Liberia is never short of surprises, and dangerous ones too. The melancholy is that these surprises come from avenues that are retired, one and the same––the same more politicians who jump from one bad and exploitative Liberian regime to the next. Instead of keeping quiet some of these very politicians tend to unconsciously expose their utter self to the Liberian people through the thin statements they make. This was the exact case with Liberty Party’s Chairman Fonati Koffa in the last few days. While serving as a panelist at a program marking the Governance Commission’s dialogue on political parties in election dispute resolution: issues and challenges for 2017 held at the headquarters of the National Elections Commission in Monrovia, Mr. Koffa said precisely what the leadership of the tribal sentiment-based Liberty Party thinks and wants to do, and that is to distort and highjack Liberia’s democratic process, thereby squandering the gains we have made as a nation. This is wrong for Liberia!
The ‘opposition’ Liberty Party’s Chairman, who is also the personal and private paid legal counsel to President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf of the ruling Unity Party’s government, is quoted in local Liberian newspaper as saying that: “To reduce the proliferation of political parties [in Liberia] let the elections commission increase the elections requirement to US$500,000 to enable parties to build institution not around individuals. When the requirements are high, only serious individuals and institutions will register a party,” argued Cllr. Koffa. According to Mr. Koffa’s untested logic, this will reduce election’s violence. In the first place this is categorically and ultimately false and illogical.
It would be wise for Chairman Koffa and the entire Liberty Party’s leadership to learn and understand that violence in and during election, as history has proven, is not due to political plurality. Most election’s violence are due to corruption, exclusion and manipulation of an electoral process. This is why members of an election commission have to be independent and credible. This is also why government-made rich people like Mr. Koffa and his political leader, Mr. Charles Brumskine, should not begin thinking about and using tactics that will disenfranchise any Liberian. Mr. Koffa’s statement and thoughts expressed at the dialogue threaten our democracy and will disenfranchise a vast number of Liberians from seeking elected offices in parties whose vision and principles they cherished and believed in if such an exclusionary economic stance is allowed to walk its way in our political process and democratic environment.
Secondly, the kind of mindset displayed by the ‘opposition’ Liberty Party is not just exclusionary and archaic, it is very troubling and offensive to the very nature and dignity of democracy. In a country like Liberia where close to 99% of the citizens are poor and hungry, where few opportune people like the Liberty chairman, Mr. Koffa and the Liberty Party’s political leader, Mr. Charles Brumskine, are always part of the systems that ensure that the rest of the country is socially and economically excluded, where ordinary and most Liberian families live on less than $100 a month, where do they (Koffa, Brumskine and their likes) think serious and determined Liberians will get $500,000 from to freely express their political rights through our open democratic process. Instead of being fearful of competition, all the Liberty Party needs to do is develop a better message different from the Bassa tribal sentiments held by its political leader since 2002 when he decided on running for President.
It is much easier for Mr. Koffa of the ‘opposition’ Liberty Party to push for these ill-intended ideas and actions because he is lucratively paid by the sitting President of our country for serving as her private and personal legal counsel and confidante since 2006, a time period when several offshore oil blocks and other natural resources of the country are sold out to foreigners without any transparency and accountability. In addition, Mr. Koffa’s anointed political leader, Mr. Charles Walter Brumskine, is also a hired retainer legal counsel for Mittal Steel, the largest iron ore mining company in Liberia. This legal contract is said to have been influenced by the Office of the President whose ruling party’s government both men say they opposed. Is this laughable and funny?
Chairman Koffa and the entire Liberty Party’s leadership should know that the reason why there are many political parties in Liberia is because our politicians are not credible, trusted and honest. Many of them lack integrity and have betrayed the trust and confidence of the Liberian people. One example is Mr. Koffa himself. Another example is his political leader, Mr. Brumskine. Both men have always been in bed with the very system they tell ordinary Liberians and their poor supporters as being bad. They went in bed with Taylor and then opposed him later after gaining. Both men were associates in a law firm [Brumskine and Associates] that was the principal adviser to Charles Taylor while he massacred Liberians and exploited our national wealth. Obviously they got benefits and that afford them the opportunity of owning millions that most Liberians don’t have.
