SPEAKERS CONTENTS INSERTS
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THE LIBERIAN ELECTIONS: A NEW HOPE?
SUBCOMMITTEE ON AFRICA
HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES
ONE HUNDRED FIFTH CONGRESS
JUNE 24, 1997
Printed for the use of the Committee on International Relations
COMMITTEE ON INTERNATIONAL RELATIONS
Page 2 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOCBENJAMIN A. GILMAN, New York, Chairman
WILLIAM GOODLING, Pennsylvania
JAMES A. LEACH, Iowa
HENRY J. HYDE, Illinois
DOUG BEREUTER, Nebraska
CHRISTOPHER SMITH, New Jersey
DAN BURTON, Indiana
ELTON GALLEGLY, California
ILEANA ROS-LEHTINEN, Florida
CASS BALLENGER, North Carolina
DANA ROHRABACHER, California
DONALD A. MANZULLO, Illinois
EDWARD R. ROYCE, California
PETER T. KING, New York
JAY KIM, California
STEVEN J. CHABOT, Ohio
MARSHALL ''MARK'' SANFORD, South Carolina
MATT SALMON, Arizona
AMO HOUGHTON, New York
TOM CAMPBELL, California
JON FOX, Pennsylvania
JOHN McHUGH, New York
LINDSEY GRAHAM, South Carolina
ROY BLUNT, Missouri
JERRY MORAN, Kansas
Page 3 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOCKEVIN BRADY, Texas
LEE HAMILTON, Indiana
SAM GEJDENSON, Connecticut
TOM LANTOS, California
HOWARD BERMAN, California
GARY ACKERMAN, New York
ENI F.H. FALEOMAVAEGA, American Samoa
MATTHEW G. MARTINEZ, California
DONALD M. PAYNE, New Jersey
ROBERT ANDREWS, New Jersey
ROBERT MENENDEZ, New Jersey
SHERROD BROWN, Ohio
CYNTHIA A. McKINNEY, Georgia
ALCEE L. HASTINGS, Florida
PAT DANNER, Missouri
EARL HILLIARD, Alabama
WALTER CAPPS, California
BRAD SHERMAN, California
ROBERT WEXLER, Florida
STEVE ROTHMAN, New Jersey
BOB CLEMENT, Tennessee
BILL LUTHER, Minnesota
JIM DAVIS, Florida
RICHARD J. GARON, Chief of Staff
MICHAEL H. VAN DUSEN, Democratic Chief of Staff
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Subcommittee on Africa
EDWARD R. ROYCE, California, Chairman
AMO HOUGHTON, New York
STEVEN J. CHABOT, Ohio
MARSHALL ''MARK'' SANFORD, South Carolina
TOM CAMPBELL, California
ROBERT MENENDEZ, New Jersey
DONALD M. PAYNE, New Jersey
ALCEE L. HASTINGS, Florida
JIM DAVIS, Florida
TOM SHEEHY, Staff Director
GREG SIMPKINS, Professional Staff Member
JODI CHRISTIANSEN, Democratic Professional Staff Member
SHANNON GAWRONSKI, Staff Associate
C O N T E N T S
The Honorable Howard Jeter, U.S. Special Envoy to Liberia, U.S. Department of State
Mr. Kevin George, President, Friends of Liberia
Mr. Mohamedu Jones, Vice-Chair, Liberians United for Peace and Democracy
Page 5 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC The Honorable Howard Jeter
Mr. Kevin George
Mr. Mohamedu Jones
Washington Times articles by Gus Constantine, 1997, ''Woman in Tight Race to Lead Liberia,'' and ''Hopeful Nation Looks to Free and Fair Vote as Way to Put Its War-Torn Past Behind It''
THE LIBERIAN ELECTIONS: A NEW HOPE?
TUESDAY, JUNE 24, 1997
House of Representatives,
Subcommittee on Africa,
Committee on International Relations,
The Subcommittee met, pursuant to notice, at 1:27 p.m., in room 2200, Rayburn House Office Building, Washington, DC, Hon. Edward R. Royce (chairman of the Subcommittee) presiding.
Mr. ROYCE. The Subcommittee will come to order. We are here this afternoon to discuss ''The Liberian Election: A New Hope?''
Mr. HASTINGS. Mr. Chairman.
Mr. ROYCE. Yes, Mr. Hastings.
Mr. HASTINGS. While our witnesses are coming forward, if I could make a request of you to our respective staffs that if they would be good enough and general information that we provide at hearings, that when we have the names of various figures from throughout the world that they be placed phonetically so as how our pronunciation will be a little more in tune with what it really is.
Page 6 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Mr. ROYCE. I will so direct the staff, and I concur with you, Mr. Hastings.
Mr. HASTINGS. All right.
Mr. ROYCE. Today's hearing will look at an African tragedy that everyone hopes can now be resolved. Of the many coups in Africa over the past three decades, perhaps the one that hit closest to home for America occurred in 1990 in the West African nation of Liberia.
Liberia was founded in 1847 by freed American slaves as a new hope for those who had been taken from their homeland. The settlement established by the former slaves became Liberia's capital city, Monrovia. The city was named for former U.S. President James Monroe, and it was but one indication of Liberia's ties to America. Not only did the country copy the American Constitution and legal traditions, but Liberia used the U.S. dollar as its official currency until the mid 1980's.
The decedents of the freed slaves known as Americo-Liberians constituted only 5 percent of the population, but dominated government and the professions. Their rule came to an abrupt end in 1980, when Master Sergeant Samuel Doe led a coups that overthrew President William Holbert.
Doe instituted a government that violated the human rights of citizens to an unprecedented degree. Doe himself met a violent end less than a year after and a rebellion was launched from neighboring Ivory Coast in December 1989.
The rebellion, originally led by Charles Taylor, later splintered into several armed factions that plunged Liberia into years of horrific atrocities and cost the lives of more than 150,000 people. After more than a dozen Peace Accords, this nightmare appears to have ended.
But we are left with the question of how ready the country is for the elections that will be held less than a month from now. The last Presidential election in Liberia, held in 1985, was won by President Doe. Many observers feel the voting process was honest, but that massive ballot stuffing and other manipulations illegally raised Doe's vote total.
Page 7 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Voter registration for the July elections begins tomorrow and is scheduled to be concluded in 10 days in a country with poor roads made worse by the current rainy season, and with numerous Liberians having no identification documents. Many voters reportedly are unaware of who is running and how and where the votes will be cast. Not only is there concern for ballot security in the upcoming election, but the physical security of voters remains in question as well. There are reports that sporadic fighting and intimidation continue in the countryside which may influence voting.
And while thousands of militiamen have been disarmed, peacekeepers continue to find hidden weapons, especially in territory controlled by Taylor. The United States has supported the Economic Community Monitoring Group which was dispatched by the Economic Community of West African States. The United States has committed 100 million troops to these activities in Liberia thus far, and the Economic Community Monitoring Group appears to be doing a good job in providing security for this election.
