Liberia: Montserrado District 17 Residents Warn Incumbent Lawmaker, Aspirants, Bus Owners against Voter Trucking
Residents of electoral district # 17 in Montserrado County have begun the process of engaging their Representative Hanson Kiazolu and other aspirants to avoid manipulating and influencing the ongoing Voters Registration (VR) by “trucking” others to and from the district or risk bearing severe consequences for failing to curtail or abandon the act.
By Obediah Johnson
Lawmaker Kiazolu is representing the people of district # 17 in the 54th National Legislature on the ticket of the opposition Unity Party (UP). Currently, he is a senatorial aspirant in Grand Cape Mount.
Liberians are expected to go to the polls on October 10 this year, to elect their new leaders, according to a timetable released by the National Elections Commission (NEC).
As part of the process, the Voter Registration exercise commenced on Monday, March 20.
Since the commencement of the exercise, citizens continue to raise alarm over the “trucking” of non-domiciled residents to and from their respective districts and counties by incumbent lawmakers and other aspirants.
As a result of the situation, residents of district 17 resolved to engage the incumbent and other aspirants to halt the unscrupulous exercise, if they are involved, or risk unspecified actions to safeguard their district from being politically infiltrated by those who do not have intend to better their living conditions.
Speaking in an exclusive interview with FrontPage Africa on Tuesday, March 21, Mr. Joseph D. Nyumah, a former rebel general of the defunct Liberia United for Reconciliation and Democracy (LURD), disclosed that citizens of the district have begun meeting and mobilizing to prevent the registration of others who are not domiciled in their district.
He said the engagement with the incumbent and other aspirants vying for the Representative seats in district 17 or other areas that have been linked to “trucking” residents to and from the district is intended to discourage them from intensifying the unwholesome act which runs contrary to the new election law of Liberia.
He disclosed that the failure of these “desperate politicians” to abandon the “trucking” of voters will not be condoned by the locals.
General Nyumah added that the diplomatic approach being implored by them is also a clarion call to persuade those involved to play low.
“We are consulting other community leaders and the youths. For the second week of the voters’ registration, any attempt by motorbike, bus to bring people who are not residing here, they will not be registered. If you are bringing people to overshadow us, you are putting that property and people at risk. We are not going to hesitate to resist anything.”
“Trucking denies the citizens of a constituency their rightful choice to represent them. Whenever trucking is done and someone wins, he or she will always say ‘da my money put me there’. Let the citizens who live in the district sit and decide who to vote for.”
General Nyumah added that residents of the district are also concerned about the conspicuous silence of authorities of the National Elections Commission (NEC) on this grave violation of the election law.
“We want to let the International Community and the public know that during the following week of the voters’ registration in district # 17, there will be no trucking. Do not bring your car, motorbike, truck or caterpillar to bring people to register. If you bring it, you put them at risk.”
He said the government, especially NEC must be held liable for the high rate of “trucking” of voters in various districts due to its muteness and failure to take punitive actions against those that are involved.
He observed that as a result of this, tension continues to be mounting at various VR centers in the district.
“Go to the various polling centers, people cussing noise and heavy tension. Some people don’t even know the names of the various communities they come from. Someone was brought from Baylima in district # 14 to register in district # 17. The person was told that when the NEC workers ask her she should say that she came from Gbarteah Town in district # 17. But the person made mistake and said ‘I came from Baylima.’ When the person was asked who brought you, the person ran away from on the line (queue). If system was put into place, these things were not going to happen.”
General Nyumah, however, stressed the need for those vying for representative and senatorial seats in the ensuing elections to sell their respective platforms and convince the domiciled residents in their respective districts and counties, instead of spending hugely on “trucking”.
He said aspirants giving flimsy justification that their supporters in other areas are the ones that being transported to vote them into power, should have muster the courage to run in those districts and counties were their perceived supporters are based, instead of spilling cash to transport them in other areas to have them elected.
“We are consulting and working with the various stakeholders. In fact, all of the candidates in the race, we are in contact with them. The first thing is, we are going to meet and engage them one on one to stop trucking people and they should come and convince us to vote for them. If we stop them from bringing people or ask them to remove their cars from here and they want to resist, we too will resist and the consequences will remain high.”
General Nyumah said five major candidates in the district and few others from outside have already been identified as those that are engaged into “trucking” adding that, “we have a team on the field to meet them one on one.”
“We will tell them that honorable you are welcome, please stop bringing people to this district. The constitution of Liberia says ‘domicile’. Someone is not domicile here, why they should come here to register and vote? Many candidates are trucking people; we are watching and we will meet them.”
“We are going out to identify all the places that they are trucking people. The second week of the voters’ registration in district # 17, there will be no trucking. Enough is enough. They are denying us the right to elect the rightful choice.”
Also speaking, the Chairman of the Nelson Mandela Intellectual Forum Abubakar Sidikie Dukuly disclosed that citizens of the district will also engage other incumbent lawmakers from Bomi and Grand Cape Mount counties to abandon their quest to “truck” their citizens to their respective counties to register.
He also made reference to incumbent lawmakers and aspirants from district # 14 in Montserrado, while others are being transported from as far as Duport road to register at centers in Brewerville and other parts adjacent.
“We live here and almost every young person living around here, either we know them or they know us. And so, if we see strange persons, we will definitely identify you.”
Dukuly observed that Liberia will continue to be flooded with “bad unimplemented policies” due to the manner and form in which decisions are made at the lower level.
