From: Joe Bartuah/Boston, Massachusetts|
With about ten days remaining for Liberian voters to cast their ballots in a crucial presidential and general elections, there are reports of frequent clashes and vandalism involving some of the leading political parties, while many of the political parties have acquired fabulous assets worth millions of dollar overnight, without giving any detailed account of how they had acquired those assets to the National Elections Commission (ECOM), in keeping with relevant election laws.
Moreover, almost all of the 20 presidential candidates claim that they will win the impending elections, except they’re “cheated.” In other words, almost every presidential candidate in the ongoing electoral process perceives defeat as “cheating.”
For a country of more than 50 percent illiteracy rate, that has never witnessed any credible transfer of power from one administration to another in a multiparty setting, it’s an understatement to say an ominous cloud looms over Liberia’s political horizon, due to such blatant dishonesty being displayed by many Liberian politicians. Further compounding the situation is the fact that Jerome Korkoyah, the guy currently chairing the Elections Commission is not known for possessing the requisite competence and capacity to effectively manage such a tension-laden situation.
Such a troubling scenario was not lost on Liberian journalists who participated in the annual conference of the Association of Liberian Journalists in the Americas (ALJA), which was held in Wilmington, Delaware from September 15-17, 2017.
In their final resolution adopted at the end of the convention on September 17th, the journalists, who came from varied parts of the United States as well as Liberia, strongly prevailed on the Liberia National Elections Commission (ECOM) to ensure that the October 10, 2017 elections was free and fair, so that potential trouble makers would not use any doubt surrounding the process as an alibi to create chaos in the Liberian society.
Noting they were concerned about the impartiality and integrity of the anticipated elections, members of the Inky Fraternity implored “the Chairman and members of the Liberian National Elections Commission (ECOM) to conduct the ongoing electoral process in such a transparent manner, as a means of catalyzing peace and stability in the country, by removing any iota of doubt surrounding its eventual results.”
Members and officials of ALJA also called on the Liberian Government “to ensure that all Liberians, irrespective of status or stature, and foreign residents” in the country “strictly adhere to the statutory and constitutional provisions of Liberian laws at all times.
In what appears to be a jab at the low level of lawlessness that is pervading the Liberian society, ALJA specifically urged “all Government Officials and other power brokers” to set good examples, “by obeying the law, including basic traffic regulations while driving in all parts of the country.”
ALJA’s call on government officials to abide by traffic regulations comes amid reports emanating from Monrovia that leading government officials, who usually tag themselves as “honorable” have resorted to flouting traffic laws, thus risking pedestrians’ lives, by plying their multiple convoys through the lanes of opposing traffic, in their attempts to by-pass the snail-pace traffic in Monrovia. “It is dangerous; I mean they are risking everybody’s life”, a leading journalist attending the conference from Monrovia lamented. This year’s conference convened on the theme: The Rule of Law: Recipe for a Stable Liberia.
Liberia has an unenviable electoral history. For example, in the 1927 presidential election, incumbent President Charles D.B. King was notoriously said to have won with more than 250,000 votes, even though only 15,000 “property owners” had been registered to cast their votes in that election. As a result, the Guinness Book of World Record at the time dubbed the 1927 fiasco as the most rigged elections in human history.
In the 1951 elections, William Tubman ferociously chased his main challenger, Didwho Twe out of the country into a miserable exile life in Sierra Leone, even before the first ballot was cast. Once Twe was flushed out, incumbent Tubman ran “unopposed.”
Again in 1955, when former President Edwin Barclay and others challenged Tubman, the incumbent hatched a fictitious plot which resulted in the killings of Senator S. David Coleman and other prominent Liberians. Furthermore, following the 1985 elections, incumbent Samuel Kanyon Doe infamously jailed prominent opposition leaders William Gabriel Kpolleh, Dr. Edward Binyah Kesselly and Mr. Jackson Fiah Doe in the abysmal jungle known as Belle Yalla.
Even in the 1997 elections, then Councilman Charles Taylor, who was conspicuously the most domineering figure in the transitional arrangement, publicly threatened then Election Commission chairman G. Henry Andrews that “it would take the angels to protect” Mr. Andrews, if he attempted to cheat the then NPFL strongman.