I write this letter to you, Fellow Liberians, at home and abroad because I see our country facing yet another unnecessary security and political disaster with the possibility of taking us back to where we were twenty two years ago; that is, December 29, 1989. Then, acting under the ruse of “removing” the “dictator, Samuel K. Doe, from the backs of the Liberian people,” our country was plunged into a devastating and costly civil war. Then, too, the illusion was that the insurgency was targeting only “late President Doe and his kinsmen, the Krahn”.
It however soon became abundantly clear that the net of the civil conflict was being widened to initially include the Doe Administration’s perceived collaborators, the Mandingo. But as we all now remember, many of our citizens: young, old, middle-aged, women, children – and even the unborn, were killed either as a direct result of the war or from causes associated with the war. The burning of the Mosque in Ganta, Nimba County, was emblematic not just of the evolving ethnic-cleansing nature of the Liberian conflict, but also of a potentially catastrophic, wider and costly conflict. The slogan, “Chuckie coming!” still rings fear in many ears when they fight the nagging ghost of our civil war.
Reminding us of this history, fellow Compatriots, is important because too many of us, in just eight short years of peace, seem to have so easily forgotten the sufferings, dislocations and anguish of our families and people, the deaths of more than 250,000 of our countrymen, the international humiliation and isolation, and the shame brought on our country as a result of that conflict. Again, as in 1989, a few persons, professing democracy but unwilling to abide by the precepts and principles universally associated with democracy, have chosen to challenge and imperil the democratic course we, as a sovereign nation and people, set for ourselves in October 2005 and have repeated in October 2011—all because of their greed for power and their unpatriotic and indifferent attitude about the welfare of our country and our people.
The current posture of some of the opposition politicians who are clearly losing the democratic competition as being played out through the ballot box in full view of the international community, is clearly pointing toward this direction. Not satisfied with the developing outcomes of an election unanimously hailed by sub-regional, regional, and international observers and monitors as “free, fair, transparent, and credible”, this group of persons, who lost power, influence, and privilege as a result of our democratic elections in October 2005, seem determined to take this country back to war because they are unwilling to accept the verdict of the Liberian people.
My dear Compatriots, are you seeing what I see, the same signs and the same noises that permeated the air in mid-to-late 1989? Do you see some of the same actors that I see? Open and shine your eyes and see. Like yesterday, some are today making all sorts of pejorative statements reminiscent of similar of statements made about late President Doe in 1989. What is the basis of their actions? Liberia has had no political prisoners under the Administration of President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf. Free expression has never in the history of this country been what it is today. No politician can justifiably claim to be the subject of harassment in any way, form or shape by the Sirleaf Administration. Civil liberties and human rights are respected. So, I ask, why do these few politicians want to take our country back into conflict?
Today, these ambitious politicians, having failed to convince the Liberian people about their leadership credentials and agenda, have resorted to stroking tensions in Monrovia. They are propagating all sorts of shameless lies and baseless allegations inside and outside of the country. For example, my wife called me at 3:00 a.m. Sunday morning, breathless and frightened, to tell me a story that was so incredible that I cannot repeat it anywhere. I urged her to relax. The atmosphere that has been whipped up by these war mongers calling themselves politicians have again created panic and fear among our people both in the country and in the Diaspora. This situation, my people, is unacceptable and intolerable, and should be resisted by all well meaning, patriotic Liberians who are tired of conflict and fear.
At this point, dear Compatriots, the overarching questions we must all be asking ourselves and those who want to again destroy and loot this country are: Does Liberia need another cycle of violence? And if so for what or to what ends? Have we not inflicted more than enough sufferings on our nation and people? How do we expect other nations and particularly those who have invested hugely in creating peace and security and stability and socio-economic development and progress in our country to respond to a new crisis in Liberia? Do we believe that the patience, resources, energy, and time of the international community are inexhaustible? Have we been following what has been happening to Somalia for the past several years? Who benefits from war? Do those who are now beating the drums of war realize that this country is tired of war – and that all that our citizens yearn for is peace and stability? Are the young men who are always being exploited by these unpatriotic elements asking themselves such questions as: who am I being asked to fight for? why do they want us to fight and die or be maimed? Are these same young men not seeing their friends in Monrovia and in other county capitals who have since been abandoned by those who made them to fight and die and be permanently disabled? Are we not tired with seeing the blood of our countrymen wasted and their lives taken in a political power game driven by a few ambitious and greedy politicians?
