Condé Warns Ellen to “Stay Above the Fray”

“We have asked our sister to stay above the fray,” said AU Chair and President of the Republic of Guinea, Alpha Condé (standing), referring to President of Liberia, Ellen Johnson Sirleaf (center). Far left: ECOWAS Chairman and President of the Republic of Togo, Faure Gnassingbé. (Photo: Nick N. Seebeh)

By William Q. Harmon and David S. Menjor

Guinean President, Alpha Conde in his capacity as Chairman of the African Union (AU) has warned President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf to play a neutral role that would bring credibility and trustworthiness to the ongoing electoral process so as to pave the way for a smooth transition of her administration.

At the end of a political conference held in Monrovia last Wednesday, when he and ECOWAS Chairman Faure Gnassingbe, President of Togo, interacted with stakeholders about the country’s ongoing political stalemate, President Conde said he has asked President Sirleaf to stay above the fray — not to get involved with the current electoral contention.

“We have asked our sister to stay above the fray,” Conde said.

The Guinean President said Africa and the sub-region are concerned about what is going on in the aftermath of the elections in Liberia, “we found it necessary that it was our duty to identify with our brothers and sisters in Liberia; listen to them; analyze the situation, and so we consulted with the diplomatic corps, the election commission, the supreme court and the inter-religious council.”

Conde said from the discussions, all stakeholders involved in the electoral process acknowledged that there were irregularities, adding, “everybody is aware that there were some mishaps at the polls.”

President Sirleaf, who spoke earlier was much concerned about the transition being on course and that the legal formalities should be concluded in time for her to turn over to a successor and retire peacefully. She reminded political leaders around the table of their commitment to the Farmington Declaration in the presence of West African leaders.

She called on stakeholders to remain peaceful, and respect the election laws of Liberia to give the process a chance to go on peacefully and successfully. She then challenged those dissatisfied with the process to go about their complaint in a peaceful manner, but pleaded that the run-off election be allowed to continue within the constitutional time-frame.

The meeting itself bore the semblance of peace talks — which Liberia is no stranger to — a cease-fire from the “fray”, being the war of words or skirmishes of speech (to put it mildly), between the two opposing political interests following the October 10 polls.

But the fray has been going on for more than a year, ever since the Unity Party saw reason to believe that their standard bearer emeritus, President Sirleaf, was fielding other political parties to support. At first the President openly denied the claims, but as the distance between her and the UP became more telling, she seldom spoke, being very strategic when she did, concerning her relationship with the party and the issue of succession.

Minister Werner.jpg
Education Minister George K. Werner

Meanwhile, amid her verbal silence, her education Minister, George K. Werner, who had suddenly endorsed the Coalition for Democratic Change (CDC), began a series of repulsive remarks on social media directed against certain political opponents of the CDC. One of the minister’s more vulgar remarks reached the President’s attention and, according to her, seeing that it appeared to “undermine the gains [her administration has] made so far,” she chided and urged him to desist and issue a public apology. Most of Werner’s remarks were targeted at Vice President Joseph N. Boakai, the UP standard bearer. Werner later issued a general apology on his Facebook page and has remained at bay. Some thought that the President’s response to Werner’s rants were too lenient, while others felt that the minister’s apology was sufficient.

But things took a sharp turn on the President’s birthday, Sunday, October 29th, when the UP, along with two other opposition parties — Liberty Party (LP) and All Liberian Party (ALP) –released a scathing statement claiming that the elections were “characterized by massive systematic irregularities and fraud.” They added that President Sirleaf’s meeting with election magistrates prior to the October 10 polls “clearly amounted to interference with the electoral process and has no legal basis or justification whatsoever.”

The next day, the Executive Mansion press secretary, Jerolinmek M. Piah, issued a matching response, calling the President’s accusers “agent provocateurs to undermine Liberia’s democratic process.” He also said the allegations against the President “fall in the category of hate speech and inciting language which should be condemned and disavowed by all peace-loving Liberians.” He further went on to deny her interference in the country’s political process.

