Home News Liberia: 175th National Independence Day Oration By Honorable Mawine G. Diggs Minister Of Commerce

Liberia: 175th National Independence Day Oration By Honorable Mawine G. Diggs Minister Of Commerce

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H.E. Dr. George Manneh Weah, President of the Republic of Liberia;

H. E. Chief Dr. Jewel Howard Taylor, Vice President of the Republic of Liberia;

Hon. J. Fonati Koffa, Acting Speaker, and Members of the House of Representatives;

His Honor Francis Korkpor, Sr. Chief Justice, and Associate Justices of the Supreme Court;

Hon. Albert Chie, President Pro Tempore and Members of the Senate;

His Excellency Umaro Sissoco Emaló,

President of the Republic of Guinea-Bissau and Chair of the Authority of ECOWAS Heads of State and Government;

His Excellency Muhammadu Buhari, GCFR

President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria;

His Excellency Adama Barrow,

President of the Republic of The Gambia;

Hon. Madam Aïssata Tall Sall,

Minister of Foreign Affairs and Senegalese Abroad of the Republic of Senegal;

Hon. Diomande Vagondo,

Minister of Interior and Security of the Republic of Côte d’Ivoire;

Dean and Colleagues of the Cabinet;

Dean and Members of the Diplomatic Corps;

Officials of Government;

Women and Girls of Liberia;

Members of the Religious Community;

Chiefs, Elders and Members of the Traditional Council;

Former Officials of Government;

Foreign Guests;

Business Leaders;

Market Women;

Petty Traders;

Students;

Members of the Fourth Estate;

My Fellow Liberians;

Distinguished Ladies and Gentlemen:

It is with immense pride, honor and humility that I stand before you today as the National Orator of our Nation’s 175th Independence Day Anniversary. To God be the Glory.

When glass ceilings are shattered, playing fields are leveled and you have a leader who believes in the empowerment of women, moments like these manifest the critical role women play in the fabric of this great nation.

To President Weah, I say thank you. Thank you for continuously ensuring that women have a seat at the table and a voice in the transformation of our nation.  Today as I stand in the shoes of great people who came before me, I am also reminded that I am standing in place of all the women and girls across Liberia who aspire to achieve greatness in the interest of mama Liberia. “Women oh Women; Women oh Women; Our time is now”. 

As we celebrate 175 years under the theme “Fostering Unity, Protecting our Peace for Development and Prosperity” I am ever cognizant that a unified and peaceful Liberia comes first and foremost. That is why regardless of political perspectives or social conditions, Liberians home and abroad always celebrate this day with pride and in unison.

So we have gathered here 175 years later in this historic hall to celebrate yet another Independence Day but what does that really mean? Have we come only for the pomp and pageantry or have we also come with open minds willing to renew our commitment to forging ahead united as a nation? That my fellow Liberians is for you to decide.

Mr. President, Madam Vice President, Distinguished Ladies and Gentlemen:

On an occasion of this nature, the expectation of the people is that the National Orator, in addition to providing a soul-searching panoramic reflection of the nation’s progress since independence, and raising the consciousness of the population, will speak to their situation and inspire hope. Obviously, I have come to do nothing less, and to furthermore provide a realistic picture and practical prognoses of the way forward for this our sweet land of liberty.

Let us begin with the concept of Fostering Unity as depicted by the theme of this year’s 175th Independence Day Anniversary:

When I think of the term UNITY, the concepts of Oneness; Harmony; Shared-Values; Protection of Rights and Citizen Participation quickly come to mind. You see there is a fundamental responsibility that comes with being citizens of this great nation. Therefore, unity must be entrusted to every Liberian and treated as the national fabric on which we gather as a collective irrespective of our differences. It would be extremely naïve of me to expect that we would all think or act the same but we must be able to work as one in the interest of Liberia.

Embracing the fundamental responsibility of unity begins with acceptance of the “will” of the people in a free and fair democratic space. For when the will of the people has been expressed, the question of leadership and who has the mandate to articulate the collective aspirations of the Liberian people is no longer up for debate. Understand that fostering unity does not necessarily imply that everyone will consent, for democracy itself calls for the respect of individual’s viewpoint and to make choices from a wide range of

options. But there must be respect for those whom the people have called upon to be leaders. That my fellow Liberians is non-negotiable.

So instead of fighting so hard to stay within the lines we have drawn for ourselves under the umbrellas of ruling party, opposition, feminists’ groups, independents, civil society organizations and the numerous other auxiliary groupings which exist, we as Liberians should instead exert half of that energy to building bridges and pathways to continuously fostering unity which will in-turn protect our hard-earned peace for development and prosperity.

My Fellow Liberians:

We often take for granted the weight of our individual titles and how it is perceived by those around us and those observing from a distance. For those perceptions come with a level of expectation. Let me give you a recent example.

While walking and interacting with the people of Ganta at the just ended cabinet retreat, a little boy, I believe to be between the ages of 9-12 approached me and said “aunty I want ask you something” so me being me, I said “okay, what is it”? and he proceeded and said “aunty, watin all those plenty people doing inside there”? as funny and direct as his question was, it was a sharp reminder to me that whenever national leaders gathers regardless of the intent, there is a reasonable expectation that they are discussing matters that would affect the lives of the common people. Therefore, I went on to explain to little Nya that the President had called all the people who he asked to help him run his government to sit down and look at how they have helped the Liberian people since they voted for him and how they can plan to do more for the people. Nya smiled and said, “thank you yah aunty, but

my recess oh”, I laughed and gave him small thing for his recess and away he went running.

Distinguished Ladies and Gentlemen:

What appeared to be a fleeting moment of curiosity for little Nya is an ongoing question for many across our great nation. “What are these people all doing here”? Better yet, what are we with all of our self-proclaimed titles and accolades doing for our beloved country Liberia? Even at this very moment, as we sit here all elegantly dressed up in our national colors, partaking in the pomp and pageantry, there are those still wondering “What are all those people doing there”?

More than likely if you ask a passerby, they would say “you na know today da 26 day, where someone is selected to speak to the nation, and will either criticize the government, blast at the opposition or do both”? But unfortunately for persons out there listening, watching, or currently seated in this hall, the theme of this day dispenses me of that burden, as fostering unity, protecting our peace for prosperity and development knows no one individual, no political side, no tribe, and no religion. It is a charge to keep for each and every Liberian far and near.

Therefore, I will spend the next few minutes resisting the temptation of restating our problems and challenges, but instead focus on how far we have come as a nation and subsequently remind us of our collective responsibility to go even further.

Liberia has made enormous strides over the years. We have now moved in the direction of overcoming the perils of the war, and the destruction it left in its track. I am sure some of us still remember the ethnic and political cleavages of the polarized nation we once had; one that valued identity over patriotism; and engaged in systemic exclusion and malfeasance.

This eventually led to one of Africa’s most brutal civil wars which wiped out a significant portion of our country’s population. Unfortunately, the youth of our country were the main implementers of these heinous crimes that occasioned the brutality simply because they were mostly illiterate and easy to manipulate.

Years after major hostilities ceased, the subsequent effects of the socioeconomic decline the war caused is still very apparent: This is mainly in the form of the thousands of disadvantaged youth who roam the streets living a life of drugs and crime.

However, I can proudly delight in saying that this government has now planned a more sustainable program intended to help ameliorate their lives. This is definitely a far cry from the years of lip service politicians have thrown at what potentially is an existential crisis for our country.

This brings me to the point of urging our leaders, in every sector, particularly my colleagues in government to desist from romanticizing the genuine challenges we face. It is a known fact that these are inherited challenges but by assuming the roles we have today we have each made a conscious choice to commit to alleviating these challenges in support of the President’s Pro Poor Agenda for Prosperity and Development (PAPD). Let us therefore desist the desired attempts to show off our literary brilliance and instead act. Let us work for the people of Liberia.

Let us ensure that such actions manifest in every sector, including respect for the rights of women. Our nation is currently acclaimed for breaking the glass ceiling in this regard therefore we must continue to forge ahead and not pay lip service or relegate. That my fellow Liberians would be a true travesty.

Our President, His Excellency Dr. George Manneh Weah is often heard saying that “Without Peace Our World Would Be Difficult” and for me, this statement always serves as a strong reminder of the importance of Protecting our Peace as a nation considering that twenty plus years after the end of the civil war, we are still experiencing the after effects in terms of lingering social and infrastructural deficits.

The major responsibility of every government is the maintenance of peace. For us in Liberia, this is an uncompromising common good. No democracy can thrive, no development can take place and the welfare of the citizenry cannot be served if peace is not guaranteed. Therefore, the maintenance of peace is not solely the responsibility of the government in power. The opposition has such equal responsibility as does each and every Liberian citizen including foreigners residing within the borders of our land.

