TRANSITIONING FOR A SUSTAINABLE DEMOCRACY
By Bility, Karfala L, firstname.lastname@example.org, Contributing Writer
As Liberia’s election of October 2011 draws near, the issue of who will win the mandate of leadership for the next 6 years is paramount on the minds of every well-meaning Liberian and friends of Liberia. Close to this issue is the field of candidates vying for this honorable office. Although there remain a plurality of candidates, with a minimum of ten showing interest so far, the race has truly and essentially been between three people: Madam Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, Cllr. Charles Walker Brumskine, and Ambassador George Weah. Most well-meaning Liberians would concede that the competition is actually between Madam Sirleaf and Cllr. Brumskine. Therefore, for many, the choice boils down to a continuation of the incumbent or change to new hands.
Many would argue that for Liberia to continue on the path of sustainable democracy and good governance, the incumbent, Madam Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, should be allowed to carry on as president for the next six years in order to build upon the gains that have been made in her first term. The argument is that a change of guards now would lead to a rift in the system thereby truncating the gains made so far.
I believe the exact opposite is true and that is why I make the alternative argument for a change of guard base on the following:
A) Preserving the incumbent’s legacy;
B) The unsustainability of the incumbent’s second term;
C) A hijacking of the nation state by ill prepared and ill willed personalities; and
D) The revival and conclusion of the reconciliation process.
It is no doubt that the incumbent overcame great strides and made history by becoming the first elected female president of an Africa nation. This and her years of service in the international arena have endeared her to the international community. She has become a symbol of a movement and the epitome of an idea realized: that gone are the days when women relegated to the home. That a woman can become anything she set her heart to be, even the president of an African nation. The proverbial glass ceiling in African politics has been broken. This symbolism that our president has come to represent enshrines her in the history. Such a legacy is worthy of preservation, for the benefit of Liberia and the world at large.
The incumbent has also made some strides in the arena of national development as well. While much is still needed to be done, the incumbent has done some foundational things that would set the stage for others to lay the foundation for sustainable development. Chief among such achievements is the settling of the national debt; rebranding the country as one set to be a responsible player among the comity of nations; gathering good will and assistance for the country from the international community and minimal attempts at governance reform.
The preservation of such a legacy would help Liberia continue its thrust forwards towards sustainable democracy and development. It is however this very legacy that it threaten by any extension of the incumbent’s rule in Liberia. Although a second term is a democratic option available to the incumbent, not all presidents are meant for a second term. As the trend in Africa has shown, most administrations begin to go downhill at the on-setting of their second term. This is when the thugs and henchmen of the administration sweep in to haul in the final spoils, knowing fully well that there might not be another chance. Corruption and impunity is rife during such periods and most regimes (especially in Africa) rarely use the opportunity to build on the little successes they had in the first term.
Some Leaders, as demonstrated by Nelson Mandela of South Africa, are meant to serve only one term, set the stage and leave it while the applause is still loud, thereby creating an unstoppable momentum for those that would succeed to such an administration. Every nation needs such a hero and statesperson that it can point back to and say “this person made the sacrifice so all of us can enjoy what we now have.”
The incumbent could rise to become such an icon for Liberia if she voluntarily steps aside from a second term bid. If not, the Liberian people should choose to gracefully retire her by electing another for the high office. The risk of putting her through another term during which her entire legacy would be thrown in the mud, creating another Robert Mugabe effect, would be a great disservice to the greater goal of sustainable democracy and development in Liberia.
At, the age of 73, the incumbent cannot anymore be said to be in her prime. Six more years of tireless work at the helm of the energy intensive transformation Liberia needs to move itself back on the path of development, would definitely have a toll on any such individual, no matter how dogged their will and determination. The person is designed to function at it optimum during a certain stage in life.
A second term for the incumbent would therefore leave Liberia saddled with a president upon whom the law of diminishing return has set in. A president, who might still have the will, but lacks the stamina to execute. At its current stage of development, with great change being needed from the top, Liberia can barely sustain the luxury of a president that is effectively under the control of others. What some might call a lame duck president, especially when the “others
Bility, Karfala LS2" email@example.com