The future of the nation will be decided this year’s October when Liberians go to the poll to decide the prospect of the country for the next six years of post-President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf’s era. As several elections elsewhere around the world have shown, the possibility of major setback cannot be ruled out in the forthcoming momentous elections especially the Presidential one.
The Donald Trump’s trademark style of campaigning centered on xenophobia is finding its way into the body politics of Liberia, as divisive politics of hate speech of tribalism, coarse nationalism and ethnicity are not out of place among a growing number of the candidates’ supporters and associates.
However, this article discusses the issues of “Native-Congo” affairs in this year’s elections while the article also further digs into the essential role of Liberian women. It further goes on to assess how democracy is perceived and practiced nowadays in post-war Liberia, with focus on the general overview of divisive politics and Liberian women involvement in the this year’s poll.
On the dark side of democracy, one may ask: Will majority of the electorates be prepared to make sound decisions to place power in the hands of men and women who are people-centered or will voters go for the opposite by trading the ever present chronic tradition of their ballots in exchanged for monetary gain and a ‘tea spoon full of raw rice to pathetically, but heartlessly just for few minutes ease their immediate quest and livelihood.
Otherwise will Liberians use the October elections to punish or discipline the hard and bitter way the political corrupt bureaucrats, failed politicians or do the opposite to make wrong choices again? In other countries, the people hold their leaders’ feet to the fire to fulfill their promises, but for Liberia, the situation is to the dissimilar.
That is why during these elections’ processes, the masses are taken for a short ride while consistently being viewed for granted by those seeking their votes; all is squally due to ignorance by our people due to the high rate of illiteracy in the country. The people, bulk of the voting population is taken being for granted by the corrupt bureaucrats and crooked most of whom are sealed in leadership.
The nation is yet to see a captivating political character, one imbued with the political chemistry to uprightly win the 2017 Presidential election, a character who can remove greater number of poverty-stricken messes from abject poverty to a new level of appreciative livelihood, improve the provisional and basic necessities including electricity, paved roads across the country, safe drinking water for a majority of the population, reduce the massive unemployment and create jobs, ensure quality education and decentralized available and affordable healthcare delivery system among other necessities of human needs.
But can these essential provisions be visible in the absence of placing state authority in the hands of a leader-one who lacks the political will to decisively combat the menace of corruption and cannot commend greater respect from the population?
Unlike in the United States and Europe where elections are tied to specific national issues that affect the well-being of the people and the state; rather elections in Africa especially in Liberia is directly the opposite.
The process in Liberia is based on personal appetite or what is disgracefully dubbed as belly-driven quest and not people-centered and progressive development-oriented, as politicians put into place an obscure plans using false innuendo to disadvantage the poverty-stricken masses and illiterate population.
For instance, in the USA and Europe, campaigning are based on the party’s ideology of a far right, far left or center right or center left; or in most instances reduced to rightists vs leftists. But in the case of Liberia, these elections are about individuals, connection, tribal and family linkage as well as personalities with no clearly defined ideologies of political parties in the country.
Political institutions especially parties in Liberia are built around individuals, such is the case of the governing Unity Party, CDC, Liberty Party, ALP, UPP, LAP, and several others. For this we have seen it far too long; man like political appointees; when the system falls or goes they also disappear; meaning the parties are individual-bound and when the individual goes out of circulation, the so-called followers also go into obscurity. Whenever these individuals whose influences and financial assistance breathe life and hope into these parties are operating on are no more around, such a party is doomed and definitely will collapse. As an evident, this has been the case of several political parties such as the TWP, NPP, UPP, LUP, LAP and NDPL.
For instance, two former ruling parties-NDPL and NPP were exclusively centered on the financial supports and influences of ex-Presidents Samuel K. Doe and Charles Ghankay Taylor; and true to the hard facts of reality, these two parties no longer possess the political dynamism in this era to occupy the presidency.
As Liberians go to the polls this October in a landmark Presidential and Legislative elections, the process is being closely monitored particularly due to the destructive nature of electoral contests, where not only have personal attacks become common, but also where in many instances, would-be-candidates and their associates engage in divisive politics by playing on the raw nerves of ethnicity, race and religion in order to play in their favor against the interests of the others.
Liberian politicians and political activates are shamelessly and actively legitimizing all sorts of unbearable rhetoric of ntive-congo divisive politics in the country; policies based on people's identity: racism and homophobia. But one might ask, is divisive politics the answer to our daunting problems in Liberi? But what is most interested to ordinary Liberians is the wiliness of politicians to come to the political table and see their role as representing one umbrella nation of red, white and blue within a democracy of parties.
In recent time divisive politics have taken an upward trend, as certain politician and lawmakers have been angels and prophets of advocating tribal, sectional and regional divisive politics. Liberty Party’s Charles Brumskine has once said the Bassa people have been tied of making people President while the people of Lofa are spearheading a momentum campaign that this is the time a citizen of their county to become the heir to President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf, arguing that they are tired of occupying the Vice President position of Liberia.
