Despite having made some level of progress in getting Liberia back on its feet after 14 years of civil war, the government of Liberia still faces serious challenges on many fronts including economic revitalization, infrastructure, energy, reconciliation, socio-economic advancement and health.
Notwithstanding the gains made, former Presidential aspirant, Thomas Q. Harris say the failure of this government to achieve most of its development goal is due to “misplaced priorities”. According to Mr. Harris, reconciliation should have been the first step in any given instance as far as developmental advance is concerned. “Every nation divided against itself will be ruined, and every city or household divided against itself will not stand,” said Harris, referencing the biblical passage Mathew 12:25. He stressed that Liberians are still bitter and the legacy of our civil war lives on. The former presidential hopeful said one way to deal with reconciliation is through the prosecution of those who committed heinous crimes against the people. He added that the restoration of law and order would have been next line of priority, as there was a complete breakdown of order during the course of the war. Speaking in exclusive interview with The Capitol Times over the weekend, the outspoken opposition leader cautioned that the prosecution of those who wrecked havoc on the Liberian people is the only way out in achieving reconciliation. “There must a transparent investigation and subsequent prosecution that would either convict or vindicate those accused,” he emphasized. He said without this, there will still be dark clouds hovering over some people, and even others that being accused but might not have participated or contributed to the civil crisis. In effect, Mr. Harris said some of the people being pointed at today as war criminals may not be as guilty as perceived. He also stated that letting people off the hook with impunity has negative economic consequences. “If a businessman wants to invest US$2 billion for example, and hears that people who killed hundreds of citizens are moving about on the mere basis of “let-bygone-be bygone, such investor could conjecture that his invest is at risk because someone would attack him and go free,” he said. Commenting on the prevailing economic downturn Liberia faces, he said the government of Liberia missed the mark in terms of rewinding the wheels of history that led to failure in the past. He pointed that one of the missteps by this government was to continue the trend of heavily relying on the extractive sector for economic growth. He averred that this has never proven worthwhile. The extractive sector has consistently been vulnerable to external shocks that have always seriously impacted the local economy. Thomas Q. Harris believes that it is time for government to diversify the economy like other African countries are doing. Evidence of this assertion is manifested in the present reality the Liberian government is experiencing due to drop in the prices of iron ore, rubber and other major export commodities on the world market. “You cannot do the same things over and over and expect different results,” he lamented. Mr. Harris also shed lights on ongoing debate about dual citizenship and same sex marriage. One the former, he said that Liberians should see reason to welcome their “families” back home by granting them citizenship. He added that this will have tremendous benefits on the country. For instance, he said a Liberian in the United States has expertise to provide cheap electricity to Liberia but he would be denied or held back on the basis of his citizenship. He is therefore calling for a review of Liberia’s citizenship law. For same sex marriage, Mr. Harris said Liberia is not prepared for such practice, as it is not a norm in Liberia and many African countries. “America, seven years ago did not accept it because the society was not just accustom to it even though it was being practiced in some places,” he said. In 2011, TQ Harris thought to join the presidential race but declined at the eleventh hour for unknown reasons. Nonetheless, he is still contemplating the possibility of contesting again if, according to him, he does see anyone who can provide a better leadership to Liberia. He furthered that at the moment he does not see anyone on the list of individuals who have disclosed their intention to provide good leadership to this country. “Liberia lacks leadership. This is the one of the major factors responsible for our backwardness. We need someone to inspire change; that could include bringing somebody with a relatively new way of thinking to show us the way. This may sound odd but it is important that we think outside the box,” he maintained. As plans advance for the drawdown of the United Nations Mission in Liberia (UNMIL) peacekeeping mission, Mr. Harris opined that it is unthinkable for the government to rest content that all is well for the UN to leave.