Liberian National Elections: A Panacea?


By Emmanuel Abalo

The Perspective
Atlanta, Georgia
September 12, 2005


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The Liberian Presidential and Legislative elections slated for October 11, 2005, represents a major achievement and progress towards national and regional stability for a country brought to its knees by fourteen years of naked, factional and ethnic violence.

However, this attempt at a national transformation from a culture of death, impunity, hopelessness and corruption may disintegrate quite easily if certain mechanisms are not implemented by Liberians themselves with the help of the international community. Thematically, the following reforms would form the bedrock for progress:

Preventing and ending conflicts nationally and regionally, Ensuring economic development and reducing poverty and ensuring the effectiveness,

Transparency and integrity at all levels of the Government of Liberia. And so with cautious optimism, we recommend a drastic and intrusive reform and implementation of the academic, judicial, economic and social systems with a view to maximizing available human and material resources for the common and general benefit of the people and reasonable integrity of government.

Another recommendation is for a persuasive and credible national leadership to garner the commitment and support of all sectors of the Liberian society for the rebuilding of institutions and infrastructures necessary for the sustenance and functionality of government. In this regard, we stipulate that the University of Liberia and other national higher institutions of learning be partnered with, academically strengthened and spared no funding to ensure a sustained production of trained manpower to sustain these institutions and programs. If this means, “importing” foreign academicians and scholars, at a price, to supplement the University and community colleges’ faculties then perhaps it’s a good investment. As a matter of statistical fact, the greatest number of Liberians that ever had access to some form of formal education benefited during the late 1970’s - 1990. This trend must be regenerated Of Course there were several factors responsible including the desire of the ordinary Liberian to “know book” amidst challenges and ensure a better future.

The current challenges of the local disregard for rule of law, graft and corruption, coupled with international terrorism loom threateningly before the struggling nation and must be tackled head-on. This will presuppose that the executive, legislative and judicial arms of government undergo a true “catharsis and sanitization“ and empowerment for purposes relevance and functionality. Without doubt, the conflict between the image of government since independence and Liberian values remains complicated and must be reconciled. This can be accomplished partly when government institutionalizes the rule of law which protects individual rights and basic freedoms guaranteed in the Liberian constitution...

The new government must review international treaties and protocols to which it is a signatory with a view to positioning itself to compete and benefit from programs and partnerships that lend to the transition from a pariah state to that of a trusted and progressive nation. For example, I urge the new government to invite the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) and Interpol to open and maintain field offices in the country as a way of demonstrating its commitment to the fight against modern day international terrorism and drug trafficking in the region.

Additional long term issues such as decentralization of government functions, fiscal reforms and accountability must command immediate attention. What about a consideration of a reputable , international accounting outfit recommended by the European Union (EU) being permanently detailed to the Finance Ministry, General Auditing Office and the General Services Agency.

As for security, the AU and ECOWAS could be requested to second long term military advisors and liaisons as the country is still vulnerable on security.

There are also issues of citizenship, constitutional reforms and the re-integration of ex-combatants which must be addressed sooner than later in order to spur the economy.

Finally, there has to be a national and international engagement of “rejectionists” of the results of the elections who may want to undermine the gains made so far. Remember, some of these “rejectionists” lost the power to threaten and harm others, influence and access to government resources and money to supplement their lifestyles. Ignoring such rejectionists could potentially precipitate the genesis of future challenges for Liberia.

This expose is not to suggest that national elections is a panacea but a small, vital and necessary step to rethinking, reforming and rebirthing Liberia.

About The Author: Emmanuel Abalo is an exiled Liberian journalist , media and human rights activist. He is a former News Director of the erstwhile Catholic owned ELCM Community Radio and later with the Liberian Broadcasting System (ELBC). He is the former Acting President of the Press Union of Liberia (PUL). Mr. Abalo presently resides in Pennsylvania, USA and works as an analyst with CITIGROUP, North America.