Did Wesseh Win on ‘Sympathy’?

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In the 2009 River Gee senatorial election, Senator Nathaniel Williams of the Liberia Destiny Party (LDP), convincingly defeated Amb. Commany Wesseh of the ruling Unity Party (UP), in his maiden quest for the Senate. That election was the result of the untimely death of Senator Isaac Johnson, 51.

Two years later, Amb. Wesseh, who served several positions in the Unity Party government,  including Director of the National Commission on Small Arms and Minister of State Without portfolio, again contested in the 2011 general and presidential Election, but was bested the second time by Senator Matthew N. Jaye.

Amb. Wesseh was twice appointed Liberian Ambassador, first to the European Union and later to the United Nations, but did not serve in either of those high profile diplomatic posts.

Instead, he patiently bided his time, keenly and intently eyeing the senatorial post in his native River Gee until the time was ripe.

In the second round in 2011, Mr. Wesseh also settled third, closely following former Lone Star footballer, Jonathan ‘Boye Charles’ Sogbai.  But the determined Wesseh did not give up.

Three years later, Amb. Wesseh emerged as the Senator-elect,  accumulating 2,672 votes, which represent 26.1% of the total valid votes in the 2014 Special Senatorial Election.

In the Liberian Senate he replaces Senator Cllr. Frederick Cherue, who resigned honorably from  politics.

Many political commentators, including the Director General of the Liberia News Agency (LINA), Jay Nagbe Sloh, believed that the people of River Gee County voted for Amb. Wesseh “out of sympathy,” to “give him a try.”

Progressive Friends of Wesseh 

But a group calling themselves the Progressive Friends of  Wesseh, are arguing that the election of Amb. Wesseh was never out of sympathy, but merely because of the progressive change in strategy to win the hearts of the people.

The group recalled that in March, they petitioned Amb. Wesseh, to contest the special senatorial election, describing him as “a nationalist and patriotic Liberian who will forever be remembered in the history of the county” for the many contributions he continues to render the people of the county.

The chairman of the group, David Smith, said they had vowed to campaign vigorously as well as “fight democratically”, to ensure that the Ambassador won this time around to ascend to powerful position of Senator for River Gee County.

“We will enter every village, town, clan, chiefdom and district in River Gee County to promote this illustrious son of our time,” Chairman Smith said and his group had pledged.

Undeveloped Wesseh?

Seven months later, another group, named and styled  “Citizens United to Oppose the Election of Ambassador Commany B. Wesseh as Senator of River Gee,” promised to campaign vigorously in and out of the county to ensure that he was not chosen to  represent his county in the Senate.

The group said that following numerous consultations, engagements with and amongst the citizens of River Gee in the county, in Monrovia and abroad, they resolved to organize themselves and make sure that Amb. Wesseh’s senatorial bid was defeated.

The spokesperson of the group, George T. Forpoh, accused Amb. Wesseh of having “succeeded in undermining every good development initiative in the county that was not of his making.”

Fropoh disclosed that for the past eight years, River Gee had been the only county in Liberia that did not have anyone with a key responsibility in Pres. Sirleaf’s Government.

 “He has blocked qualified sons and daughters of the county from Presidential appointments,” Forpoh alleged and was quoted by the Daily Observer.

“Prove us wrong and give us at least few names of Assistant Ministers, Deputy Ministers, or Ministers proper, a place in Foreign Service, or any Commissioner on any of the Commissions. Look in the public corporations and name us any son or daughter from River Gee. We are ready to provide a list of qualified, competent and experienced persons suffering due to Ambassador Wesseh’s evil plan.”

Wesseh Warns Against Sectional Politics

In reaction, Ambassador Wesseh strongly warned citizens of River Gee County against what he called “misguided information and sectional politics” and urged them to focus on the development and unity of the county.

He warned that disunity and sectional politics would undermine much-needed development in the county.

Wesseh made the statement when citizens of River Gee County residing in Monrovia presented to him a kola nut as traditional honor.

He assured them of his continuous fight to prevent the deadly Ebola Virus Disease (EVD) from going to River Gee and to eradicate it entirely from Liberia.

He additionally pledged to promote peace, unity, education, reconciliation and development, adding that, “we want to make sure that we are fair – we have a balance in the leadership of our county.”

Wesseh’s Strategies

Reports gathered said unlike the past, wherein Wesseh saw himself in River Gee as an ‘elite candidate’, prior to this election, the Ambassador put his feet on the ground, most especially during the period of the virus, which claimed the lives of over 2,000 Liberians. His constant visits and sitting with the people drew him closer to the common people. According to many, Wesseh, despite his long years of service in government, holding high profile positions, is now being seen as the son, and not one of those candidates who is only seen in the county during the election time.

Conmany B. Wesseh started his political career while a student of the University of Liberia and a leading member of one of the University of Liberia Student Union’s (ULSU) premier political parties, the Student Unification Party (SUP).

In 1977 he was one of the forces behind the election of Joseph Korto as president of the ULSU.  Korto later traveled to the United States where he earned a PhD in Education and after being defeated as a presidential candidate in 2005, served as President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf’s first Education Minister.

In 1979 Conmany Wesseh was elected president of the Liberian National Student Union (LINSU).  He was serving in that position and also as a staunch member of the Movement for Justice in Africa (MOJA) when the coup d’etat of 1980 occurred.   Conmany Wesseh fell out of favor with the new Liberian leader, Head of State and Master Sergeant Samuel K. Doe, who in June 1981 “banned” Wesseh, daring anyone to communicate with him in any way, shape or form.

When the Daily Observer staff was arrested and imprisoned at the Post Stockade toward the end of June 1981, they found Wesseh there. 

They had been imprisoned because the Observer had published three letters from students of the Monrovia Central High, appealing to Head of State Doe to lift the ban on Mr. Wesseh.  The three letters angered the ruling People’s Redemption Council, which summarily closed down the newspaper for the first of five times, and arrested several of its staff, including the publisher, Kenneth Y. Best, his wife, Mae Gene, the business manager, the only female reporter, Cynthia Greaves, Mr. Best’s secretary, Mrs. Frances Crusoe and Bindu Fahnbulleh, the Observer’s advertising lady.  Observer chief photographer Sando Moore was among those arrested.

Shortly after Conmany’s  release, he fled to Ghana, where the Ghanaian Head of State, Flight Lieutenant Jerry Rawlings appointed Conmany Director of the W.E.B.  DuBois Institute in Accra.

Conmany returned home in the mid-2000s and supported the president bid of Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, to whom he and his wife Medina have been close confidantes.

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