How can you prosecute a man hanging on a lifeline from an infectious disease? According to news reports published last week, that’s precisely what Liberia vowed to do to Thomas Eric Duncan — the first patient diagnosed with Ebola while on US soil — if he ever made it back to the country. Duncan died on Wednesday from Ebola related complications.

His tragic demise should represent a prick on the conscience of those who threatened prosecution. This is the same kind of insensitive scaremongering that has driven people underground, afraid to cooperate with authorities. With more than 3,000 Ebola-related deaths reported, double the number of infections and no indication of the outbreak abating any time soon, inflammatory statements about criminalizing Ebola only make matters worse.

Liberia’s Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, Africa’s first female president has led for nearly a decade now, but it took the Ebola virus epidemic to reveal how fragile, how unprepared, and how vulnerable her leadership has left the Liberian people. In all of those years, there has been no adequate health services, no serious educational system, no adequate roads in most parts of the country, no electricity or water to most of Monrovia, and all of this despite international aid, foreign investment and new trade contracts. Without adequate schools, hospitals, roads, electricity or water to metropolitan Monrovia, how can Liberia protect its citizens, monitor infected persons, quarantine suspected cases or even educate the people about the catastrophic dangers of the virus? If the lack of these necessary resources were the only problem, then many could have been spared.

I have heard men express preferences. They have made mention of whom they desire to rule over us if the worst should come upon us nationally. Some are rampant after American associations; some are enamoured of the English; some would have the Germans, others the French. Personally I indulge no such predilections. They argue an abandonment of hope . . . an absolute admission of incapacity and failure. For my part I am a Liberian first and last and my desire is that Liberia should endure till the heavens fall, and that this country be controlled by Liberians for Liberians.

  Edwin James Barclay (1910)