Liberia: ‘Partnerships with No Preconditions’

Former Vice President Joseph N. Boakai and Alexander Cummings are the two leading opposition figures in Liberia.


— CPP chairman Bility suggests, as ‘entitlement mindset’ could hinder Boakai, Cummings ticket

Hopes were revived across the country when former Vice President and Political leader of the opposition Unity Party hinted recently that there is still room for a possible collaboration with his counterpart of the Collaborating Political Parties (CPP), Alexander Cummings.

VP Joseph Boakai told a Voice of America (VOA) interview that he remains open to working with Cummings and his CPP to unseat President George Weah at the polls in October, stressing that Weah needs to be defeated through a collaborative effort — a move that has been welcomed by the CPP but with a caveat.

CPP Chairman Musa Bility told the Daily Observer that, while his organization stands ready to collaborate with the former VP and every member of the opposition community to form a single ticket against the ruling coalition, anyone thinking of such arrangement should not come to the table with a preconceived mindset.

“By virtue of its name, the CPP welcomes collaboration and believes that it is the surest way of unseating Weah. So we are willing to come to the table with the Unity Party and any other group that is willing to collaborate with us,” Bility said, stressing that the only thing the CPP won't accept is a party coming with preconditions such as a given candidate demanding head the ticket, while another comes second.

Boakai had earlier indicated during the VOA interview that he and Cummings will always be friends and that political collaboration is always necessary. According to him, though an initial collaborative effort did not work out, they are still strong in agreement that Weah needs to be defeated. 

“We need all hands on board so our arms are always open to further discussions, we never close doors,” he said.

Amb. Boakai noted the essence of the collaboration among the opposition political parties was to defeat President George Weah and they, as the opposition, still strongly hold the belief that Pres. Weah must be defeated.

“I do believe that political parties and Liberians need to get together to see the need. Even if we’re not organized political parties, we need all hands on board to remove this nightmare from our country. So, that is something that you cannot debate,” he said.

But Bility noted that for that to happen, those desiring that collaborative effort “must first come to the table and have a conversation based on quality, not quantity (popularity), because we know where popularity has taken this country.

“And this is not about whether Cummings 'must' head the ticket or come second to someone else. This is about saving Liberia from the kind of leadership it has now. We need a combination based on quality, not quantity,” Bility said. 

However, these discussions around renewed collaborative efforts come many months after an acrimonious divorce that ensued between Boakai and Cummings — the two political heavyweights of what was once the most formidable opposition bloc, the   Collaborating Political Parties (CPP), that also consisted of the Liberty Party, and the All Liberian Party.

Many saw the formation of the CPP as a means to restore the hope of the Liberian people to bring about a good, effective and efficient governance process in the country, as it was seen at the time as the most formidable political force.

But its subsequent disintegration, which was due to internal wrangling and later some bitter legal battle, was seen by many as a missed opportunity to unseat an underwhelming George Weah led government.

Boakai and his UP  withdrew from the CPP a year ago, blaming the inability to mend broken relationships in the CPP on the political leader of ANC, Cummings, who despite being accused of altering the CPP Framework Document, also reportedly failed to attend meetings to resolve the issue.

“You would recall that I personally attended all previous leadership turnovers, events, and meetings of the CPP in a show of support for every leadership and the desire to work together. I even campaigned with all collaboration Party leaders. You would also recall that during the turnover to me, all but the ANC leader and members attended, even though I had called Mr. Cummings personally the day before, and he responded by saying he was already in the United States to attend a meeting,” Boakai said.

Prior to the UP exit from the CPP, Boakai told a May 20, 2021 SKY FM’s 50-50 interview that he signed unto the CPP with the intention to restore the hope of Liberians, and not to betray their trust; and as such he remains optimistic that the CPP will stick together and come up with a single slate of candidates before 2023.

“We went into the CPP with an intention: that we restore the hope of the Liberian people and that we do not betray the trust of the Liberian people. With that we are coming up with a single slate by consensus, and that would work.

The UP exit also came when it lost a bloc voting proposal battle and feared that it would encounter an embarrassing defeat at a primary that was being planned. UP officials feared that Cummings would have used his financial strength to buy their delegates over and as such they wanted to go the process with a sealed vote for all of her delegates — a proposal that was described as senseless and undemocratic.

The constituent parties, according to the framework document, had initially agreed on consensus, Voter Perceptions Survey and Convention, as the process through which a standard bearer could be chosen for the group. Some observers of the situation felt that the bloc voting proposal from the former ruling party was meant to manipulate the process and cause confusion. The UP was backed in its quest by the ALP and the Nyonblee Karnga-Lawrence faction of the Liberty Party.

Reacting to the UP’s withdrawal, Cummings noted that Boakai withdrew his party from the CPP only because of his false sense of entitlement to the standard bearer position of the collaboration. 

“The CPP was not formed to ordain any individual as its Standard Bearer. This is why a binding primary process was agreed upon for the selection of its presidential candidate, where no consensus is met.”

In recent times, there have been mounting calls from political actors and members of the public for a united opposition, should Pres. Weah be defeated in the October elections.

Former Maryland County Senator, John Ballout, said in a New Year message to Liberians that the opposition needs to be more united in order to rescue the country from Weah and his gangs. 

Ballout noted that a ticket that will carry Boakai as standard bearer and Cummings as vice will be a one-round winnable ticket.

“It must be reminded that in politics and political arrangements, no one gets everything and in the midst of harsh political realities, there must be room for compromise for the sake of political strength,” he said, adding that the opposition must make a clear choice for what thier objectives are and for whom they are fighting.

However, with recent reports that Boakai and Cummings are closing in on a deal to form a joint ticket for the October presidential elections, there were some expressed signs of panic among stalwarts of the ruling coalition, as well as its members and supporters.

The fear is being heightened as sources in both camps hint that Boakai is poised to head the ticket and Mr. Cummings will be his vice standard bearer.

Many believe that that ticket, which is already being dubbed “Dream Team,” has the strength and potential to defeat incumbent Weah and CDC in a first round victory.

Many in the opposition camps have been pleading with both men to resolve their differences and unite, putting the interest of the nation above their individual desires for the presidency.

Compounding the fear in the CDC camp is the bitter acrimony brewing between President Weah and his former biggest supporter in 2017, the influential Nimba County Senior Senator Prince Johnson, who has announced a withdrawal of support from Weah’s CDC.