As we indicated in a recent Editorial, Harrison Karnwea would have been immediately fired the minute it was even rumored that he was about to defect from the ruling Unity Party (UP). That would have been the case in normal political times. But these are not normal political times.
During Tubman time, Karnwea would have received a three-line green letter stating, “You are hereby relieved of your duties as Managing Director of the Forestry Development Authority for administrative reasons, with immediate effect.”
Both President Tolbert and President Samuel Doe would have done it differently. Karnwea would have first heard of his dismissal on ELBC. Then, as he did to so many others, President Tolbert would have gone on air (ELBC) blasting Karnwea and calling him all kinds of names.
But Ellen did no such thing. Most people believe that in as much as she said and did nothing to Karnwea for defecting from the ruling party, yet allowed him to keep his high profile job in the UP government, he had to have done so with her blessing.
He tendered his resignation on March 12, 2017 not, as far as we know, because the President had asked him to, but following pressure from his fellow Nimbaians who were just as shocked about his defection as the rest of us.
Last weekend Charles Brumskine named as his running mate Harrison Karnwea.
The overriding question is not why Ellen allowed Karnwea to do such a thing normally impossible politically, at the same time keeping his job in her government. The burning question is why did she permit one of her most trusted lieutenants to switch from the ruling Unity Party to the opposition Liberty Party of Charles Brumskine? The quick follow-up question: what message was she sending to Vice President Joseph N. Boakai, who had faithfully stood by her and supported her in their two-term presidency?
By releasing Karnwea to Charles Brumskine and Liberty Party, was she ditching UP in favor of Brumskine and LP? Why? What sin did UP commit against Ellen? Whatever sin it was—a sin no one can fathom—were the two terms UP got her elected to the presidency not enough a recompense (compensation, reparation) for UP’s cardinal (serious) sin against her, whatever it may have been?
Most people cannot remember any such UP sin against Ellen.
What they do remember is how UP came to Ellen’s rescue in 1997 when, after resigning her position as Director General of the Africa Bureau, United Nations Development Program (UNDP), she returned home to contest the 1997 presidential election. By the time she arrived, however, her own Liberia Action Party (LAP), of which she was in 1985 a prominent founding member, had hurriedly chosen geologist Cletus Wotorson as their presidential candidate.
Ellen was dumfounded—and grievously disappointed! But only for a while. Unity Party, which had decided not to field a candidate in that election, willingly welcomed Ellen and elected her their standard bearer.
Being a more seasoned politician and far better known personality, she came a distant second to warlord Charles Taylor in the 1997 elections, beating all the other opposition candidates, including LAP’s Wotorson.
But the consummately political Ellen did not give up. As a participant in the Accra Peace Talks in 2002-2003, she ran for chairmanship of the National Transitional Government of Liberia (NTGL), but lost to fellow LAP member Charles Gyude Bryant. It was at that point that she decided to set her sights on the elections that were due after Taylor’s first term. Alas, fate would not permit Taylor to complete his term. While the Accra Peace Talks were yet going on, he was served with an indictment from the International Criminal Court. The Ghanaian government allowed him to flee the country and return to Liberia, but the die had been cast. It was United States President George W. Bush that told Taylor the U.S. government would not allow him to remain in Liberia, so Taylor must leave. That would be the only way that the peace attained in Accra would hold.
Sure enough, Charles Taylor left Liberia in August 2003, paving the way for NTGL Chairman-Elect Bryant to return from Ghana to be sworn in as Liberia’s new Head of State. Chairman Bryant immediately started putting in place the arrangements for the 2005 elections.
Football super star George Weah, Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, Cllr. Charles Brumskine and Cllr. Varney Sherman were the leading candidates in those elections and the first two, Weah and Sirleaf, were front runners in the first round. Ellen won in the run-off and became the first woman elected President of an African country—Liberia.
So as far as we know, these were the great things Unity Party did for Ellen Johnson Sirleaf—made her their standard bearer three times, the second and third ushering her to the Liberian presidency!
One day we may know why she sent Karnwea to Brumskine—and the repercussions (aftermath, consequences) for her Vice President, Joe Boakai and UP itself.