Liberian Elections: "For Once Let’s Do It Right This Time"

By Leon Q. Ledlum

The Perspective
Atlanta, Georgia

May 14, 2004

This topic came about when I read the very eloquent and historically charged piece of article posted on April 30th., 2004 at with the caption: "Inaugural Address Delivered by Cllr. Frances Johnson-Morris, Chair of the National Elections Commission (NEC) of Liberia".

What this speech did to me was to remind me of some of my personal experiences during the preceding months to the 1985.elections. My first reaction, having read the learned counselor’s speech was: "Stop her before we have the repeat of 1985".

If many living Liberians who were involved in the process of the 1985 elections would remember, Hon. Emmett Harmon was also a learned lawyer and a very high profiled Liberian, whose credentials were such that people who did not know him became over confident in the ensuing elections that were to put Liberia on the path to "TRUE DEMOCRACY". I was one of those.

At political meetings during those days, at the Liberia Action Party (LAP) headquarters, there were serious debates among the party officials and members regarding this great man. And for those who knew him best, he was a fraud and was there to rig the elections in favour of the NDPL’s candidate, the late Samuel K. Doe. I was astonished and could not believe what was been said about him. All I saw was that this well educated man from a well known family was there to do Liberia good.

I could not be told otherwise about Hon. Cllr. Emmett Harmon. My focus was on his credentials and his family background. I was wrong.

In today’s NEC, which is to take part in ushering Liberia into another "true democracy", I see us about to repeat some of those symptoms of 1985 Ecom, should we sit down and permit what the learned Liberian lawyer delivered in that inaugural speech.

The current GOL was the product of the Accra accord commonly known as the CPA hence, all institutions resulting from it, should respect and abide by it. I would not like to bore readers of what is already known, as per the CPA. All those who have read it know what Article XIX subsection (4a) says, relative to the 2005 October elections. So may I ask: Why does the Chairperson of NEC want to give us the impression, that her interpretation of the accord is what she says it is?

Madam Chairperson, with all due respect to you and your commission, I think what happened under Emmett Harmon would not be tolerated this time around. Can’t you simply respect the legal instrument that led to the setting up of your commission and not try to infuse your own wishes? You rightly gave us the historical instances when our voting records smeared the image of Liberia. Don’t you think your commission could make history by just respecting the very instrument that gave birth to its creation? Our credibility is on line here again and it would be most honourable, if we Liberians let those institutions mentioned in connection with the 2005 October elections, do just what is stipulated.

We haven’t the resources, the expertise, and worst of all we have no trust in a Liberian run elections commission for the ensuing 2005 October elections. Why not let those who will provide the resources and expertise do what we want, which is after all, elections that all Liberians would come to accept as free and fair? Why can’t the NEC do what it is assigned as per the CPA?

In the 1985 election laws, which were published for the benefit of all Liberians, had no provision for a "50 member ballot counting committee", yet it happened because we as a people allowed it to, by further trusting a man like Emmett Harmon. High profile Liberians were sucked into accepting the credentials of Emmett and his team and we saw what it did to us.

For the sake of those who died as a result of this god-forsaken civil war, Liberians, let not that happen this time around.

The Chairperson of the National Elections Commission and her colleagues were or are aware of the provisions in the CPA before their nominations and subsequent confirmations. If they are not satisfied with those provisions therein, all she and those who share her views, ought not to have accepted their preferment.

I think it is about time we Liberians begin to set the necessary examples for leadership. If the law or rule is not what is ought to be, bring about changing it but do not try to circumvent it.

Dr. Leon Q. Ledlum can be reached at: