Open Letter To Congresswoman Cynthia Mckinney
Dear Congress Woman McKinney:
Your recent visit to Liberia along with several other congress persons to represent the Clinton administration at the inaugural ceremonies of the newly elected president of Liberia, Mr. Charles Taylor, was a welcome opportunity. Having been immersed in war for the last seven years, and having recently had an election that was watched by domestic and international observers, and reported to be free and fair, the country now seems poised to enter the international civil community of nations as a bona fide member once again.
Certainly, your presence as a representative of the Clinton's administration and congressional delegate of the world's most deliberative and democratic body, the U. S. Congress, reinforces the desire on the part of the United States government and its people, to encourage emerging democracies around the world, of which Liberia is a part.
While encouraging emerging democracies like Liberia is crucial, I believe that this should not be done in a hurry, but rather approached cautiously. Care must be taken not to put the cart before the horse too quickly, only to regret or be embarrassed by such disposition.
Your recent comments and impressions about Mr. Taylor, and Mr. Laurent Kabila of the Democratic Republic of the Congo, formerly Zaire, which appeared in the Atlanta Journal & Constitution on August 6, 1997, upon your return from Taylor's inauguration, was clearly disappointing, and to say the least, embarrassing. Your inference that Mr. Taylor is one of Africa's potential "continental leaders," and your suggestion that you would work to convene a trade and business conference between Georgia and Africa, to which you would invite Mr. Taylor and other African leaders, is what I refer to as the kind of early sanctioning of a government that is yet to prove its commitment to democratic governance. Your impression of which you are respectfully entitled to hold, in my view however, suggests a lack of informed understanding of Mr. Taylor and the Liberian crisis as a whole. Most definitely, it contrasts sharply with others, such as president Jimmy Carter, who have had a longer association with Liberia and a deeper involvement with Africa.
Madam Congress woman, while it is the right thing to do to encourage emerging democracies like Liberia, it is equally important to ensure that the regimes of these democracies be subject to a performance test. I want to suggest several tests that must be met, to which I believe, you and others from the international community must hold them responsible. First and foremost, is the regime's commitment to democratic governance. I believe newly elected governments must first demonstrate their commitment to broad-based participation and encourage the politics of inclusion. They must create space to encourage the participation of other political parties and elements of civil society, in the formation of a government, and that it reflects the regional balance and diverse nature of the society.
Secondly, the regimes of these emerging democracies must also demonstrate an unrelenting commitment to the freedom of the press, freedom of speech and assembly, and the promotion of political and civil liberties. I believe a burgeoning press should be allowed to flourish and not be censored or suppressed. I also believe that an active and unfettered political opposition should be allowed to organize and flourish as will. Then, of course, the proverbial system of "checks and balances" must be allowed to prevail.
Last but not least, the regimes of these emerging democracies' "feet must be held to the fire" by insisting that the noble and innate right of all mankind, "Human Rights," be protected. Disrespect for the rule of law, arbitrary arrests and detention, torture, abusive police conduct, just to name a few, would all be clear human rights violation, and must be rejected.
Madam Congresswoman, you will agree with me that these core principles which underpin this great democracy that we live in, American democracy, which has become the envy of the world, must serve as guideposts to any emerging democracy. Liberia's sordid past of the last seven years, of which the current regime that you are so enamored and praiseworthy, is to be held largely responsible, makes it extremely difficult to uncritically embrace it. While the jury is still out on the regime of Mr. Taylor whose react its "100 days" benchmark, one is hard pressed to fathom the notion as to whether this regime has the will and capacity to transform itself from its war-like image to a democratic one.
Madame Congress woman, Liberians in Georgia and Liberian Americans, some of whom live in your district and are your constituents still await you visiting with them to exchange views on the future of their country. We hope you will find time to one day honor their longstanding invitation.
James Kpanneh Doe
Copyright © 1997 The Perspective
Material may be downloaded, copied, redistributed, or used for broadcast as long as credit is given to The Perspective and the author(s) of the article(s)