Clearly, continued support will be necessary if the July 19 election is to be upheld. Otherwise, we may be looking at a repeat of what happened in neighboring Sierra Leone. We will soon see if the U.S. strategy of working through the Economic Community Monitoring Group has been effective in preparing the way for the return of constitutional government to Liberia and ending Liberia's long reign of terror.
Do any of the members of this panel have any remarks at this point?
Mr. MENENDEZ. Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
I want to thank you again for calling this meeting to discuss this very important issue. I think it is an important one in keeping up with what is happening on the continent.
I agree with yesterday's Washington Post assessment that the peacekeeping operation in Liberia has pushed its 7-year civil war into a fragile remission. It is clear that Liberia is on the brink. Stability and chaos are equally viable possibilities. What is not clear to me is whether the elections next month might produce chaos instead of building stability.
Page 8 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Unlike many countries in Africa, the United States has a long historical tie to Liberia, and as such, a responsibility. But I have to wonder out loud if we are gambling with Liberia's future by supporting elections for next month instead of next year. I am concerned that the conditions for free and fair elections do not exist in Liberia.
The Liberian Election Commission was given a mere 59 days to pass a new election law, register voters, disseminate information, buy their supplies, and set up polling stations. Candidates have 1 month between June 16 and July 18 to campaign. Under any scenario a country would be hard-pressed to meet this unyielding schedule. In Liberia, where parts of the country are led by warlords, where the only radio station is held by one candidate, and where more than one-quarter of the population resides outside the country and will be denied the opportunity to vote, the likelihood of a fair and free election by any standard is rather slim, it appears to me.
So while I would like to be more optimistic that the election will usher in an era in Liberia's history, recent news reports are already reporting pre-election violence between rival parties, including attempts to assassinate political adversaries.
If the election is to be successful and if a final peace is to come to Liberia, the political parties must end the legacy of violence and hatred which brought on the civil war. You know, there is a saying that says that if leaders would lead, the people will follow. I think it is telling, and I am sure that the people of Liberia would choose peace if given the chance. I hope their leaders will do the same.
It is for this reason that it is crucial that the Liberian people, those who have suffered the most, have a real opportunity to express their hopes through their votes, and it is in this context that I look forward to our State Department's testimony about what we are doing to ensure that Liberia has the proper technical skills, tools, and resources to conduct this election.
Page 9 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC The Congress and this Subcommittee must send a strong message to Liberia's leaders that violence and power will never yield peace and democracy. As this Congress well knows, it is the tough art of compromise that ultimately is the pillar of democracy. And I look forward to hearing the testimony of the witnesses and seeing whether in fact this election produces peace and stability, or just continues to move us to a point where we have greater instability.
Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
Mr. HASTINGS. Mr. Chairman, I would like to associate myself with both yours and the ranking member's remarks, and ask permission to revise and extend my remarks.
I would offer one thing. Mr. Chairman, you, Bob Menendez and I were recently in South Africa, and there I learned something that would be helpful to the international community, I am sure, and particularly on the African continent, which we are charged with great responsibility as policymakers.
When the election is concluded and pretty obviously July 19 may not be the final say with six major candidates and minor candidates that are involved as well, there may be a run-off, and it may be August before the matter is finally settled. It would be my view that without any legislation from us or any mandate from anybody in America that the people of Liberia, when their will is expressed, would move immediately to undertake to do what is being done presently in South Africa albeit with some trepidation.
And that would be to establish a true reconciliation process whereby those who have been involved on either side of the dispute would have an opportunity to come forward and resolve their conflicts in openness, in a manner that might benefit all.
It is very difficult to expect people that have been fighting each other for so long will all of a sudden kiss and make up. It is not going to happen quite that easily. So to the extent that we can nudge, I would hope that we would.
Page 10 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC I thank you, Mr. Chairman.
Mr. ROYCE. Thank you, Mr. Hastings.
Mr. PAYNE. Yes, thank you. I also would like to commend you for the continued hearings you have had on all of the very important issues in Africa, and too would like to indicate that, as others have mentioned, if there is any place in Africa that the United States should have been more responsive, it certainly is in Liberia. Actually, it was 1822 that the first free men went back to Liberia.
Mr. ROYCE. I stand corrected.
Mr. PAYNE. You were correct that it was formalized in 1847, but, as a matter of fact, I was at a church, an AME Zion Church on Sunday, that the church was found in 1822, the same year that some free black men left right outside of Newark in New Jersey to be a part of the first group that returned back to start this situation.
And so I just would like to mention that it is an area that we should have had more concern about when the problem began. We met with Brent Scowcroft (I think you were there, Mr. Hastings), and we felt that if the marines would have gotten in and taken Doe out from where he was held up in the building, that the civil war perhaps could have ended at that time. But it was at the same time that the Persian Gulf situation had started. We felt that it could be done handily, but President Bush decided not to intervene, and we see the unfortunate aftermath.
As we all know, the last election was in 1985, which many viewed was not a fair and free election, although our country certified that it was, and I think that was really the beginning of the problem. If we had contested that election in 1985, perhaps Doe would have had to have another election, and it could have been fair and transparent.
I will just say that there are a couple of problems. I too requested that elections not be held in such a quick fashion, but it was felt by the Administration that they needed to move on with elections, and the date which already had been postponed was called. I thought it was premature. I thought too much had to be done in order to get the systems right.
Page 11 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC I just hope that the same problem does not occur in Congo where we are pushing for quick elections. I think that it is a mistake unless the infrastructure is there. I think the goal is to have elections but to rush to them, we see what happened in Angola, premature elections. The loser decided not to adhere by the election results, and we had continued conflict.
So I hope that this would work out. There are certainly a number of problems. As you know, the countries surrounding Liberia, Cote D'Ivoire, Guinea, Burkina Faso, in particular, are not allowing refugees to vote. We appealed, and as a matter of fact we had a letter sent to President Clinton asking him to request the countries in the surrounding areasthis was maybe 6 months agoto allow the refugees to vote. They are not allowing the refugees to vote. We think that that is unfair. It would even be fine if they could get back to Liberia, but that is impractical. But we think that 750,000 people outside of the country should have a say in who will be representing them.
And so it is going to be difficult for whoever wins to really express the will of the majority in Liberia because many will be unable. And we also hope, as indicated when the elections are really held, that all parties will adhere to the findings and that we will try to ensure that we do not allow outsiders to continually sell weapons, particularly Western European countries that continually sell weapons in exchange for timber, gold, and diamonds throughout the last 4 or 5 years, we hope that that will end, and the country could get back to reconciliation.
Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
Mr. ROYCE. Thank you, Mr. Payne.
