Towards Liberia's 2003 Elections

By J. Rodney Chesson

The Perspective

October 29, 2001

Is it so hard for many of us to understand that Liberia is our only heritage and hope for a better future?

For those of us who are here and have been fortunate to have traveled to various parts of the Western world, we need to look around us and see how the people in these places have been able to live together, despite their differences, and have and still are developing their surroundings. You cannot imagine how I felt after coming to this country and then being blessed to travel to various places in Europe; to see how they beautify their surroundings and keep them clean. Streams of tears came rolling down my cheeks as I thought of how many of our educated and enlightened people have and still are traveling to these nations to live and learn. Yet they return to Liberia and live what some would consider the good lifestyle while our country remains backward and underdeveloped by the standards of those same nations.

Being a realist, though, I knew that there was no need to look back into our distant or near past to point a finger or fingers at any wrongdoer(s). As I learned and compared Liberia's condition with other Westernized African and Caribbean nations, I saw the same problems. Since this was and is our legacy, I found it a moot point playing the ''who done it'' game. As I saw and still see it, there was/are serious problems in Liberia that need workable and speedy solutions.

The civil war that began in 1990 was no surprise to many Liberians. I can remember overhearing elderly Liberians, while in my early teens, secretly speaking about a civil war erupting at the death of President Tubman died. Tubman was seen as the only unifying force in the nation - uniting not only the indigenous and Congo Liberians but also opposing factions in each group. Although it took nearly two decades for a civil war to begin, it eventually arrived.

For too long now the growth and development of Liberia has remain stagnant, with little development confined to a few sectors of the country, while some local (towns, cities, counties) and many national officials enrich themselves with the wealth and resources of the nation. As Liberians begin to focus on the 2003 national election and electing a president who will ensure the progress and advancement of Liberia, and the rights and liberties of all Liberians, the election of local officials should be given the same kind of significance or attention as the national election. Not only should we look and hope for good and honest qualities or character in whoever is elected president, but the same qualities or character should be expected of all elected local and national officials. Without the silence, concurrence or cooperation of local leaders, it would be difficult for national leaders to squander and enrich themselves with the nation's wealth.

Requiring that local officials be held to the same standards of honesty, integrity, and patriotism as national officials will probably achieve three things:

1. It will not only raise the level of respectability and dignity of local government positions, but also encourage more educated, skilled, and/or professional Liberians will seek those positions.

2. It will ensure that local leaders have the knowledge and/or insight to help ensure that their communities benefit from national development, education, and/or socialization programs. Development and employment opportunities in the various counties will entice Liberians from those counties to return and help in its development processes and, consequently, the overall growth and development of Liberia.

3 Also, by being elected and serving in local government positions will provide young and future national leaders with opportunities to enhance their knowledge of governmental functions, public service experiences and competence.

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