Facilitation For All Liberians Participation In The 2005 October General Elections


By Dr. Leon Q. Ledlum


The Perspective
Atlanta, Georgia
January 8, 2005

With special thanks and praise to our Almighty and Creator, and to the international community at large, our country Liberia, will be having the long awaited elections that the majority both local and external, agree is the only sane methodology to bring about a government that will represent the people of Liberia.

One thing that is obvious to all who have followed the Liberian crisis since 1980, is the percentage of Liberians outside its borders, due to factors beyond their control, hence, not liable for certain political and legal restrictions or prerequisites, judging from my personal and humble layman’s point of view.

The percentage of Liberians outside the natural borders of Liberia became more acute, and progressed to chronic state as the civil war protracted, giving ways to more people seeking shelter elsewhere. For all those displacements of the ordinary citizenry against their will, no authority has taken responsibility, but rather more government regulations are being drawn to regulate their participation in their local and national civic duties. As it stands today, 10% of Liberia’s population perished as a result of the wars, while the percentage of Liberians outside, though not official, may stand at about 35, with the bulk in the ECOWAS region.

Sadly enough, the various rules and laws being drawn up for the ensuing 2005 elections seem to be silent on the role of Liberians outside, but rather concentrating only on those Liberians within. This sounds like the proverbial Liberian saying, “Smell no taste”. I have done some discussion with ULAA, through its president, Mr. Watson, to whom I presented a suggestion for the National Elections Commission (NEC) to consider Liberians living outside in the coming elections. And I am not talking about absentee balloting, but a way to facilitate the participation of more Liberians outside Liberia, by providing an extended registration period for those who may want to participate in the coming elections and will be going home, if not but just for that period.

I had recommended that for the sake of democracy and maximum participation of qualified citizens, including those who are living outside Liberia, it would be very worthy for the NEC to extend the registration of voters up to the week prior to the voting day, to enthuse more to make that sacrifice to go home and vote. One needs to understand the economic and monetary undertakings involved in going home to register, and wait for the elections, which normally could be after six or more months. For these and other reasons, I wish to bring this to the larger Liberian community, to see the wisdom in all of us appealing to the NEC, to extend the registration of voters for this October, 2005 general elections especially for those residing out of Liberia.

I know the casting of the votes is preceded by voter registration, and that is always months before the voting day. Hence, how are Liberians outside supposed to register, go back to their current residences, wait for the day of voting and then return to Liberia to vote? Should the above be what is expected of us outside, that would mean two (2) round trips, which translates to huge cost per voter, money that could well be put to future investment in some ventures in Liberia, when Liberians finally return home. I know some may ask: “Why is Leon jumping the gun? And in fact, the elections timetable is yet to be published?”

The rationale behind this approach is to be ahead of the official publication of the elections timetable, so that requests or recommendations of this nature can be factored into the final version before the official announcement.

It is my sole recommendation to the Nation Elections Commission (NEC), that since a significant portion of the Liberian population now resides outside of the country, an election of this magnitude must have their input to give the true meaning to the overall objective of restarting our democratic state.

Hence, I recommend that the NEC extend the registration calendar to a week prior to voting especially for those Liberians outside who will take time off from their work, travel to Liberia for the October elections, to be able to register on the day of arrival at the point/port of entry, go home and vote on election day, then return to work thereafter. This will minimize cost, as well as make the elections more inclusive and democratic.

About the Author: Dr. Leon Q. Ledlum can be reached at: lqledlum@hotmail.com or lledlum@vcu.edu