Securing Liberia's Future Via The 2003 Elections

By Leon Q. Ledlum,

The Perspective

February 22, 2002

This is an attempt to bring to the attention of the world the state of fear and doom that has gripped this small West African country, called Liberia. This call is to all who profess to be advocates of human rights, the right to life and against genocide. As this paper is being written, thousands of innocent people, (children, the old, women and men) are been herded away from their homes for the sole purpose of massacre or genocide, and the world looks on, only waiting to do the body counts, big news headlines and the usual after the fact intellectual/academic talks. Is there anyone with the love and will power, to draw the attention of the power that be, to do something for the sake of humankind, to save Liberia and its people? I pray that whoever that person is or persons are, the time is now. We do not want to read or hear about, or see scenes on the televisions, as was the case in Rwanda, when the world stood by and watched, while more than half a million human beings were hatched to death. As we speak, a war is raging in my country Liberia, not for any good intentions, but for shear desire to be in power against the will of ordinary unassuming Liberians.

Ordinary Liberians are appealing to the people of the world to use their influence to rally support to help end these cycles of violence that have the propensity to kill hundreds of thousands of simple, poor and defenseless Liberians. The leadership of Liberia has failed to live up to its promise to safeguard the state and its people and, therefore, Liberians have no protection for 11 years of violence from these self proclaimed warring factions, whose sole intent is state power through the use of arm struggle.

The Liberian people do certainly want a change of government, but not through the use of force nor through war and massacres. Liberians want the opportunity to exercise their civil liberty to freely choose their leaders, using the ballot and not the bullet. The civilized world is always calling for DEMOCRACY, Liberians also do want democracy and needs the power- that- be to help them achieve just that. And for that, the following approach is being advanced to facilitate a smooth transition.

The year 2003 is supposed to be a general election year in Liberia, when the President and Vice President, legislators and local government officials would be elected. Liberia’s future very much depends on how successfully these elections are held. And this is where the international community must used its moral authority and responsibility for the safety of humankind, to help conduct elections that would give all participating parties the conditions of free, fair and level playing ground. Liberia’s elections history is replete with riggings and out right high jacking of results, with the 1985 being the one that comes to mind foremost, and as the precursor and reason for Liberia’s civil war, which started on 24th December,1989 by the current President, Charles Taylor. That round resulted in the death of 200,000-250,000 non-combatant casualties, representing 10% of Liberia’s population. It is our desire to make progress and, therefore, we Liberians are seeking the most peaceful way out of this sea of violence and trauma, by way of FREE AND FAIR ELECTIONS come the year 2003, using the following approach:

1.Liberians’ Role In the 2003 Elections.

2.Staggering of the 2003 General Elections.

1.Liberians’ Role In The 2003 Elections. As stated earlier, Liberia’s elections history leaves a lot to be desired. It suffices to mention that we as a people do not trust one another when it comes to elections. Besides, we are bias towards ourselves.

This, therefore, does not make good for a FREE AND FAIR ELECTIONS, which has been our major hurdle in obtaining the government we so need and desire. In light of this, it would be very helpful if Liberians’ role in the 2003 elections be limited to two basic civic duties: (a) participate in the enumeration of voters’ registration during the preceding months to general elections; (b) to cast our ballots on election days. The administration of the entire general elections should be done by an AD HOC ELECTION COMMITTEE set up by the international. Administering of the general elections should include: all voting precincts in Liberia, counting of all ballots, tabulation of ballots announcing and the certification of the entire election results.

Staggering Of The General Elections. The Liberian constitution has enshrined in it the three separate but equal branches of government, consisting of the LEGISLATIVE (representatives and senators), the EXECUTIVE (the president, his vice and appointees), and the JUDICIARY (the courts and the judges). Since the advent of the late President Tubman regimes, we have seen the Executive in Liberia usurp the functions of the other branches of government. This has been and continues to be a major contributor to the recurring of dictatorship in a society intended for democratic values and principles. The only way to correct this political malaise would be to reduce the power and influence of the Executive on the other two branches of government by having elections that are free and fair. It is the conviction of many Liberians that this time around, if given the opportunity and the necessary conducive conditions to vote for their candidate of choice, the ordinary electorate would use it wisely.

To ensure that the best candidates are drawn into the political races in Liberia, it is recommended that the 2003 general elections be staggered in the following manner:

I. Election of local government officials.

II. Election of legislators (representatives and senators).

III. Election of the President and Vice President.

The scheduling of these elections would be worked out by the Ad Hoc Election Commission. Notwithstanding, it is recommended that an interval of four months between each election. It is believed this would help in increasing the possibility of building an independent legislative body and, therefore, the right step towards creating also an independent judiciary.

This approach it is believed, would encourage more qualified Liberians participation at all level of government, and it creates the conditions for better candidates to seek elected positions in congress, than having the usual one sided (executive controlled) congress as it has been till this current congress. Should this become a reality, it would weaken the Liberian Presidency as we know it, because it would embolden the potential candidate. He or she would be riding on his or her own tailcoat, his or her own term and philosophy, rather than waiting for appointment by the president.

Why would this work in today’s Liberia? Liberia is currently a crisis state, under extreme financial difficulties to do anything nation wide. It has become a pariah state under enormous pressure from the international community, including sanctions and of late, it is fighting an insurgent group trying to topple it. And this February, the Taylor government is calling for the USA, EU and the UN to come to its aid to quell the state of war that it finds itself, and asking for a direct US intervention. The existing Election Commission has already stated that it would need more than 7 million dollars for the 2003 general elections, and has in fact asked the international community to come to its aid. But as has already been stated, this institution lacks the credibility to conduct a free and fair elections, which we all agree is the only solution to stop the war, and generate conditions for reconstruction.

This is the time to get involved to once and for all bring the Liberian nightmare to an end. It is the hope of the majority Liberians that these election conditions be part of the requirements that should be met by the Liberian government before any international community involvement and funding in solving the crisis in Liberia.

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