Eye On The Ballot Box

By Gbe Sneh

The Perspective
Atlanta, Georgia

May 13, 2004

The recent installation of the new National Election Commission (NEC) is a welcome sigh of relief for all advocates of a free and fair electoral process. The acceptance speech by the chair, Cllr. Morris, reaffirmed the upward mobility of a reborn nation. Her resolve to a system reformation, and the insistence on compliance with elections laws by all parties is a welcome posture. However, Cllr. Morris’ apparent resistance to the limited role of the NEC as per Accra Comprehensive Peace Accord needs to be eased upon.

Here is what Cllr. Morris said. “Remember there are rules to every game and they must be applied....” (The Inquirer, Monrovia, Liberia, Distributed by The Perspective).

Well said. But, to turn around and say, “If they (ICGL and other groups) will supervise, monitor and conduct the elections, then why maintain this commission” (The Inquirer, Monrovia, Liberia), is to negate the fine line that we just crossed. The entire transition process is confined within CPA documents. And if we can so call it, it is another “game” that has its own set of rules that are equally in full force. The whole process that brought the National Transitional Government of Liberia (NTGL) into being can be taken exception to by most Liberians. How many Liberians are satisfied with the makeup of the NTLA? Only a “pocket” full. As in a “game” of cards, it is the hand we have been dealt, unfortunately from a “stacked deck”! These are special times, with special rules. We can only bide our time. Let’s not give the appearance that we already know what we are doing. The NEC is just in its embryonic stage. It needs all the nourishing it can get. The NEC has the opportunity to learn the ropes from the experts. Let’s accept our limited role in the partnership with the international community. A baby crawls before it walks. The NEC has its whole life ahead.

South Africa recently scored a coup for all of Africa. For the third time, this nation has conducted "Free And Fair" elections! A spine-chilling sensation felt from the conduct of the polls comes from this prelude to the exercise, given at the Africa Live-BBC Webster. "International election observers are staying away from the South African elections, not out of fear but in a show of confidence in the country's ability to deliver a free poll."

Now, that’s an election commission that has learned how to crawl and is now walking, so much so that it is given the leeway to operate independently. Hopefully the NEC will someday get such a distinction.

And deliver they did. If this does not elate, while challenging any voters elsewhere in Africa, the whole world for that matter, what else will, must be yet to be seen!

What we are witnessing is precisely what a people should do after fighting for a change. A fight that spanned over half a century for a change, the result of which proves that several lives put on hold through incarceration, and a multitude of others that met their untimely ends, did not happen in vain. A struggle for freedom that in the end brings "humankind" to its senses.

It did not have to happen that way. Yet it did because a minority, self-appointed masters of the destinies of others had sworn to forever disenfranchise the majority by closing the ballot box to them. Yes, it did not have to happen that way as expressed by the noblest Freedom Fighter of them all, Mandiba, First Citizen, President Nelson Mandela of South Africa.

"I feel elated that I can be able to assert my right as a citizen. I sincerely hope that the whole world will abandon violence and use peaceful methods of asserting their rights. Our appeal is that every citizen must assert his or her right as a citizen and the highest manner in which to assert that right is to exercise your vote and to be able to decide who should run the country." (Africa Live-BBC)

For those of us who have lost faith in the political system, for those of us accustomed to saying, "Anybody who gets there will do the same thing.", finally, for those of us who are just biding time for "a beacon of hope" to beam at the horizon, this is what another victorious warrior, The Arch Bishop of Cape Town, SA, Desmond Tutu, has to say about the ballot box. "It is often said that the first election after freedom is the last one, because most countries degenerate into dictatorships. We are disproving that. We are getting to be experts. We can count our votes." (Africa Live-BBC)

Did you hear that? The South African people are becoming experts at "producing" free and fair elections. This is a "product" that must be imported into Liberia come the October 2005 Elections, so that come that day, we will not only be counting our votes, but also our blessings. Amen.

Voter turnout at the South African polls was well over seventy percent. A note worthy point, indeed. We are currently disarming and there is rising confidence that we will succeed at it. This will pave the way to a gun-free country, the cities, towns and interior inclusive. Our prospective leaders will then take to the secured roads in attempts to tell us why they want to lead, and specifically what they are capable of doing for us. On the latter, "Am Leaving It All Up To You". Our votes are equal. Without a doubt, I know how I will be voting. I can only ask you to be wise with your vote. I can also only warn you that if you don't do your homework now and wind up voting for a "Yakpawlo" tomorrow, don't blame me. For the sake of those who are too young to know, Yakpawlo uses his gun to do everything. If a “Yapkawlo” gets in power, the next time you go to the ballot box, if you are lucky there will be one again, he will be there, this time, holding his gun to tell you how to vote. As a favorite radio announcer would say, "Now You Know The Rest Of The Story".

What you do at the ballot box is to exercise your ONLY power, your last chance to remain a FREE and TRUE citizen. True citizen? Yes, because if you blow your vote, “Yapkawlo” will turn you into a TWO-BY-FOUR citizen. You know all about that story, too.

Really, let's come together as one. Let's help one another in deciding who will make a good President, a good public servant. Listen to your radio, watch TV, read the newspaper. And if you can't read, ask questions. That way, come tomorrow, you will not say, "I did not know." We have a long way to go, but at least, we know that it can be done. We have a very strong team at work to ensure that we do get it right at the ballot box. Who’s on this powerful team? The media, youth movements, civil rights organizations on the ground, good governance organizations on the ground, the women’s group, the bigger boys at our institutions of higher learning, the younger boys and girls at our high schools, the council of churches, the ordinary citizen on the side-walk, the international community, and finally of course, like it or not, while he may have his hands full, our Dynamic Chairman, Mr. Gyude Bryant.

Anything short of a free and fair elections would be a failure. We can DDRR all we want.
We can rid the nation of all weapons of mass destruction, from all surface-to-air missiles to pocket knives, to even witchcraft. We can break up all warring factions and bring in the world’s best experts to rehab ex-fighters and reintegrate them into society. We can raise the entire country from rubbles to structures challenging the Petronas Towers. All this would be in vain if we fail to conduct free and fair polls.

Let me share my confidence with you that it will be done this time around. Keep your eyes on the ballot box, we have destiny and history on our side.