Book Review: Liberian Democracy Ambushed

Political pundit and writer, Tewroh Wehton Sungbeh, has followed up on his first book, as he published his second this summer. Aptly titled, the name of the book is a forerunner of what to expect in these pages.

Liberian Democracy Ambushed is a well-timed critique about Liberia, its leaders and the shady concessions the writer says has been made by compromising the country’s interests for selfish paybacks.

The central theme in Sungbeh’s pontification seems to be recurrent: that the Liberian presidency has been a greater force for malevolence than good, since the country’s foundation.

Liberia’s powerful presidency and its leaders, he says, have had no interests in a governing strategy rooted in democracy, where the three branches of government are fully functional with the constitution as a guiding post for parity.

This, the book pronounces, has led to corrosion in governance and service delivery of Africa’s first republic and its ability to enhance the rule of law and equity for its citizenry.

Today, because of a centralized political bureaucracy that makes all of the decisions from Monrovia with no interest seemingly to decentralize power, the bureaucracy is stifled. Self-seeking Liberian officials and civil servants now seek the favor of the presidency blindingly as patronage continues to eat away at those core values upon which the country’s foundation rests.

Furthermore, the book notes that appointed and elected officials curry favors for jobs and as they seek brown envelopes to get attention from the presidency, thereby compromising the national interest.

Of keen interest is the recent suspicious death of Harry Greaves, Jr., former managing director of the Liberian Petroleum Refining Corporation who was at one point a close friend of President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf. Additionally, the deaths of whistleblower Michael Allison and Dan Oragun raise some eyebrows. Allison and Oragun, lawyer and banker, respectively, died within a year, as their deaths were ruled by way of drowning, with the government relying on autopsy with no efforts at any serious inquiry.

The legacy of the True Whig Party, says the book, has cast a long shadow, with modern Liberian presidents, including Sirleaf, still reproducing the tendencies that led Liberia to violence.

Liberian Democracy Ambush: How the Liberian Presidents and the Educated Elites Plunged Liberia into Dictatorship, Poverty, War and Underdevelopment, is a suitable reminder of how the governance process has eroded because institutions are weak, and where the three branches of government are still not co-independent and equal as the presidency and the executive branch continues to interfere and assert it weight to the disadvantage of constitutional democracy.  Liberia, which is Africa’s oldest republic, is perhaps Africa’s least developed after 169 years of independence because of these vices.

Tewroh-Wehtoe Sungbeh is also an editor at The Liberian Dialogue. His first book, Political Commentary and Reflections on Liberia, foretold similar leitmotifs. He has so far been consistent.

By advancing in this 201-page paperback, that the political elite has betrayed Liberia’s cause, and the founding purpose and the ideas behind the nation’s birth, Sungbeh in effect is calling for a new political order and new leaders. The book is blunt as it speaks truth to power. It also comes equipped with an in-depth bibliography, an improvement over Sungbeh’s last.

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