President Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo of Ghana has declared that the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) "cannot afford another crisis in Liberia."
In a frank and forthright Keynote Address to the University of Liberia's 98th Commencement Convocation on Wednesday, President Akufo-Addo emphatically stated, "West Africa is not prepared to contemplate the scenario of Liberia sliding back into instability and conflict."
Reporter William Harmon noted that Liberia "has the unwanted tag of being the problem child in the sub-region, as neighbors had to intervene on two separate occasions in the civil crises that gripped the nation for nearly 15 years. In these instances, Nigeria and Ghana have always led the intervention process."
This is what led the Ghanaian leader to declare, "... we will do all we can to ensure that democracy is entrenched in the country, but we will not accept any other outcome."
Who are they, we ask at this point in Liberia's history, that turned Liberia into "the problem child" of the sub-region. It was surely not President W.V.S. Tubman who, despite his shortcomings, started the Unification process; nor was it President W. R. Tolbert, Jr., although we consider his biggest mistake that he did not take the Unification Program to its logical conclusion, by engaging in substantive POWER SHARING with the Indigenous Majority.
However, President Tolbert did help to engineer the fulfillment of Tubman's 1959 dream of an economic union for African states, that 16 years later led to the establishment of ECOWAS.
So who were they that caused Liberia to be considered today a "problem child in West Africa"? It was clearly our immediate past three leaders.
The first was President Samuel K. Doe, whose widespread injustice, mismanagement, corruption and wickedness (massive extra-judicial killings) led the country to civil war.
The second was President Charles G. Taylor, who started and continued the civil war for 14 years, destroying the country's infrastructure; the killing of over 250,000 people; creating over two million internal and external refugees; and turning Liberia into a failed state.
The third, we are very sad to say, is our current President, Ellen Johnson Sirleaf who, for reasons NO one can understand, is seemingly unwilling to leave power through a free, fair, credible and transparent democratic process. Seriously sensing this, the very ECOWAS leaders, and those of the Mano River Union (MRU), have painstakingly pleaded with her to "take her hands out of the electoral process."
This, she seems unwilling to do. Why do we say that? Because she insists on maintaining as Chairman of the all-important National Elections Commission (NEC), Counselor Jerome Korkoya, even after he and his fellow Commissioners have woefully mismanaged the October 10 elections. The conduct of these elections were so bad that several political movements which participated in the elections--Liberty Party (LP), Unity Party (UP), All Liberian Party (ALP) and the Alternative National Congress (ANC)--joined in taking NEC to the Supreme Court, charging the Commission with widespread irregularities and fraud in the October 10 elections.
The Court acknowledged incidences of irregularities and fraud, but said they had not been sufficient to warrant a rerun of the entire elections. So the Court ordered a runoff, but not before the entire Final Registration Roll (FRR) was completely redone and made available to all magistrates and political parties. The Supreme Court also mandated NEC to publish the redone FRR across the country; and that no one whose name is not on the final roll should vote.
It was the serious tampering by NEC of this FRR that primarily led to the electoral fraud.
This newspaper and the general public have been anxiously awaiting NEC's action in keeping with the Supreme Court's mandate on the FRR. But NEC has said and done little on this matter. Then suddenly, on Tuesday, December 12, Chairman Korkoya announced that the runoff would be held on Tuesday, December 26, the day after Christmas! This is before he had taken any action in obedience to the Supreme Court's mandate.
This, the Daily Observer said in its Tuesday editorial, was a clear and open defiance of the Supreme Court's mandate. And we called on Unity Party to run back to the Supreme Court to tell the Court about that and ask them to compel the NEC Chairman to abide strictly and expeditiously by this mandate.
We applaud President Akufo-Addo for his frank and forthright Address; but we wonder what ECOWAS is prepared to do to STOP the Liberian 'powers that be' and the National Elections Commission from openly rigging this election runoff.
And we plead with all the ECOWAS leaders to be reminded of the age-old dictum, "A stitch in time saves nine."