Liberia: Aggrieved Citizens of Grand Cape Mount County Threaten to Stage Series of Protest Until Embattled Simeon Taylor is Certificated as Senator
GRAND CAPE MOUNT – Scores of aggrieved citizens of Grand Cape Mount County have staged a violent protest over the prolong delay by the Government of Liberia (GOL), through the National Elections Commission (NEC), to certificate their Senator-elect Simeon Taylor as the winner of the just ended December 8 senatorial election.
Mr. Taylor, a candidate of the Collaborating Political Parties (CPP), was declared the winner of the senatorial election in Grand Cape Mount after he accumulated the highest numbers of votes cast during the voting process.
But his closest rival, who was the incumbent Senator, Victor Watson, filed a complaint at the NEC claiming that the process was marred with multiple flaws including alleged double registration and voting, counting of invalid votes in favor of Senator-elect Taylor, and inflicting numbers on the records of account. He called for a recount of the votes.
The electoral case has suffered multiple legal setbacks.
The case previously proceeded at the Supreme Court of Liberia after lawyers representing the legal interest of Mr. Watson took an appeal to the High Court when the Board of Commissioners of the NEC endorsed its Hearing Officer’s ruling, upholding the results which were announced in favor of Mr. Taylor.
Frustratingly, the Supreme Court mandated the NEC to re-conduct deeper investigation into the case which was filed by Mr. Watson.
The case is currently before the Hearing Officer of the NEC. But its logical conclusion remains scanty following the delay in the submission of witnesses by the legal team of Mr. Watson.
In reaction to the electoral saga, hundreds of residents of the county under the banner: Citizens of Grand Cape Mount County in Demand of their Senator, staged the violent protest in Gbah Foboi during the early morning hours of Monday, May 31. Gbah Foboi is over two hours’ drive from the capital, Robertsport.
They chanted anti-slogans and held placards with inscriptions: “Simeon B. Taylor represents our decision; The voice of Cape Mount is bigger than Supreme Court decision; Cape Mount without a Senator is a violation of our constitutional rights; End the disrespect to our laws, Senate act now; among others.
They complained that the delay by the NEC to certificate Mr. Taylor is strangulating and denying them of adequate representation especially in the wake of intense legislative debates and decisions taking place at the Capitol Building.
The Capitol Building is the official seat of the National Legislature.
While lawmakers of other counties are ably representing their people, the protesters noted that, their county-Grand Cape Mount-has only a single lawmaker at the Liberian Senate, something which makes it very difficult for them to be properly represented.
According to them, the situation is negatively contributing to the lack of basic social services which they have been consistently denied over the years in Cape Mount.
The protesters maintained that the lack of proper representation for Grand Cape Mount at the level of the National Legislature, particularly the Liberian Senate, is also denying them of sustainable infrastructural developments.
Speaking in an interview with Reporters during the protest, the group’s Chairman, Folley Kiatamba, disclosed that the protest was intended for citizens of the county to speak with one voice on the conspicuous delay by authorities of both the Supreme Court and the NEC to guarantee the certification of Mr. Taylor as their choice.
He claimed that the rights of thousands of citizens of the county have been allegedly violated by the both entities as a result of the delay in the certification of Mr. Taylor.
“We have come here to say to the people of Liberia that the people of Grand Cape Mount County have gathered here because; the National Elections Commission and the Supreme Court of the Republic of Liberia have violated our democratic rights and the constitution of this country. Since December 8, 2020 senatorial election, the NEC announced the winner but since then, that winner cannot be certificated”.
Mr. Kiatamba observed that though the constitutional days set aside for the commission to hear electoral disputes have elapsed, the Grand Cape Mount County electoral case remains far from ending.
He wondered why the Supreme Court, which is the final arbiter of justice in Liberia, took a little over a month before rendering its first judgment in the case, following the filing of an appeal to the High Court by the lawyers of defeated senatorial candidate Victor Watson.
“The NEC and the Supreme Court violated Chapter eight of the constitution of the Republic of Liberia. They violated Article 83 of the constitution; they went further to violate Article 45 of the constitution of this country”.
Article 45 states that: “The Senate shall composed of Senators elected for a term of nine years by the registered voters in each of the counties, but a Senator elected in a by-election to fill a vacancy created by death, resignation, expulsion or otherwise, shall be so elected to serve only the remainder of the unexpired term of office. Each county shall elect two Senators and each Senator shall have one vote in the Senate. Senators shall be eligible for re-election”.
Among other things, Article 83 states that: “The returns of the elections shall be declared by the Elections Commission not later than fifteen days after the casting of ballots. Any party or candidate who complains about the manner in which the elections were conducted or who challenges the results thereof shall have the right to file a complaint with the Elections Commission. Such complaint must be filed not later than seven days after the announcement of the results of the elections. The Elections Commission shall, within thirty days of receipt of the complaint, conduct an impartial investigation and render a decision which may involve a dismissal of the complaint or a nullification of the election of a candidate. Any political party or independent candidate affected by such decision shall not later than seven days appeal against it to the Supreme Court. The Elections Commission shall within seven days of receipt of the notice of appeal; forward all the records in the case to the Supreme Court, which not later than seven days thereafter, shall hear and make its determination. If the Supreme Court nullifies or sustains the nullification of the election of any candidate, for whatever reasons, the Elections commission shall within sixty days of the decision of the Court conduct new elections to fill the vacancy. If the court sustains the election of a candidate, the Elections Commission shall act to effectuate the mandate of the Court”.
Mr. Kiatamba further stated: “We want NEC and the Supreme Court to note that as of today’s date, if there is no results concerning the certification of our Senator that won the election by next Monday, the people of Grand Cape Mount County will reassemble and we will not leave. We will just assure you of our cooperation for today, but the next round, we will be prepared to take the bullets, receive the tear gas and the lashes”.
He, however, lauded the protesters for leaving their respective homes and busy schedules to engage into a struggle for the betterment of the county.
He commended officers of the Joint Security Task Force assigned in Grand Cape Mount for their “understanding and cooperation” during the protest, adding that, “you made us to feel that we are all Liberians”.
“We are going to give this government and the Supreme Court an ultimatum. Any attempt to fail, there will be a very strong resistance to that effect”, another protester stated earlier.
The protest which obstructed the free movement of pedestrians and vehicles, and normal academic, working and commercial activities later subsided following the intervention of officers of the Joint Security Task Force assigned in the county.