As former leaders of the Press Union of Liberia, we issue this open letter appealing for collective action to prevent rigging of the October 2023 presidential and general elections and avert violence in Liberia. With our country facing increased instability, we call on all parties and candidates to come together and devise a mechanism to ensure free and fair democratic elections.
Consultations are urgently needed to address serious concerns that Liberia’s electoral process is being compromised by actions of the government, which appears to be working in partisanship with the National Elections Commission (NEC), a body constitutionally mandated to supervise free and fair elections in keeping with internationally established democratic standards.
Parties must come together to ensure a fair election and avert more violence.
Accordingly, the mechanism to be devised from such consultations should incorporate a roadmap to ensure a electoral process that is peaceful, free and fair. We also call upon the international community to engage the Liberian government in this regard.
If this is not done as soon as possible, politically motivated violence could be the outcome with dire consequences for Liberian democracy. The urgency for consultation could not be more pressing, given growing public alarm that the country is becoming a powder keg of political discontent. Our concerns that Liberia is gradually slipping into yet another state of political violence are based, in part, on several recent incidents.
These include three reported attempts to assassinate a former Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, Gloria Musu-Scott – the most recent on February 23, 2023 – that resulted in death of her daughter. According to Justice Scott, who is also a former senator and a prominent political figure in the opposition Unity Party, her home was earlier attacked – on February 8 and 9 – by individuals who searched for documents in her residence and her vehicle. The attacks have spurred public protests calling for a full and fair investigation.
The alleged attempted assassination of the former Chief Justice is the latest in a series of what appears to be politically motivated killings in which the culprits have not been brought to book since the government of President George Weah came to power in 2018.
We recall that in January 2023, the Liberia National Police announced the seizure of about 450 military-style weapons at the Freeport of Monrovia and parts of Montserrado County. Since then, the government has not announced the outcome of any investigation, amid growing public speculation and fear that the country is being saturated with arms. Recent pronouncements by the AFL Chief of Staff and the Minister of National Defense give us further reasons for grave concern that the AFL could once again be used by the government to terrorize and murder defenseless people as was the case in Liberia’s recent evil past. We are also alarmed by the increasingly partisan role of the Liberia National Police (LNP).
The recently released preliminary census has been widely criticized as poorly conducted, and there has also been delay in registering voters, and the National Elections Commission has ruled out the use of biometric technology for the registration process this year.
As the election date approaches, many critical benchmarks to ensure credible democratic elections have not been met. Election guidelines and regulations are being flagrantly violated, such as the recent mass political rally held in Monrovia by the ruling party. Most disturbing is how the National Elections Commission (NEC) appears to be conducting its affairs as an extension of the ruling party and the government of President Weah, who is seeking re-election.
If the election process is interrupted by disputes and other challenges, the country runs the risk of a major constitutional crisis. What would happen if there were no elected government before Weah’s tenure ends in January 2024, as the Constitution stipulates?
This is why we urge leaders of all registered political parties that are not part of the ruling coalition to designate representatives to a roundtable convened to address election the logistics. The political parties whose attention is urgently needed include the following: Unity Party (UP), Alternative National Congress (ANC), Liberty Party (LP), Liberian People’s (LPP), All-Liberia Party (ALP), United People’s Party (UPP), Liberia Action Party (LAP), Liberia National Union (LINU), Liberia Unification Party (LUP), All Liberian Coalition Party (ALCOP), New Deal Movement (NDM), and People’s Liberation Party (PLP).
Liberia is like a ticking time-bomb. You can save our war-ravaged country from further bloodshed by acting collectively to to ensure that the October 2023 elections are free, fair and peaceful.
Gabriel I.H. Williams is a career journalist, former deputy Liberian Minister of information and diplomat at the Liberian Embassy in the United States. He served as president of the Press Union of Liberia and was a founding leader of the Association of Liberian Journalists in the Americas. He is author of Corruption is Destroying Africa: The Case of Liberia (2019) and The Heart of Darkness: Accounts of Liberia’s Civil War and Its Destabilizing Effects in West Africa (2002).
Emmanuel D. Abalo is a journalist and rights activist and author of Enemies Of The State: A Fictional Thriller of International Intrigue (2022) and Liberia: Dawn of A Nation and Evolution of Its Military (2021)