President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf has said that Liberia’s democracy is under intense assault as the country has been embroiled in a political impasse, the end of which is gradually becoming complicated and very unpredictable.
The President said democracy is only as strong as its weakest link, and at this moment, “our democracy is under assault, our country’s reputation is under assault, our economy is under stress.”
President Sirleaf’s comments appear to taunt opposition Liberty Party (LP) of Cllr. Charles Walker Brumskine and three other allied parties’ quest to seek legal redress for alleged gross irregularities and frauds that they claimed have marred the October 10 presidential and legislative polls.
President Sirleaf’s tenure comes to an end early next year after two 6-year terms. However, the final round of polls that should have revealed her successor is being delayed due to the allied parties’ quest for legal redress. It is a political stalemate—which means the President’s much-anticipated dream of becoming the first elected head of state to hand power over to another democratically elected head of state is under immense threat.
In President Sirleaf’s nationwide address yesterday, she said “We politicians must do better. Our people went the distance. We achieved 73 percent voters’ turnout, demonstrating confidence in our country and electoral process. Historians will look back at this time and judge us by how we conduct ourselves in this critical moment in time.”
But the LP and its three collaborating parties, including President Sirleaf’s own ruling party (UP), who are seeking redress for the “massive irregularities in the elections,” have also accused her of interfering or influencing the outcomes of the elections in favor of a certain candidate.
Their accusation, they said, is based on some shady moves that the President has been making. An October 29 statement endorsed by the UP, LP and ALP made reference to a meeting the President convened with the National Elections Commissioners and magistrates from across the country at her private home.
The statement blasted the President for her alleged role(s) played in the “fraudulent” elections. “We are concerned about what is being considered as a ploy to create instability in Liberia. If the President was interested peacefully in the process she should have consulted political parties instead of inviting election magistrates and Chairman Korkoya,” the statement said.
They accused her of showing greed “in its most callous form” with the “intent of disrupting the fragile peace of Liberia,” which is supported by first-round results brought by other parties before the country’s election commission.
The office of the President, in a response, denied all of the accusations. “The office of the president wishes to state unequivocally that these allegations are completely baseless and an unfortunate attempt by agent provocateurs to undermine Liberia’s democratic process,” Presidential Press Secretary, Jerolinmek Piah, who addressed the press conference, said.
He said that all of the president’s meetings with election officials were “consistent with her constitutional role to ensure that the process was supported.”
“These allegations fall into the category of hate speech and inciting language which should be condemned by all peace-loving Liberians,” Piah added.
The President in her address yesterday said Liberian laws and democratic institutions are strong. “They will stand the challenge and they will stand the test of time,” she said.
She, however, noted that these can be strengthened “by demonstrating maturity not abuse our positions or misused the platforms that have been made available to the country by the news media and new technology. We must continue to respect each other, the rule of law, human kindness and decency.”
President Sirleaf noted that allegations, hate speech, and inciteful language, have been defining what should be the proud moment in the country’s history.
One person who has spoken strongly against the enormous threat that the country’s democracy faces, is President Sirleaf’s former Labor Minister, Atty. Samuel Kofi Woods. He said recently in Monrovia that Liberia’s democracy is still vulnerable and constantly threatened by leadership deficits which have plagued the nation.
Atty. Woods said, “After years of elusive peace, tenuous transitional justice (the Truth and Reconciliation process) and cosmetic national reconciliation, our attempt to consolidate our democratic credentials is under threat because we failed to properly reform our institutions.”
Woods warned that Liberia cannot continue to be a problem child in the ECOWAS region and on the African continent. “We must grow up and become responsible adults taking care of each other and building our nation,” he counseled.
However, President Sirleaf is also being accused of complacency, though some believe she instructed one of her office staff, Amos Siebo, who was involved in privately printing Voter Cards out of the jurisdiction of the NEC. He was later arrested by state security but has never been prosecuted.
“We still want to know where a staff of Madam President (Siebo) took the equipment that he was using to fix voter cards and why he was involved in such a clandestine act. We must get answers to these questions,” one of the political leaders said at a meeting in Monrovia yesterday.
“These are some of the means this President was using to influence this electoral process. Why hasn’t Siebo been prosecuted if there were no big hands behind it? They are all complacent because they were the ones using him to do that,” he added.