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Avoiding The Ugly Past

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As Liberians prepare for the conduct of two National elections comes December 8, 2020, it seems that the country’s hard-won and young democracy are slowly sliding into chaos and anarchy.

Following the election of a populist President, George Manneh Weah, Liberians at home and abroad and foreign residents were of the strong view that the country would not return to its ugly past wherein brazen acts of lawlessness, corruption, abuse of political power, secret killings, harassment and intimidation of critical voices among other vices were the order of the day.

In other words, many Liberians had been of such an optimistic view as a result of President Weah’s exposure as a former global soccer legend, former Good-will Ambassador of the United Nations for the promotion of peace, and as a leader who emerged from the deprived and neglected class of the Liberian society who had substantially interacted with two Liberian ex-dictators-Samuel Kanyon Doe and Charles Ghankay Taylor, urging the two ex-leaders to eschew war and embrace peace and development in the country.

Such view by Liberians had been reinforced when Mr. Weah served as an opposition leader for more than a decade during the erstwhile regime of former president Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf, promoting nothing less than sustainable peace in the country.

Many Liberians and their partners were also happy that President Weah would have been the right person to change the country’s governance process, pushing it more towards a positive development and peace-building trajectory because of his close interactions with former presidents Doe and Taylor during their respective regimes.

Indeed, with the encouragement of George Manneh Weah, these former Liberian Presidents could learn from some, if not all, of their mistakes and develop the necessary strength to make Liberia a better place for Direct Foreign Investment (DFI) that could create more jobs for the predominately youthful population as diametrically opposed to engaging in neocolonial style of politicking which focuses on “All for you or all against You” mentality.

For instance, the outright demand of the ruling Coalition for Democratic Change (CDC) which led to the controversial and widely condemned impeachment of former Associate Justice of the Supreme Court of Liberia, Kabeneh Ja’neh, remains a classic example of how many Liberians are becoming apprehensive of the nation’s governance process under President Weah. The recent outcome of the hearing from the ECOWAS Court, to say the least, speaks it all, as Liberians remain bewildered.

Another case in point is the blatant refusal of several Liberian officials, headed by President Weah, to publicly declare their assets before assuming elected and appointed public offices.

In the view of many Liberians, such act which, by all accounts, seeks to be inimical to good governance and its components of transparency, accountability and probity has the potential to discourage Direct Foreign Investment into the Liberian economy, pave the way for unscrupulous individuals purporting to be credible business people to come to Liberia for personal aggrandizement.

Moreover, many Liberians were shocked when President Weah, in one of his speeches said that Liberia does not need any loan from the World Bank or IMF. He made the statement at the time when some cronies of the ruling CDC propagated that the World Bank Group and the International Monetary Funds were not important in the borrowing of loans from any group or person, making direct reference to the much-heralded but now failed “Ebomaf” loan.

At the time, Ebomaf, widely believed to be a West African Mafias entity, had opted to provide a whopping US$500 million to the government of President Weah for construction of a coastal highway, one of the government’s well-publicized and flagship national develop projects in Liberia.

Like the former ruling the National Democratic Party of Liberia (NDPL) of the late President Doe, the ruling CDC is now opting for all public sector employees to be members of the governing party. We recall that during the days of NDPL, President Doe (late) wanted civil servants to be members of the then ruling NDPL or be kicked out of the state controlled public sector.

NDPL extended its membership quest at the time to concession areas such as Bong Mines and LAMCO, as top Liberian managers were forced to join the NDPL. But, where is NDPL now?

Like former President Taylor and his erstwhile regime, CDC came with its own media plan which includes strangulating or “weaponizing” the mainstream independent press as the Executive Branch of government fast establishes its own media empire.

Disappointingly, as mainstream media outlets increasingly become economically bankrupt, the CDC media is tantalizes some of the professionals from the mainstream media for the purpose of incorporating them into the government’s propaganda machinery.

Nevertheless, many keen observers believe that just as Taylor, with all of the nation’s resources that his warlike regime illegally amassed did not succeed, the CDC administration may fail to weaponized the mainstream media whether today or tomorrow.

