By Jacob N.B. Parley
The National Elections Commission (NEC), on Tuesday, October 24, 2023 officially announced the results of the October 10, 2023 Presidential and Legislative Elections in Liberia, with no candidate obtaining the required percentage to be declared winner for the presidency. As per the announced results, the Coalition for Democratic Change (CDC) obtained the highest number of votes 804,087, constituting 43.83 percentage, while Unity Party (UP) obtained 796,961 votes, constituting 43.44 percent.
Article 83 (B) of the Liberian Constitution, requires anyone vying for the Liberian Presidency to outrightly obtain at least 50 percent plus one of the valid votes cast on the first ballot in order to be declared winner. It means that the two presidential tickets that receive the highest number of valid votes will go for a run-off election, to be administered by the NEC on the second Tuesday of October following the expiration of the time provided for in Article 83 (C). Now that none of the presidential candidates obtained the required percentage, incumbent Liberian President George M. Weah of the CDC and Former Vice President Joseph N. Baokai of the Unity Party will stand in the run-off slated for Tuesday, November 14, 2023.
Thanks to God Almighty in the first place, the NEC, the Liberian people and the international community for how far we have come. However, I am constrained to pen my second opinion on the significance of peaceful elections in Liberia, considering some of the unfavorable happenings during the first voting period.
Despite our various political, religious and cultural persuasions, on 10th October, 2023 we went to the polls across the country to put democracy to test for the 4th time following a bloody civil war that claimed about 250, 000 innocent lives, while several other thousands were forced into refugee camps in the West African Sub-region and other parts of the world. Clearly, there have been divergence of opinions regarding the key reasons behind the brutal civil war that was fought along tribal lines. Whatever the case may be, unbridled hankering for political power, corruption, nepotism and exclusion are most often captured on the radar whenever Liberia’s long-running problems are being diagnosed through the political laboratory from time to time. Since I am not a historian, there may be other accounts that may have flickered the fire of wanton destruction on 24th December, 1989.
A professor of International Relations (IR) at the University of Liberia Graduate School once told me in passing that what initially started in the early 70’s by a group of fire brand politicians and other advocates toward peaceful enlightenment of the citizenry about their rights got out of proportion. He disclosed that some elements saw such advocacy as a vehicle to plunge Liberia into chaos.
“As the song of enlightenment started to resonate across Liberia, including school campuses, especially in the early 80’s, little did some of us realize that the foundation to make Liberia an epic center of aggression and violence was being laid,” observed the IR professor while we were awaiting actual class time in 2022.
During the years of war in Liberia, the only available theater where people tried to test their popularity was the battle field of live extinguishing bullets- a clear showcasing of the Survival of the Fittest scenario, promoted through taking innocent people hostage and expanding one’s so-called territory through the reign of terror.
As time progressed, we realized that the war was senseless, taking into account the increasing number of innocent people being killed at the time, including the shattered nature of the Liberian economy. It is also important to mention that some of our brothers and sisters (peace keepers) who left their families to help find solution to a problem created by ourselves lost their precious lives in the process.
I strongly believe that the coming in of the international community was the result of God’s grace and intervention. As a demonstration of our determination to end the hostilities and begin to once more live peacefully among ourselves, on 18th August 2003 we formally signed the Accra Comprehensive Peace Accord (CPA) in Ghana, with the backing of the international community. The signing of the CPA, as indicated earlier was an indication that we were tired slaughtering ourselves and now ready for rebuilding our lives and damaged infrastructure.
Is it that we have not realized that the nearly 14-year civil war did not find any amicable solution to Liberia’s long-running daunting challenges. Instead, the country continues to grapple with many of the leftovers of the Liberian civil war. Among these challenges are severe brain drain, the wandering of streets by strong-willed children, hatred, greed, disunity, lack of job opportunities, especially for the youthful population, etc.
Now that it is a known fact that we are twenty years away from the days of the reign of terror and brutality by the country’s then hard-boiled and belligerent fighting forces, the best place where those vying for leadership positions at the various levels can test their political popularity is the ballot box, not through the barrel of the gun.
