Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Liberia: What Happened in Liberia?

Michael Keating

- Analysis

Not many people care about what goes on in Liberia but those that do were probably shocked this week by the images of UN Peacekeepers trying to wrestle guns away from the Liberian National Police who were intent on shooting into a crowd that was rallying in opposition to Tuesday's Presidential election.

The UN has confirmed two deaths and several wounded and serious questions have to be raised whether the police were acting on their own initiative or whether they had been ordered to use maximum force to intimidate the forces of the opposition. Several international human rights organizations have already announced plans to investigate.

The other shocking fact is that the called-for boycott seems to have worked as voters for the opposition stayed away from the polls giving the incumbent Ellen Sirelaf a clear victory, but not a convincing one. Just weeks after winning the Nobel Peace Prize, her world-wide supporters are undoubtedly shocked that what was supposed to be a shoe-in election for her second term has turned into a fiasco with not only Monday's shootings and Tuesday's boycott to blot her mandate but also the incompetent behavior of the National Election Commission in the months leading up to Tuesday's polling. On top of that the Administration is also under fire for shutting down opposition media houses and prosecuting a number of station managers and journalists.

So what's wrong in Liberia? A good place to start is with the Police. They are underfunded, undertrained and over anxious to use their authority. The UN forces have had to rein them in on several occasions because of their predilection for ultra-violence and the people of Monrovia are certainly sick of the harassment and corruption which occur at their hands on a daily basis. Prior to this election, the Sirleaf administration was apparently tempted to bring in troops from other West African nations to deal with election-related violence -probably with the suspicion that Liberia's own police could not be trusted to keep the lid on themselves or the protesters. Last Monday's events proved those suspicions correct.

Another place to look is with the entire political culture in Liberia. Like in many impoverished countries with low literacy rates politicians campaign by handing out money from the back of their SUVs. This is retail pork, nothing to be shocked at, but it does make the need for campaigning about issues almost irrelevant. There have been very few concrete statements from any of the opposition candidates about what they would do differently from what Sirleaf is doing but they seem to suggest they could do it better. As for President Sirleaf, her campaign theme seems to have been premised on the notion that she is a wily 'monkey' and that her opponents are clueless 'baboons'. You don't have to be a primatologist to figure out the implied meaning of this metaphor but it hardly suggest a bold vision for the future.

The third element in Liberia's current problems is the unresolved issues coming from the Truth and Reconciliation process. After the issuance of the 2009 report that called for the banning of Sirleaf and several others from holding political office the recommendations were largely swept under the rug. It has been suggested that one of the reasons that the former warlord turned presidential candidate Prince Johnson threw his endorsement towards Sirleaf was precisely because of her disregard for the TRC's recommendations, one of the most bold calling for the prosecution of Johnson as a war criminal. To add to the disgrace of the TRC process, its Commissioner, the lawyer Jerome Verdier, has been sending out internet messages to his supporters saying that his life and that of his family have been threatened and that his house in Monrovia was torched by his political enemies.

So where does Liberia go from here? There are no constitutional reasons why President Sirleaf cannot claim victory and keep on governing. But as we have seen throughout the continent once the opposition gets to a critical mass they start to demand extra-constitutional power sharing agreements that start to look like spoils-sharing rather than genuine desires to represent the citizenry.
Many in Liberia feel that the actions of William Tubman, Sirleaf's main opponent in Tuesday's run-off is trying to delegitimize the election so that the international community will step in and call for an interim government that will give power to all the main factions, many of which are still ethnically and regionally biased. To many citizens in Liberia, Sirleaf's administration is starting to look like the same old Americo-Liberian elite that plundered the country for over a century prior to their violent overthrow in 1980 - the first event in Liberia's devastating civil war.

In the short term the Sirleaf administration needs to deal with the fallout from the botched election, it needs to find jobs for the thousands of volatile young people who are marching against her and she needs to take a serious look at Liberia's constitution which is not at all suited for the country it wants to be.

Michael Keating is a Lecturer in International Relations at the University of Massachusetts Boston with a special interest in the Mano River countries of West Africa.

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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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