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Unmasking The True “Enemy Of The State”- Corruption

Intellectual Point of Departure
By its connotation, the word ‘enemy’ is a pejorative term which is never taken likely. The Merriam-Webster dictionary points out, “an enemy is one that is antagonistic to another especially one seeking to injure, overthrow, or confound an opponent; something harmful or deadly.” When securitized, an enemy is a military adversary or a hostile unit or force.
The securitization of the phrase “enemy of the state” is a harsh and hard label if placed on any individual. An enemy of the state is a person accused of certain crimes against the state, such as treason. Describing individuals in this way is sometimes a manifestation of political repression ( Once an individual is considered ‘undesirable’ or an enemy of the state, the government can step up terror against you, as was the case against the Jews during the Nazi’s holocaust (
Within the Liberian context, the phrase “an enemy of the state” is used in reference to an individual, particularly an opposition politician who disagrees with or criticizes the actions or policies of the governing establishment.
Being declared “an enemy of the state” is indispensably linked to what Sun Zi’s “The Art of War” equates to a ‘doomed spy’. And security actors understand this language with far-reaching acuteness.
Idiomatically, “let me cut to the chase” by stating that the true enemy of the state is corruption. Therefore all of us must ground morality in rationality in fighting this creeping monster call corruption within the public space.
Corruption Defined:
In my conversation with students at the level of teacher training, development communication and with participants at seminars and workshops, I got some interesting feedbacks of what their thoughts are regarding the concept of corruption. For many, corruption means illegal or ill-gotten wealth from the public space. The critical question is, is corruption limited to a particular setting or institution? For an example, putting a veil over the public sector for a minute, can corruption take place in the church, in the mosque, in the home, in private organizations, in market places or in schools? There is no doubt, because human beings are those who are part of those institutions, there is the possibility that something may just go wrong someway once guarding regimes are not put into place backed by punitive actions. View it from this angle further. Who is shielded from the temptation of falling into corruption? Can it be politicians, the clergy (Imam and Pastor), children, parents, health workers, educators, private individuals, opinion leaders, students, security personnel, etc?
In the broader sense of the word, corruption (Merriam-Webster Dictionary) describes “impairment of integrity, virtues or moral principle; Inducement to wrong by improper or unlawful means (as bribery); a departure from the original or from what is pure or correct”.

I took keen interest as well in the definition of the Oxford Dictionary on the same subject of corruption: “The destruction or spoiling of anything, especially by disintegration or decomposition; making or becoming morally corrupt; the fact or condition of being corrupt; moral deterioration; depravity”.
Pulling Factors of Corruption:
According to the Ministry of National Defense Training Program Phase 1B handbook, “The Effect of Corruption on Government”, one of the Key pulling factors of corruption is human inclination. It is established in the aforementioned handbook (p.2, November 9, 2016) that so long those who are empowered to rule are subject to the very human temptations of greed and self-interest, corruption will be present. Professor John Clammer argues that another pulling factor of corruption is by placing vulnerable people in a position of temptation. I can state empirically that there is a nexus between violence and corruption. In many violence prone countries (Liberia past conflict), corruption is at its peak owing to lack of controlling regimes and tilted loyalty towards factional leaders. These factional leaders are eventually faced with the challenge of contending with war, politics and discipline simultaneously. Where there is a bad system (worst when there is none) corruption thrives.
Effects of Corruption:
Corruption is a grave retarder of development everywhere. While the scale of corruption varies from one nation to another, no nation is insulated from the threat. Therefore, every civilized society must strive to strengthen its ethical values.
Talking about the effect of corruption, I thought to evoke the comments from the 8th International Anti-Corruption Conference (7-11 September, 1997) which was held in Lima, Peru ( attended by 1,000 delegates from 93 countries. “We now join together in this Declaration of the 8th International Conference Against Corruption, and are convinced that corruption erodes the moral fabric of every society; violates the social and economic rights of the poor and the vulnerable; undermines democracy; subverts the rule of law which is the basis of every civilized society; retards development and denies societies, and particularly the poor, the benefits of free and open competition.”

Costs of Corruption in the public space
Particularly within the public space, corruption has a crippling effect which threatens the overall tranquility and security of the state. From the top of my head I try to fathom the following costs which, are by no mean exhaustive. Have you thought about money spent on investigation and trial of corruption cases which, in many instances yield no recovery monetary benefit to the state? Those monies could be used to improve photogenic social priorities (health, education, etc.) for our ‘hard to reach citizens’ in remote parts of the country. Another cost to think about is when an issue of corruption springs up within any organization or more generically within the public space, there is definitely going to be loss of legitimacy (acceptability) in the system. When a system is deemed corrupt, the likelihood abounds that there will be loss of the people’s participation in the democratic process. Additionally, corruption weakens the talent pool for government positions owing to what economists refer to as “selection by intrinsic motivation”( deliberately choosing the dump and corrupt over the bright and the honest). Eventually, there is loss in quality of services that should be provided by the government.
Control Mechanisms:
The discourse on corruption should attract the concern of all because if due care is not taken as Professor Paul Collier asserts, “administrators or politicians will continue to use the bottom billion merely for photo opportunities.” If there were public solicitations regarding how to control corruptions, I have no doubt that multiple methods or tools would be advanced based on professional backgrounds, religious leaning, etc. But from my perspective, here are few that ‘patriots’ should build on in battling corruption, particularly in the public space. Controlling corruption starts with a leader (any person wielding authority), which as John Maxwell notes, “is one who knows the way, goes the way, and shows the way.” To control corruption, one key pointer is the courage to uphold the enforcement of laws. Perhaps a mandatory ethics training workshops and seminars for all public officials may be of some help in the fight against corruption. There is a need for clearly articulated policies regarding merit-based hiring in the public space at every level, whether at the political level (vetting team) or at the entry level (in MACs).
Given its practical impact, corruption in the public space undermines democracy, for it distorts normal decision-making processes and subverts the policy objectives of legitimate democratic government. Peter Larmour and Nick Wolanin (2001) caution in the fight against corruption that “reliance should not be only on good people but that good systems should be put into place.” The seal of this discourse is found in the words of Professor John Robert Lamour that battling corruption further demands “strong organizational culture, a fearless and efficient police force and an independent and fearless press.” Thus, the time and energy deployed to characterize individuals or groups as ‘enemy of the state’ should be redirected to tackle the real enemy of the state – corruption, which has become the honey airplane that every self-proclaimed smart guy seeks to pilot. Until then, without concerted citizen action against corruption, the state is setup for what my colleague, Johnny Baryougar White, calls “a downhill skate ride”.

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