In a nationwide address, worried but weary, President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf declared our democracy was “under assault.” Without naming the assaulter(s), events after the October 10, 2017 general and presidential elections could lead to clues about who the presumed ‘assaulters’ are in our current political adventure. Our president is good at words. Her speech writers find words and describe her failures and intentions.
In one of her annual messages, she succumbed to corruption when she described it as a “vampire” – a strong indication of a lost fight and struggle. So, it was no surprise when “assault” was introduced as perhaps the last concept ordered from her vocabulary bank depicting an end to an era in Liberia’s history when our first female president’s curtain rolls away to give way for her departure.
Following the October 10, 2017 general elections and the announcement of results, aggrieved parties launched a formal complaint alleging gross irregularities, cheating, fraud and manipulation of the polls. Proponents of the lawsuits argued that the result did/do not reflect the true mandate and will of the Liberian people. The ALP, LP, ANC and UP have all launched what is called a legal challenge to the National Elections Commission (NEC) and it’s alleged fraudulent process.
The development was first greeted with mixed feelings. Some doubted and others believed, as usual, the parties were seeking relevance at the expense of the electoral process. Things changed dramatically when the Supreme Court stood up tall with the laws in their hands (petition for stay order prayed for by LP and others) and ordered the NEC to stay all proceedings of the runoff and adjudicate complaints brought before it (NEC) by aggrieved parties. Fortunately though, the UP – which came second to Weah’s CDC, has also now instituted a strong legal challenge to the process. NEC is embattled from all sides. As it is expected, the complication regarding the whole process is precious “time.” The embarrassing national political nightmare is: time to facilitate the expeditious adjudication of complaints before NEC, and time to accommodate the constitutional framework regarding the smooth transition and transfer of power.
On the other hand, the National Elections Commission is only a conduit through which these cases are transitioning to the Supreme Court for final determination. Confronted with such complex task of processing all complaints through its administrative and quasi-judicious system, and knowing that it will not shoot itself (NEC) in the legs, it is first fair enough that time, and sufficient time, will be wasted at NEC and at the expense of the transitional process. In fact as these cases progress, there will be back and forth movements from the high court and back to the NEC, vice versa, as was the case with the Liberty Party. Unity Party might soon proceed to the Supreme Court; ALP might be on its way already. Vision for Liberia Transformation is the latest player preparing to join on board. This is one phase of the political process!
On the other hand, the actions of the parties open a chapter in the political sojourn of Liberia. All, including CDC, agreed to revert to the legal recourse rather than violence as enshrined in the Ganta and Farmington River Declaration. Never before had our court system become as germane to our political system as it has been democratically subjected to now. This is a new day in our history. Historians will look at this era as a moment of renaissance or revival of the true meaning and essence of the rule of law in enhancing and entrenching democracy in Liberia.
The judicial system works at its own pace on the basis of proceedings before it. The system may not be inclined to yield to the political process to short circuit cases before it. When these cases will be disposed of might not be easily predictable, hence our spiral transition. Worst of it, the National Traditional Council, The Liberia Council of Churches, among others, MUST NOT, by any form of intervention, subvert the country’s quest in using the judicial process to remedy ills in the Oct. 10 polls. Discontent pushed underground overtime can turn into a volcano ready for eruption!
The games that President Sirleaf plays
In 2011, following a meeting in Accra, Ghana, between Amb. Weah and Cllr. Brumskine, it was overtly announced in Monrovia that both have agreed to feature on the ballot as running mates. The news about this deal had not circulated well in Monrovia, when hardliners within the CDC appeared on local radio stations including the Truth Breakfast Show and immediately launched a rebuking public relations against the would-be ticket. That dream died naturally! Monies covertly exchanged hands according to undeniable sources. Later, there were bitter exchanges between forces in the CDC and LP.
Over time in her presidency, Ellen Johnson Sirleaf has not abated her usual fight against perceived opponents and individual(s) who challenge her. To date, no one can clearly say who or what killed Harry Greaves, once a close ally. To say the least, if the government security system and judiciary had not exhausted this case well, one would anticipate that the fraternal bounds between President Sirleaf and Greaves would provoke President Sirleaf’s revenge and intervention on his behalf. Regrettably, this is not the case and fundamental questions still remain unanswered!
President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf fought former House Speaker Tyler and party chairman Varney Sherman, under the canopy of “fighting corruption.” What were their crimes? Cllr. Sherman, one time Independence Day orator, had criticized the president for her failure to fight corruption. Cllr. Sherman has slammed the government as excessively corrupt. Tyler on the other hand, has become ambitious and would not listen to Ellen and was determined to use his legislative authority in resisting any attempt to quench his (Tyler’s) quest for power.
