Without Genuine Reconciliation, the 2017 General and Presidential Elections are Critically Indecisive

By: Learsi Aynebil Alis, Philadelphia, USA, April 28, 2017

For the first time in almost 4 score years, Liberia is expected to witness a transfer of power from one democratically elected government to the other. That is, incumbent President – Ellen Johnson Sirleaf- who was elected to the presidency at the 2005 and 2011 polls respectively should be turning over power to whoever is going to be elected at the polls in 2017. Whether that person is going to be the Unity Party’s Joseph N. Boakai, the Coalition for Democratic Change’s George M. Weah, the All Liberian Party’s Benoni W. Urey or the Liberty Party’s Charles W. Brumskine is anybody’s guess.

But for the ensuing reasons, Liberia faces a critical challenge of reconciliation as it swivels towards the 2017 general and presidential elections.

First, this is an election in which a governing party is seeking re-election after 12 years in power. Second, towards these elections, the retiring president admitted in her last State of the Union address that she failed in two essential areas of national governance: the achievement of reconciliation and the fight against corruption. And third, there is a general perception amongst ordinary Liberians, including a good chunk of partisans of the governing Unity Party that the outgoing president, who is either a member or an assimilado of the “congo” or “an Americo Liberian elites” is secretly supporting her fellow “congo man” or “Americo Liberian decent” against a “native man or indigenous Liberian”.

Even though the dual accused “congo people” have vehemently refuted the claims against them as contemptible, their supporters have also labeled the assertions as mere divisive politics. Some even pretend that “native – congo” politics doesn’t exist in Liberia, shouldn’t be an issue or discussed anywhere in our national conversation since political leadership and decision making in the country encompass both segments of people. Yet, the question they haven’t asked President Sirleaf is, how did she fail to reconcile Liberia after 12 years in the nation’s highest office?

Again, for the first time in many years, especially following the orchestrated killing of former President Samuel K. Doe, the Liberian nation state is in close prospect of a political aspirant with somewhat clear ‘Liberian agenda’. So, to indigenous Liberians who occupy about 80 percent of the country, Joseph N. Boakai represents their aspirations. For them, he is a true reflection of their hope to reclaiming Liberia after prolonged “Americo Liberian” rule. Even some of the “progressives” in Liberia hold secret believes that this is the closest they have come to the presidency. Some contend that VP Boakai has even demonstrated a lifestyle of patriotism by raising, schooling and maintaining his family, particularly his children in Liberia.

They further argue that their admiration for the Vice President is deeply rooted in his notion that the reconstruction and development of Liberia can truly be attained by thinking Liberia and loving it. This is why he continues to stress the need to invest into all local Liberian industries and businesses. Born in Lofa County and schooled meanly in Liberia, Joseph Boakai is accordingly a staunch champion of the view that utilizing local Liberian talents will fast forward the country’s development programs as oppose to importing expatriate Liberians from mostly the United States of America and Europe to staff the government. Who wouldn’t agree with him on this concept if that’s what he truly believes?

A risk, as witnessed in the recent past, where so-called Liberian consultants or expatriates were conveyed from the USA and Europe to ‘contribute’ to Liberia was that, all those ‘imported technocrats’ brought from overseas eventually went back to those places after they left their jobs. Some even took back with them public assets converted into personal use. Another risk was that most of them kept their families abroad, supporting them from Liberia with taxpayers’ dollars. Even now, some of them still do.

Liberia was also recently dragged into the history of it’s sad past. What appeared like the reemergence of the Tubman and Tolbert era came afloat. With one family or certain names – dominating the corridors of state power, it became apparent that this was ‘payback’ period. For instance, Antoinette Weeks – a failed Public Works Minister who now occupies a prestigious Liberian slot at ECOWAS had previously served the National Oil Company of Liberia.  Other Weeks who continue to permeate the Liberian government include, Angeline Weeks, Executive Chairperson – Liberia Telecommunications Authority, Kemmie Weeks, Board Chairman – Liberia Water and Sewer Corporation, Milton Weeks – Executive Governor, Central Bank of Liberia, Ophelia Inez Weeks – Vice President for Academic Affairs and is expected to be appointed as President of the University of Liberia soon.

Our history has proven that it is usually a national disaster when few cronies are empowered at the behest of the leader and at the expense of the masses. The results are usually disgruntlement on the part of the governed, disdain for the governors, the few elites and state parasites, and insecurity on the part of the leader who may seek to use obscured means to either stay perpetually in power or groom and or support a surrogate to replace him or her. This is usually a protection – exit strategy.  No wonder why after almost a decade in office, the President could admit openly that she failed in the corruption fight. It cannot be disputed that nepotism is corruption since Article 5 of the Liberian constitution says so.

Could the scenario being speculated by the Liberia people be something to believe? Is it that the Liberian people are unhappy with the President’s judgment to repeatedly appoint her family members and the Weeks to strategic positions in government? Could it also be that the Liberia people have observed that to protect her hegemony, President Sirleaf is now scheming against her Vice President to prefer opposition Liberty Party’s Charles W. Brumskine who she perceives could shield her after she steps down?

Again, whether these opinions are true or not, they promise to have a fundamental sway on the voting attitude of ordinary Liberians. This is why my crystal ball tells me that without genuine reconciliation, the 2017 general and presidential elections are critically indecisive and may pose a threat to peaceful transition of power in Liberia thus undermining our fragile democracy.

Early warnings in these fashions could help avert conflict. President Sirleaf must take note and act logically if her legacy at home is to be protected. Vague admittance to failure to reconcile Liberia is not enough. She must make a choice, leapfrog from her fear vault and take some calm headed, yet drastic and unorthodox decisions gear towards brooking genuine reconciliation in the country before the 2017 polls.