An Open Letter To Liberian Opposition Politicians
By Nvasekie Konneh
November 12, 2002
Dear Liberian Opposition Politicians:
I am writing you this letter out of genuine concern for our country and its future. I am doing so, fearing that unless we, especially those of you seeking the presidency, make a firm decision concerning a single opposition candidate, we are doomed to see another six years of Taylor's criminal misrule. I don't think you want that, and neither do the majority of Liberians.
As we move toward the 2003 elections, I have been wondering about the key issues the presidential contenders should be debating. After many sleepless nights and restless days, I have concluded that there is one over-riding issue that must claim everyone's attention, and that is to defeat Taylor and thus prepare the country for genuine democracy. With respect to development, no single Liberian has an absolute solution to the various problems concerning our nation. So there is no promise anyone of you can make as far as development is concerned that should be more important at this time than the fact that Taylor must go, and that can come sooner if we are united behind a single opposition candidate. With Taylor out of the way, we can make Liberia conducive for genuine democracy.
Most Liberians, and friends of Liberia believe that our best chance of freeing Liberia from Taylor’s criminal misrule is to unite behind a strong opposition candidate. I am pretty sure that you all agree with this approach, but the biggest problem among the many presidential contenders has been your collective inability to choose that one person that you all can support to defeat Taylor in 2003. You have been meeting here and there with no solid progress to show, yet some of you still believe that, without a united front, you can defeat Taylor. Didn't you promote this same individualistic approach in 1997 when Taylor won or was "selected" the winner? Back then, the international community was more involved with Liberia and Taylor did not have a strong-criminal control over the nation, yet Liberian opposition politicians failed to defeat him. Today, however, Taylor has a strong-criminal control over our nation, so what makes you think anyone of you have a better chance of defeating him without a united front? Most reasonable minds agree that the only reason you missed that golden opportunity to defeat Taylor is that you all believed so much in your own strength to win; as a result, you refused to agree on a single opposition candidate to oppose Taylor. With that, it is fair to say that you blew an excellent opportunity to free the nation from Taylor's menace. As a Liberian, that's why I am so frustrated when I see that you are still at loggerhead as to who should be the one opposition candidate we all can support.
We now have another opportunity to do the right thing and instead of doing that, we are having new presidential contenders on the block adding to those already there. The whole matter now looks like we are going for a beauty contest, thereby making it more difficult to agree on a single opposition candidate. Don't you think if you went into the 2003 election with all of the many presidential candidates you would give Mr. Taylor a certain victory for another six years? I believe that having Taylor in our Executive Mansion for another six years will mean a devastating blow to our dream of a democratic Liberia.
In my humble capacity as one of the ordinary citizens of Liberia on whose behalf all of you are campaigning to be Liberia’s president, please allow me to suggest something that we all must debate and find some common ground. I will nominate three of the former presidential candidates and tell you why I am nominating them. Among these three names, you could choose one person all of you could support as the opposition candidate. The first among them is Mrs. Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf. I am nominating Mrs. Sirleaf because she came second in the 1997 election and thus could easily regroup the constituents. I have arrived at this conclusion after seeing the Kenyan opposition parties coming together to throw their supports behind Mr. Mwai Kibaki. The reason the Kenyans came together is that during the past two elections with the opposition divided into as many as 15 parties, Mr. Kibaki came second to Moi. So many observers have concluded that had the opposition united then behind Mr. Kibaki, they would have unseated President Daniel Arap Moi. Mr. Kibaki is seen as the one candidate with enough strength to defeat Mr. Moi. Following the logic of the Kenyans approach, Mrs. Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf will be an ideal choice to represent the collective Liberian opposition.
My second nominee is Dr. Togba Nah Tipoteh. My reason for nominating him is that he's one of those that have continuously lived in Liberia and is involved with the people on the ground. Even though he has not been really vocal on a few issues, it must take real conviction to remain in Liberia and carry on the kind of activity Mr. Tipoteh is engaged in. He has fearlessly stood his ground as many others have fled into exile because of the precarious security situation. Mr. Tipoteh could, therefore, be an ideal choice to represent the collective Liberian opposition.
The third nominee is Mr. Cletus Wotorson. It is believed that in 1997 when the political parties attempted to build a coalition to choose a single candidate, Mr. Wortoson was the preferred candidate before others who believed they were gurus of Liberian politics decided to go separate. Maybe if everyone had supported Mr. Wortoson at that time our situation would be a better story today. Mr. Wotorson could, therefore, be an ideal choice to represent the collective Liberian opposition.
Mrs. Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf, Dr. Tipoteh or Mr. Wortoson are by no means the only qualified names among the present list of presidential candidates, but for the sake of narrowing down the list so as to make it easier to choose that one compromised candidate, I decided their names. I believe that many of you are qualified and could lead Liberia for the next six years if conditions were different, but I also believe that you can only be president one at a time. So to make sure that Taylor is defeated so as to prepare the country for genuine democracy in which hundreds of you can run freely, it will be in every body's interest to field one candidate at this time. In this light, you all will have to make a very difficult concession in the interest of democracy for Liberia with the believe that anyone of you is the lesser evil as compared to the greater evil that we all know too well. If you are still balancing personal political interest concerning your support for a single opposition candidate to represent the collective Liberian opposition, I will like to remind you of Al Gore's concession speech in the 2000 American presidential election. You all saw it, and I am sure that you all agree that it was one of the finest moments in American democracy. Mr. Gore put the interest of the American people first and conceded with grace. For you our presidential contenders, the concession your fellow citizens are urging of you is not a defeat. It's a sacrifice you are required to make in the interest of our nation, as it is on its knees because of Taylor’s interpretation of democracy. When I first thought of this compromise, I was thinking on Mrs. Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf as having the best chance to defeat Taylor. However, to make my position as neutral as possible, I decided to add Dr. Tipoteh and Mr. Wortoson. You could stipulate that the chosen opposition candidate would serve for awhile and then call for a new presidential election, or that he or she could serve the entire six-year term and then sit out the subsequent presidential election. He or she could then enter future presidential elections after a six-year term lapse. You may decide to do it another way so long as it will produce the desire result of a single opposition candidate to oppose Taylor in 2003.
I admit that none of the above names is faultless and blameless of our problems, but we are not looking for a Jesus Christ or a Muhammad to be the president at this time. In other words, we are making the choice between the greater evil and the lesser one. I want to believe that no matter how short of grace the above three names may be, they are better in comparison to Taylor whose trademarks are all over the killing of not just ordinary Liberians, but some of your fellow politicians such as Gabriel Kpolleh, Jackson F. Doe and others. While I am nominating Mrs. Sirleaf, Dr. Tipoteh and Wortoson, I will also urge them to concede to another Liberian opposition candidate if that will be in the interest of Liberia. The bottom line is that it will be easy for Taylor to steal the election with a multiple candidates than a single one.
My people, please don't jump to the conclusion that I am a member of any party. The truth is that I am not a member of any political party, and I am not planning to join anyone, at least not right now. I was not in Liberia during the last election, having lived in the U.S since 1995, but I am hoping to see democracy thrive in Liberia so that when I am finished with my study and decide to go back home, I can go to a democratic country and enjoy my life. So my proposal has no selfish motive other than a genuine desire for a democratic Liberia in which reconciliation, peace and prosperity will abound.