Liberia: Boakai Ready to Testify Against Cummings

Former Vice President of Liberia, Joseph N. Boakai, left and former Coca-Cola executive, Alexander B. Cummings.

The Monrovia City Court has finally served former Vice President Joseph Boakai the subpoena requested by prosecutors weeks after it was issued. 

The Unity Party Standard Bearer would be appearing as a state witness for the government against his opposition colleague, Alexander Cummings, and two other leaders of the Alternative National Congress, for forgery and criminal conspiracy, regarding the alleged tampering of the Collaborating Political Parties framework agreement.

Cummings and his partisans have denied the claim. 

The newest development about the former VP testifying comes weeks after the Court Sheriff informed the public about the difficulty in locating the former VP to serve him the subpoena. 

The delay then forced the Ministry of Justice, which is prosecuting the case, to appeal to Magistrate Jomah Jallah to grant prosecutors' request of deposition as a means of having Boakai answer questions under oath as the state witness in the ongoing criminal trial of Cummings.

"The office of the Standard Bearer of the Unity Party has officially received and signed for a subpoena from the Monrovia City Court to testify in the ongoing Framework Document alteration allegation case," the party Secretary-General Mohammed (Mo) Ali wrote on Facebook. "The party wishes to inform the public that the Standard Bearer will honor the court’s order and appear. "

Ali had earlier clarified after, despite the Court's attempts to serve the subpoena on April 15 and the week that follow, neither he nor his party was aware of it. 

“I have no idea about the subpoena [n]or the Unity Party,"  Ali said. 

But with Boakai having now received the subpoena, it is yet unclear what the magistrate's next step will be — granting the deposition appeal as part of the prosecution’s right to preserve testimonial evidence, or reject the disposition request, and allowing the subpoena to take its course and have Boakai — the state's second witness — to testify in the ongoing trial of Alexander Cummings and other members of the ANC.

Whatever the Magistrate's decision might be, the former VP will one way or the other testify against his opposition colleague, who he worked with for a few years as one of the leaders of the Collaborating Political Parties. 

And he will share with the court what he knows, specifically as it relates to the copy of the framework document submitted to the National Elections Commission by Cummings while serving as chairman of CPP, as well as other information or documents that prosecutors need to implicate Cummings in the commission of the act.

Prosecutors are heavily relying on the former VP's testimony, which they believe is valuable to them in the criminal trial against Cummings, the political leader of the ANC, and his co-defendants, the party Chairman Daniel Naatehn and Secretary-General Aloysius Toe, due to his firsthand knowledge about the CPP framework document, which prosecutors alleged were altered by the defendants.

The ANC officials have vehemently rejected and denied the charges as bogus, and politically motivated as part of conspiracies between the All Liberian Party of Benoni Urey and the ruling CDC with ulterior motives.

The ANC and its supporters and partisans have branded the trial a "political witch-hunt and persecution" intended to smear Cummings, dampen his momentum and exclude him from participation in the 2023 Presidential Elections. When will Boakai take the stand — it is yet to be made public as the Court will have to rule first on the prosecutors' request for deposition. 

Meanwhile, Cllr. Sillah, at one point during prosecutors' request for the subpoena for Boakai to testify, said the move would jeopardize the former VP's presidential bid for the pending 2023 presidential and general elections.

“This is a calculated plan to endanger your presidential ambition because Cephus will want you to lie in his favor, which by the law is perjury and that is a very serious crime under the law,'' Sillah added. “Boakai does not have any knowledge about the [CPP] chatroom, because he was not a frequent participant in the chatroom and so he doesn't have any knowledge of the documents Cephus is demanding for him to produce. It was the ANC and the ALP that had 90 percent participation in the chatroom.”

However, the Solicitor General Cllr. Syrenius Cephus disagrees, describing Boakai as a very respectful individual who has no record of lying.

“Boakai is a truth-teller, and no record to show that he is a liar,” Cephus said of Boakai. “Boakai was in the CPP when the information about the alteration was first reported, which puts him in a good position to testify on behalf of the government.  VP Boakai is a crucial witness to this case and it is based on testimony that the matter will be decided.”

The trial at Monrovia City Court was initiated after the ALP, founded by businessman Urey, complained of Cummings to the government for forgery and criminal conspiracy, regarding the alleged tampering of the Collaborating Political Parties framework agreement.

The ALP leader, who is a strong political ally of former Vice President Boakai and his Unity Party (UP), is fulfilling his promise to seek legal action for an “unlawful attachment” of its leader’s signature to the now-defunct CPP framework document. 

It is an open secret that Urey has opposed Cummings’ Presidential ambition — creating some kind of bad blood between the two.

The CPP, which was once seen as a threat to the ruling Coalition for Democratic Change, collapsed after the UP withdrew from the collaboration “due to Cummings’ failure to attend meetings” that were intended to resolve an impasse over the alleged framework tampering, Boakai said in a statement.

However, the ANC rejected the former vice president's claims — instead, they blamed his ‘inability’ to unite and reconcile the CPP as the primary reason for its collapse.