Creating An Enabling Environment and a Level Playing Field
By Coker A. J. George, Jr.
Liberians the world over await with anxiety the holding of "Elections 2003" - The Presidential, Legislative, and General Elections. However, various concerns have been raised not only by politicians and political aspirants, but also by the religious community, interest groups, human rights organizations, and the international community, among others. Amidst these concerns, and without resolving or addressing them, the National Elections Commission announced the schedule and plans for "Elections 2003". This pronouncement has not received a warm embrace by Liberians and the international community. The United States was one of the first to condemn the elections plans through its embassy near Monrovia. Ambassador Blaney said: "The United States is concerned that preparations for the 2003 elections are inadequate and that necessary conditions do not yet exist to permit free and fair elections. He also encouraged the Liberian Government to involve the United Nations in the process. ...The United States and others have repeatedly encouraged the Government of Liberia to get help on election preparations from the United Nations well beyond requests for security-related assistance. The United Nations has excellent capabilities and long experience through its Electoral Assistance Unit and elsewhere that could play a key role in strengthening the upcoming elections across-the-board. A UN assessment team should be requested urgently.
The United States Government is saying in essence that there does not exist "An Enabling Environment and A Level Playing Field" that is secure, conducive, and inclusive for not only political aspirants, but also members of the opposition. Regrettably, incidents in the most recent past confirmed that there is still instability in the country. For example, the arrest and harassment of members of the opposition in Bassa and Bong Counties; the arrest and jailing of leaders of the Inter-religious Council of Liberia; and the alleged killing of Col. Vamplet, a senior officer of the National Police Force; the arrest and detention of human rights defender Aloysius Toe, the beating and arrest of journalists and human rights activists, among others. It has also been reported that President Taylor does not want foreign observers at the polls during the elections. In addition, the Chairman of the Commission is also vehemently against the involvement of the international community. He says, "No foreign laws shall prevail in the electoral process, and there shall be no foreign supervision".
What are these concerns, and are they unreasonable demands? Would they pave the way, making the country secure and conducive, inviting all Liberians to come home, and participate in the 2003 Elections regardless of how long you have lived outside the country? What advantage and/or praises will President Taylor and his NPP-led government receive were they to submit to the will of the people by "Creating an Enabling Environment and A Level Playing Field?"
Finally, we call on President Taylor to make "right the wrongs" of the past. Mr. President, God ordained you to usher our beloved country into a "New Day". You have the capacity to make a difference. We know that wise and bold decisions you would want to make may be considered foolish to your distracters (some of your supports). Let us not forget some of the wise decisions taken by President Tolbert, but not embraced by the TWP Government. Dr. Tolbert knowing that multi-party democracy was provided by the constitution endorsed the registration of the "PAL - The Progression Alliance of Liberia", under the Chairmanship of Honorable G. Baccus Matthews. No sooner when the PAL attempted to exercise their constitutional rights by staging a "peaceful" demonstration on April 14,1989 against the arbitrary increase in the price of rice, the security forces, including the Armed Forces of Liberia, interrupted the marchers, killed, wounded, arrested and jailed Chairman Matthews and several of the officers and members of his party. Almost a year later (April 12,1980) when rumors circulated that Chairman Matthews and others were to be executed, MSgt. Samuel K. Doe led 17 enlisted men of the Armed Forces of Liberia to the Executive Mansion, assassinated President Tolbert, and on April 22,13 officials of his government were executed on the beach behind the BTC Military Barracks in Monrovia. This ushered in the PRC Government under the Chairmanship to SGT. Doe, which subsequently led to 1985 elections when he (Doe) was fraudulentlydeclared the winner.
The Doe regimes (PRC and NDPL Government) promised to restore liberty, peace and happiness to the Liberian people, and do away with corruption, nepotism, and other evil vices that had plagued our beloved country. President Doe, been misguided and with his own weaknesses, did not live up to his promise. Rampant corruption was the order of the day; tribalism and nepotism; ethnic cleansing had the toll on the Liberian people. The economic and social conditions in the country took a downward trend and professional Liberians and their families had to flee the country for "greener pastures", and safety for themselves and families.
Mr. President, you were touched by the then prevailing conditions of the Liberian people and country, causing you to launch a movement to restore peace and economic stability to our beloved country. Then, you received overwhelming support and assistance from a very broad range of the Liberian populace. In one of your pronouncements while still in the "bush", heading for Doe and Monrovia, you promised that you were coming to "...Take Doe off the backs of the Liberian people...", and to restore liberty, justice, peace, and happiness to the Liberian people regardless of ethnic, social, economic, and religious backgrounds (paraphrased). Your intentions may have been good, but like most of our leaders of the past, your good intentions were besieged by the evils that have plagued our leaders and country. Your mission had been derailed. Probably in the absence fighting in the Northwest by the LURD, and the temptation to attend to one's personal desires, forgetting the mission to which you have been called, your government would had made great strides.
Notwithstanding, we know, our God is a God of a second chance, and the Liberian electorate is the judge - "the Voice of God". Overwhelmingly in 1997 you were given "the mandate" by more than 75 of the electorate. Who knows if you Mr. President were to "Create an Enabling Environment and A Level Playing Field", removing all barriers that could prevent the holding of a "free and democratic" elections, the people would not give you a second term? Your testimony and call on all Liberians to return home on the morning of January 1, 2003 at The St Paul's Baptist Church in your hometown, Arthington, and extending amnesty to the LURD Rebels, with sincerity, are all signs of transformation on your part. In a recent meeting with the United States Ambassador accredited near Monrovia, you conveyed to him your willingness to have the involvement of the international community in elections 2003. We remain optimistic, and look forward to ""Elections 2003". "Deeds not words"! It is never too late to change. You can make "right the wrongs"!
As Liberians, it is not only the present leadership of our country that should be responsible for "Creating and Enabling Environment and A Level Playing Field". We can no longer just join the winner's team, and indulge in doing and embracing wrong. Some of us are just opportunists, seeking the good for only ourselves and our immediate families and buddies. Look where our actions have brought us? We wrongfully acquired wealth at the expense of our poor brothers and sisters. The poor arc still home, but our wealth and even ourselves have been abased. We too also have a second chance to make "right the wrongs". We have one home, Liberia, and if our land will be healed, we have to be forgiving and loving. Let us be our brother's/sister's keeper. Let us pray for transformation of heart for the leadership of our land (...Create in him a clean heart, and renew a right Spirit within him), in order for him to lead the way for the "Creation of an Enabling Environment, and a Level Playing Field". Long live Liberia, "...A home of glorious liberty by God's command"! HAPPY