Liberian Dictator Sets the Stage for His Downfall

By Winsley S. Nanka

The Perspective
Atlanta, Georgia

December 30, 2002

The human rights abusing kleptocratic Liberian ruler, Charles G. Taylor, is setting the stage for a political showdown with exile Liberian politicians in 2003. The outcome of this showdown may determine the fate of the Liberian ruler and the direction Liberia takes in 2003 and thereafter.

If Mr. Taylor carries out his threat to invoke Article 52, section c of the Liberian constitution, this may throw the 2003 Liberian presidential elections into Mr. Taylor's favor. Article 52, section c states that any one seeking the presidency of Liberia must be "resident in the Republic of Liberia 10 years prior to his (or her) election provided the president and the vice president shall not come from the same county."

The immediate victims of Mr. Taylor’s invocation of Article 52, section c would be George Klay Kieh Jr, presidential aspirant for the New Deal Movement; Charles Walker Brumskine, presidential aspirant for the Liberia Unification Party; and Marcus Dahn, presidential aspirant for the United Peoples Party. Others presidential aspirants that may be affected are Joseph Korto and Harry A. Greaves Jr. presidential aspirants for the Liberia Action Party and Ellen Sirleaf of the Unity Party, among others.

Mr. Taylor is being disingenuous by threatening exile politicians with the invocation of Article 52, section c of the Liberian constitution. According to some of the framers of the 1984 Liberian constitution contacted for this article, the intent of Article 52, section c was not for a ruthless human rights abusing dictator to force Liberians into exile and then use the clause to exclude them from the political process.

According to some of the framers of the Liberian constitution, the intent of the clause was for Liberians contesting the presidency to be resident of Liberia for at least 10 years in order to develop a thorough understanding of the social economic development needs of the Liberian people. Furthermore, the framers of the Liberian constitution did not want for presidential contenders to show up every five years for the elections and thereafter, fly right back to their adopted countries without showing any commitment to the Republic of Liberia. Many countries around the world have constitutional requirements for the presidency. For example, the United States of America has a clause in its constitution that allows only natural born Americans to be President of the United States.

According to some of the framers of the 1984 constitution, Article 52, section c was inserted into the Liberian constitution assuming a stable political environment. Therefore, Mr. Taylor cannot invoke the clause to exclude exile politicians. The exile politicians are abroad mainly because of the harrassment, intimidation and other acts of violence perpetrated against their persons by Mr. Taylor and his criminal gang in Monrovia.

Mr. Taylor however, is not the first Liberian ruler to use exclusionary tactics to hang onto power. In 1980, Liberia's 18th president, William Richard Tolbert, Jr. fearing the popularity of the Progressive Peoples Party of Baccus Mathews, banned the Party and threw the leadership in jail. The political repression by the Tolbert regime resulted into the 1980 military coup that brought General Samuel K. Doe to power.

In 1985, dictator Samuel K. Doe fearing defeat by Gabriel Baccus Mathews' United Peoples Party and the Liberian Peoples Party banned the two parties for alleged indulgence in foreign ideology. An apparent reference to the parties alleged left leaning pronouncements. Liberians however, circumvented General Doe's strategy by overwhelmingly voting for Jackson Fiah Doe of the Liberia Action Party. General Doe rigged the presidential election and was declared the winner by an illegitimate 50-man committee.

Exile politicians may have a slim hope if they think that they can seek a legal redress through the court system of Liberia to resolve their exclusions from the political process by the Liberian dictator, Charles G. Taylor. The Liberian court system is not historically known for its independence from the executive branch of government Moreover, the current Supreme Court of Liberia is reportedly stacked with Mr. Taylor's loyalists.

If history serves as any guide for Liberians, this latest act by Mr. Taylor may signal the beginning of the end of Mr. Taylor and his regime. William Richard Tolbert's suppression of political dissidents led to his overthrow in 1980. General Samuel Doe banning of political parties and the rigging of the 1985 elections led to Charles G. Taylor's 1989 invasion that subsequently brought down his regime. Charles G. Taylor's exclusion of exile politicians from the political process may result into his removal from power by Liberians or a third force unknown to Liberians.

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