Today, as key presidential candidates face-off with their visions and ideologies for Liberia, Weah will be absent
The election euphoria that descended on Liberia since the National Elections Commission began the process leading to the October 10 presidential and legislative elections moves into gear today as twenty (20) candidates will attempt to convince electorates why they deserve to be considered for the country’s highest office. Organized by the Deepening Democracy Coalition (DDC), the candidates will provide their platforms to convince Liberians that they have the best alternative to lead the country at the end of President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf’s second and final term of office.
The DDC’s first Presidential Debate will be held at the Paynesville City Hall today, August 17, at 1:00 p.m.
The DDC comprises the Press Union of Liberia (PUL), Liberia Media Center (LMC), Center for Transparency and Accountability in Liberia (CENTAL), Center for Media Studies and Peacebuilding (CEMESP), and Liberia Women Media Action Committee (LIWOMAC). The DDC is being supported by the Open Society Initiative for West Africa (OSIWA). The maiden edition of the presidential component will set the leading candidates against each other; and will face-off, telling the Liberian people why each one of them is best suited to replace President Sirleaf. The six participants are: Vice President Joseph Boakai of the Unity Party (UP); Cllr. Charles Brumskine of the Liberty Party (LP); Senator George Weah of the Coalition for Democratic Change (CDC); Benoni Urey of the All Liberian Party (ALP); Dr. J. Mills Jones of the Movement for Economic Empowerment (MOVEE); and Alexander B. Cummings of the Alternative National Congress (ANC).
Liberians do not want the presidency to be gifted to anyone this time around, but must be earned by a candidate who has the vision and the ability to articulate a well-structured platform, along with the sophistication in executing issues that are essential to the people.
Since the 2017 election campaign began, Liberians have been yearning for leaders who are patriotic enough to speak on issues that are essential for the country’s development. Many believe that the country needs a problem-solver, and their first interactions with the candidates at the debate will give them an opportunity to hear what they are sincerely prepared to do for the country and how they plan to do them.
However, the issue is whether the candidates will make themselves available for the debate, as there are confirmed reports that some of the candidates may not be available. For example, there are reports that the two arch-rival parties, UP and CDC are claiming that they are not aware of the debate. CDC secretary general Janga Kowo indicated to newsmen that his party’s standard bearer, Senator George M. Weah, is out of the country and therefore won’t be a part of the event. He said the selection of the 6 parties was based on the findings of an opinion poll.
Atty. Lamii Kpargoi, coordinator of the DDC, said MOVEE standard bearer, Dr. Mills Jones has informed them he will not participate because he is on his political tour in Grand Cape Mount County.
And while UP officials confirmed receipt of an invitation to the debate, they also declined same without even consulting their standard bearer, saying that if George Weah was going to be absent, then VP Boakai would not attend. But VP Boakai told the Daily Observer yesterday that he was never informed about the debate. He however pledged to participate in the debate and dismissed the notion that his attendance would be in any dependent on whether or not Weah is involved.
Compare the candidates
A culture of debate has never existed in Liberia and therefore its absence has deprived citizens the chance to compare candidates’ positions against each other, leaving them no basis upon which to cast their votes.
“For the past 20 years we have had elections and the debate is not only about the election but real issues that affect the country,” Atty. Kpargoi explained. “It is going to provide the Liberian people the clear opportunity as to what, how, and why they want to be president because we will hold them on their commitment.”
The six thematic areas of focus are the economy, agriculture, peace and reconciliation, youth empowerment, security and the rule of law; and the candidates will explain how they will implement their plans.
According to Kpargoi, DDC has written to the Liberia National Police to deploy officers at the debate venue.
The election test: the debate
Tony Wheagar, secretary of the Center for Intellectual Exchange in the Du-Port Road Community told the Daily Observer that the Liberian people need the manifestos of these candidates. “We are hungry for good leadership and good governance, and we need to hear from these people,” he said. “Our problems in this country are not only corruption, bad schools, etc… but the lack of leadership and vision. This is why this election is so important.”
Many Liberians are worried that many of the parties, including the incumbent Unity Party, have not released any serious agenda on how they intend to run the country if elected. Another member of the forum, Emmanuel Jargbo, indicated: “All that they have been saying they are going to do are to build roads, establish a good health care system, fight corruption, strengthen the legal system, establish better agriculture system and sound education system. The people usually do not have the chance to question these candidates at their political rallies, so this is the platform for the people. We are asking them to turn up and answer these questions.”
Jallah Wilson, a sociology student at the University of Liberia, indicated that this is the time for the candidates to face each other and answer questions on how they will accomplish their platforms. “The candidates should face the election test, which is the debate as it is done in the western world. Let us get to know their platforms; not only that, but how well they know about our economic and financial standing, and how they will articulate their views to the international community. It is sad that whenever an election is coming, presidential hopefuls usually boycott it,” he said.