Liberia: Female Senatorial Candidates Battling Their Way through the Supreme Court to Earn Seat in the Senate

MONROVIA – Ms. Botoe Kanneh – a commoner, a meat seller – who some may have considered as not having any class in politics – has proven to be very formidable in the almost all-male senatorial election but the fight to clip her wings continue to be waged and stalling her certification as winner of the election in Gbarpolu County.

But she is not the only female forcing a camel through the eye of a needle to add up to women’s representation in the Senate. Madam Edith Gongloe-Weh of Nimba County is also equally battling the ruling establishment to earn a seat in the upper house of the Legislature.

Their fate also now lies in the hands of a male-dominated Bench who are expected to render justice in a blind fashion.

The Gbarpolu senatorial election started very dramatic on December 8, 2020 with the seizing of the ballot boxes at some polling centers in Nomordatonau Town by the youth and elders of the town on suspicion that Sierra Leoneans had been trucked into the county to vote.

Despite the irregularities that characterized the December 8 polls, Ms. Kanneh led with 4,767 votes, while her counter from the ruling Coalition for Democratic Change, a sitting lawmaker in the House of Representatives, Rep. Alfred Koiwood, had 4,281 votes from 139 polling places out 144, according to data from the National Election Commission.

But the National Elections Commission ordered a re-run of the election in areas that were affected by violence during the December 8 polls.

Rep. Kaiwood had, however, petitioned the Supreme Court to order the NEC to halt the rerun until electoral fraud and election violence are investigated by the NEC.

But Associate Justice Associate Justice Sie-A-Nyene Yuoh ordered the rerun which the electoral house slated for January 7. In that rerun, Rep. Koiwood topped the votes from those polling centers with 217 while Kanneh got 188.

Her overall number of votes still kept her in a comfortable lead and she was just an inch of being named the next Senator of Gbarpolu County until that was stalled with another legal wrangling from the CDC camp.

The CDC’s Koiwood insists that the NEC must investigate the electoral violence that marred the elections in Gbarpolu but Ms. Kanneh’s lawyers argued that it was not in the purview of the NEC to investigate electoral violence, rather the Liberia National Police, hence, there was no need stalling the process to conduct a function that is not constitutionally supported.

FrontPageAfrica gathered that for the first time, the Board of Commissioners were divided over a decision with three of them arguing that agreeing to investigate the Gbarpolu election violence would be usurping the function of the Liberia National Police. However, the remaining four comprising the majority on the Board insists that the Hearing Officer must investigate the violence before deciding on the winner of the election.

Ms. Kanneh’s lawyers took an exception to the ruling a filed an appeal with the Supreme Court of Liberia. But being a female, a commoner, she is stuck with the legal fees in pursuing such a case, especially at that level. Her friends and other women solidarity groups have launched a fund-raising drive to help raise an amount of US$5,000 to support her quest at the Supreme Court.

She told FrontPageAfrica that she is happy that her fellow women – the women of Liberia have seen the need to stand with her and their support would give a boost to her case. According to her, she was well prepared for the election before venturing into it.

Ms. Kanneh believes she is being taken advantage of because she is a “common dry meat seller”.

She said it is precedent that the NEC does not hear electoral violence cases, rather the Supreme Court, therefore, she was taken aback by the NEC ruling that was completely out of their jurisdiction.

Some of the women behind the fundraising drive told FrontPageAfrica that though both Ms. Kanneh and Mrs. Gongloe-Weh have brothers who are lawyers and pleading the cases for them, they also work with other lawyers who have to be paid some fees for their services.

For Mrs. Gongloe-Weh, she was denied a rerun and a recount of ballots Electoral Districts #7, 4 and 5, and rerun election in Electoral Districts #1, and #2, in Nimba County in Nimba County.

Gongloe-Weh in her complaints to NEC, through its Upper Nimba County Magistrate, Blehdoh Flomo, and the Board of Commissioners pointed out concerns that there was exchange of the complainant’s vote count of 137 with 7 votes of candidates Garrison Yealue in the Airfield Zone 2, polling place 2, Sanniquellie City, Electoral District #2 by the data entry personnel.

That 70 votes for candidate Jeremiah Kpan Koung from Martha Tubman Campus polling place, Sanniquellie, Electoral District #2, instead of his 37 votes obtained at that polling place.

That there were 11 ballots boxes found with broken seals of the tally tees and inappropriately placed within the boxes with only copies of those tees found.

The team then named those precincts with the alleged irregularities as 33010, 33080, 33250, and 33069 where tee of the two polling places were reported missing and that of 33077 and 33079 precincts where two tees were also missing as well as that of 33179.

She also wants a rerun in eight other precincts in Upper Nimba County in Electoral District #4, precinct 33010 at the Bihplay Public School of polling place 3; Electoral District #1, precinct 33080 at the Liberty Christian Institute of polling place 5; and Electoral District #1, precinct 33250 at Tonglawin Public School of polling place 4.

Others are Electoral District #1, precinct 33069 in the Ganta Public School of polling place 5; and Electoral District #1, precinct 33077 in the Vision International School of polling place 5.

Also, in Electoral District #1, precinct 33079 at the Gbartu Quarter Palavahut of polling place 6; Electoral District #1, precinct 33071 in the Small Ganta Palavahut of polling place 5; and Electoral District #1, precinct 33179 of the Wehplay Public School with polling place 4. 

The lawyers strongly want a re-run as well in Electoral District #2, polling places number 33052 in the Gbayee Public School, and Electoral District #2, polling place #33100 at Tiara Public School.

Her lawyers further alleged that the data entry clerk refused to allow her agents to obtain a copy of the data entered or to simply display copies for verification which clearly indicated a calculated plan to commit fraud and deny her the votes cast in her favor by the people.

But the Hearing Officer denied and dismissed the complaint due to “lack of substantial evidence”.

Gongloe –Weh did not produce sufficient evidence as to her complaint of fraud and elections irregularities during the just ended Senatorial elections in Nimba County between she and her arrival senator-elect Jeremiah Koung.

Delivering his ruling he noted that in an election complain, the complainant had the right to produce as many evidences in support of his or her allegation, and such evidence must tend to establish the fraud alleged or the irregularities of the complaint.

“We will like to be clear here, that the evidence adduced by the complainant (Edith) herein was not substantive and did not established that our findings from these investigations is sufficient to alter the outcome of the election for re-run, re-count or referendum,” he added. 

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