Tuesday, November 16, 2010

GUINEA ELECTION CUES FOR LIBERIA: Fear of Double-Voting, Violence Looms

I think this will be a serious problem for us next year because these are the same group of people, at least majority of them, who will join us to vote. I mean there is no way anybody could stop them because their accent is more Liberian and most of them are Mandingoes who will tell us that they are citizens here too. Then, why are they voting in Guinea and will be voting here again?”

Fannie Wolo, a resident of the JJY Community along the Somalia Drive

Source: Front Page Africa


The post-war election euphoria in next door Guinea hits close to home in the face of Liberia’s pending elections slated in less than a year, offering two vital cues from which the National Elections Commission (NEC), the Bureau of Immigration and Naturalization (BIN) and the entire Liberian citizenry can learn: potential double-voting and elections violence.

Immediately following the announcement on international airwaves that Alpha Conde had won the tense presidential election, hundreds of his supporters back in Liberia who had been monitoring Radio France International staged an impromptu victory- parade throughout Monday night in Monrovia and other parts of the country, to commensurate with similar and apparent larger ones that were being staged by their fellow Guineans back in Guinea.

Alpha Conde has been declared winner of the Presidential elections in Guinea.

The declaration of Conde as Guinea’s first non-military leader in its 52 years of independence was greeted with huge excitement among an obviously divided Guinean community in Liberia. With concerns among on-looker, group of Liberians who were appalled by not only the huge presence of Guineans in the country but also because of the large number of celebrants who to a larger extent looked and talked like Liberians. The message kept playing in their minds: most of them would be active during Liberia’s October, 2011 elections.

‘It Will be a serious problem’

“In fact, a lot of them with whom I have lived in this neighborhood for the past years, who I have known or maybe mistaken for Liberians, were the main people who were celebrating last night”, noted Fannie Wolo, a resident of the JJY Community along the Somalia Drive.

“I think this will be a serious problem for us next year because these are the same group of people, at least majority of them, who will join us to vote. I mean there is no way anybody could stop them because their accent is more Liberian and most of them are Mandingoes who will tell us that they are citizens here too. Then, why are they voting in Guinea and will be voting here again?” Wolo wondered.

Live phone-in talk shows on various local radio stations were early Tuesday morning dominated by concerns from Liberians who fear double-voting from Guineans most of whom they say have either claimed to be Liberians or have Liberian citizenships.

In recent weeks spanning five months, Guineans residing in Liberia have been involved with participating in the Guinean elections. The first was conducted in June, 2010 and the run-off was held November 7, 2010 in which they turned out en masse. Their participation in the elections formed part of the country’s ‘Diaspora vote’ that enabled thousands of Guineans scattered around the world in selected countries to exercise their franchise.

A Case Study for NEC

All of the concerns and fears being expressed by the Liberian citizenry are of grave and particular concern to the election house which has been asked repeatedly about steps been taken to avert such occurrences.

The James Fromoyan-led National Elections Commission (NEC) will among several tasks, certainly have itself engaged with the task of minimizing the looming potential risk of double-voting.

Bobby Livingstone, the head of Public Relations at NEC, acknowledged such concerns: “That concern has emulated in many quarters and during our security meetings with the Bureau of Immigration and Naturalization and the Liberia National Police, we have basically been discussing these security concerns from both our Commissioners and private citizens.”

Relative to mechanisms being put into place, Livingstone told FrontPageAfrica that there are specific areas that have been identified where regular and static patrol will be maintained throughout the border line where “in places where possible problematic areas where people would cross-over. They are going to step-up patrols in areas where we could suspect”.

Difficult to distinguish citizens from non-citizens

Serving as a hint to what may happen in 11 months’ time; the NEC Spokesperson however said the burden is not on the NEC alone.

Said Livingstone: “These things are just one of those that can’t be done all by ourselves alone. We need the reliance of everyone. That is why we have talked to the civil society groups and community groups that we all need to take up national ownership because NEC alone can’t do it”.

