PRESIDENT WEAH PUTS AGITATORS ON SPOTLIGHT AT UNGA
The beauty of democracy comes not only when you win elections; it is also and perhaps most importantly when you fail to win, and nurse your defeat and patiently await another round of elections. This is not the case with some politicians and their supporters in Liberia, and this is certainly not something contestants of the 2017 presidential elections can afford and stomach.
There are some Liberians who think the presidency is their birthright, bequeathed to them by their elitist forebears. Once eluded by elections results, mainly the presidency, they would cause heaven to break apart, they will seize the peace of the nation until the victor, whom they consider highly unlikely for leadership, is thrown into turmoil.
It seems President George Manneh Weah is smelling the resurgence of the monkeyshines which some leaders before him suffered. Thus, as he appeared before the full glare of the international community, mounting the rostrum, he alerted the world body which has invested so much to restore peace and stability to Liberia about the situation which caused political upheavals for nearly 20 years.
After chronicling momentous achievements his government made in his year and nine months in power, including the fact that despite sporadic street protests, there are no political prisoners in Liberia, President Weah told the UNGA, an assembly of world leaders and reputed NGOs, that a threat to democracy was creeping.
“We are beginning to witness the emergence of a creeping threat to our democratic space, and to our hard-won peace and stability,” the President said. “Some individuals, within and out of our country, particularly those who have lost democratically-held elections, have resorted to incitement, threats of violence, misuse of social media, and hate speech, with the aim and objective of achieving power through undemocratic means.”
The President’s revelations invoked memories about how election losers in the 1864, 1943, 1985 and 1997 elections characteristically stormed Liberia with vicious agitations that matured into violent rebellions that cost the peace and harmony of the country.
“This is unacceptable, and must not be encouraged by those who would wish Liberia well,” The President said in loud voice as he delivered his second oration at the UNGA.
“For democracy to thrive,” he said, “all Liberians, including both the ruling parties and the opposition parties, must respect the rule of law, and abide by the procedures and regulations prescribed therein.”
The President was a leading opposition politician and formidable contestant for 12 years, losing the 2005 and 2011 elections. Reflecting back, he said despite his win of those elections, he remained peaceful and constructive.
The Liberian leader noted: “As the leading opposition party in Liberia during the past 12 years, our Party, the Congress for Democratic Change, accepted the disputed results of the two previous Presidential Elections, in 2005 and 2011, in the interest of peace.”
According to him, throughout those two terms when he was in opposition, “we continued to engage the government of the day in a constructive manner, even accepting to serve as Peace Ambassador when called upon to assist them to maintain the peace under their regime.”
Then he warned: “We must all learn to respect the mandates of the electorates, even when that mandate is not in our favor, and not be selective in our support for democracy only when we win.”
He said the United Nations and the entire international community invested so much to restore Liberia to stability and peace.
“As I have acknowledged on many occasions, Liberia is a UN success story,” he said, adding: “After being devastated by a brutal civil conflict that lasted for 14 years, peace was restored and maintained by what was then the largest peace-keeping force in the history of this organization. Under the auspices of the UNMIL peace-keepers, Liberians enjoyed sixteen (16) years of unbroken peace.”
He said Liberians were pleased and grateful for the efforts and sacrifices made by them to secure peace and that even though the peace-keeping force was withdrawn two years ago, the responsibility for maintaining peace in Liberia was passed on to the Liberian Government.
“This is a responsibility to which I attach the greatest importance, because without peace, our world will be difficult. We are all aware of the terrible destruction of lives and properties caused by civil war,” the President said.
He assured the international community that since he assumed the leadership of Liberia almost two years now, “I have remained focused on my charge to ensure that peace prevails in Liberia. At that time, we committed ourselves to upholding our constitutional mandate, which is to ensure that all the democratic rights of our citizens would be guaranteed and protected.”
The Liberian leader said he was proud to say he has this promise; and the country is today a beacon of democracy in Africa, where freedom of the press, freedom of expression, freedom of association and other political and democratic rights are respected, under the rule of law.
He told the world body that the political environment remains vibrant, with political actors and parties freely exercising their franchise and participating in various elections.
“I am delighted to report that there are no political prisoners in Liberia, and existing laws that hindered or threatened press freedom have been de-criminalized,” he asserted.
He reported to the UNGA that despite several protests that have taken place from time to time in the country, “all of which have ended peacefully, and have been welcomed by my Government, as a positive manifestation of our democratic maturity.”
“This is the democracy for which our country has yearned; this is the freedom for which our people have struggled and suffered; and this is the emancipation for which many of our citizens have paid the ultimate price.”