ALJA Urges Government to Address Crucial Issues affecting Liberia
September 24, 2002
The Association of Liberian Journalists in the Americas (ALJA) cautiously welcomes the recent decision by the Liberian Government to lift the State of Emergency, but urges the government to show a genuine political will by addressing other crucial political issues affecting the country, such as the continued detention of journalist Hassan Bility and others and the creation of a conducive atmosphere for the holding of free and fair elections in Liberia.
While we believe that the action by President Charles Taylor is an improvement in the political condition of the country, other actions by the President and his principal lieutenants, such as the decision for
innocent civilians to be judged by a Court Martial Board and the pronouncement by Mr. Taylor that “we will be firing while having elections," making referenced to the present armed conflict in the
country, obligates the government to go beyond the lifting of the State of Emergency, and intensify its efforts to improve the human rights condition in the country and create a level playing in the upcoming elections.
We are also concerned that the Taylor Government has chosen to label civilians as "illegal combatants" and have them face the Court Martial Board as in the case of journalist Hassan Bility and others, who are yet to be given a free and fair trial in a court of competent jurisdiction, comprising a jury of their peers.
Such a sinister move, in our view, is a clear manifestation of the Government's total disregard for the inalienable rights of the Liberian people as enshrined in the Liberian Constitution, a document Mr. Taylor has sworn to uphold at all times as President of Liberia.
If the recent decision also by Mr. Taylor to lift the State of Emergency is any indication of his readiness and desire to listen to the international community and other democratic Liberians and institutions, and be taken seriously by these entities, he needs to practicalize his pronouncement with concrete actions, such as the acceptance of an Intervention Force, to remove the threat of arms in the country and the restructuring of the present Elections Commission, to make the body more credible, as it prepares to conduct the next elections in the country.
It is undeniably unrealistic and fool hardy for Mr. Taylor to hold the conviction that free and fair elections can be conducted while "we will be firing.." without making a mockery of our democratic process and disenfranchising other segments of our population, who reside in other parts of the country, where there is an on-going armed conflict between the government forces and the rebel group, Liberia United for Reconciliation and Democracy (LURD).
Mr. Taylor vehemently argues that the holding of elections in 2003 is a constitutional obligation, even in the midst of the proliferation of arms and the masquerading of armed men in the country, but yet unable to address the security concerns and the constant harassment, intimidation and detention of journalists as well as the total disregard for the judiciary. These inconsistencies do not only manifest the hypocrisy on his part, but also present the President as someone determined to wrestle power at the peril of the lives of the Liberian people.
We urge the Liberian leader to refrain from selectively respecting the Constitution and ensure that each and every article and section of this Sacred Document is respected at all times and not exploited for personal political gains.
Finally, we call on the Taylor Government to demonstrate a genuine political will to promote true reconciliation and healing and prevent the brain drain in the country, by letting the interest of our country and Liberians, including those who are destitute in their own country, those suffering in refugee camps and others who are striving to make a living in foreign countries, supercede the personal and selfish interests of himself and his cronies by sincerely working with other democratic Liberian groups, ECOWAS, and the International Community to restore peace and democracy in Liberia.
We in ALJA are committed to forming partnership with other democratic institutions, to ensure that our country regains its respectable status among the comity of nations as a forerunner for freedom and justice , ideals which must never be compromised.
Cyrus Wleh Badio