Talking Drums

The West African News Magazine

Liberia, America And Doe

Whispering Drums With Maigani

by Musa Ibrahim

On the eve of the "great election" in Liberia, the one time lean and hungry looking master sergeant, now a pot- bellied General and president as well as presidential candidate appeared on Liberian television with a chilly message. Said he: "Win or loose, I, Samuel Doe will not quit the executive mansion".

Predictably threatening as this message might be, the Liberian populace were not discouraged or frightened from going out en masse the following day to choose between Samuel Doe and the other three candidates contesting for the presidency.

In a telephone conversation with some of the voters in Monrovia on election day (journalists from abroad were banned from covering the elections) I was made to understand that in a population of a little over three million people, the turnout for the voting was very spectacular. And from all indications, the massive turn-out of the electorate was to give Samuel Doe a good run for his money.

And as the entire Liberian population waits patiently for the election results, the entire civilized world waits with them as well. Most importantly, the world is keeping its fingers crossed at America, the self proclaimed defender and proponent of a free and democratic society.

Will the Americans stand idly by while General Samuel Doe makes a mockery of their avowed democratic ideals by imposing himself on the Liberian people? As the only independent observer group allowed into Liberia to monitor the elections, will the Americans ensure that the elections and the subsequent results were free and fair?

Already things do not seem to be going well. For instance, immediately after all the polls have been closed, a statement by an official of the Special Elections Commission (SECOM) said that the results of the elections would be made known in two weeks time! And everybody knows where the sympathies of the commission have been all along. Worse still, reports also indicate that representatives of the political parties that contested the elections save those from Samuel Doe's political party would not be present while the ballot boxes are being opened and the votes counted. Will the Americans close their eyes to these anomalies?

While I recognise the fact that the problem is a Liberian problem and the election is a purely Liberian election, America is still the one country in the whole world that is caught in the middle of the whole election affair. And so in a way, this an American problem as well. Because of its self-proclaimed role as defender of the principles of democracy, America has always gone out of its way to meddle in the internal and political affairs of many countries, particularly those in the third world.

From Vietnam Lebanon, to Nicaragua, to Grenada and El-Salvador, America has wobbled through one cris to another and lost countless young men in its bid to uproot "communism" and establish "democracy" in these societies. Though America has never bothered to help countries in Africa that try to practise democracy (Americans turned their heads and backs when democracy was dealt a deadly blow in Ghana and Nigeria), yet Liberia ought to remain an exception if only because of the historical ties and links that exist between the two countries.

Liberia was once upon a time an American colony and it is today one of America's staunchest allies in the whole of Africa. Once it was whimsically called the 51st-State of the USA. It uses the US dollar as its currency and relies on America for its daily survival. A great number of the population regard themselves as Americo-Liberians.

It is therefore America's responsibility to watch closely the Liberian elections. It is the only way to convince the world that they truly and sincerely believe in the genuine progress of the Liberian people, and charity would have truly started at home.

Way back in 1983, thirty million Nigerians defied the rain and all the threats of nature and voted for freedom and democracy. With no computers and none of the paraphernalia of modern technology, the votes were laboriously counted and results made known in three days. Granting the entire three million people in Liberia went out and voted, should it take the Special Elections Commission two weeks to count out all the votes? Could not the American observers already in Liberia lend SECOM a hand? Or what kind of observation are they there for?

From all indications Samuel Doe has in the eyes of the entire Liberian population including his constituency, the military, outlived his usefulness. He has become an old, old flame that is stubbornly refusing to flicker out. Let us see whether "Rambo Reagan" will match his democratic rhetorics with action by making sure that democracy and the will of the people triumphed in Liberia in spite of the evil machinations of Samuel Kenyon Doe and his collaborators. Only then will the continent of Africa believe they have a friend in the White House.

talking drums 1985-10-21 Azumah The two minute wonder