In our first panel we have Ambassador Howard Jeter, the U.S. Special Envoy to Liberia, who is responsible for overseeing the U.S. Government efforts in support of the peace process. The Ambassador is a career diplomat who has been U.S. Ambassador to Botswana, and has held other diplomat posts in African nations, such as Namibia, Mozambique, Tanzania and Lesotho.
Page 12 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC I am going to mention, Ambassador, that our timer is not working so we are at your mercy in terms of time. But we have your statement for the record, and we hope that you will hold your comments to 5 minutes, if you please.
STATEMENT OF THE HONORABLE HOWARD JETER, U.S. SPECIAL ENVOY TO LIBERIA, U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE
Ambassador JETER. Mr. Chairman, distinguished members of the committee, good afternoon. I am delighted to appear before this Committee to discuss developments in Liberia, particularly the upcoming national election.
In my written testimony I tried to give you a bit of the history and background of the Liberian peace process. I did so because I felt it was important to show from where we have come so that you can fully appreciate and assess where we are, and where we all hope that we are going.
We are indeed at a crossroad in Liberia, and if all goes well, we must make the transition from war to peace. Liberia, despite its tragic past, can be a success story.
National elections in Liberia is scheduled for July 19. Of the 16 parties that originally registered, nine individual parties and one alliance of two parties presented Presidential, Vice-Presidential, and legislative candidates on June 11. The official elections campaign began on June 16. Registration of voters begins today, June 24.
Management and conduct of voter registration will be a strong barometer of the credibility and potential freeness and fairness of the election. Early signs are that there may be difficulties in the registration process, although everyone on the ground is making Herculean efforts to make the process work.
There are also indications that some violence and intimidation may mar the Liberian election campaign. We will certainly know more about this as the process proceeds.
Page 13 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC There are three former warlords contesting the Presidential election: Charles Taylor, leader of the National Patriotic Party, Labor Party Coalition; Alhaji Kroman, head of the All Liberian Patriotic Party, ALPP; and Dr. George Boley, heading the National Democratic Party of Liberia.
In addition, there are well known civilian political party leaders, including Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf, former director for Africa at UNDP, who heads the Unity Party; and G. Baccus Matthews, who is leading the Unity People's Party. Other candidates are an assortment of old-line politicians and newcomers to the political arena.
Conventional wisdom after a little more than a week of political activity is that Charles Taylor and Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf are perhaps the main contenders, although indications are that Mr. Taylor is also taking the candidacy of G. Baccus Matthews very seriously. It is clear that because of Taylor's superior organization, resources, command of the media and poll position start that he may be the candidate to beat.
There were delays in getting the Elections Commission established, approving the electoral package, formulating an acceptable budget and recruiting and training the Elections Commission staff. Even with an 8-week extension from May 25, the elections time table is very tight. Moreover, the commission has been characterized by indecision and a sometimes cumbersome, often overbearing supervision by ECOWAS. It has not yet properly defined its relationship, in my view, to international technical advisors. The lack of infrastructure in Liberia destroyed by the war is also a formidable obstacle to elections preparation.
Nonetheless, credible elections in Liberia are possible provided that there is improved collaboration among the Elections Commission (ECOWAS), the international community, and better planning of the tasks to be performed.
We must accept the probability, however, that these elections will not be smooth, they will not be pretty, and numerous deadlines certainly will be missed.
Page 14 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC The United States has budgeted $7.4 million for the Liberian election. These funds are being provided through a consortium of well known American NGO's. The leader of this consortium is IFES (the International Foundation for Election Systems). IFES, as you may know, is providing technical assistance and elections commodity support to the Elections Commission.
The Carter Center, in partnership with IFES and the other NGO's, is undertaking medium term and election week observation, human rights monitoring, and may possibly be involved in pre- and post-election mediation. President Carter is traveling to Liberia later this week to head the second Carter Center assessment mission.
The IRI (International Republican Institute), is involved in training political poll watchers. NDI (the National Democratic Institute), will train domestic election monitors and provide community-based voter education.
The African Leadership Forum, an academy for education and development, will offer voter education, primarily to women voters. The Friends of Liberia and my good friend and president of Friends of Liberia, Kevin George, who is here today, will field a medium-term election observation team in an election week observation mission.
Finally, the Refugee Policy Group will field an observer team to monitor the situation of returning refugees in the period leading up to the elections.
All of these groups, Mr. Chairman, currently have personnel in Liberia. And I would like to add that this is really an impressive array of American NGO's involved in supporting the Liberian elections. We have NGO across the board involved in this process, and we are very grateful for their efforts.
In addition to the United States, the European Union has technical advisors in Liberia. The EU has made about $3.9 million available for these elections. The United Nations, OAU, Ghana and Nigeria also have provided technical experts. Ghana has donated $300,000 to the Elections Commission; the OAU, $200,000; Taiwan, $1 million; and individual European countries and Japan have also made contributions, including a donation of ballot boxes by Denmark.
Page 15 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC The Liberian National Transition Government, the Council of State has also contributed $325,000 to the Elections Commission for personnel and administrative costs.
Despite the turbulence in Sierra Leone, Mr. Chairman, the security situation in Liberia has continued to hold. ECOMOG is deployed in all 13 counties and in 42 different locations. The entire country is accessible and humanitarian relief organizations are active throughout the country, although UNHCR is prepared to facilitate, not promote, but to facilitate refugee repatriation. UNHCR estimates that no more than 20,000 to 30,000 refugees will return before the elections. I personally believe that that estimate is overly optimistic.
The ECOMOG has been given special responsibility by ECOWAS for security arrangements for the elections, including security for political campaigning, transport and security for elections personnel and materials. We are seeking authorization to provide an additional $1.5 million to support ECOMOG in the form of additional helicopter lift and communications equipment. Our contracting officer for Liberia is currently in that country to assess ECOMOG's needs.
We have also initiated a Department of Justice ICITAP program to train 500 Liberian police officers in elections monitoring and security, and to provide training and material support to the Liberian Supreme Court to assist it in carrying out its elections adjudication functions.
The question asked by this committee, Mr. Chairman, was whether there is a new hope for Liberia. There is indeed a new hope, but the peace process is very fragile. We have come a long way but there is still a very long road to travel. We will do everything that we can to make the hope for peace and stability in Liberia a reality.
I thank you for your attention. Thank you.
[The prepared statement of Ambassador Jeter appears in the appendix.]
Mr. ROYCE. Thank you, Ambassador Jeter.
Page 16 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Let me ask you a post-election question. Do you expect the same difficulties that we have had in Sierra Leone to occur if there is not a peacekeeping presence maintained for a time following the election?
Ambassador JETER. Mr. Chairman, I think that one of the positive aspects of this whole process is that ECOMOG has indicated, and ECOMOG right now has about 10,000 peacekeeping forces in Liberia, that is probably down from 11,000 before the turbulence in Sierra Leone. They have indicated the ECOMOG will remain in Liberia for a period of at least 6 months following the election.