He said when elected, aspirants dollarizing the ongoing voter registration process by “trucking” eligible voters will have no time to consult their constituents before taking decisions.
He added that these politicians will have always hold the negative perception that they are no longer answerable to their people because, they were voted by others who do not reside in their respective districts.
“These people will not come back to their people to ask which laws we should vote for or which laws we should not vote for. They will always do their own thing and at the end of the day, the citizens will be affected. This is one of the reasons why Liberia continues to go backward.”
“It is unfortunate to see cosmetic and unrealistic politicians taking people from one destination to another to register for their own personal benefits. If you had worked for your people, there is no need for you to be trucking or taking people from one destination to another.”
Dukuly further claimed that the high rate of illiteracy in Liberia is also a contributing factor for increase in voters’ “trucking.”
He observed that most of those being trucked to districts and counties are not only jobless, but they are also uneducated.
He added that females are the ones that are mostly vulnerable and exposed to “trucking.”
Dukuly said an educated person does not need to be reminded or financially induced by any politician to register to exercise his or her franchise.
“Politicians are contributing towards poverty; they are not working towards eliminating it. They just want to keep the people poor so they can continue to use them.”
He claimed that the true essence of the government’s transportation service being rendered through the National Transit Authority (NTA) is being misused during this voter registration period.
Dukuly said NTA buses continue to serve as avenue for “failed and greedy” politicians to appease their voters’ “trucking” appetite.
He noted that though citizens have consistently complained on the matter, the NTA continues to aid the act.
“For us in district # 17-if we see NTA buses bringing in people from other districts to come register here, we will question those buses. This is a warning to the Director for the NTA. Don’t allow the government public transportation service to be used to take people from one district to another.”
Make a statement
Dukuly used this medium to call on authorities of the NEC to “make a statement” against voters’ trucking.
He said the International Community should also intervene if authorities of the commission fail to exercise their statutory mandate.
He stressed that if the situation remains, poverty will continue to escalate in Liberia and elected officials who trucked voters will perform poorly.
Dukuly indicated that these lawmakers will perpetuate themselves in power and dance to the flute of the executive, depriving citizens of true representation at the level of the National Legislature.
Politically enslaving others
Stephen Wanawon, 26, said citizens should not allow themselves to be transported from one district to another by politicians who have already failed their people.
He said such “low thinking” of some citizens is intended to politically enslave the real constituents of those districts and counties where they do not reside.
“You as a citizen and you love your country, you should not be involved in that kind of act (of being trucked). We ourselves should also be blamed alone with those that are trying to ascend to elected positions.”
Wanawon maintained that despite the barrage of difficulties and economic constraints, Liberians should remain patriotic and avoid being financially influenced to be “trucked” to register in other districts.
Will not be accountable
He said politicians paying and transporting people to go and register in their various districts are unpatriotic.
When elected, he emphasized that these breed of leaders will not prioritize the interest of those who elected them.
He noted that they will poorly represent their constituents and care less of their wellbeing by bragging that their finances made them to be elected.
Wanawon observed that chaos and disruption of the ongoing VR process would erupt if actions are not taken to discourage voters’ trucking ahead of the elections.
“NEC should regulate the system and senatorial or representative aspirants penalize if they are caught trucking. They should deny them from participating in the elections.”
Willfully returning home
Mark B. Kamara, 38, hails from Grand Cape Mount County. He works and resides in Montserrado.
He vowed to return to his hometown next week to register and vote for the candidates of his choice with no plan of receiving a dime from any aspirant.
Kamara said those allowing themselves to be used by “greedy and failed” politicians, especially those seeking re-election do not mean well for them and their respective family members.
“It is very bad for citizens to leave their various communities and go different places to make wrong decisions for the people who are living there. Our leaders these days are trucking people. I have never taken a dime from anyone to go and register and vote for anyone. If I do this, I will be killing myself.”
Kamara further attributed citizens’ action to receive cash to leave their respective districts to go elsewhere to register on the high rate of poverty in Liberia.
He observed that many Liberians cannot afford to put food on the tables of their respective families due to the growing wave of unemployment and economic constraints, and as such, they preferred receiving between US$10 to US$20 from these politicians to go and register in other places.
He said though the transporting of voters from one destination to another is risky, some Liberians continue to take the challenge due to their appalling living condition.
Kamara recalled the loss of lives and properties during the elections in 2017 due to “trucking.”
“The NEC workers during the registration should ask key questions. If someone even received money to go and register somewhere, their conscious will not set them free when questions are being asked.”
S. Abraham Kiatamba stated: “I observed strange faces and some aspirants are engaged into voters trucking. I said people being placed on pick-ups to go and register.”
He said most of those vying to be elected do not have “tangibles in their respective districts to convince people to vote for them,” and as such, they engaged into “trucking.”
“This will affect our district in decision making. It will promote bad governance in our district. I want to send this as a caveat to citizens and the national government-the lack of education is really embarrassing our people in the districts. It is very disheartening to see people being paid little to compromise their future.”
Musa Kanneh, 40, described the act as illegal.
“”Bringing people from another district to come and register to vote in another district and give them cash because you want to be a lawmaker-this is not good. Those who want to be Representative or Senator by trucking people need to put stop to that. The government needs to see reason to stop the issue of trucking.”
He said citizens should ensure that those who are not domiciled in their respective district do not have access to VR centers.”