Are We Going To Call ECOWAS, Again?

By Gbe Sneh

The Perspective
Atlanta, Georgia
May 6, 2005


Cllr. Frances Johnson-Morris
Chair, National Elections Commission
We might as well let Taylor run for public office. What else should we say if the NEC chair is evoking the Constitution - Innocent Until Proven Guilty. How soon have we forgotten what gave rise to the imposition of sanctions on certain individuals in our midst. For a refresher, let’s go back to the source of theses sanctions: .RESOLUTION 1521 (2003) CONCERNING LIBERIA (THE TRAVEL BAN LIST)
Here one finds the reasons for the sanctions. Now, are these individuals that the Liberian people would want for their leaders, again? The people don’t think so.

NEC Chair, Ms Johnson-Morris, is thwarting the efforts of trying to keep these known members of the Taylor criminal syndicate from making a resurgence into Liberian public positions. These banned individuals represent the inner sanctum of the an administration that did everything possible to make life miserable for the Liberian people. How does anyone, especially one in a position of public trust, one who by virtue of his/her position ought to be advocating what is in the best interest of the weary people, not see the common logic in barring these people from contesting any public office?

Ok, the Comprehensive Peace Accord (CPA) did not put in black and white that “UN sanctioned individuals will not contest any public seats”. Where’s the conscience of one working in the best interest of the people? This issue is heading down ECOWAS way, as it requires special interpretation regarding suspended provisions of the constitution. Why should it even come to that? It’s a winning bet that the People of Liberia would not want these people on their voting ballots.

The conduct of the elections is not a mandate of the NEC. See ARTICLE IX - ORGANISATION OF ELECTIONS…Para 4a of THE CPA.:

4a. The Parties agree that the Transitional Government provided for in this Agreement shall request the United Nations, the African Union, ECOWAS and other members of the International Community as appropriate, to jointly conduct, monitor, and supervise the next elections in the country.

The NTGL has requested, and the UN extension, UNMIL, has accepted to help in the conduct of the elections. It’s within the accord then that UNMIL is acting in the interest of the people, that no one on the UN sanctions list will contest elections.

Let us once more come from behind the cloak of sovereignty and accept that Liberians would not want sanctioned individuals to be placed on their voting ballots. This misapplication of “Innocent Until Proven Guilty” thing is just another smoke screen to evade what is real. The reality is that somehow, someone has to let this be known to the NEC; and it’s just what UNMIL has come forward to do. Those who follow unfolding events on Liberia know that UNMIL is not the originator of this proposed election conduct stipulation. Pro-democracy and human rights groups in the country made the appeal on behalf of the Liberian people.

Perhaps rather than drag this issue, let’s take the matter to the people and hear what they have to say. Since it was last suggested, a couple of polling houses have sprung up to conduct a few polls. After an introductory explanation of what the sanctions are all about, just pose the question - DO YOU WANT THOSE INDIVIDUALS ON THE UN SANCTIONS LIST TO CONTEST ANY PUBLIC POSITIONS IN THE OCTOBER ELECTIONS? We would like the entire nation to hear about it. We are therefore asking Radio Talk Show hosts to get to work on this very important issue. Let the people speak their minds and let the results be told. Count me in as the first caller; my response to this poll is NO.

It is time to ask the NEC whose side it is on. Is the NEC working for or against the people? When we were working to wrestle the NEC from the claws of the NTLA we did not envision a posturing of this sort - a complete refusal to resort to reasoning when responding to the wishes of the people. How can this entity honestly be working in the best interest of the people if among others:

It refuses to let the people vote wherever they are.
It gives UN-sanctioned individuals a chance to resurge.

If this is not a clear abuse of power, one of the reasons we find ourselves in hot water today, what else is? Ms. Johnson-Morris has treated all appeals to common sense as a confrontation. Flip back the pages. You’ll see how she has dealt with the issue on voting in the Diaspora and the refugee camps And now, she is forcing known elements of a criminal regime on our ballots.. To the NEC Chair, disenfranchising is tough luck. Toughness at the position (NEC Chair), a welcomed requirement, is one thing; unreasonableness, an unwelcome attribute, is quite another!

This particular request is just too important to warrant any snappy responses. We are not going to settle for ‘surrender of sovereignty’ and ‘innocent until proven guilty’, as answers. To find any of these names (those sanctioned) on our ballots is to do business as usual. There is absolutely no sane reason for any of them to appear on any ballot.

Just in case we fail to resolve this issue ourselves, ECOWAS should be on its way, once more, to address it. We all know that the NEC Chair has yet to give us the time of the day, even when what we say makes sense; maybe ECOWAS will.