By Kadiker Rex Dahn, MA, M.Ed, PhD
After the bloody overthrow of President William R. Tolbert’s Government, the military junta under the leadership of Master Sergeant Samuel Doe, whether genuinely or mischievously, decided to return Liberia to constitutional rule. The preparation for the return to civilian rule began with the appointment of members of the Revised Draft of the Constitution of Liberia, followed by The Final Draft. Head of State, Samuel Doe, appointed Ambassador Emmett Harmon as the chairman of the Special Election Commission (SECOM) to oversee the 1985 general elections. Stakes were high and the final formidable parties likely to win the election were then Liberia Action Party (LAP) headed by Jackson Fiah Doe of Nimba County, and Samuel Kanyon Doe of the National Democratic Party of Liberia (NDPL) from Grand Gedeh County.
By all indications, Liberians overwhelmingly voted Jackson Doe of LAP. Surprisingly, during the announcement of the results, Emmett Harmon, besieged by soldiers dressed in camouflage uniforms and armed with machine guns was under serious threats. Consequently, he was forced to sway the election in favor of Samuel K. Doe. That was then, but now how about the by-elections of Montserrado County under a constituted government where stakes are similarly high like 1985 with the yearn and enthusiasm to defeat CDC?
We write this article to draw Jerome Kokoya and his Election Commission’s attention not to have a replay of what happened in 1985 between LAP and NDPL as doing so would derail his character, characters of commissioners at the Commission and that of the already struggling government of President George Weah.
We do not want to focus on elections in the past where Jerome Korkoya has presided, but the conduct of these by-elections under review by Korkoya and his Commissioners seems to be marred by flaws, incompetence, and perceived rigging. We said flaws, incompetence and perceived rigging, because Jerome Korkoya as we know is a learned lawyer with experienced commissioners and have conducted elections in the past.
What we do not know is the integrity of Jerome Korkoya and his Commissioners. We know that during past elections, the Commission under Korkoya’s watch planned, budgeted and implemented without much constraint. However, these by-elections in question were scheduled for July 2, and because of constraints as we were told, were postponed to July 8.
A few days to July 8, Korkoya and his Commissioners again postponed the processes indefinitely. We ask, didn’t Korkoya and his Commission know that from July 2-8 was not sufficient time for the elections? Korkoya and his Commission claimed technical and operational problems as causes for the indefinite postponement of the by-elections. We ask, when did this technical and operational problems develop at the Commission?
Did anything cataclysmic happen between July 2-8? To the best of our knowledge, there hasn’t been any national disaster since the deaths of the two lawmakers to warrant postponement under an able leadership. In third world countries, when an election Commission is about to manipulate election results, these are some of the reasons often given. We wonder whether Jerome Korkoya and his Commission will be an exception in this regard?
The Country is not certain whether the by-elections will be held this year. The indefinite postponement of the exercises by Jerome Korkoya and his National Election Commission (NEC) opens a Pandora box, and is clearly a violation of the Liberian Constitution. Article 37 of the Liberian constitution states, “In the event of a vacancy in the Legislature caused by death, resignation, expulsion or otherwise, the presiding officer shall within 30 days notify the Elections Commission thereof. The Election Commission shall not later than 90 days thereafter cause a by-election to be held.”
Here, we notice that a learned lawyer like Jerome Korkoya and team of commissioners are deliberately violating the Constitution of Liberia. The Constitutionally required time for these by-elections has expired. The Liberian Constitution of late has been treated like an outcast, repeatedly disrespected, disregarded and misinterpreted ranging from the unconstitutional impeachment of former Associate Justice Kabineh Ja’neh, the interference and abrupt halting of Cllr. Tiawon Gongloe by the Chief Justice of Liberia, while Gongloe was on the stage and in speech, and currently, Korkoya and his commissioners not adhering to Article 37.
Liberia is in an absolute mess as lawmakers and interpreters broadly undermine the Constitution.
Reports of trucking people to Monrovia
Most often in the world where elections violence has occurred, occur because of cheating and partiality of the Election Commission. Cote D’ Voire, Kenya, Venezuela among others confirms election violence. As we compose this piece, there are unconfirmed reports of trucking of people from various parts of the country by the ruling party to come and vote for their candidates in the pending by-elections.
There are also unconfirmed reports of stalwarts of the CDC meeting with elections commission officials perhaps to design strategy and manipulate the outcome of the elections in favor of the ruling party. It is also alleged that Korkoya has been promised a ministerial position to rig the elections.
Whether these claims are true or not, the manner in which Chairman Korkoya is conducting himself as a referee in this whole process is troubling. His character, as well as those of the Commissioners is at stake if the elections are rigged. Similar behavior of Chairman Emmett Harmon in 1985, which led to the rigging of the election in favor of the ruling establishment is being seen, and its interplay at the current NEC under the watch of Korkoya. It seems to us that if the elections are rigged, the people of Montserrado County will oppose anyone, who will rig the elections, and it also seems to us that they are fully prepared “to fight within the scope of the law.”
Be as it may, with the spider web Chairman Korkoya and his Commissioners have entangled themselves with, members of the opposition block should proceed to the Supreme Court and sue the NEC for the clear violation of Article 37 of the Liberian Constitution. Whether the Supreme Court under the watch of Chief Justice Korkpor will not again give a convoluted interpretation of the Constitution is yet to be seen.
Just as in the Bible, a persistent woman sought justice from a wicked king and finally, the King caved in so probably might be the case with the Supreme Court and the opposition parties. Go to court because Emmett Harmon’s SECOM seems to be at play and a replay in the by-elections in Montserrado County.
About the author: Kadiker Rex Dahn holds two Masters and a PhD in Historical, Philosophical and Social Foundations of Education from the University of Oklahoma. He formerly served as a Deputy Minister of Education and Deputy Director General, National Commission on Higher Education. He is a member of the North America Scholar Consortium, membership with the Highest Honor. Contact: [email protected]