O
n October 10 next, elections will be held in Liberia to elect the President and the Legislative Assembly, as well as the Senate. In 2009 the National Electoral Commission of the African country, which is formally independent of both the government and Parliament, already accepted a substantial funding of 17.5 million US dollars directly from USAID to properly manage the previous elections of 2004 and 2014.

Still today the US Agency supports Liberia with various programs, all effective and necessary.

When criticizing US foreign policy, we should also recall the thousands of volunteers who travel everywhere, with sincere evangelical spirit, to help peoples in developing countries.

The Liberian Senate consists of two senators for each of the fifteen regions in which the African nation is divided. The term of each Senator lasts nine years. The House of Representatives has only 73 members.

As far as we know, there is no specific public American support for next October's elections.

Nevertheless, we are aware of the current US support to the various Liberian initiatives for better managing its national institutions, with specific reference to their functioning vis-à-vis citizens; the respect for the Rule of Law; freedom of information; the technical management of farmland and the strengthening of free people associations - briefly the "civil society" network that is essential to freedom and democracy, as Hegel taught us.

These are the only possible rational proposals to prevent the African youth bulge - now widespread in all the regions of the Black Continent - from turning directly to Europe, thus undermining its Welfare State and disrupting its labour market.

In spite of the too many considerations made, Europe has not the will, rational programs or money to help Africa before its peoples arriving massively in it.

Conversely, the United States knows Africa very well and it is not by mere coincidence that in 2007 it founded the Africa Command, together with 53 African States, but established its headquarters in Europe, precisely in Stuttgart.

Not surprisingly, from May 19 to 30, the United States run the African exercise United Accord 2017 to train local soldiers and monitor the African regions around Ghana.

Then there is China. This is one of the real points of interest and substantial future development for Africa.

Without China, there will be no real economic transformation across the Black Continent - hence not even in Liberia.

It is worth recalling that Sierra Leone and Liberia were, respectively, the countries established by US and British slaves freed in 1820 and in the 1840s, respectively.

The humanitarian and moral motivation was obvious, but there was also a strategic goal: when there was the "rush to Africa" by the European continental powers, control networks of France, Great Britain, Germany and Italy had to be created to prevent the European regional powers from getting a big head.

Neither the United States nor Britain have ever stopped thinking that the States of the Eurasian peninsula are, indeed, dangerous global competitors.

To date, however, the United States depends on Africa for a quarter of its oil imports, while China depends on Africa for over a quarter of its oil imports.

Hence no more of those endless, tragic and especially stupid regional wars, like Rwanda’s and the two Liberian civil wars.

Cold War relics that survived even after the end of the bipolar confrontation, like Princess Sissi on the Geneva pier after being stabbed by the usual Italian anarchist.

At the beginning, Rwanda’s war was instigated by a European intelligence service, while the two Liberian civil wars by some local officers’ hunger for money and by small squabbles between neighboring states.

And by some big Western companies.

Finally no more with that idea - which today is really crazy - to replicate the old divisions of the Cold War in Africa, with so many small geopolitical frogs that swell up until bursting.

Or possibly trying to make third-rate local dictators cherish the illusion that revenue, and raw materials to be sold cheaply to the stupid Westerners, can be extracted - with such unnecessary and cruel violence - from an exhausted people.

We, in the West, we are not stupid at all. We do not need shady brokers who manage raw materials as if they were local monopolists. We do not even want Africa to become not a series of failed states, but a whole continent doomed to disaster.

Again, no more with the idea that the Black Continent is a reserve of raw materials and nothing else, or a region where anything is allowed, even at the expense of Europeans themselves, who, for example, are still paying the fixed exchange rate of the CFA franc against the euro.

Not at all, Africa is a huge continent that must be respected and quickly put back on its legs - just to use again a Hegelian metaphor - and, above all, should not be considered a mere reservoir of raw materials that others process.

By paraphrasing the slogan of Mao Zedong’s first speech as President in Tiananmen Square: the African people have stood up!