Mr. ROYCE. I see.
Ambassador JETER. And they have also indicated that one of their tasks during this period will be to help to train a united integrated national army for Liberia. Liberia right now has for all intents and purposes no security apparatus available to the country.
Mr. ROYCE. I see.
If votes are expected to be cast along ethnic lines, how are two Americo-Liberians able to lead in the pre-election polls? Has resentment against Americo-Liberians declined significantly based upon your observation that two leading contenders are Americo-Liberian?
Ambassador JETER. Well, that is a very interesting question, Mr. Chairman, and one that I have not really paid very much attention to. I think it is an important question.
Charles Taylor, for his part, certainly has Americo-Liberian background. However, he emphasizes more his indigenous roots in Liberia. Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf, although classified as an Americo-Liberian, also is from mixed parentage. So in the strict sense would one call them Americo-Liberian historically? Probably not necessarily.
Page 17 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Mr. ROYCE. I see.
Ambassador JETER. I have not detected overt explicit anger against the Americo-Liberian community during my travels to Liberia.
Mr. ROYCE. Charles Taylor has significant funds that appear to have produced a definite electoral advantage. Do you know what the source of his funding is? Have we heard?
Ambassador JETER. Mr. Chairman, I cannot tell you precisely, but I think that it is generally known that during the course of this war many of the warlords, most all of the warlords in effect have had unbridled access to the natural resources of Liberia, including timber, including diamonds, including gold. And those resources have been exploited for the individual benefit of the warlords and their followers.
One must assume that Mr. Taylor's resources were derived from that illicit trade; certainly some of it. I cannot imagine where he would have gotten otherwise the resources that he commands.
I think that he also may have benefactors. There was a trip to Taiwan, and it was alleged and rumored that he may have picked up resources from Taiwan. There have been numerous trips to Libya. It has been alleged and rumored that Qaddafi is supporting Taylor, but I cannot give you concrete information on where he actually received his current resources. But those are some of the possible sources.
Mr. ROYCE. Thank you, Ambassador Jeter.
I am going to turn to Mr. Menendez.
Mr. MENENDEZ. Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
Mr. Ambassador, thank you for your honest assessment, and it is that honest assessment that makes me concerned. As I said in my opening statement, having an election in such an abbreviated timeframe, we must question whether or not that election be viable. I am normally very much for elections, obviously. But the question is if the election will be one that actually will be sustainable and give credibility, and can in fact lay a foundation for stability in the country.
Page 18 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Based on everything that you have said, with all the caveats that you listed as concerns, do you really think that we can successfully have an election in Liberia that can have credibility and that can produce some degree of stability? Would we not be better off having the timeframe necessary to prepare an election in which its people can have a full faith in its outcome?
Ambassador JETER. Mr. Menendez, I agree, it would be preferable certainly to have more time to prepare for these elections. We have been supporting a regional peace process. The date for the elections after full consultation in the West African region, and with political party leaders involved in Liberia, it was accepted at the May 21 Emergency ECOWAS Summit in Abuja, Nigeria.
There were numerous proposals for dates for holding these elections. Some leaders in Liberia wanted to have them early. Mr. Taylor was among those leaders because naturally he has a comparative advantage, and he would like to shorten the period by which others might be able to catch up. Others want to postpone the elections until October.
Following a meeting between the ECOWAS chairman's special envoy and special representative, Foreign Minister Tom McKinney from Nigeria, the foreign minister of Guinea, the foreign minister of Ghana, in Monrovia to do an assessment mission, the Elections Commission accepted the notion of a 56-day postponement, and this 56 days was in fact a compromise.
Earlier, they had proposed a delay of 70 days. There were others who wanted an even shorter period than 56 days. And I think that ECOWAS tried to come up with a compromise that would be minimally accepted to everyone. We ourselves wanted a longer period for preparation of the elections.
Mr. MENENDEZ. Well, I guess we are on a road that is set to take place. You mentioned the amount being spent which as far as I am concerned is well spent for an election, but not an election that ultimately does not produce the type of credibility in which the people of Liberia, and for that fact, the people of the continent of Africa can be convinced what took place is in fact a fair reelection. So I am concerned about that. I understand working with the regional entities that are involved, but I am really concerned about what the results will be.
Page 19 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Let me just ask you one more question and I will let my colleagues proceed.
Charles Taylor controls, as I understand it, the only radio station in Liberia. Therefore, one of the few sources of information, and dissemination of information. To me this is obviously a clear advantage over his other candidates. How do the other candidates get their information out in a relatively comparable manner? And does that not stack the deck? And last, the troops that he had, let us assume this election does not produce a victory notwithstanding his advantage, which seems quite significantif he does not accept the outcome, do you have an analysis of how quickly he could reconstitute his troops?
Ambassador JETER. Thank you. On the first question, one of the things that we are trying to do under our democracy program for Liberia is to establish an independent radio transmitting station. And I tried to find out, Mr. Menendez, just before coming over here, what kind of progress we have actually made on that.
We are making efforts now to get the transmitter, which has been procured in Europe, to Liberia as quickly as possible. It is unlikely that that transmitter is going to be available before July 1.
There is an NGO Fund, Dasio Hitondahl, which is a Swiss NGO, that has people on the ground now, technicians, a station manager and others, who are prepared to get that station up and running as quickly as possible. Once that happens we will make that facility available to all of the political candidates.
In the interim, we have tried to provide resources to the Catholic radio station, so that they can get their operation up and going. Again, that station will be provided for use by all of the political party candidates in Liberia.
And I agree, the playing field is not level as long as Mr. Taylor has almost a monopoly access to the chief source of broadcasting and disseminating information in Liberia. It is a real problem.
Page 20 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC In terms of the second question, we recognize that on the one hand that disarmament and demobilization in Liberia frankly is unprecedented. We have never in the history of this conflict had the numbers of soldiers demobilized as we had during this recent exercise, the number of weapons actually collected by ECOMOG.
On the other hand, we also recognize that that disarmament and demobilization was not complete. Twenty-three thousand fighters were disarmed, demobilized; 15,000 weapons; 1.2 million rounds of ammunition were collected; 3,000 explosive devicesthe list goes on and on. We recognize and one must give ECOMOG credit for undertaking these coordinated search operations that they have done since the termination of the formal disarmament period, credit for going out and actually uncovering hidden weapons. We recognize that disarmament has not been complete, that there are still weapons out there. There is a very good possibility that the command structures of the factions could be reactivated very quickly.
What our hope is, is that ECOMOG will continue with its coordinated search operations; that they will uncover additional weapons; that they will continue to try to weaken the factions.
On the other hand, we note that ECOMOG will remain in Liberia after the elections at least for a 6-month period. I would wager, and I am not a good gambler, but I would wager that it would be very difficult for all but perhaps Mr. Taylor's faction to confront ECOMOG in the post-election period.
