Elections In Sierra Leone: A Step Towards Regional Stability?

Statement By The Union Of Liberian Associations In The Americas (ULAA)

The Perspective
Atlanta, Georgia

Posted May 19, 2002

May 16, 2002

West Africa is among the world's most unstable sub-regions. In the last decade, Liberia and Sierra Leone have been embroiled in protracted Civil Wars. Liberia and Guinea continue to accuse each other of launching border raids. The remarkable intervention of the international community, especially Great Britain, in Sierra Leone led to an end to the war and holding of elections on May 14, 2002.We commend the efforts to bring relative peace to Sierra Leone and the continued strides to bring lasting peace to our neighbor. This is a great accomplishment, because a major obstacle to peace and stability in West Africa is the lack of viable systems of governance and democratization. With peace coming to Sierra Leone, Liberia is once again in the spotlight in the wake of renewed rebel activities and sanctions imposed as a result of actions of the Liberian Government, inimical to peace and stability not only in Liberia but the entire sub-region. Over the last decade rebel groups have caused widespread instability in the sub-region and President Charles Taylor bears responsibility for much of the long-standing aggression. The recent gains by the rebel Liberians United for Reconciliation and Democracy (LURD) has made it even more important for special attention to be given to Liberia if regional stability is to be achieved.

Over the last few weeks, the Taylor Government has been increasingly intolerant of divergent views. A State of Emergency was imposed in February 8, 2002, indiscriminate arrests of peaceful citizens carried out, newspapers closed, and recently human rights activist Tiawon Gongloe was detained, tortured until he collapsed and hospitalized. The Armed Forces of Liberia has been called to active duty and remilitarization of the society is in full gear. The recruitment of child soldiers as well as constant threats and intimidation of civil society persists. There is the need for constitutionalism and principles of law, respect for human rights, political pluralism, accountable and transparent government, and proper management of public finance as well as empowerment of the civil society.

In view of the prevailing circumstances, the Union of Liberian Associations in the Americas (ULAA), the umbrella organization of all Liberians and their associations, calls upon the Government of the United States and the international community to pay special attention to Liberia to avert regional stability. Pressure should be used to obtain a negotiated solution that would end Liberia's conflict and a cease-fire between LURD and the Liberian Government. Unless something is done immediately to stop the violence, misery and death in Liberia, there will continue to be regional instability. A substantive peace negotiation among civil society and the opposition would be necessary.

ULAA calls upon the international community to secure fundamental reforms and that the scheduled free and fair elections are held. These reforms include the restructuring of the Armed Forces, the removal of decrees and orders that prevent the opposition from effectively functioning as political institutions, financial accountability, freedom of the press and other freedoms guaranteed by the Constitution. President Taylor must understand that unless concrete actions are taken that will convince the stakeholders that free and fair elections can and will be held, Liberians and the international community will continue to press for arrangements whereby such elections are held.

ULAA calls upon the international community to diplomatically encourage the development of responsible alternatives to the approach of the Taylor Government to governance and democratization. and give significant assistance to the empowerment of civil society. Experiences show the need for a people centered approach to security. Human security especially when it comes to the right of the individual to live in peace and to satisfy his/her basic needs should share equal status with traditional concerns for regime survival.

Finally, President Taylor's rule has fueled regional instability in the region of West Africa. He continues to push a grand scheme of political change and unless something is done to arrest the current deteriorating state of affairs in Liberia, the fragile peace in Sierra Leone and the resultant free and fair elections will not yield the desired stability in the region. The United States and the international community must compel President Taylor to implement a comprehensive and constructive program of institutional reforms, including security reform, re-establishment of rule of law to pave the way for free and fair elections and lasting stability in the sub-region.

Mydea Reeves-Karpeh (Mrs.)
National President

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