  Liberians in the Diaspora have a tendency, oftentimes justifiably so, of being critical about developments back home.  However, they must endeavor to be good exemplars.  Rift and rancor in Liberian organizations in the Diaspora is clearly not a good example for Liberia because, if not managed well, such division and bad blood may eventually be exported to Liberia, thereby undermining the bulwarks of peace and progress.

We Liberians do not seem to appreciate and value it fully, one of the greatest achievements of this epoch is the consolidation of the culture of democracy in Liberia. All political disagreements must be submitted regularly to the high court of free, fair and transparent elections where the supreme judges are the electorates.  

The conversation among Liberians in the Diaspora is often dominated by issues relating to corruption back home.  Bad news tends to run faster than good news.  The good news of many patriotic Liberians burning their life’s candles at both ends in the service of their beloved nation without medical insurance, pension benefits, and job security does not sprint as fast to the front pages of the newspapers as the bad news of a public official accused of committing an act of corruption. What is also troubling is the naïve and disgusting practice by some critics of labeling everyone in government as corrupt. Such blanket indictment has actually undermined the war against corruption because it makes it difficult to separate the fox from the lamb.

We should never allow the public torture that public office brings to make us to veer from the path of integrity and patriotism.  Given the practice of collective damnation now prevailing in our country, the fall of one public official for acts of corruption affects the good image of all public officials. Recognizing this challenge, the Government must continue, as it has already begun, to take robust steps to prevent corruption or the perception of corruption and punish anyone proven to have violated the public trust.  Corruption has had deleterious impact on the peace and stability of the nation as it has dominated the rhetoric of all of those who spearheaded the torpedoing of the status quo.  From Samuel Doe to Charles Taylor to Damate Konneh, nearly all the front-liners in the quest for undemocratic political change in Liberia justified their actions by putting anti-corruption façades on their missions.

Similarly, when one hears about disquiet and disunity in Liberian organizations, be it in Liberia or in the Diaspora, oftentimes the trigger of the crisis revolves around issues related to lack of accountability and transparency in the management of the affairs of the organization. I urge my brothers and sisters in the Diaspora to contribute to the peace and progress of our nation by practicing the culture of transparency and accountability. In essence, to wage a frontal assault on the cancer of corruption in Liberia, a disease that has been cited or scape-goated as a causal factor in the destabilization of our country, we have to also wage a frontal assault on corruption in every organization representing the interest  of Liberians everywhere in the world.

Furthermore, Liberians in the Diaspora can contribute more meaningfully to the peace and progress of the country by taking deliberate steps to avoid reaching hasty conclusions and generalizations on issues and characters of individuals from back home.  Liberians in the Diaspora must be encouraged to learn the facts and reality on the ground in Liberia. Oftentimes what they know about what is happening in Liberia is mere perception and over-generalization peddled by people with vested interest.  Thanks to the openness we now enjoy, Liberia now has more than 15 FM radio stations and scores of community radio stations across the country, more than 20 newspapers, 4 TV stations, and countless independent news websites.  These news outlets are in fierce competition; consequently, some of them may be more inclined to using headlines that attract the most readership and sales than headlines that do not. So whenever you read a story that involves two or more persons, check whether the story did justice to all the parties in the story by giving their respective and contrasting perspectives on the issue. To arrive at conclusions that mirror the reality on the ground, it may be prudent to rely on multiple news outlets and other independent sources.

Obviously, the government itself needs to do more to assist Liberians in the Diaspora to get a fuller and balanced appreciation of what is obtaining on the ground.  Sometimes we get so busy doing and doing and forget to spend time propagating and marketing what we do. What results therefore is a situation where the public-sphere is suffused with news slanted more to the perspectives of anti-government critics.  But it is heartening to note that the situation is improving for the better as many government ministries and agencies have developed websites that are helping to tell the story from the perspective of the respective ministries and agencies.

Ultimately Liberians in the Diaspora can only help build firmer bulwarks of peace and progress in Liberia if they do not sever their umbilical cord with the motherland.  It is often said, “East or west, home is best.” You may today live in Manhattan, but never forget that you come from West Point; you may today be that big executive in a Fortune 500 company in the United States, but never forget that yesterday you played ‘Freetown ball” in the village in Grand Kru.  You may now be that physician in the hospital in London, but never forget that you yesterday played “nafo” with other girls in Ganta.  No matter who or what you are today, remember that someone in Liberia calls you son, daughter, mother, father, sister, brother, uncle, aunt, relative or friend.  Remember that someone in Liberia is wishing that you succeed in the Diaspora so that you can extend a helping hand to them as they navigate life’s difficult journey.  Looking back to your family, your friends, your village, your community in Liberia is not a political obligation but a moral one. And fulfilling this moral obligation does not have to depend on who is in the Executive Mansion or what you feel about the quality of their leadership.

In the Liberia of today and tomorrow, more and more job opportunities both in the public and private sectors are opening and will open.  Through various capacity building programs such as the Senior Executive Service (SES), the Transfer of Knowledge through Expatriate Nationals (TOKTEN) or through direct appointment by the President, an increasing number of Liberians in the Diaspora have already returned home and are contributing to the forward march of their country. In fact, the Government has been deliberate in inserting in almost every concession agreement concluded under this regime  explicit clauses obligating concessionaires to hire a given a percentage of Liberians in top managerial, middle level and technical positions over a certain period of time. Many government ministries and agencies as well as international organizations have been recruiting and will continue to recruit top-notch Liberian professionals to provide valuable consultancy services in various fields.

For Liberians in the Diaspora who are Certified Public Accountants (CPAs), I encourage you to return home, join the Liberia Institute of Certified Public Accountants (LICPA) in order to seize some of the many tantalizing opportunities that are opening up as a result of the repeal of the Act of the LICPA in 2011 restricting the practice of public accounting to only individuals and firms licensed by the LICPA. Essentially, this means no profit or not-for-profit entity operating in Liberia can directly hire the services of a foreign-owned auditing firm to perform audit in Liberia.  This has tremendously brought lots of business to Liberian CPAs and their firms. This positive development coupled with the fact that there is an acute shortage of CPAs in Liberia, works immensely in the favor of any Liberian CPAs in the Diaspora. 

By H.E. Augustine Kpehe Ngafuan,
Minister Of Foreign Affairs, Republic Of Liberia

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