Liberia: ‘UP Not Aware of Subpoena’?

Former Vice President Joseph Boakai. 

... As prosecutors tout Boakai’s ‘credibility’ ANC suggests that the former VP’s credibility will also be on trial if he testifies

The  Secretary General of the opposition Unity Party (UP), Mo Ali, has said that neither he nor his party is aware of any subpoena issued to its political leader to testify in the ongoing trial of Alexander Cummings and other members of the Alternative National Congress (ANC).

However, Ali noted that if former Vice President Joseph Boakai, the standard-bearer of the UP, received the subpoena from the Magistrate of the Monrovia City Court, the legal team would advise on the next course of action — whether to testify or not.

“I have no idea about the subpoena [n]or the Unity Party. That would be for the legal team to advise [if Boakai is to testify after receiving the subpoena].  The Unity Party has gone past the Collaborating Political Parties (CPP) and we are now fighting on strengthening our party and realigning,” Ali said. “The UP has no regrets in forming a part of the CPP. We have learned many valuable lessons. We also believe that the CPP has some successes. The formation of the CPP reduced presidential candidates potentially by 2 and it made us to create new friendships.”

The clarification from Ali comes after the Magistrate of the Monrovia City Court, Jomah Jallah on April 15, cited the former Vice President to appear on April 19, to testify as the second witness for the state — as requested by the prosecutors.

He is expected to testify specifically as to the service of a copy of the framework document submitted to the National Elections Commission by Mr. Cummings while serving as chairman of CPP and is also expected to produce documents like the press release, minutes of meetings of the National Executive Committee members of the CPP that might implicate Cummings in the commission of the act.

Magistrate Jallah, while granting the request to subpoena Boakai, agreed with the prosecutors’ to have the former VP produce those demanded documents as part of his testimony.

Prosecutors are heavily relying on the former VPs testimony, which 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.

At the time of the issuance of the writ of arrest for Cummings by the government, Boakai was the Rotational Chair of the CPP, and has been repeatedly publicly touted as the star witness for the government by the Solicitor-General, Saymah Syrenius Cephus, who is leading the prosecution in the Monrovia City Magisterial Court.

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. Its supporters and partisans have termed 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. 

However, a source at the ANC accused Boakai of preventing the court officers from serving a Writ of Subpoena Duces Testificandum on him — claiming that he had made himself impossible to be reached with instructions to his securities not to allow the sheriff to enter his Rehab Road residence. 

“The reported evasion of the former Vice President of 12 years in the UP-led government has raised public concerns about the validity of the allegations against Cummings,” the ANC source said. “The available public records show that Cummings did in fact share the drafts which the CPP lawyers were asked by the four parties to revise and amend and that the four parties signaled their approval and consent prior to the submission to the National Elections Commission (NEC). 

According to the ANC source, this critical and provable fact undermines the accusation against the accused, which suggests without evidence that as Chair of the CPP, “Cummings and his ANC acted unilaterally and without the knowledge, approval, and consent of the other parties in registering the Framework Agreement of the CPP. “

“The optics of Boakai testifying for the government against not just any other opposition figure but especially the man who challenged him for the right to represent te CPP against President Weah in 2023, will be deeply unhelpful for Boakai's and his UP's democratic and opposition credentials.

“UP insiders are hinting that Boakai intends to hide and would gladly accept being fined before he lets himself take the witness stand for the government. Boakai is the second witness for the State, but his decision to appear and testify remains uncertain, and a defining moment in the ongoing trial,” the source suggests. 

Ahead of the Boakai subpoena, the Solicitor General Syrenius Cephus while arguing for the move, described 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 in praise 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.

“Nobody will be allowed to advise the former VP to testify in the case because he is the case decider. If anyone tries to jeopardize the witness’s testimony, the government will go after the said person,” he added.

The trial at Monrovia City Court was initiated after the ALP, founded by businessman Benoni Urey, complained of his opposition compatriot, the ANC’s Alexander B. Cummings, to the government for forgery and criminal conspiracy, regarding the alleged tampering of the Collaborating Political Parties framework agreement.

The ALP, which is a strong political ally of former Vice President Boakai and his Unity Party (UP), is fulfilling Urey’s 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.