Ellen Debunks Betrayed ‘Promise’ For Weah to Succeed Her As President
Monrovia – Liberia’s main opposition Party, the Congress for Democratic Change has for two successive elections now made cries of foul play, claiming that they were cheated out of first and second round victories.
“ECOWAS has never and did not ask her for any commitment and she has therefore made no such commitment. In fact, because the Unity Party won the 2005 and 2011 elections freely and fairly, there has never been the need for any such commitment.” – Mr. Jerolinmek Piah, Press Secretary to the Liberian Presidency
Each of those periods of allegations have been followed by speculations of backdoor deals suggesting that promises and concessions were made in exchange for the party to drop wailings of election fraud and threats of protests.
In 2005, football legend George Manneh Weah, and Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf, a former finance minister finished first and second, respectively and advanced to a second round run-off, which Johnson-Sirleaf won 59%-41%, according to the National Electoral Commission.
Unhappy with the results, Mr. Weah claimed election fraud and charged that elections officials stuffed ballot boxes in Johnson-Sirleaf’s favour.
But many international observers who witnessed the process, including United Nations, the European Union and the Economic Community for West African States ECOWAS declared the election clean and transparent.
Six years later, in 2011, the CDC was back on the turf with veteran diplomat, Ambassador Winston Tubman at the helm of the ticket and Weah as his running mate. But even before the ballots were cast, the CDC issued a resounding threat in a bid to keep the elections clean.
Weah went on offensive, threatening to take to task, anyone that will encourage electoral fraud in this year‘s elections.
The football legend emphasized that 2011 will never be like 2005, claiming that the CDC won the elections but the National Elections Commission cheated in favour of the Unity Party.
“2005 was a different ball game,” Weah told a 2011 really in Margibi County. “The whole world knew that the CDC was cheated but we let it go because of you the CDCians; we wanted to see peace in Liberia. We never went into the bushes to wage war on our own people, but others did just that.”
On November 7, 2011, fears were realized when at least one person was killed after shots were reportedly fired during a protest at the party’s headquarters ahead of the Presidential run-off. The rioting broke out after thousands of CDC supporters gathered outside party headquarters to urge voters to boycott Tuesday’s poll.
Ambassador Tubman pulled out of the vote, alleging fraud as Sirleaf went on to win the disputed elections.
Like 2005, murmurs of yet more backdoor deals surfaced after the 2011 run-off, that CDC had struck a deal with the government and regional leaders to back off their threats for the sake of peace.
One of those murmurs has surfaced in the past few days leading up to Mr. Weah’s announcement that he would be making his second quest for the Liberian presidency.
Diplomatic sources and some CDC stalwarts speaking on condition of anonymity told FrontPageAfrica in the past few days that some ECOWAS leaders have been unhappy over the uncertainty over President Sirleaf’s succession plan, resurrecting discussions over what some say was a promise made to the CDC in 2011 that they would get the President’s backing and the regional body’s support were they to back off their threats of violence for the sake of peace.
One report suggested that the regional body had dispatched former Nigerian President Olesegun Obasanjo to Liberia last week in a bid to get a feel of the direction President Sirleaf was leaning in her succession plan.
When contacted Wednesday, the presidency was in full denial, dismissing suggestion and making it emphatically clear that no such promise was made to Mr. Weah or the CDC in the aftermath of the 2011 Presidential elections.
“ECOWAS has never and didnot ask her for any commitment and she has therefore made no such commitment.
In fact, because the Unity Party won the 2005 and 2011 elections freely and fairly, there has never been the need for any such commitment,” Press Secretary Jerolinmek Piah told FrontPageAfrica after relaying our question to the President. Mr. Piah added that the President is in full support of her vice President Joseph Boakai.
Said Mr. Piah: “President Sirleaf has indicated her support for Vice President Boakia and is asserting that her colleagues including ECOWAS do accept and respect her personal choice and view. They are in fact aware of her personal views.”
On the issue of former President Obasanjo, Mr. Piah explained: “Yes he (Obasanjo) flew to Liberia and met with both President Sirleaf and Vice President Boakai for one purpose – to discuss the safety and security of Liberia in the wake of the UNMIL Draw-down.”
The latest speculations regarding President Sirleaf’s succession debacle comes in the aftermath of a recent challenge to VP Boakai’s bid by former Foreign Affairs Minister and most-recently an ECOWAS Vice President, Dr. Toga McIntosh.
Dr. McIntosh has stated that he plans to challenge VP Boakai ruling party primary and that he has discussed his plans with President Sirleaf.
McIntosh has hinted some strains between himself and the vice President telling legislative reporters recently that he called and sent SMS messages to Vice President Boakai for a meeting, but Ambassador Boakai never responded.
Political observers say the President’s support for Boakai appears lukewarm and she had indicated that to close associates, a point Executive Mansion sources say is untrue.
Although President Sirleaf has expressed her support for Boakai, she triggered some debate in a recent FrontPageAfrica interview during which she said that her loyal VP would have to work just as she did to clinch the presidency.
“He is a vice President who is running; the campaign is going to be his campaign. He will have to dictate how he wants it, how much he wants to build on the existing progress to which we have both contributed so much, will be his call, whether he wants to strike off and show that he has a different path that will be his choice and I am going to work with him whichever way he wants.”
The recent appointment of Boimah Kamara to head the Ministry of Finance and Development Planning, when Sumo Kupee, a long-time confidante of the Vice President was rebuffed seems to suggest that somethings are amiss with the President’s support for Boakai.
Other knowledgeable sources close to the President and Toga McIntosh say, there is no way Dr. Mac would run for the presidency without a full hearted discussion with the President.
The fact that Dr. McIntosh has been living in Nigeria and working for ECOWAS for several years now and understands the dynamics of regional politics, seem to suggest for some, that in fact there is still some serious behind the scene machination going on as regards who leads Liberia in 2018 with the full backing of regional leaders.
Regional interest is high in the 2017 Presidential elections seen as crucial to post-conflict rebuilding efforts. Many are of the view that ECOWAS endorsement could prove pivotal in deciding the next Liberian President.
Speculations have fuelled in recent weeks that the CDC aptly timed their April 28 Blue Day as litmus test to showcase their candidate’s strength. The 2017 elections are expected to be a repeat of the 2005 sweepstakes with multiple candidates making a play for the succession of the incumbent Sirleaf.
As to the desires of Weah to run for the presidency for a second time as head of the CDC ticket; it is unclear how the CDC, the perennial second place finisher can gather the resources to mount a credible offense without creating some kind of coalition.
It does appear that Weah may try to pull it off but questions of resources and organization could stymie those efforts, thus making the Liberian Presidential race in 2017 still very wide open.
Rodney D. Sieh, [email protected]