Shattered Hopes and dreams

Dempster Yallah

The Perspective

Atlanta, Georgia

January 21, 2002

October 14, 2003, is set again by constitutional provision as another day of opportunity for the Liberian people's hope for a new day in Liberia, when their aspiration for democracy, freedom, rule of law, unfettered opportunities, living once again as real human beings, exercising and carrying out the pursuit of their individual and collective lots without harassment, intimidation, coercion, abuse of their rights which is the order of the day in current day Liberia, will be dashed again. It will be dashed so hard this time around because of the associated frustration and aggravation that it will reverberate all over the civilized world, and even in the graves of our fellow compatriots who sadly lost their lives as ultimate sacrifices in pursuit of such lofty dreams. Why do I say and believe this? And trust me, I am not a rocket scientist as you'll see it doesn't require one to think like me.

In July 1997, the first such attempt was made following seven years of ethnic cleansing in our dear Liberia. Many of us who firmly believed in logic or reason got diarrhea or other forms of reactive ailments upon hearing that Charles Taylor had won that election. Not only did he win, but with such convincing landslide thus leaving no room for protest from the opposition.

However, in each of their little corners, every opposition candidate was crying foul of the way the entire process was conducted. They complained from Abuja where the ground works for said elections were laid, to Monrovia of harassment, intimidation and unleveled playing field in general. What lessons did we or should I say, did they learn from that experience? The old saying that those who do not learn from the lessons of history are bound to repeat it is so instructive here, which incidentally forms the crux of my prognostication.

Since that frustrating and disappointing experience, you would think the opposition would have started taking corrective measures immediately to ensure that the Liberian people dream for a just and equitable society would become a reality without any further deferment. Instead, we see the same unfortunate scenario unfolding before us. A sad fate indeed for the average Liberian, who continues to wallow in poverty, ignorance, disease, decadence, displaced and refugee camps, and the many unfortunate ones who have died prematurely and unnecessarily, courtesy of prevailing circumstances in Liberia, at the behest of the Taylor regime, including the opposition by omission and even commission in some cases. A hopeless situation in need of answers and relief to these man-made plights.

Just eight months to these elections the Government of Liberia (GOL) has yet to put in place the requisite mechanisms to ensure the fairness and integrity required. And true to their selfish individual ambitions, the opposition is dilly-dallying and parachuting from every nook and woodworks on this planet to literally confirm Mr. Taylor for a second term in October, without much attention to these essential yardsticks. Even the American Ambassador to Monrovia, Mr. Blaney who is not a Liberian, but out of humanitarian concerns, is calling on the Liberian government to institute/implement a national census, voters registration, education and the other elements required for a free and fair elections. Our scamp opposition is the least concerned about these critical issues for the time being, perhaps until after the elections before we begin to hear the same old whining about the unfairness of the process and unleveled playing field, etc. etc. So much for crocodile tears.

For right now the huff, hue and crying is about the ten-year residency requirement. In all fairness not to Mr. Taylor, but to our constitution, this is a provision in the constitution which I believe, can only be circumvented by amendment or intercession of the Supreme Court, considering the mitigating or extenuating circumstances that necessitated the plight of the affected parties. If the opposition was honest and truthful in their quest for state power in the name of emancipating the Liberian people from their present predicament, their current quagmire with regard to this provision and many more Taylor shenanigans to come would have been addressed long before this late day.

As a matter of fact, this very issue was one of the topics at a forum in December 2001, organized under the auspices of The Movement for Democracy and Elections in Liberia ( MODEL ) at which time, Mr. Jenkins Scott, of all people, raised the contention that this clause was unfair and unjust for politicians who were forced into exile due to prevailing circumstances on the ground. Nobody paid attention at that time. Everybody was preoccupied with self-aggrandizement and self-edification, thereby mortgaging the aspirations of the Liberian people once again to ever future happenstance.

