Liberia: Coalition of Liberian Women Demands Security for Gbarpolu County’s Leading Female Senatorial Candidate, Supporters Ahead of Rescheduled Election
Monrovia – A coalition of Liberian women have joined the only female and leading senatorial candidate in the ongoing election in Gbarpolu County, Madam Botoe Kanneh in seeking assurances from the Government of Liberia to provide security for her and supporters ahead of the rescheduled election in Nomodatonau Town, located within the county’s third electoral District.
It can be recalled that election in the town, called Normor for short, was suspended on December 8, 2020 by the National Elections Commission (NEC) when the Paramount Chief of the area, identified as McGill Wuluah allegedly ordered a group of young people to seize the ballot boxes assigned to the town’s Precinct for unknown reasons. The Precinct, with Code #45039, comprises four polling places with 2,021 registered voters, according the National Elections Commission (NEC).
The election was rescheduled on December 15, 2020, but on the eve of the polls, the powerful all-male traditional Poro society, allegedly acting on the orders of Chief Wuluah, attacked Madam Kanneh and her supporters and stopped them from entering the town. She was forced to flee and sought refuge to nearby villages. Her supporters and relatives including her brother, were allegedly beaten and held hostage by the traditional devil. Some of them are currently being held in detention in Bopolu, the county’s headquarters.
She was later rescued by a coalition of pro-women organizations and taken to Monrovia.
Speaking in a landmark press conference on Monday, ahead of the election which is now scheduled for January 7, 2021, the women coalition, comprising some of the nation’s foremost women advocates and politicians, called on the authority to ensure that the security of the lone female candidate in the race and her supporters are guaranteed.
“We are very concerned about the security of the candidate and her people. She has consistently called on our Feminist-In-Chief. She has already stated here that some of her people are in jail. How can we have a free and fair election when we have this kind of situation?” asked Madam Olubanke King Akerele, former Foreign Minister of Liberia, in a statement issued on behalf of the women.
Madam Akerele who currently chairs the Board of the Angie Brooks International Center at the University of Liberia further said: “We are standing with her. The women of Liberia are standing with the women candidate. Enough is enough! We were proud to have the first woman elected president in Africa, and here we are, we cannot show what we are worth. We cannot show the protection for our women, come on… It’s not good enough. It is unacceptable. We will not accept it. The women of Liberia will not accept what she (Madam Kanneh) is going through.”
‘More Eyes In Norman’
Also speaking, former Foreign Minister Marjon Vashti Kamara said that the women will accompany Madam Kanneh to Gbarpolu to ensure their “eyes are everywhere.”
“We are going to support her. We are going to have our presence there. So, we are going to have more eyes to see and access the assurances that have been given us in terms of security and keeping the culture separate from the electoral process. We are going to be there and follow her up to Norman.”
Former presidential candidate, MacDella Cooper noted that the show of support to the female candidate is a clear manifestation that the women of Liberia support women’s political participation in the country.
“The women of Liberia are no longer going to sit back and allow the female candidates be humiliated. Women in Liberian politic need to be protected. Our rights are just as good as those men’ rights. And what wasn’t done before because there is an ongoing tendency that women don’t support women.”
She continues: “This is the beginning and this has set a new image that the women of Liberia, moving forward, will continue to support women in politics. We will not sit back to allow anyone to determine our democracy, our democracy will speak for itself.”
For her part, former Bong County Superintendent, Madam Selina Polson Mappycalled on the Ministry of Internal Affairs to intervene and stop the Chief from using the tradition to meddle in the electoral process.
“You cannot use our tradition to intimidate us. To the Ministry of Internal Affairs, the Ministry that I worked with, you cannot have a town chief or a paramount chief interfere in elections matter and you allow him go free,” she noted.
“The Ministry of Internal Affairs must stand up. The President should make sure that the Ministry of Internal Affairs stands up because this is a shame to our nation. We cannot continue like this. Something has to be done. We are backing Botoe and we will back her to the fullest as women of Liberia,” she vowed.
‘I Don’t Feel Safe’
Speaking to the media for the first time, Madam Kanneh, who is running as an Independent candidate said despite her willingness to participate in the election, her and her supporters’ safety has not been guaranteed.
She called on President Weah, as “feminist-in-Chief to ensure that her rights and that of her supporters’ are protected.
“Right now, I do not feel safe. I need protection. I cannot go to the election under the same conditions. My supporters and myself need protection,” she said.
Speaking further, she laid out several conditions that should be met to ensure the election is free, fair and transparent.
Madam Botoe, among other things, called on the immigration officials to return dozens of voting cards that were seized from people she claimed are her supporters on grounds that they are Sierra Leoneans.
“These are my supporters, how are they expected to vote when their voting cards are in the hands of local immigration officials? I do not trust the police and immigration people,” she said.
She also called on the “Country Devil” to be banned from the area during the election, adding “they have made Normor a devil area. As soon as you enter, they will bring the male country devil. This election is about a man and a woman, so why should they bring out the male devil? Some of my supporters are still in jail in Bopolu? They need to be released so they can exercise their voting rights.”
She also called for the election to be monitored by international observers including the UN, ECOWAS, and the women’s organizations.
She thanked the various women’s organizations that continue to stand by her and Liberians in the diaspora for the support.
“Thanks to all the Liberian people in the diaspora and at home for raising money to support my cause. I really appreciate you. Thank you for your efforts to strengthen democracy in Liberia and support women’s political participation. I also want to thank my brothers for always supporting me in my political pursuit and all areas of my life.”
Meanwhile, with over 96 percent of the votes in Gbarpolu Counted so far, Madam Kanneh, is leading with 25.68% (4,722) of the votes, while her closest rival, Rep. Alfred Koiwood of the ruling Coalition for Democratic Change (CDC) is behind with 23.24% (4,273), making the extended election ever more crucial.