Mr. MENENDEZ. Thank you.
Ambassador JETER. Thank you very much.
Mr. ROYCE. Mr. Hastings.
Mr. HASTINGS. I am a good gambler.
Ambassador JETER. Good.
Mr. HASTINGS. Though I never bet. And I would hope that we would consider not having a date for the termination of peacekeepers as fixed, I have now heard the time period suggested by ECOMOG, not by us, to be 6 months. It is going to take longer than that. And I would hope that we would begin saying that it is going to take longer.
Page 21 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC There is no real distinction, in my view, Ambassador, between warring factions anywhere in the world. In Bosnia, we are getting ready, perhaps in 4 days to vote for a terminal date either in 1997 or 1998. That is foolish, in my view. First, you do not tell folks when you are going to stop trying to pursue peace because the minute you do they fix themselves on, well, the next day is war. So, it does not make sense for us to even be doing that. I would hope we would probe ECOMOG in that sense.
You signaled earlier, Ambassador, in your testimony that there are ongoing difficulties in the registration process which just began. Would you tell us a little bit more about what the difficulties are that are present and ongoing?
Ambassador JETER. Mr. Hastings, first of all, there were difficulties in getting the registration materials actually printed on time. Those materials did arrive in Liberia yesterday. They had to be prepared. They are now prepared, I understand, and the process of distribution has begun.
There was an earlier problem as to who should actually print the registration forms. It took awhile for that to be worked out. It turned out that the commission from its own resources had those forms printed because of the sensitivity of registration forms and ballots and other things.
There has been a problem in terms of actually getting registration stations set up. People have now been employed and they have been deployed. So I think we are making progress on that front.
The embassy informed me this morning that they believe that registration will be up and going countrywide by Thursday. They think that today you probably will have no more than 10 percent of the registration stations actually operating.
Mr. HASTINGS. That said and that done, what is the termination date for registration, or will it continue through the election, or up to the election?
Page 22 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Ambassador JETER. July 3 is the terminal date, and it will be interesting to see, Mr. Hastings, whether or not there will be compensation made for any time lost during this process.
Mr. HASTINGS. Do we have any process in place to talk with ECOWAS about something more realistic than this July 19 date?
You can sense our hesitancy, and that is because we know, in all of our States, and counties, and institutions that are in constant evolution with regard to voter registration and/or the process of elections, and whether people believe it or not, there are still some crooked elections in America, you know. Hard to believe but it happens.
Hey, folks, you know, 56 days from now you are going from nothing to an election. Are we just election happy? I mean, you know, we are going to have an election and then we are going to sit here and say that it was free and fair? It cannot possibly be free and fair. Let me tell you why and why no one has said anything yet, and this is not a mystery.
The word on the street is that there is somewhere between 760,000you correct me if I am wrong, Ambassadorand 1.5 million refugees. They are in Nigeria, in Sierra Leone, Ivory Coast, Guinea, Ghana. Man, if I am a refugee, and you hold an election in my country, and then you say you are my leader, and I say I did not get a chance to register or vote, I will be damned if that election is free and fair, and I do not care how anybody cuts it. If ECOWAS or anybody else did not contemplate the refugee problem in a realistic manner such that we could argue at least that we made some effort, some way for people who are no longer in Liberia because of the civil war that was ongoing, then we are not getting ready to have a free and fair election. I do not know what is next, but I am just telling you one member's view.
Ambassador JETER. Mr. Hastings, let me just say that we do not at this point want to prejudge the outcome of the process. As I mentioned, registration is
Page 23 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Mr. HASTINGS. I will stand alone in my prejudgment.
Ambassador JETER. Registration just starts today. We want to see how that process goes. We think that this will be a barometer of how this whole process might advance. If in fact we perceive that it is impossible to hold credible free and fair elections given this timeframe, we certainly will use our diplomatic and political channels to try to get an extension.
I would add, however, that the United States as the supporter of a regional peace process, is not the final word on this issue.
Mr. HASTINGS. I understand.
Ambassador JETER. We have, I think, done pretty well in terms of developing a solid relationship with the countries of ECOWAS, including Nigeria. And we do have a dialog. They sometimes do listen to us on certain issues. And I think that all of ECOWAS has a vested interest in seeing this election carried out in a free and fair manner, and perceived to be free and fair.
Mr. HASTINGS. But, Mr. Chairman, just one quick followup. In Abuja, were there discussions regarding the refugees and how they might participate?
Ambassador JETER. Mr. Hastings, the whole question of refugees was debated even earlier at a committee of nine foreign ministers meeting.
Mr. HASTINGS. All right.
Ambassador JETER. Something very interesting happened, and in some ways surprised us. The asylum State governments who had represented to us at that committee of nine meeting in Monrovia indicated that they were not prepared to have refugees either register or vote on their national territory. They were not prepared to do it because of security concerns, and I would add, sovereignty concerns.
In addition, and this was the surprising element, although we felt early on that Cote D'Ivoire had pretty much accepted the idea of refugee registration and voting, as it turned out they did not. In addition, political activists in Liberia itself from civil society opposed the notion of refugee voting in a sovereign State.
Page 24 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC And with that array of opposition, including from the Liberians, it was very, very difficult to lobby to get this position changed. The decision of ECOWAS was based on what happened at that meeting. We subsequently talked to the asylum States, to the governments of the asylum States. We have lobbied with others to have this decision reversed. It will not be reversed, and the number of refugees in a recent census is now estimated to be about 660,000.
Mr. HASTINGS. I thank you very much for your candor.
Mr. ROYCE. Mr. Payne.
Mr. PAYNE. Yes. Thank you for that thorough assessment of the refugee problem, and it is something we talked about for some time. And in addition to the sovereignty and elections on the ground, it was felt that some of the surrounding States may have felt that refugees may have a prejudice toward candidates who they feel are the result of them being out of the country. In other words, if you had to rush from your homeland and you are living over in another country for 3 or 4 years, and you look at who started the movement that resulted in you being pushed out, from what I understand, there was a feeling that the refugees would be obviously against the person that they felt caused them to be refugees, and the surrounding countries are more favorable to Charles Taylor. Therefore, it is alleged to be a part of the decision by the surrounding countries that they are not inclined to allow refugees to vote.
But back in 1993, the Security Council sent some U.N. observers, about 400 of them, I think it was called UNIMIL. Are any of the UNIMIL people still there, and what are they doing, if anything, as a body?
Ambassador JETER. Mr. Payne, the UNIMIL is still there. I think, if I am not mistaken, if I am mistaken I will correct this later, but I think there are 92 UNIMIL military observers there now.
The UNIMIL also has attached to it some elections advisors and experts. There are some human rights monitors there now as well. But I think the number of pure military observers is around 92.
Page 25 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC There will be consideration of an extension of the UNIMIL's mandate in the Security Council probably this week. And we are looking at a call for an extension to September 30, and we hope that that will be the final call for an extension of UNIMIL.
