Boakai testifies: “There Was No Exit Clause”

Unity Party is headed by former Vice President Joseph Boakai picture here.  

The political leader of the opposition Unity Party, Joseph Boakai, has told the City Court that at no time was he aware of any withdrawal clause in the framework document of the controversial Collaborating Political Parties (CPP) that he signed on May 19, 2020.

The former Vice President is testifying as a state witness in the case filed by the All Liberian Party against Alexander B. Cummings, political leader of the Alternative National Congress (ANC) and two other ANC stalwarts. Mr. Boakai, in his testimony, disclosed that when he and the other  leaders of the CPP signed the framework document, there was no Section 8.5 (2), to outline the withdrawal clause.

“I carefully and properly read the framework document, and there was no exit clause, but it was the lawyers who made the amendment to the document that the lawyers used the word ‘exit’. That was not in the original copy of the document,” Boakai testified, while responding to concerns raised by the defense team.

When questioned about the Exit Clause in the CPP framework document supposedly signed May 19, 2020, witness Boakai said the version he read and signed had the word ‘resign’ prior to the ten-count recommended changes by the team of CPP lawyers. “In the document that I signed, the wording was ‘resign’. Count 5 used the word exit which was not in our document.”

Section 8.5 (2) provides that, “constituent parties desiring to withdraw from the CPP shall first exhaust the dispute resolution mechanism stipulated in the framework document. If the constituent party, which has satisfied the dispute resolution mechanism, is not satisfied with the outcome, it shall file a resolution to withdraw from the CPP, signed and duly executed by two-thirds (⅔) of the membership of the National Executive Committee, it being understood, however, that a party withdrawing from the alliance prior to the next presidential, legislative and local elections shall not field candidates in its name.”

But the former Vice President, in his highly anticipated testimony, informed the Court, while responding to questions from the defendants' lawyers, that after he and his colleagues reviewed the document, it was sent to a validation committee, which was headed by a partisan of the defendants — but never saw a copy from the committee. 

Boakai explained that their lawyers did amend the framework document and included recommendations which, according to him, were discussed by the political CPP four political leaders, and after the discussion, the document was onward submitted to the validation committee, then chaired by Counselor Gould of the ANC “Since then I never saw that document again.”

“The document defined how the collaboration should work, and all of that was included in the document sent to Gould,” Boakai said in response  to a question from the defendants' lawyer about how the withdrawal clause entered into the framework document. “Gould is now on the defense team of Cummings, and knows where all of those exit clauses were placed.”

The UP leader maintains that after the lawyers’ review and presentation to the four parties leader, he never saw the document again after it was submitted to the validation committee. 

“After the ten-count recommended changes by the team of CPP lawyers, our subsequent decision was to send it to the validation committee which was an administrative duty that could only be handled by the chairperson.  I never saw the document anymore.”

His testimony came as a result of subpoenas from the Monrovia City Court, which compel him to appear and testify, to his knowledge, whether the CPP framework document was altered by Cummings and his co-defendants as alleged by Urey.

Cummings, along with his party Chairman, Senator Daniel Naatehn of Gbarpolu County, and the party’s Secretary-General Aloysius Toe, are on trial for alleged forgery and criminal conspiracy, having been accused by Benoni Urey of the All Liberia Party (ALP) of allegedly altering the framework document of the CPP — an accusation they have denied.

The withdrawal clause, which Boakai has testified about,  has been used by the National Elections Commission to bar the Unity Party and All Liberian party from contesting next year's election as well as postponed Lofa County Senatorial by election. 

The clause issue, which is now before the Supreme Court Court, comes after UP and ALP took an exception to the electoral body ruling in response to a complaint filed by the Alternative National Congress (ANC) and Musa Bility’s faction of the Liberty Party (LP), asking the electoral body to invoke Section 8.5 (2) of the CPP framework document as a means of rejecting and denying “any application from the ALP and UP to field candidates in their names in any election until the expiry of the 2023 elections, including up to six (6) months thereafter, same being the agreed contractual life of the CPP.”

Boakai, whose testimony continues today, disclosed in his April 16 appearance at the Court that he did not receive a copy of the framework document that was submitted to the NEC  by Cummings, who was then serving as chair of the collaboration.

The former Vice President informed the Court that while they as leaders of the CPP asked a team of lawyers to review, revise, and amend the framework document as a result of controversy over some content — he never received the return copy of the document as instructed. 

“After the lawyers reviewed the framework document, we decided to make five original copies of the document, one each for the four political parties and the remaining for the NEC. But, I did not receive our copy of the original copy of the framework document,” Boakai said in his testimony on April 16.

The former Vice President did not see the final copy or receive it before Cummings and his party filed such to the electoral body. 

Meanwhile, when Boakai was quizzed if his political party left the CPP because of the lawyers’ amendments or recommendations, the UP leader did not give a definite answer.

Instead, he said that there were other reasons for the UP’s withdrawal from the CPP.