The Failure Of The Liberian Runoff Election
The presidential runoff election scheduled for November 8, 2011 will take place with only one candidate; Ellen Sirleaf-Johnson, the incumbent. The opposition party, the CDC, has announced it is boycotting the election. The CDC has made formal complaints to the Electoral Commission of massive rigging of the first election. These claims have not been examined by the Electoral Commission in depth and they have not reported on their findings. The candidates of the CDC, Winston Tubman and his Vice-Presidential partner, George Weah, are widely popular in the country as has been seen in the campaign and Mrs. Sirleaf-Johnson a great deal less popular.
However, Mrs. Sirleaf-Johnson has several things going in her favour. She has access to a lot of money which she is freely spreading around. Local sources estimate that she has spent almost US$30 million so far on the election, about $150,000 of which is said to have gone to Prince Johnson, a failed candidate in the first election who threw his support behind Johnson-Sirleaf. Prince Johnson was famous in Liberia for his hacking away with a machete at the late President Doe on a video available on You Tube and later, it is said, eating some of the organs of Doe. This prompted the best one-liner in Africa. “Where is Sam Doe? Something he disagreed with ate him”
Some of Mrs. Sirleaf-Johnson’s money was made available from grants from the US, the European Community, the UN and some from the oil companies who are her major sponsors.
Her major support comes from the US, who was instrumental in rigging the Nobel Prize to be given to her just a week before the election. Mrs. Sirleaf-Johnson, who returned from her flight from Liberia to the US during the civil war, returned to serve Charles Taylor in a direct capacity. Not to fall into the error of judgement made by Adam Clayton-Powell, she “arranged things” for Taylor until he left the country and settled many of his problems. Oddly enough the ‘independent observers’ sent by the US to observe the election found that they were fair and transparent. In the words of the State Department yesterday “The CDC’s charge that the first-round election was fraudulent is unsubstantiated. As evidenced by international and domestic observers, Liberia’s October 11 first-round presidential and legislative elections were fair, free and transparent.” This is despite documented cases of fraud and rigging at least about 35% of Liberia’s 4,800 polling places (most of whom were not observed by the observers) as reported by the CDC.
The problem is that Tubman and Weah are playing against a stacked deck. Liberia is an occupied country and has been so for many years. It is occupied by the US and to a smaller degree, by the UN peacekeepers that fall under US military ‘guidance’ and control. Right now the UN Peacekeepers include:
9,216 total uniformed personnel
133 military observers
1,308 police (including formed units)
476 international civilian personnel (that is private military contractors)
1,000 local staff
240 UN Volunteers
Bangladesh, Benin, Bolivia, Brazil, Bulgaria, China, Croatia, Denmark, Ecuador, Egypt, El Salvador, Ethiopia, Finland, France, Gambia, Ghana, Indonesia, Jordan, Kyrgyzstan, Malaysia, Mali, Moldova, Montenegro, Namibia, Nepal, Niger, Nigeria, Pakistan, Paraguay, Peru, Philippines, Poland, Republic of Korea, Romania, Russian Federation, Senegal, Serbia, Togo, Ukraine, United States, Yemen, Zambia and Zimbabwe.
Argentina, Bangladesh, Bosnia and Herzegovina, China, Czech Republic, Egypt, El Salvador, Fiji, Gambia, Germany, Ghana, India, Jamaica, Jordan, Kenya, Kyrgyzstan, Namibia, Nepal, Nigeria, Norway, Pakistan, Philippines, Poland, Russian Federation, Rwanda, Serbia, Sri Lanka, Sweden, Switzerland, Turkey, Uganda, Ukraine, United States, Yemen, Zambia and Zimbabwe.
The UN presence is dwarfed by the presence of the US military in the country (some of whom are included above). The Department of Defense is represented in Liberia by the Office of the Defense Attaché and the Office of Security Cooperation.
According to the Department of Defense:
Office of the Defense Attaché
The Defense Attaché represents the Secretary of Defense; other top military officers and the Commander-in-Chief of the U.S. Military. The Office of the Defense Attaché provides military and political-military advice, assistance, and support to the U.S. ambassador. The Office of the Defense Attaché has the full authority and responsibility inherent in the position on any military organization commander except the authority to administer military justice.
