By Bai Gbala (Posted September 6th 2005)
|"... In my view, these elections are flawed from the very beginning, in terms of the time-line requirement for planning and operations: the absence of a census required for constituency demarcations and reasonably objective, realistic apportionment of county representations; the hurriedly and illegal suspension of relevant provisions of the nation’s Constitution by an apparent illegal National Transitional Legislative Assembly (the NTLA), and the painful absence of a planned program for political education....."
It is, indeed, reassuring for the future of our country to note the profound demonstration of acts of courage, bravery, dedication, concerns and “love of country”, a manifestation of responsibility and patriotic duty. It is now time, it seems to me, that all peace-loving and patriotic Liberians, both at home in Liberia and abroad, should and must come forward and say a “BIG BRAVO” to the young and not-so-young group of committed Liberians, the Progressive Action for Change (PAC), Brains of Liberia (BOL), Coalition of Political Parties Youths (CPPY) and others in association with the groups.
By their simple and only act of compiling and submitting these important, historic allegations and complaints against some of Liberia’s “traditional untouchables” – the most venerable, high-profile, socio-cultural, economic and politically-connected members of our political class – who are now standing for election/re-election to some of the nation’s highest policy-making/policy-implementing positions, from membership of the national legislature to the presidency of the nation, this group of committed Liberians are, in fact, heroes in courage and patriotism.
Candidates for the Legislature & Presidency
The allegations and complaints seek to bar these “high-power, big shots” from standing for office on the grounds that they are guilty of acts of political infidelity by allegedly denouncing and renouncing their Liberian citizenship and taking on foreign nationality, notably the United States and Republic of France. It is argued, as we shall see later, that the Constitution of Liberia provides, in unequivocal language, that only Liberian citizens shall have the right not only to stand for office, but also to register and vote. Others are charged with treasonable acts for their involvement in the 1989-1997, National Patriotic Front of Liberia (NPFL) war against the people and the Liberian Nation.
Recalling our past and the turbulent history of politics and political leadership deeply rooted in “self-interest” and “get-grab-and go” (GGG), those historic conditions that, among others, led to our recent, national tragedy, young and older Liberians of today place critical premium not only on commitment to democratic political pluralism, modern management with astute political leadership qualities, but also on character, honesty and patriotism or love of and dedication to country, with demonstrated or demonstrable evidence of progressive, responsible involvement
That this requirement is a critical necessity is self-evident; in that, members of the national Legislature make the laws and policies that define, guide, regulate and protect not only the interactions of, by, between and among citizens, but also the neighborly nations of the world, including the “vital interests” of these nations – social, economic, political, and the national security of the nation and people. Moreover, it is the responsibility of the president of the nation to implement or execute fully these laws and policies. It is in this respect that citizenship plays a crucial role, as the most important requirement, in standing for and holding the positions of president and vice president of Liberia. Accordingly, the Liberian forefathers who framed the nation’s Constitution provided (Article 52) that “ No one shall be eligible to hold the office of president or vice president unless that person is (a) a natural born Liberian citizen…”
For members of the national Legislature, the Constitution provides (Article 30) that only “Citizens of Liberia…are eligible to become members of the Legislature”.
However, for quite a long time that there had been and are some “Liberian” aliens who participated and continue to participate in the making/implementing of important national decisions in our country; but no one dared or had the “guts” to “rock the boat”, question or challenge the “pillars” of Liberian society for fear of being judged “trouble-maker” and ostracized socially and politically. Not today; for, the socio-political fallout from the courageous action of PAC, BOL and others, will reverberate for all time on the Liberian political landscape, such that it will never be the same henceforth. Those Liberians who covet, prefer and/or have obtained foreign nationality for economic reasons or so-called class and prestige symbols, will now have to think very seriously about the consequences of such decisions.
