By Kelvin Nyan Suah
Over the past 24 hours, my attention has been drawn to how some Liberians have taken over Facebook with the US Embassy’s statement on Liberia’s elections without understanding the semantic nuances of the statement. It is as a result of the varied interpretations of the statement that I pen this letter to you.
My fellow Liberians, the US Government has said it has confidence in the October elections, which is a good thing for our integrity and reputation. It is, however, imperative for you to note that the mere expression of confidence in our elections by the United States does not equate to a credible process. America is not an authority on credible elections. They have their unique electoral flaws as recently as in 2016, including a national voters’ suppression. In 2000, they ended up in court for vote rigging and irregularities. Notwithstanding, over the years, they continue to learn and improve their system. We are in a similar position today. The ongoing legal process is important because it will better our nation.
Therefore, as the Embassy’s statement pointed, NEC must “…undertake corrective actions before…” any runoff. Even though what the Embassy means by “corrective actions” remains an ambiguity, let me remind the United States that Liberia, as a sovereign nation, is working on correcting the many “problems” created by NEC, and the nation must not be muscled in how to go about correcting those “problems.” No nation muscled the US Supreme Court in 2000 in trying to resolve the Florida irregularities. From November 8, 2000, it was not until 2 hours to the deadline on December 12, 2000, that the Supreme Court ruled, bringing the dispute to an end. In the same vein, the Liberian Supreme Court should, if there will be an appeal brought before it, determine what those “problems” created by NEC are and what the “corrective” measures would be.
My fellow citizens, let me declare that I do not support anything called “rerun” and or “interim government.” However, I do trust that America, the International Community, and President Sirleaf will not, in the name of transition, muscle and undermine the Judiciary and the very democracy we are trying to build. A peaceful transition should not be a mantra for sidestepping the constitution and people’s rights. A peaceful transition should be ushered in by a credible election that makes our democracy stronger. In this regard, the ongoing legal process will serve as the strongest pillar of that democracy and a bedrock for a democratic transition. The “Developed World” know fully well that an independent judiciary is what makes their democracy stronger. It’s what will also make Liberia’s democracy stronger. Going to a runoff without a comprehensive understanding of, and solution(s) to, the “problems” will only continue the cycles of irregularities and impunities and will weaken our democratic ascendancy.
We cannot argue that because in 1985, 2005, and 2011, people felt cheated and didn’t seek legal redress, it is also reasonable that those who feel cheated today should not seek redress. To ignore NEC’s created “problems” would mean that in 2023, we would be saying again, “Let it go.” In the end, we would not be growing as a bation. Hence, we must we hailing Cllr. Brumskine for his action that could correct the inherent problems NEC has. Eventually, the ongoing legal process should open a new, better chapter in our history. What is not done right is not done at all. We do not want to, in a few weeks’ time, run to the Supreme Court again for the same irregularities after the runoff.
My fellow Liberians, especially CDCians who are sentimentally dancing to the tone of a “Statement” without the barest understanding of geopolitics and the forces that drive it, please note that we cannot continue to think that America is any better than us because they give us aids (crumbs – because we have no idea what they have been taking from us). That’s slave mentality. We have to think better of ourselves.
To this end, I take serious exception to the disguised threat and intimidation from the US Embassy that Liberia would “risk goodwill and future investments.” It’s only because we have been kept in the state of ubiquitous destitution and economic dependence with little efforts to understanding why we are in such state that we are grateful to America and the West for their so-called “goodwill.” We are told little about how the “future investments” exploit our recourse to keep the engines of the industries in the North running. We are only the extractive industries – for now – and the markets for finished goods. Think about, for example, what Firestone has manufactured in Liberia since 1926. There is zero value added chain. By extension, it’s only because we are kept in perennial poverty by our governments that we prostrate and praise them even after looting our nation’s wealth. In Development Economics, we call America’s and her international partners’ “goodwill” and “investment” the structural/underlying causes of poverty/lack of development, etc. in the global South, including in Liberia. So, Liberians, when you realize what those reasons are, you will understand that the West’s exploitative and corrosive colonial, now neoliberal, practices are what have kept you poor and underdeveloped. You will further recognize that systemic corruption by our leaders and their families and cronies has also kept you without hospitals, jobs, and education among others.
Hence, I implore you to try liberating your minds in order to understand the issues instead of jumping around as though your slave masters have removed your shackles. America has her unique electoral problems she is yet to resolve. The outcome of that is a buffoonish, racist, and misogynist President they are trying to impeach now. This tells us that the United States is not flawless but only try to control our mind – our way of thinking and make us subservient to them.
More importantly, my fellow Liberians, while we thank the US and International Community for standing by us, I want to remind you that you – Liberians – are the ones who have kept the peace. You were the ones who lived in trenches and in refugee camps. You were the ones who experienced extreme hunger for days, months, and years. You were the ones who lost loved ones and properties and today live with the scars. You were the ones who marched towards the US Embassy for a ceasefire in 1990 and were told by the United States Embassy’s Dennis Jeff that “it’s Liberians that are killing Liberians … it’s an internal matter.” You were the ones who prayed under the sun and in the rains for peace. Your collective experiences, your resolved tenancy for a better Liberia, is what has kept the peace today. Therefore, it is you who will stand for peace as you resolve to test our legal system to make our country better. And so, you will tell yourselves “thank you” first before thanking our International Partners. You will claim the peace we have as your peace, and you will protect it because you suffered to have it. You will tell yourselves and your families and friends that no politicians, no matter what may, will take you back to the dark days. You will celebrate peace, and you will love Liberia and build Liberia.
As I repose my pen, my fellow compatriots, whether your party is ANC, ALP, CDC, LP, MDR, or UP…, do not allow any politician and/or the International Community to mislead you that those who have taken a legal course of action are the problems in Liberia. They are not. Open your minds and think about those who always create the problems and turn to cajole your minds to making you believe that those seeking redresses are the problems. NEC is the problem; and as the very US Embassy said, NEC must fix the “problems” before the runoff.
God bless Liberia.
Kelvin Nyan Suah
Center for Critical Development Studies
University of Toronto