No Web Sites, Emails or Cell Phone Calls for Liberian Politicians?

By Mohamedu F. Jones


The Perspective
Atlanta, Georgia
January 20, 2005

According to recent new reports, the National Elections Commission of Liberia (NEC) recently issued Guidelines that reportedly includes the following statement: “"No activity of political parties and independent candidates shall extend beyond the boundaries of the country."

If this is a correct representation of what is included in the Guidelines, then this manifests that the Commission must think it is administering elections in “Charlie King’s time” rather than in the new Millennium. In the age of the Internet, Email and the World Wide Web, any activity of a political party or candidate that is connected to cyberspace, by definition “shall extend beyond the boundaries of the country." This means that a candidate in Monrovia could not send an email from his/her desk to the desk of an assistant in the next room because that action by going through the Internet will necessarily be an activity that extends beyond the boundary of the country. In reality, this Guideline would make cell phone calls between politicians in Liberia about their political activities illegal, because such calls are transmitted via satellites that are beyond the boundaries of the country. No political web sites for Liberian political parties or candidates either because that is necessarily an activity that extend beyond the boundary of the country since the Internet extends beyond the boundaries of all countries.

About five miles away from where I live in Maryland, thousands of Iraqis commenced registering to vote in Iraq’s elections later this month. They will return to the same site on their Election Day to vote. As for Liberia, not only can no Liberian register or vote outside of the country, now the candidates are prohibited from going to Ghana, Guinea, Cote d’Ivoire, the United States or any where outside of Liberia to speak to their fellow citizens. Actually, candidate and political parties could not even send videotapes of their events outside the country because this would constitute political activity outside the boundary of the country. Reasonable arguments can be made while logistically and financially, the NEC could not undertake to carry-out valid registration and voting outside Liberia, but the notion that it is helpful to Liberia’s democracy to ban political activities by parties and candidates outside of Liberia, when a significant portion of the country’s population lives in other countries is myopic, anti-democratic and just plain silly.

This provision of Liberia’s election Guidelines is an active attempt to limit Liberia’s democracy building rather than broaden it. It indicates a desire to carry-on the longstanding Liberian tradition of stifling democracy. The NEC should wake up and realize that this is not one of Tubman’s elections, where he had to finance the “opposition” candidate so it would look good, but rather this is an election in the 21st Century. It is mind boggling that Liberia’s NEC is unable to see that the provision prohibiting Liberia’s political parties and candidates from interacting with Liberians who live out of the country puts a “chill” on democracy building in the country. Mindlessly, they have actually made it illegal to use the Internet or cell phones for political activities in Liberia without even realizing it. But, if you think about it, for them to realize the full implication of what that provision means, it would have required the members of the NEC to think the matter through; and that just might be asking too much of a Liberian elections commission.