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Ending Tribal Favoritism and Corruption in Liberia’s Ministry of Labour: A Call for Reform. A Reflection of Liberia’s Human Resource Struggles.

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By George S. Tengbeh, Monrovia, Liberia

As concerned Liberians, we demand an immediate end to the Ministry of Labour’s practice of reserving positions for relatives from the same tribe. This action endangers not only the future of our labor sector, but also the unity of our country, by compromising the Ministry’s efficacy, honesty, and inclusion. The Ministry of Labour is responsible for enforcing labor laws, protecting workers’ rights, and developing positive employer-employee relations. However, the existing practice of tribal partiality threatens to undermine these critical functions.

The Consequences of Nepotism and Favoritism

Nepotism and favoritism at the Ministry of Labour encourage the appointment of people based on tribal connections rather than qualifications. This method results in crucial positions being filled by people who may lack the requisite skills and knowledge, compromising the Ministry’s capacity to function efficiently and fairly. This method not only stifles meritocracy but also sets a dangerous precedent by prioritizing tribe affiliation over skill.

A similar situation was found in Kenya, where tribal favoritism in public sector appointments has long existed. The concentration of specific tribes in key government positions has frequently resulted in inefficiency and corruption, weakening public trust and governance effectiveness (Wrong, 2009). In Liberia, this trend risks generating an inefficient and unequal labor market, exacerbating societal tensions.

Exclusion and Discrimination

The Ministry of Labour’s domination of one ethnic group marginalizes other tribes, fueling feelings of alienation and hatred. This exclusion divides the labor and destroys the social fabric, causing larger societal instability. For Liberia to thrive, all ethnic groups must have equal opportunity to participate in and contribute to labor governance.

A parallel can be drawn to Nigeria, where ethnic preference has resulted in massive disenfranchisement and war. Certain ethnic groups’ marginalization in politics and the economy has worsened tensions and spurred rebellion (Suberu, 2001). Similarly, in Liberia, discriminatory practices threaten to destabilize the labor market and impede national growth.

Ethnic Conflicts and Social Instability

Preferential treatment of one tribe group exacerbates existing ethnic tensions, causing social unrest and violence. Resentment and enmity grow when members of other tribes believe they are being treated unfairly, which can escalate to larger societal conflicts. For Liberia to attain peace and development, all residents must be treated equally.
Rwanda’s terrible past is a striking example of how ethnic partiality may have disastrous effects. Colonial forces’ preferential treatment of the Tutsi minority fueled long-standing animosities, culminating in the 1994 massacre (Mamdani, 2001). While Liberia’s situation differs, the lesson is clear: ethnic preference can have serious ramifications for national unity and stability.

Corruption and Mismanagement

The practice of assigning jobs based on tribal identity promotes corruption and mismanagement. This approach promotes tribal and personal interests over national ones, resulting in resource misappropriation, bribery, and other forms of corruption. Such corruption not only affects trust in the Ministry but also stifles economic growth and progress.
In Uganda, the establishment of patronage networks within the government has resulted in widespread corruption and inefficiency, weakening public trust and economic growth (Mwenda and Tangri, 2005). Liberia must learn from these instances and take proactive steps to avoid similar consequences in its labor market.

Implementing Merit-Based Recruitment

To address these serious challenges, we demand that the Ministry of Labour create a merit-based recruitment system. All positions should be filled based on qualifications, abilities, and experience, not tribal affiliations. This strategy will ensure that the most qualified candidates are appointed, increasing the Ministry’s effectiveness and fairness.

The International Labour Organization (ILO) stresses merit-based recruiting in its international labor standards, which promote equal opportunity and non-discrimination in the workplace (ILO, 2014). Adhering to these criteria will assist Liberia in developing a more efficient and equitable labor system.

Promoting Inclusivity and Diversity

Inclusion and diversity must be central to the Ministry’s governance. Policies should be put in place to ensure that all tribal groups receive fair representation and involvement. This inclusivity will generate a sense of belonging and cooperation, both of which are necessary for the labor sector to function well.

South Africa’s post-apartheid administration has made tremendous progress in encouraging inclusivity and diversity in public sector appointments, helping to heal old divisions and establish a more cohesive society (Klein, 2018). Liberia might take inspiration from this strategy to build a more inclusive and cohesive labor market.

Strengthening Oversight and Accountability

Robust supervision systems are required to prevent corruption and hold wrongdoers accountable. Independent authorities should be set up to oversee the recruitment process and ensure openness and fairness.

Ghana’s Public Services Commission exemplifies efficient control of public sector appointments, encouraging transparency and accountability (Ayee, 2001). By using such systems, Liberia can boost labor sector trust and promote fair and transparent recruitment methods.

Fostering National Unity

Using the ILO’s Tripartite Declaration of Principles on Multinational Enterprises and Social Policy, the Ministry must launch programs and policies to foster national unity and reconciliation.

Addressing the core causes of ethnic conflicts and instilling a sense of one purpose among all Liberians is critical for long-term peace and development.

Liberia’s Decent Employment Act, which is in line with international labor norms, establishes a framework for encouraging decent employment and social justice. This act allows the Ministry to enact policies that promote diversity, fairness, and national unity.

Rap-up

The future of Liberia’s labor sector, as well as our country’s prosperity, is dependent on our capacity to transcend tribal favoritism and establish a Ministry of Labour that serves the interests of all citizens. The Ministry of Labour is the country’s human resources arm, and it should never be compromised for any reason. We urge the Liberian government, civil society organizations, and international partners to support this crucial call to action. Together, we can create a Liberia in which every citizen, regardless of tribe, has the opportunity to succeed.

References

  • Ayee, J. R. A. (2001). Civil Service Reform in Ghana: A Case Study of Contemporary Reform Problems in Africa. African Journal of Political Science.
  • Government of Liberia. (2015). Decent Work Act.
  • International Labour Organization (ILO). (2014). International Labour Standards.
  • Klein, N. (2018). No Is Not Enough: Resisting Trump’s Shock Politics and Winning the World We Need.
  • Mamdani, M. (2001). When Victims Become Killers: Colonialism, Nativism, and the Genocide in Rwanda. Princeton University Press.
  • Mwenda, A. M., & Tangri, R. (2005). Patronage Politics, Donor Reforms, and Regime Consolidation in Uganda. African Affairs.
  • Suberu, R. T. (2001). Federalism and Ethnic Conflict in Nigeria. United States Institute of Peace Press.
  • Wrong, M. (2009). It’s Our Turn to Eat: The Story of a Kenyan Whistle-Blower. HarperCollins.

About the Author:

Sir-George S Tengbeh is a Labor Relations, Policies, and Governance Commentator

MA, MSc, BSc, AA: W: +4915213885030 E: gstengbeh@gmail.com

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