Remembering Liberia’s Constitution in this Election Year

Elliott Wreh-Wilson, Ph.D.

The Perspective
Atlanta, Georgia
August 3, 2005


Because we did not convene a national conference to plan for the October elections in Liberia, I thought I should seek your permission to call our collective attention to the place of the Constitution in this election year. Despite the many revisions it has endured, the Constitution remains the most sacred and stable symbol of the will of the Liberian people.

In fact, the Constitution was written with the presumption of divisions and differences among the Liberian people. As such, it was written to help us manage those divisions and differences. This election year might turn out to be our best opportunity to face each other as a people and to confront not just our differences but also the problems we’ve had to contend with these past decades.

Many things divide Liberians—language, culture, county of origin, experience, and even religion—but, the Constitution is not one of them. In that light, I hope we will concentrate our important political activities on shoring up the ideals (liberty, justice, and equality) which inspired both the Constitution and the founding of our Republic. Doing so will assure our people that we are serious about creating a political climate in which democracy can take root and flourish.

We Liberians are fond of describing ourselves as a proud people. Like the lighthouses in Monrovia and Cape Palmas, we think of our country as a beacon to the world. Given our recent history, however, Liberians have been anything but proud—let alone a beacon to the world.

At this most crucial juncture in our history, it is time we reminded ourselves of what it means to be proud a proud people. As the saying goes, this is the time to show our juice.

Surely, we can live up to our promises; but we must begin by creating the right institutions and the right government for ourselves and for our children. We can take the first crucial steps by reasserting our roles as citizens and as gatekeepers to this great land of liberty we call Liberia.

For this, we must recommit ourselves to the promise to live according to the general will of the people. We can end our current predicament if we resolve to elect men and women who have demonstrated their devotion to service and to the rule of law.
This, I believe, will pave the way to outlawing the tradition former presidents have used to usurp the authority of the Constitution as when they pursue personal agenda under the guise of the national interest.

The Constitution should be the ultimate and inviolable repository of the will of the people. It should be unlawful, therefore, to permit a president, let alone a legislature to suspend it. Thus, we must convene, in the post election era, a revision of the Constitution to outlaw those provisions that permit the suspension of the Constitution by fait. Meanwhile, we can require all candidates for elected office, including the presidency and the legislature, to foreswear support for the repeal of those inane Constitutional provisions that cede emergency powers to the president.

Appropriately, we must narrow the public discourse in this election year to matters concerning our collective will, our collective welfare, and our collective morality on matters of our rights and our responsibilities as supported by the Constitution. What we accomplish will stand not only to strengthen us but also to inspire our people as well as the world community to take Liberia seriously.

In this regard, I want to take the time to applaud the press and political parties for their efforts so far in ensuring the viability of the political process in Liberia. I hope that the Liberian people will join hands with them as they work to free Liberia from the clutches of greedy and wicked men.

Indeed, it is time to secure for Liberia a patriotic and competent leadership team—one that will harmonize our best dreams with the democratic ideals enshrined in the Constitution. So, as we prepare to elect representatives to the National Legislature, we need to keep in mind the ultimate interest of the nation, i.e., to foster the common good through fair play, teamwork, inclusion, and the rule of law.

Let me end with these final words: First and foremost, we should know that these elections will neither solve nor end Liberia’s problems. After a long and bloody civil war, we must harbor no illusions about the extent to which many of us would want to go to avenge the harm done to our people and our land. But, these elections must be about selecting the right and best leaders—those who are fit and mature enough to sit around the table where the solutions to our collective problems will be discussed.

Our leaders will not be problem solvers. In that regard, we should not be seeking a president who has all the answers to our problems. Instead, we must elect a president who will serve as a facilitator to the social, economic, cultural, and political processes through which the Liberian people will join hearts and hands—as in the past—to sort out the best working solutions to our problems.

Knowing this, we must make a selfless and concerted effort to choose a president who is mature, knowledgeable, and willing to assemble a government of the most patriotic and well-meaning members of our society—at home and abroad—to ensure a peaceful and orderly transition from war to the renewal of hope in the country.

We will, in this election year, demonstrate our deepest respect for the Constitution when we elect exceptional and patriotic leaders who are committed to the rule of law and to restoring the once enviable pride of the Liberian people. Thus, we need to elect fellow citizens who demonstrate the highest qualities of citizenship and a deep desire to work across party lines, county lines, and tribal lines.

We can do this. And, let us hope that the opportunity for a bright future will not elude us this time.

Elliott Wreh-Wilson, Ph.D.
Department of Philosophy
Edinboro University
Edinboro, PA 16444