All Liberians Must Have the Choice to Vote in the 2005 Elections

By Winsley S. Nanka

The Perspective
Atlanta, Georgia

May 5, 2004

Mr. Harry A. Greaves, Jr., the Economic Affairs Adviser to Interim Liberian Head of State Gyude Bryant, stated that Liberians of dual-citizenship may not participate in the 2005 national elections in Liberia because “our constitution (the constitution of Liberia) does not allow dual-citizenship,” disregards the constitutional reality in Liberia. Mr. Greaves made the statement in an interview with the Perspective Magazine. Mr. Greaves’ statement, if implemented, will exclude some of the presidential aspirants because they posses dual-citizenship.

In addition, Mr. Greaves’ statement raises several issues:

First, it is disingenuous for Mr. Greaves, who is an official of the government that came to power through un-constitutional means to suggest the use of a constitutional provision to exclude other Liberians from the 2005 political process in Liberia. Second, Mr. Greaves is not clothed with the authority to determine who can participate in the 2005 elections and who cannot. That responsibility rests with the Nationals Elections Commission of Liberia. Third, the mandate of the Gyude Bryant government is to conduct the elections of Liberia under the supervision of the international community. Therefore, the most logical thing the government can do is to submit the electoral logistical needs of Liberia to the international community through the United Nations. Let the United Nations decide what is technically feasible and what is not. Fourth, while it may be true that Africans of other nationalities have obtained Liberian passports because of their political advantages, the number of other nationalities that possess Liberian passports may not be sufficient to warrant the disenfranchisement of tens of thousands of Liberians around the world.

The sequence of recent events emerging from Gyude Bryant’s office makes it reasonable to conclude that Gyude Bryant’s office is slowly turning into the campaign headquarters of the Liberia Action Party. As one prominent original founder of LAP who asked not to be named intimated “we do not want the elections to be arranged at the executive mansion. We want a free electoral process because if the process is not perceived as being fair, some Liberians may use it as an excuse to start another trouble for the Liberian people.”

The selection of the “neutral person”, Gyude Bryant as the interim chairman was predicated upon the premise that his office would be impartial in creating the enabling environment for free and fair elections in 2005. However, the evidence proves otherwise. There is an attempt by the LAP political leadership at the executive mansion to promote LAP’s presidential aspirant, Varney Sherman, as Gyude Bryant’s designated successor. Also, Mr. Harry Greaves’ statement in the Perspective article, “LAP’s candidate would have a great chance to win the elections,” defeats the purpose of Gyude Bryant’s office expected neutrality in conducting impartial elections in 2005.

Mr. Greaves’ statement that Liberians of dual-citizenship may not participate in the 2005 national elections in Liberia is reminiscent of the deposed Liberian dictator, Charles Taylor threat in 2002 to invoke Article 52, section c of the Liberian constitution to exclude potential presidential candidates from the October 2003 national elections in Liberia. The Perspective Magazine reported in the article, Liberian Dictator Sets the Stage for His Downfall that it is common for Liberian leaders to use exclusionary tactics to hang on to power. The article cited examples of past Liberian leaders including William V. S. Tubman, William R. Tolbert, General Samuel K. Doe and the deposed dictator Charles G. Taylor who used various tactics to exclude political opponents from the political process.

Mr. Greaves and the LAP political leadership at the executive mansion must understand that the constitution of Liberia is not in full force. Therefore, it will be counter productive for the Liberia Action Party’s political leadership to attempt to selectively use its provision to attain political power. The 2005 elections are special elections, as such, all Liberians of voting age that can prove Liberian nationality must have the choice to vote in the 2005 elections. At a minimum, the government could require all Liberians to register and vote in Liberia during the 2005 elections.

The national elections in Liberia will determine which direction Liberia takes after 2005. Therefore, it is very important that nothing less than a transparent electoral process takes place. If Liberians fail to conduct free and fair elections, it would probably throw Liberia into chaos again. If this happens, it will be the end of Liberia as a country. Accordingly, every Liberian has the responsibility to make the 2005 elections successful. Liberians must remember “no Liberian has more claims on Liberia than another Liberian.”