With the increase in tribal endorsements of political party leaders for the 2017 presidential and legislative elections, a professor at the Kofi Annan Institute for Conflict Transformation at the University of Liberia (UL) has advised Liberians that the practice is not good to sustain peace and security as well as protecting the country’s emerging democracy.
“This trend is one of the early warning signs of political crisis, and it is wrong; and it must be addressed in time,” Professor T. Debey Sayndee observed, adding, “our conflict map has shown that tribal support to political parties, youth marginalization, ritualistic killings are some of the potential issues for war in Liberia. It is bad for our country, it stifles democracy, promotes insecurity and is bad for our children and their future.”
Sayndee sounded the warning recently when he served as a keynote speaker at the opening of a two-day multi-stakeholders dialogue on peaceful elections in Liberia-2017, organized by the Rights and Rice Foundation, a local advocacy group. The dialogue was held under the theme: “How can key actors, including the Government of Liberia, Civil Society Organizations (CSOs), religious groups, leaders of political parties, and development partners ensure a peaceful 2017 Elections in Liberia?” The dialogue was also intended for the stakeholders to discuss means by which they will contribute to sustain Liberia’s emerging democracy and consolidate peace in the country.
Ethnicity played a major role in Liberia’s 14-year civil war and is arguably one of the important causes of conflict as compared to land disputes, Professor Sayndee emphasized.
The 14-year war was believed to have claimed the lives of more than two hundred fifty thousand (250,000) Liberians and others. According to him, in the past, tribal peoples made agreements and respected them, “even if those agreements caused them to shed their own blood to keep their promises,” although he did not give any specific examples of such past agreements.
“How did our people support political parties? Do they understand the value of tribal groups? What does it mean for tribal support to political parties? And those who are engaging into that endorsement, do they understand the culture of our people?” Sayndee wondered. “While the path to ethnic orientation of parties is gradually entering into our politics,” the professor advised, “as we head to the presidential and legislative elections, we must not lose sight of a country that is for all Liberians, and to ensure a united and peaceful country that can stand the test of peace, unity and democracy.”
Political parties should be genuine organizations and vehicles for influencing Government’s policy and development agenda, but they are fast turning into tribal enclaves, he said. “Be aware that we are busily building tribal groupings and beating up ethnic support,” the professor noted.