Sunday, November 6, 2011

Statement on the Political Stalemate in Liberia

Ibrahim Al-bakri Nyei
November 6, 2011

Recent developments in Liberia around the presidential election are appalling and deeply worrisome - signaling a stalemate of unpredictable consequences. We take note of the complains of political parties after the first round of the 2011 general and presidential elections, but we are yet to be convinced of the claims made to judge whether they are valid enough for their actions thus far. The threat of boycott and the careless and abusive campaign statements from opposing camps, including the resignation of the Chairman, and exit of key staff members of the National Election Commission in the middle of the process speak of a volatile situation needing urgent attention to protect the people of Liberia against extremist political attitudes. Immediate security actions and direct engagements by the international community are needed to prevent the situation from deteriorating into violence. By now the international community should have learned sufficient lessons from the tragedies that resulted from elections in Kenya (2007 - 2008), Zimbabwe (2008), and Ivory Coast (2010 -2011). Thanks to the United Nations Mission in Liberia and ECOWAS for their roles so far.

At this point it is important to mention that the prevailing developments in Liberia are not spontaneous, but are products of pos-conflict governance leakages which the administration overlooked. There are governance leakages which have all built up to numerous political crises out of which the current situation is just one product. Two key issues can be considered here as part of the leakages. The first was the failure of the administration to lead the country into a broader national process of Constitutional reform. Constitutional reform is a key and fundamental element of postwar reform, and had this government embarked on such an initiative key issues of national controversy would have been sorted out and addressed. Rather, the administration chose to support and conduct a referendum month to the election. It was from this controversial referendum the current tension around the elections began.

Second is the lukewarm approach of the government to transitional justice issues, mainly national reconciliation. Transitional justice goes in tandem with constitutional reform in postwar governance reform processes, and it is the basis upon which people deal with past grievances and accept each other for the future. Eight years after the war, Liberians are yet to have collective and clear understanding of the causes of the conflict and the role of various actors, and the way forward to a peaceful future. This is largely due to the controversy that resulted from the TRC process. Today, people feel free to issue threats of violence and even disrupt national processes without fearing consequences. At the same time, the people still seem to be deeply divided on ethnic issues, and the growing patterns of remerging wartime alliances during these elections speak volumes of deep-seated grievances and conflict mentalities.

Also important to mention here is the fact that the class of politicians presiding over Liberia today have a conflict-prone mentality, and there is complete lack of trust among themselves, thus making it difficult for them to participate in meaningful competitive democratic processes without threats, violence and actions inimical to modern democracy and civilization. Unfortunately, there is no meaningful challenge to the political excesses and inherent failures of this class of politicians that have presided over Liberia since the 1960s. The lack of challenge is due to the continuous cooptation and manipulation of elements in the succeeding generations.

Let us realize now that it is time to give new face to governance and politics in Liberia in response to the emerging 21st century challenges of peace, democracy and progressive development. Of course the current class of politicians lacks the trust and energy for this century, so it is time that they are retired from politics and government where they are not productive as evidenced by the state of affairs in Liberia over the past decades.

Thus a new breed of leadership is needed if Liberia must move forward with the pace of development and globalization in this 21st century. The energy and innovative skills of the emerging generations can save the people of Liberia from the emotional and physical pains of poverty, violence, and injustice caused by the current batch of politicians, and will raise Liberia beyond its current status of a puppet state in the international community.