Liberia: Controversial Jobs’ Clause Greets Cummings’ Ascendancy as Head of Opposition Alliance
Monrovia – Vice President Jewel Howard Taylor has never fully recovered from one of her first major missteps since assuming the vice presidency.
The VP, in May 2018, while installing local officials into office in the county for which she served as Senator for 12 years before becoming Vice President, averred that it is impossible for the government to work with people who she does not share the same political ideology with. “Y’all will join because other people joined the Unity Party so I’m waiting for y’all to travel to your districts to and tell me you’re joining the ruling Coalition,” the VP said.
While clarifying that she holds nothing against the officials who are members of other parties, she would order the removal of all non-CDC officials. She maintained that trust is paramount and she would not be confident to express herself in the midst of non-members of the Coalition.
Swirling in Similarities
“The fact that some people sitting here, they’re not members of the Coalition, y’all know we have nothing in our hearts against y’all, because I would have said, ‘Remove everybody’; what would you have done to me? Nothing, it’s my time,” she said.
The VP snafu moment triggered a ricochet in the opposition community. In fact, the Weah administration has been often criticized for not forming a government of inclusion and national unity.
Over the past week, since the legal framework of the four political parties – All Liberian Party, Alternative National Congress, Liberty Party and the former ruling Unity Party became public, controversy has been swirling over a particular clause bearing strong similarities to VP Taylor’s declaration.
‘Only Known Active, Visible Members’
“The clause is more amplified in reflection of the opposition’s unrestrained criticisms once heaped upon leaders of the CDC (including myself) a forthright ago for recommending CDCeans for employment opportunities, even though the CDC was at the same time defending the President’s decision to appoint members of their parties (the opposition) to important roles.Mr. Mulbah Morlu, Chair, Ruling Coalition for Democratic Change
Section 10.11.3 of the framework states: “Only known, active and visible members of Constituent political parties shall be recommended by the parties.
Section 10.11.4 adds: Constituent political parties shall recommend members of the counties for local government positions. Only known, active and visible members in the county shall be recommended by the parties for local government positions.
Many political observers are puzzled over how four political parties spent several months working on a legal framework and failed to take note of the controversial clause which made its way into the final print.
The four-party alliance in its quest to beat the ruling Coalition for Democratic Change’s government at the polls in both the Senatorial Mid Term elections later this year and the 2023 presidential elections, has been trumpeting the presentation of “a single presidential ticket and or legislative candidates for all elections leading up to and including 2023 general and presidential elections. The parties are also aiming to forge and support a common national interest and present a common political agenda to the Liberian people.
The controversial clause appears for now to be gaining steam, even for a ruling party waiting to pounce. “This woeful clause of segregation in the CPP’s published protocol, which unravels a divisive and chaotic governing approach in their unlikely quest for political power, is not only hypocritical but signals an agenda of hate and political tribalism that, until now, has been hidden under their sleeves,” Mr. Mulbah Morlu, chair of the ruling CDC told FrontPageAfrica Saturday.
CDC’s Morlu: Clause Shows Opposition Hypocrisy
Mr. Morlu slammed what he described as an act of hypocrisy, “more amplified in reflection of the opposition’s unrestrained criticisms once heaped upon leaders of the CDC (including myself) a forthright ago for recommending CDCeans for employment opportunities, even though the CDC was at the same time defending the President’s decision to appoint members of their parties (the opposition) to important roles.”
In these roles, Morlu charged, the ruling party continue to absorb members of respective opposition constituencies. “While the CDC will continue to advocate for its qualified party members to be given employment opportunities in a government they laboured to elect, at the same time, we continue to maintain the policy of bias-free inclusion as a major instrument of democratic stability and good governance.”
The ruling party chair averred that the CPP’s exposed governing manifesto seeks only to elevate their ‘Sacred’ political tribe above tens of thousands of qualified citizens they may perceive as antagonists, thereby stamping upon their foreheads a label of prejudice.
Mr. Morlu said the clause is a rude-awakening; especially, to political independents and few sympathizers of the CDC’s own cause who may have given the least thought of sympathy to opposition agenda. “To these, I caution, the stigmatization & political labelling has begun even before the opposition has an unlikely chance to reclaim power. With this exposure, we may safely conclude that, in the unforeseen possibility of the tilting of power to these unpatriotic and selfish few, Liberia should brace-up for another tragic era of dysfunctional, hate and cruel politics of witch-hunt. This is not only an arrogant hypocrisy, but an attempt to indulge coercive politics that enforces loyalty or penalizes those that dare defy, the perfect storm in a tea cup we must now fight to prevent.”
