Does President Sirleaf intend to cheat in the October 10, 2017 elections? If not, then just what did she hope to achieve from the visit to her home on Sunday, September 17, 2017, of the Deputy Special Representative of UN Secretary General, Yacoub El Hillo, NEC Commissioners, Sam Joe, Boakai Dukuly, Sarah Toe, Chairman Jerome Korkoya, Executive Director, Lamin Lighe and all nineteen Elections Magistrates, for discussion on elections matters with just about two weeks left to elections.
This development has raised questions about the integrity and independence of the NEC and heightened public suspicions about what former Grand Kru Senator Blamo Nelson has described as President Sirleaf’s intention to cheat in these elections.
It is public knowledge that NEC Chairman Jerome Korkoya, aside from his foreign nationality, is incompetent, extremely corrupt, lacks integrity and is in complete obeisance to Presidential diktat although he is required by law to be independent. The visit to the President’s home on the eve of elections was in complete violation of our elections laws and is tantamount to unlawful interference and tampering with the Elections Commission which is supposed to be an independent body.
President Sirleaf must take blame for this as well as UN DRSG Yacoub El Hillo who should be declared Persona Non-Grata by the Liberian Government and expelled forthwith. Korkoya and his collaborators, Sam Joe, Boakai Dukuly, Sarah Toe and Lamin Lighe should be reprimanded as well.
What, for example, was the intent of the UN Deputy Special Representative of the Secretary-General (DRSG) Yacoub El Hillo when he decided to tag along with NEC Commissioners and Elections Magistrates to pay a private visit to the President’s home to discuss Electoral matters with elections pending only in a matter of days?
Was his visit to the President’s private residence approved by his boss the Special Representative of the Secretary-General (SRSG)? If so, we must ask: is the UN Mission now acting in cahoots with the sinister design to unduly influence the outcome of the elections?
It is important to know because if his ( DRSG Yacoub El Hillo) visit was approved by his boss, we would further ask whether such action is considered appropriate behavior for a diplomat especially for a UN diplomat. Equally one must ask whether President Sirleaf considered it appropriate to have the UN DRSG,NEC Commissioners and Elections Magistrates visit her private residence virtually on the eve of elections. From all indications she approved the visit for the mere fact that she granted them audience.
Former Grand Kru County Senator Blamo Nelson has described this as an illegal attempt by President Sirleaf to cheat or unduly influence the outcome of the elections and, he could be right. Already there are mounting public concerns about the neutrality of the UNMIL in this matter.
It is important to underscore that the DRSG also serves as the UNDP Resident Representative whose institution, UNDP provides logistical and other forms of assistance to NEC and it has oversight responsibility for the elections. And it is the crooked UNDP Elections Advisor, George Barashtavili overseeing the entire process including the printing of ballots.
He (Barashtavili) can rightly be blamed for the snafus experienced in the Voters Registration (VR) process beginning with the purchase of faulty cameras and ancillary equipment. He single-handedly facilitated the purchase of faulty equipment, meaning he did not go through the UNDP Country Office Procurement procedures neither did he go through the PPCC process. As was self-evident, quality of cameras and ancillary equipment were substandard which simply meant quality was compromised for greasy cuts.
More recently, allegations are when the Ghanaian company selected (outside the PPCC process) to produce the ballots could not meet Korkoya’s US$250, 000 bribe demand upfront, Korkoya, allegedly with the advice of Barashtavili turned to a Slovenian company and Bingo, the deal was struck. Once again, the PPCC was left out. How then we rightly claim ownership of our electoral process with such manipulations by foreigners?
According to Korkoya, the ballots will be prepackaged by the Slovenian Company for distribution in the field which, according to analysts, will prove disastrous and similar to that occasioned by the late arrival and mispackaging of the Optical Mark Recognition (OMR) cards during the VR process.
In any case the public should not be unmindful of the fact that it is the crooked and incompetent UNDP Elections Advisor, George Barashtavili who provided oversight for the printing of the ballots.
And now with the Deputy Special Representative of the Un Secretary-General (DRSG) Yacoub El Hillo, who also doubles as the UNDP Resident Representative, consenting to such a sinister like and illegal proposition to accompany a crooked NEC Chairman Korkoya and collaborators (Commissioners Sam Joe, Sarah Toe, Boakai Dukuly and Executive Director, Lamin Lighe) along with Elections Magistrates to the home of the President virtually on the eve of elections to discuss elections matters, there must be something amiss here. And it smirks of a conspiracy in the making.
Of course, such a meeting was sure to raise eyebrows and indeed it did because it is completely unusual and has never happened since 1985 when military strong- man Doe was vying for the Presidency. Further it is completely against the law for Commissioners and staff of the NEC along with the UNDRSG to go the President’s home with or without an official invitation to discuss elections related matters just on the eve of elections. So, the question is why did President Sirleaf receive them in the first place and accord them courtesies?
Some of the President’s supporters argue that she had no prior notice of Korkoya’s visit which suggests that his visit was not approved. But it is an incontrovertible fact that any visitor to the President’s private residence especially on a Sunday, would have to comply with an elaborate set of security procedures and then obtain the expressed consent of the President before being allowed into her private home. So the million dollar question is why she received them in audience granted she did not approve of their visit.
Public suspicions of this entire affair have been further heightened with new revelations that Madame Yvette Chesson Wureh submitted an arbitrary list of 1,000 names of individuals of questionable characters to NEC Chairman Korkoya to be hired as Presiding Officers at a number of polling precincts.