Hence work must return to Africa. It must certainly be cheaper than in Europe, but its cost must be such as to change the social, economic and civil system of the Black Continent.

Instead of sending so many African raw materials to intermediate processing areas, which are equally, if not more, distant from the primary consumption areas, namely ours, it would be good to teach to a stupid globalization how to enhance the great local African potential.

We can no longer imagine a geopolitics of the Black Continent managed by ongoing and very harsh conflicts - and, indeed, Liberia is a tragic evidence of this, with its civil war between 1989 and 1996 and its second phase between 1999 and 2003.

All conflicts between the usual third-rate dictators operating for the second lines of the old global powers, new masters who thought to repeat the old game of the great powers - the "Great Game or the Tournament of Shadows", as the Russians called it - with few means, no effective geopolitical idea and no command.

Not even of the network of raw materials brokers - and this is really serious. Certainly prices increased, but consumption plunged.

Let us now revert to Liberia’s elections scheduled for next October.

The President of the country is elected with a two-round system, while, as already said, the Legislative Assembly, composed of 73 members, is elected with the first past the post system, designed more by bookmakers for horse-race betting than by serious political scientists.

It is an electoral mechanism granting election to the candidate who has achieved the parity of votes, but who may also have even one single vote more than his/her direct competitor.

Its effects are obvious: clientelism and political patronage, corruption, electoral manipulation, unfulfilled promises, excessive power of the local ringleaders of the various candidates.

It would have been good also for Sicily in the second half of the nineteenth century.

Currently there are nine Presidential candidates.

There is Alexander B. Cummings, Head of the Liberian Alternative National Congress, former Coca Cola manager, who is currently President of the Cummings Africa Foundation.

Then there is George Weah, a well-known (and very talented) football player who spent four years in Italy.

Today, after two elections the outcome of which was not positive for him, he has been a member of the Liberian Assembly since 2014.

Another candidate is Joseph Boakai, Vice-President until January 2006, but already manager of the Liberia Wood Management Corporation and of the Liberia Petroleum Refining Company.

Once again, oil.

Liberia does not have it, but it has approximately one billion offshore reserves divided into 30 concessions, 17 deep sea and 13 ultra-deep sea ones. As early as 2011, Exxon Mobil had already started oil exploration, but the Ebola virus epidemic had blocked everything.

In 2017, but only at the end of the year, Exxon Mobil will resume explorations. Do you think this is not alien to the October elections? You are perfectly right.

The candidates also include Charles Walker Boakine, a lawyer and partner of a major law firm in Monrovia.

Head of the Liberty Party, and former ally of the Congress for Democratic Change - currently the two old coalition parties which, in European terms, we would define as center-left - are sworn enemies.

Another Presidential candidate is Prince Johnson, current Senior Senator from the Nimba County, former rebel general who is notorious for publicly slaying coup leader and ex-President Samuel K. Doe, during the First Liberian War (1989-1997), and narrowly failing to kill the kleptocrat James Taylor, who became President of Liberia in 1997.

It is worth noting with some malice that the Guinness Book of Records reports that the 1927 Liberian presidential election was the most fraudulent in world history - but even today the situation has not changed so much.

The 2017 Presidential candidates include Benoni Urei, a wealthy businessman, as well as two other businessmen, namely Jeremiah Wapoe and Richard Miller.

However, to put it frankly, our favourite candidate is Macdella Cooper.

She has long established the foundation, bearing her name, for the health and cultural and civil development of Liberian children and women.

When the first local civil war broke out, she was at first exiled to the Ivory Coast and later migrated to the United States in 1993.

She got a degree in Communication at the College of New Jersey and later her life was characterized by work and experiences designed to better know the world.

She started as mannequin in the high fashion world and then began fashion designer for the most famous griffes of the international fashion industry, both in the United States and Europe.

In 2003, she launched her foundation, with offices in Charlesville, Margibi County, Liberia.

