EVEN BEFORE THE first ballot is cast in the October 10, 2023 polls, barely three weeks away, a member of the Liberian Senate fondly called the “House of Elders” has cast chills and fears and aspersions in the public space on the elections with an unprovoked threat to resort to cataclysmic war were there to be a rigging of the polls. Mr. Prince Yormie Johnson, aka PJY, also one of very few surviving warlords currently serving in the Liberian public service, declared that he and his newfound political bloc, headed by the former ruling Unity Party, would reject rigged results with virulent force and bloodbath.
HE DIVULGED, DURING a press conference in Monrovia this week, that he and his supporters were preparing themselves under a sort of “Don’t Try It” mantra, and that any attempt by the NEC and/or the ruling CDC to cheat in the 2023 presidential and general elections would be met with disproportionate response of the “people’s power” akin to the Arab Spring. He threatened, “You will shoot your gun; you will kill us or you will die.”
NO DOUBT, THE PJY declaration has spilled scary anxieties and provoked public outrage not only because the nation’s tempo is already very high and citizens bracing themselves for augural eventuality, but also because the man who made the threat is on record for wartime notoriety. He is known for mobilizing ethnic sensibilities that provoked and drew the nation into a war of attribution, ethnic cleansing and mass murders that was seen during the Liberian civil conflict. PJY is widely credited for wartime tricks and artifices, for war propaganda and guerilla warfare, and for battlefront cruelties by which he laid untold human lives into waste.
TO BEGIN TO beat premature war drums, to cast vague aspersions on yet-to-be-conducted polls and their results, and to frame and cast preemptive threats on the electoral process are all eloquently clear testaments of the dangerously cunning and nature of Mr. Prince Johnson.
WHAT IS MORE chillingly paralyzing about the Prince Y. Johnson threat is that nearly 36 hours after the dangerous statements, the opposition community in which he is a prominent voice and actor is mute, as if they were all in one accord on the statement. This gives the impression that, indeed, PYJ is not alone in this dangerous proposition, and that there is a deeply grim desperation to capture political leadership. It means, for PJY and his likes, democratic rules and tenants that are in place in the country are not an adequate reliance for electoral adjudication. And it clearly points to their inordinately unbridled desire for power on the platter of bloodbath and not on established democratic formalities.
THERE IS REASON to worry because assuming without admitting that the 2023 elections were found to be rigged or tempered with, the recourse to Prince Johnson’s “You’ll kill Us or You’ll Die” clarion call puts Liberia’s nascent democracy in tightropes. It does not promise to contribute to the sustenance and strengthening of a country’s democratic culture, and the consolidation of the fragile peace which every good citizen’s cherished desire. The PYJ declaration is an automatic call for relapse to deadly civil war, a return to barbarism, a situation PJY and his likes want because it makes them become the sole reigning deciders of society’s direction and mankind’s fate.
WE CALL ON WELL- meaning citizens to condemn the Nimba Senator’s evil pronouncements and the tacit support from the opposition community expressed in their silence on the matter.
LEST WE ARE misunderstood, let’s hasten to say that elections anywhere, whether small or big, are extremely emotionally charged moments, and vote rigging in any form and manner is indefensibly wrong and problematic. No one supports that. But the option of resorting to “You’ll kill Us or You’ll Die” as suggested by Mr. Johnson, and seemingly acquiesced by his opposition like-minds, is grossly a far cry from democracy. It is uncivilized. It is a trait given to only brutes and savages, and not the calling of democrats.
THERE ARE RULES that govern and adjudge electoral processes, including handling of frauds and cheats, real or perceived, and there are societal institutions in place to handle such matters. If elections were about killing and dying, then democratic nations would not call for political parties to contest; they would rather call for the formation of militia groups and monsters to participate in power contestations so that the declared winner would be the most egregious killers.
THANKFULLY, THAT’S NOT the case with democracy. And certainly, that is not the case with Liberia’s 2023 polls. Therefore, PJY and his political kin and kith must allow Liberia’s elections to be determined by processes sanctioned by the country’s Constitution and international norms, protocols and convention, and not by his envisaged “you’ll kill us or you’ll die” threat.
PJY MUST NOW KNOW that he has formed a political party to contest in elections, and not the INPFL he had over two decades ago. The days of chopping human’s ears and limps with machetes and blowing civilians’ heads up with guns are over. These are times for civil contests, the contest of elections decided on the basis of the largest vote and where there is dispute the courts speak.