Now is the Time to Put International Pressure on Taylor

The Perspective

January 18, 2002

On Tuesday, January 15, 2002, PANA reported that president Taylor said that those with dual citizenship would not be allowed to take part in the Liberian national elections come 2003. In fact the president has threatened to arrest any Liberian with dual citizenship who comes to Liberia to contest the elections against him. "If you are a Liberian and you go and naturalize as an American citizen and we find you trying to masquerade as a Liberian during the elections, we will arrest you," Mr. Taylor said.

Those who are unfamiliar with African politics would conclude that the president's position is reasonable. We are all aware of the Quattara debacle in the Ivory Coast where Ivorian leaders now say he cannot take part in the elections because he is not an Ivorian. Kenneth Kaunda fought for the independence of Zambia and became the first president of that nation; but he was later considered a non-Zambian when it was clear that he was preparing to make a political comeback. During the 1997 Liberian elections, Mr. Taylor - on one of his campaign trials, said that Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf had dropped out of the race and that the only person he was competing with was a "foreigner' from Guinea - a reference to former warlord Alhaji Kromah. Taylor even referred to former interim president Dr. Amos C. Sawyer as a Sierra Leonean.

Mr. Taylor has driven most of his opponents out of Liberia, and those who have remained in the country have been very careful not to be charged with attempting to overthrow the government. The opposition has been reduced to a toothless bulldog due to the ruthlessness of Mr. Taylor. Now that he feels that the international community will put pressure on him to conduct free and fair elections; he has started making it hard for Liberians living in the Diaspora to return home and take part in the elections. In fact the Liberian ruler has ruled out the supervision of the elections by the international community - the same international community that supervised the elections that brought him to power.

It is a well known fact that many of the officials presently serving in Taylor's Administration and in other public capacities, hold dual citizenship, having attended school in the United States, married American nationals, conceived offspring, and acquired their citizenship status while they were here in the US. But surprisingly, Mr. Taylor has neither detained nor fired anyone of these officials. Moreover, for the public record, none have renounced their American citizenship. Despite his malfeasance, Mr. Taylor himself is a beneficiary of the American system, having lived, worked, and attended school here in the 70's.

In fact, two key public figures, namely: Honorable Nyudueh Monorkormana, current Speaker of the House of Representatives, and Thomas Jucontee Woewiyu, Senator of Grand Bassa County--- all former wartime comrades of Mr. Taylor, were never put on the U.S.(and U.N.) Travel ban List because of their American citizenship status.

Whipping up nationalist sentiments is basically a cover being used to hide Taylor's worst fears: Liberians residing in the United States whom Taylor has developed an adversarial relationship with, and have declared as his "enemies" for being responsible for his and the country's plight. On the flip side, however, patriotism or love for country by Liberians in the United States cannot even be questioned. With an economy verging on collapse due to greed, mismanagement, and criminal shenanigans of the regime, it is Liberians in the Diaspora, including Liberians who are naturalized American citizens that provided support for their relatives, which in turn has helped maintained the Liberian economy.

But Mr. Taylor senses a gathering storm and a determination of Liberians in the U. S., to influence the 2003 elections outcome that should lead to his effective removal. Liberians in the U.S. are no longer pussyfooting, no longer complacent, no longer engaged in wasteful and endless analysis of paralysis, but are putting their money where their mouth is: effectively organizing their time, resources and energy to ensure the materialization of the elections process. This has become a frightening nightmare for Mr. Taylor and his ruling National Patriotic Party.

Putting the threatening outbursts aside, the issue itself has no real merit. Even on the constitutionality of the dual citizenship issue, the Liberian Constitution is not as clear-cut, but rather ambiguous, suggesting that it neither supports nor disproves of dual citizenship. The constitution , however, places emphasis on the residency requirement for eligibility to contest public office.

CHAPTER VI, Article 52 states: No person shall be eligible to hold the office of President or Vice-President, unless that person is:

a. a natural born Liberian citizen of not less than 35 years of age:

b. the owner of unencumbered real property valued at not less than twenty-five thousand dollars; and

c. resident in the Republic ten years prior to his election, provided that the President and the Vice-President shall not come from the same County.

Therefore, by creating roadblocks for declared or potential candidates for public office in 2003, the Taylor regime in its political calculation has determined that it can stall, engage in foot-dragging, and/or outrightly refuse to correct the flaws and inadequacies of the electoral system. There are four fundamental issues that must be addressed:

1. Create a balance and broad-based Elections Commission (the current commission comprises predominantly NPP partisans and loyalists);

2. Provide access to the Airwaves;

3. Create a safe and secure environment; and,

4. Establish an Independent verification mechanism by allowing for an internationally-supervised elections

Interestingly, Mr. Taylor wants to have it both ways - by having his cake and eating it too! In his words, "nobody is going to be permitted in Liberia to supervise any election... it is the sovereign responsibility of this government to conduct elections." He adds: "You will be invited here to be observers...1,000 or 10,000 can come, but you will not supervise any election." Meanwhile, while rejecting international supervision of the Liberian elections, The Elections Commission Chairman, Mr. Paul Guah is seeking US$7 million from the very despised international community to conduct elections in 2003.

These are warning shots Mr. Taylor is firing. And it will be too late if the international community does not wake up and act. The same pressure that is being put on President Mugabe of Zimbabwe must equally be brought to bear on Mr. Taylor. They are both considered dictators. And they both muzzle the press. Mr. Mugabe wants land reform, while Mr. Taylor has turned his nation to a pariah state. Mugabe fought for years to liberate his people from white supremacy, while Mr. Taylor fought for seven years to kill 250,000 of his people, loot everything in the country, just to become president. There was election held in Zimbabwe few years ago in which the opposition made a significant gain, but Taylor’s NPP has rigged all municipal elections since Mr. Taylor came to power 1997. The pressure that is being put on Mr. Mugabe is by far more than that put on Mr. Taylor. The international community needs to act now be exerting equal pressure on Mr. Taylor.

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