Liberia: Cllr. Gongloe Aims to Unseat Pres. Weah

Cllr.  Tiawan S. Gongloe.

… Casts himself as the best ‘alternative’ among all opposition candidates who are eying the Presidency

Cllr.  Tiawan Gongloe has cast the 2023 election as a national emergency that needs a steely leader like himself to take Liberia from backwardness to sustained peace, progressive development, and prosperity.

While announcing his bid for the Presidency over the weekend, Cllr. Gongloe asked Liberians and all those frustrated with “poor governance, poverty, and corruption” in the Weah administration to put the task of defeating them above all other ambitions.

In a speech focused on outlining his ambition, Cllr. Gongloe presented himself as a leader who would govern by the rules in a country ‘wracked by poverty, corruption, and unemployment.’

“Certainly, with a Gongloe administration and the support of all well-meaning Liberians, a better Liberia is possible.  But a better Liberia is not possible with the kind of politicians that are currently on the political scene.  I declare here today that I am the alternative leader that Liberia needs,”  Cllr. Gongloe said in a speech declaring his bid for the Presidency in Ganta, Nimba County on December 4.

He added:  “The choice that Liberian voters have to make in the 2023 presidential election is clear. You must choose between a candidate with a track record of fighting at the risk of his or her life and those who have not stood up for the Liberian people in any manner, form, or shape.”

“You have a choice to make between a leader that does not have a track record of stealing government money and those who have stolen government money or have not spoken against stealing government money in the past,” Cllr. Gongloe warned. “You have a choice to make between a leader who has been planting the seed for a better Liberia and those who want to reap where they have not sown.” 

Cllr. Google’s push as the cleanest candidate for the presidency among a very crowded field of politicians is in his belief that Liberian voters have been greatly overlooked and seen as people who just vote for candidates base on tribal backgrounds and political assistance given during elections instead of looking for leaders with the ability to positively change their lives through policy actions.

 Though the strategy is a risky bet, the moral charity in his rhetoric and seeming strength as a human rights defender and advocate of bad governance might make him strong among the broad base of opposition supporters and some moderate supporters of the ruling Coalition for Democracy Change.

 But Cllr. Gongloe will face serious questioning about his time as an executive assistant to the interim president of Liberia from the end of 1990 to  1994; as Solicitor General from 2006 to 2009 and Minister of Labor from mid-2009 to 2010 November.

These questions will focus on his legacy and impact, most especially in the Amos Sawyer-led interim government which failed to achieve its mandate of restoring peace to Liberia during the start of the country’s civil war.

He might also be questioned about the renegotiated ArcelorMittal Liberia concession agreement during the Presidency of  Ellen- Johnson Sirleaf, which many of his own Nimba people have complained of being against affected communities.

But most of those interested in about Cllr. Gongloe is the restoration of progressive ideals, which he says: “men and women have struggled for and died for over the years. “

In a sign recognizing the urgency of that task,  Cllr. Gongloe, unlike many candidates,  moved to lay out his version for Liberia by pursuing freedom of expression; promoting education, skills training, and creativity at little or no cost; and promoting environmentally sensitive agricultural programs with an emphasis on self-sufficiency in food production, especially rice.

 He also talked about the promotion of a strong environmental protection program, clean air, and conservation of the forest and nature; the promotion of affordable and efficient healthcare services throughout Liberia; and the expansion of the economy and increasing employment through manufacturing and value addition to locally produced goods, fostering a strong tourism program, given Liberia’s comparative advantage of having the largest forest with exotic tropical species and sandy coastline from Cape Mount to Cape Palmas.

His visions, he said, will be implemented from learning from some of Liberia leaders including the country’s founding cress Joseph Jenkins Roberts who he hailed for demonstrating strong national leadership by getting Liberia independent and an enviable level of generosity evidenced by the fact that he directed in his will that his properties be used for the education of the Liberian children.

 Cllr. Gongloe also disclosed that he will learn from the strong unification policies of Arthur Barclay and William V.S. Tubman to keep the country united, and that of William R. Tolbert’s integrated rural development program as it was meant to slow down rural-urban migration.

“I remember him (Tolbert) saying, ‘The soil is a bank’ and 'I will lift Liberians from mats to mattresses' and that he promised to build “a wholesome functioning society with people in the city and the interior is kept busy for the development of Liberia,'"  Gongloe added. “I want to be a president who will be a servant of all Liberians, not some Liberians. I want to make Liberia a land of liberty for all Liberians, not some Liberians.”

Cllr. Gongloe added that infrastructural development, with emphasis on farm to market roads, school buildings, and clinics; the issue of gender balance in government with at least fifty percent of the cabinet ministerial positions occupied by women; and the comprehensive youth development program, with a focus on academic and skill sports and athletics, talents in music, drama, and other entertainment programs are areas of his concern.

On President Weah, Cllr. Gongloe disclosed that the leadership has increased poverty, unhappiness, and hopelessness, even where those in power were elected on the promise that their government would bring “hope change”.

 “The change that the voters thought was meant to bring hope has brought hopelessness and despair, thereby making life meaningless for the masses of the people,” Cllr. Google added. 

He noted that the Weah-led CDC, having made a majority of the people so poor, is aware that the Liberian people know better and will not accept falsehood anymore. 

“CDC has become a producer of poverty in Liberia. Therefore, the Liberian people will not vote for the CDC in 2023. The Liberian people will vote CDC out of office in 2023. For the Liberian people to make progress, CDC must be kicked out of office in 2023,” Cllr. Gongloe said. It is for these reasons, among many, that I have decided to transition from advocacy to electoral politics and to accept the appeals of many Liberians.

 “Today I offer myself as the driver of the train that will take all Liberians to a better Liberia. This train to a better Liberia will drop despair, desperation, and hopelessness off the train and bring on board the train happiness, delight, optimism, and confidence in the government of Liberia. Join the train fellow Liberians to a better Liberia. The choice is yours,” Cllr. Gongloe said. 

And while Cllr. Gongloe enters the Presidential race as a serious Political underdogs, his campaign will be challenged by finance,  his identity, and political orientation. His association with the progressive, a movement which most of the country’s young voters seem to dislike for some of its leaders’ role in the 14-years is also a serious issue of concern.

But his ability to focus his campaign on policy issues and how he intended to address them as outlined in his speech, would help offset problems with association with the progressive movement and worked in the Ellen government.  

The overarching question of Cllr. Google’s campaign is how long he stays on such track without engaging in nasty politics and dispelling young voters’ concerns about his discipline and progressive ideals, for which he is a relatively distant figure.