8 December 2017

Liberia: For Liberia's Sake!

Photo: FrontPageAfrica
Liberia’s Supreme Court says the first round of the country’s presidential and legislative elections were, to some extent, characterized by irregularities but says it has not been established that the malpractices warranted a rerun of the entire elections.

Liberia was yesterday overwhelmed with anxiety and anticipation as a perplexed populace awaited a decision from five of their compatriots who had the fate of the country written in black and white, and in their grips.

These five compatriots, known as the Full Bench of the Supreme Court of Liberia (the Chief Justice and the four Associate Justices), given their mandate as final arbiter of justice, awoke on Thursday morning to a panicked nation as every strategic part of Monrovia and its environs was heavy with security presence and traffic jams around the city.

Like the scores of Liberians who overwhelmed the grounds of the Temple of Justice, some arriving as early as 10:00 a.m., millions of others were glued to their radios and social media sites across the country and in the Diaspora to listen to the much-anticipated ruling of the Supreme Court.

Emmanuel Johnson knew that there were only two options available to the Justices: runoff or rerun, and certainly only one would triumph--and in his nature, Johnson sided with a rerun.

He was one of the many disappointed supporters of the political leader of Liberty Party, who finished third in the October 10 polls and protested the results of the elections alleging gross irregularities and fraud.

He said the nation's final arbiter of justice in the country has spoken and so be it. Johnson, a staunch Liberty Party supporter, was not short of reservations, indicating: "All that I heard from the ruling indicates to me that there was some level of compromising in order to maintain the peace but there were sufficient pieces of evidence to nullify the results based on constitutional violations, gross incompetence, and calculated fraud. But we accept the ruling as it is and move forward."

And surely, Justice Philip A. Z. Banks, who was reading the ruling of the High Court, appeared to have concurred with Johnson when he (Justice Banks) said that calling for a rerun would have brought enormous consequences upon the country -- some of which the nation is already gripped by.

Liberians are currently experiencing ever-worsening economic hardships; the threat from international partners taking away support as well as social and political disintegration, some of the measures that might have influenced the Court's decision, according to Johnson.

"We know the political interplays that have been taking place, especially from the end of the international community, whose members have been exerting some pressure. We know all of these but we will listen to our Supreme Court," he said.

The Supreme Court, in its ruling, said it cannot and should not be expected to rule for a rerun of the entire October 10 elections, taking into consideration insufficient evidence to prove widespread fraud and the consequence such a decision could have on the country.

Reading the opinion on behalf of the Bench, Justice Banks said though it was proven by the appellants (Liberty and Unity Party), the evidence did not have the magnitude to prove that such fraud and irregularities were widespread.

He said the Supreme Court cannot speculate that since it was proven that fraud and irregularities occurred at some polling places, they occurred nationwide.

Speaking after the ruling, LP's acting chairman, Abraham Darius Dillon said that he was glad that the legal process had come to an end without any form of violence in the country. "Finally, we have reached the logical conclusion. The Supreme Court of our land has ruled and we are under obligation to abide," he told reporters.

He added that it is historic that a dispute of such high magnitude has been decided through a judicial process rather than people taking to the bushes to start a war. "This is historic because the Liberty Party has taught Liberians the new way of settling disagreements in this country. We are no longer going into the bushes," he said.

"A new day has begun in our democratic history where the rule of law should and must always be the means of settling our disagreements, than resorting to the rule by guns and violence."

He lauded his many partisans and those of collaborating parties (UP, ALP, and ANC) for their support, understanding, as well as CDCians and Liberians in general for being patient throughout the process, adding: "We can now move on!"

"Great respect for and in-depth gratitude to my standard bearer, Cllr. Brumskine for the bold step in writing this history," he said, adding that the next step would now be the political decision regarding the runoff in the coming days, and best of luck to the two contending parties.

The executive director of Women and Children Development Association of Liberia (WOCDAL), Melinda B. Josef, said Liberians, especially women, have been praying for this final ruling. "This is the only country we have and believe strongly that we must be happy with what has come out today," she said.

She urged the political parties, including those in the runoff, to be kind and consider Liberia to be the winner.

"Let us have confidence in the Supreme Court's decision and move to the runoff peacefully, as stated. Since the kickoff of the 2017 elections, the women of Liberia continue to pray for peace and we are happy today of the decision coming from the high court," she said.

"This decision makes sense because Liberia does not have money for a rerun as requested by Liberty Party and its collaborating parties. We have already started experiencing economic hardships prices changing. So Let us accept this for Liberia's sake."

Another woman activist, Hawa Bropleh, said she was pleased with the Supreme Court ruling, which has mandated the National Elections Commission to proceed with the runoff.

Madam Bropleh, who is the executive director of Center for Liberian Assistance (CLA), said, "We are happy because the Supreme Court is saying the evidence or counts provided by the Liberty Party are not enough to nullify the October 10 elections and ruled on facts. Importantly, the court said this would have a serious consequence on the state."

According to her, the country is currently in limbo with the serious economic hardship that has beset Liberia and people, leading to increment in the price of petroleum and rice.

"We are not able to feed our families, because of lack of money. Business has really been tough since the Supreme Court placed a halt on the runoff with the U.S. dollar rate hampering many businesses as well. I think the ruling does not only send a message to Liberty Party, but also to the NEC to be more accurate in conducting elections," Director Bropleh said.

According to her, the Supreme Court ruling shows the level of mature people that are making decisions for the country and hoped that everyone will be pleased with the outcome.

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