But the task of being able to identify who is an alien – and who is not - remains the biggest challenge, given that some Guineans residing in the country have almost all attributes of typical Liberians including accent and even way of life.

“Yet they hold onto their Guinean nationalities and any attempt for them wanting to participate in the October 2011 elections here could prove a difficult task to do” remarked Daniel Ross, a civil servant.

“We may not be able to identify who is a Guinean is during the registrations though we have criteria guiding the process”, Livingstone stated.

The NEC, according to its head of public affairs, provides some hints that would lead to the tracking down of Guineans and other foreign nationals desiring participation in the elections during the registration process.

Livingstone added: “For instance, if there are doubts concerning the nationality of a person during registration and if someone is disenfranchised, then it has to be proven beyond all reasonable doubts that that person is an alien”.

Persons confronted with such situations would have to display a proof of national identity such as a passport or could be saved the headache if elders or prominent persons in the community could prove that he or she is a Liberian.

During the 2005 elections, the Public Relations Officer admitted that there were cases of such that were reported “but on a lower scale”.

“With much more publicity on this and that kind of fear lingering on the minds of people, it is possible that would translate into some kind of action and fear to serve as a kind of determent to minimize infiltration into our borders of aliens and under-aged persons”, he said.

Livingstone was blunt in disclosing that such processes are however, not void of a possible double-voting.

“It may not be a process void of these kind of things. That is why we have the approach of bringing the BIN, the LNP and even traditional people on board.”

BIN Has ‘Undisclosed’ Tactics

Seeking clarity from the Bureau of Immigration and Naturalization (BIN) responsible for curbing and regulating the influx of foreign nationals into the country, an FPA inquiry on what is being done in preparation of next year’s elections was short on details.

“We have a strategic plan which we can’t disclose. We have put some mechanisms in place. We intend to stop those aliens who might be crossing the border to take part in our elections”, the Director of Public Affairs at the BIN, Bill Fred Smith told FPA. He acknowledged the pending collaborative efforts with the NEC in a bid to curb the occurrence of such.

Smith disclosed that immigration officers will be assigned at polling centers.

Ethnicity and Elections: What Can Liberia Learn?

Having endured over a decade and a half years of civil conflict mainly centered on ethnicity in addition to social and economic inequality being cited as reasons for the destruction of the country, many analysts and observers think another cue Liberians need to desperately take from the Guinean violent elections, is counting out ethnicity that could breed tribal tensions and frustrate the seven years of peace being enjoyed by the country since 2003.

Guinea's 10 million people belong to 24 ethnic groups but the two most prominent and dominant groups are the Fula and the Malinke (Mandingoes). Both groups fielded the two most popular presidential candidates who eventually went on to face each other in the run-off elections.

Deep ethnic divisions clouded Guinea’s June and November polls which continue to threaten a nation that long seems to have instability knocking on its doors.

Monday’s run-off winner, Alpha Conde, is a Malinke while his rival, Diallo is from the rivalry Fula ethnic group.

Based on tribal sentiment and that their tribesman had been declared loser of the election, groups of Peul, as the Fula are otherwise known, on Monday burned tires and threw rocks at police.

The violence which subsided in Guinea's capital by Tuesday morning but continued in the country’s northern region which is a Diallo stronghold as gunfire continued throughout the morning. Human Rights Watch has already reported that as many as 30 people may have been wounded in the capital, including many with bullet wounds.

The Fula, otherwise called Peul as borrowed by the French from the Wolof word, form a minority in every country they inhabit, but in Guinea they represent a plurality of the population’s 40% with a total population of 27 million in the region.

Malinke, also known as Mandingo is one of the largest ethnic groups in West Africa with an estimated population of 11 million. Descendants of the Empire of Mali which rose to power under the rule of the great Mandingo king Sundiata Keita, they constitute 30% of Guinea’s population (3,063,431).

