Liberia Midterm Elections Comes This Year
By ralph geeplay
Eight years into post war Liberia, the West African state goes to mid-term elections THIS YEAR, only that the country will be electing members of the Liberian Legislature for the third time, yet, municipal elections were never ever considered. Reports say, while much has been written about decentralizing political power in the country so that executive administrative governance is affected and felt, the issue is still a floating posted mail! Observers also say, governance largely in Liberia has been fundamentally academic and no political will harnessed—on the part of those who currently hold state power to effectuate this all important state matter!
Simply put, electing mayors for Liberia’s major cities including Monrovia and county superintendents for important counties like Nimba etc., has been lost to the quiet winds, in the form of lip service. President Sirleaf petitioned the Liberian Supreme Court on the matter few years into her presidency and it granted her a favorable opinion under the Lewis bench, the argument was made that the president could appoint governors until it had the budgetary allotments to do so, but since then nothing has been done. Why not hold the presidential and legislative elections and the legislative and county wide elections which could see superintendents and mayors elected also? It makes sense.
Post war Liberians know all too well the noise these past few years which have surrounded Madame Mary Broh; her appointment and reappointment to the post of city mayor of the Great City of Monrovia, yet say some, if Monrovia had a legitimate elected city mayor with full powers invested and constituted by its citizens, perhaps in the first place, Monrovia would have been a less contentious issue and place, and perhaps a much cleaner and greener city! There are less independent executives in the country to prove their mantles and show their talents as leaders, even as the country approaches 2017—hence, any executive powers there is today in the country, is bestowed by the presidency—not good! It is mayors who lead successful economic sensible campaigns and superintendents who do the most to lead and improve the lives of the people are those Liberians would look up to. It is those who lead and change the lives of their people are those who will because of their policies start the exodus of the people from Monrovia slums!
Romeo D.N. Gbartea, in his researched paper: Decentralization: Prospect for Sustainable Development in Liberia, argued that “the Government policy document which is the Poverty Reduction Strategy sees decentralization as the way to improve governance over time, increase transparency of government processes, enhance accountability, promote democracy and reduce poverty and ensuring the fulfillment of the Government’s responsibilities to serve the Liberian people.” He then asked,” but, what is the government doing to ensure that the mandate of the PRS is implemented to the fullest?” He gives due credit to the Governance Commission for crafting national public policies measures and initiatives to foster the governance process in post war Liberia, but added, “decentralization becomes [a] threat when the central authority does not want to transfer some powers to the local authorities. The basis for losing [some] control [of power to] the local authority is the best fear.” He also talks about the lack of political will, adding “Some central political actors are certainly threatened by decentralization. Some are simply reluctant to release power…The National Legislature has not made the National Policy on Decentralization and Local Governance a priority for constitutional referendum.”
Upon her election as Liberia first post war and Africa’s first female president, Johnson Sirleaf said, in her first Inaugural address on January 6, 2006, that she would ensure that “ government,” would under her leadership came “closer to the people, assuring that “ the days of the imperial presidency,” as she assume the mantle of state was “over in Liberia.” Nothing has been done significantly to change that, say observers.
“Every Dick and Harry, Muna and Monsu wants to be senator and representative in Liberia these days. One, because there are fewer offices to run for besides these seats in the country, and two, these guys are well paid,” says a staffer at the Capitol Building in Liberia’s capital of Monrovia. Says an analyst, because of these reasons, Monrovia is still the only centre of power in the country! Important counties like Lofa and Maryland etc have no independent administrative executives —and vetted by the people to do their work! Instead though, presidential appointments continue to dominate as it imposes superintendents and mayors on a population that demands development which local elected leaders could deliver. The national legislature which should be the leading voice on the issue in the country reports say is busy increasing its remunerations and perks instead of taking on the all-powerful imperial presidency…
There are great potentials to reap, political and economic watchers say, to the national growth—both in the body politic of the nation and the broader dialogue to decentralize political power in Liberia, which ultimately could improve the livelihood of the average Liberian in these troubled post war times. There is a need for strong elected mayors in Kakata, Pleebo, Careysburg, Buchanan and Fishtown! So too, do we need competent superintendents in Cape Mount, Bong, Grand Gedeh and Montserrado! It seems these coming elections there is the a missing link— will there ever be the political will on the part of our current leaders to put this critical issue back on the national agenda? I would like to think so..!
Ralph Geeplay is editor of the Liberian Listener