Liberia: Sen. Lawrence to Withdraw Support from Boakai?



The Grand Bassa Senator has announced that the Liberty Party, which she heads, will not be endorsing anyone for president until after public consultation internally just after being snubbed for the running mate post to the Standard Bearer of the UP.

Senator Nyonblee Karnga Lawrence   has told close aides that she feels really "betrayed" by the decision of  former Vice President Joseph Boakai to select Senator Jeremiah Koung as his running mate for the October 10 poll.

The Grand Bassa County Senator, whose desire to become Boakai’s running mate has never been secret, is feeling greatly hurt after not being chosen, and is now looking at other options,  accordings to aides. 

According to Lawrence, the Liberty Party, which she heads, has begun consultations to determine its next course of action for the 2023 elections — raising suspicions that she may likely not support Boakai's presidential bid — and may not attend the unveiling ceremony of Koung today.

“About two years ago, we embarked on a mission with the Unity Party to begin the process of providing a new direction for our country,” the Senator said in a statement yesterday.  

“At this juncture, we wish to inform you that consistent with our Party’s tradition, the executive leadership has unanimously resolved to seek approval for the endorsement of legislative candidates and Presidential ticket and, upon conclusion, the public, our partisans and supporters will be duly informed of our direction for the 2023 elections.”

“Let it not be forgotten that we embarked on this journey with a deep commitment to work with like-minded forces to bring about real and positive change in the governance of our dear country and to give the Liberian people a government that they truly deserve,” the Senator said.

Koung, according to sources,  was chosen as a result of his popularity in vote-rich Nimba — the second-most populous county — which has become a battleground for anyone wanting to win the presidency. 

The Movement for Democracy and Reconstruction, led by the Nimba Senator, holds considerable sway in the county — having played a critical role in — securing victory  for Weah over then-Vice President Boakai in the 2017 elections. 

The win was Weah’s first in Nimba County, as well as for his party, the Congress for Democratic Change, which is now part of the ruling Coalition for Democratic Change — after failing during two prior elections.

However, the statement by the Grand Bassa Senator who has been a close confidant of Boakai, according to aides, is damaging as it now favors the ruling Coalition of Democratic Change who are looking for a way to negatively market the situation and upstage Boakai's running mate announcement. 

The fears are now a reality as top brass in President George Weah’s coalition are now celebrating the now strained relationship between Boakai and the Grand Bassa County Senator, who remains immensely popular in her constituency, which happens to be the 5th largest county by population in Liberia.

However, Boakai aides have said that a lot of negotiating is taking place to repair the damaged personal and political relationship — so the Senator can grace the announcement ceremony today — to show the public a picture of unity instead of division.

What is however unclear is whether such overtures will work considering how hurt Lawrence, according to aides, is feeling about Boakai’s preference for Koung, which she was made aware of on April 25.

“Fellow Partisans, we wish to inform you that Joseph  Boakai, with whom the Liberty Party and the All-Liberia Party have fostered a partnership for over two years, informed us that he has made up his mind to choose his running mate for the pending elections outside of the two parties,” the Senator said. 

“It has been a period that has seen the Liberian people yearning for a change of leadership in the governance system of our country and expressing their approval for a team they would wish to chart a new course for Liberia.”

“[And] throughout this process, we have always demonstrated that our loyalty to a country is stronger and more significant than our personal ambition, and certainly stronger than our loyalty to individual(s),” Lawrence said. “Consultations have begun, and upon conclusion, the public, our partisans and supporters will be duly informed of our direction for the 2023 elections.”

According to sources, while Lawrence and some executives of the All Liberian Party of business mogul Benoni Urey, are disappointed with Boakai’s decision, the UP standard bearer believes that Koung offers him the best chance of winning the presidency — considering the decisive role Nimba has played in two general elections on who becomes president. 

Another factor sources noted is the recent Supreme Court ruling that recognizes Musa Bility’s leadership of the party, amid accusations from Senator Lawrence that he tampered with the party's constitution. 

Bility however strongly denied accusations and  has warned the National Elections Commission and foreign diplomatic missions that the Senator is no longer the political leader of the Liberty Party. 

The Liberty Party under Bility is a party of the Collaborating Political Parties, which the National Election Commission recognized. The party is part of the Collaborating Political Parties, alongside the Alternative National Congress owned by former Coca-Cola executive Alexander Cummings.

Both Bility and Lawrence have been in a power struggle over the party's leadership for more than a year, resulting in both having issued notices of expulsion to each other. However, with the Supreme Court ruling, the Senator’s position as the party's ‘political leader’ is in jeopardy.

Meanwhile, Koung is the political godson of Senator Prince Johnson who founded the  Movement for Democracy and Reconstruction. He was forced to relinquish his position to Koung after being hit with sanctions by the U.S. Department of Treasury. 

The sanctions were imposed on Johnson due to allegations of “pay-for-play” schemes, where he allegedly received large sums of money from government ministries and organizations for his personal benefit. 

According to the allegations, the involved government ministries and organizations would launder a portion of the funding and return it to the participating individuals.

Johnson is also a former warlord notorious for the murder of President Samuel Doe and is named in the Truth and Reconciliation Commission report for having led a rebel group that committed some of the worst atrocities during the country’s 14 years of civil war. 

If a war crimes court is established in Liberia, Johnson is among those who will face trial for atrocities.