In wake of the run-off election
In September 2016, about 20 opposition political parties signed a communiqué to form a common political collaborative front against the ruling Unity Party (UP) ahead of the October 10, elections.
In the document, dubbed the “Ganta Declaration,” the opposition political parties agreed to collaborate and work together for victory.
As a result, the parties resolved to constitute a joint technical committee (JTC), comprising two representatives from each of the political parties to work out the details for approval by the national executive committees of their respective parties.
Ganta for change
The opposition parties also pledged not to castigate or denigrate one another in any manner. In the event of disagreement among or between any of them or qualm against this collaborative, the matter shall be referred to the JTC for a resolution, they agreed.
Although there was nothing in the Declaration that withheld parties which signed the document from seeking the presidency in their own right. However, they all agreed to collaborate to defeat the UP candidate.
Now that the election is expected to culminate a run-off in early November, many are asking whether the Ganta Declaration will remain in effect, especially given a candidate from the ruling UP is one of the two contenders in the race.
Signatories to the Declaration were five political leaders, including Senator George M. Weah, (CDC) Charles W. Brumskine, Liberty Party (LP) Alexander B. Cummings, Alternative National Congress (ANC), Senator Prince Y. Johnson Movement for Democracy Reconstruction (MDR), and Benoni W. Urey, All Liberian Party (ALP), while the rest of the signatories were ranking officials of other political parties whose standard bearers were not present. The five political leaders who signed the Ganta Declaration took the first, third; fourth, fifth and sixth places (respectively) in the October 10 elections. Many believe that if they adhere fully to the declaration, the UP would have no chance against them.
Despite the existence of the Ganta Declaration, three parties actually proceeded to form their own collaborative, known as the Coalition for Democratic Change, comprising the Congress for Democratic Change (CDC), the National People’s Party (NPP) and the Liberian People Democracy Party (LPDP). Since October 10, the United People’s Party (UPP) is the only political party that has pronounced its support to the CDC (Coalition).
Interestingly, the other opposition parties remain silent on the main thrust of the Declaration and have not come forward to provide support to the CDC.
Farmington for peace
There are also reports that some of the parties have begun negotiations with the ruling UP and many observers are worried that if some of the opposition parties could ignore the central agreement of the Ganta Declaration, it is possible they could also negate their commitments to the Farmington River Declaration, where all parties pledged to remain peaceful and non-violent in the wake of the elections results.
The Ganta Declaration aims at forming a united political front against the ruling UP.
So the question on the lips of many people is: “Now that one of signatories, George Weah, is in the race with their main opponent, Vice President Joseph Boakai of the UP, will they remain committed to the communiqué they signed over a year ago?”
Since the signing of the declaration, the host and organizer of the Ganta meeting, Sen. Prince Y. Johnson, has been sending mixed messages about who Liberians should support in the run-off election. Recently he said in an interview on BBC that George Weah would not be a good president of Liberia. “If George Weah becomes President of Liberia, there will be a civil response,” he said, but dodged any request to explain what he meant by this. Meanwhile, he is also on record as saying that the other top presidential contender “Joseph Nyumah Boakai has nothing good to offer Liberia.”
Words of commitment
At the Ganta meeting, Sen. Johnson told his colleagues that, “in politics it takes only a few patriots, nationalists and visionaries to set into motion the platform of change for the transformation that Liberia needs and so by the positive manifestation of our conduct and action, many prodigies would be inspired to maintain, sustain and perpetuate our dream and build upon the foundation established by us.”
He added, “For too long 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 other.”
Mr. Weah in his statement at the occasion said the CDC has been speaking against the vices in the government for the last ten years, pointing out that no opposition party had responded to their call. He then urged his fellow political leaders to put aside their egos and think about Liberia.
“Let’s build trust; it is important we work together. We must work to make sure our people enjoy the peace they have been yearning for,” he said.
Mr. Urey also explained that the importance of the opposition is not just during an election, but before the election, when they can speak against ills in the Liberian society.
He spoke about the high mortality rate in the country, due to the government’s failure to provide the necessary health care for 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.
Cllr. Bruskine said he “will not denigrate the office to which I aspire,” adding that, Liberty Party has criticized President Sirleaf and Vice President Boakai more than any other opposition political party in Liberia.
Every speaker at the Ganta meeting touted “Liberia first” messages and stressed on the failures of the UP led Government to provide the needs of the citizens, traumatized by the war, despite the numerous natural resources the country possesses and the billions of dollars in aid provided by donors.
One of the speakers at the declaration explained that, during the 1997 election, a similar coalition was formulated and a standard bearer was nominated at the Unity Conference Center. However, as soon some of the signatories came out, they broke away and the NPP led by Charles Taylor became victorious.
“We are all winners and champions, but this coalition can be hard, because nobody wants to become Chief Justice, ambassador or any high position. Everybody wants to become president because the president has too much power,” said Michael George of the UPP.
“We need a common ground that will carry every one of us and benefit us all,” said a chairman, representing one of the political parties.
The rest of the political parties that formed part of the Ganta Declaration included the Movement for Economic Empowerment (MOVEE), the National Patriotic Party (NPP), United People’s Party (UPP), New Liberia Party (NLP), Vision for Liberia Transformation (VOLT), Movement for Progressive Change (MPC), Union of Liberia Democrats (ULD), Victory for Change (VC), All Liberia Coalition Party (ALCOP) and the Liberian National Union (LINU). They were represented by their national chairpersons.