Liberia: Boakai to Announce Running Mate This Week



“The time has come to name my running mate. I will do so on April 28th as leader of the rescue mission in Liberia,” former Vice President Joseph Boakai wrote on Facebook.

Presidential candidate Joseph Boakai has chosen his running mate for the October 10 election and could announce his pick by April 28.

However, it is not yet clear who Boakai, the standard bearer of the opposition Unity Party, has picked. Boakai's decision is now being made after receiving months-long “detailed analyses” of his pick. 

The top contenders so far have been Senator Nyonblee Karngar Lawrence, a close associate, and Jeremiah Koung, who came into the picture lately as a result of him being Senator for the vote-rich Nimba County.

“The time has come that I name my running mate. I will do so on April 28th as leader of the rescue mission in Liberia,” Boakai wrote on Facebook. “I hereby call on all of you to turn out in your numbers and rally your bases to send a strong message that we're committed and determined to rescue and redeem Liberia. 

“Let's do this together! The tent is large, and the rescue train is moving. Get on board and do not get down until we arrive at our final destination together. My arms are outstretched to welcome you onboard this rescue mission. Let us THINK LIBERIA, LOVE LIBERIA, and, together, BUILD LIBERIA.”

Koung and Karnga-Lawrence, have significant support in their respective counties and extensive experience in governance as members of the legislature. Lawrence hails from Grand Bassa County, the fifth most populous county in Liberia, and has been elected twice as a senator. 

She is a prominent figure in the opposition community and the most prominent female politician in Liberia. Her party, the Liberty Party, secured the third position in the 2017 elections and has a strong presence in Grand Bassa.

Koung has practically become a career legislator and served two terms as a representative before being elected as a senator. Nimba County is the second-largest county in Liberia. 

Koung’s party, the Movement for Democracy and Reconstruction (MDR), enjoys significant support in Nimba County and played a crucial role in President George Weah’s election. The party’s endorsement helped Weah win the vote-rich Nimba after he had performed poorly in the first round of the 2017 elections.

On countless occasions, the former vice president has said his choice of running mate would be someone who shares his passion for the country and believes in honest service.

According to him, a vice president is the heartbeat of the presidency, so he would not just choose anyone but “someone who shares my vision about Liberia.” 

Boakai, who served as vice president to former President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, has not pledged whether he will elevate a woman as his running mate. 

Meanwhile, Senator Prince Johnson, who is the political godfather of Koung, has announced his support for Boakai’s presidential bid. 

Johnson, who is a former warlord and has been sanctioned by the US for corruption, has accused President George Weah of failing to deliver on his promise to improve the lives of Liberians. 

“If Alexander Cummings of the CPP is in second place for the run-off election, we will definitely support him, and if Boakai of UP is in the run-off, Cummings will support us because we are all in the opposition. All we want is to see Weah out of power, the footballing president,” Johnson said. 

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Johnson’s support for Boakai would be a game changer, as he remains the political 'godfather' of his county, with a large political following, and has played critical roles in two consecutive presidential elections in Liberia. His support for former President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf in the 2011 election run-off and for Weah in 2017 was critical to both presidents securing the nation’s highest seat.

His biggest complaint against Weah has been the president’s failure to appoint more people from vote-rich Nimba County to top government positions, even though the numbers are not specific. Weah's party has, however, denied this, saying the Senator, who was important to Weah winning the election five years ago, is doing so for his own selfishness again.  

Weah has appointed a few officials from Johnson's party to ministerial and deputy ministerial posts, with the most notable appointments being Cllr. Cooper Kruah, who is now the Minister of Post and Telecommunication, and Wilfred Bangura, a Deputy Minister at the Ministry of Commerce and Industry. 

The Nimba County Senator, who is a former close ally of Weah, has alleged that the President has constantly asked him to reconsider his decision to withdraw support from the ruling Coalition for Democratic Change. 

Johnson alleged that on one occasion Weah sent Chief Zanzan Karwor, along with other traditional leaders and a minister, to have the matter settled, but he refused.