Once again, Liberia's elite politicians are fussing over election results. They did it in 1985 following Doe's military dictatorship; in 1997 after Taylor's rebel gang had held the nation hostage for eight years and in 2005 under the patronage of the so-called International Community. We are witnessing it in 2011 yet under the patronizing, condescending influence of the International Community which wants us to agree that only Ellen Sirleaf's Ivy League education can save Liberia from its postwar predicament. This vicious cycle of election arms twisting driven by powerful foreign interests will continue unabated unless politicians come to grips with what is potentially wrong with their postwar politics.
The trouble is Liberian political class does not have a nationalist perspective in their pursuits for power. They are ego-driven! Sadly, they do not even have the balls to preserve our national integrity. They are pawns in the hands of powerful foreign interests.
Yes, that is why after a 14-year long internecine war they are still behaving like crabs in a bucket - pulling one another down. At worst, instead of standing for the sovereignty of the nation and coordinating the aspirations of the Liberian people they are expending their intellectual energy on posturing to foreign patrons for approval and support. That explains why they are virtually wearing American Ivy League degrees on their sleeves and their mouths stuffed with high-sounding clichés about international standards, international this, international that. No reference whatsoever to Liberian standards, Liberian law and order, Liberian practices, Liberian legislative procedure, Liberian jurisprudence and ultimately Liberian sovereignty.
No wonder, some retired politicians in Oslo would dare influence election outcome in our country by doling out what is supposedly a prestigious award to a stooge who will protect their corporate interests at the tragic expense of our people. Or is it any wonder that some insensitive ivory tower jurist would sit in faraway Hague and spew threats to those in opposition to bow down to the one favored by the International Community? Where is the much-heralded “home of glorious liberty” if there is no national self-determination, if we as a nation cannot determine our own destiny?
One would have imagined that, after the crisis which nearly erased the nation from the world map, we would have rejuvenated our sovereignty; and that would have meant reconciling the broken nation. Reconciliation ought to have been carried out with contrite hearts; for it is with contrite hearts that reconciling parties would have pointed out their own wrongdoings, accepted responsibility and genuinely sought forgiveness. Mutual forgiveness would have led to national unity hence concerted efforts geared towards national reconstruction. That was exactly the rationale of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) which was established in Accra, Ghana by the politicians and warlords.
With the establishment of the TRC, we would have set up an interim government which would have steered the reconciliation process, resettled displaced Liberians, reviewed our laws and rebuilt our broken institutions. Instead we heavily relied on our “international partners” who for some reason rushed our nation into general elections in 2005, put in place neo-colonialist structures through which they wield influence; they invariably installed a former World Bank staff, ostensibly as savior, to oversee the “plantation”. The rest is history!
And the International Community has established its hegemony in Liberia with the acquiescence of the country's political elites. Although they flaunt these Ivy League degrees, they have virtually surrendered to these interest-driven “international partners” the requisite brainwork: critical thinking, critical analysis, strategic planning, etc. that college educated folks normally do. The foreigners do the thinking and our politicians do the acting. The latter even lack critical national consciousness and the guts to say a resounding NO to foreigners since they have turned Liberia into a begging nation. Foreigners in the names of international observers, ICC, ECOWAS, AU, UN, NGO or better say international partners have become not only potential powerbrokers in contemporary Liberia; they virtually make decisions over the heads of our politicians – not to mention the Liberian people.
In spite of the heavy foreign influence in our internal affairs, we went ahead and set up the Truth and Reconciliation Commission which has produced a report containing plausible recommendations. The document is a potential recipe or guide for national reconciliation. However, instead of calling and working for the full implementation of the TRC's report, our politicians in a mad rush for elections paid lip service to it, thereby allowing President Sirleaf to arrogantly trash it. None of the politicians has had the balls to call for the implementation of the recommendations. The handful of patriotic Liberians who spoke in favor of the TRC report was woefully ignored. They were effectively branded and silent in humiliating submission, thereby paving the way for another election in which perpetrators of the internecine killings – including Ellen Sirleaf who initiated and bankrolled the killings - are vying for power.
The opposition politicians did not realize that the TRC report was a potential recipe for future politics in Liberia. Why did we invest so much time and money in the work of the TRC? But it seems that our politicians do not care, reminding one of the song we children used to sing in Logan Town back in the day:
I call you’ all
we don't care
I'll send my dogs
Behind you’ all
you send it
we will kill it
Indeed, our elite politicians don't care. Metaphorically speaking, they are the naughty children whom Mama Liberia is calling, and the watchdogs that she is threatening to unleash on them are essentially the Liberian masses that the Liberian politicians (the children) are in turn threatening to kill. Yes, they have killed 250,000 Liberians for 14 years, haven't they?
