OP-ED: Protest Was Never Meant to Usurp the People’s Will

There are two ways in which a president can be removed from office in a democracy like ours. The first is by popular vote via an election, and the second is through impeachment by the people’s representatives. The former has to do with policies or the lack thereof, while the latter has to do with misconduct.

Whenever the people disagree with their government on policy-related matters, the constitutional remedy for that is an election. When the president abuses his or her office, the constitution calls for impeachment via the people’s representatives. In both cases, the people are the sole arbiters. Elections allow for their direct input, while impeachment is indirect. Both are political mechanisms that empower the people to alter the course of government.

The framers of our constitution (by extension, our nation) never intended for “freedom of assembly” or remonstrance to be used as an imperious tool to usurp the people’s mandate by a raucous few. It was meant to dramatize and call the national leadership to pay attention to the plight of the citizenry.

Peaceful protest is the inalienable right of the people to dramatize their conditions and petition their leaders for possible redress. It encourages dissent and protects minorities against the tyranny of the majority. It was never meant as a means to an end. Article I of the constitution is clear and emphatic about the role of elections in our democratic process.

While the sheer greed of some elements within the current administration, coupled with unmitigated sloth, has lent support to the pending “demonstration” slated at the end of this month, nonetheless the theme and motives of the organizers are misguided and defeat the constitutional basis upon which a duly elected president can be removed from office.

The “Weah Step Down” campaign, like its many precursors, is narrow-minded. The organizers – a group of ineffective senators, political officials, and a tough-talking shock jock – are trying to circumvent the democratic process by fomenting the premature removal of a constitutional government. This extra-constitutional maneuver should be abhorred by every well-meaning Liberian with loyalty to the Liberian constitution.

Non-performance or policy differences should never be the cause of anarchy in a democracy. If the forerunners of the pending “protest” are indifferent about the nation’s trajectory, their best opportunity is to galvanize the people around their cause in next year’s legislative elections. Winning more seats will provide the opposition leverage and the power to check the excesses of the current administration. The pending “protest” is a short circuit attempt that could cause chaos, undermine an anemic economy and increasing political instability in an already fragile environment.

Featured photo courtesy of Lloyd Massah

Percy Harris

Percy B. Harris is a fellow at the Center For Policy Action & Research and a former moderator of the Liberian Enlightenment Forum. He can be reached at chupee03@yahoo com.

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