With barely 466 days to the holding of the 2017 elections, a prominent Liberian lawyer has cautioned his compatriots to guard against repeating history, highlighting Liberia’s infamous entry in the Guiness Book of Records for having had “the most fraudulent election in world history.”
Cllr. Tiawan Saye Gongloe, a rights activist, said this kind of practice often leads to chaos and therefore, Liberians must avoid a repeat.
He made the observation on Sunday when he spoke at a program marking Ricks Institute’s closing convocation where 47 students who completed the 12th grade were honored by the administration.
Cllr. Gongloe spoke on the topic: “Keeping the Promise of Maintaining Peace in Liberia: An Obligation of All Liberians.”
Gongloe recalled how Liberia’s fifth President Edward James Roye was brutally overthrown in 1871 for failure of the political establishment at the time to keep the promise of upholding the law, “because they were all driven by the greed for power.”
He said President Roye attempted to illegally extend his term of administration, betraying the promise he made in his oath of office that he would uphold, defend and promote the Constitution and statutory laws of Liberia.
“For so doing,” Gongloe said, “some politicians, some of who were lawmakers, opposed Roye and illegally removed him from office by issuing a manifesto along with the use of non-government armed militia. They, too, like President Roye, betrayed the promise of respecting the
Constitution and statutory laws of Liberia.”
“More disappointingly,” Gongloe told the gathering, “in 1927, President Charles Dunbar King manipulated the electoral process to illegally retain power. In the presidential election between King of the True Whig Party and Thomas J. R. Faulkner of the People’s Party, the result was a victory for King, who was re-elected for a third term after defeating Faulkner.
“King obtained 243,000 votes, while Faulkner got 9,000 votes, when the total number of registered voters in that election was only 15,000. He, too, betrayed the promise of upholding the law and morally governing our country. He was a beneficiary of a corrupt electoral process introduced and managed by him,” the former Labor Minister said.
According to him, the 1927 election is still recorded in the Guinness Book of Records as the most fraudulent election in world history. “The vote was referred to as ‘the most rigged ever,’ and also made it into the Guinness Book of Records as ‘the most fraudulent ever,” Cllr. Gongloe told the gathering.
He said following the election, Faulkner accused members of the True Whig Party government of using slave labor at home and selling slaves to the Spanish colony of Fernando Po, as well as involving the Army in the process. Despite the government’s denials and a refusal to cooperate, the League of Nations established the “International Commission of Inquiry into the Existence of Slavery and Forced Labor in Liberia” under the chairmanship of British jurist Cuthbert Christy to determine the extent of the problem. American President Herbert Hoover briefly suspended relations to press Monrovia into compliance.
King and his vice president were later forced to resign.
Another example of a rigged election, according to Gongloe, was recorded in 1987 when the government under then military Junta leader Samuel K. Doe, who headed the self-established National Democratic Party of Liberia, rigged the election against the opposition, headed by Jackson
Fiah Doe, who was supported by the Liberia Action Party.
He said although the 1847 Constitution of Liberia provided for the equal rights of all citizens, it was not until 1904 that the indigenous people were recognized as citizens of Liberia and it was not until 1946 that the indigenous, including the women, were allowed to vote and be voted for in election for public offices.
This, he said, was another betrayal of the promise contained in the Constitution of 1847, that citizens would be treated equally.