My Compatriots, where is our individual and collective outrage? Where is our individual and collective voice? Where is our individual and collective action on behalf of peace and democracy in our country? Why are we silent on this critical issue of war and peace and the future of our Motherland? Where is civil society? Where is the Inter-faith Council? Where is the Liberian Muslim Council? Where is the Liberian Council of Churches? Where is the Traditional Council of Liberia? Where are the student and women groups? Where is the Mano River Union Network for Peace? Where is the Special Representative of the Secretary General of the United Nations in Liberia? Where is the United Nations Security Council? Where is the Contact Group on Liberia? Where is the United States Embassy? Where is the European Union? Where is the Mano River Union? Where is COWAS? Where is the African Union? Where are the Eminent Leaders of our sub-region? We all must stand up now in the face of this attempted brutal rape of democracy and denounce and democratically resist it with our collective voice and contacts.
This past Saturday, I read that nine opposition political parties had met at the Samuel Kanyon Doe Sports Complex to issue a statement in which they reportedly announced that they would boycott the “Tally Center” at the National Elections Commission because, according to the statement, they claimed that the elections had been “marked by fraud”. The Opposition also said it would stage a “peaceful” sit in “beginning at CDC headquarters, go past the private residence of the President of Liberia, and up to Vamoma House”, Spriggs Payne Airfield junction.
By embarking on such a reckless gamble, doesn’t the opposition realize the potential for chaos that could envelope the city and lead to conflict of the kind that could see them landed soon in detention in the Hague? For the international community should not and cannot sit idly by, in the name of the exercise of democracy, to watch a group of power-driven individuals create an ungovernable situation in a society that has only recently emerged from a bloody conflict and has been charting a peaceful course for its people. Let me however put the issue of the announced “boycott” in some perspective and provide a timeline:
A. On July 5, 2011, the NEC formally declares presidential and legislative campaign 2011 opened. Political parties, all sixteen of them, swing into full gear and criss-cross the country to canvass for votes. No political party announces its intention to boycott the process.
B. On October 11, 2011, peaceful democratic elections are held nation-wide. International partners, monitors, and observers, including African Union, National Democratic Institute (NDI), International Foundation for Electoral System (IFES), ECOWAS, Mano River Union Women, Carter Center, reputed for observing elections in many countries on many continents, among others, issue their verdict: the elections were “free, fair, transparent, and credible”. The international observers in fact urge other countries to “emulate Liberia.”
C. On October 12, 2011, results of the elections begin to come in to NEC. Initially, the results are literally trickling in from polling stations where each of the political parties was represented at throughout the country, and therefore in a strategic position to see and sign tally sheets. At this point, no political party challenges the progressive results of the election.
D.Between October 13 and 14, Unity Party’s lead over all other parties begins to increase from tens of thousands to more than 50,000, then 80,000, and by Saturday, more than 100,000 votes over its nearest rival, Congress for Democratic Change. As the trend showing a progressive UP lead continues, the “ah ha” moment suddenly dawns on the Opposition. They are losing the elections, and if the trend continues, they are on the path of losing the elections big time. Panic overtakes them. There is a rush to meet with and co-opt the Standard Bearer of National Union for Democratic Change, who is not even aware that there is a plan among some of the very opposition elements he is now collaborating with to have him sent to The Hague for his human rights violations during the Liberian civil war. Saturday, October 15, 2011, a joint press statement is issued by the Opposition.