Amb. Weah on the other hand, was a great instrument that President Sirleaf used to remove Tyler from power. In that episode, Weah on a visit in Accra, Ghana had requested all CDC Representatives to back off from supporting Tyler.
In January 2014, there was also a fierce battle between Robert Sirleaf and Amb. Weah. That campaign for the Senate’s seat of Montserrado County was very nasty. It was widely believed that Robert Sirleaf had paid a huge amount to Weah to back off, but that the CDC hierarchy had urged Weah to participate in the election. Supporters had threatened to carry on arson attacks on Weah’s properties if he refused to contest in the election. Both Weah and Robert have been bitter enemies!
Robert Sirleaf has bankrupted NOCAL and when there was public outcry, President Sirleaf, his biological mother, absorbed the crime by taking full responsibility even though she did not replenish the 80 or so million United States dollars that Liberia lost as a direct result of Robert Sirleaf’s action. What anxiously awaits Robert Sirleaf in the United States is the “foreign corruption act” which covers his status.
In the same 2014, President Sirleaf took on Gbarpolu County Senior Senator J.S.B. Theodore Momo, Jr., who had been a longtime ally, too. The fallout was as a result of Senator Momo refusing to step aside to allow Robert Sirleaf to contest the Senate seat in Gbarpolu County, the home county of Robert Sirleaf’s late father.
On June 28, 2014, partisans of the ruling Unity Party gathered in Bopolu City to conduct the party primaries in an effort to elect their choice to contest the 2014 special senatorial election. That process was presided over in Bopolu City by Gender Minister Julia Duncan Cassell. The delegates have signed a declaration of endorsement in favor of Sen. Momo. Following the brief debate among the three candidates, and while party chairman William She was in the process of presenting the endorsement, President Sirleaf’s strange and unprecedented phone call to the presiding officer (Gender Minister Julia Duncan Cassell) interrupted the process and undemocratically instructed a halt to the proceedings. The candidates were then instructed to proceed to the president for consultation. After the Sunday meeting at President Sirleaf’s Fishmarket home, Senator J.S.B. Theodore Momo, Jr. penned the below statement announcing his departure from the Party led by his onetime best friend or Mother.
”In our national political evolution in our county, we have come to the realization that actual institutionalization of the tenants of democracy remains a huge challenge in our political parties as well as the national body politic. Patronage power still continues to roam heavily over people’s power and the power of rules and laws around which parties revolve. But as we move into the future, we are confident that our democracy, especially at party level will become rewarding and meaningful when individuals can stand up to upholding strong laws and policies that bear the fruit of fair play, transparency and the protection of people’s and group’s right first at party level and then at state level.
Today marks an essential turning point in my life. In our political sojourn, I have joined and known one party. I joined the Unity Party when there was no faith or hope in sight that it certainly would evolve as a ruling party. Following the 1997 election we, group of faithful young people, mounted sufficient courage and determination and harness our energy and knowledge and began rebuilding a political party from grassroots to a totally inclusive institution that would serve as a beacon of hope and cherished values for all. Our eyes were fixed on the fewer role models around to inspire us into a future of great leaders. We were the guys that bought and shared the kola nut, bitter kola, BBC – bread butter and coke, haitie with raw peanut and walked from pole to pole to get home and began the same assignment the next day. But we were strong and faithful to the cause and we dare not to betray it. So little by little, people saw faith and hope in a small group of brave young people, who in the face of tyranny and threat of life, determined to change Liberia for the better.
I provided public relations for our group. The change we sought came at a high cost. We on several occasions took flogging at RIA at the hands of state security, SOD and ATU to convey our Standard Bearer to party headquarters on every visitation. But we were strong in taking the hunger – ‘gapping,’ humiliation and mockery. We were happy too to receive shame and disgrace for the struggle of democracy for our country.
By 2005, our struggle had paid off and we would write history forever. So UP came from opposition to ruling party. I’m sure all is forgotten now, but this little piece of history will always remind us of our personal bravery and quest for change and betterment for Unity Party and country. I like to pay huge respect to the likes of Martin S. Kollie, Henry Kesselly, Macaetoh Wreh, Ennish Fahnbulleh, Jerry Hineh, Koliboy Johnson, Hansan Kaizolu, Brother J. Molley Weedor (who has gone to rest) Valarie Williams, Vonpea Gongloe, Macarthy Kanker, among others, with whom we share this great transformation. Under the chairmanship of Dr. Charles A. Clarke we struggled and made our marks. Jemima Calcrick and a senior legal counselor (I will not name) stood by our side firmly as we navigated our way through.
So when we labored at the national secretariat, to LBS and then at the Senate, we carried the burden of honesty, transparency and humanistic leadership. These were the principles we projected. Our lifestyle is now cultured around those principles.
