Editorial: “When Someone Is Helping You to Wash Your Back, Wash Your Front”

The imposition of sanctions by the US Department of the Treasury on three top-ranked government officials has received wide public acclaim. This is in view of widely held and publicly expressed sentiments against corruption in Liberia, especially by public officials. In the view of most people spoken to, the sanctions were long overdue and not far-reaching enough.

Already the rumor mill has swung into full gear with suggestions that at least 40 more individuals are to be sanctioned in like manner. Whatever the case, and whether true or not, the action taken by the US government should be and is indeed a wake-up call to all Liberians, especially the political class, to awaken from their slumber and embrace the challenges as theirs and not those of the United States of America.

This is in view of the fact that with elections, both general and Presidential a mere 13 months away, political parties appear to have lost focus on the exigency of creating a level playing field for elections. 

Only recently, the Senate passed a Bill that, for all purposes, betrays a hitherto concealed intent to manipulate the elections results at the 2023 polls. The Bill, which has been sent to the House of Representatives for concurrence, seeks to have all 15 County Elections Magistrates resign their positions and reapply if interested. 

As of yet political parties, whether acting jointly or severally, have so far not publicly responded to this development. They appear to have lost sight of the fact that political parties including the ruling CDC are the major stakeholders in the electoral process, meaning that they must be consulted on electoral matters. 

But from all indications, political parties appear to have instead abandoned their fiduciary responsibilities to the good wishes of the ruling party, whatever such may be, according to a political analyst. The media too, as self-acclaimed watchdogs of society are also failing in their fiduciary responsibilities filling their pages and airways discussing personalities rather than the real issues.

Currently, advanced preparations are underway for the conduct of the national census. Following the release of census results, the National Legislature on the basis of those results is required to set a population threshold to enable the demarcation and delimitation of constituencies as required by the Constitution Article 80 c, d & e: 

c. Every Liberian citizen shall have the right to be registered in a constituency, and to vote in public elections only in the constituency where registered, either in person or by absentee ballot; provided that such citizen shall have the right to change his voting constituency as may be prescribed by the Legislature. 

d. Each constituency shall have an approximately equal population of 20,000 or a such number of citizens as the legislature shall prescribe in keeping with population growth and movements as revealed by a national census; provided that the total number of electoral constituencies in the Republic shall not exceed one hundred. 

e. Immediately following a national census and before the next election, the Elections Commission shall reapportion the constituencies in accordance with the new population figures so that every constituency shall have as close to the same population as possible; provided, however, that a constituency must be solely within a county.

What this means is that the use of Electoral Districts will come to an end. More to that, some Legislators could even lose their seats or perhaps, better still, increased representation for Counties like Lofa, Bong, Margibi, Nimba, Montserrado, and Grand Bassa.

Whether all such changes will come along with pains is self-evident. This is because, like before, Legislators, members of the House of Representatives especially, may likely not pass a threshold Bill if its passage bears implications for their incumbency.

Aside from the above concerns, there is the issue of the Voters Registry (VR) which, to the best of publicly available information, remains compromised and has never been cleaned-up since the 2017 Supreme Court mandate. It is already public knowledge that the head of the National ID Card Registry has allegedly been  indiscriminately issuing National ID cards to just about anyone including foreigners with no questions asked. 

So far, political parties appear to be unconcerned about such troubling concerns, although there is more than ample evidence from history showing the dangerous implications associated with rigged or undesired election results.

Perhaps the 1985 abortive Quiwonkpa invasion and its aftermath of bloody reprisals, which was a major contributory factor to the outbreak of civil war in 1990, is too far back in history — too far back for the current generation of youth to appreciate the dangers associated with the passage of a law by the Senate calling for the resignation of County Elections Magistrates.

Further, to the above is the issue of the Electoral Management Board, the composition of which is made up of alleged compromised individuals some of whom are known to have affiliations with the ruling party. The ruling party is not the single player or the most important player and therefore cannot be the sole determinant of decisions affecting the conduct of electoral matters in Liberia.

For example, despite the indictment of the Chairperson of the Elections Commission by the Liberia Anti-Corruption Commission(LACC) on corruption charges, she has since remained fixed in her position. Just why the political parties have not become sufficiently seized of the matter is indeed bewildering to most observers. They should not wait for rigged election results and then go running to the US Embassy in protest. Then it will be too late. 

Given the current outlook, trouble looms ahead if our political leaders remain asleep. “When someone is helping you to wash your back, wash your front” is an old adage. There is so much the Americans can do for us and no more.