Misguided Conclusion is Fueling Election Violence in Liberia

By Dionysius Sebwe

The Perspective
Atlanta, Georgia
August 25, 2005


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The level of election violence unfolding in Liberia should be taken seriously. With all the frenzy, our focus should be on the future of Liberia – and that means electing a visionary with excellent leadership experience, sound policies, and practical platform messages to improve the lives of ordinary Liberians.

Liberians should be very greatly concerned about vigilante justice, vandalism, and violence of some political parties. In recent days, we’ve seen with horror partisan violence engulfing our first democratic elections. While violence is not unusual to general elections, Liberians are once more witnessing and experiencing another grim reminder of sham populists masquerading as saviors of the masses.

Our most recent memory was the election in which Charles Taylor’s supporters vandalized and threatened opponents. The world, unfortunately, watched and down played the impact the violence had on average Liberians still recovering from various phases of posttraumatic stress syndrome.

Democratic elections are characterized by peaceful expression of one’s choice, not violence or coercion as the CDC (Congress for Democratic Change) would have us believe. The CDC’s incremental violence - beginning with the bag of gasoline thrown into the vehicle of the NEC Co-chairman to set it ablaze, coupled with the subsequent vandalism of opponents’ posters and properties - is unacceptable. This partisan vandalism is indicative of CDC’s leadership.

If appropriate security measures are not put in place, this insanity could become a precursor to election violence on a larger scale, escalating on religious or ethnic lines considering our volatile security situation. The Ministry of Justice and UNMIL should increase troop level to respond effectively to any sign of anarchists or mob violence.

The role of the media (local and international) and political pundits is also critical to our fledgling democracy, especially during this historic election. CDC’s violence is the result of a seemingly orchestrated effort by some individuals to narrow the field of presidential contenders to compel the electorates to make hasty, uninformed decisions – a result of misguided conclusion based on flawed, unscientific data.

Premature decision of whom the major contenders are has inadvertently given some candidates an illusion of winning the presidency when campaigning is barely two weeks old. It has no doubt emboldened the CDC. Even so-called pundits engaged in this myopic and dangerously imprudent conclusion do a disservice to the Liberian electorate. Instead, media and credible pundits should conduct a scientific poll with statistical analysis showing reasonable margin of error of a candidate’s chance of winning the presidential elections.

Moreover, creating unwarranted hoopla and jumping to conclusion to define the presidential race between two candidates (Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf and George Weah - when there are 22 presidential candidates) is disingenuous. The chief culprit of this sensationalism and irresponsible journalism seems to be a staff writer at the Times of London, a reputable British newspaper; a mere staff writer trying to bring disrepute to a prominent British newspaper and influence our elections with unjustifiable wishful thinking.

The subjective criteria on which his conclusion is based are certainly baseless, irresponsible, and counterproductive. The CDC has interpreted his overstatement as an entitlement to the Liberian presidency; thus hijacking an election that is supposed to be civil and peaceful. The average Liberians are at a disadvantage in the entire process.

Liberia is an impoverished nation; however, its people are not gullible, especially during this era when the future of the country is at stake. At this stage of campaigning, probably four or five candidates with a statistical chance of winning the election should be scrutinized. Or, maybe the Times of London staff writer should employ electoral behavioral analysis to reflect voters’ preference.

The campaign season has just begun, and for the sake of a peaceful election, let’s allow the dust to settle and see how the political process plays out. This is certainly the best the media and political pundits can do for Liberians. Anything less will undermine a much-anticipated festive campaign season.
About the author: Dionysius Sebwe is a former player of Liberia Lone Star and President of LiberiaAbsenteeBallot Organization