The socio-political history of the Republic of Liberia has been, and is, asocio-economic and political “Canof Worms” in terms of Electoral Politics throughout its existence as an independent nation-state of the 16 African Tribe-nations.SOME EXAMPLES:
A. According to the Guinness Book of Records (1982), “Mr. Charles D. B. King won the 1927 presidential elections with a landslide victory that earned him a place in history”. The Guinness Book of Records “qualified the elections as the most fraudulent ever reported in world history. Suffrage was constitutionally limited to some 15,000 citizens, all Americo-Liberians(indigenous Africans were permitted citizens until 1905), but according to the official election results some 240,000 votes were cast in favor of Charles D.B.King.
The following year, the defeated Presidential candidate, Mr. Faulkner, accused the King Administration of permitting slavery, slave trade and forced labour within the borders of the Republic. Eventually this lead to President King’s resignation in 1930.
B. Author Raymond LeslieBuel’s epic book (Buel, 1947) published on the 100th birth anniversary of the Liberian Nation was and is, perhaps, the best assessment of the social cultural, economic and political activities of the Republic during its first one hundred years. In Chapter 2 of the book, the author posed and answered the question, “What Is Wrong with Liberia”, analysis and subject of his book.He noted that “Although the constitution of Liberia is modeled on that of the United States, Liberia cannot be called a democracy. The freedom of the immigrant settlers takes the form of imitating the old (US) Southern aristocracy. Although with emphasis on ‘classical’ education, Liberia did not produce intellectual elites as found in Hattior political leaders such as the late James Aggreyof Ghana or the late Felix Eboue`, Negro Governor-General of French Equatorial Africa”.
Except for the period of 23 years, (1847-1870), the Liberian government has been in the hands and control of the True Whig Party, a single-party state, political rulefor 110 years. “Of West Indian stock” the author notes, “President Edwin Barclay proved to be the most dictatorial of all Liberian Presidents. Upon retirement in 1943 Barclay selected Mr. William V. S. Tubman as his successor, opposed by Mr. James F. Cooper, former Secretary of Interior, with a newly-organized Democratic Party.
1. On May 7, 1943, Mr. Cooper’s Paper, theWeekly Mirror, wrote“. . . the voting on Tuesday, May 4, 1943 was the most partial, the most unfair, the most brazenly corrupt and domineering in the long shady record of the True Whig Party and in the history of the Republic. One small precinct of two dozen dwelling hoses, more or less, in the Territory of Marshall with a population in the whole territory of less than 1,000, counting men, women and children, including all domestic animals polled 5,100 for the Whigs and 7 for the Democrats”.
2. In probably the most sweeping indictment of any political system in the world, a US diplomatic representative in Liberia in October, 1933 summarized the Liberian situation as follows: “The political system of Liberia has been marked not only of unfair elections, but also, of inefficient, arbitrary and corrupt government. Waste of public funds in maintenance of over-staffed or unnecessary institutions and offices; failure of the Department of Justice to enforce payment of delinquent taxes; failure of the Department of Justice to prosecute Liberian officials for embezzlement of diversion of public funds and supplies or to tack action against them under their bonds; failure of the Liberian government to enforce payments of taxes into the Treasury of Consular and other fees; payment of funds due soldiers of the Frontier Force whose money was collected by Liberian politicians and their friends; failure to institute economic reforms repeatedly recommended by the Financial Advisor . . . “.
3. Writer-Historian Gus Liebenow
Liebenow’s approach to Liberian political History was based on what he described as “Class & Caste Stratification in the First Republic – reforms achieved and reforms attempted by the Tubman regime. Hostility between the majority Indigenous Liberian citizens and the minority Settler Americo-Liberian citizens had been the feature of Liberian society from the day of arrival of the settler-immigrants throughout the country’s existence since 1847(Liebenow, 1987)”.
Mr. William V. S. Tubman was elected President in 1943 and served for 27 years. This period was unique in the history of Liberia because Tubman introduced and implemented several reforms and changes, including the “spirit as well as the substance of the Caste relationship then-existing betweenthe Indigenous tribal citizens and the Americo-Liberians”.To the wave of Rising Expectations by the people, then an unusual phenomenon of political consciousness and agitation for change from what was considered a repressive regime of unjust, one-party rule, President Tubman realized and responded by abolishing the-then Liberian Hinterland of a single sub-political administrative district, divided/demarcated it into three Provinces –Eastern, Central and Western Provinces. Butthis new approach, however, facilitated a temporal easing of discontent, only to re-appear later in a much more violent form.
Ninety-seven(97)years in 1944 after declaration of political independence,Tubman became President of Liberia. He announced and launched theOpen Door Policy(Wreh, 1976) and later, Unification Policy in a speech in the city of Voinjama, Lofa County. These efforts were in response to the demands by the people in protests against a repressiveone-party rule with the settler, Americo-Liberian aristocracy and denial of civil and political rights.
The President, also, recognized and came to grips with the developed/developing socio-political and economic realities of the day. For, the persistent calls and demonstrations for “integration” and “unity”were the-then code words for democratic governance, recognition of and respect for the rights of rural citizens.President Tubman responded, again, by abolishing the three provinces and created, instead, the first four, new counties in the hinterland – Grand Gedeh, Nimba, Bong and Lofacounties in 1964. With creation of the counties came the inevitable, senate and house representations, a demand which, until now, had been vigorously, persistently denied (Smith, 1964).
This effort, by the President, was designed to give political participation (legislative representation) to hinterland citizens and the Open Door Policywhich would or could give economic benefits, also, to rural Liberia. These policy measures were intended, apparently, to defuse and, eventually, eradicate the socio-economic and political inequalities and relateddifferences between the settler-coastal,Americo-Liberians and the hinterland, indigenous-Liberians with due recognition and appreciation of and respect for indigenous African culture of rural Liberia.
