Historical accounts suggest that Liberia was founded in 1821 by the American Colonization Society as a colony for former African American slaves. On July 26, 1847, the nation proclaims its independence and set up a political system similar to that of the United States except that Liberia is a unitary state– but the small minority of descendants of the free black colonists (Americo-Liberians) still dominated power.
Historically, it is argued that Liberia is the oldest independent sovereign country on the continent of Africa, yet her democratic history seems to be marked with controversy. Between the period 1944 until 2017, there has been a significant turnover and transition in the country’s government, with 23 democratically elected presidents, as well as 6 interim presidents who held power as a result of the 14-year civil war in 1989 in which a rebel group brought to an end the tenure of the late President Samuel Doe.
After almost 70 years, in 2017, Liberia’s democratic history had a rebirth-a rebirth of a democratically elected sitting president turning power over to the newly democratically elected president. This historical transition was marked with lots of expectations, especially from the youthful community of Liberia.
It is also assumed that this transition was highly welcomed by the international community as Liberia was also transitioning from the 14 years of civil war that is assumed to have taken away the lives of over 250,000 people, disintegrating almost every local and national governance structure including families, and private investments (www.pbs.org, n.d.). Additionally, Liberia was also considered by the international community including the United Nations as a success story in peacebuilding.
As we are nearing 2023, a year that many political and development scholars including Liberians are considering to be a turning point in the democratic history of the country, it is worth having a reflection on where we currently are as people and country. Lots of efforts are already being made in enhancing and sustaining the gain made.
However, it is assumed that it would be worthy to have a reflection of Liberia’s democratic history as a way of helping us to depict a guide for the future. During the 2017 transition in Liberia, the UN Mission was present to provide support in all aspects.
Now that the tide has turned, will the 2023 transition go on well as was in 2017? Is the state security apparatus adequately resourced to ensure a smooth transition in 2023? Additionally, as we observed the conduct of the 2020 mid-term senatorial election and other subsequent by-elections, what is the likelihood that the 2023 election results will not be tampered with? If so, what will be the reaction from the oppositions?
It can be argued that democracy is beyond just election and transition of one government to another; it consists of many elements such as the rule of law, security, accessible and affordable quality health care services, freedom of speech, accessible and affordable quality education system, economic wellbeing of the citizens, among others.
The 2017 democratic historical transition of Liberia has gone on for about 5 years and it is assumed that Liberians will soon be in the queue in 2023 to cast their ballots which will usher in a new democratic record for Liberia. But the attainment of a smooth democratic transition requires the collective and conscious engagement of society with programs that promotes working towards the common good of all. Under the democratic principle, one of the cardinal functions of the government is to protect the freedom of its citizens from enemies within its border and outside of the same.
This must be done through the preservation of laws and order, competitive markets, and enhancing the private sector through enforcement of private contracts. Considering the democratic and political histories of Liberia, cognizant of the current political trend in the country, it is worth beginning to put in place those basic structures that can strengthen Liberia’s democratic credentials and restore the hope and confidence in Liberians for a peaceful sailing into 2023 presidential and general elections.
Upon Mr. George Manneh Weah’s ascendency to the presidency of Liberia, there have been a series of mass protests as a form of citizens’ fight against ill in society including an allegation of an increase in corruption. One of such protests, Save the State was given birth as a result of a lack of accountability in the US$25millions mop-up exercise and LRD$16 billion Liberian Dollars.
More to that, development partners and diplomatic missions in Liberia have frowned on the Weah-led government for corruption and other governance related issues. For example, on March 15, 2022, an occasion marking the birth celebration of Liberian’s first president Joseph Jerkins Roberts, Ambassador Michael A. McCarthy of the United States of America wrote an OP-ED
“What Would J.J.Roberts Have to Say About Liberia Today”? In this write-up, Ambassador McCarthy highlighted the historical relations between Liberia and his country; the level of his country’s contributions to Liberia’s development. Nonetheless, it is glaring that Ambassador McCarthy in this article expressed disappointment and frustration over the current state of affairs of Liberia, especially regarding the fight against corruption.
One of the critical elements for the promotion and sustenance of democracy is security. Yet there have been a series of media claims quoting President Weah that the citizens need to take control of their security through individual citizens purchasing their own CCTV Camera (The Independent Probe Newspaper, FrontPage Africa, Parrot Newspaper).
Liberia is a post-war country and it lies between two post-war countries with which Liberia has a common culture including families, language, just to name a few. Such a statement from the head of the country sounds alarming as it can serve as a breeding point for commissioning of crimes and it is a complete treat to the wellbeing of the citizens.
There have been multiple outcries on the issues of murder in Liberia, for example, the death of the auditors, missing men in Bong County, and recently, the death of Princess Cooper. Police brutality has been another security threat facing Liberians of which journalists in Liberia stage a protest to call the attention of responsible authorities (VOA).
Let us not be complacent, all is not yet well in Liberia. There seemed to be an increased in the number of vulnerable youth on the streets of Monrovia; civil servants are not happy; the health system is broken and the education system is speedily gravitating in the downward slope. The judiciary system has retrogressed considerably and the justice system is no more trusted.
The business climate is currently hostile; civil society organizations have become more donor-driven and their objective is no more focused on taking an objective position in the general interest of the citizens. In most instances, the citizens are left with no option but to take the law into their hands.
As we get closer to 2023, will Liberians learn from the past lessons, and correct the present to save the future? Anti-corruption institutions are assumed to be more corrupt than the corruption they are to tackle. Will 2023 restore the hope of the citizens of Liberia in their political leaders and make the country to reclaim her historical name “SWEET LAND OF LIBERTY”? Ignoring the crying of your people is not in some instances a sign of supporting freedom of speech but an act of lack of leadership as is currently exemplified in the case of Liberia. It is no time to sleep, if we want to see a better Liberia, it is now time that we all collectively in a positive way engage.
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