Back home ethnic tension is yet to be recorded as an element that clouded Liberia’s past two immediate elections of 1997 and 2005; however, it has been a major factor that contributed to the civil war, according to the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) Report, prompting fears that it might mar next year’s elections.

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Inside Liberia with Bernard Gbayee Goah

Everyone is a genius

Everyone is a genius. But if you judge a fish on its ability to climb a tree, it will live its whole life believing that it is stupid. – A Einstein

Drawing the line in Liberia

Crimes sponsored, committed, or masterminded by handful of individuals cannot be blamed upon an entire nationality. In this case, Liberians! The need for post-war justice is a step toward lasting peace, stability and prosperity for Liberia. Liberia needs a war crimes tribunal or some credible legal forum that is capable of dealing with atrocities perpetrated against defenseless men, women and children during the country's brutal war. Without justice, peace shall remain elusive and investment in Liberia will not produce the intended results. - Bernard Gbayee Goah

Men with unhealthy characters should not champion any noble cause

They pretend to advocate the cause of the people when their deeds in the dark mirror nothing else but EVIL!!
When evil and corrupt men try to champion a cause that is so noble … such cause, how noble it may be, becomes meaningless in the eyes of the people - Bernard Gbayee Goah.

If Liberia must move forward ...

If Liberia must move forward in order to claim its place as a civilized nation amongst world community of nations, come 2017 elections, Liberians must critically review the events of the past with honesty and objectivity. They must make a new commitment to seek lasting solutions. The track records of those who are presenting themselves as candidates for the position of "President of the Republic of Liberia" must be well examined. Liberians must be fair to themselves because results from the 2011 elections will determine the future of Liberia’s unborn generations to come - Bernard Gbayee Goah

Liberia's greatest problem!

While it is true that an individual may be held responsible for corruption and mismanagement of funds in government, the lack of proper system to work with may as well impede the process of ethical, managerial, and financial accountability - Bernard Gbayee Goah

What do I think should be done?

The situation in Liberia is Compound Complex and cannot be fixed unless the entire system of government is reinvented.
Liberia needs a workable but uncompromising system that will make the country an asylum free from abuse, and other forms of corruption.
Any attempt to institute the system mentioned above in the absence of rule of law is meaningless, and more detrimental to Liberia as a whole - Bernard Gbayee Goah

Liberia's Natural Resources
Besides land water and few other resources, most of Liberia’s dependable natural resources are not infinite, they are finite and therefore can be depleted.
Liberia’s gold, diamond, and other natural resources will not always be an available source of revenue generation for its people and its government. The need to invent a system in government that focuses on an alternative income generation method cannot be over emphasized at this point - Bernard Gbayee Goah

Liberia needs a proper system
If Liberians refuse to erect a proper system in place that promotes the minimization of corruption and mismanagement of public funds by government institutions, and individuals, there will come a time when the value of the entire country will be seen as a large valueless land suited on the west coast of Africa with some polluted bodies of waters and nothing else. To have no system in place in any country is to have no respect for rule of law. To have no respect for rule of law is to believe in lawlessness. And where there is lawlessness, there is always corruption - Bernard Gbayee Goah

Solving problems in the absence of war talks

As political instability continues to increase in Africa, it has become abundantly clear that military intervention as a primary remedy to peace is not a durable solution. Such intervention only increases insecurity and massive economic hardship. An existing example which could be a valuable lesson for Liberia is Great Britain, and the US war on terror for the purpose of global security. The use of arms whether in peace keeping, occupation, or invasion as a primary means of solving problem has yield only little results. Military intervention by any country as the only solution to problem solving will result into massive military spending, economic hardship, more fear, and animosity as well as increase insecurity. The alternative is learning how to solve problems in the absence of war talks. The objective of such alternative must be to provide real sustainable human security which cannot be achieved through military arm intervention, or aggression. In order to achieve results that will make the peaceful coexistence of all mankind possible, there must be a common ground for the stories of all sides to be heard. I believe there are always three sides to every story: Their side of the story, Our side of the story, and The truthBernard Gbayee Goah


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