The Angel You Don’t Know: Harvard’s Fundraiser Blights Kennedy’s Values

first_imgOn May 16, 2014, the Harvard Kennedy School (HKS) launched a $500 million dollars fundraising campaign. HKS claimed the funds will “allow HKS to provide a new level of leadership and innovation while bringing meaningful and positive change to the world.” HKS invited its super star, Liberian President, Ellen Johnson Sirleaf to showcase its global leadership model. While President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf has done many important things for Liberia and Africa for which she was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize, her two-term record on democratic leadership disqualifies her as an envoy of Kennedy’s values of public service and democracy on the world stage. It is important for HKS not only to train “exceptional public leaders”, HKS must also model on the global stage its values by associating only with leaders committed to strengthening democracy-no matter who they are and even if such a move hurts fundraising efforts.John F. Kennedy is known worldwide for strengthening democratic institutions, empowering ordinary folks through the Peace Corps and public service, evidenced by President Kennedy’s favorite quote, “Ask not what your country can do for you. Ask what you can do for your country.” Liberian President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, on the other hand, has demonstrated an extraordinary contempt for democracy by usurping the authority of citizens to vote for local government officials.The Liberian constitution gives the president vast powers, including the power to appoint all cabinet members and their deputies, heads of all government agencies and public corporations and governors of all political sub-divisions in the entire country.In 2009, President Sirleaf struck a devastating blow at the very core of the republican form of democracy by seeking new powers to exclude citizens from electing local government officials who control many basic aspects of their lives. President Sirleaf argued and won the authority to appoint all mayors and city councilors, adding to her already vast powers. This act by HKS super star and outstanding fundraiser has rendered the republic impotent by usurping the powers of citizens to vote. It is incomprehensible and unjustifiable for an elected official who sought the vote of Liberian citizens to effectively disenfranchise voters immediately after they voted to make her Africa’s first female president.This undemocratic act in a republic, not a monarchy, jeopardizes security, justice and access to equal opportunities. For example, in obtaining the power to appoint government officials in nearly all aspects of government, President Sirleaf has worked to establish undue powers in her own hands and in the hands of the elite few, including her sons, friends and family members.Considering the many top government officials recruited from HKS, including the dismissed Airport Manager and other relatives and friends of the president represented in high-salaried positions within the Sirleaf Administration, one can conclude that the administration has done more to enrich members of the elite, her sons and family members than it has done to improve the quality of life for ordinary Liberians.The administration set its own standards for who can work in government (including educational requirements that would be unavailable to ordinary Liberians) as well as corresponding salaries and benefits that far exceed those paid to public servants across America. For an impoverished post-conflict country with an annual budget of $583 million, Liberian representatives earn at least $84,000 per year while cabinet ministers and heads of public corporations can take home up to $180,000 excluding benefits such as gas slips, medical benefits, and housing privileges. Compare that to salaries earned in Massachusetts, where the annual budget is $36 billion dollars, lawmakers earn $62,000 yearly. In New Hampshire with a budget of $11 billion dollars, senators and representatives earn $100 yearly. In both cases, lawmakers receive no cars, gas slips, no armed body guards, or other tangible benefits. Liberian citizens live on less than one dollar a day but the elite officials’ excessive and costly travels include first class airline tickets. The Sirleaf administration’s standards are unrealistic, given the revenues generated by Liberia. The high salaries and benefits, in practice, only benefit the Liberian elite and these policies are helping to create an elite ruling class and permanently sowing the seeds of discord and more political instability.According to Photius.com, Liberia has 85% unemployment. Most citizens lack access to electricity, running water and basic services. In fact, Liberia, a country of 43,000 sq. miles has only one registry of motor vehicle located in the capital city Monrovia,  where the 4.5 million citizens must travel up to 300 miles go to get driver’s licenses and register their vehicles. Imagine how Americans would feel if President Obama appointed all governors, including Governor Patrick of Massachusetts, all mayors and directors of public transit such as Massport. Imagine living in a country so centralized that every citizen must travel to one office to get a driver’s license and vehicle registration. In Liberia, citizens must also travel to the centralized post office to mail letters and every citizen must rent mail boxes because the Liberian Postal Service does not deliver to homes.  President Sirleaf wields more powers in Liberia than the queen of England who rules over a monarchy, not a republic and who lacks the powers to appoint all mayors, including the mayor of London.According to the May 16, 2014 Harvard Crimson article, President Johnson Sirleaf was very clear about her primary role. “My first role is to inspire women,” she said. “You must accept the fact that there will be vulnerability in response to (disaffected citizens’) needs… and that’s part of what leadership is all about.”  After benefiting from the ballot cast by Liberian citizens, the president immediately began to undermine the voting powers of citizens in a country where bullets, not ballot determined the leaders in the past two decades.                                      Irving Christo said: “Democracy does not guarantee equality of conditions; it guarantees equality of opportunities.” By concentrating undue powers in her own hands and in the hands of her children, family and friends, systematically widening the gap between filthy rich Liberians and dirt poor citizens, by closing all avenues of opportunities for Liberians without access to American colleges and universities and deliberately eroding democratic institutions through unjustifiable disenfranchisement, President Sirleaf earned for herself a seat at Harvard’s fundraising table. However, I am surprised that the HKS has betrayed the values of President Kennedy by turning a blind eye to President Sirleaf’s actions designed to weaken democracy and snatch ballot powers from citizens who have struggled for two decades to transition from bullets for ballots.Torli H. Krua is founder of the Universal Human Rights International (UHRI). UHRI promotes democracy and citizens’ initiatives in Africa and refugee rights in the United States of America. Krua, a resident of Brockton, MA is a native of Liberia and pastor of Dorchester-based Ziah Mission Church. Please send comments to: harlankrua@gmail.comShare this:Click to share on Twitter (Opens in new window)Click to share on Facebook (Opens in new window)last_img read more