Here is the complete text of the excerpted remarks of Jenkins Scott's speech as reported by The News Newspaper as a reminder to our scapegrace opposition of another missed opportunity:

The News Newspaper

December 5, 2001

"To Become president: 10-YEAR RESIDENCY CLAUSE UNDER ATTACK... Scott Calls For Amendment."

"Presidential legal advisor, Jenkins K. Z. B. Scott has spoken against Article 52 ( c ) of the Liberian Constitution that, among other things, states, "no person shall be eligible to hold the office of the president, or vice president, unless that person is …resident in the Republic ten years prior to his election."

"Cllr. Scott bluntly described the 10-year residency clause as, "discriminatory and bias." He said it is against natural born citizens who, for one reason or another, including threats or danger to their lives, were forced to seek refuge or temporary asylum out of the country.

This provision, according to the legal advisor, also infringes upon the individual right to freedom of movement as is enshrined in Article 13 ( b ) of the constitution, as it provides that "Even Liberian citizen shall have the right to leave and to enter at any time."

Furthermore, according to him, Article 52 ( c ) poses a threat to the extent that it may be used to exclude potentially viable candidates or opponents who, in his words, may have the "charisma, political clout and popularity" to win the hearts and support undecided electorates.

The former justice minister made his views known at a symposium organized recently by the Movement for Democracy and Elections in Liberia (MODEL). The forum was held at the Benson Street offices of the Press Union of Liberia (PUL).

Cllr. Scott argued that the 10-year residency requirement lacks "compelling legal justification" and that it is punitive against the affected persons or citizens. He therefore suggested that if all power is truly inherent in the people, the provision, like other similar provisions of our constitution, must be amended to allow the people to make the choice and let the choice of the people prevail.

Cllr. Scott said Liberians must acknowledge that any and all provisions of our law, be it Article 52 ( c ), 50, 27 and or 56(b), which restrict and infringe upon the democratic will and choice of the people, deserve to be reviewed and modified to reflect the desire and wishes of the majority of the people, while guaranteeing and protecting the interest of the minority.

Among other things, he suggested that to prevent "carpet bagging" and to address the issues of residency, "we must amend the constitution and promulgate statutes to compel and require that all persons seeking elected or appointed positions in the government of Liberia, must denounce and terminate residency outside of Liberia, at least one year prior to appointed position in the government of Liberia."

Cllr. Scott spoke on "The constitutionality of the 10-year (Residency) Eligibility Clause for presidential and vice presidential candidates."

The symposium was intended to debate and examine the meaning and relevance of the 10-year residency eligibility clause for presidential and vice-presidential candidates during elections in Liberia. [Twenty-five] prominent individuals chaired by the president of the former interim government, Dr. Amos C. Sawyer, drafted the present Liberian constitution in "1998." " End of article.

To me Cllr. Jenkins Scott ought to be in the opposition because at least he talks like someone who cares about the electoral process and the future of our country. No well-meaning trumpeter for social justice could have voiced those sentiments so well. Our so called opposition has my permission to take the above statement to the Liberian Supreme Court as a joint statement, courtesy of Cllr. Jenkins Scott.

There is so much frustration in Liberia today because of the aloofness of our "liberating opposition" when it comes to issue of "rice and rights" of our people. I guess every body is playing "better living coward than dead hero." But the Liberian people too have acquired the understanding and ability to appraise the deeper motivation of a politician through his/her ideas, actions and personality. We cannot win this struggle if advocates of social justice are willing to negotiate our future for personal and immediate comfort and safety. Come October, or whenever the elections are held in Liberia, Charles Taylor will win again big time. Why? Simply because the opposition is not ready and prepared again just as in 1985 and 1997. If you doubt this, I'll be here to eat my words.

In the words of Martin Luther King, Jr. "words cannot express the exultation felt by the individual as he finds himself, with hundreds of his fellows, behind prison bars for the cause he knows is just. Freedom has always been an expensive thing. History is fit testimony to the fact that freedom is rarely gained without sacrifice and denial."

God bless the people of Liberia for another seven predictable years of suppression and grieves.