Regarding Dialogue And Elections In 2003

By Abdoulaye W. Dukule

The Perspective

January 23, 2002

It seems that after all, Liberians will be forced to go to another peace and reconciliation conference because the spoiled child of Liberia, Charles Taylor, wants it. Through veiled threats and innuendoes, he has forced the international community and Liberian political groups to convene one of those meetings he always craved, where he finds himself setting the agenda by his mere presence or absence. In Banjul, 1990, Taylor said that he would only stop the war if he were given the presidency and if that failed, or short of that, he would chair a transitional government leading to elections. Taylor ultimately never led any transitional government but each one paved the way for his presidency and the international community helped along the way. Now, according to the same international community, it is imperative to have another round of talks with him to move forward.

There is no shame, or there shouldn't be any in working for peace. Those who have attended multitude of conferences, from Banjul to Abuja should not give up nor relent, because after all, Mr. Taylor is but one little human being, who, like Hitler, like Mobutu, like Bokassa and Pinochet, and all others who thought their reigns were unlimited, will come to pass and the great work of the peacemakers shall make Liberia a better place for all.

During the MDCL conference of the past weekend, one of the speakers, Gayah Fahnbulleh, went as far as questioning the legitimacy of the Taylor government. His premises were based on the fact that once someone reneges on the terms of a contract; whatever standing that person had obtained through that contract becomes null and void. His point was that because Mr. Taylor failed to abide by the Abuja Accord that gave birth to his government, he therefore should be looked upon as "illegitimate." Whatever the problem, legal and constitutional, maybe with what Gayah said, it comes to this one point: Taylor has betrayed ECOWAS, he has betrayed the Liberian people, he betrayed the international community and he betrayed the child soldiers whom he promised to send to school once he got in power.

We could make Mr. Taylor pay for his crimes against Liberia and humanity now and today, by imposing more sanctions on his government, by stopping him from traveling, by taking away from him all the little things that make the presidency enjoyable and one day, we might get him. Kill him or put him in jail for good, because some day, at one point, he would let his guards down and the cause of the people would triumph. And those who killed on his command will then swear that they did so against their conscience. Because whatever Taylor thinks, he knows he cannot outlive every Liberian who wants to drag him in front of a war crime tribunal or a firing squad. Somewhere, there will always be a little boy or a little girl waiting to take a shot at Taylor.

The set of proposals advanced by Dr. Jabaru Carlon at the just ended meeting of the MDCL in Washington, DC, are worth examining. He said we could 1. Postpone elections; 2. Ask Mr. Taylor to stay away from the elections and allow any other member of the NPP to run; and 3. Overthrow the government of Mr. Taylor. What Dr. Carlon is saying in effect is that there is a slim chance that Mr. Taylor would ever allow the holding of free and fair elections. Knowing Mr. Taylor's track record, there is no doubt that he will allow free and fair elections. Short of advocating a violent political change, we must therefore be talking about how to get rid of the Taylor regime in 2003, by democratic means. The staunched supporters of Mr. Taylor know very well that the man is not capable of putting in place anything close to transparent administration, good governance and the rule of law.

So why are we talking about elections? The international community has taken on itself to save elections in Liberia, but we should not make the mistake to believe that anyone of those organizations is trying to save Liberia or Liberians from Taylor. Their focus is simply the elections. We have different interests and we must not confuse their attempt to create a climate conducive for the holding of elections - their main objective - with a desire to help create a peaceful and democratic society - our aim-.

International organizations, be it the Carter Center, the International Federation of Electoral Systems and all others abide by the logic of elections calendar. They raise funds from the international community and go after elections just like others go after war zones and other disasters. It is their job. They will set up shop and be part of any election in any shape or form and fold their tents once the process is complete. Since they have to be accepted by government on the ground to be part of the process, they will work to create an illusory climate of inclusion where they can bring together opposition members and carry on their jobs. They have no vested interest in democracy and peace in Liberia. All they want is to be part of an election, any election, because that is what they live for. We have too much trust in the international community and not enough confidence in ourselves.

Liberians need to look at their national interest and see how best we can start a real dialogue, with or without Mr. Taylor. A dialogue with Mr. Taylor will consist among other things telling him in plain Waterside English that he has failed and does not deserve a second mandate, free elections or not.

If he insists on running, he must be told to dismantle his funny elections commission, reform the Supreme Court, and bring in a contingent of international police force as of now and until the holding of free and fair elections. In exchange of this, we will call on the legislature to vote a total amnesty for him and his men and women. We would protect them as long as they live in Liberia and stay out of politics. Along with this, the ECOWAS, along with the United States will be asked to train a new and small military and police force that would take over the day the new president is seated.

If violence is not the way forward, a real homegrown solution must take precedence over anything anyone would tell us from outside. Mr. Taylor is the only sitting president in the world committing crimes against his people and getting away with it. I don't believe the Carter Center or any elections monitoring organization necessarily cares for his person, all they want is be facilitators of an electoral process. I don't think they are trying to save Liberians or democracy. We have had our share of false promises and goodwill negotiators. The solutions to the Liberian problems are very simple. It comes down to the erratic, corrupt and sanguinary persona of one man. The sooner we come to terms with this and understand that only we can save Liberia, things would be much simpler.

A crisis like ours cannot be saved on a part-time basis. For better or for worse, the greatest majority of the Liberian middle class lives in the USA. We could tap into this great human resource and put forward workable and long lasting solutions. We could set up small working groups that would engage the US government, the international community, ECOWAS and the Liberian government as well as professional organizations on the ground to reach very clear decisions on a very few issues, including security, electoral process, press and governance. The modalities for such a meeting need to be simple. Every Liberian organization in this country counts among its membership specialists in every imaginable profession. This will not be a weekend job, but rather a fulltime job. If the international community really wants to help Liberia, financing such a venture would be a good start. Once we have worked out a Liberian solution, then we would welcome all those who want to come and monitor the elections.

Sending a few selected "political leaders" to Abuja will not solve our problems. We all know why.

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