Other Candidates & Charges
The other charges, significant in our national history and relevant to the forthcoming, October 2005 general elections, are concerned with war crimes and crimes against humanity. The defendants in this category are those Liberian men and women who allegedly organized, contributed to the organization, participated in the policy formulation/development, and the management of the operations of the National Patriotic Front of Liberia and its derivatives. This category includes Mr. Charles Taylor, his so-called cabinet ministers, the militia – from the generals to lieutenants – and those Liberians who procured military hardware from strategic locations in foreign countries.
Charges against these Liberians are that they committed acts of treason against their country and fellow Liberians in violation of Article 76 [(a)1-5] of the Constitution and, therefore, ineligible to stand for and hold public office. They must also be made to pay for the heinous acts of wanton destruction, unimaginable brutality, human suffering and death, committed against innocent citizens.
Open and fair trial for the punishment of the Liberians in this category is a necessary and very important policy action to stand as a lesson of the facts of history, in order to convey the message, loud and clear to all Liberians, young and old and the generations yet unborn, that violence does not, will not and has never, throughout human history, resolved conflicts or disagreements, political or otherwise. Indeed, it was one of the modern world’s great revolutionaries, Chairman Mao of the People’s Republic of China, who said, “nothing comes from the muzzle of a gun (whether M-16 or AK-47) but death and destruction”. There are Liberians who argue against trial and punishment of these crimes in the interest of national reconciliation, peace and unity. History teaches that the contrary is true.
Demand by USA-Based Liberians to Vote
In recent months, there has been arguments, pro & con, in the United States and the United Kingdom, with request made to the Liberia Authorities for registration of Liberians in these countries to vote by absentee ballots in the October 2005, general elections. Upon rejection of the request, an argument arose and developed into political controversy and agitation, with criticism of the National Elections Commission (NEC) for NOT permitting absentee balloting for Liberians outside of Liberia. However, there are basic economic as well as constitutional reasons for the rejection.
Firstly, permission and registration for absentee balloting in these two countries will require a massive, enormous outlay of human and financial resources for the organization and administration of the process. At a time when our nation has been reduced to the status of a “failed state”, incapable to mobilize the required resources for the re-introduction of safe drinking water and electricity in the major cities; provide personal/national security and local law and order protection; and the rebuilding of the war-torn country without donor contribution, it is indeed, impossible, NOT A REJECTION, to undertake such an expensive project, under these conditions.
Secondly, there is the crucial issue of the constitutional requirement of citizenship in order to vote. This requirement will become the responsibility of the Liberian Authorities, who must organize and administer the voter registration/balloting program, to verify the authenticity/non-authenticity of Liberian citizenship of “Liberians” who desire to vote. Article 77(b) of the Constitution provides that “…every Liberian citizen not less than 18 years of age, shall have the right to vote in public elections and referenda…” Now, there are many Liberian “big names” who live, work and own real properties in the USA, UK and elsewhere and are citizens of those countries, but under the cloud of secrecy. In an absentee ballot situation, these “Liberians”, well-connected and prosperous, will be the first to show up waving the Liberian flag as symbol of patriotic Liberian citizenship. To disprove and expose these hypocrites would be a Herculean task; so the NEC SIMPLY SAID NO.
It was the view of many Liberians in the USA that there are several Liberian organizations in the country, particularly the County Associations, who could undertake this important task. Under the umbrella of the Union of Liberian Associations the Americas (ULAA) who, for years have advocated the cause and become the voice of Liberians both at home in Liberia and outside of Liberia, should and could have mobilized the effort to organize and administer the Liberian voter registration process by regional, most Liberian-populated cities approach. Rather than this, the leaders embarked upon rhetorical/political confrontation with the Liberian authorities, termed in the so-called political “disenfranchisement rhetoric” of Liberians outside of Liberia.
The mobilization of this effort by Liberians in the USA, at their own cost, for the achievement of this important and noble objective, would certainly translate into political maturity as well as dedication and commitment.