Ladies and gentlemen, the primary of June 28, 2014 in Bopolu City will go down in history of the Unity Party and political actors will have a lot to make of it. Good, bad, unfortunate, unfair, untimely, undemocratic, interference, etc. Will be lines of judgments regarding the Bopolu meeting.
We went to the primary under protest – a protest to test the internal democratic credentials of our institution. Determining the outcome of the primary before it began was not so much of a strange thing, but upholding and respecting individual right to recourse within our party is fundamental, even if the individual (s) involved is/are not the choice and target of the outcome of our primaries. Let him/her as a bonafide partisan be heard and address the issues raised. We raised a challenge to a violation of our own constitution, National Executive Committee decision on the Gertrude Tene Lamin return and a gross violation of chapter 1 section 1.3 of the National Elections Commission guidelines regarding political parties and independent candidates which states “No person shall be a member of more than one political party at the same time.” Hon. Gertrude Lamin up to 28 June 2014 was still a member of both Unity Party and Liberty Party while at the same time, her application to the Unity Party was still on hold. How is our Party conducting its internal self regulation if it can’t uphold and enforce its own decision in reference to the Gertrude Lamin Saga?
My pull out or withdrawal from the primary process was on these grounds and not a sign of weakness or lack of confidence in myself and ability. With a fair, democratic and transparent process that allows the partisans of Unity Party in Gbarpolu County to determine preference of a candidate, and, on the basis of merit, competence, able representation and honest leadership, I can come out of any primary as clean winner. The controversy surrounding the Bopolu City UP Primary now is the fact that we have two endorsements from one primary with one being suppressed!
Fellow citizens of Gbarpolu County and our people, who believe in us, let me encourage you in the words of Socrates “nothing bad happens to a good man.” The ideas and principles I have stood for over the years to protect your resources against exploitation, to serve you with clean hands, to be truthful to God and you, serve you with humility and help in the process of peace and reconciliation as well as discharging effective legislative representation are all qualities I still uphold and cherish. Even in the face of the Sime Darby matter, I will stand with you, for you and by you.
To you our people and many supporters and followers who have gone beyond party lines to stand for us, we stay remain strong and unmovable. Our consultation is yielding positive result. We are strengthened by your commitment, dedication, resolve and solidarity while we write the wrong of June 28, 2014. We are very much aware of your concern and fear about retaliation, revenge and oppression. These are considered within our political determination.
I am proud to leave Unity Party with clean hands where I have served with loyalty, honesty, objectivity and openness. But I am sure that these qualities are no longer attractive to the Unity Party but better still, remain the good and purposeful trademarks that can market me to other institutions.”
Similarly, most UP Senators who participated in the 2014 election were undermined and fought by the Standard Bearer. Interestingly, President Sirleaf invented a scheme that portrayed Vice President Boakai as the evil one. She has appointed VP Boakai as the Chairman of the UP’s 2014 senatorial election but was in the background giving UP incumbent senators revengeful and disdainful political “ELLENISTIC TKO.’’ It was to the dislike of the Oldman. Eventually, however, Amb. Boakai was being used first to destroy himself, his image in the party and most importantly paved the way for the receipt of his own share of Ellenistic TKO. 2017 is the stage set for the battle between Ellen and Joe. At the Gbarnga UP National Convection, she has evolved a ploy to enlist her personal henchmen into the leadership of the party. Had she succeeded, Boakai’s political demise would have been devastating. It may interest you to know that by this time Ellen has begun to feel the joint effort of a Boakai-Sherman fight back.
The next move for the ever planning and never giving up Ellen was to cajole VP Boakai to accept a running mate and other key figures in the campaign management, named and controlled by her (Ellen). Towards this end, Joe, quiet and calm has remained more resistant and resolved and will not be dictated to. So Ellen would later pull the last trigger and that will mark the final assault to her and her personal legacy and eventually plunge Liberia’s electoral process into its worse constitutional crisis. The electoral legal battle, unanticipated in our history, witnessed the convergence of four rising allies (Urey, Brumskine, Cummings and Boakai) united for a nationalistic cause. Each may have had own tragic experience with Ellenism. Ellen may depart unceremoniously!
With all the assaults Ellen has landed over the years of her political struggle and up to her presidency dubbed as the most corrupt and a family hegemony presiding over a personal corporation, time and space for her to make new alliance would disgracefully fall upon George Weah, one she has denied the presidency twice. This exit strategy is a national tragedy. As the country endures the legal battle, with the commitment of nonviolence, we wait to see the outcome of how Ellen’s assault comes back at her.
Our democracy is not under assault; rather it is Ellen and her deeds that are under assault!