Liberia: Boakai to Announce Sen. Koung as VP Pick

Former Vice President Joseph Boakai left, and  Senator Jeremiah Koung, who is expected to be announced on April 28.

— The long-anticipated announcement, which is expected to be made public on April 28, would cement the former Vice President’s position as the lead frontrunner from the opposition block with a clear chance of defeating President George Weah.

Former Vice President Joseph Boakai is expected to formally announce Senator Jeremiah Koung of the vote-rich Nimba County as his running mate. 

The confirmation of Boakai’s pick by an unlikely ally — Senator Prince Yormie Johnson of Nimba — the political godfather of Koung — would bring to an end an exhaustive process in which several other allies have been considered.

However, Koung emerged as a potential vice presidential candidate only in recent weeks, after top aides considered his popularity in his home county — which is the second most populated county in the country — holding a key to who becomes president. 

The Nimba County Senator would be announced on April 28, ending weeks of intense speculation on who would be the Unity Party’s Vice Standard Bearer.  

The long-awaited announcement would cement the former Vice President’s position as the lead frontrunner from the opposition bloc, with an increased chance of defeating President George Weah.

Koung’s party, the Movement for Democracy and Reconstruction, enjoys significant support in Nimba and, during the 2017 elections, played a crucial role in Weah’s victory over Boakai who was running a sitting vice president then. 

The win was Weah’s first in Nimba County, as well as for his party, the Congress for Democratic Change, which is now part of the ruling Coalition for Democratic Change — after failing during three elections.

“I would not like to let the cat out of the bag right now but wait for Friday. Rescue two will be from Nimba,” Senator Johnson, a former warlord who has been sanctioned by the U.S. for corruption, and had a falling out with Weah for failing to deliver on promises to improve the lives of Liberians, said. 

“I will not come here as the father of the county and political leader to give you misinformation. This is a blessing for us.”

Boakai’s selection of Koung means he has found a running mate who shares his “vision for Liberia” as well as one who matches his popularity.  

Koung is practically a career legislator, having served two terms as a representative before being elected as a senator.

But he has not been very vocal on national issues and hardly chided the Weah administration on any shortcomings.

His popularity outside of his home county, which is the second most populated county in Liberia, is unknown.  It is this shortcoming that will face a grueling test in the coming months, as two very different political performers — one who is a vocal critic of the president — and the other who is not.  

The chemistry of how they balance their differences could determine just how extensively the two will campaign together to win October 10 elections.