Liberia: Why Senator Yallah Lost Re-election – Rift with VP Taylor; Role in Ja’neh Impeachment

Senator Henry Yallah (left in a CDC beret during a campaign in Fuamah District, Bong County

Gbarnga – Senator Henry Yallah of the Congress of Democratic Change, a constituent party of the ruling Coalition for Democratic Change (CDC), has lost his re-election bid to Deputy Speaker Prince Moye of the opposition Collaborating Political Parties (CPP).

Yallah, who was elected 2011, had been seeking a second nine-year term, garnered 24, 000 votes, which constitutes 35 per cent compared to Moye’s 38, 900 votes, which constitutes 55 per cent.

FrontPageAfrica weighs in on reasons why the senator may have lost re-election:

‘Lack of developments over the years’

It’s believed that many in the county were fed up with the alleged lack of development by Yallah during his nine years stint, leading to “enough is enough”, which greatly campaigned against him. 

Through out on campaign trails Yallah battled accusations from residents of the county who claimed he had done nothing over the years, with many describing his developments in the last two years of his tenure as “election driven”.

His response that the county was “too big” to develop everywhere, which later triggered his decision to divide the county through a bill he submitted to the plenary of the Liberian Senate, didn’t help the situation as voters seemed prepared not to reward him another term.

Many people saw his move to divide the county as an attempt to seek re-election. Had the people preferred his quest to divide the county, they would have voted him overwhelmingly in the lower side, a portion of the county that would have most likely benefited from the dividends of dividing the county.

Fallout with VP Taylor

Yallah’s defeat in the December 8 Senate election was largely attributed to his fallout with Liberia’s Vice President, Jewel Howard-Taylor.

Howard-Taylor, who claimed she supported Yallah’s election in 2011, had branded Yallah a “snake” and urged residents of the county to reject him at the ballot box.

Howard-Taylor claimed Yallah failed to bring the dividends of democracy over the years for which he which he was elected.

Though Howard-Taylor wasn’t present in the county throughout during the campaign, but her last appearance on Radio Gbarnga, a local radio station in Bong, proved to have played a major role in Yallah’s defeat. 

Howard-Taylor is an influential person in Bong politics as records show that she’s the first person in more than two decades to be elected twice as senator of the county (2005&2014).

Also, Yallah’s decision to remain loyal to President George Weah amid reports of a lingering rift between President Weah and Howard-Taylor may have also played a role in his defeat.

Many residents, especially supporters of the vice president, saw the senatorial election in the county as a proxy fight between President Weah and Howard-Taylor, and they were not prepared to support a Weah-sponsered candidate.

Bong’s support to President Weah and Howard-Taylor proved to be crucial in 2017 presidential race that swept the two leaders to power. 

But there have been signs of waning support for the Coalition in Bong, particularly with the reported ongoing rift between President Weah and Howard-Taylor. 

Before the 2017 presidential elections George Weah’s CDC had never won Bong and it’s believed that the presence of Howard-Taylor on the ticket may have been responsible for the party winning Bong, both the first and second rounds of elections respectively.

And Yallah’s defeat has seemingly elated the vice president. In a WhatsApp message to our reporter, Howard-Taylor wrote: “Today is one of the great days God has made for me and my family. We may be mourning the loss of one of our relatives but I am so grateful that the people of Bong listened to me by voting Yallah out”.

Role in Ja’neh impeachment

The role played by the senator in the impeachment of former Associate Justice of the Supreme Court of Liberia, Kabineh Ja’neh, a Muslim, took a toll on the campaign of Yallah for all the wrong reasons.

Many Muslims in the county bashed Yallah, who served as secretary to the committee that impeached Ja’neh, for his role played. At certain point of the campaign they made their decisions known to support Moye as a means of “repaying” Yallah. 

Though Yallah managed to convince few elite members of the Muslim ethnic group in the county, the signs were glaring that the vast majority of Muslims were not prepared to support him because “they felt hurt” by the impeachment of their kinsmen.

A united opposition

The election looked like a proxy political fight between the ruling coalition and the opposition.

While Yallah was confronted with a divided Coalition as justified by the decision of the National Patriotic Party, a member of the ruling Coalition whose head is Howard-Taylor, the opposition appeared united with a focus of winning the seat.

The opposition rallied between Moye and campaigned through the nook and crannies of the county. And the outcome of the election says it all.

Almost all of the opposition candidates who participated in 2017 presidential elections as representative candidates threw their support behind Moye.

For instance, in District Six, where Yallah flopped miserably, four of the three candidates who lost the seat to the sitting lawmaker, Moima Briggs-Mensah, supported Moye.

Also, in District One, three of the top four candidates who contested the representative seat also supported Moye, and their decisions paid off as Moye swept the entire district with an overwhelming margin.

In District Three, four of the representative candidates who lost to Rep Marvin Cole in 2017, who supported Yallah, also supported Moye.

Their decisions translated into huge votes for Moye.

Yallah’s 2017 Decision backfired

The decision made by the outgoing senator to support candidates against incumbent representatives during the 2017 representative elections in the county also proved key for his failure.

The likes of former representatives Tokpah J. Mulbah, former lawmaker of District One and George Mulbah, a two-time lawmaker of District Three, were victims of Yallah’s support against them.

Though his candidates didn’t win either of those seats but Yallah’s decision was criticized by many. Many people condemned him for supporting Emmanuel Kwenah, his friend, against Tokpah Mulbah, a man whom he had worked with as Chief of Office staff, before becoming senator.

The plot against Yallah was well calculated as Tokpah Mulbah and George Mulbah were out to repay Yallah. Infact, Moye’s bid for the Senate was reportedly fuelled by George Mulbah, who claimed that he had a “dream” that Moye would have become senator in 2020 at the expense of Yallah.

George Mulbah fought all he could to ensure that his “dream” was realized. In Tokpah Mulbah’s home town of Duta, Yallah failed to get a single vote, and Moye won the area with a wide margin.

President Weah’s dismissal threat to local leaders in Bong

President Weah should take his fair share for the defeat of his candidate in the county. The president’s threat during the campaign of Yallah in Gbarnga that he would dismiss any official in his government caught campaigning for opposition candidates may have put him at odds with residents of the county and increased the propaganda against Yallah.

Most of the residents took to local radio stations in the county to air their dissatisfaction at the president. The opposition exploited the situation and use it against the incumbent.