While the citizens of votes rich Nimba and Bong Counties have resolved that this time around they would produce the vice President come the October poll on grounds that the two counties besides Montserrado, are the most populated counties with high registered voters. As such, the leading opposition parties have taken their running mates from the two counties.
Recently, the standard-bearer of the All Liberian Party, Benoni Urey said it is the time for a Masonic Craft or the Free and Accepted Mason to be President of Liberia while Nimba County senator Prince Y. Johnson has been at the forefront of the “Native-Congo” divisive politics.
But ex-American President, Barack Obama, last year during the heat of the Trump-Clinton’s campaigns warned against the rise of divisive politics with the global ascent of what he described as coarse nationalism and tribalism, warning that “the danger of divisive politics in elections” has the propensity to stir up conflict.
Several diehard politicians, lawmakers and supporters have openly and repeatedly made inflammatory remarks by reducing this year’s election to “Native-Congo” xenophobia. Our politicians and state actors must have an eye on making the compromises necessary to extend values outward rather than projecting them inward for the sake of blind loyalty to pull votes.
They must be willing to sustain something greater than their own egotistic affairs supported by divisive politics such as tribalism, regionalism and ethnicity, their own personal benefit, well-being, interest and existence, for their own people and their very interests. Otherwise, we will all continue to be going backward instead of moving forward in a positive direction. When will Liberian realize and learn to overcome past mistakes?
It will take tons of work to resist the alcoholic temptation of our corrosive politics, to do so, we must recognize that we have the ability to identify those dynamics and resist the enticements of tribalism; regionalism and ethnicity that dragged us into merry-go- round quagmire of unachievable politics.
The October’s elections should not be used to exploit the poverty-stricken masses’ vulnerability; these elections shouldn’t be reduced to tribal and regional, instead they should be people-centered and genuine policy-oriented; and classed as a precise movement for positivity in the country, changes in government without violence so power can be transferred from one party to another by means of the majority decisions.
But majority of these political parties can still be seen as fragile and weakened by either poor leadership or the government in order to keep afloat. Nowadays political parties in the country often function as fly-by-night-venture upon only being active during election periods. Immediately after electoral exercises, these political institutions most often and in some cases, eventually disappeared in thin air or remained stalled in the various b lack and brown briefcases, while craving through reflection by operating from hand-bags and the back seats of some aging remote vehicles and unidentified offices.
Certain electoral systems are more women friendly than others, for an under-privileged country like Liberia, the prevailing circumstance is the direct opposite; Liberian democratic system is not a good indicator of the percentage of women who will make it into the legislature in this year’s General Elections.
Unlike other African countries and other regions across the globe, Liberian electoral laws have disadvantaged women for elected positions especially the legislative posts. The new political phenomenon across the world of women’s leadership can be described as a breakthrough for female to occupy highest political offices, but in Liberia the breakthrough for greater representations for Liberian women in the legislature still remains unachievable.
The prospects of women’s leaderships in post Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf’s era have gained momentum, but face a momentum political challenge since Liberian democracy ismore men friendly than women. Liberia has been the greater advocate for women’s rights and democracy, but the country has precisely failed to emulate Rwanda to allot contains percent of legislative seats to women.
In this case, not all is doomed, the country has experienced dramatic jump in female legislative representation in recent time, to a larger degree have occupied lucrative public positions in government.
Liberian Women are becoming more engaged in a variety of political rivalries; in the decades leading up to the 2005s, only handful of women were elected to positions or appointed to important political positions, but the political environment is shaping in favor of women in the country although Liberian electoral system is essential towards men stakeholders in governance.
The rise in women’s participations to challenge their male counterparts for an elected spot has reached a new phenomenal, across cutting the various political sub-divisions of Liberia. This new wonders did not come simply, unfortunately, women paid the heaviest price in the quest to reach their full potential
Accordingly, there are at least two theories about women in politics; one shows special women’s style characterized by great attention to human, social issues. It is believed that a woman's style is more peaceful, because women do not tend to solve problems by force, launch wars and conflicts. The second view is that the style of the policy does not depend on the individual's gender, but on the psychological characteristics of the policy.
The United Nations in 1995 adopted a global Platform of Action to encourage members’ states to advance women’s participation in democracies and political leadership since women account for about one-in-ten of today’s leaders of the world. In the decades leading up to 1990s, only six countries in sub-Saharan Africa had legalized gender quotas that increase the chances of women being elected to office.
For instance, the Scandinavia region was the first to experience the flood of female representations in the world, but the Nordic model has now been replaced by Africa, which has greatly experienced dramatic jumps in female parliamentary representation primarily through the implementation of several laws.
African countries have some of the world’s highest rates of representation; in Senegal, Seychelles and South Africa, more than 40% of parliamentary seats are held by women, while in Mozambique, Angola, Tanzania and Uganda over 35% of seats are occupied by women.
The only country in the world with the highest number of women in parliament is Rwanda claiming the world’s highest ratio of women in parliament in 2003 and today Rwandan women hold 64% of the country’s legislative seats.
Of particular on the laudable of Liberian women, a Liberian admired author, diplomat and professor, Josephus Moses Gray’s new book titled: The Paradigm of Oil Diplomacy”, devoted chapter Six of his instructive book detailed women’s leadership world particularly Africa. Going further, Adjunct Professor Gray’s publication narrates the contributions of several Liberian women.