It was following the Executive Mansion’s response that the AU and ECOWAS Chairmen came to Liberia to meet with key political stakeholders, especially presidential candidates and leaders of political parties.  By then, LP had already lodged their formal complaint and submitted their evidences of electoral fraud to the NEC, and also filed a request for a writ of prohibition at the Supreme Court to freeze plans for the for the Nov. 7 run-off election until the electoral body could examine the merit of LP’s claims. A stay order had already been served on the NEC by then.

Cllr. Charles Walker Brumskine, standard bearer, Liberty Party

Immediately following the meeting with the AU and ECOWAS Chairmen, LP standard bearer Cllr. Charles Brumskine, in an interview with the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC), described some of the evidence his party had submitted to the NEC.

In response, at a press conference on Friday, Nov. 3, Information Minister Eugene Nagbe rejected Cllr. Brumskine’s claims especially the one LP leader claimed that Madam Sirleaf protested the outcome of the 1985 elections by bringing war upon Liberia and its people.

“Cllr. Brumskine needs to be reminded or made aware that making baseless and reckless accusations about a fair and transparent process that was witnessed by several party agents, local and international actors and acclaimed to be credible, is a demonstration of desperation and dishonesty which this country does not deserve,” Nagbe said.

He said the government believes that “this conduct by Cllr. Brumskine is simply the rants of a sore and selfish loser, who is so blinded by ego and arrogance that, even after 12 years of rejection by the voters, he is unable to accept that he is not the presidential choice of the Liberian people.”

Nagbe added: “Brumskine whose position as a third placer was never changed over three recent electoral cycles, has always complained about the outcome of the election process since 2005 when he contested and dismally performed.” He added that it is unprofessional for Cllr. Brumskine to be discussing issues in the media space, that are already the jurisdiction of the court.

Until the legal issues in the electoral process have been addressed, either at the level of the NEC or the Supreme Court, the fray is expected to persist, unrelenting on both sides, even with a certain measure of comic relief. Regardless, the depth of the President’s alleged involvement therein is perceived to be less in word and more in her deeds, whatever they may be.


  1. Why would Pres. Conde issue a warning to our President? Has she (Madam Sirleaf) compromised her role as an elderly stateswoman? I just hope our “Legendary” leader, Madam Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf is taking note, and governing herself accordingly. Madam President, please do not undermine the legacy you have established. We regard you highly, because of the gains you’ve made. Please do not allow your emotions to lead you in wrong direction.

  2. Alpha Conde’s warning to EJS must be taken seriously. “Stay above the fray and do not take sides”, is the advice that the chairman of the AU brought to EJS from neighboring Guinea.

    Somehow, Johnson-Sirleaf is maintaining a kind of a low profle in this ongoing saga of voter fraud, interim leadership and a refusal to endorse her VP, Mr. Boakai. Johnson-Sirleaf is surprisingly out of the loop. It seems that all she wishes for is a quick exit out of the presidency come January, 2018.

    I am not surprised that she did not endorse her VP, Mr. Boakai. I am not suggesting that it was the right course of action. In fact, I sincerely believe that she was dead wrong for not endorsing her most loyal supporter.
    When Johnson-Sirleaf’s son ran against Opong Weah, her endorsement, if any, was lukewarm. So, ulimately, it’s a trademark of hers to withdraw from endorsements. Her credibility is at stake!

    On the other hand, the Conde warning or advice if you will, is different, but yet serious. If she is to leave behind a credible legacy, Liberia must be left in a condition of stability. Finally, Johnson-Sirleaf must do all that’s possible to exonerate herself from all entanglements. As an example, consider the issue of her endorsement of the opposition party. The issue is whether she actually endorsed the opposition party. Well, that’s exactly my point!
    If it’s all fake news or a condemnation by her political “frienemies”, the Liberian people ought to to know. If she remains quiet on an important issue as the foregoing accusation, she will be seen as being below the fray. Her legacy will be riddled with question marks and Conde’s advice will be seen as useless.

