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NCCU Prof Runs for Liberian Presidency

James Guseh with NCCU students Desiree Lewis, Timeika White and Kaia Clarke
Leoneda Inge

Presidential politics in Africa and in the African Diaspora has flooded the news in the New Year. There is the stand-off in the Ivory Coast where nations around the world continue to beg a losing presidential candidate to cede power to the winner. And just recently – a former dictator of Haiti returned home – raising questions of his intentions as the country tries to rebuild. A professor at North Carolina Central University says he can’t change the world – but he can help change his home country of Liberia.  So he’s running for president.  

Liberia has a sordid history. It is Africa’s oldest republic – settled by American slaves and Africans. If you’ve ever seen the Liberian flag – it looks like the American flag with its red and white stripes. But only one star.

In the past two decades – most Americans have probably only heard of two Liberians. One of them is rebel-leader-turned- president, Charles Taylor – here on ABC News Nightline in 1990.

ABC News:  "Charles Taylor is back – demanding his old boss resign.  And what if he doesn’t?"
Charles Taylor:  "We’ll kill him. If he doesn’t give himself up, which means that he wants to fight, we’ll kill him."

And then the first female president on the African continent – Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, here on World Focus in 2009:

"I keep telling people I did not come into this job just all of a sudden, I’ve gone through the tough times.  I’ve been in prison, I’ve been tortured, I’ve taken it all like any man."

Still – there’s a man with ties to North Carolina who thinks he will make a better president of Liberia.  That man is James Guseh.

Guseh is a professor in the Department of Public Administration at North Carolina Central University and a native of Liberia. He has served in the Liberian government before. He was the Assistant Minister of Justice for Economic Affairs in the mid-80s.

Guseh says Sirleaf – is a great woman – a popular woman. But he says her time is up:

"And more importantly corruption is very endemic and rampant. That was the area that she had the international community really liked her for that, when she first got in that she was going to address the issue of corruption.  But unfortunately she has really failed miserably in that area."

The Watch Dog group Transparency International came out with its annual report in December. It ranks Liberia as one of the most corrupt countries in the world:

"That is just sad to hear – that is not how we want to be known."

Guseh has taken a year’s leave of absence from N-C-C-U.  The presidential election in Liberia is in October.  Guseh will be missed by faculty and staff.  Emmanuel Oritsejafor is a professor of Political Science at North Carolina Central and director of International Affairs:

"And I’m so excited and more so, even elated that he is going to address some of the issues that we have put in the forefront of some of some of our theoretical work.  This is a man who is trying to demonstrate how you move from theory to real practice. And he has been in practice before, he is just going back to what he knows how to do, even better."

Guseh holds a Law degree from Syracuse University and a Ph.D. in Political Economy from The University of Texas – Dallas. He has spent more than a decade teaching at North Carolina Central.

It’s nothing new for African leaders to hold degrees from the U-S.   Current Liberian president Ellen Johnson Sirleaf is a graduate of the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University.

But what are Guseh’s chances?   Stephen Smith is a visiting professor of African and African American Studies at Duke University. Smith has covered the continent of Africa extensively for the European press. He says Sirleaf has a very good chance of being re-elected:

"It’s not easy to predict but this time incumbency will carry some weight. You had a challenge by a populist candidate, soccer player George Weah.  In a very youthful country, you have to bear in mind, that two-thirds, up to three-quarters of Liberians are under the age of 30."

But don’t tell that to Guseh’s students at North Carolina Central.  Kaia Clarke is pursuing her Master’s Degree in Public Administration:

 "I’m very supportive of his efforts. I feel like he’s a rock star.   I’m very excited about it, I like to brag on him."

You think he can win?

"I feel like I have all the confidence that I need and some that Dr. Guseh will win."

Do you wish you could vote?

"I do, I even asked him if I could."

Change your citizenship?

"Well just make arrangements. (laughter)"

I think professor Guseh wants a clean election.

James Guseh's campaign website

Eric Hodge hosts WUNC’s broadcast of Morning Edition, and files reports for the North Carolina news segments of the broadcast. He started at the station in 2004 doing fill-in work on weekends and All Things Considered.
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