Legacy may be in jeopardy
By John Eche
Liberia’s outgoing President, Madam Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, who many had begin to tout as a possible front-line contender for the very elusive Mo Ibrahim Prize for Leadership in Africa is presently in trouble over her role in the yet inconclusive polls to pick her successor, The Difference has learnt.
The Mo Ibrahim Prize is awarded to a former President of an African nation who has advanced the fortunes of his or her country in the critical areas of peace, development and transparency but since its inception in 2006, it has only been awarded four times for lack of a suitable nominee.
Sirleaf, who turned 79 on Sunday, had won her two elections as president on the platform of the ruling Unity Party. She is however now being accused of having double-crossed the party in the contest, which has resulted in the early lead that has presently been secured by ex-footballer, George Oppong Weah in the presidential vote.
The presidential and legislative elections were held all across the country on October 10, 2017, with Liberia’s National Elections Commission, NEC announcing that Weah had led Vice President Boakai of Sirleaf’s Unity Party and several other contenders in the first round of balloting.
Before the election, it had come to the surface that leading lights within the Boakai campaign organisation had begun to charge Sirleaf with having made a deal to hand-over power to Weah, whom she had defeated in the second ballot contest in 2005. According to some of the details then being touted, part of the plot was that Weah as president would back Sirleaf’s son to succeed him as Senator for the Montserrado County, seat which Weah would be relinquishing upon his possible victory, and subsequently as President of the country.
As the allegations got more and more viral, hours before the election, Sirleaf’s office had been pressured to post a rebuttal in the Liberian media but at that time many Boakai loyalists were still insisting that a lot of water had already run over the bridge and as such Sirleaf’s alleged betrayal had already served its purpose.
Now all of the backstage grumbling is coming to the fore with Liberia’s ruling party on Sunday announcing a formal complaint against the electoral commission over the outcome of the October 10 presidential poll, days before a runoff involving its candidate, Vice-President Joseph Boakai. The run-off is scheduled for November 7, and given the open discussions going on in the country already on the subject of Sirleaf’s disloyalty to her party and other related high-wire political tensions, already the elections commission is warning on the need for Liberians to eschew rumour-mongering.
In a post on its twitter handle on Sunday, the commission even went as far as to insinuate that one of the factors responsible for the last Liberian civil war was ‘rumor-mongering.’
But the aggrieved leaders of the Unity Party are adamant that they would not be cheated and have declared that they would join two other parties in seeking “a logical legal conclusion as quickly as permissible under Liberian law.” Accordingly, they are following in the heels of the Liberty Party and the All Liberian Party which had already lodged complaints with the National Elections Commission.
A statement released by the three parties said the poll, which saw former international footballer George Weah take the most votes, was “characterised by massive systematic irregularities and fraud”.
The statement also accused incumbent President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, also of the Unity Party, of “interfering” with the election by meeting polling officials at her residence.
The meeting, which took place before the poll, “clearly amounted to interference with the electoral process and has no legal basis or justification whatsoever,” the parties said.
Boakai and Weah are due to contest the final round for the presidency on November 7 after no single candidate won more than 50 percent of the vote on October 10.