As if the leadership of the Liberian community in Minnesota is struggling to find its bearings, major departments of the Organization of Liberians in Minnesota, also called OLM, are slowing grinding to a disappointing halt more than six months into President Kerper Dwanyen Administration.
The demands for progress and results seem to be increasing dramatically, with concerns about the fate of programs and services, the much-touted community center project, the effectiveness of committees, and need for reconciliation in a community still divided after a grueling election.
In his inaugural address, Mr. Dwanyen said:”…We will assemble a team of competent professionals to design programs and services with willing sponsors and engage in grant writing making sure our applications are thorough and credible, deserving of favorable consideration”.
Even in the face of this commitment, the community is yet to see the rolling out of one single program or services. And the answers could easily be found in the words of a member of the Executive Committee who asked not to be mentioned, even while insisting that his statement be quoted verbatim. He emphasized:” Some heads of critical committees are not even around for a roll call, let alone a meeting to design program and services”.
The Liberian Journal has confirmed that the heads of five critical committees have either abandoned their posts or failed to own up to their assigned responsibilities, with the exception of one resignation. In a recent analysis, a local media group, which enjoys a strong bond with President Dwanyen, raised questions on the performance of the Membership and Public Relations Committees, amongst several others, pointing out in very concrete terms that these structures exist only on paper and that they are becoming mere shadows of themselves.
The Chairman of the Planning Committee, Mr. Milton Massaqoui, in a sharp rebuttal to a charge that he abandoned his post, told The Liberian Journal that he is no longer an official of OLM. In a telephone interview, Mr. Massaqoui said: “ I have resigned my post”. Mr. Massaqoui, a man who was once seen as an important addition to the new leadership team, further noted,” And I have communicated this information to the leadership of OLM”.
Mr. Massaqoui cited family reasons for his leaving. Mr. Massaqoui’s departure does not seem to end the story line, as the OLM Board, Mr. Arthur Zakama, is bubbling with “disappointment” and, for very good reasons.
In an exclusive interview with The Liberian Journal, the bespectacled OLM Board Chair told one of our editors that the Executive Committee headed by Mr. Kerper Dwanyen failed to meet the financial reporting deadline set by the Board of Directors.
“The financial Report was not presented to the Board as scheduled and we think we cannot change the culture of this organization [OLM] by repeating the very same thing we promised to change”, said Zakama, the man who has now opted to demand results, in stark contrast to the perception that he is likely to tote the line of the President, even at the cost dividing his own fragile board along ideological or partisan line.
The soft-spoken OLM Board Chair sounded extremely frustrated when he said:” I am disappointed with how things are moving in our community and the Board of Directors will not hesitate to act in demanding results”, adding,” In fact an email I sent to the President show tell people how prepared I am to live up to the pledge I made to a community I love so much”.
When asked about efforts to reconcile a divided community, OLM Board chief said: “We have set up a reconciliation plan under the guidance of the Board of Directors to help heal the wounds of the community”. Chairman Zakama revealed that about three religious leaders have been asked to guide the process, subsequently implying that the Board of Directors is convinced that uniting the Liberian community in Minnesota is very vital.
Of late, Chairman Zakama appears to be making the case, albeit silently, that he is a leader who can muster the courage to stand up to the President to demand changes and to goad him towards reconciliation. Chairman Zakama has been engaged in series of unofficial discussions to bring parties to the tables, perhaps as an attempt to set the appropriate example for the Executive Committee to follow.
What constitutes the emerging dysfunction has created a problem of its own, leaving insiders to be divided along two broad lines– the failures of committees and the failure of an oversight system.
The Treasure of OLM, Mr. Kulah Parker, weighs in on the former, laying the blame squarely at the feet of the committees. He recently insisted:” We cannot blame the President for the failures of these committees, because some of these people are only interested in showing up for social events, failing to know that their poor output will certainly follow them wherever they go”.
This revelation points to a serious mixture of frustration and disappointment within the administration, making for the fear that they could soon get disconnected from a community that would prefer results to excuses.
In the midst of these emerging problems, however, few committees have managed to rescue themselves from the admitted “dysfunction” that is closing in on the organization. Both insiders and outsiders are somewhat aware of the modest strides of the Finance, Sports, Constitution, and Immigration committees.
A candidate for the just-ended OLM Board election asked: “July 26 planning, TPS meeting, Committees Problems… so what is really different in OLM”? And it seems, the question really is: “Where is OLM headed after six months of electoral momentum?
The Liberian Journal Editor’s note: The Liberian Journal will produce a regular update on the activities of OLM as well as events shaping interests amongst Liberians in Minnesota, in response to demands that we increase our focus on the activities of arguably the largest Liberian community in the Diaspora.