Liberians, over the last thirty plus years, have developed a history of ultimately throwing off the shackles of oppression beginning with the overthrow of the Grand Old True Whig Party, the fascist military dictator Samuel Doe and more recently the rabid warmonger dictator President Charles Taylor.
All these change processes have however been attended by violence which, as we all know, has thrown the country far back into the ages from which recovery has been painfully slow. And as is now commonly acknowledged, the power struggle had been at the heart of the nearly fifteen (15) years of violent conflict in Liberia.
We recall the 1985 elections and its bloody aftermath following the abortive Quiwonkpa invasion attempt only a month after the Elections Commission declared incumbent military strongman Doe as winner of the elections although virtually the entire nation was aware that the elections results had been stolen.
Rather than taking their case to Court, some aggrieved parties resorted to the use of violence to effect regime change. Their failed attempt to seize power by force of arms led to bloody reprisals mainly against ethnic Mano and Gio elements from Nimba County, thus setting up a chain of tragic events which eventually led the nation down the path to civil war.
After nearly fifteen (15) years of armed conflict a peace was finally brokered in 1996, followed by elections in 1997 that saw the emergence of Charles Taylor as President. Taylor came to power on a solemn pledge to make Liberia a country of laws and not of men. However, under Taylor, lawlessness overtook the land and barely three (3) years later the country had relapsed into violent conflict, which required once again the intervention of the international community.
Throughout this period of crises, the Constitution of the Republic of Liberia, although embedded with adequate provisions for the devolution and transfer of power, was sidestepped in the name of expediency with the suspension of certain provisions.
The elections of Liberia’s Ellen Johnson Sirleaf as Africa’s first female President signaled the country’s return to the use of the Constitution, including all provisions suspended under the 2003 Accra Comprehensive Peace Agreement.
The holding of two successive and successful elections since 2005 and the full use of the Constitution as the organic law of the land since then, has provided Liberians the opportunity and freedom to freely exercise their rights guaranteed under the Constitution.
Important amongst those rights guaranteed by the Constitution is the right to freely elect or remove their leaders and through the process of democratic elections conducted in a free, fair, transparent and unfettered process.
The Constitution also provides avenues/processes in Article 83 c for remedial action by any aggrieved party; and in Article 64, it makes adequate provisions for the devolution of power and nowhere does it make any reference to an interim arrangement along the lines we have experienced in the search for peace.
And there is no provision whatsoever in the Constitution that makes way for the intervention of a Traditional Council of Chiefs in settling electoral disputes and dispensing legal challenges to elections results as is now being insinuated and suggested in certain quarters.
While we remain cognizant of the fact that our Judiciary is plagued with many ills, yet one can never dismiss its relevance as a necessary guarantor of the rights of every Liberian and everyone residing within its borders. And it includes the right of political parties and individuals to freely challenge elections results to their logical conclusion.
In this regard, we make a special appeal to all Liberians to continue to remain steadfast, calm, and peaceful and allow the legal process to proceed to its logical conclusion. We also make this appeal to our foreign friends to bear with us in these moments of difficulties.
Although the process may appear time consuming, yet we remain convinced that the cost of waiting for the legal process to reach logical conclusion far outweighs the costs of conflict and war, especially considering the experience of our bloody conflict and the search for peace, based on a highly flawed formula of awarding state power to the biggest gun.
Finally we must warn here of the dangers of proceeding along similar lines by pandering to base sentiments parroted by individuals posturing as winners of an election in which no more than 38 percent of the total vote was garnered by any of the contesting parties, which falls far short of the 50 percent plus 1 spelled out in the Constitution.