Steps To End Lawlessness Before The 2003 Elections

By T. Q. Harris

The Perspective
Atlanta, Georgia

October 23, 2002

The topic of election is beginning to dominate conversations throughout Liberian communities. Many are hopeful elections in October 2003 will usher in new leaders who will set the country on a path towards peace and prosperity. There are others who believe the current regime will hold-on to power, but somehow conditions will improve. Then there are those who firmly believe it is impossible to conduct free and transparent elections while Charles Taylor remains president of Liberia. Given the uncertainties, what are Liberians doing?

Regardless of one's views of elections in Liberia, the hard fact is that Liberians must learn to hold their leaders accountable and accept personal responsibility. No nation with unethical leaders and unpatriotic citizens can expect to prosper. Liberians in general will have to change their Attitude when it comes to dealing with common threats and defending our common patrimony.

The people of Liberia must individually reexamine their Moral, Ethical and Spiritual values. And they should also make a conscious effort to reflect on the role of a good citizen. Perhaps the trauma caused by the breakdown of all institutions has tilted the nation's moral equilibrium. Since 1980 Liberia has become a cacocracry. What does Justice mean to the average Liberian? Can a Liberian discern Right from Wrong? Good from Evil? If the answer is affirmative, then why have Liberians generally been inclined to accept a known felon - a murderer of women and children -as their leader?

Liberia has fallen to its lowest ebb because its sons and daughters are constantly distorting the truth to advance selfish interest. As inheritors of a nation founded upon Christian principles, the people of Liberia have been less than impressive in applying the "Golden Rule". If Liberians are to enjoy security, peace and prosperity, they must become law-abiding and tolerant of their differences.

Challenges to overcome

In the past decade, Liberians have witnessed the massacre of innocent civilians in Churches, Mosques, cities, towns, villages, and along highways and by-ways throughout their country. Men, women and children were shot, hacked and oftentimes beaten to death. Houses of worship and private residence were bombed and incinerated with occupants intact. Females of all ages were brutally raped and, on occasion, murdered following the abuse. Fetuses ripped from pregnant women were slammed to the ground, as the mother lay dying. Young children were armed, drugged and sent off to murder their parents; many obeyed these instructions.

Humanitarian workers, including 5 American nuns who risked their own lives to assist victims of the carnage, were murdered in cold-blood. The mountain of human skulls displayed at an NPFL checkpoint referred to as "god bless you gate" (where majority of people who approached this checkpoint was murdered) provided further evidence of the level of atrocities perpetrated against innocent civilians. In a span of seven years, an estimated 250,000 Liberians were slaughtered by warlords and their co-conspirators; to the dismay of many, Liberians generally have shown a lack of interest in seeking justice for these horrific crimes. Why should anyone be hopeful that elections would restore normalcy to Liberia?

Lasting peace, sustained economic growth, and democracy will be achieved only when there is respect for rule of law. Therefore, all activities, including elections, must be conducted within the framework of the Constitution. Maintaining law and order must become a national obsession, because recent actions by warlords and their co-conspirators have cast a dark shadow over Liberia. Liberians must now prove they are not savages and cannibals, as reported in the international media and other credible sources.

Sanctions and labels, such as pariah, must be lifted, as competent, respectable and credible leaders are chosen to represent Liberia. More importantly, Charles Taylor -the prison escapee, known thief and murderer -must be removed from the Presidency as the first step in ridding Liberia of its terrible image!

Liberia's reconstruction hinges on its ability to reintegrate into the community of nations. Therefore, Charles Taylor can no longer continue as head of state, because this will further delay international recognition and acceptance of Liberia in the world community. Such delay will prolonged the current bankrupt economy, attract zero funding from international lending institutions, further delay infrastructure development, continue the non-payment of salaries, an increase in crime and violence, and negative economic growth. The international community's response to Liberia in the past 5 years is a good indication of what Liberians can expect with Taylor as their president.

To ensure the impending elections serve as a turning point, those without blood on their hands –the few upstanding citizens of integrity -must collectively demand that Charles Taylor resigns from the Presidency. He must vacate this high office for the sake of our children and for future generations. As decent men and women, we no longer can afford to overlook his crimes against humanity in Liberia, as well as in Sierra Leone.

Should Liberians continue to ignore Taylor's crimes, then we must ask ourselves the question: How can a presiding judge in good faith sentence a person to jail in Liberia for committing a crime while Taylor sits in the Executive Mansion as president of the nation? To restore integrity to the judicial system, and to vindicate the Liberian people, Taylor must be removed from the Presidency and tried for crimes against humanity.

A bold but necessary change

Plans to ensure free and transparent elections in 2003 must be set into motion now, if the hopes of Liberians are not to again be dowsed, due to our failure to take appropriate action. Should we fail to restore rule of law and adequate security in the country, the electorate will be exposed to fear, harassment and intimidation, thus guaranteeing yet another coerced victory for Charles Taylor.

Demanding Taylor's resignations and his prosecution in a court of law is not intended solely to deny him participation in the election; rather, it will be a bold statement by Liberians resolved to create a nation of laws. Therefore, all law-abiding citizens -presidential aspirants and persons seeking other elected offices, as well as members of political parties, religious and civil organizations, and Liberians at large -must refrain from engaging in election activities until Taylor resigns and hands over power to his chosen successor who will lead the nation through the 2003 elections. If Liberians are genuinely seeking peace, reconciliation and the rebuilding of their country, there can be no compromise regarding this matter.

However, should the majority of Liberians prove incapable of mustering the will to demand Taylor's resignation and rebuffing the warlords and their co-conspirators in the interest of peace, then we will have no other alternative but to call on the few patriots within the ranks of Taylor's security apparatus to use whatever means necessary to save the state. Force may not be the best option for ridding Liberia of Taylor's evils, but more and more it is becoming the only option.

