Liberia: Gbarpolu’s Only Female Senatorial Candidate Goes Through Thick and Thin as She Edges Being Declared Winner

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Monrovia – Amid several gridlocks that came her way – from the violence meted against her through the use of the “Country Devil to detention and seizure of dozens of her supporters’ voting cards” – Gbarpolu County only female senatorial candidate, Botoe Kanneh is set to be declared winner of the county’s acrimonious and hotly contested senatorial race.

However, a stay order placed on all electoral processes in Gbarpolu County by Justice-in-Chambers, Sie-A- neh Youh appears to be the latest obstacle stopping Kanneh from being declared the winner.

In her ruling which came after the rerun of the election in Nomordatonau Town on January 7, Justice Youh, mandated the National Elections Commission (NEC) through its Chairperson, Davidetta Brown Lansanah to stop all electoral process within Gbarpolu County.

Her ruling was in compliance with a petition filed by the candidate of the ruling Coalition for Democratic Change (CDC), Rep. Alfred Koiwood, who through his team of lawyers, had requested Justice Youh to stop the NEC from conducting the rescheduled election in the town of Normadatonau until the Election House addresses allegations of voter fraud, election violence and irregularities that marred the December polls.

But the ruling came after the conduct of the rescheduled election on January 7, where Kanneh has been projected to win Gbarpolu County as poll watchers complete counting of ballot papers from the rerun election, according to the Daily Observer Newpaper.

Madam Kanneh, prior to the rerun election had been in the lead with 4,767 electoral votes, while Koiwood, her closest rival had 4,281 votes from 139 polling places out 144, according to data from the National Election Commission.

Though Kanneh’s lead against Rep. Koiwood was slightly reduced after preliminary results showed that Koiwood came on top in the rerun (Koiwood obtained 217 while Kanneh got 188 votes), she is still expected to win the county’s senatorial seat as Rep. Koiwood’s votes were not sufficient to surpass her overall lead.

What Makes Kanneh so Irresistible?

From being a bush meat seller to a Senator, Madam Botoe Kanneh faces multiple roadblocks in her quest to be one of only two female Senators in the Liberian Senate as she looks being a true representation of the grass rooters and the indigenous.

Breaking silence following her well documented and harrowing experience in December 2020, she declared that she was in the race to advocate for the “improvement of road and healthcare and creation jobs for young people, especially our young women.  I strongly believe that past leaders, all men, have done nothing to improve the lives of our people.”

She continues: “As a businesswoman, I have traveled all over the county, to towns and villages where car cannot reach, so I have experienced bad road conditions and seen people die on the way to get medical care.”

“People walk 10 to 12 hours to get health care.  Over the last 20 years, I have provided loans to people to start business and catered to so many needy people from my small business. To get to the Liberian Senate, I have been beaten, harassed, and threatened with the country devil.  I had to hide in the bush to protect myself from people who are trying to prevent me from serving our people.”

Madam Kanneh is also a familiar face in Gbarpolu where she had previously contested unsuccessfully for the county’s legislative seat.

She added that she decided to take the chance in 2020 after citizens grew disillusioned over the male politicians who she claimed have failed the county and its people.

Gbarpolu County, one of the newest in Liberia has not elected a female Senator. So, when former Senate Pro Tempore Amah Zulu Jallah’s nine-year tenure was expired, Kanneh threw her hat in the ring, becoming the only female candidate among nine contestants including the incumbent and a sitting member of the House of Representatives. Little did she know the series of challenges she would encounter-beside the challenge of raising money for campaign purposes.

While her continued triumph can be attributed to her familiarity with her people, the show of empathy and support from several groups including the coalition of Liberian women and diaspora Gbarpolu citizens.

It can be recalled that while Kanneh went missing, a coalition of women organizations launched a daring rescue mission and brought her to Monrovia where she somehow recovered from the trauma caused by the action of her adversaries.

Just days to the rescheduled election, the women coalition, comprising some of the nation’s foremost women advocates and politicians, in a landmark press conference, 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 BrooksInternational 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.”

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.”

And they did. Prior to the rescheduled polls, the women met with Justice Minister Dean where assured them of Madam Kanneh and her supporters’ security.

With the preliminary results from the just-ended re-scheduled election in Gbarpolu, Madam Kanneh’s rocky road to the Liberian Senate may just be coming to an end.

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