What does UNIMIL do? They will play a large role in these elections. Fundamentally, their role is one of verification and observation. They have set up a number of stations throughout the country from which they can operate. They will also provide assistance to observer mission. And as I mentioned, they do have attached to them human rights monitors. They will also be a partner in providing some of the logistical arrangements for the elections on behalf of the Elections Commission.
Mr. PAYNE. Let me ask you, in addition to the President and some legislators, are there any local elections, mayor and council or county council, being held at the same time?
Ambassador JETER. No. No, it is simply for President, Vice-President and the legislature.
Mr. PAYNE. OK. On the registration, will there be mobile registration? You know, in Kenya right now they have an election coming up maybe in about 6 to 9 months, election period, registration period has been closed. We appealed to the President and Attorney General there to extend the period of registration and to keep mobile registration.
Do they have mobile registration where they go out to the people, or do the people in order to register have to go to a site? Are you familiar with the details?
Ambassador JETER. There are no mobile registration facilities. People will have to get to the sites. The hope is that they will be generally dispersed and in close proximity to large concentrations of people.
I would add that, as I mentioned in my statement, one of the problems is that the infrastructure in Liberia has been pretty much destroyed. These elections are taking place at a time that is not ideal. It will be the beginning of the rainy season. Travel by road is going to become even more difficult. It is one of the reasons that we are trying to provide additional helicopter lifts and communications.
Page 26 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC In the countryside itself, I think that they are planning to set up about 1200 polling stations, and there will probably be an equal number of registration stations as well. It is hoped that with that number you can actually reach out and provide a facility for all the people that are involved.
Mr. PAYNE. OK. Well, my time has expired. As I indicated, I was opposed to the date, but since it is here I hope that we can do everything to ensure with ECOMOG and ECOWAS to see that the elections are free and fair, and I do think, though, that we have had some conversations with Charles Taylor's people in Liberia, and I do think that he may finally be tired of fighting, and that if, regardless to the way the election turns outeven though I do not think this is the best time for the elections, I think that Charles Taylor is going to abide by the results.
Mr. ROYCE. Thank you.
Again, Ambassador Jeter, we thank you for your testimony here today, and we will be in touch with you as we continue to monitor the election process.
Ambassador JETER. Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
And if I may add in closing, thank you very much again for holding these hearings. I believe that there has not been enough of the spotlight put on Liberia. Lots of progress has been made. As quietly as it is kept, this is the only functioning Chapter 8 peacekeeping operation in the world. It has worked. It could be a model for future regional peacekeeping. And thank you for your interests and the interests of your staffers, and their predecessors. We appreciate it very much. Thank you.
Mr. ROYCE. Thank you, Ambassador.
We will now move to our second panel. Mr. Kevin George is president of Friends of Liberia, a group composed largely of former Peace Corps volunteers, or U.S. Government officials who served in Liberia. A former Peace Corps volunteer in Liberia, Mr. George has led several fact-finding missions to that country, and is leading the 32-member Friends of Liberia election observation team next month.
Page 27 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Mr. Mohamedu Jones is vice-chair of Liberians United for Peace and Democracy. Mr. Jones is an attorney who held both government and private positions during the administrations of both President Tolbert and President Doe. He has lived in the United States as a political exile for the last several years.
STATEMENT OF KEVIN GEORGE, PRESIDENT, FRIENDS OF LIBERIA
Mr. GEORGE. Thank you, Chairman Royce.
Before I begin my remarks I would just like the Committee to know my appreciation for the frankness of Ambassador Jeter, and the work that he has done as Special Envoy. He has truly been dedicated to the peace process, and I do not believe that we would be as far as we are without him. And with him came the commitment of the U.S. Government to the peace process, something which was sorely lacking.
Thank you for inviting me to testify today about Liberia's election. Today marks the opening of the voter registration period in Liberia for the election July 19. The next several weeks will be a period of both hope and considerable anxiety as Liberians attempt to cross the delicate path from war to peace and to democracy. Liberians know that this election is a vital step in their country's transition to peace and democracy. They are keenly aware of the challenges of the democratic process and the consequences of failure.
The chaos on the streets of Monrovia in April 1996, the fate of 200,000 dead civilians, a quarter of them children, where the dilemma of Sierra Leone, where a nation's democracy was recently overthrown, are fresh on their minds.
In my testimony today I will address why I believe Liberia's election is a critical event. I will also outline the obstacles that must be overcome for this election to be considered free and fair, and the actions that Liberians and the international community can take to strengthen the likelihood of the successful transition to peace and democracy.
Page 28 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Most Liberians recognize that peace in their country, Africa's oldest republic, can only be sustained if there is a strong democratic form of government. The July 19 election is therefore a vital point where peace is tested by the reality of Liberians choosing one candidate over another. It is essential that the election be perceived as free and fair.
I emphasize that this election is among the first of many steps that Liberians must take to consolidate the process of peace. Disarmament officially ended in February, but there remains a tremendous need for the reintegration of combatants back into society. The majority of the 800,000 Liberians waiting in neighboring countries told a visiting survey team that they will not return until they verify that the peace process is holding after the election. Security is their primary concern. The refugees are also concerned about the availability of food in a country that is producing very little of its own. A post-election Liberia must also resurrect its economy from one of illicit wartime trade to a legitimate process that provides jobs, revenue and resources to a devastated country. The first step is to hold a free and fair election.
Liberia's peace process now appears to have two components that are crucial to a viable election; a degree of security and an independent election commission. Warring faction leaders have not completely abandoned their arms or control over core groups of combatants. Arms caches continue to be discovered by ECOMOG. There is also concern that warring faction leaders running for political office have an unfair advantage in terms of access to parts of the country and resources to conduct a campaign. It is highly likely that warring factions could reorganize and arm if there is any let-up in security.
On the positive side, ECOMOG's deployment in Liberia's cities and major towns since March has provided a level of security in a country not present since the start of the war. The effectiveness of this peacekeeping force is critical to maintaining order in both the campaign period and a post-election period. The diversion of ECOMOG troops to Sierra Leone reduced troop levels in Liberia from 13,000 to around 10,000 at a critical time. The United States and other countries should help ECOWAS meet its need to bring more troops into the country and to ensure that ECOMOG has the resources to effectively detect and control the peace.
Page 29 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC The organization earlier this year of the new Election Commission, one not controlled by the warring factions, is a second important reason in favor of a viable election process. It is not possible to predict at this time whether the Election Commission, which only became functional in April, can meet the logistical challenges of an election in the middle of the rainy season. It is now training and deploying election officers. According to a VOA interview yesterday with Henry Anders, Election Commission Chairman, he has no funds to pay them.
