Liberia: ‘NEC, an Extension of Ruling CDC’?

Former NEC Chair Former NEC Chair Fromayan, former NEC chairman ponders. 

.... Fromayan, former NEC chairman ponders

He is, although recorded as having been entangled before in critical national elections decision-making but he is not short of the expertise and understanding of elections matters in Liberia and the consequences that come along.

James Fromayan was head of NEC but had to resign in 2011 ahead of the Presidential Runoff Election between former President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf and Cllr. Winston Tubman, then Standard Bearer of the Congress for democratic Change (CDC), due to his having signed a controversial letter and served the CDC in which the then main opposition political party was informed of a major victory, but something that had to change out rightly.

Today, Fromayan has now come to condemn Davidetta Browne Lansanah’s leadership of National Elections Commission (NEC) for what he terms as lack of independence, credibility and trust to serve the country in line with the Law that created it.

“That colossal failure by the Commission made a large segment of Liberia’s population perceive the National Elections Commission (NEC) as an extension of the ruling Congress for Democratic Change (CDC). Rather than embarking on serious efforts to rebuild its credibility, the National Elections Commission has by its recent actions created more doubts relating to its resolve, impartiality, and competence to conduct in a free, fair, and credible manner, the very crucial Presidential and Legislative Elections of 2023,” he said.

Fromayan added: “It is very sad that history is about to repeat itself. Again, the National Elections Commission (NEC), this time around, under the leadership of Madam Davidetta Browne-Lansanah, has been conducting itself in a questionable and non-credible manner that glaringly undermines its independence.”

The former NEC boss was particular when he said the NEC’s failure to certificate Brownie Samukai, former Defense Minister of Liberia who participated in the December 8, 2020 Special Senatorial Election in Lofa and overwhelmingly won, signifies that the Commission under Madam Lansanah lacks the independence accorded it by the Constitution and the New Elections Law.

“For the NEC to abandon Hon. Samukai and subsequently failed to certify his election because of a legal challenge that should have been prior to and not after the election seriously eroded the credibility, transparency, and independence of the National Elections Commission. That colossal failure by the Commission made a large segment of Liberia’s population perceive the National Elections Commission as an extension of the ruling Congress for Democratic Change (CDC),” he alleged.

Although the current ruling establishment comprises three independent political parties, including the former ruling National Patriotic Party (NPP) of former and jailed President Charles Taylor, the Liberia People’s Democratic Party (LPDP) of Alex J. Tyler, former Speaker of the House of Representatives and the Congress for Democratic Change (CDC); all under the title Coalition for Democratic Change (CDC), Fromayan noted that President George Weah’s Congress for Democratic Change is the principal architect of the campaign succumbing NEC to the control of the Executive Mansion.

He noted that NEC’s failure to certify Samukai is a case of worthy concern and emphasis.

“Having filed an application at the National Elections Commission as a Senatorial Aspirant for Lofa County consistent with Section 4.5(2) of the September 29, 1986 New Elections Law, the NEC scrutinized and qualified Hon. Samukai as a candidate in accordance with Section 2.9(n) of the September 1986 New Elections Law. Moreover, the Commission proceeded to conduct the Special Senatorial Election across Liberia, an election, as announced by NEC, that Hon. Samukai undisputedly won in Lofa County,” Framayan analyzed.

He alleged that the country is dangerously and, at an alarming rate, moving downward into an abyss reminiscent of the past.

He said it is a very troubling and discouraging situation considering the recent past of the country’s history, mainly with regard to the fratricidal civil conflict that commenced on December 24, 1989, claiming over two hundred fifty thousand lives and destroying countless properties worth hundreds of millions if not billions of United States Dollars.

“It was a conflict deeply rooted in the rigged Presidential and Legislative Elections of October 1985. Those Elections were conducted by the then Special Elections Commission (SECOM) under the Chairmanship of the late Emett Harmon, a veteran of traditional True Whig Party (TWP) politics, who was recruited by Samuel Doe to do for his National Democratic Party of Liberia (NDPL) what Harmon and his likes did over many years for the Grand old True Whig Party,” the former NEC boss said.

Could such be the case with Davidetta Browne Lansanah who has served the NEC for over a decade and was in the period of time considered by President George Weah for the Chairmanship of NEC after his previous pick, Nwabudikie failed to satisfy his claim of citizenship to Liberia?

The Daily Observer’s grand breaking news in 2021 involving Madam Lansanah’s conflict of interest, specifically on doing business with her brothers’ company and assigning nearly US$200,000 to a deal for rent of 20 thermometers that could have probably cost even less than twenty five percent of the amount used led to the Liberia Anti-Corruption Commission (LACC) investigating the entire membership of the Board of Commissioners of NEC but in the end, indicted only Madam Lansanah for her alleged concealment of intent on doing business with her brothers who own and run Tuma Enterprises.

The LACC took the NEC boss to Criminal Court “C” and the procedures leading to her prosecution became relevant and escape route instead of facing justice and exonerating herself from any wrongdoing.

For the record, there is no evidence to show that Madam Lansanah rebutted the Daily Observer’s report but the lack of an Ombudsman, according to the Court, is said to be responsible for LACC lacking jurisdiction over the matter. The LACC has taken An Exception, though to the Supreme Court in the spirit that in the absence of an Ombudsman, public officials should in no way “steal public money and go with impunity.”

According to James Fromayan, NEC’s ruling into the case involving the former ruling Unity Party and its partner, the All Liberia Party and the Alternative Native National Congress and the Musa Bility faction of Liberty Party on whether or not the former had the right to dissociate itself from the Collaborating Political Parties (CPP) raises more questions than answers, as Article 17 of the 1986 Constitution provides the right to associate or not.

He said NEC is not an archive where documents belonging to political parties and independent candidates are to be filed and kept, rather, the Commission is an agency responsible to conduct all public elections throughout the country in accordance with Section 2.9 of the 1986 New Elections Law.

“As such, documentation submitted to the NEC by political parties and independent candidates must be thoroughly scrutinized by the Commission to ensure that all provisions are fully in conformity or consistent with the Constitution of Liberia. If the Commission had meticulously done its job, the current confusion relating to the Framework Document of the Collaborating Political Parties (CPP) would have been avoided,” he weighed in.

Fromayan said “In effect there could be no contention about alteration of any provision of said CPP Framework document, be it original or photocopy that was submitted to the National Elections Commission.”

He continued: “Had NEC not neglected its duties, Section 8.5 of the CPP Framework document could have been ordered corrected prior to the accreditation of the CPP as a coalition or collaboration. Said directive by the NEC would have been fully justified because the said Section 8.5 is inconsistent with Article 17 of the 1986 Constitution which is the supreme law and all other laws are subordinate to.”

When contacted, Davidetta Browne Lansanah said she could not respond to Fromayan’s assertions on the ground that Fromayan knows and should be the best to continue talking about what he has to say.