’97 Misstep’- Still Haunting Liberia’s Opposition


IN THE ELECTIONS of 1997, opposition political parties in Liberia widely believed that individually they could pose a threat to Charles Ghankay Taylor, leader of the rebellion of December 24, 1989 that marked the beginning of the end of Samuel Doe.

Gambia the Latest to Show Political Parties in Liberia How to Seal Deal

AFTER WREAKING havoc in most of Liberia, voters happily chanted in the now infamous phrase: “He Killed My Ma, He Killed My Pa, But,  I Will Vote for Him” to deliver power to Taylor.

IN AN ELECTION that boasted an 89 percent voter turnout, Mr. Taylor and his National Patriotic Party (NPP) won the election by a substantial margin; Taylor won 75.3% of the vote in the presidential election, whilst the NPP won the same number of votes in the parliamentary election.

CALL IT, A LANDSLIDE. Mr. Taylor was inaugurated as president on 2 August 1997.

THE CURRENT PRESIDENT Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf came the closest, collected only 10 percent of the vote.

ALL COUNTED, thirteen candidates sought the presidency that year.

IN THE YEARS that has followed, the story has been the same. In the 2005 presidential elections, 22 candidates sought the presidency while in 2011; sixteen candidates threw their hats in the race.

LAST WEEK, VOTERS in the West African state of The Gambia voted to oust a brutal dictator from power.

YAHYA JAMMEH had ruled the West African nation with an iron fist since he and a band of low-ranked army officers ended the reign of Sir Dawda Kairaba Jawara in a coup d’état on July 22nd, 1994.

TODAY, MANY of the original members of the coup have either been killed or in exile.

BUT IN HISTORIC voting last Thursday, Property developer Mr. Adama Barrow, 51 trumped Mr. Jammeh who only managed 36.7% of the vote, to Mr Barrow, who has never held political office, with 45.5% of the vote.

A THIRD PARTY candidate, Mama Kandeh, won 17.8%.

BARROW TOLD THE BBC that his shock win of the Gambian election heralds new hope for the country shortly after receiving a concession call from Mr. Jammeh who vowed to work along with the winner. “I will help him work towards the transition,” Mr Jammeh said on state TV on Friday evening, after speaking to the president-elect by telephone.

HUNDREDS OF GAMBIANS took to the streets to celebrate one of the biggest election upsets West Africa has ever seen.

TODAY, SANNA SABALLY lives exile in Germany. Both he and Sadibu Hydara, regarded as the most educated of the bunch, were accused of trying to overthrow Jammeh some 20 years ago. He reportedly died in jail.

EDWARD SINGHATEH Is the current vice president of the ECOWAS commission. Hydara was the Minister of Interior and the spokesman of the AFPRC. But only months after the coup, Jammeh accused him and Sabally, deputy leader of AFPRC, of an alleged coup plot on the same day that the AFPRC junta was to announce a four-year transitional government to be headed by Jammeh.

SABALLY WERE arrested and detained at the maximum prison while Hydara was reportedly tortured and killed in prison on the order of Jammeh in June 1995.

IT WAS WIDELY BELIEVED that Hydara was in favour of returning the country to democratic civilian rule, and was strongly opposed to Jammeh’s candidacy. But Jammeh had other ideas and pushed to stay in power longer and saw Capt. Hydara as a threat to his ambitions.

OPPOSITION VICTORIES have also been recorded in Nigeria, Ghana and Sierra Leone. In Liberia however, it appears, very few lessons have been learnt from the pitfalls of the 1997 elections, and the subsequent 2005 and 2011 ballot.

JUST LIKE the past years, multiple candidates are now bracing to contest the upcoming 2017 presidential elections.

SADLY, A LOT of them are broke, ill-prepared, unorganized and simply lack the skills to lead. But they are in it no matter what.

WHAT IS MORE DISTURBING is the fact that these so-called politicians are not presenting any better alternative for Liberians to consider when they go to the polls in 2017.

POLITICIANS IN THE OPPOSITION BLOC, if at all they mean any better for this nation, would realize that governing a country is no child’s play and it takes one who has the financial, intellectual, social and international competency to hold such position.

THEY MUST REALIZE THAT having the desire to change one’s country come through various forms – like lending support to one who has the competency to effect and actualize the desired change.

WITH THE NEW WAVES OF POLITICAL transitions in the sub-region, if leaders of political parties in Liberia have any good intensions for this country, they would learn from the examples of Ghana, Nigeria, Senegal and The Gambia.

WHILE WE ENJOY AND ENCOURAGE multi-party democracy, political leaders must take into consideration that self-ego and obsession for power would only retard our progress. If the ruling Unity Party’s grip on power would come to an end, a coalition headed by an organized, financially potent and intellectually competent leader would be the only way out.