The President of Liberia and self-proclaimed “Feminist-in-Chief”, George Manneh Weah, has nominated two women to chair and co-chair the National Elections Commission (NEC).
At the helm of the electoral body, President Weah on Monday, June 15, nominated Mrs. Davidetta Browne Lansanah and Cllr. Teplah Reeves as Chairperson and co-Chairperson, respectively.
Prior to her preferment, Mrs. Browne Lansanah was nominated, confirmed, appointed and commissioned co-chairperson of the Electoral Body. She was subsequently appointed Acting Chair of the Commission after the Liberian Leader withdrew the nomination of the then Chairman-designate, Cllr. Ndubusi Nwabudike.
The NEC Chairperson-designate will replace Cllr. Jerome Korkoryah whose tenure expired in March of this year.
According to her profile on the NEC website, Commissioner Browne-Lansanah hails from Maryland County. She holds double Bachelor’s Degrees in Public Administration and Political Science from the University of Liberia, as well as a Masters of Public Administration Degree in Public Sector Management at the Cuttington University Graduate School. She is a veteran Broadcast Journalist and has worked at the Liberia Broadcasting System (LBS), Star Radio and the Talking Drum Studio. She worked for many years as National Communications Officer with the United Nations and as Associate Gender Officer with United Nations Mission in Liberia (UNMIL).
Prior to her elevated nomination, Commissioner Browne Lansanah has had oversight responsibilities of the National Social Democratic Party of Liberia (NSDPL), Grassroot Democratic Party of Liberia (GDPL), Republican Party (RP), National Vision Party of Liberia (NATVIPOL), True Whig Party (TWP) and the Liberia National Union (LINU). For programs, she exercises oversight of Gender, Civic/Voter Education and Public Information.
To replace the elevated Commissioner Browne-Lansanah, President Weah has nominated Cllr. Teplah Reeves, who will also serve a as Co-chairperson of NEC.
Cllr. Reeves is known to be a staunch supporter of the ruling party, the Congress for Demoratic Change.
Cllr. Reeves earned her first law degree at the Louis Arthur Grimes School of Law, University of Liberia, and later graduated from Georgetown University Law Center, where she earned her LLM in Comparative Law. She also holds a Bachelor of Arts (B.A.) in Business from the University of Liberia and an Associate of Arts Degree (AA) in International Relations and Development from the Institute of Social Studies in The Hague, The Netherlands.
Cllr. Reeves is a member of several professional bodies, including the Liberia National Bar Association (LNBA), Women NGO Secretariat of Liberia (WONGOSOL), as well as the Association of Female Lawyers of Liberia (AFELL), of which she is president emeritus. She currently coordinates activities and operations of a professional legal group, “Women in Law and Development (Wildaf-Liberia)” and was appointed by President Weah to serve as acting Chairperson of the Board of Commissioners of the Public Procurement and Concessions Commissions (PPCC), after the release of her predecessor, James Dobor Jallah.
Cllr. Reeves, is known to be a staunch member of the Congress for Democratic Change (CDC) and the ruling Coalition. She’s a member of the Party’s Gold Club — a prestigious and professional group of people within the CDC. The Gold Club is the first non-electoral Auxiliary of the party founded in 2013.
The nominations, made on Monday, 15 June, 2020, are subject to confirmation by the Liberian Senate where applicable.
Integrity before Gender
To have such a combination, where two women were nominated to the helm of Liberia’s national electoral body, Lansanah’s and Reeves’ nominations may be the first in recent memory. In the past, former Chief Justice of the Republic of Liberia, Cllr. Frances Johnson Morris (now Allison) served as chairperson of the NEC and presided over the historic 2005 presidential and general elections in which the Ellen Johnson Sirleaf was elected President of Liberia, the country’s and the continent’s first female democratically elected president. Nominated to the post by Transitional Chairman Charles Gyude Bryant, Cllr. Johnson Morris [Allison] may have been the first woman to be Chair-proper of the NEC.
Now the NEC has a total of four commissioners who are women — the other two being Cllr. Jeanette A. Ebba-Davidson and Josephine Kou Gaye — and one male commissioner, Floyd Sayor.
“To be Chair of the NEC is a very sensitive position,” Cllr. Allison told the Daily Observer in a brief telephone interview. “Regardless of whether it is a man or woman, the nominee has to be a person of integrity and independent-minded, someone who cannot be swayed easily.”
Ruling Party’s Interest?
The 2017 Representative and Presidential Elections, which ushered the George Weah administration to power, was characterized by long, drawn-out litigations due to suspected electoral fraud and irregularities. This was followed by the attempt of President Weah to install as NEC chairman a Nigerian citizen who faked his Liberian naturalization papers, opposition leaders and sympathizers are convinced that the the President’s appointments at the NEC aim to protect the ruling party’s interest in the coming elections.
During the Senate confirmation hearings over the nomination of Nwabudike, one of two other commissioners-designate were approved — Floyd Sayor, who was in charge of the NEC data center and the controversial voters roll, which the Supreme Court ordered to be cleaned up, though there is no evidence that the order was acted upon.