  3. I believe, vast majority of Liberia’s People are mature enough, to have a clear/good understanding. Why don’t we get it? Lady Sirleaf made it clear to VP, J.Nyumah Boikai. “We are in it together. When I leave we leave together.” Perhaps, we and the VP took it as a joke. Hey! The Liberian People and the VP are facing realities. Most importantly, when Lady Sirleaf made it clear in a recent interview; “I(she) believe it’s time for a new generation, to take over Liberia’s LEADERSHIP”. I some how knew for sure. J Nyumah Boikai’s presidential ambitions were doomed. To the best of my elementary undrerstaning of POLITICAL SCIENCE, I don’t believe the President’s comments were supportive of her loyal Vice President.You don’t have to be a “Political Scientist, to figure out. Imagine! Just Imagine!! These are all opened secrets.

  4. It’s been said several times that Johnson-Sirleaf did not endorse her son when he ran against Weah. This time around, I am not surprised that she did not bother to endorse her VP Mr. Boakai, who stood by her side for 12 odd years. In fairness to EJS, she attempted an endorsement during the heat of the recent campaign. Upon her return from a United Nations conference in New York, EJS said that younger people should be given an opportunity to serve in leadership positions. That was a mysterious endorsement! But it blew up in her face big time. For one thing, Johnson-Sirleaf is 78 years of age and VP Boakai is 6 years her junior. If strongly felt that way, why didn’t she resign earlier? Right?

    Why won’t a leader endorse his or her assistant? Pres. Ronald Reagan endorsed George Bush sr. Pres. Clinton endorsed Al Gore. Pres. Obama would definitely have endorsed Joe Biden if the latter had planned to run for the presidency.

    What’s the problem? Is EJS running away from her own policies? Is UP dead after she steps down? The only way to keep hope alive for her party’s long-term existence would have been a full-scale endorsement of VP Boakai. But instead of endorsing Boakai, she endorsed the younger leaders of Africa, probably including Weah. Goodness!!!

    Africa is in a mess!
    I suppose younger aspiring leaders like Snyder, Freeman, Bah, Tarlue and others will clean us up in Liberia.

  5. Liberia democracy is at a crossroad of self destruction if is true that our dear sitting president has a hand in the political menuavering and irregularities taking place in the nation’s electoral process. It is a shame and disgrace for the sitting president to ignore the teachings of the Liberian constitution which prohibits any interference in the change of political power in the country when their term of office is over. If these allegations are true then she is bricking the law. The president must steadfastly maintain and remain neutral in this transitional period and not be the one to stir up political confrontation. Liberia must not forget the past but learn from it and actions like these by our president are meant to breed dictatorial government and endanger the future of the nation. Democracy cannot be taken for granted by anyone no matter how powerful or influential one may be we are all equal under the law. Let the Liberian superim count do it’s job by cleaning up all the alleged irregularities and put forth a date for the runoff.

  6. What a shame!!!! Liberians,!!!we can’t manage ourselves. We failed the biggest test to our democracy. Africa’s oldest independent republic.

  7. From the arch of most comments on this topic, President Conde’s “stay above the fray” advice elevates failure to have endorsed or not to endorse VP Boakai above the supposed rationale for our ongoing national imbroglio: “Massive fraud” during the presidential election.

    It is telling, because, in spite of the posturing of Counselor Brumskine, evidence of intent to rig the October 10 elections on behalf of the CDC coalition won’t be forthcoming to have warranted postponing the run – off.

    The silver lining though is that UP has been self – correcting itself. First, the party’s leadership acknowledged that the campaign was lackluster thus brought in Rep. Edwin Snow et al to galvanize the base, and, most importantly, second, LP, ALP and ANC have all endorsed UP anticipating a run – off. We applaud these moves in the interest of a more competitive future run – off, for, undoubtedly, had November 7 gone ahead as scheduled UP would’ve been devastatingly defeated.

    Lastly, once again, what shouldn’t be forgotten in all the temper tantrums is that elections are a means to an end: Effective, responsive, accountable governance to deliver timely on promises. And sadly the Liberian people have not even seen any practicable political platform from any of the would – be president yet, though they sense a willingness in the politicians to go to war, if need be, t

  8. To continue, these elections are about the people not ambitions of political leaders. And lest we forget using the past as an excuse to exclude other citizens from political participation or governance is fraught with danger. We can’t reconcile by grudgingly tolerating each other; our Einsteins & Humpty Dumpties must perforce work together for a happier Mama Liberia.


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