Senator Prince Johnson’s recent statement in Ganta that the 2017 elections were ‘massively rigged’ to ensure the vote count placed then Presidential aspirant George Weah in pole position is a revelation which, although not surprising to the Daily Observer, many at the time suspected to be true and it should not be dismissed with the wave of a hand. Senator Prince Johnson predicts that the 2023 elections will be rigged by the government to ensure that President Weah and his ruling CDC maintain their grip on power.
Senator Johnson also further predicts that such a scenario will inevitably draw state security forces into confrontation with the civil population who he believes will, more likely than not, resist attempts to cower them. Already threats to kill would-be protesters on December 30 are being aired on Freedom Radio along with open declarations or recruitment of a 50,000 strong vigilante force to ‘deal with’ perceived enemies of this government.
In view of this, Senator Prince Johnson’s revelation that the 2017 elections were ‘massively rigged’ raises a key question centered on who is or was responsible for rigging the 2017 elections. From all indications the signs pointed to Nobel Peace Laureate and former President, Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, who bore prime responsibility for ensuring the integrity of the elections process. Regrettably, she did not only do so but encouraged the corruption of the process.
It can be recalled that virtually on the eve of elections, she invited elections magistrates including the Chairman of the National Elections Commission(NEC) to her home for a meeting. In another instance, a key aide in her office was caught red-handed with voting materials including Voter registration duplication machines with fake voter registration cards in his home.
Other instances included cross-border voter registration by NEC functionaries who were caught. This newspaper also recalls the publication by the New Democrat of leaked emails saying that Robert Sirleaf had procured extra ballots to be sent to “Eugene” for onward distribution to the southeast.
Those ballots according to the leaked emails were unmarked, meaning they had no serial numbers and, in the event the issue was raised, “Jerome”, meaning NEC chairman, would “handle it”. The leaked email came from Nairobi where former Finance Minister Amara Konneh was employed with the World Bank. This newspaper also recalls the furore over the integrity of the Voters Roll which, according to a Supreme Court ruling, was fraudulent and required a mandatory clean-up.
The cleanup was never done; this newspaper first broke the news that while NEC Chairman Korkoya was telling outright lies that the Voters Roll was being cleaned up, the Rolls were already on display in a remote Lofa County village in the Kolahun District. The Supreme Court’s mandate was openly disregarded by the NEC Chairman, yet Madame President did absolutely nothing to ensure that the elections process was not corrupted.
President Sirleaf’s tilt to the CDC had at a point become glaring. Her Education Minister George Werner, lavishing effusive praise on candidate George Weah for offering to pay WASSCE fees for high school seniors in Monrovia, went at lengths lambasting the opposition with such taunts as “da book we will eat”?
At the time, new crisp Liberian 500 hundred-dollar banknotes were in wide circulation. With the exception of a few, most Liberians were unaware that some of that money could have possibly come from the excessive number of Liberian dollar banknotes ordered printed by President Sirleaf who, at the time, left no doubt who her choice of successor was to be as she often proclaimed “it was now time for generational change.”
Her meddling and open interference with the elections process prompted the open call to her by AU and ECOWAS authorities to stay above the fray to which she paid little heed. In the final analysis, the CDC candidate George Weah was proclaimed winner by a large majority, winning just about every county with the exception of Lofa County. Fast forward to 2019, Senator Prince Johnson, a key figure in the alliance which brought President George Weah to power, is now claiming that those elections were massively rigged.
Beyond that, he has expressed belief that the results of the 2023 elections will be rigged by the ruling party. And he predicts that this will trigger street protests and confrontation between the civil population and state security forces. But as our people say, “Monkey see, Monkey do” meaning that if the 2017 elections results were rigged under the watch of President Sirleaf, so too could the 2023 elections results be rigged under the watch of the incumbent, President Weah.
But why not? If the international community could give its approbation to the 2017 elections results, why could it not do the same in 2023? As things currently stand, the economic downslide is likely to continue through 2020 and, if robust measures requiring enormous amounts of fiscal restraint and discipline are not taken to reverse the situation, this government will, more likely than not, find itself faced by endless popular street protests against economic hardships induced more by reckless and uncontrolled public expenditure and ostentatious displays of wealth and good living by government officials rather than by IMF recommended austerity measures.
And as this newspaper has repeatedly cautioned, those around President Weah advocating for his adoption of repressive countermeasures to popular manifestations of social discontent should consider well and reflect on history. Perhaps they are yet unaware that “aggression” is a crime cognizable under the jurisdiction of the International Criminal Court (ICC).
This also goes to individuals appearing in videos on social media boasting of their past exploits as former ULIMO rebel fighters, warning that Liberian Muslims of yesterday are not the same as today, threatening to resist what they say are provocations by Mayor Koijee. This newspaper is aware that threats to the loss of power and privilege as well as extreme economic hardships often tend to drive people/individuals into extremist behavior. Therefore, Senator Prince Johnson’s warnings should be taken seriously.