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Liberians in diaspora push for the country lawmakers’ salary reduction, urging U.S. Congress to cut aid unless demand is met.

ONTARIO, Canada – Groups of Liberians in the Diaspora have begun initiating a drive urging the U.S. Government, especially the U.S. Congress, to halt or reduce all aid to Liberia unless Liberian lawmakers, justices and members of the judiciary, and heads of agencies in the Executive branch of government reduce their salaries and benefits at $3,000 or less across the board.

According to some organizers of the pending action who prefer anonymity at this time, the ongoing breakdown of law and order, widespread corruption, and the open theft of public funds in the country have drawn serious attention to the suffering of the Liberian people and indeed portrays the political, social and economic decline of Liberia.

Photo is courtesy of FPA

“The situation in the country has recently propelled dozens of Liberians in the diaspora to initiate a drive aimed at petitioning the White House and the U.S. Congress to halt all U.S. government foreign aid to Liberia unless the country’s lawmakers and members of the judiciary reduce their salaries and benefits to $3,000 or less a month. These people need to get paid based on the economic realities in the country,” said the principal organizers in a statement to Globe Afrique.

Photo is courtesy of FPA

“Liberia is unique in a lot of ways, but one of those ways is very striking: Liberia has, by far, the most corrupt legislature and the most compromised and ethically incompetent judiciary in the world. Besides, the lawmakers of Liberia and the officials of the country’s judiciary, especially the justices of the Supreme Court of Liberia, earn amongst the highest salaries of any poor, aid-dependent, and third world nation,” the organizers’ statement read.

According to the organizers, the current Chief Justice and the justices of the Supreme Court of Liberia earn between $15,000 to $20,000 United States dollars in salaries and benefits, including allowances for rent for their homes – homes which they own, free vehicles, security guards, cell phones, and vacation allowances.

Liberians are complaining about the unfairness and impartiality of the Supreme Court
Most Liberians think the Supreme Court is too political, partisan, corrupt, and is in bed with the Executive Branch of government or the presidency – form Sirleaf to Weah.

“Members of the Liberian Senate and the House of Representatives earn between $12,000 to 15,000 dollars in salaries and benefits. All this is happening in a country where 99% of Liberian families live on less than $1.50 cents a day; where teachers, healthcare workers, and civil servants are not paid for months, and where poverty and unemployment have skyrocketed. It is also happening in a nation with a deplorable healthcare system, deplorable infrastructure, and a failed educational environment, the organizers’ statement added.

The organizers’ statement also said the salaries and benefits of the corrupt Liberian legislature and the inept judiciary are more than two times those of state legislators and members of Superior Courts in the United States.  For example, in Texas, a state far larger than Liberia in size and population, and which has a stronger GDP than Liberia, legislators are paid $7,200 United States dollars per year.  Also, the governor of Texas and those of most U.S. states, including the President of the United States, earn far less than the President of Liberia.

Former presidents George W. Bush and Barack Obama earned $400,000 a year and President Trump’s current salary is also $400,000 a year.

Former President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf and incumbent President George Weah

The organizers’ statement read that: “The astronomical salaries in Liberia today were introduced by Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, the Harvard “trained” economist. The salary increased were seen as an anti-corruption measure, and also a way to attract the kind of brain trust that otherwise would end up in international jobs or consulting.  In Liberia and under Madam Sirleaf, the theory did not work.  The people that make these salaries and get these benefits seem to have no brains, pity, and guts.  If they did, Liberia would get better by now,” according to the group’s statement.

The group statement further read, “In Liberia., of course, the idea of paying elected officials like global corporate CEOs is politically unthinkable and morally bankrupt.”

“The contradiction is that the higher salaries still do not make the Liberian justices and judges fair, just, and incorruptible.   Worse of all, they permit the Liberian presidency to manipulate and control their decisions.  They also allow greed and corruption to influence their verdicts and actions,” the statement continued.

The group said by holding the Liberian government more accountable and putting pressure on the legislature and judiciary are the only option left since they folks in authority refused to listen.

The organizers plan to communicate and meet with hardline Senators like Ted Cruz (Texas), Tom Cotton (Arkansas), Lindsay Graham (South Carolina), Marco Rubio (Florida) and others to make their case why U.S. taxpayers money used as development support and relief aid to Liberia should not facilitate organized corruption and public theft by a few people in Liberia.

Members of the Liberian legislature voting on self-interest bills
Liberian lawmakers
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Blama G. Konuwah

Blama G. Konuwah resides in Vancouver, Canada. He is a public issues analyst and senior contributor to Globe Afrique.

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