Liberia — A Conundrum in Study?

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Liberia, it is often said, is a conundrum in study. The behavior of its political actors never ceases to amaze anyone any longer. That Liberia is in crisis is an understatement. 

This is a country whose economy is dangerously perched at the brink of disaster. Its political superstructure appears to be falling apart at its seams as evidenced in several instances of incoherent policy pronouncements and actions and, if left uncorrected, it could come crashing down under its own weight.

Here for instance is the Deputy Governor of the Central Bank of Liberia (CBL), lamenting what he says is excess liquidity as if he is saying anything new. The Liberian people were once told that excess liquidity was a serious problem affecting the Liberian economy. 

To address this, the government decided to print new Liberian banknotes and withdraw from circulation mutilated banknotes, otherwise referred to as Legacy notes. 

The banknotes were printed but the Legacy notes were never withdrawn and remain in circulation till present. This was during the reign of President Sirleaf. Under the George Weah Presidency, Liberians were once again told the same story of excess liquidity. 

And the answer was to infuse US$30 million into the economy to mop up the excess liquidity including the withdrawal of the mutilated Legacy notes in view of the printing of L$16 billion banknotes.

It is a documented fact the infusion exercise conducted under the watch of Finance Minister Samuel Tweah was characterized by fraud and so was the intended mop-up exercise, leaving the mutilated Legacy banknotes still in circulation. 

The case of the L$16 billion went to court but nothing came out of it, meaning no one was held to account and likewise was the US$30 million infusion money.

And now the Deputy Governor seeks to convince the public that the cure to our ills lie in the move to digitalization and, once accomplished, the dire economic situation would turn around. 

But the Governor is not saying anything new and, if concerns about transparency and accountability are not addressed, his contemplated move to digitalization will remain nothing more than a pipe dream because the CBL is faced with a crisis of confidence.

But if one were of the impression that the CBL’s poor handling of monetary issues were truly vexing and threatening to take the economy down, pause for a minute and consider just how dangerously close the nation has come to the brink of disaster in view of ongoing developments in the electoral process during this run-up period to the elections in December. 

The messy conduct of what the National Elections Commission (NEC) calls the Voters Roll Update in preparation for the elections is raising huge public concern.

Aside from the massive trucking of voters from one part of the country to another by the various candidates, which is causing stirs especially in local communities, into which these prospective voters are being trucked. Reports are rife of people, believed to be paid, crossing over the border into Liberia to register. This is a recipe for trouble.

Further, cameras being used to photograph people are rented, meaning that owners of those cameras will have access to the NEC database by virtue of their ownership of the cameras being used. This opens up huge possibilities for fake voters registration, akin to that witnessed during the 2017 elections. 

Moreover, as the Chairperson of NEC has revealed, the Mobile Registration process is already running into problems with reports of vehicles laden with Voting materials getting stuck in muddy roads for days. 

Also of concern is the lack of public information about the movement of its Mobile teams, which should be provided to help potential voters access those teams in a timely fashion. 

But the Chairperson is well aware or should be fully aware that Mobile Registration is not the way to go because it was tried, tested and failed during the 2014 elections, held during the dry season. But for strange reasons, she insists it is the way to go.

And then is the issue of the Voters Registry which has still not been clean-up since the 2017 elections and there is not a single indication that NEC has begun the process of cleaning up the VR with elections less than three months away. 

Not forgetting is the fact that a known fraudster, Floyd Sayor, found guilty of manipulating election results when he served as head of the NEC data center during the District 15 elections, thanks allegedly to Senator Varney Sherman, is now a Commissioner overseeing the very process which he fraudulently handled before. 

While it may be too late at this time to reconfigure the National Elections Commission, there is no telling that the NEC, as currently composed, needs to go primarily for reasons of displayed lack competence and well-known partisan ties to the CDC. 

It remains to be seen what input political parties had into their selection and confirmation but the fact that a known fraudster was confirmed by the Senate speaks volumes about the characters of its membership.

Senators knew that Commissioner Floyd Sayor had been found guilty by his own employers of election fraud, yet they chose to confirm him in apparent and gross disregard of the potential and immeasurable harm this individual could wreak on this nation all in the name of a few dollars and partisan loyalty.

From all indications, especially judging by the messy VR update process being witnessed, it is clear that the country is headed for trouble — deep trouble if NEC does not get it right, which does not appear to be the case at this point in time.

The Collaborating Political Parties have expressed their concerns at ongoing developments, and they appear alarmed by what they see going on. NEC Chairman Lansanah should know better and if she does not, she will sure learn the hard way. They know better but they are not doing better today. And tomorrow may very well be too late. 

Such is the conundrum in study that Liberia is!

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