There Macdella Cooper drafted her political program - a rational and practicable program, but especially useful for everyone.

First and foremost, free education for all Liberian children.

Currently, in Liberia, the literacy rate is 63.5% for boys and 32.2% for girls and young women.

The adult literacy rate is very low, namely 42.9%, while currently only 41% of all children attend primary school.

No country can really survive with these education statistics.

These are figures which can only pave the way for illegal recruitment of workers for very low wages, endemic hunger, the low but inevitable technological level of local, foreign or national industries and - as is natural - the criminal degeneration of politics and, hence, of public spending.

Hence how to fund this new and smart African Welfare State, which is even more unlikely in a country, such as Liberia, having all institutions, even the most irrational ones, modeled on the Anglo-Saxon idea, as Carroll Quigley - Clinton’s ignored professor - called it?

Macdella proposes to check the Liberian natural resources.

It is an excellent idea.

However, we have to come to terms with what Stiglitz calls the resource curse and also with the excessive volatility of commodity prices dominated by Western futures and hence by speculation that focuses on raw materials when there is nothing else to attack.

Therefore, either a price and sales Authority is set up, being careful of international prices, but above all of not being cheated - a national and State body - but it is precisely the "resource curse" theorized by Stiglitz which makes us think that it becomes a rent seeking area.

Or Liberian raw materials, agricultural produce, gold, iron, diamonds, rubber, precious wood are sold to the highest bidder - with an auction regulated by international customary practices and Liberian laws.

The customers are the following: China, the United States - since the devil is not so black as he is painted - and Israel.

In the case of rare raw materials, part of the price is always set by the supply.

Finally, when you have to increase the price of what is sold, the supply is diversified. Do you not want Liberian gold? We will sell it to China or Japan.

Furthermore, Macdella focuses on health.

A central issue in the country where Ebola caused at least 11,000 victims.

Not to mention malnutrition, corruption and the lack of public health facilities, subject to the crazy and vicious religion of "liberalization".

Obviously if you liberalize business activities, the average income increases, but are we sure that a job providing you two additional dollars a day can also make you afford good treatments and therapies?

This is the fallacy of the general argument, as already maliciously described by Pareto.

In fact, in Liberia 35% of health costs are borne by the patients themselves, who are statistically the poorest people. A reverse economic rationale.

Furthermore, for some time in 2015, the whole African country was deprived of 77% of its basic medicines.

As Macdella recalls, Ebola was largely defeated by the Liberian people’s good will and by international aid - less significant than it is believed - as well as by China's efforts, in particular.

How can the Liberian public health system be paid - a system that is essential as education or even more to tackle the problem of underdevelopment?

A WHO share to be set, which is transferred by the World Health Organization - a share of structural aid (medicines, hospitals, training centers for doctors and nursing staff) funded by the EU, which now believes that today’s Africa is still the same as that of the Roman ancient imperial maps, bearing the warning hic sunt leones ("here are lions") - as well as a large share of international volunteers and finally direct support by China and Israel.

In other words, my dear Liberian friends and my dear Macdella, if you immediately sell yourself to one single master, your price will drop until you cannot even pay the production costs.

In less metaphorical terms, do not let anybody handcuff you, both in the East and in the West.

You will see then how, magically, the prices of your raw materials will stabilize.

Once again, Macdella Cooper wants free access to healthcare - otherwise the phrase attributed to Marie Antoinette of France when alerted that the people were suffering due to widespread bread shortages, "Then let them eat brioches", would echo also in Monrovia.

Liberalism has been invented by the theorists of the Mont Pèlerin Society as a tool for the general increase of incomes. However, if people have to pay everything by themselves, namely pensions, healthcare and education, can you tell me how can earnings and savings be increased? Are they all rich people there?

And to think that the Code of Camaldoli, drafted at the end of World War II by the best Catholic intellectuals in Italy, had already solved everything.

Let us now talk about electricity, which reaches only 10% of Liberian households.

Sometimes, in Liberia, there is also a lack of fuel, managed by the local monopoly.

My dear Macdella Cooper, what if your internal monopoly broke and possibly our ENI could set in, since it has a formidable and long-standing tradition of balanced policy and respect for the African peoples?

And it just so happens that electricity is supplied only by diesel generators.

Who manages them, apart from the private ones? You have certainly already understood it.

In 2015 the Millennium Fund signed a 257 million US dollar contract for restructuring the Mount Coffee hydroelectric power plant, but an autonomous authority is required to regulate the energy system.

Autonomous Authorities reporting only to Macdella Cooper if she is elected President, as we hope, are the administrative and political key not to have to do with the huge, corrupt, enemy local bureaucracy.

You should remember, Ms. Macdella Cooper, that - as Machiavelli said - men "must be either pampered or annihilated."

Another fair and topical issue is decentralization.

The issue lies in providing services, healthcare and education to all Liberians, thus avoiding the destiny of the big cities generated solely by great poverty, as already happened in Haiti, in Latin America and certainly also in Africa - just think of Cairo or the South African Federation.

The decentralization program in Liberia is old and dates back to 2012. So far it has been supported by the EU and by the Liberian government itself, as well as by the efficient and humanitarian Swedish government and by Liberia’s Permanent Mission to the UN and by the United Nations Development Program.

Perfect, but are we sure that, in peripheral areas, the Liberian bureaucracy behaves as when it is closely scrutinized?

Another key issue in Macdella Cooper’s program is the distribution of land ownership.

This is the political axis to develop the new Liberia.

In March 2017 actions were started to support the Lands Right Act, which envisages a role for civil society organizations in managing new, safe and stable rights for land cultivation and ownership, the sale of agricultural produce and for maintaining these rights for a sufficient period of time.

Hence for stabilizing - at the highest level - farmers, the real future middle class of the new, free and rich Liberia.

The EU representative for these issues in Monrovia is a brilliant Italian official, Alberto Menghini.

Owners must always be created in rural areas.

Just think of the importance for the Italian history of the land struggles, supported by the Catholic union movement (Miglioli's peasant leagues) and by the Socialist one, often even "softer" than the Catholics’ struggles for land ownership.

You can understand nothing of Italy if you do not recall the cry "the land to the peasants", which characterized Socialists, Catholics, Republicans and finally the Fascists supporting "full land reclamation".

The land to the peasants, the land to those who cultivate it, must still be the cry of all responsible African political forces.

Hence, as Macdella Cooper rightly says, the customary rights and those established by everyone and long time ago must not be eradicated. On the contrary, a census of said rights must be possibly carried out and this agricultural pourparler must be replaced by real ownership rights.

As Macdella says, never eliminate the commons.

She is perfectly right.

If England had not abolished the agricultural commons to favour the migration of the impoverished and hungry masses to work for nothing in Manchester’s factories, it would not have recorded the huge food crises of the nineteenth century.

Hence, as a sign of support and friendship, I have made some considerations on Macdella Cooper's program for Presidential elections in Liberia.

I hope they will bring her luck.

Giancarlo Elia Valori

Advisory Board Co-chair Honoris Causa

Professor Giancarlo Elia Valori is an eminent Italian economist and businessman. He holds prestigious academic distinctions and national orders. Mr Valori has lectured on international affairs and economics at the world’s leading universities such as Peking University, the Hebrew University of Jerusalem and the Yeshiva University in New York.

He currently chairs "La Centrale Finanziaria Generale Spa", he is also the honorary president of Huawei Italy, economic adviser to the Chinese giant HNA Group and member of the Ayan-Holding Board.

In 1992 he was appointed Officier de la Légion d'Honneur de la République Francaise, with this motivation: "A man who can see across borders to understand the world” and in 2002 he received the title of "Honorable" of the Académie des Sciences de l'Institut de France

 

Top