Liberia and Zimbabwe: Uneven Parallels at the Same Crossroads?

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Recent developments in Zimbabwe where President Robert has held sway since independence from Britain in 1980, have left tongues wagging around here about the close parallels between what is obtaining in Zimbabwe and ongoing developments in Liberia. On the one hand you have a nonagenarian who had been in power for close to four decades and who, for all intents and purposes, was hellbent on handpicking his wife as his successor despite heady opposition from his party’s rank and file.

In Liberia, on the other hand, you have an near-octogenarian who has been in power for little over a decade and who, for all intents and purposes, also appears hellbent on handpicking her successor, despite heady opposition from her party ranks. In the case of Zimbabwe, and unlike the case of Liberia, there was/is no love lost between Mugabe and his ZANU PF party, while in Liberia, President Sirleaf is estranged from her Unity party.

And unlike Liberia, Zimbabwe has a strong, disciplined military built around the nucleus of a war hardened guerrilla army with a strong ideological bent, which can probably explain why, despite crippling economic sanctions imposed by Western nations in retaliation for state seizure of large white-owned farms, Mugabe remained unshakeable until lately when it appeared that he had fallen, allegedly into the orbit of his wife’s unwholesome influence.

But unlike Zimbabwe, Liberia has a weak, poorly disciplined and under-strength military with no ideological bent, a fact which analysts say makes it prone to disintegration in the face of any serious challenge. Moreover, unlike Zimbabwe whose literacy rate is the highest in Africa, Liberia’s literacy rate ranks among the lowest in Africa and the world. Furthermore, unlike Zimbabwe, whose leader, Robert Mugabe is loathed by western governments, but somehow generally revered by the Zimbabwean people for his distinguished role in the Liberation struggle against white minority rule, Liberia’s leader Ellen Sirleaf enjoys wide popularity abroad but is generally loathed at home for her policies of exclusion, nepotistic practices and displayed indifference to runaway corruption.

Both individuals have now reached the crossroads, with President Mugabe having been shown the door by his military, although with great respect for his dignity, while President Sirleaf lingers on, limping to the end of her term of office in less than two months, but embattled as she desperately seeks to install a chosen successor. In the case of Liberia, where electoral disputes are being resolved through the judicial process, fears and concerns about a likelihood of a return to civil war are being stoked deliberately in an apparent attempt to subvert the judicial process in obeisance to dictates from an octogenarian most reluctant to leave office like her nonagenarian counterpart in Zimbabwe.

And already it is being suggested in certain quarters that the Liberian military, as in the case of Zimbabwe, should intervene should the current impasse linger much longer. But the likelihood of such a scenario unfolding appears remote for now with the presence in country of a little over two thousand Nigerian troops who could act to counterfoil any such contemplated action should the situation arise.

But on the other hand with the current drumbeat and choruses of charged statements with the latest coming from such sources as the American Embassy in Monrovia placing blame not on NEC for its poor handling and management of the elections process, but at the feet of those parties challenging the fraudulent results, the military could be primed and goaded into adventurist action to the detriment of our nascent democracy.

We recall the events of the aftermath of the 2011 elections when security officers opened fire on protesting CDC elements, following pronouncements by President Sirleaf that their call for a boycott posed a threat to democracy; and we all bore witness to what happened afterwards. This is why the pursuit of the legal option to settle elections disputes becomes all the more important; and a word to our friends and “partners in progress” to refrain from making statements that tend to undermine the judicial process as well as the independence and integrity of our Judiciary. So let the Courts decide!

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