Two-day protest at NEC headquarters joins the clamor for NEC chairman’s resignation
For two days running, a group of protesters, predominantly women, led by renowned Liberian songstress Miatta Fahnbulleh, have gathered near the headquarters of the National Election Elections Commission (NEC) demanding the resignation of its chairman, Jerome George Korkoya, ahead of the proposed December 26 runoff election.
But, will Korkoya go?
The answer to this hypothetical question remains a challenge not only for the protesters but for many other Liberians including President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf who hired Korkoya to preside over one of the nation’s foremost integrity institutions.
As was expected, the Police led by Deputy Inspector General for Operations, Col. Abraham Kromah, made a strong show of force apparently to deter the protesters from blocking entrances to the NEC headquarters as they had done on the previous day.
Col. Kromah informed the group that according to their mandate no one or group(s) is allowed to stage a demonstration at the NEC headquarters, most especially when the demonstration threatens to hamper the free movement of people and the operations of the Commission.
But rather than using force to disperse the protesters, the Police opted to engage in dialogue to persuade them to relocate from the front entrance of the Commission on 9th Street to 10th, almost directly in front of a local Chinese owned hotel where they could continue to freely exercise their right of peaceful assembly. The protesters complied although with great reluctance.
Addressing the media after their relocation, the group’s coordinator, Miatta Fahnbulleh, reading from a prepared text, said Korkoya must resign before the runoff election is held: “Standing up for ‘Mama Liberia,’ we the women of Liberia, represented by diverse groups across party, religious and political affiliations, being concerned about the peace and security of our country, especially a conducive environment in which Liberians can elect their president and vice president without any fear or favor, we call on Her Excellency Mrs. Ellen Johnson Sirleaf to ensure the removal of Jerome Korkoya as chairman of the National Elections Commission.”
Madam Fahnbulleh said the full implementation by the NEC of the Supreme Court’s eight-count mandate before the runoff election is a critical concern motivating her group’s protest before the Commission’s headquarters.
“We believe that the failure of the NEC to adhere to our call will not only taint the hard-earned peace we fought for, the legacy of President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf for being the first female president of Liberia and Africa, but will also create an insecure atmosphere and expose us, our children and families to unnecessary fear and instability,” she said.
The group displayed placards with slogans such as “NEC DA NA YOUR PA FARM,” “This Election is our future,” “Korkoya must go,” “Korkoya, Liberian people don’t trust you,” “Korkoya must resign,” “Ellen, save our country from Korkoya,” “Korkoya you are not fair,” “Go Now Korkoya,” “Korkoya lacks credibility” and “Go Korkoya Go,” among others.
The protesters expressed their preparedness to defy all odds and continue to press for Korkoya’s removal to allow the NEC to proceed with the implementation of the Supreme Court’s mandate without further problems.
A young woman who appeared so agitated by Korkoya hanging on at the NEC, said her motivation to join the protest was because of people having multiple voter cards. “My quest is that Jerome Korkoya must resign. He has violated the Liberian Constitution which says each voter is entitled to one voting card, but to the contrary, people were caught having multiple voting cards. How can one man have five voting cards and think that it is not a threat to democracy? We want Korkoya to go,” Mardea David contended.
She further warned that if Korkoya does not heed to their peaceful protest, they will use other means to have their objective accomplished. Although she did not say what other means will be used, Ms. David noted that Korkoya should not underestimate them. “Let him know that President Sirleaf will not always protect him. He will not preside over our runoff election. He must go,” she insisted.
When contacted for reaction to the protesters’ demand, the NEC Director of Communications, Henry Flomo, said it is the right of the people to assemble and make demands, including the resignation of a public official, but it is also the right of the official to stay put when all indications prove that he or she has not violated any law.
“I think the chairman is still functioning within the confines of the law. He has the right to stay on because the protesters’ demand is yet to prove anything that warrants his resignation,” Flomo said.