21 November 2017

Liberia: U.S. Lawmakers Call for American Govt Intervention in Liberia's Electoral Standoff Concerns Raised Over Destabilizing Sub-Region

Photo: Boakai Fofana/AllAfrica
The headquarters of Liberia's National Elections Commission

Monrovia — Peace and stability is at stake; not only in Liberia, but in the West African region as well, some members of the U.S. Congress have expressed.

The ongoing electoral standoff due to allegations of fraud and irregularities having significant impact on the October 10 presidential and legislative elections has caught the attention of U.S. Congressional members.

Congress members Sheila Johnson Lee and Bobby L. Rush have written Secretary of State, Rex W. Tillerson, seeking the timely intervention of the United States Government to ensure that allegations of electoral fraud are speedily adjudicated to avoid constitutional crisis in the country.

In the letter, a copy of which has been obtained by FrontPageAfrica, U.S. lawmakers expressed concern about the possibility of prolonged litigation and the ramifications if could have on Liberia's democratic process.

They acknowledged the legal process the grievances of the complaining political parties is going through and heralded the parties for observing the rule of law, but urged the U.S. government to encourage and support any effort to quickly resolve fracas.

According to such a resolution will allow Liberians to exercise their rights by going to the polls and ensuring a timely, peaceful and constitutional transfer of power as scheduled.

But their concerns about ramifications are not limited to Liberia, as they believe if the political stalemate is not quickly resolved, it might create political instability in the region and jeopardize progress made in the sub-region.

The letter: "A lack of resolution, on the other hand, will create a constitutional vacuum that could deeply undermine the enormous progress that have already been made and jeopardize peace and stability both in Liberia and in the entire West Africa region."

"With all this at stake, it is important that the court review process is completed expeditiously."

Dying Minute Involvement

Late last week, the United States Embassy in Monrovia broke its silence on the state of affairs regarding the October 10 elections. Many Liberians considered the statement as 'bomb' due to its strong wordedness.

Without beating around the bush, the U.S. Embassy in Monrovia expressed confidence in the integrity of the October 10 elections on ground that no observer mission raised the qualms being raised by the political parties to the magnitude being raised by the Unity Party, the Liberty Party, Alternative National Congress and the All Liberian Party.

In the statement, the Embassy noted that while the aggrieved parties have the right to rule of law, it also cautioned them that rights come with responsibilities.

For some Liberians, especially those backing the parties for pursuing the case, the U.S. statement was without regards to the sovereignty of Liberia and constituted meddling with the country's political affairs uninvited and also prejudicing the hearing.

In the midst of the reactions towards the statement, U.S. Ambassador to Liberia, Christine Elder, said criticism of her statement only showed the level to which Liberia's democratic participation has grown.

She for the speedy hearing of the cases at the NEC.

The European Union had earlier stating that the EU and its Member States have been and continue to follow the 2017 Presidential and House of Representative elections with high interest.

"Peace and security, together with democracy, good governance and human rights, are some of the shared values at the heart of the EU-Africa partnership," the EU Statement noted.

The EU commended Liberian political parties for the use of the appropriate legal mechanisms to address their concerns.

The EU stressed the importance of democratic transition for Liberia's stability and economic growth.

"We therefore encourage all concerned to work constructively and in good faith to conclude the current complaints process without unnecessary delay, so that the electoral process can be completed in accordance with Constitutional timelines regarding the assumption of power by the next administration," the EU statement averred.

What's Wrong With Them?

In a panel discussion over the weekend, former U.S. Ambassador to Liberia questioned the sanity of the litigation, which has cast uncertainty over the conduct of the presidential elections - be it runoff or rerun.

Ambassador Linda Thomas-Greenfield, who also served as Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs, said by so doing, Liberian leaders have failed Liberians by denying them the right to choose a leader of their choice.

"My question to Liberian leaders is: What's wrong with you? You have a responsibility.

This problem we have today should not exist in Liberia.

The people spoke and they deserve the opportunity to speak again at the election to elect their chosen leader."

The U.S. diplomat lashed at the Cllr. Charles Walker Brumskine of the Liberty Party for initiating the legal process and termed him as a third placer "who only got under 10 percent. A third place candidate who has ran three times and never got more than 10 percent. And once he won in the Supreme Court everybody jumped on the bandwagon."

Did ECOWAS, AU Fail?

Three weeks ago, President of Togo Faure Gnassingbe and his Guinean counterpart Alpha Conde held peace mediation with leaders of political parties in the country to resolve the electoral standoff.

Conde was in the team in his capacity as Chairman of the African Union (A.U.) whiles Faure is participating as leader of the regional political bloc of heads of state, ECOWAS.

The one-day mediation, however, did not yield much of the expected results as members of the aggrieved parties continued to pursue the their case irrespective of the consequences it is having on the economy and the democratic process.

During the meeting, President Conde said - "We are concern about what happened during the aftermath of the elections in Liberia, we found it necessary that it was our duty to identify with our brothers and sisters in Liberia, listen to them, analyze the situation and also we consulted with the with the diplomatic corps, the election commission, the supreme court and the inter-religious council."

President Conde said from the discussions, all stakeholders involved in the electoral process acknowledged that there were irregularities.

President Conde: "Everybody is aware that there were some mishaps during the elections."

"The Elections Commission said there were some lapses, the Supreme Court also acknowledged that there were some irregularities, the diplomatic corps also said there were some irregularities as well as the inter-religious council."

"So, we've asked the NEC to do all it can to solve these problems sot that all the lapses can be corrected. Since it's already a commission, let it remain a commission."

Allegations Dismissed, But...

The National Elections Commission Hearing Officer, Muana Ville, trashed complaints of Electoral Fraud by the Liberty Party and the ruling Unity Party on Monday evening.

He said, evidence adduced by the complainant do not establish fraud, neither do they prove to have had impact on the overall results of the October 10 Elections.

Hearing Officer Ville: "On the day of election, voters arrived at almost all of the polling places before queue controllers and arranged their own queues, making it difficult to redirect to their proper roll.

The defendants testified to difficulties that impeded the timely opening of polls; some due to the overflowing of rivers where polling staffs had to carry materials in canoes and on their heads in long distances."

"The hearing officer is not convinced that these challenges alluded to by the defendants during the hearing of the complaint amount to fraud."

However, the agitated political parties have taken exception to the ruling and announced their intent to take an appeal to the NEC Board of Commissioners.

It remains uncertain how speedy the appeal would be heard, but it can be recalled that the political leader of the Liberty Party had called for the recusal of the entire Board of Commissioners from the case, claiming they rendered judgment even before the case could be investigated.

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