Written by Tirelo Makwela

Accountability Lab Liberia Country Director, W. Lawrence Yealue II, is a passionate civil society leader with a wealth of experience working in the development sector, focusing on governance and anti-corruption. He lives by the four pillars of his work which are integrity building, system building, anti-corruption, and transparency. “I am driven by what I see around me. Growing up, I witnessed and still see a lot of injustices happening. I believe that standing up for what is right is important – even if no one is watching. I think these four pillars that I believe in drive my life,” he explains.

 He has always been interested in understanding more about the distribution of wealth in Liberia and the outcomes thereof, leading him to pursue a bachelor’s degree in Human Resources at the National University of Ghana.

 “The way I saw people treating employees and the way things were working around me when I grew up, I thought it was not favorable. So I thought it was best to study human resources. From there, I studied finance so I could understand how to use resources to make decisions that benefit the larger population.” In 2018, he completed a qualification in Diplomacy from the Gabriel Denise Foreign Service Institute and is currently completing a master’s degree in International Development from the African Methodist Episcopal University. He plans to pursue a further qualification in law. 

After leaving the country during the civil war, he returned to Liberia in 2012 and soon crossed paths with Accountability Lab Executive Director, Blair Glencorse, who was trying to recruit someone in Liberia to work for a business start-up centre and also launch a new governance-focused CSO.  He was recruited to do business development and youth development work while working to establish Accountability Lab in Liberia.  

“When we started, we were working with volunteers in schools on our first project called “Tell-it-True”, a program for high school and university students that uses text messages to allow users to share problems and concerns that would otherwise go unspoken.” His passion for youth empowerment and development is evident in a lot of his engagements. He believes that a country cannot run with no useful plans for young people and is working tirelessly to redress some of the challenges that affect the youth. In 2014, he won the Transparency International Social Entrepreneurs Initiative for West Africa honoring him for his work on the SMS reporting and integrity clubs in secondary schools.

“Often young people are left to survive on their own. One thing that makes me passionate about this is, how do we get young people to engage policymakers and be active, call the government to account, and stay positive? I think reorientation is one of the best ways to stay positive. Get youth engaged in calling for a national plan for young people that will be inclusive of all accountability issues, which should be the hallmark for all of this.”

Under his leadership, Accountability Lab Liberia was the second country to implement the Integrity Icon campaign after Nepal, which he believes has greatly impacted the public’s perception of public servants.  “The conversation around anti-corruption has changed in the country. So I think we’ve done a lot of things.  The campaign has encouraged people to find role models within their communities,” he shares.  Voice2Rep (formally called Rapt2Rep) also received great recognition at the 2020 UNSDG awards when Liberia was named a finalist in the Inspire category for keeping people informed about COVID-19 and for debunking myths about its origin and progression through viral Hipco music. 

“We’ve done one thing as a team and that’s what we do every day – try to get young people to rise as active citizens, responsible leaders, and accountable people. Being recognized by the EU and USAID as the CSO of the year in 2017, gave us the right motivation we needed as an organization to continue to champion accountability in the country and globally as well.”  

Since then, he has continued to lead the development of more programs that have enjoyed great success over the years. Amidst all the challenges they have faced, including the Covid19 pandemic and the closing of civic space in Liberia, Lawrence remains proud of the work they have managed to do eight years later.  “If you think about accountability institutions in Liberia from a CSO background, many people will always count Accountability Lab first. And I think this is a good reputation that we’ve built so far.  We continue to work on strengthening that and extending our contribution to the sector.”