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Editorial: Can Madam President, UNMIL Further Clarify?

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“Your already know that Nigerian soldiers don’t joke right? I’m going to Nigeria to negotiate for Nigerian soldiers to come here for the elections,” President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf was quoted to have said, while addressing members of the ‘Vendors United for the Re-election of Ellen as published on Monday, September 5, 2011 by the New Dawn-Liberia under the banner headline: Nigerian Soldiers Due for Liberia.

The Randall Street-based marketers had organized the rally at the Monrovia City Hall on Tubman Boulevard on Sunday, September 4, 2011 to express their loyalty and support to President Sirleaf in her quest for re-election come October 11 this year.

While responding to the statement of loyalty and support to the vendors, the President was said to have assured that she was on her way to her Nigerian counterpart, Goodluck Jonathan to request the deployment of additional troops in Liberia to avoid what she referred to as “violence clashes”, a visit she has since made (the same Sunday, following her address to her supporters). She attributed her quest to her desire to ensure that the upcoming general and presidential elections were violence-free.

In view of the foregoing, many continue to wonder as to why the President would be interested in the deployment of Nigerian Troops in Liberia during elections when the United Nations Mission in Liberia or UNMIL is still here?  One may even wonder as to whether or not her decision was in consultations or collaboration with UNMIL.  Is it not possible for UNMIL to collaborate with the Liberia National Police or Armed Forces of Liberia headed by a Nigerian General as Chief of Staff in ensuring a violence-free electoral process?

At whose expense will these Nigerian Vanguard soldiers maintain the electoral security? These are just a few of the many questions to which Liberians would be very grateful were the President to respond. Five days following the publication of the President’s Sunday, September 4, 2011 pronouncement, the Executive Mansion, in its attempt to clarify through the Presidential Press Secretary, described the Head of State’s recent visit to Nigeria as an ECOWAS Peace and Security meeting.

More to the Press Secretary’s attempted clarification, was unconfirmed report  that  at the recent Nigeria meeting was the UN Secretary General Special General and head of UNMIL, Margaret Loj, something which may confirm UNMIL’s acquiescence with Madam President’s decision. The fact that UNMIL has not made any public confirmation and considering the gullibility of the Liberian society and perceptions which continue to evolve as a result of the President’s statement, it was very important for UNMIL to “clear the air.”

It would further disabuse the minds of those who were harboring negative perceptions, if Her Excellency were to provide an update on the matter following her visit and meeting with her Nigerian counterpart. Our objective of raising such issue is not because we broke the news, but to ensure that the fears in certain quarters were allayed and negative perceptions properly and positively directed to avoid any blame-game before, during and after the October 11 general and presidential elections.

While the people of Liberia seek these clarifications from President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf and the United Nations Mission in Liberia, the intervention of the Embassy of the Federal Republic of Nigeria near Monrovia is also a necessity.

It is also our ardent hope that other than ‘jumping into conclusion’ or delving into hasty generalization in public, our brother and sisters in the opposition will exercise the highest degree of political maturity by directing all doubts/inquiries to UNMIL, the Nigerian Embassy or even the President, even though she may be seen as head of the ruling Unity Party- this is where they must constructively engage each, placing Liberia at the core of their quest for political power.

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