The crucial first test of the viability of this process will be the registration of voters which begins today and ends on July 3. At this moment the roads to three counties are impassable and material for the registration process could only get to these areas by helicopter. There is the danger that voters in some areas of the country will not be registered unless resources, mainly transportation, are quickly made available to the commission to fulfill its mission.
It is very important to remember that there are 800,000 Liberians who remain refugees. There is a small stream of refugees cautiously returning to the country. More would probably return to Liberia if there was sufficient food and guarantees of security. UNHCR, however, is not scheduled to start a formal repatriation of refugees until September.
It is clear that the interests of Liberia's refugees have been overlooked in the planning for the election. The only information many have about the election is the occasional story they hear on the BBC, VOA or partisan-controlled local radio. This will be an election where approximately one-third of the population will be unable to vote because they cannot return home.
Progress is being made by Liberians against considerable odds to achieve the conditions necessary for elections that were described in Senator Russell Feingold's April 24 letter to Secretary of State Albright and in FOL's February 7 statement on elections. Both documents are attached to this testimony and I request that they be included in the record.
Page 30 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC That letter of Senator
Mr. ROYCE. They will be included in the record, Mr. George.
Mr. GEORGE. Thank you.
Mr. ROYCE. Indeed, your entire document is in the record, and we have read your document so you might want to summarize.
Mr. GEORGE. OK. I will finish.
Mr. ROYCE. Thank you.
Mr. GEORGE. The conditions outlined by Senator Feingold have been adopted by most Liberians. And they are looking at this election in the same way, whether the mechanics of the election can take place. And for that reason I think most Liberians also agree that it would be far costlier to the peace process to hold an election when a short postponement would increase the likelihood that it would be free and fair.
If Liberia's Election Commission feels that the basic conditions for a free and fair election are not in place, then the U.S. Government and ECOWAS should firmly support a decision to reschedule the election.
[The prepared statement of Mr. George appears in the appendix.]
Mr. ROYCE. Thank you.
Mr. Jones. And Mr. Jones, I will ask you to summarize your testimony if you can and keep it to 5 minutes. Thank you.
STATEMENT OF MOHAMEDU JONES, VICE-CHAIR, LIBERIANS UNITED FOR PEACE AND DEMOCRACY
Mr. JONES. Thank you, Mr. Chairman, members of the committee. Thank you for the opportunity to appear before this important committee. The Committee has asked me to speak to the issues of my assessment of elections in Liberia and how I view the impact on Liberia's future.
Page 31 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC It is significant that a topic proposed by the Committee is an inquiry into whether the scheduled elections offer a new hope for Liberia. Mr. Chairman, it is on faith and hope that the people of Liberia persevere during the notorious regime of Samuel Doe and throughout these long years of anarchy and war.
The scheduled elections offer the opportunity for the justification of this faith and the prospect of an elected democratic government offers the realization of this hope. These are the substance of things hoped for by the people of Liberia all through these years of turmoil.
Mr. Chairman, as Ambassador Jeter and Mr. George have indicated, there are problems with Liberia's elections. I think it is important to note that perhaps subtly the Administration may be prepared to accept this standard less than what I get from the committee. Liberians everywhere will ask Congress to ensure that the only standard acceptable as a result of the Liberian elections will be standards in accordance with the laws of Liberia and internationally recognized standards for elections. Congress must demand this and ensure that the Administration abide by this.
Mr. Chairman, there are very serious risks to the process as has been indicated. We call on the committee, we call on the Administration, and we call on ECOWAS to remember that within the context of their Abuja Agreement there are sanctions for violations of the peace process. The elections are part of the peace process. These sanctions include disqualification from running for office and even up to and including trial for war crimes. It was a political decision in Abuja in August 1996 to not try people for war crimes when there were allegations that this perhaps had occurred. And so therefore the sanctions were placed as a prospective to keep people from violating the election process, and therefore I think it is important to remind those people in Liberia who are in fact subject to the Abuja Agreement that this is an important weapon that we can use against them if necessary.
Page 32 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Mr. Chairman, when we look at the future of Liberia as regards to the elections, I think the primary thing is the acceptance of the results. Mr. Chairman, I believe that even for those of us who are forced to be out of our country at this time if indeed the elections are free and fair, I think we will accept the results. The world must ensure that those people who have put Liberia through this horrible period must accept the free and fair results of these elections, provided that they are indeed free and fair.
The first order of business with respect to the results of the elections and the impact on Liberia's future is reconciliation. This must be, in fact, the most important program and policy of any elected government that comes to Liberia.
The next order of business, Mr. Chairman, is reconstruction of our economy, and today as a citizen of Liberia I call upon the U.S. Congress to give serious consideration to an important aspect of building democracy in Liberia. Mr. Chairman, Liberia's debts are an insurmountable burden to the institution of democracy in Liberia. And the U.S. Congress must look at the possibility of waiving all Liberia's debts to this country as the first step toward improving our economy. A democratic government will not be able to survive in Liberia if all of its resources will have to be diverted to meeting debts that Liberia can never pay, Mr. Chairman.
Finally, Mr. Chairman, we hope that this process will institute good government in Liberia. Our country has a poor history of government. This year marks the 150th anniversary of the independence of Liberia, and I daresay that the governments that we have had have included so-called benign dictatorship like William Tubman who misruled our country for 27 years, and the 10 years of horrible, horrific, a brutal rule of Samuel Doe. We look to these coming elections to be the beginning of good government in Liberia, a government that is truly democratic, that truly represents the interests of our people. We look to the support of the U.S. government, its Congress, its administration in us reaching these goals.
Page 33 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Mr. Chairman, I thank you for holding these hearings and for giving us an opportunity to address your committee. Thank you.
[The prepared statement of Mr. Jones appears in the appendix.]
Mr. ROYCE. Mr. Jones, thank you for your testimony.
Mr. Hastings raised a point about Liberian expatriates not being allowed to take part in this election. What are Liberians abroad saying about their exclusion? I should ask you because you are in that category.
Mr. JONES. Mr. Chairman, I believe that every Liberian wherever they are would like to vote. Mr. Chairman, in 1985, if you had been to Liberia, the sun gets really hot, and we stood in the sun for hours and cast votes. For the first time in my life I had the opportunity to cast a vote.
Mr. Chairman, I must correct you, sir. Please bear with me. The elections in Liberia were not won by Samuel Doe. The elections in Liberia were decisively lost by Mr. Doe. He therefore, in violation of the constitution and laws of Liberia, changed the process by which the ballots were supposed to be counted, and thereby declared himself the winner. Our actual voting was free and fair. It is the counting and the reporting of the results which were flawed.
So we do want to vote. But I believe that Liberians everywhere realize that it is not possible for us to vote. But if our people at home, I have brothers who are at home, every Liberian that I know has relatives who live in Liberia currently, if they vote freely and fairly, we will accept those results.
Mr. ROYCE. I see. What is your view on how to solve the identification problem?
