Reconciliation: a prerequisite for participative democracy

A sequitur to that statement would tell us that without true brotherhood, or commonality of interests, democracy will only exist in name… even if facilitated by open and fair elections. It would follow that democracy could end up being nothing but a convenient platform from which a majority can legitimize its rule, rather than a system by which to govern equitably. A worst scenario being one where an elite within that majority ends up with the reins of power, and the specter of tyranny.

Recent elections in Liberia bring these issues of governance center stage.

In most mature democracies, a 60/40 result in a two-party presidential election would be considered a landslide for the victor. Presumably, that’s what the percentage split will be between Johnson-Sirleaf and Weah. But in all reasonableness, given the history and needs of the Liberian people, no outcome should be considered a landslide.

After more than a quarter of a century of economic, political and social deterioration (and fratricide) it would seem only logical that any government assuming power, to be considered legitimate, must be one of reconciliation and brotherhood. This past election cannot just be considered as an opportunity for any group to exert control, nor carte blanche to change the nation to the winners’ model or vision; only an opportunity to facilitate a march towards common objectives as one people, and as one nation.

For Liberia there is a construction process that needs immediate attention. Not a reconstruction process as some would have it, for there’s little worth going back to. Construction, that’s the key. Of a society that will reach for consensus, so as to achieve common objectives. Of a society that will seek reform, peacefully, in the conduct of both judicial and executive power. Of a society that will be satisfied with nothing less than a government which is both transparent and accountable to all the people.

Yes… platitudes all! But one cannot partake in a banquet, or even the humblest meal, without sitting at the table. And that’s precisely the problem that exists today in many small nations of the developing world: nations with a promising economic future, such as Azerbaijan ; and nations in dire need of economic transformation, such as Liberia .

The elections in Liberia should be a beginning; better yet, an opportunity… and nothing else. The elections should be construed as nothing more than a referendum, where people have expressed a willingness to participate in how they are to be governed… and nothing else.

Perhaps the call, the need, for Weah to concede is relevant… and should take place. But perhaps far more important than that should be the call by Johnson-Sirleaf to declare victory… not for herself but for the Liberian people. A call by her inviting to share the table with all factions that have a stake in the nation’s future, and the people they represent. Of course, the key guest to such table would have to be George Weah.

Liberia , just like any other nation, needs leadership… and the world wishes that Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf provides it both skillfully and successfully. But even more critical than leadership, Liberia needs a unified direction, and enough power-sharing to inspire trust. People, all people, must believe that this initial government will be both accountable and transparent. Believe, not just hope!

The president-elect can promote from the outset both accountability and transparency by making her administration a coalition of people and ideas that instills confidence in government. Confidence for Liberians first, then for others in the world, leaders and institutions, that are in a position to help Liberia become stable and prosperous.

Liberia’s elected leaders must seek and find the formula to achieve brotherhood and reconciliation for its people so that it can become a viable nation first… then a key regional partner in that part of Africa. There should be no losers in this first election.