MONROVIA – The capital was wet and green on Sunday. The Unity Party labeled it ‘Palm Sunday’ as they defied the deluge that many would have thought would keep them away from the streets and ultimately, the launch of their campaign, but that was not the case.
Report by Lennart Dodoo & Henry Karmo
The launch of Unity Party campaign comes in close comparison to that of the ruling Coalition for Democratic Change which took the lead to launch theirs on September 7 pulling a crowd that left many political observers astonished.
Sunday’s launch now raises a new debate in many quarters – “Who pulled the biggest crowd?” For most observers the ruling establishment’s September 7 launch was massive and the Unity Party’s response shows that despite the CDC having an edge, Montserrado County remains a fierce battleground for the October 10 elections.
In the buildup to Sunday’s rally, UP surrogates such as Senator Abraham Darius Dillon claimed after the CDC rally that the UP would ground Monrovia to a halt when it took to the streets, on Sunday, September 17, 2003.
The UP has claimed it is on a path to unseat President Weah.
In the past five years, the opposition has challenged the governing CDC on narratives that the ‘ country is hard;’ and that the CDC is not governing well.
Several months ago, the opposition CPP of candidate Alexander Cumming, which splintered with the Unity party, launched a ‘We tire suffering rally.’
The opposition generally has pushed the argument and narrative that Liberians will make President Weah a one-term president.
In response, the CDC has argued that it has ‘achieved in six years what the Unity party could not achieve in 12 years’ and on this basis, they believe Liberians will retain them on the first ballot. Claims and counterclaims have flown throughout the political landscape.
These claims would obviously be settled on October 10 but there are milestone events that can gauge where Liberians are generally leaning, three weeks before Election Day.
Political rallies are a clear gauge. Judging by the three rallies that have now been held by the three leading parties, it is safe to say that CDC remains a force to reckon with while overwhelming support also received by the opposition parties, especially the Unity Party cannot be underestimated. However, to retire Pres. Weah as they have claimed they would, they’ll need more grease on their elbows.
Some political pundits counter that big rallies are not necessarily a predictor of victory. In 2005, CDC pulled very big rallies but lost the second round of elections, though an argument can be made that they won the first round. In the mid-term elections of 2020, Thomas Fallah, the CDC senatorial candidate filled the SKD stadium but was defeated by opposition Senatorial candidate Darrius Dillon.
The former Vice President is looking to do what has not been done in 152 years – hoping to lead a former ruling party back to power through the ballot box. The last time it happened was in 1871 but through a coup d’état, when the Republican Party came back to power following the overthrow and assassination in 1871 of President E.J. Roye (first True Whig Party President). Following the overthrow, Vice President James S. Smith became president for a few months. Republican J.J. Roberts assumed the presidency again in January 1872. He was succeeded by another Republican James Spriggs Payne who served until 1877 when TWP President Anthony Gardner came to power. But TWP hegemony was not assured until the 1883 election of HRW Johnson. The Republicans tried comebacks several times — 1891, 1893, but to no avail. Since the fall of the TWP, successive regimes like Samuel Doe’s National Democratic Party of Liberia, and Charles Taylor’s National Patriotic Party (NPP) have attempted comebacks without success.
Amb. Boakai did not say much at his rally, despite the over-crowded stadium being anticipation. He said he could not deliver his speech due to the rain and time. This is reminiscent of his 2017 campaign rally.
However, FrontPageAfrica has obtained a copy of his prepared campaign speech in which he promises a better Liberia.
“We are all excited and optimistic about what is now a national call to rally citizens of this great country for a rescue mission to reverse the hardships so many Liberians and their families have been subjected to for the past 6 years,” he said.
The 78-year-old standard bearer in his speech emphatically voices his preparedness to resist rigging of the October 10 elections. He also noted that he is ready to work with international prosecutors to expose and arrest those who would foster electoral violence and derail our hard-won peace.
Boakai also took some solace in the recent statement made by the United States government regarding safeguarding the integrity of these elections.
He said, “While we welcome the imposition of sanctions on those who would attempt to thwart the will of the Liberian people, we call on ECOWAS, the United States, the European Union, the African Union, and organizations such as International Foundation for Electoral System (IFES) to fully, thoroughly and actively engage the process now to avert any threat that will undermine these elections by acknowledging and understanding the significance of identifying and combatting any attempts to undermine this fundamental aspect of our society.”
While asserting that the Weah-led government has plunged the country in economic hardships, social injustice, inequality, and corruption, amongst others, he assured his supporters that if elected, his government would face these challenges head-on.
“Together, we will confront these challenges head-on, with compassion and determination. We will work tirelessly to create an inclusive society, where no one is left behind, where opportunities are abundant, and where the future is brighter for each generation,” he said.
Boakai, who served 12 years as Vice President to Madam Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, but could not secure victory in the elections that followed the end of her tenure believes he is better poised to drive transformation that would be people-driven.
“Let me emphasize that transformation will be driven by the people, and therefore education will be a major part of our agenda. A well-educated society is a thriving society. We will invest in our schools, teachers, and students, ensuring that quality education is accessible to all. By equipping our young minds with the knowledge and skills they need, we will unlock their potential, drive innovation, enhance their dignity and secure a prosperous future for our nation,” he said.
Additionally, the former Vice President, known for his critique of the previous regime he served, where he believed opportunities and resources were squandered, expressed confidence that his administration would not allow Liberia’s resources to be exploited by a select few for their personal gain.
“The people of this country and their government under our stewardship will be equal partners in the judicious exploitation of national resources for the good of the people. If there must be economic growth from the exploitation of our resources, that growth must be equal for our people and must come with development,” he said.
But the former Vice President stands criticized for not utilizing his office during the Sirleaf administration to foster this transformation he now preaches. His analogy that being a Vice President, he was like “a racing car parked in the garage” has continued to haunt him since the 2017 presidential elections debate.