“O, we go again; same old thing we’ been doing”. This is the opening line of a military matching song we learned in elementary school during the days when AFL or militia soldiers would come to help us prepare for Flag Day parade. The line contained a fair measure of the marchers’ fatigue or boredom with repeating the same motions day in and day out. It also conveyed to us the fact that we did have to expect anything new or different from what we did the day before and the day before and the day before.
As the Congress for Democratic Change (CDC) rambles on about elections fraud and a pending boycott of the November 8, 2011 presidential run-off, one is left with an eerie feeling of what to decipher from the whole saga. Is the CDC just feeding us with the latest dosage of its typical political posturing (CDC morale if you like) or are we witnessing the beginning of the implementation of the Alan White’s make-Liberia-ungovernable strategy paper? Whatever the possible or plausible answer, what is obvious is that the balance of popular will is weighted against the CDC as far as anything other than an unconditional participation in the run-off is concerned.
2011 is Not 1985
Among the many justifications that CDCians and their leadership often proffer for their bellicose attitude towards the Liberian government and the National Elections Commission is the refusal by Madam Ellen Johnson Sirleaf to take the senatorial seat she won in the 1985 elections. In the first place the reasons they are giving and the ones given by the Liberia Action Party (LAP) in 1985 are on different levels altogether.
Political consensus: In 1985, all the three opposition parties – Liberia Action Party, Liberia Unification Party (LUP) and Unity Party (UP) were unanimous that Jackson F. Doe of the LAP won the Presidential elections. Beyond that parties barred from the elections – United People’s Party and Liberia People’s Party – also backed the stance of the main opposition, i.e., LAP, LUP and UP.
In 2011, the CDC does not have such overwhelming endorsement of its position. In fact some of the parties that signed the joint communiqué to condemn the elections results have grown cold feet. One key component, the National Union for Democratic Progress (NUDP) has broken ranks to declare support for the UP in the run-off.
Civil society consensus: The fraud that took place in 1985 was so massive and so glaring that it did not require the political parties alone to mobilize the masses against the declared outcome. Every civic organization of historical relevance in Liberia stood up in one way or the other againstthe declaration of Head of State Samuel K. Doe as the winner. Without fear of contradiction, I can refer the CDC to the Press Union of Liberia, the Liberia National Students Union, the University of Liberia Students Union, the Federation of Liberian Youths, the Liberia National Bar Association, and the Liberia Council of Churches among others. Each of these civil society bodies expressed some measure of displeasure and concern about the elections results either through official position statements or statements from significant individuals within their ranks. Today the CDC cannot identify any civil society organization of note that shares its claims of elections fraud.
Independent opinion:In 2011, like in 2005, the CDC is the one and only institution that is bringing up the claim of fraud. And it is also the CDC itself that is providing the “evidence”. In 1985, the instances of fraud were reported by not only the political parties, but by members of the media, international observers and ordinary citizens like the burning of ballot boxes in Margibi County.
For the purpose of balance, let’s agree that one incidence reported by only one source might contain sufficient evidence to prove a case. But in such scenario, the proof should be overwhelming in fact and indeed. The CDC has, to date, been able to make a case of what it claims was ballot box (es) being opened by poll workers in Monrovia. We have seen picture of young men and women grouped around a plastic container that resembles a ballot box.
But are those individuals actual poll workers hired by NEC? Only the CDC and the individuals in the photo can convince us. Besides, if they were NEC poll workers would they stand and be smiling into the camera as if they had not been caught in a criminal act? Again the CDC has the burden of proof. Apart from Laurent Gbagbo’s party agent who openly, and before international TV cameras, confiscated and tore the Ivory Coast elections results, I have not heard of a situation where persons engaged in elections malpractices gleefully posed for the camera.
Until these and other pieces of the CDC fraud puzzle – a cohesive and collective support from the political class, total endorsement from civil society and credible, independent opinion from local and international poll observers – can be assembled to present a readable picture, the whole huffing and puffing about election fraud, second round boycott and so forth will be taken as nothing more than political grandstanding.
Of course, there is always the possibility that the unexpected or bizarre might happen. So we have to factor in the possibility of CDC boycotting the presidential run-off, the possibility of staging public actions that cause unease or unrest and, probably, carrying out an open confrontation against the Government. If any of these things happens, there various options available to the Liberian people that the CDC ought to be aware of.
If the boycott threat is carried through, Liberians will simply ignore them, rally ourselves and go to the polls on November 8 to vote according to the form and manner in which the ballot will be printed. As things stand, the CDC candidates will be on the ballot because the NEC has no legal basis for excluding them. At this point in our history, we are very conscious of what is good for us to the point where we have developed an instinct for detecting the recipes of confusion from the formula for peace and progress. The way Liberians have treated some of the outrageous recommendations of the TRC is an object lesson for those who think they can con Liberians into setting bobby traps for themselves.
Should the CDC go for the option of public actions that create unrest or unease, they will be sorely disappointed because the number of persons support their cause will be insignificant compared to those who will condemn them. The current weight of public opinion on radio, in newspapers, on the internet and in the communities is a good indicator of this.
Or let’s consider the very remote possibility that an open confrontation is staged against the government, that is, some form of violence with the potential to cause instability. For the time being it is altogether clear what the reaction of the Liberian people will be. Will they sit supinely and be victimized as they did from 1989 to 2003, or will they rise up like the people of Tunisia, Egypt or Libya and resist the use of violence.
You never know what a people can do when they are fed up with the agents of violence and intimidation. There are some who wrongly profile certain categories of Liberians – petty traders, shoe shiners, car washers, car loaders, wheelbarrow pushers and ex-combatants – have nothing to lose and therefore they will follow anyone who incites them to violence. Well, there are two things wrong with that notion. First, these people have their future to lose if they don’t support the cause of peace. Second, as we saw in North Africa, even the so-called “civilized class” and professionals can take an active stance against violence.
To a point, the guy whose unit captured Colonel Qaddafi is an engineer who stood up against violence and intimidation. Also engaged in the struggle to instill democracy in Libya were medical doctors, lawyers, PhD and master degree students, businessmen and other people we would not ordinarily associate with fighting. In the case of Liberia, we do not need to get that far. But just in case some people think that they can use the threat of violence to make the population to capitulate to their unreasonable demands, they should be aware that everyone has the potential to do anything when the time and cause are right.
Anthony G. Myers
Deja-vu or the White Plan?