Liberia: Nobel Laureate Leymah Gbowee’s Call for Amb. Boakai’s Retirement from Politics Draws Mixed Reactions; Unity Party Responds


MONROVIA – Nobel Peace Prize winner Leymah has come under stinging attacks and criticisms over her disparaging outburst against the Standard Bearer of the former ruling Unity Party (UP) Joseph Nyumah Boakai.

By Obediah Johnson, [email protected]  

In 2011, Nobel Peace Prize was jointly presented to former Liberian President Madam Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, Leymah Gbowee and Tawakkul Karman of Yemen for their non-violent struggle for the safety of women and for women’s rights to full participation in peace-building work.

In her latest comments posted on the social media-Facebook, Madam Gbowee, called on former Vice President Boakai, who she referred to as her “uncle”, to retire from politics and focus more on his health and his grandchildren.

The 78-year-old has been ill for the past weeks and was admitted at the ELWA Hospital for a week. He was discharged on Sunday. While the nature of his illness remains unclear. However, sources say he suffered a minor stroke.

Madam Gbowee stated that in the interest of peace, development, and the future of Liberia, “I would like to ask you all to kindly allow Uncle Joe Boakai to retire from politics and focus on his health.”

“He deserves to spend his golden years interacting with his grandkids, enjoying family time. I would also like to take this time to ask you all to reconsider your partnership with other political parties and form a merger that will provide a viable political option for the Liberian people.The writings are on the wall; my uncle Joe is in no position to contest! Uncle joe, please be well—i pray god’s blessings upon you.”

She, however, reminded the UP that Liberia’s political future, and interest lie and rest squarely in the hands of the party and as such, it is “high time we put egos aside and put Liberia and her interest first!”

But the comments posted by Madam Gbowee did not go down well with scores of executives of the UP. It also cause stir among members of the opposition community and the ruling party, thereby making few others to come in her defense.

In his response posted on the social media late Monday evening, the Chairman of the Unity Party Legislative Caucus Hanson Kiazolu observed that Madam Gbowee played what he called “politricks” when she scolded ex-VP Boakai in her latest post.

“I have endeavored to read and process the reason and motivation behind Lema Gbowee opened letter to UP including her Aunt Dabba but had not capture her motive so far. I know for a fact that madam  Leymah Gbowee won the Nobel Peace Grammy sometime back for her peace initiative but her letter to UP fall short of certain ingredients of a Nobel peace mind for which I think she is playing politrick.”

He disclosed that the statement from the 2011 Nobel Laureate did not convene her neutrality as ex-Peace Ambassador.

Madam Gbowee served as Peace Ambassador for Liberia during the administration of her Nobel mate Madam Ellen Johnson Sirleaf  as President of Liberia .

In October 2012, she tendered in her resignation, citing high rate of corruption and nepotism in government as reasons for her decision.

Never visited JNB

Representative Kiazolu observed that Madam Gbowee failed to visit Ambassador Boakai when he was admitted, or after he left the hospital.

He added that Madam Gbowee was more political than expressing her sorrow for the UP Standard Bearer and his illness as a fellow statesman, noting that, “maybe that is normal for Nobel Prize winner.”

“She (Gbowee) didn’t focus on JNB recovery for him to be part of a new political merger she has proposed in her letter even though she want JNB’s party join in a new discussion for merger.”

He stated that Madam Gbowee is still in discussion with former UP Political Leader, Madam Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, despite her age, but failed to do the same with Ambassador Boakai.

“She (Gbowee) believes in one old age but hate the other aging because of neo- class system.”

Representative Kiazolu described the letter from Madam Gbowee as “evil and callous.”

“Go pray and write something new and better. I am going to sleep on this one.”

Dabah Varpilah reacts

Madam Gbowee’s communication was also addressed to the National Vice Chairman of the UP Madam Dabah Varpilah.

But responding, Madam Varpilah stated:

“I am constrained to respond to you on Facebook knowing that you have never been inaccessible to me as I have never been in like manner. But I have to do this because you have chosen this medium to communicate your view on a matter you know little about and definitely seem you don’t care to know.”

She noted that regarding “your Uncle Joe Boakai’s health, our values dictate that we are to empathize and wish well to those who are down and often give helping hands.”

She observed that without reaching out to her “Uncle Joe” and not knowing much about his health status; Madam Gbowee took upon herself the role of a medical doctor to pronounce him as not being in the “position to contest” and proposing a “political merger” for the sole purpose of winning an election.

