The Need for a Giant United
Front for Freedom
(A Statement by the Liberian Democratic Future, LDF)
November 14, 2000
When the 1997 general and presidential elections were concluded to settle a power contest resulting from a near-decade gruesome war, many Liberians and observers believed they provided an opportunity for a new beginning for a country plagued with chronic injustices and therefore instability since its founding.
Several factors have contributed to the erosion of democracy
since descendents of freed slaves who ruled the country from 1822
maintained a tight grip on politics and therefore economic opportunities
through subterfuge and suppression of basic freedoms. The military
coup of 1980, which temporarily halted their rule, further ended
in unparalleled oppression, and misuse of national resources,
thus paving the path for more upheavals. The 1989 insurrection
led by Charles Taylor, now President, promised a departure from
the past and the erection of the cornerstones of justice. This
is far from the case. To the contrary, Liberia has entered its
worst politico-economic era in memorable history with looming
uncertainties and terrifying consequences. This scenario presents
an urgent challenge for Liberians to rally and form a democratic
united front if the current trend is to be reversed and arrest
the ongoing chaos and plunder.
For these and many other reasons, a group of Liberians have decided to hold a conference in December with the theme: "Liberia for democratic change Conference". Organizers of the Conference want to chart a course to challenge Taylor's increasingly iron grip on the country and its resources. Their aim is to build a coalition for the urgent democratization of the country. We applaud and congratulate their worthy intentions and plans. But we believe there is a need for re-examination of strategy and the broadening of base.
We believe that however well-intentioned, polarization of efforts in meeting the enormous challenges facing the Liberian nation under a brutal regime only plays into the hands of the plunderers. What Liberians need now is a giant, united front of all peace-loving and honest nationalists against the Dictatorship. Care should be taken to determine allies from detractors, for not all Liberians that see the squalor and degradation in which the country has sunk. Many are beneficiaries of the mayhem spreading and are bent on protecting it in many forms.
Despite the culture of intimidation, which has sent many Liberians in exile, others have remained, and are determined to challenge the tyranny. Several democratic forces operating within the country, including the alliance of 11 political parties and some democratic members of the House of Representatives, provide an opportunity for democracy-building and moving forward. We believe there is a need to identify them and begin to build bridges with them, "on the ground", to achieve our national objective of freedom, and the right for all Liberians to live in dignity without fear.
Past and present experiences indicate that exiled political groupings are less likely to foster and maintain a momentum against an entrenched tyranny without the needed local backing. Home-built and grown opposition movements provide a more potent force to combating anarchies. Therefore, a coalition of exiled and home-based forces, we believe, is in the best position to provide the nature and quality of leadership so needed to save the country from further decay and anarchy.
We note the monumental challenges ahead in rescuing the country as intolerance, greed and graft spread for cementing of an inept and corrupt tyranny. In recent months, the Taylor regime has:
a. effectively banned key political leaders from the country through ridiculous charges of treason.
b. threatened to arrest key opposition politicians venturing to return home,
c. announced the exclusion of key countries such as the United States from observing scheduled election,
d. received condemnation from the House of representatives, including members of his own party, for running the country single-handedly in defiance of the Constitution,
e. shutdown prime media institutions needed for democratization and intimidated journalists,
f. proceeded to intensify the culture of plunder and terror all too familiar in dictatorships determined to entrenched themselves against the will of the people,
g. seized public funds to pay for arms, ammunitions used to kill about 250,000 Liberians and leave the economy in ruins, and,
h. placed Liberia on the African map as a ranking pariah amongst nations for its backing of ruthless rebels fighting to overthrow a legitimate Government in sisterly Sierra Leone, along with plundering that country's diamonds for weapons supply.
Furthermore, we believe that the environment needed for democratic elections in 2003 is totally lacking due to the following factors, among others:
a. the Election Commission is manned and directed by cronies of the Taylor regime,
b. freedom of expression is severely limited
c. infrastructure necessary for the technical conduct of free and fair election is grossly lacking,
d. harassment of people based on ethnic, religious and political belief is rampant, and
e. international isolation, which could impede democratization, is on the rise.
These factors, among several others, necessitate a single approach along democratic principles in moving forward, not a conglomeration of political unions that may only augment Taylor's desire to remain in power for life. On the other hand, a number of political organizations, such as the Union of Liberian Associations in the Americas (ULAA), already exist, and to add more to an extending list is to confuse Liberians even more.
But we also realize that groups like ULAA have played ambivalent roles in facing the challenges before the country. ULAA continues to insist on elections as the only hope for democratization and peace without campaigning for conditions necessary to enhance free and fair elections. Elections in themselves provide no hope for peace if they are conducted in an atmosphere of intimidation and characterized by fraud.
Discredited government officials find welcoming voices within ULAA whenever in the United States on PR missions. Despite growing evidence, after three years of trial, that what is needed in Liberia is to confront the Taylor regime into submitting to the rule of law, ULAA wants to pursue a program of "constructive engagement" instead of exposing the glaring injustices and mass theft. ULAA's partner political organization in Liberia is not the struggling Opposition, but the Liberian Government headed by many of its former key leaders, including Taylor. With the disastrous effects of manipulations masterminded by Taylor, we fear that such organizations as ULAA, by themselves, cannot provide the forum nor the leadership needed to rescue Liberia.
Let us all learn from the past when decisiveness and opportunism only served those bent on theft and destruction. We need a giant united front to dislodge the thieves and murderers now in power.
Issued this 14th day of November, 2000, in the City of Atlanta, Georgia, USA.
(Editor's note: The Liberian Democratic Future is a think-tank, democratic and research organization devoted to Liberia and Africa's democratic future)