‘Our peace is shaky’ – Full Text of Cummings’ 2023 ‘July 26’ Speech
Opposition leader Alexander Benedict Cummings, in his July 26 Independence Day Message criticized the Weah administration for “rampant corruption”, poor leadership, and its failure to improve on the gains made by the previous government.
Mr. Cummings, a presidential aspirant, delivered his address on Tuesday, June 25 at the headquarters of the Collaborating Political Parties (CPP) in Sinkor, Monrovia.
Read the full text below.
My Fellow Liberians:
Liberia is 176 years old. Our country is too old and experienced to be where we are today. We are 118 years older than Singapore, 101 years older than the State of Israel, and 110 years older than the Republic of Ghana. Our country inspired these countries and assisted others to become independent. Yet, as we celebrate our age, we are ranked amongst the poorest and most corrupt nations on earth.
Although we are blessed with so much natural wealth, yet, we are poor. Too many of our people live in unacceptable conditions of poverty, and are continuing to die from preventable and treatable illnesses. Liberia is blessed with fertile soil and good weather; yet, we cannot feed ourselves. The educational system is a shameful mess; the health system is a disgrace; and the justice system is a joke. We cannot even trust the government to fairly investigate and impartially interpret our laws.
Under President Weah, our country has become increasingly lawless. Lawlessness is a serious threat to democracy, and a risk to any nation’s stability and security. Our peace is shaky. Too many Liberians are living in fear; too many are jobless, and too many are without employable skills. Things are bad and getting worse.
Homes are breaking down; families are falling apart; children are forced to become breadwinners as drugs and crimes take over our streets and communities. Women and girls continue to struggle for protection from crimes such as rape, and inclusion in national decision-making. Our nation is struggling with political insecurity and economic fragility. We are in serious trouble, my people.
International financial institutions are keeping us on economic life-support. All across the country, and in every political party, Liberians are suffering. Serious international investors are not finding our country to be a suitable destination for investments under President Weah. The government is corrupt, wasteful, divisive, irresponsible, and cannot be trusted to obey its own laws. Even worse, the Weah administration does not know what it is doing, and cannot inspire a reset of the nation’s compass so we find our way to a bright and united future. Under President Weah, our country is adrift. We have lost our way.
Admittedly, Liberia’s decline did not begin with President Weah. However, every good thing this administration inherited, it has effectively made bad, and every bad thing, including corruption that it inherited, it has made historically worse. Over the last 6 years, Liberia has become a Gangster’s Paradise presided over by a band of thieves. Our country is a drug haven, our diplomatic passports are possessed by international criminals, our democracy is under threat, lawlessness abounds, and our governance system is overtaken by cronyism, incompetence and stalking dictatorship.
As if this is not dangerous enough, starved of new ideas and vision, some political leaders are deepening the wounds of our fractured nation and lowering our politics into an appeal to tribal and religious divisions. Liberians of every tribe and religion are suffering the mismanagement of our country and the result of a corrupt leadership. Now is not the time to fuel tribal tensions or to divide our people.
And so, if any political leader wants to take us backward, they should know that Liberians desire to move forward. Talk about tribe, but our people want to talk about fixing the economy so they can find good and decent-paying jobs. Talk about dialect, but our people want to fix their roads, fix their schools and fix their hospitals. Liberians of all tribes want to see their lives improved. And so, if you have no new ideas about how to fix our country and stop the suffering of our people, shut up and sit down!
My Fellow Liberians:
I have worked in many foreign capitals around the world and have built accountable systems. I have led teams comprising citizens of many different countries. I know that citizens of other nations are not smarter than we are. Our country is richly blessed, my people, including with competent and qualified citizens who can properly manage our country and lead us to a new future of unity and shared prosperity.
Liberia is rich in talent and human capacity. I see them in every political party and across all tribes. I see them in every religion. I see them across the Liberian Diaspora. We will work with everyone, irrespective of differences in tribe, gender, religion and political party affiliation. All we will require is a new mindset of high integrity and a commitment to public accountability, which I will lead, by example, to fix the broken system.