Indeed, fellow Compatriots, since news of the statement of the “boycott” hit the airwaves, I have asked myself key questions: When did the Opposition know that the elections had been marked by “fraud?” Would the Opposition have complained or announced a boycott, say, if CDC were in the lead? Or is the Opposition just plainly dreaded by six more years of peace and security and stability and tranquility in Liberia?
As I asked myself these questions, I was reminded by something that I read many years back which attributed a statement to the Patriarch of the Kennedy Dynasty in America, late Joseph P. Kennedy, in which he was reported to have famously remarked to one of his sons that “Politics is not a boy’s game” in which the owner of the tennis/soccer ball sets the rules, and takes his ball and goes home if he does not want to comply with the rules that all agreed to and accepted, just because his team is losing. Yes, those who participate in the game of politics must know and accept that in high stake contest for the presidency, someone has to win, whether in this case in a first round or in a run-off. The true test of the character of a political leader is proved in his willingness to accept and celebrate victory in the same manner that he or she graciously accepts defeat. Liberia’s football Sage, Josiah Johnson, once remarked that “Football is like biscuit.” It neither breaks evenly nor does it break where we want it to break. Politics is like a biscuit and rightly so because we put our faith in the judgment of the voters. And when the voter enters the voting booth, anything is possible-- notwithstanding the crowds that were in the streets during pre-election rallies. The process does not become flawed only when we are losing.
Further, there are several difficulties with the Opposition’s “boycott”: (1) It seems pre-mature since the progressive results of the elections are still been released by NEC, and at this point no one can pre-determine or predict what the final vote count is going to be for any of the parties; (2) the timing of the “boycott”, coming, as it does, days into the counting of ballots, is just plainly late: it did not come prior to the commencement of the campaign; it did not come during the campaign; it did not come on elections day; it did not come one or two days after election; it came five full days after elections and only when one party had taken a substantial lead over all other parties. (3) Neither the NEC nor representatives of international observer and monitor groups have been given hard evidence that outlines the nature, scope, and extent of the alleged fraud, and the locations where the alleged fraud may have been perpetrated and its perceived impact, if any, on the outcome of the elections at that location or on the overall outcome. Further, and more significantly, claiming “fraud” in the absence of evidence and an impartial and thorough investigation does not mean that fraud was perpetrated. In my view, therefore, the onus is on the combined Opposition to produce concrete, verifiable evidence or proof of fraud. And if they are already challenging a vote counting that is only half way, where does that leave the seeming electoral victories of the CDC’s legislative candidates who are on the verge of winning legislative seats? What would this impact Senator Prince Johnson’s emerging massive success in his native Nimba County? Why didn’t the Opposition contest the outcome of the National Referendum whose outcome they so jubilantly embraced?
My Compatriots, the simple truth and reality is that there is no basis for their wild allegations. Fear has simply gripped them as they see their imminent defeat in a contest that is deemed the most transparent and credible ever held in the 164-year history of our country.
Yet even as they announce their “boycott”, they should submit themselves to the dispute resolution mechanism which political parties agreed to and signed, and thereby allow the investigative process to ensue. In the interim, in the interest of our common country, I join my Compatriots at home and abroad to call on the Opposition to do nothing to imperil the peace, security, and stability of Liberia. I also call on our bilateral international partners to quickly intervene to prevent Liberia from backsliding into conflict again because of the greed of some politicians who cannot thrive in a democratic and competitive environment; individuals who always want to cash in on the ignorance or naivety of some of our young people to wreak havoc on society and peaceful citizens and residents.
My Compatriots, the claim of alleged fraud however has one singular goal, and that goal has over the past year or more been articulated by various members of the combined Opposition: It is to create a Zimbabwe or Kenya style power-sharing arrangement in Liberia. Six years out of the political limelight is more than some members of the Opposition can take or bear. Six years of peace and security and stability are too discomforting and disquieting for some members of the Combined Opposition. So, to fulfill their power ambition, they are determined to impugn the integrity of NEC and the outcomes of the elections while simultaneously creating a state of tension, instability and insecurity and fear that will create the need for international bilateral partners to intervene to urge a power-sharing or transition government—as expressed by some of these politicians and their supporters long before the elections.
