Liberia: Boakai-Koung Campaign Must Act Now!

Throwback: Joseph Boakai, 2nd from left,  raises hands with Senator Jeremiah Koung, his chosen running mate, at their Party headquarters on Board Street a few months ago.

By Josiah F. Joekai, Jr

As Liberia gears up for the highly anticipated Presidential Election on October 10, 2023, the Joseph Boakai-Jeremiah Koung ticket stands at the threshold of victory. With powerful campaign machinery and a winning combination of political and financial capital, the Unity Party's presidential candidate, Joseph Boakai, and his running mate, Senator Jeremiah Koung, seem poised to change the leadership that Liberia desperately needs. 

However, despite their excellent chances, ominous signs on the horizon threaten to repeat past mistakes, particularly those of the 2017 election. The Boakai-Koung Campaign must take immediate action to address these issues and secure their path to victory.

On the positive side, the Unity Party's Standard Bearer made a prudent decision in selecting Senator Jeremiah Koung as his running mate. Jeremiah Koung possesses the political acumen and financial resources necessary to complement Mr. Boakai's unquestionable political influence. This fact is widely recognized nationwide, even by the ruling Congress for Democratic Change (CDC). Furthermore, Mr. Boakai has assembled a formidable team to oversee his national campaign, led by Senator Nyonblee Karnga-Lawrence of Grand Bassa, with strong support from Senator Prince Moye of Bong County, Senator James Biney of Maryland, the influential Senator Darius Dillion of Montserrado, and a host of other respected figures in various counties across the country. The campaign is blessed to have the best election technocrats and results data management experts on its team, which the ruling CDC and other campaigns lack. The Boakai-Koung ticket boasts the most robust campaign infrastructure and appears well-positioned for victory in the upcoming election. However, certain factors have the potential to undermine these promising prospects if they are not promptly addressed: 

The Congress for Democratic Change (CDC) is acutely aware of its substantial failures and lacks the necessary credibility in governance and economic merit to sustain its rule. Consequently, it has devised a strategy to secure victory in the first round of the Presidential Election, a tactic that the Elections Commission is highly likely to consider. An apparent “quid-pro-quo” arrangement exists between the ruling CDC and the NEC to execute this questionable plan, marking the government’s sole opportunity for success, which it is pursuing unwaveringly. Some members of the Boakai-Koung campaign committee are well aware of this concerning development because I shared it with them. The CDC acknowledges its previous ascent to power through an illicit, behind-the-scenes arrangement in 2017 orchestrated by former President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf. This theory has been tested successfully in recent elections, such as the last Lofa Senatorial Election and Electoral District #15 election, reinforcing the CDC's confidence in its potential success. The party relies on the tradition of political parties and candidates maintaining composure and accepting election results, even when apparent irregularities exist.

Furthermore, the CDC is aware that the international community is committed to preventing violence and the recurrence of past crises in the country. This isn't mere posturing; it's a high-stakes chess game that the CDC is engaged in, and it remains uncertain if the Boakai-Koung Campaign is prepared to meet the challenge. The CDC possesses substantial financial and economic resources to execute its strategy and is resolute in pursuing this objective.

Much to my astonishment, with the election only a month away, the Boakai-Koung Campaign is still grappling with establishing an integrated poll-watching and parallel results management system. These two components are interconnected and should not be treated as isolated processes. Currently, the campaign's technical team intends to implement them separately. Instead of being in a planning phase, the movement should already be in action mode regarding this matter. This mechanism holds immense significance in greatly diminishing the likelihood of the NEC and the CDC manipulating the election results, as occurred in 2017. Regrettably, the Boakai-Koung Campaign has yet to implement this essential mechanism. It's truly astounding that such a challenge persists at this critical juncture.

Within the NEC's formidable precincts lies the nerve center of our national electoral process, entrusted with the stewardship of election outcomes. However, discreetly whispered amongst political circles, it is a well-acknowledged reality that this pivotal institution's fate hinges on a single commissioner's actions. This candid revelation, known to the Boakai-Koung ticket and other influential political figures, has loomed ominously without any proactive measures to mitigate the looming peril. With a deep appreciation for Stoic Philosophy's wisdom, which teaches us that obstacles in our path can be transformed into pathways forward, we must confront this commissioner's obstructive role. His removal or neutralization becomes imperative as the primary impediment standing before the Boakai-Koung ticket's aspirations.

The Boakai-Koung ticket and their fellow political parties have chosen a diplomatic approach to address this issue, soliciting the support of foreign missions and regional and international organizations to dispatch external data analysts. These analysts will undertake a task characterized by observation, guidance, and support, refraining from dictatorial interference and being aware of established interference policies. Drawing from my experience in electioneering across Liberia and West Africa, I have also adhered to such principles, focusing ONLY on offering guidance and support. 

However, it is essential to recognize that diplomacy alone will not suffice in rectifying this predicament; resolute political action is the need of the hour. The Boakai-Koung campaign and its affiliates are within their rights to rally for immediate action to remove this troublesome commissioner. In this critical juncture, sustained and concerted efforts directed toward the NEC's attention will also capture the gaze of international and regional stakeholders. I know from experience that this will inevitably lead to a demand for the commissioner's resignation. If the Boakai-Koung Campaign does not take bold action, neither will the NEC nor regional and international actors. The time for unwavering resolve and action is now.

The Boakai-Koung Campaign stands at the threshold of a historic opportunity to usher in a new era of transformative progress for Liberia. Yet, let us not be blind to the formidable hurdles that lie ahead. The call for immediate, unwavering action reverberates through our nation, demanding the safeguarding of a truly democratic electoral process. Liberia yearns for a leadership borne of the people's genuine voice, untainted by clandestine arrangements or undue influence. Now is the moment for the campaign to seize the mantle of destiny with unwavering determination, securing the triumph Liberia’s fate rightfully commands. Let the winds of change sweep our nation towards the bright horizon it deserves. 

Editor’s note: The views expressed in this Commenatry are the authors’ own and do not necessarily reflect the Daily Observer editorial stance.

The author, Josiah F. Joekai, is a renowned Liberian election expert, former Director of Civic and Voter Education, and currently resides in the United States, pursuing his Doctorate Degree in Industrial-Organizational Psychology at Adler University.