For me, Real Change is not a meaningless political slogan. This is because I refuse to agree that we must continue to accept low standards, incompetence and lack of integrity in the leadership of our country. I refuse to accept that Liberians are cursed to be poor and corrupt, and that it is ok for our political leaders to continue to corruptly negotiate away our natural resources so that we have increasingly become a rent-seeking and dependent nation. I refuse to accept that after shipping out our rubber, diamond, iron ore and gold, our communities still need to be without first-class schools, our hospitals without modern technology and equipment, and our roads continue to be unpaved and impassable. We have to fix this foolishness!
I strongly disagree that we must continue to outsource the responsibilities of our government to other nations and international organizations. Of course, we need international assistance. But we do not need others to do for us what we can, and should be doing, for ourselves. Liberia is not cursed by God to have corrupt leaders and poor people!
I am running for President to change these things. I am running to stop the mismanagement of our country. I am running to change the selfish, greedy, corrupt, and exclusionary mindset that continues to keep us poor, our government corrupt, and our people divided. All Liberians own Liberia. All Liberians deserve to benefit from the riches of Liberia. I promise you that this mindset will be the guidepost for all public policies and actions of the Cummings-led government.
My Fellow Citizens:
Although Liberia is old, our population is young. Our young people are our nation’s greatest asset. Our youthful population is dynamic, talented, and ambitious. They hold the key to unlocking the vast potential of our country. Real change is about empowering young people to be the torchbearers of hope and leaders of a new inclusive and progressive society.
Young people need to believe that hard work pays off, and that success is possible if anyone is willing to work for it. At our STEM school, and across many of our institutions of leaning, I see that with just a little help, and with the right mindset to work hard in pursuit of excellence, our children can reach heights in life many parents could not reach. This is the case with Fongbeh F. Tulay, a young Liberian who delivered his valedictorian speech entirely in Chinese, at the Graduation Program of the USX Class of 2023. Fongbeh is the first foreign student to dux a graduating class of over 4,508 Chinese students. The same is true of a nine-year-old Liberian, Trey Clemens, who is being celebrated as one of the best basketball players in his age group in the United States. All across our country, there are Liberians with talents and special gifts that we must find and assist to become the best that they can be not just in Liberia but in the world.
My people, our young people are the link to the future we seek. This is why, all of us must be very concerned about the growing drug epidemic that is sweeping the nation, undermining our nation’s future, and killing our children. Such is this inhumane crime that is mostly targeting our young people that nowhere – not even school campuses – appear to be safe and off-limits to the drug peddlers and their enablers.
Today, let me put the drug traffickers and enablers on notice: We will come after you for what you are doing to our children, and to the future of our country. Stop now because under a Cummings-led government, there will be no hiding place for drug traffickers except in our prisons! To those who are already addicted, help is on the way.
Under President Weah, drug traffickers are right to feel protected. The Weah-led government has done a lot of bad, corrupt and incompetent things. But to have mismanaged the one hundred-million-dollar drug bust prosecution the way it did, is to effectively conspire against the interests of our nation and its children. For this government to set the drug traffickers free, is an unforgiving national sin. It is a disgrace of historic proportions.
They say, curse is upon the dog that only barks after the rogue has left. Curse, also, is upon a government that will declare a so-called state of emergency on drugs after helping cocaine traffickers to freely walk away!
My Fellow Liberians:
There are two common traits every Liberian has been blessed to have. Firstly, we are resilient. However difficult the situation may be, we always find a way to make it through. Secondly, we are blessed with an entrepreneurial spirit. Those who say Liberians cannot do business are wrong and do not really know us. I was educated and learned about business from my mother who sold women under garments. Like me, many have gained their education because their parents, especially their mothers, sold bread, bitter boils, palm oil, and kerosene, amongst other things, to send them to school.
Small businesses and our spirit of entrepreneurship have seen unknown families grow out of poverty and develop into prominence. Small businesses are the backbone of our economy. This is why, for us, fixing the economy means growing small businesses and allowing the Liberian entrepreneurial spirit to soar. Through the collective efforts of small businesses, we shall realize the true potential of inclusive economic growth and social upliftment.
