14 November 2017

Liberia: The Public, Too, Must Avoid Self-Panic

Open Liberia, a local civil society organization developing a reputation in public policy advocacy, says amid the different political discussions, the public must avoid unwarranted self-panic.

In a press release issued Monday in Monrovia, the executive director, Samuka Konneh described disagreement as a normal part of all political processes, especially in a highly contested election.

"When we speak to the politicians, we must also speak to you. Disagreement and the expression thereof by people-of interest is a natural part of a political contest; and in fact the cradle of open governance and democracy. The public owes it to itself to avoid unnecessary panic as a result of these political disagreements. The sound of disagreement is far better than the sound of guns. Politicians use the public's feeling of panic to exploit our peace and democracy," Konneh says.

According to him, when people stop disagreeing on issues that affect them and their political interest, they seek other options that may have unimaginable consequences.

"Liberia's laws guarantee people's right to agree and disagree and when they exercise that franchise; it should not be construed as threat, except it is glaringly expressed as a threat. Otherwise, there is no need for panic," he added.

However, Konneh has a special message for politicians and people with political interest. "We congratulate the Liberty Party, All Liberian Party and the Unity party for expressing their disagreement through the court. However, we've heard our women and mothers - 'do not touch our peace.' That is a responsibility binding on all of us. When we make statements that take the form of a threat - whether real or perceived, then we are about to touch our peace. At this stage in global politics, you do not want to be guilty of touching our peace. We call on you to freely express your agreement or disagreement, but you must understand that such right comes with responsibility. Liberia is an agitated nation after many years of war - so you must tune down the rhetoric," he cautioned.

He concluded by thanking Liberia's friends at the AU and ECOWAS for intervening. Yet, he warned against the country often relying on outsiders to solve its problems.

"When we often look towards outsiders to solve our problems, even simple political disagreement, we kill the viability of our national institutions. We've done this for years and it must stop. These institutions do not exist just to satisfy requirement of a government. Twelve years now, we cannot say our institutions are not yet at a level where we can trust them with what they were created for. We cannot ask our own institutions to intervene in our problems, but at the same time call on international community to solve them. This way, we undermine the sanctity of our institutions. This is hypocrisy; and it must stop. You cannot file a complaint with the Supreme Court and the NEC; and yet write the UN, AU, and ECOWAS to intervene. We cannot continue to pretend that we believe in our systems when we don't," Konneh added.

Open Liberia is working towards creating a reputation in public policy support through the conduct of non-academic research on daily public and public policy issues that affect people, governance and democracy. The organization hopes to conduct research each month and use findings in its communication and advocacy campaigns.

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