In fact, the “Status of Forces Agreement” that undermined the then West African Peacekeeping Forces (ECOMOG) in Liberia was altered and rewritten with their legal advice in Taylor’s interest, giving military opportunity and advantage for the NPFL’s rebels of Taylor to unclench the famous and deadly “Operation Octopus” that killed many Liberian children, the elderly and women, including five Catholic nuns and my father, Musa, a small businessman from Lofa County. Mr. Koffa and Mr. Brumskine were paid well by Taylor as his lawyers. They are also well paid by current Liberian President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf and the Iron ore conglomerate Mittal Steel, respectively. Therefore, they should have millions in their accounts. What they need to know is that 99.99% of the Liberian people don’t have that wealth because they were never and are not a part of regimes that mishandled our national wealth and resources. This, however, should not disenfranchise 99.9% of Liberians in any way, or coerce them into joining a political party whose values and culture they don’t believe in as Mr. Koffa and his Liberty Party are suggesting.
In addition, the rank and file of the Liberty Party’s leadership is not appealing: Daniel Chea, former senior member of the NPFL rebel group and former defense minister under Charles Taylor; Thomas Nimely Yaya, ex-warlord and leader of MODEL rebel group and former minister of foreign affairs during the power-sharing government; Lusenee Kamara, former senior member of ULIMO-K rebel group and former minister of Commerce, Finance, and speaker under several interim governments, including that of Gyude Bryant’s which was accused of rampant corruption; and of course Charles W. Brumskine, ex-warlord Charles Taylor’s legal adviser and former president pro-temp of the Charles Taylor’s regime. These are just a few top-rank members of the Liberty Party among a growing list of people with similar backgrounds. All of these people are afraid now and the best way to highjack our nation’s governing process is to exclude honest and decisive people with new and better ideas by distorting popular participation through all kinds of bogus suggestions and claims. To justify their false claims and aims, people like Mr. Koffa and others want to define peaceful electoral process and democracy in ways that suit their interests and fit their purposes. Those days are over, Mr. Koffa and the entire Liberty Party’s leadership. The attempts at making democracy and election fit one's interests, purposes, and views have no place in Liberia anymore. However, if the thoughts of Mr. Koffa and others in the ‘opposition’ Liberty Party are unchecked, they will distort the gains we have made as a country thereby perpetuating and recycling criminals in political and economic power.
The fact of the matter is if our political leaders were not deceptive; if they were honest with the Liberian people and not cut secret deals in the dark and then say something different in the day, then no Liberian would have agreed to join any new party, and that would put a natural cessation to the creation of new political parties in the country. The Liberian people want real change and this is why they seek out alternatives any time an opportunity arises for a new party.
Apparently, the Liberty Party and its leadership, which self-appointed/anointed leaders are advisers to the ruling Unity Party’s government top officials, feel threaten by the emerging of new parties with better ideas. Moreover, Liberians are no longer fools; their eyes are now opened to be coerced into not having political alternatives. The days of politicians saying one thing and doing another thing are over. You cannot be the Chairman of an opposition party and at the same time serve as a well-paid private legal adviser to the President of a government whose policies who claimed to oppose. This is hypocrisy and deceit and these are the exact reasons why there are many political parties every now and then.
Mr. Koffa and his Liberty Party’s leadership should know that our people in the villages and on the farms throughout Liberia have the right to participate in a free and open democratic process as they choose. Mr. Koffa and his Liberty Party’s ideas are a dangerous form of political exclusion and democratic suppression by way of economic and social strangulation which will put poor people at the whims and caprices of the same old corrupt sect of people. What Mr. Koffa and the Liberty Party want to do with our democracy is part of a broader attempt to keep one set of bad and corrupt people in power and to erase the gains made by the country. We must all reject this bad notion at all cost!
Kadiatu Musa-Frantz is a young Liberian businesswoman from Lofa County, Liberia. She lives in Luxembourg City, Luxembourg with her husband Dr. Frantz and their son, Mus. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org