Comments on Sawyer and Weh-Dorliae's Postponement of Elections


By E. Sumo Jones, Sr.


The Perspective
Atlanta, Georgia

September 1, 2004

I read with interest and article on your popular website dated August 26, 2004 under the caption "Dr. Amos Sawyer Calls For The Postponement Of The 2005 National Elections In Liberia." Also, in the same article, I observed that Mr. Weh-Dorliae has recently published a book with the title: Proposition 12 For Decentralized Governance In Liberia Power Sharing For Peace And Progress" who also shares the view expressed by Dr. Sawyer that the 2005 elections be postponed.

Whilst I may not be against postponement of the 2005 elections for a justifiable reason or reasons such as, God forbids, if the disarmament process breaks down close to the date of the elections or due to an act of God beyond human control. In that respect, I totally disagree with the unjustifiable reasons advanced by Dr. Sawyer and Mr. Weh-Dorliae for recommending postponement of the ensuing scheduled elections. They want the elections to be postponed for the purpose, "To Allow For Putting Into Place Constitutional Changes Necessary To Make Good Governance Sustainable In Liberia."

I am sure that the gentlemen are aware of the constitutional limitations of the current Liberian National Transitional Government (LNTG) which does not have the appropriate constitutional Legislative bodies to make major changes in the Constitution by way of amendments to same. The Constitution of Liberia is a very sacred document well known to Mr. Weh-Dorliae and Dr. Sawyer who is, in fact, its author if I may rightly say so. It should, therefore, be rarely tempered with even by a constitutionally elected government. The LNTG certainly has the mandate and the authority in keeping with the Comprehensive Liberian Peace Agreement signed in Accra, Ghana, creating the said LNTG to prepare and submit reform proposals for consideration and implementation of the constitutionally elected Government come 2005 while executing its basic and fundamental responsibilities of Disarmament, Demobilization and reconstruction which, in essence, is principally to ensure the strict implementation of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement.

To make changes in the Constitution, one must first of all think of amending it which I believe cannot be done in case of serious changes without a referendum called for by the President of the duly elected Government of Liberia with which the House of Senate which does not exist now in the LNTG must play a major role in enacting such important amendments to the Constitution.

There is no doubt that certain constitutional changes will have to be made to provide for decentralization of the Government with the will of the Liberian people and to popularly involved the Liberian people in the process and only a constitutionally elected Government of the Liberian people has the authority and jurisdiction to amend and implement the process with the consent of the Liberian people through their representatives constitutionally elected to serve in the National Legislature forthcoming. Therefore, it is unnecessary to postpone the scheduled elections until the LNTG can make constitutional changes, which it has no constitutional authority to do. I am aware of the fact that the LNTG has the right by virtue of the Agreement to undertake and make certain reform changes in the existing organization of the existing Government such as it is doing with the reconstruction of the National Police Force which does not require any constitutional changes to do because the Police Force is an existing agency of the Government which can be reorganized without amending the Constitution. Therefore, I do not want anyone to misconstrue the sincere intention for my comments. As an advocate for decentralization, I am more anxious than anyone else for it to be implemented but, if it must be done only by amending the Constitution, the LNTG can go ahead and prepare the necessary reform proposals for implementation by the ensuing elected government if that government chooses to implement it as it is not legally binding on it to do.

As a matter of fact, the LNTG may undertake and implement decentralization of certain areas of its operations without touching the Constitution and, by so doing, it was not constitutionally done, the new Government will also not be bound to honor its continuation when it succeeds the LNTG after the elections in 2005.

Furthermore, maybe Dr. Sawyer and Mr. Weh-Dorliae know something about what is going on in the LNTG Governance Reform Commission under the Chairmanship of Madame Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf that we do not know. It is this Commission that has the mandate, in keeping with Item (d) of Part Eight, Article XVI of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement as cited on page 12 of the said Agreement, to "Ensure Subsidiarity In Governance Through Decentralization And Participation." Are they trying to make us believe that the members of the Commission are begging for additional time to carry out its mandate that necessitates postponement of the elections in order for them to make some constitutional changes? It comes to mind that Dr. Sawyer was reportedly appointed by the Chairman of the LNTG several months ago to serve on this very important Commission and he publicly declined the position.

Dr. Sawyer’s reference to the Constitution with respect to changes being made in it before the elections can take place gives me the impression that he truly respects the said Constitution that he wrote and that he sincerely feels that Liberians should abide by it. But what troubles me about this is his violation of the same Constitution in 1990 when he failed to wait for changes to be made in the same document before having himself selected by a small group of Liberians in Banju, the Gambia, as President of an Interim government that forcibly and illegally took over the Liberian Government from President Samuel K. Doe whose Government was not overthrown and the Constitution was not suspended while his constitutionally elected Vice President, in the person of Dr. Harry F. Moniba, was alive. Why did Dr. Sawyer, at this time, fail to allow the Constitution to work by allowing the Vice President to act as President if Doe had to step down?

