B O O K R E V I E W
by ralph geeplay
Liberian political commentators are in abundance in this day and age, but few are writing the books that Liberians must read. To tell the history of a troubled nation as it gravitates from one crisis to another—these many decades, understanding these historical trajectories are important in a nation’s milestone, and that is why Tewroh-Wehtoe Sungbeh deserves commendation for his book, Political Commentary and Reflections on Liberia. For this is recorded history meant for the Libraries and students—as we all are.
In its entirety the book takes into account Liberia’s political events beginning 1980 – 2014. This is a decade and half of turmoil told in no mincing words from a critic whose passion for this country brings relevancy due to his long time advocacy for the rights of the Liberian people.
The book is a thick volume. Its detailed narration documents the violent military overthrow in 1980 of an oligarchy—manifested by the settler class grip on power and the hegemonic rule of the True Whig Party [TWP], which ruled the country for 133 years. Given space also, is the military coup and the so-called People Redemption Council [PRC] misrule. Consumed and overwhelmed with the trappings of power, it soon becomes dictatorial under Master Sergeant Samuel Doe. Capped this up with Taylor’s war and his historical butchering of a nation, hence the election of Madame Sirleaf as Liberia and Africa’s first democratically elected female president, noted is the patronage, impunity and massive corruption under her watch. Political Commentary And Reflection speaks truth to power, and Sungbeh, the editor and publisher of the provocative Liberian Dialogue online webpage is erudite in his analysis and observations.
Sungbeh chronicles in this 385 page turner is worth the read. He writes passionately about Liberian democracy in the context of preserving the tenets of institution building by upholding the rule of law while decentralizing political power and taming the historical powers of the almighty imperial presidency, hence, the reckless abuse of state power! He notes that this is the singular cause for power grab in the country and Liberia’s descent into chaos and confusion the preceding years.
He opines that since Liberian presidents have always used unbridled power to consolidate authority and influence, by divvying up patronage and the brownnosers who cater to their whims, something radically he insists, must be done to correct this historical malaise. He also reckons that less can be achieved when the Liberian Assembly [legislature], doesn’t know what to do with its powers as it often kowtowed to the executive.
For example, he wrote on page 115, “it is one thing to admire…a sitting president for what he or she brings to the political table in the interest of the country. However, it is one thing to prostitute one’s convictions by ignoring the troubling flaws and wanton abuse of power of a president.” Being the activist writer he is, he continued “this is not only a sellout, but [it is] reckless[ly] adventurous and dangerous.” The book is a thought provoking recipe for drastic change meant to grow the body politic.
The seat of power [presidency], on Capitol Hill Monrovia, the Executive Mansion adorns the book cover, with the seal, the flag and the Liberian map splattered at the top. It is Published by kilton Press a Liberian owned publication located in Rhode Island the United States. Political Commentary and Reflection on Liberia is a timely critique. But while the admonitions are hefty, it would have done well also to providing some clarifications to the myriad snags of Africa’s first republic. But then again, in these narrations, perhaps the writer admonishes his audience and readers to draw conclusions and corollaries from his analysis and pontifications, hence a mirror—to see what’s wrong with a patronage system and then derive answers.
Consequently, for a book that has historical subtexts and perspectives, its bibliography and references are diminutive. Chronologically therefore, the book could have been better referenced by using adequate indexes [pages, titles and numbers in the bibliography] most especially to make for easy research purposes. Tewroh-Wehtoe Sungbeh has written a good book, however. He and his lovely wife, Geebly and family resides in Lawrenceville, Georgia, USA.