Office of Security Cooperation
The mission of the Office of Security Cooperation (OSC) is to provide U.S. Department of Defense Security Assistance to the Republic of Liberia on behalf of the Defense Security Cooperation Agency, U.S. Africa Command (AFRICOM) and U.S. Embassy Monrovia in order to further U.S. strategic goals and objectives and to improve military-to-military relations. Within this mission, OSC’s primary objective is to build, equip and train a professional, apolitical 2,000 soldier Armed Forces of Liberia (AFL) under the Security Sector Reform for National Defense program. Included in this force is the development of a 50-100 person Liberian Coast Guard (LCG).
- Operation Onward Liberty, U.S. Uniformed Mentor program, which includes 50+ mentors in wide range of skills working side-by-side with AFL. Funded by a Foreign Military Sales (FMS) Case.
- Provision of U.S. Military Training Teams (MTTs) to train on specific topics within Liberia. Recent examples include outboard motor maintenance and small boat operations for the Liberian Coast Guard.
- Continuation of International Military Education and Training (IMET) program, which sends approximately 40 AFL/LCG personnel to training in the U.S.
- Coordinate military-to-military events in which the AFL can engage with the U.S. on specific topics such as warehouse management and logistics procedures. This has recently been enhanced through the State Partnership Program with the Michigan National Guard.
- Mentoring at the Liberian Ministry of Defense (MoD) staff level using the Defense Institution Reform Initiative (DIRI).
- Continued development of the Liberian Coast Guard funded via a FMS case.
- Funding support for equipment and limited base operations and maintenance through on-going FMS cases.
- Development of armoires and ammunition control points along with proper policies and procedures funded by an FMS case.
- Incorporating the AFL in humanitarian assistance missions and projects funded by the DoD Humanitarian Assistance Program.
- Encouraging healthy relationships with other nations and organizations and taking advantage of skill sets and training opportunities such as with UNMIL.
- Defense HIV Awareness and Prevention Program (DHAPP).
In short, when you add the number of trainers of Dyncorp and the other active private military corporations to the US troops and policemen in Liberia there is a healthy array of force available to the President of Liberia; no doubt an advantage to an incumbent. One can add to this the positive goodwill towards Mrs. Sirleaf-Johnson by the US Ambassador to Liberia, Linda Thomas-Greenfield; one of a number of Black-American female ambassadors to Africa named by Condoleeza Rice. She has been Ambassador to Liberia since 2008 and played a role in the Nobel Prize arrangements. Local sources say she will soon be returning to the US to leave the State Department to return to Liberia as an agent for Chevron Oil.
The key to the importance of Liberia to the world is that substantial amounts of oil have been found nearby (in Ghana, Sierra Leone, etc.) There are signs of large quantities of oil within Liberian offshore water. In 2005 the Liberian Government, through the National Oil Company (NOCAL), entered into a “Production Sharing Contract” with three foreign oil companies to undertake oil exploration in Liberian territorial waters. The three companies include the Joint Consortium of Regal Liberia Limited, Broadway Consolidated, and Orantoe Petroleum Limited. They were among five companies awarded blocks as a result of the Bid Round… Subsequently, most of the oil majors have sought a place in Liberia’s industry. In August 2010 Liberia selected one of the world’s largest oil companies as lead partner to explore potential offshore reserves. The government said that a three-year exploration agreement with the Chevron Corporation involving three deep-water concessions in Liberian waters “has been approved by the Executive and submitted to the Legislature for consideration and ratification.” “We are delighted to welcome Chevron as a partner for Liberia to explore our oil and gas assets,” Johnson Sirleaf said in the Executive Mansion statement. “Energy is one of my top priorities, and with Chevron’s technical skills we will be able to build our own capacity in the sector making a meaningful contribution to economic growth and job creation. “
Local sources say that it is very important for Chevron to finish the deal by getting the required legislation passed and, to that end, would like to see Mrs. Sirleaf-Johnson as President once again… Other oil companies are waiting in the wings. Chevron has already paid out a lot of money for the Liberian acreage and commissions. It doesn’t want to have to do it twice.
Wherever there is oil the level of transparency diminishes. Winston Tubman is doomed to face the financial might of Chevron and the military might of the US Department of Defense. If Mrs, Sirleaf-Johnson rigged the first election there is no reason why she not be expected to rig the runoff. Hence, the boycott. Africa seems doomed to repeat its mistakes over and over. If the lessons of the UN Peackeepers and the French next door in the Ivory Coast are not an example to the Liberians what can happen when foreign armies and oil companies decide on how a country should be run, then no example will suffice.
Yet again the hand-wringers and chancers of ECOWAS repeat the litany of support for this sustained attack on African sovereignty, just as they did in Abidjan. What future for Africa when it continues to cosy up to international bullies for short-term cash advantages?
By Dr Gary K. Busch