Twenty opposition political parties on September 17 signed a communiqué in Ganta, Nimba County, to form a collaborative front against the ruling Unity Party (UP) for the 2017 legislative and presidential elections.
In the document, known as the “Ganta Declaration,” the opposition political parties agreed to work together to achieve victory in 2017.
They also resolved to constitute a joint technical committee (JTC) comprising two representatives from each party to work out the details for approval by the national executive committee of their respective political parties.
The JTC is expected to report within 60 days as from the date the declaration was signed in Ganta, Nimba County.
As part of the agreement, the parties made a solemn pledge not to castigate or denigrate one another in any manner and, in the event of disagreement, the matter would be referred to the JTC for redress.
The “Ganta Declaration” also welcomed and encouraged other opposition political parties, who were not signatories to the agreement, to join and urged them to make their intentions known through letters of intent to the JTC.
The occasion was described by many present as one of the best in the political history of Liberia. All the opposition political parties attending the ceremony made an opening statement prior to affixing their signatures to the “Ganta Declaration.”
There were five key opposition political party leaders in attendance, including the host and organizer, Senator Prince Y. Johnson (Movement for Democracy and Reconstruction); Benoni Urey (All Liberian Party); Alex Cummings (Alternative National Congress); Senator George M.
Weah (Congress for Democratic Change); and Cllr. Charles Walker Bruskime (Liberty Party).
The rest of the political parties that formed part of the agreement included Movement for Economic Empowerment; The National Patriotic Party; United People’s Party; New Liberia Party; Vision for Liberia’s Transformation; Movement for Progressive Change; Union of Liberia
Democrats; Victory for Change; All Liberia Coalition Party; and the Liberian National Union. They were represented by their respective national chairmen.
The Liberian People’s Democracy Party (LPDP) of Speaker Alex Tyler did not attend the Ganta meeting, as the party marked its own milestone agreement with the new membership of former Liberian Ambassador to Ecowas, Dr. Toga G. McIntosh.
Party of interests
Cordial political relations aside, it is still too early to tell how the Ganta Declaration will shape collaborations going forward. The conglomeration of all 20 constituentcies is enticing, yet essential, to achieve victory against the incumbent ruling party, UP. However, the question of choosing the front-running candidates from among the 20 political leaders is what many will be expecting to see. Who will they be, and how will they be chosen? And when the choice is made, will the partnership still hold? What will the others get?
Some political leaders, including Cummings, have said that while they embrace partnership, they will not accept a lesser role than the presidential post. Others, like Urey, said they don’t have to become President of Liberia in order to realize the change they want to see; and
express a willingness to possibly support another candidate as long as the goal is to unseat the UP. And then, there are the veterans: Cllr. Brumskine and Sen. Weah, who may be looking for a third-time-charm after two previously unsuccessful presidential bids. No doubt, some will settle for cabinet other government positions in exchange for their collaboration.
Therefore the common interest of the 20 or more parties, in opposing the incumbency of the UP, could risk being more polarized by a number of individual interests. It will be very interesting to see how many of the 20 return to the table after the agreed 60 days.
Patriots, nationalists, visionaries
In his opening statement, Senator Prince Johnson told his colleagues that in politics, “it takes only a few patriots, nationalists and visionaries to set into motion the platform for change and the transformation Liberia needs and that, by the positive manifestation of our conduct, many prodigies would be inspired to maintain and sustain our dream and build upon the foundation established by us.
“For too long,” Senator Johnson continued, “we have been divided on account of entrenched hate and one’s perception that he belongs to a superior class, as such, he deserves better than the others.”
Senator George Weah, in his opening statement, said the CDC has been speaking against the vices in government for the last ten years, but that no opposition party adhered to their call. He therefore urged fellow political leaders to put aside their egos and think about the country. “Let us build trust,” he said. “It is important we work together. We must work to make sure our people enjoy the peace they have been yearning for.”
For Urey, he explained that for the opposition, 2017 is not just about an election, but also about speaking against ills in the society.
He spoke about the high rate of deaths in the country owing to the government’s failure to provide for the necessary needs of the citizens, and the suppression of press freedom.
“We should speak for free and fair election, because I am afraid of what I have seen recently,” he said.
Although he did not go into detail, his statement was welcomed by a round of applause from the floor.
Cllr. Bruskime said he will not denigrate the office to which he aspires, adding that Liberty Party has criticized the Sireaf-Boakai administration more than any other opposition political party.
Every speaker at the ceremony put Liberia first in their opening statement and stressed on the failures of the UP-led government to provide for the needs of the citizens traumatized by the war, despite the numerous resources the country has and the billions of dollars provided by donors.
The meeting ended peacefully, despite a heated closed door discussion among the politicians; with the 20 opposition political parties invited signing the declaration and agreeing to collaborate for victory in the ensuring 2017 elections.