Here, today, he wants a scheduled national elections to be postponed until constitutional changes are made for decentralization of a government to be and did not have the patience and fairness to wait until similar changes were made before he hijacked the Presidency from the sitting Vice President of Liberia. I am aware of the fact that the then President of the Gambia, Sir. Dawda K. Jawara, now deposed, who was then the Chairman of the ECOWAS Mediation Committee and principally contributed to the Liberian group abruptly organizing themselves into an Interim Government who went to Banjul then upon invitation of the President by indicating his willingness to support them contrary to their original written request to him to advise President Doe to step down and leave the country and let his sitting VP take over as acting President until the modalities for organizing an interim government were worked out. But, even with that, by virtue of principle and being mindful of the Constitution, they should not have fallen for it and should have remained steadfast to their request that the VP took over.

I do not question the sincerity of Dr. Sawyer and Mr. Weh-Dorliae in recommending postponement of the elections but I disagree totally with them for the unjustifiable reason given to warrant postponement.

By way of a personal digression, it is saddening to observe the failure of some Liberian intellectuals and writers to give another writer even just a passing credit for publicly originating an idea in which they find interest and also write about. For an example, I can say without fear of contradiction that your humble servant was the first Liberian official of Government to deliver a written address 29 years ago in Voinjama City, Lofa County and daringly recommended a semblance of decentralization of the Liberian Government in the presence of the President and National Standard Bearer of the True Whig Party of which I was a member specifically calling for election of Superintendents of Counties and revenue sharing during the first True Whig Party Convention held outside of Montserrado County. I even went further to quote the English Poet turned prose political writer, John Milton, who, in his work, "The tenure of the Kings and Magistrates," defended the right of the people to choose and depose their Rulers if they misruled. There, I unselfishly put my job on the line because I was appointed by the President as Superintendent and not elected but having observed some of the discrepancies in the over-centralized operation of the Government during my tenure as Superintendent where decisions taken by the central Government for the people to carry out, they were excluded from even by way of consultation safe to say participation, having a say, I was convinced that at the peril of my life I should do something about writing and speaking out about why decentralization should be instituted in the Government even if just nominally.

Then, in 1995, I wrote a pamphlet on Decentralization which I did not publish but made several copies available to some of my friends and others including Mr. T. Q. Harris, Jr. of Nimba County currently residing in Long Beach, California. Also, I quite recently published a detailed article on Decentralization and Governance which appeared on the Newdemocrat website.

But since I came over here in the States in 1990, I have recently seen and read numerous articles on the Liberian websites written by some of my fellow Liberians to the extent that one of the writers recently took credit for being the first to write an article on decentralization and argued that since then, other Liberians have followed his footsteps when this particular individual only wrote on the subject matter in 2003 or early this year and is believed to be in his early 30s. I know very well that I did not get my idea from him 29 and 9 years ago when I spoke and wrote on the subject matter.

My concern here is that not a single individual whose work I have read on the subject of decentralization has made any reference to me as one of the pioneer proponents and writers of the idea of decentralization even in the way of criticizing my work but pretend to have not come across any of my work including the most recent one published as above mentioned. I must admit that I have not seen or read Mr. Weh-Dorliae's well written book on decentralization except the review contents written by another gentleman. Quite frankly, when I write on a controversial subject and publish it, I am very anxious to read any critical analysis of the work from others whether for or against it without that person using profanity and abusive words in the premises when the article written does not involved the taking of another human being's life. That is the only way I can realize that I have made some rational contributions to a debate.

I want all of us Liberians to allow each other to air out our written and vocal views on which constructive and democratic way the Liberian Government to-come should take in order for us to return home and live once more in peace, safety and political stability with no further bloody interruptions. Until that is done, the struggle continues.

About the Author: The author is a graduate of the University of Liberia with a BA degree in Social Science, a graduate of Michigan State University, East Lansing, Michigan with a degree of Master of Science in Police Administration after successfully submitting a thesis, "A Plan To Reorganize The National Bureau Of Investigation Of The Department Of Justice In The Republic Of Liberia," and has served in several high ranking positions in the Liberian Governments including Immigration Commissioner, a cabinet Minister of several Ministries, Superintendent of Lofa County, Senator for Lofa County and in 1981 served as Acting Head of State and Acting Chairman of the PRC during a three days' official visit paid by Chairman Doe to Bamako, Mali and attended the wedding of Gen. Thomas Quiwonkpa then Commanding General in Sanniquellie, Nimba County as the personal representative of the Head of State. The author is former Faculty Specialist of Michigan State University assigned to the African Studies Center and President of the World Police Congress, Miami Beach, Florida, 1967-1974 He is currently, since 1991, chairman of the Board of Directors of the American Colonization Society that founded Liberia and is also Chairman of Alliance of Liberian Exiles in the Americas(ALEA) and is a Teacher in the Montgomery County Public Schools since 2000 where he teaches English, General Science, social Studies and Special Education in middle and high schools and published a book in 1968 with the title: "Courts And Trials In The Republic Of Liberia As Related To Law Enforcement And The Treatment Of Criminals."