Chinese Envoy Cautions Politicians against Taiwan’s ‘Dollar Diplomacy’

first_imgThe ‘One China’ policy is a key cornerstone of China’s relations with the world and is the fundamental bedrock of Chinese policymaking and diplomacyWith just six months to the representative and presidential elections in the country, Mr. Li Zhaung, Counselor and Deputy Chief of Mission at the Embassy of the People’s Republic of China, (PRC) near Monrovia last Friday urged Liberian politicians to be mindful of Taiwan’s preparedness to give out big money to ensure the restoration of diplomatic relations with Liberia against the ‘One China’ policy.Liberia is part of the 52 African countries that support PRC’s ‘One China’ policy, which says that Taiwan is part of China and therefore others should maintain diplomatic relations with the PRC to represent the interest of the Chinese people.Speaking on the topic, “One China policy and its impact in Africa” at the Edward Wilmot Blyden Intellectual Forum organized by the Press Union of Liberia in Monrovia, Mr. Li said Liberian politicians need to be cautious of Taiwan’s attempts to use them to exploit the country.Envoy Li said Taiwanese authorities are prepared to do business with some politicians that may include presidential candidates by providing campaign funds in order to establish or maintain so called “diplomatic relations” when they come to power.He said Taiwanese authorities may attempt to enlarge their international space by making use of the political situations and economic difficulties in a country through “dollar diplomacy.”“Their intent is to create trouble for the China-Liberia relations,” Mr. Li noted. “Many Liberians have not yet understood the ‘One China’ policy because they are blinded by the Taiwanese’s surreptitious attempts, which come in the form of gestures.”He said: “It is possible that some Liberians may not understand the Sinoe-Liberia relations and could therefore tamper with our bilateral relations.”Envoy Li said China-Liberia relations were hurt twice because of the Taiwan issue and as a result the Liberian people did not benefit from the “so called diplomatic relations with Taiwan.”He said the People’s Republic of China appreciates the Liberian government’s firm adherence to the ‘One China’ policy and assured Liberians that his government is willing to foster friendly relations with not only the government but all political parties as well.“We hope that the Liberian people, including political parties, will appreciate and cherish what we have achieved in the past 14 years since our two countries resumed diplomatic relations,” Envoy Li said.He said for Liberia to adhere to the ‘One China’ policy is in line with the common interests of China and Africa. “Today, 52 African countries adhere to the ‘One China’ policy and we are gratified by the progresses we see in a wide range of China-African collaboration,” he noted.Li recalled that “in 1971 the UN General Assembly adopted Resolution 2758 which was responsible for the expulsion of representatives of the Taiwanese authorities from the world body and restored the seat and all lawful rights of the government of the People’s Republic of China.”Recounting some other benefits in the China-Liberia diplomatic relations, he said “For the deployment of UNMIL in 2003, China as a permanent member of the UN Security Council, voted in favor of Liberia and consistently supported the peacekeeping operations in Liberia.”“During the Ebola Virus Disease outbreak, China was the first country to provide assistance to Liberia,” he said. “Our cooperation in security, agriculture, education, healthcare, trade, etc. has made rapid progress and achieved tangible outcomes which are beneficial to the Liberian people.”Meanwhile, the Managing Editor of the Inquirer Newspaper, Mr. Philip Wesseh, called on Liberian journalists to read and acquire more understanding about the ‘One China’ policy in order to be able to inform the public.“China has increased her support in recent years to the development of our country and what we see going on around us may carry us to higher heights,” Mr. Wesseh said. “The ‘One China’ policy is intended to safeguard China’s sovereignty and territorial integrity.”Presently, 174 countries in the world maintain close bilateral relations with the People’s Republic of China and support the ‘One China’ policy.The ‘One China’ policy is the diplomatic acknowledgement of China’s position that there is only one Chinese government, and China sees Taiwan as a breakaway province to be reunified with the mainland one day, a BBC report stated.The ‘One China’ policy is also a key cornerstone of China’s relations with the world and is the fundamental bedrock of Chinese policymaking and diplomacy.Although the Taiwan government claims it is an independent country officially called the “Republic of China,” (ROC) any country that wants diplomatic relations with mainland China (PRC) must break official ties with Taipei. This has resulted in Taiwan’s diplomatic isolation from the international community.The policy can be traced back to 1949 and the end of the Chinese civil war. The defeated Nationalists, also known as the Kuomintang, retreated to Taiwan and made it their seat of government, while the victorious Communists began ruling the mainland as the People’s Republic of China.Both sides say they represent all of China.Share this:Click to share on Twitter (Opens in new window)Click to share on Facebook (Opens in new window)last_img read more