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Liberia: To Vote or Not to Vote?

As the clock was ticking toward Liberia's scheduled November 8, 2011, presidential run-off, a cloud of doubt and uncertainty seemed to be engulfing the process.

Upon his return from Abuja, Nigeria, last Friday where he attended an ECOWAS consultative briefing, the presidential candidate for the Congress for Democratic Change (CDC), Winston Tubman, in an address delivered to his members categorically stressed that CDC wouldn't take part in the runoff.

The CDC chief's proclaimation stirred up many views both at home and abroad: Mardea Wiles commented:

Cllr. Winston Tubman has reiterated that CDC will not participate in the November 8th runoff for allegations of fraud and biases. If CDC is convinced beyond all reasonable doubts that the process was fraudulent, their Representatives just elected in the October 11th election should also boycott the process by not taking up their seats in the House of Legislature. With such action, the Liberians will know that they are determined to pursue this claim to a logical conclusion. Can you honor part of a process and disregard some under the same NEC Administration?

Cllr.Winston Tubman‑CDC Standard Bearer. Picture courtesy of africatv1.com

Congress for Democratic Change presidential candidate Winston Tubman. Picture courtesy of africatv1.com

The New Dispensation blog broke the CDC's call for a boycott this way:

Liberia’s controversial next Tuesday run-off election is postponed and President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf will address the nation at which time she will officially inform the Liberian people of the government’s decision.

The run-off election has come to be one of gridlock as the opposition party and presidential candidate Cllr. Winston Tubman withdrew in protest to boycott the run-off. Cllr. Winston Tubman who returned from Nigeria yesterday after having talks with Nigeria President Goodluck Johnathan and Chairman of the Economic Community of West Africa States (ECOWAS), reiterated his call for boycott of the Tuesday election, calling on his supporters and partisans to peacefully boycott the Tuesday polls by staying home.

Elizabeth J.Nelson, the acting chairperson of Liberia Elections Commission. Photo courtesy of necliberia.org

Elizabeth J.Nelson, the acting chairperson of Liberia Elections Commission. Photo courtesy of necliberia.org

The National Elections Commission under the leadership of its new acting chairperson, Elizabeth J.Nelson, reassured all stakeholders that NEC-Liberia is fully committed to leading Liberia to a peaceful transition via free, fair and peaceful elections. In her first official press conference held last week Tuesday, she specifically pinpointed the organisation's readiness to conduct a credible runoff.

In an effort to motivate citizens to exercise their constitutional voting right against a boycott, Mr. Samuel Tolehyon Gbatu, Sr, a Liberian in the Diaspora chose these words for Liberians:

Wake Up Call: It is time for us (Liberians) to exhibit our patriotism, it is time for us to learn that violence is not the answer to our quest if we did not learn that in the past. This is not even based on party levels, be a patriot, support your and its people, refrain from violence and be a good citizen. Support the electoral process and accept the result for a way forward. Politicians will come and go, but the future of Liberia still remains in our hands……Their aims are unknown don't fall for them. Don't be a fool to be used to destroy your own country, remember their lives are better than the average Liberians.

Unlike Mr. Gbatu, who is calling for a peaceful continuation of the electoral process during the run-off, Jerome J.Verdier, the erstwhile chairman of the defunct Liberian Truth of Reconciliation Commission (TRC) has called for a complete halt to the process. He called the process the “Kangaroo November 8 runoff” and urged the Liberian Senate to cease it:

We have on hand a constitutional/political crisis which should spare no effort in ensuring its peaceful resolution founded in dialogue pursuant to a political resolution. The only other option is the legal option which is no longer viable as no one who is a major stakeholder has any inkling of confidence in the Supreme Court to dispose of contentious matters independently, judiciously and legally where the interest of President Sirleaf is concerned.

A political resolution entails that the senate which has oversight of presidential appointments must engage both parties, along with the international community, halt any kangaroo November 8 runoff and advert further deterioration of an already worsening situation.

An elderly lady being escorted by her son to vote. Photo courtesy of @liberiaelection.

An elderly lady being escorted by her son to vote. Photo courtesy of @liberiaelection.

Ibrahim Al-bakri Nyei, a Liberian Youth Ambassador For Peace, commissioned by the Universal Peace Federation described the process in these words: “products of post-conflict governance leakages”:

At this point it is important to mention that the prevailing developments in Liberia are not spontaneous, but are products of pos-conflict governance leakages which the administration overlooked. There are governance leakages which have all built up to numerous political crises out of which the current situation is just one product. Two key issues can be considered here as part of the leakages. The first was the failure of the administration to lead the country into a broader national process of Constitutional reform. Constitutional reform is a key and fundamental element of postwar reform, and had this government embarked on such an initiative key issues of national controversy would have been sorted out and addressed. Rather, the administration chose to support and conduct a referendum month to the election. It was from this controversial referendum the current tension around the elections began.

The United Nations (UN) in the midst of all the claims and counter claims reaffirmed its commitment to the electoral process. The world governing body through its Chief, Ban Ki-moon, said the UN supports the joint efforts by the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) and the UN Special Representative for Liberia, Ellen Margrethe Lj, to promote dialogue and build confidence in the electoral process and stressed the need for all parties to foster a peaceful transition.

The Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), the regional body of which Liberia is a founding member continued to urge the Congress for Democratic Change (CDC) to participate in the run-off.

In the wake of all of the fervent efforts being exerted by ECOWAS, with the memory of ECOWAS’ role in the Liberian civil crisis still fresh on the minds of many Liberians, Joe ‘Saye-Tomah’ Gbaba, Sr, showed strong reservations about the regional body's sincerity and neutrality through a comment on the Elections Media Monitoring group on Facebook:

Given the trend of politics in Liberia the comments recently made by the ECOWAS Commission is very troubling in that the ECOWAS Commission suggested that it will “recognize” Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, even if the people of Liberia boycott the elections and reject her as their leader. Such a statement reflects the biased and prejudiced stance the ECOWAS Commission took from day one when ECOMOG’s Ghanaian Field Commander Arnorld Quinoo master-minded the brutal murder of Liberia’s sitting President Samuel Kanyon Doe at the hands of rebels of Prince Johnson’s Independent National Patriotic Front of Liberia (INPFL).

From that time moving forward, it became crystal-clear that ECOWAS Commission had a hidden agenda and that they would be in Liberia for keeps. For, the ECOWAS Commission would pretend they were in Liberia to secure the peace and bring the Liberian human carnage and mayhem to a close. Whereas, in reality, they would enhance and perpetuate mayhem and lawlessness in its various forms in cohort with Liberian rebel warlords and their supporters.

Despite Tubman's call for a boycott, polling opened today for the disputed presidential run-off.

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