OP-ED: Enough With the “Let’s Just Leave It for the Sake of Peace” Mentality

Liberians are a hospitable, loving, considerate, and respectful people; however, we have some weaknesses, which if not addressed holistically as a country, might keep us behind not only in the sub-region but also in Africa and the world at large.

One of those weaknesses is a tendency to preach impunity or the “let’s just leave it for the sake of peace” mentality. In Liberia, most issues that are brought to the full glare of the public, whether they are cases of stealing public funds or mysterious deaths of citizens, have at most one week to be discussed in the media and after that, the case or story is buried forever.

The new formula developed by politicians is the misuse of religious leaders, the National Traditional Council, or some prominent members of society, to weaken legal cases in the name of peace even if the case demands a due process of law.

Since most people tend to be impatient and complacent, such that they are not willing to devote one minute on things that matter, politicians have found this as the perfect escape route to go with impunity. We can watch football games or be on Facebook for hours but cannot afford to spend significant time on things that really matter.

For example, someone will carry a case to the police and expect the police to indefinitely keep the suspect in prison without the due process of the law. If the person is freed based on the law, the complainer will allege that the police received bribes.

The recent ruling of the Supreme Court, which placed stay order on the runoff election, has been met with mixed reactions from prominent Liberians, including the president, and this has left more questions than answers.

Most of my colleagues, including those we disagree with politically, have considered Charles Walker Brumskine’s action to go to court as nothing but a “mere waste of time.” I hear this day and night from many Liberians including from those I least expect.

A society like ours where everything seems to elicit comments like “let’s just leave it” or “this is a waste of time” can encourage politicians to keep doing the wrong thing and set a poor nation like ours on its way to becoming a “failed state” and that’s exactly what we keep experiencing in Liberia.

Our politicians are aware that most Liberians don’t have the time to wait for anything, even to stand in line or queue for their own meals. So, politicians will say “let’s do it, they will only talk for three days and afterward they will forget.” I believe this must have been the same thought they had when they knowingly and illegally tampered with the just-ended elections.

There were tons of complaints of alleged irregularities and fraud from the first round of the election and others are saying we should “just let it go for the sake of peace.” So, when are we ever going to challenge such issues in court for the sake of peace?

There is currently an alleged electoral fraud case in my district, Nimba’s eighth electoral district, which political analysts are saying might end in a re-run. After all polling places were reported in the district, the National Elections Commission posted one of the candidates, Saye Mianah, with a 19-vote lead, suggesting that the incumbent lawmaker was defeated. A recent recount in Saclepea, however, shows that the incumbent Rep. Larry Younquoi won the election.

I am in no way suggesting that the re-election of Younquoi is fraudulent, but what yardstick did NEC use when it first declared that Saye Miannah had won the vote?

In her recent address to the nation, President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf congratulated Liberians for their patience “as we go through this time of uncertainty in our electoral process, awaiting the country’s historical presidential transition.”

I agreed with my president when she said the economy is “under stress.” Yes, it is indeed under stress because there is still uncertainty in the election; no investor may want to invest at this moment. Others are still thinking as to who will lead us, but everything is peaceful. At the end of her speech, the president left us with more doubts and questions than answers.

What did the president mean when she said, “Our democracy will withstand this challenge,… our democracy is under assault. Our country’s reputation is under assault”?

Does this mean that going to court is wrong? Do we not live in a democracy that is administered by the rule of law? Have withholding and respecting the rule of law become a crime? Has the “right to challenge, through an established and orderly process,” as stated by the president in her address, become a crime?

What did my president mean when she said, “We achieved 73 percent voters’ turnout, demonstrating confidence in our electoral process?” Should a 73 percent turnout declare an election free and fair or stop anyone from using the due process of the law?

Why does the National Traditional Council of Liberia want to mediate as if we are experiencing violence or war? Do we really need an intervention in a case that will test our democracy?

The culture of impunity or “let’s just leave it for the sake of peace” will distort our democracy and make Liberia a laughable country among the comity of nations. I call on the National Tradition Council, religious leaders, and others to refrain from pushing for a withdrawal of the case.

This is not good for our democracy; let’s allow the rule of law to prevail. This “let’s just leave it for the sake of peace” mentality will do more harm than good. We will vote when it’s time but let the court do its work. Fellow countrymen, let’s learn to be patient; let’s learn to test all of our systems!

Featured photo by Zeze Ballah

Julius Saye Keh-nel

Julius Y. Saye Keh-nel holds a master's degree in Economic Policy Management from Makerere University in Kampala, Uganda. Before moving to the private sector, Julius worked with the Ministry of Commerce and Industry for six years, including as director of Access to Market.

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