Under a Cummings leadership, Liberian women, especially those doing business, do not need to worry about loans to grow their businesses because we will not rest until we graduate Liberian waiter markets into becoming shops, and push Liberian shop owners to be owners of stores. We want to see Liberian petty traders become wholesalers, distributors, and importers. There is nothing wrong with a Liberian getting rich through hard work and honesty.
We will raise the bar. We will encourage Liberians to think big, and we will not settle for failures of Liberian dreams in their own country. If a Liberian is willing to work hard, under a Cummings-led government, we will make it easy and possible for that Liberian to succeed. This, too, is what we are determined to fix about our country.
From sports to business and from science to the arts, success in Liberia will not be a privilege only for a few. It will be a real possibility for all who are willing to try. We will provide access to resources, mentorship, and financial support to turn ideas and dreams of Liberians into reality. We will foster technological advancements to bridge the digital divide so as to launch our country into real 21st Century transformation.
We will challenge our universities and institutions of higher learning to undertake research. We must expand the creativity, imagination and innovation of professors and students. Through support for research and development we will push to break new grounds and to find home-grown and sustainable solutions to challenges, including in medicine, manufacturing, nutrition and food security.
My people, 176 years after we declared ourselves an independent nation, the time has come to make another declaration: A declaration to fix Liberia. This is because no child needs to go to bed hungry in Liberia. No school needs to be abandoned into being substandard; and no public hospital needs to be without medicines, modern technology and equipment to tend to the sick and prevent the outbreak of diseases.
With a new mindset and the right leadership which we will provide, we will open Liberia to serious international investments. We will create decent paying jobs, and stop the reliance on government to be the biggest employer in the economy. We will grow the economy by growing the private sector and actually increasing the budget so that more will go to those who deserve it the most, and not as currently structured, where the president, vice president, speaker, pro-temp and deputy speaker take out more from the budget than schools and hospitals. This one, da my area! We will fix it!
Finally, my people; there really is a lot we need to do beginning in the next 6 years to fix our country. The next 6 years do not have to be like the last 6. The heartbreaking poverty of Liberians we are seeing everywhere in our country; the mismanagement and corruption in government; and the repeated neglect and abandonment of the Liberian people by those elected to serve them, must not be allowed to continue. None of the exclusions, inequalities and injustices Liberians are confronting today need to be the reality of our children and grandchildren tomorrow. We must fix our country.
The real work to change the direction of our country and improve the living conditions of our people, which must be led by the president is a difficult one for which leaders need to be physically ready and mentally strong. We are ready. I am ready.
I did not come to politics to get rich. I came for change. After a successful career in the private sector, I have come to join the honest efforts of others to change our country for the betterment of all Liberians. If all of us just sit aside and leave our country to only politicians who are looking to take care of themselves and their families, nothing will change in our country.
A lot has happened to me since I started raising my voice for change. I have been lied on, conspired against and falsely persecuted. But God knows the intentions of my heart. And so, He has steadily guided me and continues to protect me from those who do not want things to change because they believe their time has come to ‘chop the elephant meat’. Even if it were before, Liberia is no longer an ‘elephant meat’. Plus, the only time that is upon us, is a time for change.
Our country is bleeding. Liberians are suffering. This is why, it is not enough that we only change parties in October. We must elect the right leadership to inspire a change in mindset, if we are serious to lift Liberians from poverty. We must make Liberia a better place for all Liberians. With faith in God and the support of you, the Liberian people, we will fix our country. We will change Liberia.
Our country is down but we can lift Liberia up again. I promise you: Liberia will rise again. Our nation is fractured but we can be healed, reconciled and united. We can find ourselves again not as tribesmen and women, but as equal citizens. We have fallen behind other nations, but we can run faster to not only catch up but surpass them. We can do this, my people. After all, we are Liberians. There is nothing we cannot do with the right leadership and mindset.
I am ready. I know that Liberians are ready. Because if we do not fix Liberia; who will fix it for us? If we do not fix it now, when will we fix it?
Real change is coming. Liberia deserves better. Liberians deserve better.
God bless you, and Happy 26.