Following Liberia’s civil crises from 1989-1996, Mr. Charles Taylor was named head of the National Patriotic Front of Liberia (NPFL), the leading rebel group during the aforementioned war days. Taylor was one of seven councilmen who participated in Liberia’s interim government and mandated post-war democratic elections in 1997. These elections were not completely democratic because candidates were relegated to campaign in only certain parts of the country. Taylor ended up winning the majority of the vote because many people feared he would wage full-scale war if he lost.
His regime was marred by national insecurity and a lack of basic social services, including education and healthcare. Civil servants were even unpaid for up to twenty-two months.
Liberians quickly grew tired of Taylor’s discrimination and the abject poverty of his regime. As a result, a rebel group called Liberian United for Reconciliation and Development (LURD) launched a major insurgency against the government. This brought the country into another round of chaos.
In 2003, with the assistance of the international community, President Taylor was taken out of the country. This event marked the end of Liberia’s war, suppression and destruction of lives and properties. A transitional government was established and the Comprehensive Peace Agreement was created. The purpose of the agreement was to stabilize the country and conduct democratic elections in 2005.
Madam Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, a graduate of Harvard University and candidate for the Unity Party, won the 2005 election. Once President Sirleaf was elected, Liberians anticipated a restoration of their country’s reputation, values, basic social services, and above all: peace. With a broken infrastructure, no electricity, no pipe born water, unusable roads, and destroyed bridges, hospitals, and schools, there was much to be done. Since 2006, President Sirleaf has done a tremendous restoration; yet as a Liberian, I can say that we are far from finished.
On Tuesday, October 11, 2011, Liberians will once again head to the polls to elect a leader for another six-year term. The question is what will we decide is most important as we exercise our right to vote? Will we choose national growth and development or personal interest? The task of national development is undoubtedly huge. We must choose the candidate that will work unselfishly to improve our country, and this leader must patiently listen to his or her people, taking everyone’s needs and opinions into account. Democracy is tolerance and respect for each other, and this notion must be carried out by all Liberians, including its leader.
The destiny of our country lies in the votes that we will cast today. It is dire that each Liberian vote and make the best decision for not his or herself, but for Liberia as a whole. I want to particularly call on all young people who are eligible to vote; you must exercise this right without fear and instead, with the knowledge that we can stand together if the election’s results run awry.
The results of today’s election will be announced 15 days after ballots are cast. I urge all Liberians, to exercise the power of democracy in order to better our country for which we have fought so hard.
Unfortunately, I will not be able to cast a ballot in today’s ever-important election, as I am temporarily working in the United States. My time in the United States has made me realize that it is important for people to stand up for their rights not only in Liberia, but all over the world. I had the opportunity to attend one of the several “Occupy” rallies spreading throughout the U.S. At Washington DC’s rally, I saw with my own eyes Americans standing up against the greed of the wealthy and the dysfunction of their government. As these people stood together, a sense of nationalism was present. These peaceful yet powerful protests reminded me that violence is not needed to make the point that a country’s people should stand together for the sake of each other and not for the sake of a select few. The protest had me hoping that today Liberians will peacefully cast their ballots holding on to the same notion.