That is why it is safe to say that Liberian opposition politicians and the incumbent share the same characteristics. They are narcissistic, bombastic and mediocre in their approach to resolving the inherent contradictions in our nation-state. They also lack critical national consciousness. Moreover, they are too blockheaded to learn from our chaotic history. Is it any wonder that the same problems keep recurring all the time – weak institutions, breakdown of law and order, mediocrity , disrespect for the Liberian Constitution, rampant corruption, impunity, etc. – all driven by a warped neo-colonial mentality.
Any opposition politician with foresight and courage would have earlier called for the immediate resignation of James Fromoyan of the National Election (NEC). Apart from his incompetence, Mr. Fromoyan is a diehard sycophant and a blind loyalist. When he ditched Dr. Tipoteh, his mentor for nearly three decades, Mr. Fromoyan literally carried Madame Sirleaf's luggage as she traveled and coordinated the internecine war from western and African capitals.
Mr. Fromoyan is therefore a crony of Madame Sirleaf. When Madame Sirleaf was head of the bogus Governance Commission under the Gyude Bryant's interim administration, she recommended Mr. Fromoyan as deputy to her sister Frances Johnson-Morris who as head of the NEC put her in power in 2005. Now, it is Mr. Fromoyan's turn to give Sirleaf a second term in office.
I recall the 2005 general elections when I was among independent presidential candidates who applied to NEC to contest the elections. We submitted our applications, but the Morris-Fromoyan election commission had difficulty serving all applicants. Eventually some of the aspirants received notices of rejections without hearing as stipulated in the elections guidelines.
When I spoke to Mr. Fromoyan on the phone and requested that independent presidential aspirants be given additional day for the submission of documents since the NEC was having difficulty handling the crowd of aspirants, Mr. Fromoyan pointedly said: “My man, you my friend. Let me tell you the true, no matter what you do, we’ll stop you.” I said, “Excuse me?” He said, “We will stop you.” And the commission did.
Although we subsequently sought redress through the Supreme Court, elections went on as usual – much like what Madame Johnson-Morris told the media: “It will be business as usual”. The aggrieved candidates expected the Supreme Court to halt the process since we filed an appeal, which is a potential stay order. But the Highest Court of the nation did nothing.
JAMES FROMOYAN is the Honorable Chairman of the National Elections Commission. It is now his turn to give President Sirleaf a second term of office. What can our opposition do about it? Can the current associate justices at the Supreme Court even halt the electoral process because of an alleged fraud? One would have imagined that the Supreme Court would halt the process, considering the potential threat that somewhat chaotic situation might cast on the fragile peace that we are enjoying in our country.
I would therefore like to seize this opportunity to call on President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf Government not to take for granted the looming frustration over the way the National Elections Commission is handling the process. The government must take seriously the potential danger of the situation and proceed soberly and yet expeditiously to resolve the issue. I pray hope that our beloved nation will not plunge into anarchy on the watch of President Sirleaf. Moreover, the peace and tranquility of this republic is much more important than an election victory issued by the NEC.
It is saddening when Liberians and Liberian politicians fail to address a problem head on or fail to stand up in unison with those whose rights are abused. Their failure to solve problems as they arise are always resulting to stand-offs which often threaten the peace and stability of the nation. They wait for things to fall apart and then they start complaining. They should have sensed earlier the potential conflict of interest about Mr. Fromoyan conducting the electoral process. But they have allowed him to give Sirleaf a second term.
So, even though the UP Government has issued a strong warning to unknown trouble makers, the fact that no names were connected to the so-called sinister plan, doesn’t sit well in this atmosphere. However, Liberians must respectfully stand in solidarity and embrace political justice, not violence. Let us erase violence from our minds as a means of solving our disputes. Moreover, it will be a catastrophe for anyone to destroy the gains made towards the peace process by turning back the wheel of time. Furthermore, it is prudent that we chart the right course while exercising patience for the final results of the presidential elections. And if we determine with clear evidence that the work of the commission was marked by fraud, then we will have grounds to protest the final results, and take our grievances to the Liberian Supreme Court for redress. Let us apply all legal means in resolving our disputes or dissatisfaction so as not to rein anarchy on the nation. The peace and stability of the republic is paramount than a mere victory pronounced by the National Elections Commission.
D. Garkpe Gedepoh is the Publisher/CEO of African Panorama