LIBERIANS ARE GENERALLY AWAITING the conduct of the general and presidential elections in 2017 with some hoping that the process will usher a new regime as the current one will be completing twelve years in office, while those in power are also seeking to hold on.
PARTICULARLY ON THE CONTINENT of Africa and other countries around the world, the ruling class will want to continue in power as long as possible, even to the level of not ensuring an environment free of fraud.
AFRICA IS KNOWN FOR LEADERS perpetuating themselves in power or playing a lead in ensuring that a successor of their choice is elected to allow for the continuation of the same governance system.
IN SOME COUNTRIES, CONSTITUTIONS are changed to suit a leader that desires to continue in power after the expiration of his/her constitutional term of office but for Liberia, that is unlikely due to the age of President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf and unlikelihood that such process could take place.
ALTHOUGH SIRLEAF HAS PROMISED a smooth transition to her successor, but creating that environment for such process by ensuring that the necessary safeguards are put in place to avoid disputes and other election related violence is paramount.
AN ASSESSMENT CONDUCTED BY CARTER Center has already expressed concerns over the post-election environment if the elections fail to meet international standards.
CARTER CENTER BLUNTLY DESCRIBED the election as historic and surely it is a make or break situation for the country especially when one of the largest United Nations Peacekeeping Missions ever, has turned over security of the state to the Liberian government.
“THESE ELECTIONS PRESENT an historic opportunity for Liberia, and I call on all Liberians to commit to peaceful participation in the democratic process, consistent with the rule of law,” said Jordan Ryan, the Carter Center’s vice president for peace programs and a former United Nations Mission in Liberia deputy Special Representative.
THIS IS NO DOUBT A FAIR ASSESSMENT of the situation in Liberia leading to the election as everything will boder on a peaceful process. The 2011 elections during which time UNMIL was present in the country witnessed violence that led to deaths and destruction of properties, something that can be used to predict that 2017 could even experience more apprehensions given that UNMIL will not be on the ground to assist with security.
IN THE CARTER CENTER’S ASSESSMENT, it is also noted that Liberian stakeholders have confidence in the ability of the National Elections Commission to overcome anticipated challenges and district in the government.
WITHOUT DOUBT, THERE IS high level of distrust in the government as opposition political parties are even raising early alarm that government should handle 2017 with extreme care.
THE ASSESSMENT STATED THAT the 2017 elections offer an important opportunity to advance the NEC’s professionalism and neutrality and to position it to continue to be a foundational institution for a democratic Liberia.
WHILE IT IS TRUE THAT NEC lived to the expectations of many during the 2014 special senatorial election, it is unarguable that the commission is struggling to enforce election related laws. Laws such as campaign financing and others are key laws that NEC will fight to enforce and enforcement might be difficult, if not impossible.
NEC WILL REQUIRE THE EFFORTS of security forces including the Liberia National Police and in a country where the Police has not proven to a force for the people rather performing its duties on the basis of political influence, providing secured environment for all parties will be a huge task.
LIKE OTHER AFRICAN COUNTRIES, the Liberian National Police look to be performing like a government force rather than a public force, providing security for individuals serving government even if they are attending political activities while those from opposition are left to provide for their own security.
CARTER CENTER ALSO EXPRESSED concerns about rural security and this is one serious issue that will impact the 2017 political process. There is no Police presence in most rural parts of the country as in some counties there are less than 10 Police officers in an entire district.
WHEN POLITICAL PROCESS gets in full swing in 2017, the already unstarched and ill equipped Police will be overwhelmed and result will be very confusing where any violence could go beyond control.
MERE PRONOUNCEMENT OF peaceful election is not the best panacea for the looming and predictable problem. This is why reports such as this early warning assessment by the Carter Center need to be taken seriously and the necessary safeguards put in place ahead of time.
IT IS NOW TIME TO SAY WE are hoping for a violence free election with concrete measures underway to avoid such situation.
THE LIBERIAN POLICE IS now crying for financial support to equip officers and provide other incentives that will increase productivity but it seems no one is sensing the danger associated with an under supported Police.