In the wake of legal action taken by the Collaborating Political Parties(CPP) seeking to have the Supreme Court enforce its own decision mandating the National Elections Commission(NEC) to clean-up the Voters Roll prior to the holding of the December 8 elections, NEC has announced the arrival in country of a delegation from the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) to assist NEC in the clean-up of the Voters Roll.
While the offer of assistance to clean-up the Voters’ Roll(VR) is commendable, this was done apparently absent the involvement of the political parties as would normally be expected. Questions are being asked, therefore, and rightly so, whether political parties were involved in decisions leading to the arrival of the ECOWAS experts to assist in the clean-up of the VR.
Compounding the task is the fact that the compromised VR is due ot the very poor handling of the Voters’ Roll Update (VRU) which has resulted in multiple registrations, cross border registration of foreign nationals and a host of other irregularities that have served to inflame passions and heighten tensions in the country.
It can be recalled that during the 2017 elections, a team of experts from ECOWAS was invited to assist in the clean-up of the VR. Admittedly, the team did not, however, achieve the desired results.
That may have prompted the political parties to seek redress at the Supreme Court, challenging the results of the first round of the 2017 elections, based on claims that the results were compromised by a flawed VR.
The Supreme Court concurred but ruled that the fraud committed was not of sufficient magnitude to have influenced the outcome of the elections. The Court nevertheless mandated the NEC to conduct a clean-up of the VR prior to the conduct of the run-off elections.
That mandate was never carried out and probably would have remained so had the CPP not taken the matter to the Supreme Court seeking to have the Court enforce its own mandate.
To their consternation, Justice-in-Chambers Sie Nyene Yuoh refused to even grant the parties a hearing for unexplained reasons that defy understanding.
Public speculations suggest that this could have been due to either fear of losing their jobs or fear of retribution.
The serial and extra-judicial killing of LRA auditors simply for serving their country by performing their duties with diligence and professionalism may have rung bells of alarm that any public service official could fall victim simply for doing their jobs.
With less than 40 days left to the holding of the December 8 elections, it remains questionable whether the ECOWAS team will be able to accomplish any substantive results considered against the background of previous experience from the 2017 elections.
It is indeed clear that, given the above, the ECOWAS team will not accomplish much, given the very limited available timeframe between now and the December 8 elections.
But questions are being asked about the decision allegedly taken by the ECOWAS Ambassador without consulting the political parties, which is dangerously disingenuous.
His action appears reminiscent to that of former Nigerian foreign minister, Chief Tom Ikimi who had the tendency to jet into Liberia to meet with civil society representatives where he would rain invectives threatening brimstone and fire should they not toe his line which, in most cases, represented the viewpoints of then rebel leader, Charles Taylor. His true intentions were revealed when served as chief guest of honor at Taylor’s wedding to then Ms. Jewel Howard in 1997 in Gbarnga.
Fast forward to 2020, here comes the ECOWAS Ambassador bringing in a team of experts from ECOWAS to clean-up the Voters’ Roll(VR) without consulting the political parties in the same style and fashion as that of former Nigerian foreign minister Tom Ikimi.
How does he expect to foster trust between his office and that of the political opposition when his actions have tended to undermine whatever trust and confidence exists or had previously existed between his office and that of the opposition?
Further, if the ECOWAS Ambassador did or does have honorable intentions, why did he wait until virtually the eleventh hour before offering to assist the NEC with a team of experts to assist in the clean-up of the VR?
Does he really expect that this hteam will be able to accomplish the task within this very short timeframe?
Did he take into consideration the failed initiatives undertaken by ECOWAS in 2017 to clean-up the VR or was he merely showboating to impress that he/his office was actually on top of things?
Is the ECOWAS Ambassador cognizant of the growing political tension arising from the corrupt handling of the Voter Roll Update process?
He must be careful not to raise false hopes or create a false impression that the VR can and will be cleaned-up prior to December 8, 2020, except of course he is playing games, which we sincerely hope is not the case.
As the election date draws closer, campaigning has apparently swung into full gear, although the campaign period has not yet been declared officially open.
Meanwhile the Code of Conduct (CoC) for public officials is, according to media reports, being trashed by public officials from the highest level.
Minister of State, Nathaniel McGill speaking to the media publicly questioned the motives of those calling for public officials to resign their posts before contesting elections.
He declared that since the CoC was violated during the tenure of President Sirleaf without repercussions and, therefore, the same should hold in this case.
What the Minister apparently forgot to remember is the fact that President Sirleaf declared and published a list of her assets while President Weah has yet to do the same.
In fact, he has actively pushed back against calls for him to do so. His justification is that it will expose his family to danger.
Squarely put, Liberia is headed for crises and that false steps being undertaken by the ECOWAS Ambassador as concerns the VR clean-up should be red flagged or brought to a halt.
One key point to remember is that the legitimacy of this government will undoubtedly be called into question when the tenure of 15 senators expire shortly.