NEC Ruling on the Charges…The Need for a Leaders
The National Elections Commission (NEC), a quasi-judicial body, has given its ruling in almost all the most important challenges in favor of the defendants, primarily based on technical legal arguments, apparently for short-term peace, unity and security, seemingly not to “rock the boat” at this critical juncture.
The rest is now left in the fragile hands of the Liberian Voters, an overwhelming majority of whom is poor, hungry, relatively uninformed and lack the crucial ability to internalize, reflect, analyze and interpret the critical issues of this general elections, with particular respect to the issues of politics, economics, and the requisite qualities desirable for the management of rebuilding and keeping the country united in peace, prosperity and security.
The Voters will now be asked to select/elect leader(s) from this mosaic of Liberian “politicians”: some come from the traditional, conservative school of Liberian politics who refuse to “rock the boat” but “stay the course”, whatever that may portend, while oppressive, dishonest and corrupt; others are “progressives” turned or “crossed carpet” to become traditionalist carpet-baggers or hypocritical to their principles; still some are utopian socialist activists with a tinge of Karl Marx and authoritarianism; while there are others who are purely democratic, political theorists but with tyrannical tendencies; and others who are ethnic/tribalist patriots, who refuse or reject the inclusion of other ethnic groups, particularly, the so-called Congo- and America-Liberians in national, political affairs.
In all of this state of our political affairs, it is important to recall the saying, that , “a people get the leadership (government) that they deserve”. At this cross roads of Liberian political history, what is the sort of leadership (government) that we deserve?
In a letter to the people of Grand Gedeh County, my home County (while considering to stand for the Liberian Senate, a decision that is no longer my objective), I wrote:
“The gruesome atrocities committed during the seven-year (1989-1997) conflict (in Liberia) and the regime of “jungle-justice” that followed, revealed …leadership challenges for change – the critical need for rational planning, restructure/reorganization; introduction and management of our social, economic and political enterprise; national reconciliation and healing in the effort to address the deep wounds inflicted and unite the ethnically-divided people; resolution and removal of prevailing ethnic/tribal envy, jealousy, prejudice and antagonism; and, above all, the restoration of genuine, lasting peace, unity, security and economic prosperity for the proud and once happy and peaceful people.
But, “ in order to realize these dreams of critical leadership challenges for change would require, first, quality leadership: a leadership that is enlightened, experienced,
able, willing and committed; honest, responsive, and courageous; compassionate, caring, tolerant, open, fair but firm and decisive; born of and experienced in the socio-cultural trials and tribulations of our common heritage; and yes, a leadership that is motivated by and dedicated to the principles of liberal democracy and rejects prevailing notions of national divisionism, arising from so-called conceptions of ethnic/tribal (Country-, Congo- and Americo-Liberian) patriotism. This is what the forthcoming, general elections are all about.
In my view, these elections are flawed from the very beginning, in terms of the time-line requirement for planning and operations: the absence of a census required for constituency demarcations and reasonably objective, realistic apportionment of county representations; the hurriedly and illegal suspension of relevant provisions of the nation’s Constitution by an apparent illegal National Transitional Legislative Assembly (the NTLA), and the painful absence of a planned program for political education.
Upon this weak planning/organizing foundation of multiple failures, we now have and must add the emotional charges and counter-charges; disagreements and confrontations; and conflicts and confusion by and between competing socio-political factions, the depth and level of vicious intensity yet unknown on the Liberian political scene. But the enquiry into the truth or falsity of the serious allegations was apparently “handled” unenthusiastically with “kid gloves”, leaving the extremely emotional, serious and vicious accusations and counter-accusations of national significance essentially unresolved.
The unfolding political circumstances create a condition of anger, frustration, hopelessness and helplessness; and the perception of betrayal with what Liberians call “dee-dee-bah”. This scenario is highly likely to explode with a negative impact on the entire socio-political spectrum of Liberian society.