Liberia will be conducting its third successive elections in 2017 since that West African nation of about four million people rose out of war. But what goes unnoticed about the two elections held in 2005 and 2011 respectively, is, Liberians living abroad had been disenfranchised of their fundamental rights by intentionally and wrongfully excluded in the face of the law from voting in those elections though the country’s constitution in article 80(c) instructs the country to conduct vote by absentee ballot where a Liberian citizen can not vote in person.
The upcoming 2017 elections in Liberia MUST include Liberians living abroad and should not anticipate ignoring and excluding them or in calculated refusal and denial of the fundamental and constitutional right to participate in the governance of their country as protected in the country’s constitution and not breaching articles 1, 2, 6, 7, 13(2 ) and 21.1 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights along with articles 77(a) and 80(c) of the Liberian constitution.
Articles 77(a) of the Liberian constitution gives all Liberians the right to participate in the governance of their country while 80(c) protects “every Liberian right to be registered in a constituency and to vote in public elections only in the constituency where they registered either in person or by absentee ballot, provided such citizen has the right to change their constituency as may be prescribed by the Legislature”.
The Liberian government and specifically, National Election Commission have over the years blatantly violated the rights of Liberians living abroad by their failure and refusal to uphold the constitution and provide a level playing field for all citizens and treat Liberians living abroad as equal citizens as their compatriots at home before the law. The National Election Commission must perform its fiduciary responsibilities and conform to the law knowing that no one Liberian is more Liberian than the other or the barrier of long distance outside of their borders caused by the country’s incapacity to live up to its first and fundamental responsibility to provide protection for the governed and enabling condition for its citizens, the crust of the social contract every society signs with its governor (government).
The Chairman of the National Election Commission, now headed by a Doctor of Jurisprudence, Cllr. Jerome Korkoyah has the moral grounds and legal intellect to understand the harm of infringing on the rights of Liberians living abroad to exclude them from the 2017 electoral process and election he is spearheading.
The Universal Declaration of Human Rights has 30 articles and it is in-reprehensible that just the conduct of elections in Liberia will violate six(6) of those articles denying Liberians living abroad their inherent right to participate in the governance of their country, is astounding beyond comprehension.
Any planning and budget for the 2017 elections must include Liberians living abroad in keeping with the country’s constitution and Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
Liberians abroad should not be impeded from taking part in the 2017 elections with bogus excuses and justifications to deny them from participating in the elections, ignoring the reality that Liberia’s next door neighbor, Guinea, recently conducted elections and its citizens voted by absentee ballot around the world including Guineans living in Liberia.
The European Union just contributed ten million Euros to the Liberian government to fund the 2017 elections followed by $1 million from the United Nations Development Program (UNDP), these international financiers should attach a caveat to the funds they are providing for the elections to ensure Liberians living abroad are included in the planning and budget as well as the election for 2017.
Liberians abroad have the fortitude and power to compel the National Election Commission and Liberian government to treat them as equal citizens as their compatriots living at home especially appreciating their immense contribution to the economy, pouring in 31% to the GDP of the economy and serving as the second rail of the country’s balance of payment, the second highest in world remittance (World Bank) while at the same time playing a pivotal role in the overall development of the country.
No group or persons can better fight for Liberians living abroad to exercise their rights to participate in the governance of their country but themselves. It is Diaspora Liberians who must pull their all and hold the National Election Commission and their government feet to the fire and make sure they are not denied their rights to vote by absentee ballot in the upcoming 2017 elections even if it means taking legal recourse to put a stay on the conduct of the 2017 election unless they are included in the electoral process and conduct of the election.
Liberians living in the United States should take the lead knowing they constitute 48% of Liberian migrants and are the single largest Liberian migrant bloc (UNDP) and contributing the single largest remittance to their country.
Diaspora Liberians’ outlandish contribution to their country can not be repaid with ingratitude and outright disenfranchisement of their rights to participate in the governance of their country even though they take up 31% tap of the country’s GDP and the second rail of balance of payment of the economy.
If Guinea could conduct absentee vote, Liberia’s neighbor to the north, there is no excuse for Africa’s oldest democracy to deny its citizens living abroad their right to participate in the governance of their country especially when they contribute third of the country’s economy.
President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf must lead and direct the National Election Commission not to infringe on the rights of any Liberian or group of Liberians wither living at home or abroad their constitutional and fundamental rights to vote in the upcoming 2017 elections and uphold to the letter, the precepts set forth in the constitution and Universal Declaration of Human Rights.