If only a small percentage of the people now calling for violence free elections were to lend their voices to calls for Justice and Rule of Law, the appetite for violence in general most certainly will diminish and Liberia would be well on its way to full recovery. Instead, the recovery has stalled due to injustice, impunity, poverty and benign neglect. And the impending election is hardly a remedy whether violence free or not.
In fact anyone expressing genuine concerns regarding escalating election violence must be aware that appropriate action have yet to be taken since following the calamity– mass rape, torture and murder –that affected almost a half million defenseless Liberians. Now it has been eight years since the international community — through the United Nations — has practically taken control of the country, yet not one person has been held accountable for these atrocities. What message this sends to the young people?
Is it possible to control or eliminate violence in a place where might-makes-right… where the people are absolutely powerless and impoverished… where the youth are restless and devoid of hope…and where the justice system is woefully inadequate? What other outlets are there to be heard or effect change? Should we succeed in removing violence from the impending elections, what effect will this have on individuals known to have committed heinous crimes but allowed to walk free and are rewarded handsomely?
What Liberians need most at this moment is RELIEF from the people who have terrorized the country for the past 25 years and dehumanized the entire population. We are trapped in fear and despair! To those who are listening, we are asking for OUTSIDE INTERVENTION, not sympathy or a lecture on campaign violence. We need HELP now!
Who out there is willing to stand with the embattled citizens of Liberia and say to President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf and Senator Prince Yormie Johnson that they must not participate in the impending Elections unless issues regarding the TRC recommendations are resolved?
Who out there is willing to take the lead in bringing justice to the thousands of women that were brutally raped, or the countless numbers of people that were tortured, or the tens of thousands families that lost loved ones in the carnage?
Who out there is willing to provide employment opportunities for the 60% youth population, or assist with school fees, or ensure that our young people have at least two solid meals a day?
Who out there is willing to tell the current government of Liberia that political violence has multiple faces, therefore it cannot afford to govern through violence and expect the citizens to behave otherwise?
Who out here is willing to tell the Unity Party (UP) that it was wrong to impose upon the Liberian people — just because it has the powers to do so — a Referendum that is unconstitutional, unnecessary and untimely?
Who out there is willing and able to tell President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf that the following are also manifestations of political violence?
- When the Unity Party is the only political party financially capable of conducting an effective nationwide campaign, yet its sources of funding are unknown; that’s political violence!
- When the country’s unemployment is above 75% and the ruling Unity Party insists on holding on to power; that’s political violence!
- When the Unity Party uses its powers to ram through constitutional amendments for the sole purpose of keeping its presidential candidate in the race; that’s political violence!
- When it is illegal for citizens to express grievances through public demonstrations unless they provide private security guards and sign documents accepting in advance personal liability for property damage; that’s political violence!
- When victims of rape, torture and other horrific crimes have no redress, yet the government protects the perpetrators of these crimes; that’s political violence!
- When the vast majority of Liberians are reduced to beggars due to downsizing and rampant corruption while the government looks the other way; that’s political violence!
- When the internationally recognized Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) recommends, based upon its findings, that President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf should not hold public office for 30 years; yet she refuses to cooperate and declares herself the most formidable candidate in the presidential race; this too is political violence!
My humble plea to those who are calling for violence free elections is that you not focus solely on the burning of cars, detaining of party officials, or exuberant partisans threatening journalists, but rather show balance in dealing with the distinct faces of political violence and the danger they pose to the larger society.
Violence is violence regardless of whether it is carried out by an individual or a group. Where the President of Liberia uses her powers to squash the work of the independent Truth Commission because its findings are not to her liking, thereby condoning impunity and apathy for Rule of Law, it presents a moral challenge for those wishing to condemn others engaged in similar acts of political violence.