Although Liberian women, to a larger degree have occupied dedicated but lucrative positions in the country, they have not benefitted from greater representation in the legislature or other elected positions. In modern Liberia, women’s rise to power through the electorate process faces a problematical task to easily overwhelm their male counterpart.
This political struggle which goes with heaviest price has started over a century, until in recent time when women started to occupied key political positions in the political system including the presidency. In general, the proportion of women in decision-making in the first Branch of government is far below what political pundits have.
Liberian women, need to understand that election is all about rivalry, they need to campaign vigorously, play on the emotions of the population and champion their ideas and manifestos to the electorates if they are to be elected key positions.
Unfortunately, the lack of representation of bulky women in the National Legislature provides a basis for the question of equal representation of gender sets and how legitimate the relevant political structure of Liberia to afford undistinguishable opportunities to both gender sets.
Other issue of a major concern is the disturbing report of rapes and child abuse. One major survey found that 75 percent of women had been raped, mostly gang-raped, with many suffering internal injuries. Despite women being at the top of powers and decision-making in the country, the proportion of gender inequality and sexual violence against women remains excessive; in Liberia, sexual predator during the civil war was “normal.”
It has been argued that in Liberia one in five women will be physically assaulted by their husband or a boyfriend in her lifetime, while men also are victims of family violence, women overwhelmingly are the targets.
While numerous issues still exist in all areas, ranging from the cultural, political to the economic. For example, women often work equal like their male counterparts but are paid less on the job. At once a conflict region like Liberia, women were violated, harassed, beaten, raped maimed, abused and stripped of their prides. Others were obliged to give themselves to the fighters to survive. Indeed, a barbaric enterprise of sex slavery.
According to studies conducted in 150 countries across the world, worldwide, about one in three women is victim of gender-related violence, from military sexual assault, to domestic violence, to rape on school campuses and work places.
The report further revealed that women and girls in violent relationships are at heightened risk of experiencing psychological and behavioral problems, including depression, nervousness, low self-esteem, and traumatic stress disorder.
A new report found that children under the age of ten to 15 were among those sexually attacked in recent years in Liberia, where the vast majority of documented rape victims are minors. Despite more than 800 reported rapes, only 34 convictions were made for the crime in 2015, with officials warning that the assaults are vastly under reported due to widespread stigma and discrimination against victims.
The United Nations Mission in Liberia (UNMIL) and the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) said rape has become the second-most reported serious crime in Liberia. An unauthenticated report revealed that between 61 per cent and 77 per cent of all women and girls in the Liberia were raped during the conflict.
But there has been no criminal accountability for perpetrators of war crimes in Liberia, the UN said, with cultural and patriarchal attitudes additionally hampering investigations into sex attacks. Survey data from 2013 found that 19-26 percent of women and girls in Liberia have reported having been raped by a stranger, and that 70-73 percent of married women has been sexually assaulted by their husbands, Nicola Jones, a research fellow at the ODI has detailed.
Another study on Liberia has shown that gender discrimination affects girls and women throughout their lifetime; and women and teenagers are often are the ones that suffer the most poverty. A further study conduct in seven of the fifteenth counties in Liberia also revealed that that woman produce about 65 to 70 percent of food in the home, they are responsible for the running of households.
In Liberia, girls drop out of school to help their mothers with these tasks. Women manage households and care for family members, which often limits their mobility and increases their vulnerability to sudden challenges.
According to a UN report, the international community had fallen far short of its commitments to empower women and achieve gender equality and that only eight out of 188 member states had certain global agreements for this. It was also pointed out that Women continued to be deprived of basic and fundamental rights because of measures imposed in certain countries.
For instances, teenagers in Liberia are resorting to sex work because they cannot afford food, according to a study that suggests hardship in the country despite the numerous of natural riches and less population. Nowadays girls “selling their body” or “sex for money” as a strategy to make ends meet while others desperate for materials things are said to go to extremes such as stealing and making false claims against their male counterparts as a means of forcibly getting cash out of them.
Recently, teenager made an astonishing revelation when they told stories of girls exchanging sexual favors with men far above their ages or stripping for money in abandoned houses, motels, hotels and aging and expensive vehicles and at the street corners.
A 22-year-old girl told her friends that she knew a friend who dropped out of school to make money for the family to have a meal for the day and pay their rental fees. They narrated that these girls betrothed into illicit sex against their will but they felt the need to step up and started selling themselves.
Another girl, 26, dropped out of 9th grade to work in the sex trade in Monrovia, while other girls in similar state according to information are seemed during the night hours stationed around entertainment centers and places to advertise their services; recklessly but impurely creeping a\round people’s windows chanting “we got cold medicine, for small mile (money) we can make you very warm.”
See where and what the poverty-led society has commandeered the pride and respect of the nation’s future madams. Oh! What a human tragedy. While in some communities across the city with the highest poverty rates, illicit sexuality have become vividly rampant and widespread.
Josephus Moses Gray, Contributing Writer