Monrovia – Politics, some say, is a dirty game that creates lifelong enemies, especially among politicians in Africa, but sometimes these sworn enemies can become strange bedfellows.
This is exactly the case with the lead opposition Congress for Democratic Change (CDC) and the Unity Party-led government under the leadership of President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf.
Last week the CDC issued what people in the regime consider a more subtle critique of President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf’s annual message delivered in late January and the party has since been receiving verbal accolades for it which was culminated into formal ‘thank you’ from the government.
“Clearly, as a government we would like to single out the reaction of the Congress for Democratic Change as being responsible,” said Information Minister Lewis Brown on Thursday at the ministry’s regular Press Briefing.
“So we thank the CDC, we will review the recommendations’ they’ve made and we will entreat it with the seriousness it deserves. They did not just give a litany of the problems of the country, but they offered what the government believes are reasonable recommendations.”
Brown said the government craves what he calls good ideas and with the lead opposition in the country, providing one without criticizing the achievements of the government, the goal was grateful for the gesture for what seems an unholy marriage.
“We are not a government determined to shoot ideas down, nor do we ever believe that we are the custodians of the best ideas by which our country can be advised,” he said.
The information Minister told reporters in the briefing that the government continues to encourage the competition of ideas, adding that even if others do not have the onus of leading the country at this time, it is important that they bring forth ideas and suggestions which the government as responsible as it is promise cannot ignore.
“We do not see ideas either based on who offered it or the affiliation of the individual offering it,” said Brown on Thursday.
“We do not see good ideas as belonging to any party, we see it as belonging to Liberia and so it is a duty to review those ideas within the broader concept of advancing the causes of Liberians.”
CDC forwards recommendations
Unlike its tradition of consistently criticizing the government over the years, the party took a different turn when they released a detailed paper dissecting the President’s message and offering suggestions on solutions to problems. This year, the party saw things differently and it justifies why it responded this way.
“The CDC believes that while the ruling Unity Party, as would any ruling party, generally takes responsibility for governance failures and takes the credit for successes, failures that affect the lives of the Liberian people are too significant to be gauged primarily in political terms, since such failures have economic, social and development implications,” stated the Party.
The party in its recommendations to the government said it wishes to see changes in the lives of the ordinary Liberian this year.
“As 2014 commences, we challenge the ruling Unity Party to produce pro-poor results. The last six years have seen an inordinate amount of planning. The time to implement and transform is now,” stated the party.
The CDC stated that it would monitor implementation of priorities in infrastructure, education, agriculture and healthcare, adding that it looks forward to see the impact of investments in agriculture and youth and capacity development on the ordinary Liberian.
The party said it would go a step further in tracking down these expected changes by requesting the Legislature to strengthen oversight in a whole host of policy areas.
“The CDC will work to ensure our country transform from its image as a development backwater, rich in natural resources, yet having the majority of its people eke an existence in extreme poverty,” the party stated in its critique.
The lead opposition vowed to acknowledge gains in instances of government success stories in the interest of the country and its people and remain merciless in its criticisms in instances where failures abound, while at the same time providing an alternative consistent with its policy of constructive engagement.
“Through constructive engagement, we aim to avail to the Liberian people the kinds of policies and programs that might be seen under a CDC administration and we choose to use the annual reporting process to do this,” said the party which once referred to other members of the opposition as ‘regime collaborators’.
Continued the CDC: We deserve better and that is why the CDC is in this struggle to emancipate the people. We are willing to work with all partners who see a brighter and better future where peace, equality, equal opportunity and social justice prevail. However, we must all remember that we will rise and fall together because we, as Liberians, are in this together.”
The government seems to be having breathed a sigh of relief that the CDC has kind words this year, despite other political parties, including the Liberty Party talking truth to power in its response to the same annual message and the Movement for Progressive Change (MPC)’s Simeon Freeman referring to President Sirleaf as the most irresponsible leader Liberia has ever had; something that angered the president’s friends. But Information Minister Lewis Brown said the others must this time around take queues from the CDC and learn to be positive.
“We received the recommendations of the Congress for Democratic Change and we’ll faithfully review it and will incorporate those that are within the reach of our ability to do so and we again renew our pledge to all Liberians; there can be one President, there does not have to be one idea as a country,” he said.
“We will continue to encourage all of us; I know that party politics sometimes will not permit us, but sometimes we should be as responsible as we want to be for our country. This is a good step in the right direction.”
Response to MPC Freeman
Responding to what some in the administration sees as unfair criticisms of MPC’s Freeman, Minister Brown said the MPC leader has run out of ideas and has embarked on an idea copying spree.
“Also, those who believe that forty years ago somebody said something, forty years later you think that is the thing you’re supposed to be saying, because they said it; well, let’s stay with the original, we don’t need duplicate leadership,” he said without naming Freeman directly.
Continued Brown: “Why do you want to copy somebody forty years later? To prove that you’re an historian or what? This is about going forward, my people. If we revisit everything we did forty years ago, where would we take our country?
Too many things have changed. You want to lead this country, you’ve got to recognize the changes taking place; don’t bury yourself in the past. If somebody said irresponsible twenty years ago then you say that’s what you must say today; come on, you can do better than that. At least be original in your thoughts, for God’s sake, let this country go forward.”
The opposition LP of Cllr. Charles Walker Brumskine in its critique of the President’s annual address to the legislature said the UP Party-led Government under Sirleaf failed again to articulate a bold vision to bring the nation together in genuine reconciliation.
The party’s strongly worded response accused the President of shifting the burden for reconciliation on the National Human Rights Commission, which has been commissioned to conduct what the party calls a “comprehensive ethnographic study of Liberia’s Pavala Hut system,” within the next two years.
“Liberty Party has repeatedly reminded the President and her government that of all the work she has been called to do on behalf of the Liberian people by virtue of her position, none is more important than the need to reconcile the nation,” states the party in a statement read by Montserrado County Senatorial Aspirant, Benjamin Sanvee.
The party criticized President Sirleaf for not giving the issue of reconciliation the attention it deserves and only mentioning the subject in passing during her state of the nation address delivered a week ago.
“The President’s 2014 Annual Message devoted only 5 short paragraphs, in a 45-page speech, to National Reconciliation and these paragraphs were buried in the section titled “Governance and Public Institutions”, the party’s statement averred on Monday.
“This treatment of National Reconciliation was a slight improvement over the 2013 message in which the subject was discussed in only 3 short paragraphs. But as expected, the treatment of this national imperative in this year’s message was no different than that of the 2013 message in terms of substance.”
With the LP and other parties strongly criticizing the President’s message, the government had no alternative but to stick to the CDC as a friend this time around. But many are waiting to see how far this friendship will go.