Now, as Liberians prepare for two national elections on December 8, the ruling CDC like the former ruling NDPL, seems to be desperate in wining Montserrado County “at all cost.” Reports say CDC members have been regrouping and mobilizing more supporters to defeat incumbent opposition Senator, Abe Darius Dillon.

Moreover, tension has heightened when some individuals believed to be members of the CDC, in apparent violation of the electoral laws of the country began planting billboards with inscription: “Change the Constitution” with President Weah’s photo around Monrovia and its immediate surroundings.

Moreover, some individuals, claiming to be supporters of President Weah, have been engaging in what appears to be harassment and intimidation of some civil servants. CDCians are claiming that civil servants who refused to wear their party’s political t-shirts or berets are considered “enemies” of their government and should not work in the CDC-led government if the party reclaim Montserrado County from the opposition.

At a result, many civil servants who are not members of the CDC were seen at the SKD Sports Complex with blue t-shirts and red berets in a bid to protect their jobs as it was done during the days of Doe’s NDPL.

Apart from the political harassments, another ugly situation has to do with electoral violence and lack of level playing field for all candidates in the December 8, 2020 elections.

The violent incidents in Montserrado County Districts#13 and 15 which occurred in 2018-19 by-elections without any investigation by the NEC and state security forces raise more questions than answers as we move towards the December 8, 2020 Special senatorial elections.

Although, President George Weah has been pleading for clam but it seems his pleads are not strong enough to stop his supporters from attacking critics of the Weah-led administration.
With the series of attacks on opposition members, Senator Dillon and Representative Kolubah have been talking strong to retaliate, if they are attacked again.

For us at The INDEPENDENT, we categorically reject and detest in the strongest terms, the return of violence and lawlessness in the Liberian nation. This is why we are reiterating our call for all political leaders including members of the ruling CDC and opposition parties to avoid acts that may take the country to its ugly past.

Our denunciation of those draconian tactics for absolute power control is based on the undeniable fact that such acts undermine peace and stability; thus scaring away foreign direct investments and undercuts unity, development and progress in our country.

In other words, violence is only a recipe for chaos and socio-economic and political disintegration and instability, to say the least.

Moreover, acts of lawlessness strengthen criminals’ resolve to loot state and other resources for personal aggrandizement.

We need not recall the unimaginable and severe negative impacts of violence and lawlessness on Liberia when the country, for more than a decade, was at war with itself, thus leaving few criminal minded individuals to exploit the country at will and without any accountability, transparency and probity.
This Is Why we are calling on the Government of Liberia (GoL), headed by President George Manneh Weah, who is former UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador for Peace, never to either unconsciously or consciously allow any act of violence to take root on the Liberian soil and to ensure that anyone or group that engages in such acts is not only exposed but made to account for their unholy deeds before the altar of justice.

We say this simply, because, Liberia’s past civil conflict emanated mainly from the 1985 troublesome elections and other unlawful acts carried out by marauding criminals and troubleshooters at the behest of self-serving politicians. This is why we think that with the rising political tension in the country, coupled with spreading acts of violence, those involved must not only be identified but also punished as require by the laws of the country.

We think that such move will send out the appropriate signals that Liberians are committed to upholding peace and democracy as diametrically opposed to fueling conflicts which may take the country backward.

Frankly, Liberia, as a nation, we cannot afford to repeat the mistakes of its ugly past wherein total and brazen disregard for rule of law, political witch-hunt and dictatorship were the hallmarks of our society.
WE, AS A country, government, and people must create and genuinely foster, at all times, the rule of law, tolerance and peaceful co-existence and development with malice against none.

In our hard-won infant democracy, we must also allow unfettered exercise of fundamental rights and other basic freedoms as contained in, and guaranteed by the Liberian Constitution including free speech, free press, as well as freedom of Association and Assembly among others.
In short, we must uphold the rule of law and cast-off violence; as violence could boomerang on the national leadership as well as the larger Liberian society itself, if not nipped in the bud.

Liberia must not return to the bitter past simply because a handful of greedy politicians and their lackeys want to get underserved political power, wealth and influence. A hint to the wise is quite sufficient!

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