Rethinking Liberia’s 2011 Elections

Written by P. Nimley-Sie Tuon

Without Implementation Of The TRC Report

 As Liberia crawls towards the 2011 presidential and general elections, a powerful question is finding its way into the minds of many Liberians. Which is; can the 2011 elections consider credible without the implementation of the final report of the Liberian Truth and Reconciliation Commission, or TRC? The strength of this question will continue to growth as the elections draw closer.

It has been more than a year since the final report was released and since then the Sirleaf government continues to vacillate regarding its duties and responsibilities when it comes to the implementation of the recommendations contained in the TRC report. As the implementation of the report lingers, any election held will not be considered democratically credible. What feuds credibility in the democratic process is not just people lining up to go vote, but the processes and decisions leading to the actual voting process. In other words, the end does not justify the means, it is the means by which the end is achieved that matters. At this point, the Sirleaf government, through the election commission, is opting for the end to justify the means.

The 2011 elections will be Liberia’s fourth in the last 25 years. The first two, 1985 and 1997, were followed by violence after failure to address some lingering issues. Political pundits and observers of Liberian politics believed had the laws of Liberia fully implemented and observed the results of these two elections would have been different. During the periods leading to these two elections, the laws were broken and the electoral processes configured in a way to ensure the victories of Mr. Samuel K. Doe and Mr. Charles Taylor. The 2011 electoral is threading on that same path. The electoral process is being configured to pave the way for President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf’s victory. The TRC report is being ignored; President Sirleaf using taxpayers sponsored events to wage and engaging in early campaigning even though the official campaign season has not started. The president and her political party, the Unity Party, were accused of using donated busses for the Monrovia City Corporation to transport the Unity Party partisans and supporters to their convention. Not forgetting using taxpayer’s events like the state of the nation address to declare her desire to seek another term, and the Independence Day celebration to receive campaign petition.

The Sirleaf government when it came to power in 2006 was not just another government winning an election, but a constitutionally elected transitional government that was supposed to have created a climate that would have made those behaviors that brought violence to Liberia on two occasions unpopular within the country. The Sirleaf government should have been a government of reforms, to transform Liberia and make sure that she moves away from her ugly past, a government that should have established the notion into the Liberian psych that the chips must always fall wherever they may. The Sirleaf government has failed to meet these requirements by its failure to fully and timely implement those recommendations contained in the TRC report. The TRC report outlined a systematic process by which the Sirleaf government could have set in motion the reform process to change Liberia for the better, especially, after President Sirleaf first promised not to seek another term. The TRC report, in the clearest terms, points to impunity as the culprit for violence in Liberia. President Sirleaf and others banned by the TRC report decision to seek political offices represents a vivid defiance of rule of law in Liberia. In addition, will serve as means to strengthen impunity. The Liberian Truth and Reconciliation Commission members were not some radical group who met in a dark alley and imposing its will on the government. It was a government institution established by an act of the Liberian Legislature making its decision law of the land.

The failure of the Sirleaf government to implement the TRC report, and rule within the confinement of the Liberian constitution, mean the democratic process launched during 2005 elections has failed, and as such, the 2011 elections cannot or will not be seen as credible but rather legitimizing the implanting of the True Whig Party-inspired old order that has failed the Liberian people, brought them death and destruction, continues to reign misery and poverty among them. An election is a contractual agreement between those that are elected and those that elected them. And when a contract is breached, it is recommended that the parties revert to their pre-contractual positions. As a country or a nation, under the leadership of Madam Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf of Unity Party government has failed to meet our democratic goals of rule of law, fair play, equal opportunity for all, and a society free of impunity. Therefore, we should go back to our pre-2005 position by setting up a transitional government that will be charged with the full implementation of the TRC report and prepare Liberia for a true democratically inspired election.

The situation we are facing now is no different from those that existed during the periods leading to the elections of 1985 and 1997. Like the 1985 and 1997 elections, many are predicting that if the TRC report is implemented, and the rule of law fairly applied, the anticipated result currently being envisioned will be different. Raising fears that Liberia may face the same fate as she did after the elections of 1985 and 1997. Allowing and accepting the current electoral process to go ahead without the implementation of the TRC report means we Liberians are acquiescing or embracing the culture of impunity. This brings to mind some lyrics in a popular song by Nigerian singer, Prince Nico, that state “as you make your bed, so shall you lay on it”. In other words, we Liberians should be prepared to live with the consequences of our actions if we fail to act to ensure that those recommendations contained in the TRC report are implemented before having any election.

P. Nimley-Sie Tuon
Liberia Human Rights Campaign
Maryland, United States


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