There remains 160 days from today to the much talked about historical presidential and legislative elections that many Liberians believe would change the destiny of the country.
The day, October 10, will determine eventual changes in the body politic of the country. Though there is much talk about the reality of the ‘controversial’ Code of Conduct, many Liberians interviewed are hopeful that there will be a way out for the country to move in unity.
“The current progress is irreversible,” stated Ms. Saviour Tweh, a student of a university in Monrovia, “we cannot afford to let things divide us.” Hence many Liberians recognize the fact that whatever is done in the process to ensure transparency to the next government must be done with consistency of purpose, geared at greater unity for Liberia.
Though some of the people interviewed said much has not been done in the last 12 years of President Sirleaf’s Administration, pointing the slow level of development and the increasing cost of living and the inability to control the rise of the United States’ dollar to the Liberian, such claims have been compared to former President Charles Taylor’s administration where he decided and the business community complied with his decisions as they affected the economic lives of the people. It is the political leader of the Movement for Democratic Change (MOVEE), Dr. Joseph Mills Jones, who said last week during a tour of Bong County, “It is not that nothing was done, but much was not done.” He was making reference to the poor state of development in both the people and the country and even stated that when the Republic of Ghana was gaining independence in 1957, Liberia was 110 years old. “Ghana has left us behind in development and why?” he said, insisting it was because of poor leadership.
Many Liberians, like Dr. Jones, believe that poor administrative strategies have failed the country since independence in 1847, and therefore, “we must stop doing business and begin to put people who have shown by their record that they have the people’s interest at heart.” He said last week in Salala that whenever Liberia is mentioned, people don’t mean trees and rocks but the people, hence Liberians must seek for leaders who have made impacts on their lives.
And though Dr. Jones appears to have a clear-cut agenda or platform for the future, which reflects on his background as an economist, and the financial inclusion policy, which he explored at the Central Bank of Liberia (CBL), many of the political parties have not revealed what they would do differently.
Many have also re-echoed the need to improve on education, infrastructure and ensure in vague terms that County Development and Social Development Funds allotted to counties annually would be used to benefit all. The Alternative National Congress (ANC) of Alexander Cummings has promised good leadership because it has the political will to ‘send corrupt officials to jail’ to defeat corruption. But his offer, among suggestions, is yet to be applauded evidence by statements that seem to indicate he might be affected by the controversial Code of Conduct (CoC), for his role as a member of the BWI Board of Directors of which he did not resign, two years before declaring his intent to run for office.
On the other hand, All Liberia Party’s Benoni Urey, from recent statements is comfortable with the presence of the Code of Conduct and has indicated his unwillingness for any individual or group to recommend any suggestion to minimize the power of the Code of Conduct. Urey, an astute farmer, is reported to have gained popularity in the leeward counties and believes to be among unidentified frontrunners. Urey did not take it lightly with Governance Commission chairman, Dr. Amos Sawyer, for his recent suggestion for the government to ignore the Code of Conduct.
Both the Liberty Party’s Charles Walker Brumskine and the Coalition of Democratic Change (CDC) see a new day to make a difference. The CDC has recently intensified membership campaigns after a number of defections and the LP has also benefitted from new members, including Musa Bility and vice standard bearer Harrison Kanwea of Nimba County. Criticized for his recent outburst against Vice President Boakai, Brumskine is working slowly but surely toward the objective he sought two elections ago.
In all this, the objective is how to maintain peace and for this there are Liberians who have said that for the country to move forward there must be some justice against certain individuals who contributed to the country’s dark past, and have suggested that unless some of the people are sent to jail, the attainment of peace would be elusive.
But as far as ensuring that some Liberians are held liable for the war, many others seem not to agree that anyone should be tried for the crimes committed during the war, because of arrangements made with the warlords, which ensured the restoration of peace to the country. Howeverk the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, set up after the war, made some recommendations that are yet to be implemented, and others ignored for the sake of peace.
Vice President Joseph N. Boakai, as a sitting second in command, is held with respect, and many are of the opinion that he could easily assume the mantle of leadership from President Sirleaf, though he may be tainted by the “faults” of the current administration. Therefore, to allow him to continue would be to allow the same party to be in power for a third term, reminiscent of the years when Liberia was governed as a one-party state, from 1847-1980.
Though many of the political parties are set for the contest on October 10, there is still the issue of the Code of Conduct (CoC) that was upheld as law by the Supreme Court that seems to indict several politicians, who did not actually resign from their posts, but were later petitioned to join the contest.
The CoC makes references to “anyone with the desire to run for office” and many of those who did not resign and were later petitioned to run have said they did not have the desire to join the race till they were retired from their positions and were petitioned.
The Coalition for Democratic Change (CDC) of Senator George Weah and the All Liberian Party (ALP) of Benoni Urey has called for the CoC to be upheld and have vowed to ensure that the country’s law is rigid and respected.
Already many politicians have made huge investments in the country after National Elections Commission (NEC) qualified their respective parties, and have acquired large followings. Therefore, for any law to make any attempt to deny them the right to contest as mandated by the Constitution of Liberia could be a cause for discord.
Many of those interviewed did not show any sign that they worried about the CoC being the cause for potential instability, but the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) and their international counterparts recently issued a statement indicating how worried they are about the eventual withdrawal of the United Nations Mission in Liberia (UNMIL) forces from Liberia.
With just 160 days to elections, what seems to be a key distraction is the claim that NEC chairman Cllr. Jerome Korkoya holds United States citizenship for which the National Democratic Coalition (NDC) recently threatened to go to court to remove him from the position.
In any event, the government, the Supreme Court and the people of Liberia would have to determine what laws to uphold to sustain peace in a country that for 14 years saw many deaths and an insidious disease (Ebola) that killed over 4,000 others.