According to sources, Korkoya’s instructions to staff to implement his directive to hire the individuals was met with resistance by the relevant staff members concerned who out rightly refused to implement what they consider unlawful instructions. Similarly rejected was Korkoya’s list of 700 unknown individuals submitted to an elections Magistrate in Nimba to serve as Elections Presiding officers.
As it appears, President Sirleaf’s game is unraveling simply because Korkoya and his corps of collaborators who sources say includes Executive Director Lamin Lighe, Commissioners, Boakai Dukuly, Sam Joe and Sarah Toe, are encountering internal resistance to their sinister attempts to rig the elections.
During her ground-breaking ceremonies in Bomi, President Sirleaf dropped some hints of what is to come when she remarked that elections results are not determined by the size of crowd one puts on display but by the Court, apparently meaning the Supreme Court, shall be the decider of these elections results.
Observers say those remarks were a knee-jerk reaction to the mammoth crowds that turned out on September 16, much to her surprise and distaste, to support her Vice President.
And her remarks were but a thinly veiled reference to the sure likelihood of losers taking their case to the Supreme Court to have the actual and true results overturned in favor of her choice just as the 2011 referendum results in favor of the Absolute Majority requirement were overturned in her favor for that of the Simple Majority System. By judicial fiat, the supreme will of the people was then trashed by the Supreme Court of Liberia.
And so perhaps, she may be nursing similar hopes in case her chosen successor, now widely believed to be footballer George Weah, ends up losing. From all indications, so far, it is clear that Senator George Weah and Vice President Joseph Boakai will go through to the second round as there is likely to be no clear winner in the first round.
And from historical precedence it is clear to all and sundry that Weah will lose in the second round so one can understand why President Sirleaf would throw hints about the Supreme Court determining the final vote outcome because Weah will definitely go to the Supreme Court if he loses.
In case one may be wondering why she threw such hints, it is because it has become clear to the public that President Sirleaf, other than supporting her Vice President’s candidacy, has been flirting between Charles Brumskine’s Liberty Party and George Weah’s Coalition for Democratic Change. Widely held public opinion suggests that President Sirleaf, having sensed that Charles Brumskine’s Presidential campaign was faltering, switched gears and hopped on to the George Weah-Jewel Howard Taylor campaign train.
Her deliberate absence from the launching ceremonies of her Unity Party is testamentary to what observers say is virtually an open feud between herself and her Vice President, although elements on both side of the divide stoutly maintain that President Sirleaf is in full support of Vice President Joseph Boakai’s quest to succeed her in office. But actions speak louder than words and her going to Bomi to do ground-breaking rather than sharing the platform with her Vice President during the launch of his campaign said it all.
According to sources, President Sirleaf had actually, under the pretense of doing ground-breaking, gone to spearhead the launch of the political campaign of former Internal Affairs Deputy Minister, Varney Sirleaf who is contesting a legislative seat in Bomi County.
Her absence from the Unity Party’s campaign launch ceremonies was probably intended to have a dampening effect on the program but instead had a double opposite effect and it was even more widely bandied in the media than her ground-breaking ceremonies.
Photos of her ground-breaking event carried in the media shows a rather lonely President clutching on to a shovel, surrounded by absolutely no one of significance-mainly security officers and ordinary village folks as she broke grounds in the Suehn-Mecca District.
It was like Deja vu: President Sirleaf had reached the crossroads and they(her supporters) all knew it. As it appeared, her pyramid of support was crumbling; and some of her officials, in apparent disobedience to her will, had already declared their support for Vice President Boakai and they were making no pretenses about it.
And on that Saturday, 16 September 2017, not even the heavy downpour of rain could deter them, it seemed, as they marched shoulder to shoulder with other jubilant supporters. For Vice President Boakai, this must have been one of his proudest moments with such a massive turnout, unprecedented in recent history.
Like the others, he too braved the rains, wearing only a face-cap sans umbrellas or raincoats. And standing alongside him atop the float and sans umbrellas or raincoats was President Sirleaf’s elder brother, Carney Johnson clearly signifying that he, unlike his sister, had confidence and trust neither in the footballer, George nor in the lawyer, Charles, but rather in the humble and self-effacing Joseph Boakai.
And so, what’s next for President Sirleaf? The writing is on the wall-tricks and artifice will not cut it! Our people have learned from history and if there are indeed Patriots at the NEC as some of us know, any attempt by Korkoya and his gang of collaborators to act illegally will be met with resistance.
And perhaps, as President Sirleaf remarked recently, it is the Supreme Court the nation shall rely on for interpretation of elections results. Why because it is clear as daylight, especially in view of recent violent incidents involving the CDC and other parties, that there will be challenges to the elections results.
The concern is whether the Supreme Court, in face of recent controversial rulings will find the moral fortitude and strength of character to remain unbending to no one and nothing else but the law. Historically, the Supreme Court has always been found woefully lacking in moral fortitude and strength of character to stand up in defense of democracy. We always remain mindful of the 2011 referendum results on the Absolute Majority requirement for elections to public office which the nation voted to uphold but which was trashed by the Supreme Court.
In a few days from now, a critical situation shall await them in which they shall be put to the test again when elections disputes reach them. It remains to be seen which way they are going to cast their lot.
They have already failed to determine the question of Korkoya’s nationality and illegal occupancy of the post of Chairman of the National Elections Commission and, they have flipped-flopped on the Code of Conduct issue. And although the public harbors immense distrust of the Supreme Court, there are a few, amongst them, this writer who hold the view that the Supreme Court shall, this time around stand tall in defense of democracy. But again, that remains to be seen. Only time will tell.
John H. T. Stewart, Jr., Contributing Writer