Liberian Presidential Elections - Two Years Too Long

By Clarence Moniba

The Perspective
Atlanta, Georgia
March 19, 2008


It is nearing election time once again in the United States, and doesn’t it seem like a lifetime ago that George W. Bush was elected to his first term in office? For my Liberian friends who don’t keep up with American politics, it was November of 2000; yes, pre- 9/11 which, although the wounds are still healing, also seems like a lifetime past. I suppose the reason for me touching on such sensitive issues is because of the extensive six-year term length that our Liberian constitution currently allocates for our presidents. I can honestly say that the best attribute of an election is that it brings the focus onto the common people and what their leaders can do, or should be doing, for their countrymen. We’ve all heard it before: “When I am president….,” followed by promises upon promises; clearly the best candidate is one who intends to deliver on such pledges. If we are to take this approach, then we can readily assume that elections, if free and fair, bring about hope and the great potential of a nation. Most importantly, elections, if free and fair, can shed light on the suffering masses that are so often overlooked and unheard because, for once, their opinion really does matter. If we continue to take this approach, then wouldn’t elections every four years, instead of every six, help to bring to the forefront more frequently the problems of our country that is often times swept under the rug?

I’ve listened to several well articulated arguments as to why a president should sit for six years, and, as a man who believes in free speech and democracy, obviously, everyone has a right to his or her opinion. With that being said, as a man who does believe in the democratic process and the importance of it, I think our Liberia has to give its citizens more choices, more often, so that they may better choose what direction they want their country to proceed, while feeling fully integrated in the political process. For too long, Liberians have been told what to do instead of them having a say in their own future, in their own country. One of the underlying factors for Liberia’s success will come with progressive change, in every sense of the word. Gone should be the days where our leaders try to monopolize power for themselves or close associates. If a president hasn’t made positive changes in four years, trust me when I say this, he or she will not make any positive changes in six. Having a leader serve six years, and potentially twelve years if he or she wins a second election, elongates the time between when a leader has to be held accountable for his or her actions, and accountability is what a democracy is built upon. A starving child may forget how much it hurts to starve after they have eaten every hour, of every day for the past month. I use this analogy because when a leader, who himself or herself is a citizen of Liberia, stays that long in the presidential office, his/her chances of relating to the common and struggling Liberian decreases.

Another reason to shorten the term length of a president is that I’m sure Liberians NEVER want to re-live the civil war days of this country’s dark history. With only four years between elections instead of six, Liberians will be more likely to concentrate on planning how to bring about change through the polls than they would planning to bring about change through the next coup d’etat.

President Sirleaf, in January of this year, rightfully called on the National Legislature to review our constitution. Let’s just hope that with the review, there will be changes made as well. Trust me once again when I say that it is never a bad day in history when the people have a say at the polls…as long as it is free and fair.

Clarence Moniba is currently working on his doctorate degree in political science at Arizona State University. He is also the author of, Ethnic Exclusion in Government; A Case Study of Liberia as well as the unpublished fictional novel Born With Regrets. He can be reached at

© 2008 by The Perspective

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