I therefore see it worthwhile that we do away with practices that could thwart the gains made for the past twenty years by keeping the electoral process peaceful.
Yes, from the perspective of common sense, there are many political parties, many candidates, different cultural practices and religious beliefs, but we have only one country- The Republic of Liberia!
The democracy that is being put to test for the 4th time after our civil war does not thrive in any hostile environment, neither does any business climate flourish when the operating environment is blemished with uncertainty, unpredictability and insecurity.
I would like to mention two other unfriendly incidents that I witnessed during the campaign period before drawing the curtains on this opinion:
1. One day I was returning from work, riding on a three- wheeler (“Keh-keh”) from the S.K. D. Boulevard to Barnesville Junction. The fellow running the three-wheeler was playing one of the campaign sons for the CDC (Yor- Yor- Yor, Gbekugbeh Want Talk To US, Yor). I can’t remember any of us (previous passengers) having any problem with the song, not until when an elderly man got on board around the Military Baptist Church in the 7nd Community. The moment the elderly man got on board he started to demand that the boy should cut off the song. “I say cut off that dam song I don’t want to hear it, I say cut it off now, I’m speaking to you,” demanded the elderly man over and over.
The fellow said: “But “papay” (reference to an ageing man) I started playing this song before you came, so please take time how you talk to me.” The fellow’s refusal to yield to the Oldman’s demand led to a heated argument to the extent that he started calling the boy certain names.
There were some for and others against. After listening to the two sides, I appealed to boy to lower the volume of the tape a bit as I was trying to engage the old man in a polite manner to equally slow down with his demand.
“Old man, if that is the issue about the high volume of the song, I will talk to him to lower it and please be mindful how you engage him because he’s doing his little hustle and that song could be that of his party or maybe he’s playing it to entertain his passengers,” I pleaded.
But the moment I made this point, the elderly man used an unfriendly word on me and even went to the point of accusing me of backing the fellow. Realizing that the old man was overwhelmed with emotion, I had to disembark to avoid the unexpected from a passenger who was very melodramatic in his utterances and at the same time becoming unreasonable in his argument.
2. On Saturday, October 21, 2023, I went on the road to watch the football game between my favorite English team (Manchester United) and Sheffield United. During the game, another heated argument ensued between two motorcyclists over each other’s political choice. From what I was following, the two motorcyclists are friends. But the moment one said he was shifting his support from the CDC to the Unity Party (UP) in the event of a run off, his colleague angrily accused him of being a traitor. “Oh, my man (reference to his colleague), so all this thing we doing you Unity Party man?” As his friend tried to give reasons for his latest decision, he took serious exception and remarked: “From today I will be careful with you because you are working against my interest.” The heated argument almost led to a fist fight and so some of us had to leave prematurely.
Reflecting on these two scenarios and several other incidents of violence since campaign for the 2023 Presidential and Legislative Elections in Liberia began, I am deeply troubled, the fact that some people have not realized that elections are not meant to put us asunder.
It makes no sense for us to be at one another’s throat because of politics; it makes no sense for us to fight among ourselves because of politics and it makes no sense to call others all the wrong names and undeserved characterizations because of their political choices. The electoral period is an even that will always come and go, but we will continue to live together as a people.
Indeed, at the end of the electoral process, there will eventually be no winners and losers but our dear country will reign supreme from the perspective of tolerance, peaceful campaign and unity in our political diversity.
This is my plead!
Jacob Parley is a Liberian media professional, with over twenty-five years of extensive practice, both print and electronic. He is a Former Vice President of the Press Union of Liberia, Former News Director; Editor-in-Chief, Executive Mansion Correspondent, etc. (Liberia Broadcasting System).
He earned a Post Graduate Diploma in Modern Development Diplomacy from the Gabriel L. Dennis Foreign Service Institute, carries over ten journalism certificates, two of which were earned from the People’s Republic of China, etc.
The author is reachable through: email@example.comfirstname.lastname@example.org
Contacts: +231 777604576/886560455