Political issues have riddled Liberia, one of Africa’s poorest countries, since its declaration of independence from the United States in 1847. Despite its abundance in natural resources, Liberia continues to face the consequences of poverty, including corruption within its government institutions, epidemic outbreaks and violence. Here are 10 facts about corruption in Liberia.
10 Facts About Corruption in Liberia
- Corruption Perception Index: According to Transparency International’s 2011 Corruption Perception Index, Liberia ranks 91 out of the 183 countries and territories analyzed, with a score of 3.2 on the zero (highly corrupt) to 10 (very clean) scale. This is a tremendous improvement since the index score for Liberia in 2005, which put the country at 137 out of 158 countries and territories that Transparency International assessed. One can credit this to the Governance and Economic Management Assistance Program that emerged in 2005, which strictly adhered to practices of transparency and accountability, as well as working to embrace the role of international help in fighting corruption.
- Illegal Forestry: Money that came in to fuel weaponry supplies for the 14-year Liberian Civil War came from the illegal forestry of Liberia’s wilderness, which contributed to the lengthy duration of the war. The outcome resulted in 250,000 casualties and mass deforestation. However, over time, the government has taken necessary action to eradicate this practice such as enforcing reformed forest laws and canceling wartime contracts.
- Police Corruption: The Liberian National Police stands at 4,417 police officers, which is twice the size of its army. People have perceived the Liberian police institution as being corrupt due to a lack of professionalism, accountability and abuse of power. This is due to countless accounts from victims about police enforcing senseless brutality and partaking in bribery dealings. The United Nations Mission in Liberia has been working to address the need for better police governing by targeting poor police conduct and pursuing cases against high-ranking personnel in these security institutions.
- Female Genital Mutilation: As with most Western African countries, Liberia has not fallen short of falling into the practice of performing female genital mutilation on young girls. Former President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf put a one-year ban on female genitalia mutilation. However, this ban has since come to an end and the government has not renewed it. The ban only condemned female genitalia mutilation to those under the age of 18, however, which means adults who gave consent could still receive it. The inauguration of the new president, George Weah, largely overshadowed this proving that Liberia still does not see women’s rights as a top priority.
- Ellen Johnson Sirleaf: Liberia elected its first female president, Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, in 2006 and she remained in office until 2018. Despite being a female in a government position of leadership, she did not strictly advocate for women’s rights during her presidency and did not consider herself a feminist. More so, just as with many other presidents before her, she was under suspicion for corruption and nepotism, such as when she elected her three sons into high-ranking government positions. This ultimately lead to her stepping down as president.
- Education Fraud: Education fraud has long been a serious issue in Liberia. Much of Liberia’s student population has taken shortcuts through bribery offerings in order to receive credentials for a degree. Socio-economic and political development may stall if there are no educated young people entering the Liberian workforce, as it will create a workforce that does not have the work ethic or skillset to uphold a stable democracy. In the efforts to uphold accountability, authorities are subjecting people guilty of such crimes to lawful punishment.
- The Anti-Same-Sex Marriage Bill: The LGBT community has been in a long battle against the Liberian government for human rights, but in 2012, things continued to escalate when the government passed the Anti-Same-Sex Marriage bill, which punishes people engaging in same-sex marriage and sentences offenders with up to five years in prison. Liberia has done little to outlaw the poor political treatment of LGBT people.
- The United Nations Mission in Liberia: The United Nations Mission in Liberia deployed in 2003 to provide Liberia with aid in security assistance and human rights advocacy, as the Liberian government and its people worked to strengthen their democracy, fully intending to leave in the future once Liberia was strong enough to stand on its own. However, according to the Secretary-General’s progress report in 2018, although the Liberian government has shown vast improvements in planning and enacting political affairs, it still requires aid to ensure that such institutions receive sufficient funds to keep them functioning effectively.
- Liberia’s GDP: Despite continuing economic stresses, Liberia’s GDP growth has taken a positive turn in the last couple of years. GDP growth increased by 0.7 percent in 2018 over a the span of a year due to major contributions from the agricultural, forestry and fishing industries to the economy. GDP rates should reach 4.8 percent in 2020, along with decreased inflation rates of 9.5 percent in 2020. The Liberian government’s continued corruption elimination tactics have been a major factor in decreasing crime and encouraging its people to work and actively engage in their country’s economic sustainability.
- The Domestic Resource Mobilization Initiative: Under the Domestic Resource Mobilization initiative, Liberia and the United States Agency for International Development have united to increase the number of institutions, which will help increase taxpayer education and facilitate positive engagement in Domestic Resource Mobilization affairs. In exchange, the Liberian government will distribute profits that it gains from this program to a multitude of agencies to put them towards education, health and sanitation, thus putting a steady end to corruption within Liberian communities.
Despite the challenges that these 10 facts about corruption in Liberia express, the country is on the path to eliminating corruption. With the help of Liberia’s people and continued ethical improvements within Liberia’s government system, there is still hope that the country will be able to climb out of poverty once and for all.
– Lucia Elmi
Photo: United Nations