My Fellow Liberians:

Peace is a prerequisite for development as a whole because it creates an enabling environment for the fundamentals of societal progress which are Infrastructural Development, Free Market Structures and the Rule of Law. When there is the absence of peace, key sectors such as Education and Health break down, critical systems to enable nationwide development all crumble. Peace preserves additional resources both human and financial which if left unabated would otherwise be used to instill violence.

We are all aware by now that peace and development go hand in hand, the more peaceful a nation, the more prosperous, stable, and developed it shall be.

For the many years of civil conflict, all my generation witnessed was sustained destruction of properties, loss of lives, a tarnished national image and lowering of our self-esteem.  This left many to wonder if development could ever take place amidst all these conditions. Nevertheless, Liberians demonstrated a strong will, a nationalistic spirit, courage in the face of unsurmountable challenges and set aside their differences to choose peace over conflict which allowed our nation to move forward.

With the fresh air of peace over the land, our democracy was restored, and the rebuilding of our nation commenced.

Peace, my fellow Liberians is not and has not been the absence of war or violent conflict, rather it is the presence of a fully functioning society which provides opportunities and equal participation in the national space.

There is peace when development in every form is spread to every nook and cranny of Liberia.

There is peace when access to education is a matter of right and not privilege.

There is peace when healthcare is accessible to all by the increased number of medical facilities and referral hospitals beyond the capital city.

There is peace when Liberians regardless of location and medium can freely express themselves without having to fear for their lives

Oh yes, there is peace when there is equal participation in the political landscape of the country, where the mandate and choices of the people are respected.

And because there is peace, we are experiencing waves of development across the country. Whether you and I choose to acknowledge it or not the development is quite visible.

But since the constitution reserves the right for only the president to deliver the state of the nation, where he will detail said waves of development, I will refrain from abrogating that authority and stick to my task of reminding us all about “Fostering Unity, Protecting our Peace for Development and Prosperity”.

Distinguished Ladies and Gentlemen:

At 175 years of independence, our country is still challenged in many regards. This is not what we are proud of, but neither are we ashamed. With every challenge comes the opportunity for Liberians to demonstrate true patriotism and sincere love for country. 

Our political history reminds us that Liberia was a founding member of many international and multinational organizations. The challenges that faced the world then which necessitated the formation of such organizations are still confronting the world today and Liberia is not an exception.

Prosperity and Development resonates from sound leadership, uncommon vision, bringing citizens along in the governance process, fiscal probity, zero tolerance for corruption and accountability.

Nevertheless, prosperity and development is not achieved overnight nor are they instantaneous outcomes. They are outcomes of bold leadership and prudent decision making which brings me to the not so favorable topic of modus operandi in terms of donor support in the form of direct budget support or donor implemented projects.

Mr. President, Madam Vice President, Distinguished Ladies and Gentlemen:

As we actively engage in the development of our country, I believe it is now time that we sit as partners and fully examine the impact of these donor sponsored loans and grants in order to assess the true impact on the lives of our people. What goes into deciding how projects are determined or selected? Where and what part of the country are those projects implemented? and under whose authority are those monies expended?

Let me boldly say that in terms of addressing governance and accountability concerns, we have done everything as a nation, from changing governments, to fighting a senseless war, firing ministers and heads of agencies, voting new members of legislature, but yet the one thing that remains constant is the mode of operation of donor funding regardless of the government in power or the lack of tangible impact seen. This must change. Accountability must be on all sides.

If we were to pause for a moment and request the dollar value of the total amounts in donor funding over the last decade or two, whether in the form of loans or grants I am certain it will be several billions of dollars. Yet, if we are to match that with the corresponding impact, we would all agree to a re-examination of the mode of operation of donor funding.

To the friends of Liberia and our donor community, I want you to understand that you remain valuable partners in keeping our peace and promoting our development agenda. However, in partnerships there must be honest exchanges and flexibility in operations to truly support the agenda of a nation.  Perhaps the level of bureaucracies in the approval and procurement processes and the excessive control over these projects can lead to reduced impact and subsequently shift the pressure back to government, who in most instances have little or no control over these projects but yet are held accountable for the dollar value of these projects.

On the average it takes half of a presidential term, if not a whole term to get a donor funded project signed, implemented and completed. This I am certain needs to be looked at critically.

Colleagues of the Cabinet and Heads of Agencies and Corporations:

We have a crucial role to play in helping the president deliver on his Pro Poor Agenda for Prosperity and Development; this must never be taken for granted. It is an expectation that the children and people of Liberia benefit from the decisions we make and the impact those decisions have on their lives.

