October Elections: A Pragmatic Approach


By Dionysius Sebwe

The Perspective
Atlanta, Georgia

December 17, 2004

I'm cautiously optimistic about the modified Electoral Reform Bill being passed by the National Transitional Legislative Assembly. The pressure from Liberians and the international community must remain unabated to ensure utter adherence to the Comprehensive Peace Agreement document.

I read with delight Theodore Hodge's excellent article on the controversy surrounding postponing the October elections [To Speaker George Dweh: "He Who Pays the Piper Calls the Tune," Dec. 7, 2004]. It was right on target. I would encourage more Liberians to use the resource provided by Mr. Hodge to fully comprehend the significance and expectation of the CPA. The CPA document, signed by all parties, is intended to eventually end hostilities and bring lasting peace to a war-weary nation.

The presidential election of October, 2005, is crucial, and in a way a precedent, one in which many Liberians, it's assumed, will actively participate in electing the right candidate. While I applaud the men and women of the NTLA for their good deeds and sacrifices so far, I'm at discord with this body regarding a delayed election. At this moment in history an anticipated election outweighs a census. Thus, a scheduled October election is the pragmatic approach we, all Liberians, should support and readily adopt.

The CPA is a legal contract that binds all signatories. What progress would this country have achieved if Article XX 1.b - The Interim Period [The vice president shall assume duties of the current president for a period not beyond October 14, 2003] had not been implemented? Reneging on a legal document, such as the CPA, will fuel our incessant and inevitable need to rely on international community, especially the United States, in ensuring basic governmental responsibilities and functions.

The national and global implications are obvious: Because a postponed election is perceived as a tantalizing exercise by most Liberians and the international community, many Liberians will be less sanguine about any election setback. Our drive for perhaps the most historic, free and fair elections seems to be punctuated by unnecessary stress, like the uncompromising and belligerent nature of some NTLA members who are in a unique position to facilitate a long-sought election.

A scheduled election is a window of opportunity that must be utilized to the fullest. Many industrialized nations, including the United States, who are poised to bankroll many projects in Liberia do not have the perennial patience. Also, a postponed election may have unintended consequences, such as precarious investment opportunities. Wealthy investors and multinational corporations planning to do business in Liberia may adopt a wait-and-see attitude, thus stagnating economic growth.

There's also a transitional cost to postponing the October, 2005, elections. It's not going to be all hunky-dory. The transitional cost, while we await a census, will drain aid or money (grant, loan, etc.) that would have been allocated for reconstructions projects. Some questions to be considered: What mechanism or authority extends the life of the NTLA? Who funds the NTLA during the transition, primarily salaries and logistics? Who's going to fund the census project in its entirety? There are many more questions and unknown, maybe unfavorable, scenarios if we choose to have this much-anticipated election hindered.

Another inadvertent consequence of a delayed election is undoing the incredibly remarkable United Nations' accomplishments so far, including disarmament and demobilization of warring factions, a key step, which has paved the way for more successes in the offing. It is fair to say the former rebels need rehabilitation. Who's going to provide other services, job training, and actual employment for these men transforming into civilians? During the transitional period if these issues are not addressed, a high rate of recidivism is guaranteed. Certainly, evil-minded individuals will be emboldened to exploit the absence of a stable and permanent administration.

I would hastily concur about a census idea were we in a normal circumstance. Moreover, the stakes are high, as this rare opportunity may slip away right before our very eyes. Owing to Liberia's resurgence and future challenges, it is imperative we elect a leader with enormous political dexterity and substantial governmental experience to assure the international community of our fervent desire and resolve to rejoin an evolving global environment. This is indeed a crucial period in our history. Foregoing a census will not significantly impact the slated October election.
Dionysius Sebwe (former player of Lone Star)