By P. Nimely-Sie Tuon
Benoni Urey, M. Nathaniel Barnes, Charles Brumskine, Jewel Howard, Alex Tyler.
The 2017 Liberian presidential race is poised to be a game changer in Liberian politics. It is also poised to be dominated by a man called Charles Ghankay MacArthur Taylor, regarding arrogance, insensitivity, impunity, corruption, cheating, violence, rape, torture, murder and other unwholesome practices that were perpetrated on the Liberian society and its people under his regime.
While Mr. Taylor himself will not be on the ballot, however, some individuals who were around him and served him diligently when these various acts of moral turpitude were being committed will be on the ballot. As one would say in layman’s terms, “it shock the conscience of the Liberian society.” The Liberian 2017 presidential election could see individuals like Benoni Urey, M. Nathaniel Barnes, Charles Brumskine, Alex Tyler, and Jewel Howard-Taylor, each portraying themselves as the ‘best person to lead the Liberian nation.’ A thought many Liberians are describing as laughable. Using Madam Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf as an example by any of these Taylor-connected candidates is a disaster in waiting for Liberia’s future.
What will make the 2017 presidential race different from all other is the fact that the memories of the Liberian people have gotten stronger than before, and they will be able to connect the dots placing each of these former Charles Taylor officials and allies in the most despicable period in the history of the Republic of Liberia. An era that saw the sky as a limit when it came to uncouth and un-wholesome behaviors of all kinds, an era where a person was a nobody unless he or she was connected to Charles Taylor.
To his credit, Mr. Taylor once described himself as the most “mischievous man in Liberia” during his period of misrule. Whenever any of these people talk about Liberia’s present problems, the famous question of “what you know, and when did you know it?” will properly fall in place. The Taylor period of misrule and violence that preceded it was the most recorded periods of events about a Liberian regime. As a result, these Taylor-connected candidates will face an uphill battle answering questions about their past without a whole lot of embellishments. Embellishments that can quickly be debunked by records on file.
Candidates Brumskine and Barnes may dismiss this article since they ran for the Liberian presidency before. Though questions about their past were ignored, Urey, Tyler and Jewel-Howard Taylor are hoping and praying that the Liberian people will quickly forget about their association with Taylor. Sure indeed, these individuals with enough spending money will be spending as much money they can to keep their past misdeeds during the misrule period of Mr. Taylor under cover and out of the press during the campaign.
The 2005 and 2011 presidential elections were held during a traumatizing period when the Liberian people were dealing with the immediate effects of the war and survival. However, lots have changed since. The recollections of the people have gotten stronger and clearer, and the Liberian people are getting bolder in their thoughts and utterances. In addition, the Liberian people have recognized the hypocrisies and lies that are being perpetrated upon them by the Sirleaf-Boakai administration, especially, Madam Sirleaf being a former ally of the Taylor-led NPFL.
The failure of the Sirleaf-Boakai administration to improve the lives of the Liberian people will no doubt strengthen the reasons to reject these Taylor-connected candidates who were around Taylor when these same insensitive policies of the worse kind were being melted on the people.
These Taylor-connected candidates occupied prominent positions during the Taylor era. For example, without letting the cat out the bag about an ongoing investigation into some of the disgusting practices regarding the paying of civil servants during the misrule of Mr. Taylor. During the few sporadic payments made to civil servants during the misrule period of Mr. Taylor, the ministry of finance would issue checks to government employees, and the central bank would end up not having the funds to cash those checks. However, the wife of a close associate of Mr. Taylor would cash the government employees’ checks with certain percentage deducted. Ongoing investigations by two anti-corruption groups, one focusing on the Taylor regime and other on the Sirleaf regime, promised to release the results of their investigations in mid-2016.
The upcoming 2016 Liberian general and presidential elections will be incomplete if the issues surrounding the implementation of the recommendations of the final report of the Liberian Truth and Reconciliation Commission did not become an integral part of Liberia’s electoral politics. The TRC report is now the litmus test as to how to measure the integrity of all Liberian political candidates; their support for its implementation and whether they are listed in one or two of the reports and catagories as societal transgressors. All candidates for political office, especially presidential candidates, should not be listed in any of the categories of the report, and the candidates that are not listed must expressed public support for the implementation of the recommendations of the report. And upon elected, it will form part of his/her administration’s agenda, in order to consider such candidate a serious contender.
Being listed in the report or failure to publicly support the report are red flags that will question the character of a candidate as a true leader. So far, none of these Ghankay-connected candidates has publicly declared their support for the TRC report. Mr. Benoni Urey, who is among those listed in the economic crimes section, has sarcastically and defiantly declared that he’s ready for the TRC to be implemented. A declaration many Liberians are not taking seriously.
To knowingly seek political office while being listed in a category or categories in the TRC report is a violation of the law that created the Liberian Truth and Reconciliation Commission. It is also a victory for such person. Using Madam Ellen-Johnson-Sirleaf as an example means such candidate will never implement the recommendations of the TRC report. This will result in years of stifling genuine reconciliation in Liberia.
The TRC report calls for the banning from political office of anyone listed for thirty years. While this issue has created a political firestorm among the supporters of the would-be candidates, however, the only forum designed to exonerate anyone from such ban is a war crimes tribunal. Until such forum is established, the 30-year ban is the law, and anyone acting in contrary to this law is committing a crime.
P. Nimely-Sie Tuon is General Coordinator, Liberia Human Rights Campaign. Email: email@example.com.