Unfortunately, however, Liberia is neither a Zimbabwe nor a Kenya. In Liberia, the elections will either be won in first round by a political party or in a round-off. For more than 14 years, Liberia experimented with power-sharing governments. The evidence is abundant that they did not work. There was continuous bickering. There was no accountability. There was corruption. Incompetence was rampant throughout the government. There was even a bloody war in Monrovia. All this led to Liberia being labeled a failed state.
My Compatriots, are you seeing and hearing what I am seeing and saying? Where is your outrage? Why are you silent? Does Liberia belong to one group of persons whose power ambition will drive them to take our country back to conflict and chaos and war? Where are the Mothers of this country? Do you want politicians to send your children to war to die again in their own country – and for selfish cause or no cause?
In closing, I have a few special appeals that I would like to make to the United National Security Council, United States Government, and European Union countries: (1) Security Council: Please reinforce your instructions to the International Criminal Court (ICC)to begin preliminary proceedings against senior Liberian politicians, especially those who are making incendiary statements and threatening violence in the country, and mobilizing and inciting their followers that they would be charged and tried for man-slaughter if they conceive, plan, sponsor or fund, participate either directly or indirectly in any action that leads to injury or the death of any Liberian or foreign national. (2) The United States Government should respectfully consider denying admission into its borders of any Liberian politician, whether a citizen or a permanent resident alien, or to deny asylum requests, if he or she conceives, plans, sponsors or funds, participates directly or indirectly in any action that leads to injury or death of any Liberian or foreign national, and (3) United States Government should consider collaborating with the European Union to lead efforts at the United Nations Security Council to place all Liberians in the categories that I have outlined on a permanent no travel ban list. Politicians cannot create conflict in Liberia and abandon ordinary Liberians to suffer and die. They, too, must be made to remain to suffer and die from the consequences of war.
My Compatriots, you may ask, why do I make such recommendations? The answer is simple. During the course of the just ended campaign, I traveled through several counties and spoke to many, many ordinary Liberians in villages, towns, and cities, and during this time, I heard ordinary Liberians make only one wish: they want our current peace and security and stability to continue. Politicians have a duty to deliver this wish.
Our people must note that many of the Opposition politicians foment trouble because they are not vested in Liberia, and because they are able to run out of the country into the safe environment of the United States and Europe, while ordinary Liberians suffer and die in a conflict they did not create and do not understand, and for a cause they do not need. The ordinary Liberian is not concerned about or interested in political power. He or she wants peace. The international community cannot and must not allow the ordinary Liberia to suffer and die again just because some a fingerful of politicians want power by all means other than through the democratic process and the ballot box.
My dear Compatriots, if you truly care about the issues I have raised, if you, like the many ordinary Liberians I met during this campaign, value our current peaceful, secure, and stable environment, I ask that we tell the politicians that we want peace; that we ask our international bilateral partners to deny sanctuary to any Liberian politician who contributes to setting this country ablaze again.
My Compatriots, I call on you and all democracy-loving and well-meaning peoples everywhere, our Government, and our international bilateral and multilateral partners to be in dealing with any undemocratic and rabble rousing actions that have the potential to derail our hard earned peace and stability. Indeed, this blatant unpatriotic attempt to hijack our infant democracy, which has been created through huge investments by sub-regional, regional, and international partners and has been characterized by peace, stability, respect for human rights, and unprecedented freedom of expression cannot, must not, and shall not be accepted or tolerated. After all, this country belongs to all of us—and not to just a few who are violence prone and power driven. There should therefore be no negotiations or compromise with these sour grapes politicians. The ballot box must take its course, and those who feel otherwise must follow the procedures laid down in our Constitution and the Election Laws of Liberia for electoral challenges and the redress of grievances. I call on the National Elections Commission to ignore the noise and the cry babies and continue doing its very impressive job which has been acclaimed by nationally and internationally.
Morris M. Dukuly, Sr.
Former Speaker/transitional Legislative Assembly (1994-1977)