It’s 7:30 p.m. on a snowy Saturday night in Fairfax County, Virginia. I’m sequestered in my apartment, inundated by the “Blizzard of 2016” where more than two feet of snow had been forecasted.
Settling in for a quiet night, I reluctantly stared at my phone and saw several missed calls and text messages from Liberia. A text message from a colleague of mine reads:
“Dozens of youth gathered today in Monrovia in what seemed to be a preparation for a political campaign for the former auditor general. Are you aware of this?”
“Yes, I am,” I replied.
You see, for the past few months, concerned Liberians have been working on a grassroots movement to support the anti-corruption initiative of John S. Morlu, II. This group has been urging the former Auditor General of Liberia to run for president in the upcoming 2017 elections based on his history as a leader in the fight against corruption in Liberia.
Moreover, a new political party, the proposed Justice and Anti-Corruption party, or JAC, has emerged. This party was co-founded by another native son of Liberia, Jerome J. Verdier, Sr., a human rights activist, lawyer, and former chairperson of the Truth and Reconciliation Committee for Liberia along with other concerned Liberians. JAC and its members have been calling on Morlu to run as well.
Having had the pleasure to meet with Morlu several times, I too, have been urging him to run for president. He’s the right man at the right time with both the experience and the desire to stand up for Liberia. So, yes, I am aware of the calls for Morlu – and of his intentions – to run for president.
Morlu has been vocal about what’s at stake with the 2017 presidential elections in Liberia. In a recent keynote address to the Press Union of Liberia in Buchanan, Morlu questioned the notion that Liberia’s democracy is comparable to America’s, boldly declaring that it is “not even close” before detailing how the “massive levels of corruption” have plagued the current administration to the detriment of the people of Liberia.
Because of rampant corruption, the population, 82.3 percent of which is under age 40, is angry and disengaged. In his speech, he said, “Today, people say Liberia is stable and at peace, but just beneath that superficial stability and peace, there is glaring hostility, distrust and anger in Liberia, all because of the massive levels of corruption that exist at all levels in Liberia today.”
Morlu explained that the Liberian people have lost confidence in the government’s ability to make a fundamental difference in their lives. He said, “The president has lost the confidence of the Liberian people, because she has put the interest of the corrupt over the suffering of the Liberian people.”
Morlu also dissected the blame game the current administration uses to justify its lack of progress: Ebola, iron ore prices, the Civil War, and “binding constraints.” According to Morlu, “The only binding constraint in Liberia is CORRUPTION. The lack of quality health care, quality education, quality infrastructure and good paying jobs is because of corruption.”
His speech was brilliant and a must-read for anyone concerned about Liberia’s future and the upcoming elections. Though he didn’t declare his intentions to run for president at the time, he certainly built a solid platform for his upcoming candidacy. I urge you to read the speech in its entirety. You will see why so many have urged Morlu to enter the presidential race.
In fact, he’s been approached by every political party in Liberia to join forces, and international organizations have encouraged him to enter the race. After receiving the text message about his possible presidential campaign preparations, I immediately called John Morlu directly. Was he finally entering the race?
Yes, the rumors are true! After persistent pressure from concerned Liberians, Morlu told me in no uncertain terms that he intends to run for president of Liberia.
During his talks with leaders from each political party, Morlu had provided a series of bold anti-corruption approaches to fight corruption and end impunity as the basis for discussion. These approaches are those embraced by the proposed Justice and Anti-Corruption party. Below are a few of proposed steps Morlu had provided:
- Complete audits of past and current government officials in a bid to recover stolen assets – with serious financial and criminal consequences for those found guilty of corruption.
- Full implementation of the TRC Report along with the establishment of a War Crimes Court to prosecute those indicted for war crimes in the TRC Report.
- Full, impartial implementation of all past, current and future reports on government fraud, waste and abuse.
- Consequences for corruption to include: immediate dismissals, immediate prosecution, confiscation of stolen assets, and debarment from public service and procurement with Government.
- Holding corrupt persons personally accountable to recover stolen assets.
- Conducting thorough background checks (including experience and academic credentials) on all government officials and employees with immediate dismissals, prosecution, and debarment from public service for anyone found to have lied, misled or cheated on their experience and credentials.
- Establishing an Administrative Panel to enforce the Code of Conduct.
However, none of the traditional parties presented a strong argument for supporting his vision. They had their own priorities. Recognizing the bold, reformative nature of his vision, Morlu realized that running under an existing political party would likely place numerous obstacles, conflicts, and distractions in the way of true and lasting reforms.
Thus, Morlu has decided to run under the proposed Justice and Anti-Corruption (JAC) party. Not only would aligning himself with this new political organization enable him to focus his campaign, and if successful, his presidency, on fighting corruption within Liberia, the party’s values, vision, and priorities are well aligned with Morlu’s. It’s a nearly perfect match.
2017 is a year away, but presidential campaigns are well underway in Liberia. Now that Morlu has confirmed his intention to run under the proposed JAC party, the next step is the primary election where each party will select its party candidate. I urge you to learn more about the Justice and Anti-Corruption party and about John Morlu. The more you learn, the more you’ll see why concerned Liberians have urged him to join the proposed JAC party and run for president.
Morlu is passionate about fighting corruption, his top priority. But there’s more to it than correcting a wrong. He told me that it all boils down to an American principle: the pursuit of happiness.
He wants this for all Liberians, but he says that the pursuit of happiness is only possible when Liberia has a democratic society that promotes freedom and opportunity for all Liberians irrespective of social class, gender, religion, age, ethnicity and tribal affiliation.
Sounds easy enough, right? Not without accountability, transparency and the rule of law. Not when corruption is tolerated at any level.
Corruption undermines accountability, transparency, and the rule of law, which in turn denies both freedom and opportunity, which in turn denies us the pursuit of happiness. Corruption and the pursuit of happiness are simply not compatible.
Morlu has a vision for Liberia and the will to continue his fight against corruption — the one and only binding constraint — in Liberia. Once this barrier to a true American-style democracy comes down, Liberia can finally make real progress in health care, education, employment, mortality, literacy, infrastructure, social services, sustainability, and the pursuit of happiness.
It’s time for the youth and people of Liberia to stand up and finally create their own path behind a reputable man, unblemished from the underhandedness and double-dealing of Liberia. It’s time for a Liberian president who doesn’t talk about fighting corruption but who actually fights it, as Morlu has been doing his entire adult life.