The Taylor factor

Charles Taylor is undeniably the epitome of evil. He has corrupted most every person who has been exposed to his influence. What manner of man would remain so comfortable with himself, bent on holding on to power by all means, as women and children perish in refugee camps and internally displaced centers? What manner of man would deprive his own people of clean drinking water and medical care, subjecting them to abject poverty while he basks in luxury? Taylor uses lies and deception to corrupt his victims, several of whom were of impeccable character until their encounter with what some have described as Satan incarnate.

During his systematic decimation of the country between 1989 and 1997, Charles Taylor successfully corrupted upstanding personalities –officials of foreign governments as well as representatives of international institutions - who were sent to help restore order in Liberia. One after another, these victims of Taylor's brainwashing and manipulation left the country, in most cases, never to be heard of again. There is no doubt as to this con artist’s ability to convert men and women of all backgrounds and cause them to condone acts that are criminal and reprehensible.

A number of Liberians, once held in high esteem, have fallen victim to Taylor's evil devices. In the early days after commandeering the Presidency, this maniacal character persuaded politicians, lawyers, clerics, and other leading members of society to endorse his well-crafted scheme for kicking out ECOMOG - the last and best chance we had for restoring some semblance of normalcy in the aftermath of the brutal 7-year war. Individuals in key positions within his administration led the charge against the international peacekeepers, forcing them to leave the defenseless population at the mercy of Taylor’' armed thugs. As a result, Taylor became an absolute ruler, as thousands were murdered. The country was also transformed into "Taylor Inc." -a blood-diamonds, gunrunning, human trading, black money, and terrorist's haven. Five years later, men and women infected with the "Taylor-virus" are in a stupor, systematically destroying lives and properties throughout the West African sub-region.

Intrigued by his demonic manipulation, knowledgeable men and women, among other acts, have attempted to defend Taylor's atrocities against the Liberian people. Serving as spokespersons, they even justified his support of the notorious Revolutionary United Front of Sierra Leone -the rebel group known for hacking off the limbs of its victims, including babies. These defective clones are serving as officials of the criminal regime in Monrovia, contributing to the demise of their own nation. It is interesting to note that those who become inebriated with Taylor's mind-bending drug, like their former colleagues who had to flee in order to escape Taylor's assassins, know full well Liberians have no future under the leadership of this madman, and yet their perceived loyalty defies logic.

Why have our fellow compatriots, some of whom we know so well, succumbed to a man who has no good intentions for Liberia? As you seek for answers to this question, try explaining the irrational behavior of the thousands who sang and danced in support of Taylor's bid for the Presidency, despite the fact he knowingly subjected them to starvation and the pain of losing loved ones who were hacked and gun-down in cold-blood. It would be helpful to understand the reasons behind Taylor's demonic tendencies, but time will be better spent identifying the cause of the current dysfunctional behavior of Liberians at large.

Contentious politics and its consequences

Whether Charles Taylor is a participant in the 2003 elections or not, there's one thing for certain, and that is, most of the candidates seeking elected office will be unworthy of the people's trust. They are the architects of the decade-old mayhem and chaos that have yet to abate. One can only hope voter's reaction in 1997 will serve as a reminder that the vast majority of Liberians are turned off by politics as usual. It must also be noted that key members of the international community also share this sentiment.

The lukewarm response to Liberian opposition by members of the international community is an obvious indication of their unwillingness to deal with unpatriotic politicians. Regrettably, Taylor has been the main benefactor of this prevailing sentiment, though he is equally unpatriotic. At the present, most major international decision-makers (from those in the Mano River Union to the United Nations) merely offer lip service when it comes to the plight of Liberian opposition. Further indication of this disdain is evidence by the somewhat gentle handling of the armed dissidents -Liberians United for Reconciliation and Democracy. There is a general resentment towards the politicians who managed the affairs of state following the coup in 1980. It is widely believed these individuals fostered division amongst the populace, as they squabbled amongst themselves.

The politicians' failure to uphold the Constitution following Samuel Doe's death legitimized Taylor and made it possible for a warlord to become President. Therefore, every effort must be made to reinstate a Constitutional government in Liberia. Hopefully, those responsible for this monumental error that has claimed thousands of lives and wrecked the country's infrastructure will come to realize that leadership entails responsibility and accountability and it is an insult to the Liberian people for these politicians to seek national office, without showing any sign of compunction.

Making election-2003 violence free

Every person who earnestly believes they have the moral authority to lead must now join concerned Liberians around the world in bringing attention to the issues of violence and lawlessness in Liberia. In the next 12 months, Liberians in the Diaspora must collectively organize and hold peaceful rallies to garner international support for the impending elections and democracy in Liberia. Conducting elections in the absence of rule of law will have no legitimacy and a negative impact on prevailing conditions. Therefore, leaders of all persuasions must set aside personal ambition and work for the common good.

Fellow Liberians, we deserve better than the liar, thief and murderer who has commandeered the Presidency. Our Ancestors and those who labored long and hard so we might have a homeland most certainly deserve better. Our children deserve better than the violence, criminality, lawlessness and moral decadence that is shaping their future. After voting on Election Day, what authority will we have to stop the next president, or future presidents, from committing murder and human rights violations if we fail to hold Charles Taylor accountable for crimes he has committed? We must put an end to lawlessness in Liberia before the next elections.

About the author: Mr. T. Q. Harris was a vice presidential candidate in the 1997 elections in Liberia. He is the leader of a group known as Contemporees United Patriotic & Strong.

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