Options Short of Taylor-made Elections: The Liberian Alternative
By Peter Gborplay
January 15, 2002
The next Elections in Liberia are scheduled for sometime in 2003. The playing field is as such: The President uses strong arm tactics to coerce his opposition; he and his accomplices control the economic livelihood of the impoverished population; he and his Phonecian cronies and some European and Asian gangsters are ravaging the land and its resources.
The president has been accused by the United Nations of fomenting wars on his neighbors; the United Nations has imposed sanctions on the country for gun-running and diamonds; the President exercises dominion over the major radio stations and air waves; the President wields enormous influence on the verdict of the judiciary; he and his buddies from his rebel group (NPFL) command the leadership and membership of the election commission; the President personal notorious security forces operate outside of the national security structure; the national military and security forces are a group of doped driven child-soldiers from the wars of 1989-1997; the president controls the legislature, suspend members and remove others as he wishes; the President has threatened to impose a State of Emergency (for his own reasons)!
The playing field is engrossed in a senseless rebellion by another group of disgruntled "you know who" Liberians of similar background and character of the Taylor leadership; and the Liberian population is war-weary and sick of any type of war.
Efforts to remove Taylor by force have yielded more blood shed, destruction, displacement of the population, and reigning an atmosphere of uncertainty and psychological disillusionment. Opposition political parties are surviving at the mercy of the President. The Independent press is as independent as the President wishes. To become too independent is a recipe for invasion by stoned security forces. The Liberian Bar Association continues to struggle to maintain a sense of integrity in the midst of chaos. Human Right organizations are themselves struggling to protect themselves against unpaid law-enforcement personnel eager to please 'Dahkpanah Ghankay'.
During the last Six months, the Cost of living Index has shown a dramatic devaluation of the Liberian Dollar by about 25%, with corresponding sky-rocketing inflation. Hyperinflation is an understatement, since civil servants have at most lost their earning power, and the concept of disposable income is an abstract concept where monthly salaries are received in July and December of each year (for July 26 Celebrations and Christmas Holidays). Employment is synonymous to unemployment, since the highest paid civil servant makes USD$12 monthly, but a bag of rice cost USD$21 (a reverse polar exchange).
Let us presume the following scenario: Assuming that elections went ahead as scheduled for 2003, that political parties are allowed to compete and campaign and present their candidates; assuming also that Taylor's NPP losses its majority in the Senate but survives as the majority in the House of Representative; and assuming that President Taylor is defeated by a 14% margin (NPP 38% and the winning political party gets about 52% of votes for the presidency); assuming also that the election is declared free and fair by the independent press. Can it be expected that the in-coming president will survive before inauguration day against the background as outlined above? Would Mr. Taylor accept defeat, and his security forces accept to be out of job, loose their "pepper bush", and abandon the guns that have been their source of power for 13 years?
The Liberian conflict during the Taylor years has always followed an illogical pattern. The logic of Taylor accepting defeat is synonymous to the concept of "concomitance under the Cotonou Three Agreement and the Abuja Accord", both of which the Taylor regime was expected to implement! The legacy of the regime is evident of the illogical pattern of the Liberian conflict.
Another replica of rebellion of the 1990's is doom to fail. To assume that those rebelling in the North will be different from Taylor is a plausible fallacy. Assassination by would be assassins will create an unimaginable chaos among uncontrollable gun-carrying narco-gangsters unforeseen in recent years. Waiting for elections 2003 to defeat Taylor is a paradox to believe that the killings and mayhem of the past fourteen years did not happen. It would be a sophism to also believe that sanctions will bring Taylor to his senses, for him to make a reversal like President Rawlings of Ghana in 1986.
What is the option short of a democratic solution, but with a reasonable risk of altering the course of destruction on which our nation has since embarked.
This risk already recognized should be guided by the unwavering initiative of ECOWAS (as in the case of ECOMOG), or by the U.N. as in the case of UNAMSIL in Sierra Leone; This alternative cannot be external, nor exported from the fringes of our country. This alternative must represent a domestic content very necessary and adequately capable of undertaking initiative, regaining control, establishing law and order, resembling some sense of credibility, and must possess some degree of exposure, training and originality.
Is this alternative available. Indeed, it is available. The alternative lies with those who initiated this rebellion in 1989, made the ultimate sacrifice, saw friends killed simply because of suspicion, lost our dignity along the way, saw mothers, and sisters ganged raped, fathers and brothers killed and left to die at unknown check points. We are still within the country, but outside the helm of political power.