Can Taylor Preside Over Free And Fair Democratic Elections In Liberia?

By A Correspondent

The Perspective
Atlanta, Georgia

March 3, 2003

For most Liberians, the way out of this bad governance and the pariah status superimposed by the NPP government on the people of Liberia since 1997 is to once more go through the ballot box as required by the constitution of the country. The need for an opportunity to drive (Mr. Taylor and the rest of his team members who had and continue to ruin every aspect of our national life) from power is the desire of most Liberians. The only avenue that can make that change possible is through free and fair elections.

That is the reason why people (Liberians and friends of Liberia) have developed great interest in the possibility of elections being held in October of this year. There are those who are of the opinion that Mr. Taylor cannot preside over an election in which he also is a candidate and expect the process be to be free and fair. According to this school of thought, Taylor is bent on staying in power at all cost. This is what has prompted this group to call for an international stabilization force and the need for the UN electoral system organ to supervise the process if credible elections are to be held.

It is common knowledge that every Liberian has stake in the electoral process since the outcome (if it’s held at all) will affect all Liberians. The key stakeholders in the process are political parties. It’s the way these parties approach issues pertaining to the elections that will determine whether elections are possible for October. In speaking about political parties, there are some that are already on the payroll of the NPP. The political parties are run by individuals of doofus character, and their public statements are said to be edited by the Executive Mansion before being released. A prominent member of this group has received a jeep from Mr. Taylor. It’s this group that is telling other Liberians that the Taylor security arrangement is allright for the holding of elections. They are shamelessly praising the government security just at a time when the commander of the AFL First Infantry Battalion (a former NPFL combatant), Daniel K. Bracewell, dragged an AFL soldier, Lieutenant Francis Beyan Sumo from the Defense Ministry in broad daylight on Sunday, February 16, 2003 and stabbed him to death in the compound of the Defense Ministry in full view of onlookers and some of the late Sumo’s colleagues who stood there helpless.

Political parties that cannot be bought over by Mr. Taylor have lot of work to do. First, individual ambition for the presidency has to give way to a collective effort aimed at beating Taylor whenever the atmosphere for free and fair elections avail itself. This can be done by the parties entering into an electoral alliance in which a single candidate may be fielded for the presidency? No one party can take on the NPP and expects to become victorious.

Moreover, no party should deceive itself by claiming that it’s the messiah for the people of Liberia, no matter how long one has been on the ground. But instead of forming a united front, the parties are fighting among themselves. Some opposition parties are referring to others as crooks. There is a need for the opposition to desist from such irresponsible political posture and concentrate on coherent winning strategies.

There is no declared political party in Liberia today that does not have crooks in its rank and file. Even at the leadership level there are crooks across the spectrum. Parties will do well to discuss their policies and strategy of implementing those policies to the electorate as opposed to insulting others.

From the look at things, Mr. Taylor is convinced that he cannot be re-elected as president if the electoral process is free, fair and transparent. The reasons why the people of Liberia will this time around reject him at the polls have been stated time and again. President Taylor has failed to provide water, electricity, drugs, and materials for schools, the basic essentials that a people expects of its government. More importantly, his plunder of the country’s resources without accountability coupled with his inability to provide security for Liberians and aliens alike are all the reasons why he can be easily defeated at the polls in a free, fair and transparent process.

Taylor has put himself in a Catch 22 corner. Clearly he does not have trust in the electoral process except the one that he can manipulate to make him retain power. At the same time, he knows that anything short of him getting a mandate from the people via elections will render him illegitimate. Bearing that in mind, he would then like to have a bogus election at gunpoint. The likes of TWP, NDPL, ALCOP, etc. are around to give credence to this charade because they have given money and material things. The TWP chairman told Liberians which way his party will go. He made reference to someone who pays him visits at mid night. What he failed to tell us is the brown envelopes that go around during those nightly visits. If the likes of TWP, NDPL, and ALCOP go along with the NPP in a fraudulent electoral process, the results will lack credibility and international legitimacy that would be required for Liberia to reverse its path to economic and humanitarian catastrophes.

Taylor is also using the so-called LURD insurgency as a pretext for not submitting to free and fair democratic elections as required by the Liberian constitution. LURD on the other hand is doing NPP’s dirty work by creating the condition for Taylor’s excuses in the violation of basic human rights. Besides, the agenda of the NPP and LURD are one and the same. Both of them are responsible for the immense suffering of our people. In that marriage of convenience, only Taylor is the beneficiary. LURD is most likely receiving money from Mr. Taylor under the table. There is no way that any sound mind can reason with their professed claim to be holding arms up to now.

In view of all these developments, the question of the deployment of an international stabilization force is not debatable. Taylor security personnel cannot be trusted by Liberians (except for the opportunistic parties listed above) to provide them protection in the electoral process. The mushrooming of illegal armed groups is just alarming. That is a typical Taylor design as a way of terrorizing and intimidating the Liberian population. The fact that a commander of the First Infantry Battalion of the AFL, Col. Daniel K. Bracewell had the audacity to drag and kill another AFL personnel, 1st Lieutenant Francis Beyan Sumo, reinforces the argument for a stabilization force.

Over a year ago, the police commander in Bong County, Col. Railey shot and killed a fourth grade student in cold blood. Up to date, nothing has happened to him. That is how the case involving Col. Bracewell will end up. This is in addition to the regularly willful killings done by Charles Taylor, Jr. with impunity.

Each day is some report of young boys being abducted by the NPP government and sent to warfront to fight the regime’s war against the rebel Liberians United for Reconciliation and Democracy (LURD). In some cases, young males are forced to become part of the many militia groups that Mr. Taylor to carry on assassinations, harassment and terrorizing opposition politicians. Right now in Nimba county, schools are reported to be closed on order of concerned citizens of that county under the auspices of a group called the Citizens Action Committee. The information from Nimba says students, teachers and nurses are forcibly being kidnapped by militiamen in that county to be conscripted into the armed forces.

The cosmetic things that the government of Liberia is doing by purchasing vehicles for members of the Elections Commission along with expensive vehicles for the Supreme Court Judges mean little or nothing. The Commission is still discredited and, as we all know, courts in Liberia are not independent. Taylor has all the judges in his pocket. If one expects any issue relating to the elections to go to the Supreme Court like the ten-year residency clause, the obvious interpretation will be in Taylor’s interest. It is important for all and sundry to accept the fact that Taylor has no commitment to the electoral process beyond the fanfare.