What is at Stake for Liberians in the 2005 Elections?


By Francis W. Nyepon


The Perspective
Atlanta, Georgia
September 27, 2005


Send Money From Around The World 24/7_1
Liberia did not just have bad leaders; it had a bad system of governance. It perpetuated a culture of impunity, mismanagement, corruption, discrimination and hopelessness. It brought us to our knees, and forced upon us outcomes of authoritarianism, ethnic squabbles and factional violence. Past leaders of successive governments failed to utilize national resources to benefit the people and state; instead, they monopolized power, privilege and wealth.

Why the Election Matters?
On October 11th, Liberia will stand at a crossroad in history once again. But, this time, the stakes will be higher than at any other period in our memory. It will mark the most important milestone in the country’s history. The future of generations hangs in the balance. The results of the election will determine whether the people move forward as a collective or continue to digress as a state. It will provide the country with a unique opportunity not just to tackle its differences, but provide a moment in history to straightforwardly deal with the problems which it had to inconveniently struggle with for decades. Hence, as the second post-conflict election draws near, issues that once overwhelmed the society should not be allowed to unfold, for if they do, the consequences could be dangerous for generations to come.

October 11th will grant Liberians another opportunity to do the right thing. They must defy themselves and elect individuals who possess the foresight and will to lead the country from the backwaters of the abyss. So, come Tuesday October 11th, those whom we elect, better be geared up and ready to address our endemic and rampant challenges, or rethink their desire to follow in the footsteps of past leaders. They must be prepared to dedicate and commit themselves to providing an enabling environment to root democracy and respect for the rule of law. They must have the vision to lead our people, and provide equal access and opportunity regardless of ethnicity, and class. Mediocrity can not again become an advantage for leadership. Our new leaders must be prepared to restore the authority of the state, strengthen the judicial system, revitalize the economy and restructure the security sector.

Our political system proved to be inadequate to deal with the diversity of the population. The establishment of the country produced one state with two separate but equal systems, which guaranteed the systematic weakening of successive governments and eventual failure of the state. It restricted the growth of our economy and people in harmony with one another. It favored one group over the other, and forced the majority to languish in abject poverty, while encouraging an elitist way of life among certain groups. It institutionalized: corruption, cronyism, nepotism, patronage, and poverty; and today remains a scourge on our society and languishes in every fabric of our national consciousness, ready to ignite violence and rebellion as the alternative to rejecting the status quo.

The Way Forward:
The election is the first step in creating a new era of progress towards building peace, democracy and respect for the rule of law. It should not be allowed to be used as a vocation to acquire wealth, power, influence and prestige. The results of the elections must present the country with leaders capable of laying the foundation and direction for change. First, it would require an activist legislature ready to establish an open political climate for the promotion of reform. Second, it would demand that the president-elect be ready to muster the political will to insist on structural adjustment in a new system, which promotes human and material resources to benefit the people and reasonable integrity of a new government.

Strategy for Reform:
Liberia’s new political climate must provide a culture, which reorganizes our local government system and move the national system towards decentralization. This new culture must promote democratic governance and participatory approaches towards development, service delivery and poverty reduction.

This strategy must have at its core a policy of decentralization. It must become the key strategy to promoting good governance, pluralism, accountability, fiscal reforms, transparency, and development. Its strength must focus on reducing the workload of the central government to manageable proportion, and account for greater efficiency, coordination and effectiveness in public service delivery. It must propel the elected government to adopt political and administrative changes through the deregulation of economic and political responsibilities. And conversely, it should encourage and strengthen both citizen participation and local government involvement in the decision-making process while harnessing local knowledge, resources and expertise at the county, district, township and village levels.

Therefore, it is necessary and imperative that political liberalization occurs through whichever elected government emerges come Tuesday, October 11th. This new government will have to promulgate policies which results in the irreversible revocation of gains made by the free press and opposition political parties during the two years transitional period. It must however, establish an integral role for vibrant independent unions, constitutional reform measures, and multitude of autonomous civic organizations. It must ensure the means to protect defend and guarantee their rights along with those of individuals by law. The multi-party democratic functions which this election season has served up must result in the defeat and exit from power of the erstwhile authoritarian tendencies in our leaders.