You know, we have heard one suggestion in which local chiefs and elders might vouch for the identify of local citizens as a substitute for identity documents. You have been involved in the electoral process. What is your view on that?
Page 34 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Mr. JONES. Mr. Chairman, it ought not to be left exclusively to anyone. I think a combination, the identification of chief, obviously the attestation of other citizens in the community would certainly be methods that could be used. But I think it will be an undue influence for even the traditional chiefs to be the ones to identify citizens.
Mr. ROYCE. OK, let me ask you one last question. Neighboring countries reportedly helped splinter the original rebellion led by Charles Taylor. How much influence have they had in this campaign? How much influence do you see?
Mr. JONES. Mr. Chairman, I do not know.
Mr. ROYCE. OK.
Mr. HASTINGS. Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
Mr. George, let me put to you a direct question because you are going to be on the ground. What do you feel your observing teams are likely to be confronted with? And are there concerns for your actual physical safety in light of what we heard from the Ambassador and others that ECOMOG by their own estimation says they cannot provide sufficient security? So then tell me, you probably know a great deal more than I do about the layout. What do you expect?
Mr. JONES. I would say that, first of all, we are very concerned about security of having our observers over there. At the polling sites we would hope that there would be an ECOMOG presence at every polling site. I believe that Liberians will not show up to vote at a polling site if there is no ECOMOG there.
There is considerable difficulty also traveling between polling sites. ECOMOG10,000 troops is a lot, but it is not enough to provide security to the roads, and that is a major concern where movement along those roads is so slow as well because they are virtually impassable, some are impassable right now. And logistically it is very hard to move around. Just obtaining vehicles to move around the country is extremely difficult right now because most of those vehicles were looted last April.
Page 35 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Mr. HASTINGS. You know, I have expressed myself bluntly and I would not have anyone here believe that my pessimism with reference to the election is outweighed by my hope for free and fair elections. It is not. I cannot think of anything that would, as a policymaker here, please me more than to see free and fair elections. But everything I have heard thus far seems to suggest that at the very least a little more time is needed to overcome some of the existing problems so that we can arguably say it was a legitimate democratic exercise.
Your assessment, either one.
Mr. JONES. Mr. Hastings, you are right. But I think we have reached the point where these elections will be held on July 19, and it appears that nothing but heaven can perhaps change that date, and people like my mother, in fact, are praying that perhaps heaven will intervene and change that date.
So I think what we need to look to is to see how the process goes over the next 14 days, especially with respect to the registration. I think that will clearly be the measure, the standard by which we will see how it will conclude, how it will end. And we need to watch this very carefully, and I think from what the Ambassador has said it is being watched very carefully, and perhaps this Committee can not necessarily hold a hearing, but certainly look at this on July 4 and see what has occurred during the process of registration.
Mr. HASTINGS. The fear, I think, that you continually hear from us is that a bad or a botched election might have worse consequences. What is your assessment, Mr. George, if by chance, and I am posing a hypothetical question as I hope it does not become a reality, but if by chance this thing goes forward and it is all messed up and it then is not considered by the international community to be a legitimate democratic exercise, what do you see then?
Mr. GEORGE. I share your concern there. I believe that this is probably Liberia's only shot at an election. That is why I emphasize that it has got to be free and fair. To regroup after a failed election will be extremely difficult, and that is why I emphasize again that if we get through this registration period and they have not met certain deadlines, and there is a substantial number of voters still not registered, then the logical thing to do is move the election date back, even if it is a week or two. But that is something that should be done.
Page 36 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Mr. HASTINGS. Mr. Jones, do you know Charles Taylor?
Mr. JONES. Yes.
Mr. HASTINGS. Just by way of information. I am not going to ask you
Mr. JONES. Yes, I do, sir.
Mr. HASTINGS. And do you also know Ms. Johnson-Sirleaf?
Mr. JONES. Yes, I do.
Mr. HASTINGS. She was at one time elected, I believe, in 1985, as a senator?
Mr. JONES. Yes.
Mr. HASTINGS. Has she maintained political presence in the country, in your opinion?
Mr. JONES. Yes. She has had contacts in Liberia. She has spoken on Liberian issues. She has had people who have, in fact, represented her political aspirations and interests in the country, yes.
Mr. HASTINGS. All right. I do not place much stock in American polling in other countries. I do not place too much stock in some American polling in this country. And I am curious as to what you think the chances are for some of the other candidates, you and Mr. George, recognizing, of course, that it has been stated that Ms. Johnson-Sirleaf and Mr. Taylor seem to have a polling lead. These people that poll here are the same people that missed it in Haiti, and Russia too, you understand. So they can miss it in Liberia toothat is what I am getting at.
What do you see as a realistic chance for some of the major candidates?
Mr. JONES. I think polling is in fact culture-based in a lot of respects, depending on the question you ask and whom you ask and where you ask. So you are quite right there.
Page 37 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC From talking to friends and relatives who live in Liberia, it seems to me that these polls are probably on the right track; that this is a contest between Mrs. Johnson-Sirleaf and Mr. Taylor. I believe Mr. Kromah will interestingly make a formidable presence in the election, and that may be due more to religious reasonsMr. Kromah is a Muslimthan anything else. And I think there might be some people who might be attracted to him for that reason.
Mr. GEORGE. I agree that I think the candidatesthere will be a number of them that stand out, and there could be two or three of them. And what increases the chance for the runoff though is that there are so many candidates. That means that the resources have to be there for a runoff election as well, and that will happen 2 weeks after the first election. It will happen on August 2.
Mr. HASTINGS. The question that everybody asks but do not ask directly is: What happens if Charles Taylor loses? I guess that is what everybody really wants to know, you know, and I do not think anybody knows so it is unfair of me to ask you to give that answer.
It would seem to me more practical for the United States to be poised to do what is required in the international community as well as with ECOWAS since we are supporters of regional context, and I do not suggest that that would be inappropriate. Then we should be poised, it would seem to me, for any eventuality, and to do those things that are necessary to assist in stabilization. Failure to do that is going to allow for a crisis regardless of who is elected; it is going to be another damn mistake.
Mr. ROYCE. Thank you, Mr. Hastings.
And again, I want to thank Mr. George and Mr. Jones.
Mr. Jones, I did want to clarify my previous comment on the Doe election. What I said was that many observers feel the voting process was honest, but that massive ballet stuffing and other manipulations illegally raised the vote total. So I think we agree on the bottom line. People may have had an opportunity to be involved in the process, but as I said there was massive ballet stuffing and manipulations illegally raising his total. Perhaps I should have added that he was the self-declared winner.
Page 38 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Mr. JONES. Right.
Mr. ROYCE. That probably would have clarified my comment.
Again, gentlemen, thank you very much for your testimonies today.
Mr. JONES. Thank you.
Mr. GEORGE. Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
[Whereupon, at 2:49 p.m., the Subcommittee was adjourned.]