We must all strive to reduce the bottlenecks associated with the implementation of these donor projects, as those delays work against the timely delivery of these projects in the interest of the Liberian people.

My Fellow Liberians:

About two centuries ago this year, we celebrated the formation of our country and the richness of its history. This was only possible due to the

sustained peace we have enjoyed and togetherness that accompanied it.

All Liberians should be credited for the resilience the country has exhibited over the last two centuries. Together we have faced and fought many foes, with much valor. Be it political, social or economic. Recently, like the rest of the world, we even triumphed over a major global pandemic. This is a testament to the Liberian spirit of patriotism and determination for which we must all be proud.

Nevertheless, we as a people must never forget the price paid by leaders of generations before us and the sacrifices they made to give us what we now have as Liberia.

It is important to note that irrespective of our differences and the unfettered freedoms we enjoy daily; we must never return our nation to its darkest past.

I want to thank the national legislature for the passage of the amendment to the Alien and Nationality Law, setting forth the path for dual citizenship which I believe is long overdue, but as they say it is always better late than never.

It is on this land that our forebears lived in freedom, after years of servitude and bondage. This is where their roots have been planted. Although the last few decades brought with it political, social and economic crises, giving rise to the exodus of some of our compatriots, they have never ceased their support and love for the motherland.

They say home is where the heart is. This is indeed the Land of Return for all Liberians: Once a Liberian; Always a Liberian. No law should have to separate brothers from brothers. We all have a stake in whatever direction this country takes and it is therefore our collective

responsibility to ensure Liberia regains its rightful place amongst the comity of nations.

It is with this charge that I feel an obligation to address how we as individual citizens portray our nation to the outside world. What we say matters but most importantly, what we do is what will ultimately make the difference. Honestly, it is quite simple to sit behind a computer or better yet call into a radio or online show to spew negatives about Liberia. But let me tell you this today, such actions do not demonstrate strength, courage or love for nation, Quite the contrary, it demonstrates weakness, arrogance and lack of patriotism in the face of opportunities to engage and make an impact in your country.

Today is about Fostering Unity, protecting our Peace for Development and Prosperity and as the good book reminds us, there is a time for everything under the heavens so we as a people must learn to be patriotic even while waiting for our time. Patriotism is defined as “the feeling of love, devotion, and sense of attachment to one’s country”. My fellow Liberians, can we confidently say we are patriotic? Because at times I do wonder if we as Liberians truly understand what it means to be patriotic.

175 years of Independence and 200 years of existence requires a different level of boldness so let me take a moment to address our self-proclaimed social media and talk show heroes who are constantly disguised in self-dignified arrogance. Understand that your criticisms without the proffering of solutions or actions is just another level of hate. So as you use your individual platforms to point out the ills of our Liberian society, I challenge you to demonstrate your love for country by not just words but also actions that make a difference in the lives of everyday Liberians.

For the country’s image you so easily tarnish today is the same country you desire to lead tomorrow. So for the sake of love for nation as proclaimed, let us unite in the midst of our differences and move Liberia forward so that if you are ever given an opportunity to lead, you will inherit a wholesome nation. Not one divided based on personal interest or political ambition.

Distinguished Ladies and Gentlemen:

My selection to serve as your National Orator today was not a mistake. I am a clear demonstration of what happens when preparation meets opportunity. I proudly stand here today as a 39-year-old, highly educated single mother who challenged herself to leave her homeland, prepared both educationally and professionally to return home and contribute to her nation.

I represent every individual who has ever had to make hard choices and sacrifices for family, love of country and humanity.  I represent every woman and girl who the world doubted her ability to lead. I represent a generation determined to change the landscape of this country and most importantly I represent the product of every mother who has sacrificed to give her child a better opportunity.

When I think about the future of Liberia, I think about what lies in store for children like my 5-year-old daughter Mariella and little Nya of Ganta city. There can be no wavering when it comes to Fostering Unity, Protecting Our Peace for Development and Prosperity. So for every one Liberian who chooses not to step up and make an impact in this country, there are many willing to step up to the challenge and make a difference.

My Fellow Liberians:

As Abraham Lincoln once said, “A house divided against itself can never stand”. Therefore, let us celebrate our nation’s 175th Independence Anniversary and our Bicentennial year remembering that a collective effort must be put forth in order to move Liberia forward. On this day, as the National Orator of Liberia’s 175th Independence Anniversary, my proclamation to the world is that the Liberian story will no longer be one of political strife, under-development, disease or poverty. Instead, it will be one of unity, development, economic stability and prosperity.

Happy Independence Day!

I thank you.

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