Liberia: Is Clarence Moniba 2023’s Dark Horse?

LINU Political Leader, Dr. Clarence Moniba


— Team of the youthful LINU political leader poised to exploit ‘political-loopholes’ to project him among presidential favorites

As the race in the presidential election in Liberia, Africa’s oldest independent nation and a perennial economically struggling state remains open,  the deciding factor will again be the nation’s youthful population.

Like the 2017 presidential elections when the youth camped behind then senator George Weah and propelled him to the presidency, wherever this population demography sways will emerge winners, historical records show.

For some young people looking to get rid of the old age political manipulations that keep the youthful population as an afterthought until elections season, Dr. Clarence Moniba, the youthful political leader of the Liberia National Union (LINU), could represent a peer leader who shares their perspective and leverages it to reawaken the aspirations of generations that may have lost hope.

Buoyed by the support of the younger generation, Moniba is becoming a surprise dark horse, or in another word, a third-party candidate. But how this has happened, many could be wondering.

Just a year ago, Moniba had no intention to contest the ensuing October 2023 presidential elections. He had harbored no dream of becoming President, a feat just a step above what his deceased father, the venerated Harry F. Moniba, achieved. 

The elderly Moniba was Liberia’s Vice President from 1985 to 1990 when the encroaching civil war forced him and the government out of power. He fled the country and returned almost seven years later to contest the nation’s highest seat, but he had no chance as Charles Taylor, the notorious warlord who is now languishing in a British prison, was the clear favorite for the presidency.

However, the young Moniba has harbored no such a dream, not in any expressed way, until three weeks ago when he declared his intentions to contest the presidency of Liberia in the upcoming October 2023 presidential elections — a move many believed came too late, with eight months to the polls.

 Is he dependent upon his youth coalition he has built over the years as a bargaining chip to be number 2 on a major frontrunner’s ticket or he is only trying out this election season in actual preparations for 2029? 

While these questions could be running through the minds of many, a leaked draft memo from Moniba’s camp says otherwise.

According to the press statement, Moniba Entry into the race came as a result of a focused, process driven discussion that included internal polling and other factors.

“Moniba has therefore thrown his hat in the race due to many factors such as NO clear opposition favorite; the clear absence of the youth to middle aged voter strategy in the opposition, and a very hobbled incumbent,” the statement from his team said.

“Dr. Moniba and his team do not believe that any one particular candidate in the opposition scares the field and poses an actual threat to the government’s re-election efforts,”   it added.

The statement also reveals concerns about “Boakai’s ability to take the fight to the government on behalf of the Liberian people, owing in part to the lackluster and low-energy campaign during the recent by-elections in Lofa that saw the CDC-backed candidate win over Boakai’s preferred choice.”

It also disclosed that the Moniba team seriously assessed and reviewed the potential of Cummings in the presidential race, but ultimately concluded that he, too, did not really scare the government and threaten their chances at re-election.

It says, “even though the majority of voters are 35 years old and below, none of the opposition candidates seemed to have a clear strategy to go after the young voters and the leaked memo revealed that the Moniba team saw this as a major flaw.”

In addition to the absence of a clear cut opposition alternative as outlined above, the release reveals that the Moniba team views the incumbent as being very weak and vulnerable.

“The fact that the governing coalition itself is seriously divided and broken up and the incumbent has lost his seeming invincibility in vote-rich Montserrado all gave the Moniba team the faith and confidence that they can mount a successful campaign. They believe that they can create a viable opposition coalition in time to successfully compete with the government and win,” it says.

The youthful political leader is therefore poised to exploit these political loopholes and use them at his advantage to project himself as a significant political phenomenon in the body politic of the country.

Many political observers believe that Moniba would be shocked at his own meteoric rise in the country’s political firmament if he continues on the trajectory that he is projecting.

In hindsight, Moniba will realize that his decision to contest is even of greater moment, and would be, perhaps, the most strategic and consequential political move by any young Liberians his age and below. He might not be there yet, but he is getting there.

He is of the opinion that when the people can no longer take it from those who weaponized poverty in order to perpetually keep them in bondage, they will act and decisively so. 

And in 2023, Liberians may have finally arrived at that juncture, driven by the sheer roguishness of the political elite. For once, they are uncharacteristically angry, having been grossly dehumanized by their leaders who held them in absolute contempt over the years.

That is what this ‘Moniba Movement’ professes to be all about and why it appears to resonate in many nooks and crannies of the country. Moniba may be the face of this historic movement, yet it is not about him.

It is about the long-suffering Liberian masses that seem to have finally woken up from their lethargic slumber. It is about a people looking for an alternative to the status quo that has impoverished all and diminished their country.

President Weah and his CDC have argued that they have brought Liberia in a far better place than they found it. Many Liberians believe otherwise, as their realities depict a different narrative about the state of affairs in the country. The 2023 elections will, therefore, be a referendum on the CDC’s stewardship.

And the question when the time comes will be straightforward: are Liberians better off today than they were six years ago? The Liberian people will answer at the polls come October 10, 2023.