4. Regarding this approach, Liebenowobserved that the “. . . appearance of reform being far greater than reality . . . the Tubman engine ran out of steam . . . It was clear that the overwhelming thrust of integration . . . of the First Republic was still in the direction of accepting settler (Americo-Liberian) rather than tribal (Indigenous) norms of behavior . . . “
Continuing, Liebenow wrote,“Detracting from the benefits to be derived from the extension of suffrage/representation in the Legislature and theOpen Door Policy to the tribal hinterlandwas the fact that elections had actually become almost meaningless exercises within the single-party state. Real power had gravitated effectively . . . from the legislature to the President (making him an Autocrat) and those influential Americo-Liberians who surrounded him. Although education provided more bureaucratic jobs for tribal youth and lower-income Americo-Liberians, the real, significant executive, legislative, judicial and ambassadorial positions were retained by the leading families at the core of the Americo-Liberian elite”.
In other words, the Liberian people responded that, although President Tubman’svision ofliberalism, political participation, economic benefits and national unitywere recognized, appreciated and rewarded by them with 27-year reign as president,but the oppressive marginalization and denial of basic, civil and political rights of the people still continued and remained a shocking reality.
The foregoing History of Liberian Politicsdominated, particularly, by ElectoralProcesshas been, and is,due to theawesome imperial power of the Liberian Presidency and the inordinate desire for political control and manipulations of the functions of the National Elections Commission (NEC).Today, this day, almost, the majority of the leading Executives of the three branches of our Government – National Legislature, Executive and the Judiciary – are dominated by “Liberian”foreign citizens. The current Speaker of the House of Representatives, the official designated by Law to become President of Liberia in the event that the President is incapacitated to perform, has been accused of being an identity thief, among others.
Almost, the majority of the leading executives and members of the nation’s Lawmakers are“Liberian”foreign citizens in flagrant violation of Article 30 of the Constitution of Liberia.Moreover,the current Speaker of the House of Representatives, the official designated by Law to become President of Liberia in the event that the President is incapacitated to perform, has been accused of being an identity thief, among others.
Today’s Executive Branch leads with the Presidency, in terms of “Liberia” foreign citizenship. Also, many of the ministers of state, heads of agencies of government, presidents and managing directors of state enterprises – NPA, NOCAL, LPRC, LMA, NASSCORP, NAPA, NIC, etc. – are enclaves for “Liberia”foreign citizens. The citizenship of the immediate, past President of Liberia has been, and is, questionable.
The Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Liberia’s diplomatic eyes & ears to the international world community, is or wasdominated by“Liberian” foreign citizens, foreign resident-Liberian aliens who, according to recent investigation stole hundreds of thousands of US dollars donated to the Republic by the Empire of Japan. Some of these Diplomats fled Liberia to the USA.And importantly, specifically,theMinistry of Finance & Development Planning that plans and develop nothing is dominated by and over-staffed with “Liberia” foreign citizens with wives and families still living in foreign countries. The same condition prevails at the Liberia Revenue Authority.
Some Justices of the Supreme Court, judges of lower court and members of the Liberia National Bar Association, almost, all leaders of private but national entities –Church, college, university, corporation, civil society organizations, etc. – are, perhaps,“Liberian” Foreign citizens.
The Elite & Ruling Political Class
Indeed, among the everyone who is somebody within the Liberian socio-economic and political system is a “Liberian” foreign citizen and holds 2 passports, Liberian and foreign;and everyone who desires to be somebody in Liberian socio-economic and political system strives to be“Liberian” foreign citizen to have2 passports, Liberian and foreign.And among the independent, highly-educated, semi-educated, street-smart, ghetto-slum political operators fall in this class of Liberians seeking to be somebody in the nation’s socio-economic and political system, with desire to be “Liberian” foreign citizen.
Why not, almost the majority of our diplomats carry2 passports – one Liberian diplomatic and the other, Ordinary, for his/her “foreign citizenship”?
The National Elections Commission (NEC)
Today, the current Chairman of the National Elections Commission (NEC)is a lawyer appointedby the former President of Liberia, although she knew, fully well, that the individual is not qualified, under law (being “Liberian” and citizen of a foreign country),to hold the position, but did so in order to control and manipulate the functions of the NEC. The majority of leading Political Parties, major Politicians and Lawyers, the few ruling political class, with the Decision by the Supreme Court of the Nationsupported the illegal appointment for obvious reasons.
The result has been, and is, that the Electoral Process is,profoundly, politicized such that the recent October 10, 2017 national, presidential elections ended in volumes of electoral fraud and related violations plunged the Republic into a Constitutional Crisis “resolved” by digging holes to cover much more expanding and deeper holes!
Yes, indeed, from our past history ofarbitrary arrests, detentions and/or disappearances/executions; from looting, destruction of private/public properties and human suffering; from the recent decades of ethnic/tribal tragedy of the civil war, the worst-ever on the African Continent with mind-boggling misery to the prevailing conditions, we have not learned and are not learning!!
But it is said that “those who ignore the mistakes of history are likely to suffer the adverse impact/effect”; the Republic of Liberia is, now, embroiled in the impact.
Buel, Raymond Leslie, Liberia: A Century of Survival, 1847-1947,African Handbook #7, University of Pennsylvania.
Liebenow, J. Gus, The Quest for Democracy, Indiana University Press, 1987.
Smith, Robert A.,The Emancipation of the (Liberian) Hinterland, The Star Magazine Advertising Services, Monrovia, 1964.
Wreh, Tuan, The Love of Liberty, C. Hurst & Co., London, 1976.