By E. C. B. Jones, Jr.
With the second round of elections postponed pending investigations into complaints filed by the two runners up; with rumours that ECOWAS is contemplating proposing a two (2) year transitional government, out of fear that a continuance of the electoral process could lead to violence; with the country split between (a) those who feel that the will of the voters should prevail, (b) those who feel that the leading candidate of the first round may not be the right choice and should not be allowed to assume power; and (c) those who feel that the announced results do not reflect the will of the voters, there is no doubt that we stand at a very difficult crossroads.
Choosing the right path to follow requires the wisdom of our elders, the intervention of our best political minds – young and old and the neutral mediation of our neighbours; and definitely God’s blessings and guidance.
The trend of events from October 10 to now suggests that (a) we could pursue a course that leads us to a smooth transition through a legitimate process, and obtain a legitimate government; or (b) we could pursue a course that lead us down the other road where we obtain a government that is not legitimate.
The first path seems preferable to law abiding Liberians; but may require the acceptance of the electoral process and the results by the Liberian people and especially by the losing parties.
The second path may seem expedient, as someone told me “ to preserve the respect of Liberia by the International Community and to ensure efficient governance going forward”, but good governance requires National Stability, which in turn requires a reasonable level of acceptance of the government in power by the Liberian people – not by the international community. In deed we are at a crossroads and with difficult choices.
In my view, the first goals that all Liberians must work towards, are (1) to maintain peace and (2) to maintain National Stability going forward. I am sure all Liberians and all our international friends will agree with this.
This being the case, let me remind us all, Liberians, Sister Nations and friends of Liberia, that National Stability is a function of two major variables, namely (1) the legitimacy of the government- the level of acceptance of the government by the Liberian people; and (2) the effectiveness of that government in the management of the affairs of the State. At the onset, legitimacy is measured by free and fair elections; and there is no way to measure the effectiveness of a government until it assumes power and performs for a period.
Unfortunately, this is a downside of democracy; especially in developing countries and emerging democracies with weak institutions and with laws fashioned after those of developed nations with tested and matured democracies. Perhaps, Liberia needs electoral reform; but it seems risky to be changing the rules or the referees in the middle of the game.
Yet all nations should respect their respective constitutions and laws; if not, they tend to end up being a “failed state”.
A State, by my working definition in this case, is (1) a defined grouping of people (2) with a defined territory they consider their “homeland” or “country” (3) with a set of laws – including a Constitution – that all the people should respect, and (4) with a government that the people accept and respect.
Accordingly, when a situation arises where the people of a country fail to accept and respect their laws and especially their constitution; and do so for a reasonably prolonged period, that country can be classified as a “Failed State”. We Liberians in recent times have exhibited blatant disrespect for our government; but since 1997 we have largely respected our laws by which our governments come to power and maintain power.
We have accepted the results announced by our elections commission as reflecting the will of the Liberian voters and people; and we have accepted and respected the governments brought to power by those elections; except in one case of real or perceived considerable failure of the government in the management of the affairs of the State. Even then, it took international interventions – right or wrong – to remove that government from power.
My appeal to all Liberians is (1) let’s continue to respect our laws- especially at this crossroads – let’s respect our Constitution, our Elections Laws and our justice system; and (2) let’s accept and respect the government that will be brought to power through our constitutional and legal processes.
The possibility of negotiated settlements notwithstanding, let us remember that any attempt to ignore and disregard our laws and to disrespect our government could lead us down the wrong path.
Let us remember that election is the only real means by which we can actualise our democracy. The notion of “a government of the people, by the people and for the people” would be meaningless; and civics we teach in our schools that “government” is a group of citizens employed by the people to manage the affairs of the State, would be a big lie if the people of Liberia are not allowed to elect and thereby “employ” our government to run the affairs of the State of Liberia.
There is no doubt that we are at a crossroads.
Let us think well, consult well, and analyse and reflect well on our past experiences, before we choose which path to pursue.
Please Share this with as many persons as you can. Let us start a national dialogue on these issues. Let us not just sit and wait for people who may not know or appreciate our society, our politics or our culture; and who do not share our problems to come in and decide for us, which path we follow at this critical crossroads in our nation’s journey from darkness towards the light.
Liberia needs your “Word”, to save its soul. Don’t just sit there, share your views!!!!!