The CPP framework is said to have been a major source of lingering strains within the Coalition of Political parties over major differences on issues relating to both the 2020 Senatorial Mid Term and 2023 presidential elections.
While both outgoing chairman, ALP’s Benoni Urey and the new chairman, ABC’s Alexander Cummings who had been at each others throat over the past few months, appear confident that the ‘Final Collaborative Framework Document’ will aim to satisfy the collective interest of all Liberians, many are not sure.
Clause ‘Not Set in Stone’?
Mr. Urey acknowledged during the signing last week that the major problem of the CPP has been the political ambition of its leaders even as he assured that both parties have reconciled while promising to put the interest of Liberians first.
“This document is a living document. Nothing in here is carved in stone. This document, I believe will move from imperfection to perfection. Once we have agreement among the four of us, we will certainly make the changes or make the corrections to ensure that the aspiration of the four political parties are taken into consideration in this document.”Mr. Benoni Urey, Political Leader, All Liberia Party, Ex-Chair, CPP
“Fundamentally, I don’t believe there are any differences between the ANC [Alternative National Congress], Liberty Party, the Unity and the ALP [All Liberian Party]. Our only problem is our political ambitions. We must lay our political ambitions aside and think about the suffering of our people. We must listen to the will of the Liberian people,” Urey urged. “I want to remind all of us that we have an obligation to the Liberian people. We must ensure that the will of the Liberian people prevail and that will supersedes our personal ambition.”
As controversy swells over the clause relating to jobs, murmurs within the CPP hierarchy suggest that the initial public reaction may give rise to an amendment to the framework, drawing on an assertion of Mr. Urey last week. “This document is a living document. Nothing in here is carved in stone. This document, I believe will move from imperfection to perfection. Once we have agreement among the four of us, we will certainly make the changes or make the corrections to ensure that the aspiration of the four political parties are taken into consideration in this document.”
The issue of jobs has been a hot topic for Liberians often drawing anger when ruling party stalwarts threaten opposition members into submission over promises of jobs and dividing loyalties along the way.
The practice is often seen as a means of promising opposition figures with jobs as incentives to cross-carpet.
In August, Deputy Information Minister Eugene Fahngon took to Facebook to slam partisans of the ruling CDC for repeatedly playing the blame game that the opposition is taking away jobs belonging to CDCians.
Fahngon said partisans of the CDC must erase the notion that “this is our government and that’s our time to work”.
Similarly, the clause in the opposition CPP alliance is drawing similar sentiments.
Clause Resurrects ‘Divisive Comments’
“I agree with those who argue that the contentious clause in the CPP framework document about jobs distribution should be amended to reflect the change we seek,” says talk show icon Patrick Honnah.
“I know a portion of that particular clause also talks about awarding jobs to qualified Liberians. Hence, I think the portion about “awarding jobs to only active, known and visible CPP members” should now be revisited. This should not be a difficult change to make in the framework document and I am certain it will be done. That is exactly why it is even called “framework”( a basic concept) document. Public feedback is very important when crafting public policies.”Patrick Honnah, Talk Show Icon
Honnah states that the clause as is, “does bring back fresh memories of divisive comments from the current President and his Vice about “da our time”. The same thing we complained about when the V.P once said “Only people in the coalition should get jobs, da our time. They had their time”. She was speaking in Bong County. We can not criticise CDceans for publicly saying “only Cdceans should get government jobs”, while at the same time planning to do same. I know a portion of that particular clause also talks about awarding jobs to qualified Liberians. Hence, I think the portion about “awarding jobs to only active, known and visible CPP members” should now be revisited. This should not be a difficult change to make in the framework document and I am certain it will be done. That is exactly why it is even called “framework”( a basic concept) document. Public feedback is very important when crafting public policies.”
An executive of one of the four parties, speaking on condition of anonymity this week, acknowledged that the lack of expertise and oversight was a contributing factor to the lapses now coming to light and drawing anger from sympathizers and critics. “I think they took their eyes off the ball on this; they never got experienced people to review the document and really embarrassed everybody,” said the official. “There are many, many other things that are being discovered that I don’t think even the National Elections Commission will accept. A lot of work really needs to be done to fix what is obviously a very bad public relations problem for the CPP.”
The official added: The rush to sign without thorough guidance has dealt us the first slap. It is just that the Weah government has its own issues and making so many mistakes, so they are not capitalizing on this but many of us are refusing to go along with the agreement until some amendments are made.”
Political watchers are keen to see how Cummings handles the controversy which could prove to be a defining litmus test for his political pedigree as the CPP embarks on what is building up to be a herculean quest to seize power from the ruling CDC at the polls.