Madam Varpilah said the “well thought, through political move” made by Madam Gbowee does not represent the purpose of “peace and development” as indicated in her post.

“Your uncle Joe Boakai, like any human being, was sick, taken to the hospital as it is normally done when one falls sick and he is now well, discharged from the hospital and home with his family awaiting full recovery. I believe that he looks forward to a niece’s call or visit from you, whenever you are back in the country and other well-wishers. “

Mergers not the only way

Regarding your proposal for a political merger, Madam Varpilah reminded the 2011 Nobel Laureate that, mergers are not the only way to do politics in 2023.

“There are collaborations and endorsements. The Unity Party is currently collaborating and remains engaged with several other political parties and individuals, some of whom have publicly declared support for your Uncle Joe’s presidential bid ahead of the October polls. We are in several of these political arrangements and look forward to the full inclusion of every other Liberian who believes that President George Weah is both a political and a democratic error that must not be repeated in October.”

She stressed that the Unity Party is fully cognizant of its role and responsibility in rescuing Liberia from a total collapse under the CDC regime, and will do nothing to disappoint the Liberian people.

The unanswered questions

Mohammed Ali is the immediate former Secretary General of the UP.

He advanced several inquiries in which Madam Gbowee fail to answer prior to her outburst against Ambassador Boakai on the social media.

“Has Leymah visited Amb. Joseph N. Boakai to know his health status?  Has JNB doctors told her that he (JNB) is sick and is now incapacitated to run for President or lead a country? I am very sure that Leymah has never visited JNB in the last 3 years, least to talk about going to see him recently.”

Gbowee supporting another party?

Ali claimed that Madam Gbowee is “politically active” and supports another political party.

According to him, Madam Gbowee understands that Ambassador Boakai is the only person who has a realistic chance of defeating George Weah and the CDC and as such, “by writing trash and craps about JNB’s health in her mind would dwindle the chances of JNB and up her candidate’s. “

“We have never seen Leymah Gbowee in the medical field. We don’t know her to be one of those closest to JNB. On what basis she assessed the health status of JNB? Leymah should be using her status in society to conduct civic education teaching Liberians the importance of voting. But again, when people lose their essence, they don’t know what to write or say again.”

“My advice to Leymah Gbowee is that if she wants to enter the political space in the country and position herself as a serious political actor, she should focus on the myriad of issues that the country is being faced with instead of attacking statesmen to get attention and media coverage.”

Ali disclosed that the UP is quite aware that Madame Gbowee is doing the political bidding for a certain opposition figure whose chances of winning the presidency are close to zero.

“We use this medium to warn her to immediately desist from these deceptive antics that have the propensity to destroy her image.”

Defending Gbowee

Despite the antagonistic posture of some executives of the UP and others, some stalwarts and supporters of the governing Coalition for Democratic Change (CDC) have been coming in support of the statement made by Madam Gbowee.

Supporters of the ruling party believed that the comments made by Madam Gbowee were “bold and factual” and it exposed the weaknesses of the UP.

“Leymah Gbowee, when she was the Orator of the 172nd Independence Day celebration, the opposition most talk about July 26th, 2019, that faithful day on the SKD, she was called a hero by the opposition. Now that she’s telling them that there is a need that Joe Boakai to be retired to look after his health, they are calling her names. Liberians!! We are sycophants. We hate to hear the truth. Once it is not in your interest then it is bad,” Beauford Smith, Secretary General, CDC National Auxiliaries Network stated.

Abubakar Corneh write: “The propaganda arm of the Unity Party is very weak. Imagine Leymah Gbowee has scattered their entire camp.”

For his part, Patrick Brown believed that the statement made by the Nobel Laureate was “frank, candid and real.”

“Being frank, candid and real is a noble thing for all. If Gbowee said so about Amb J N Boakai, it’s faired and realistic. Recent pic stated clearly what he is and undergoing but chose to ignore nature. Liberia would have some kind of leadership that’s workaholics, exuberant, energetic, healthy to lead nation especially in times like these where our beloved country has plummeted under CDC-led govt that set back every gain made in the previous administration. While one wouldn’t want to speak about Boakai experience and commitment to help reshape things in proper perspective, it should be bold in mind that the presidency has enormous weight on holders that require healthy mind, soul and physic.”

Brown justified that Ambassador Boakai is in his early 80s and would not cope with “load of office that could render him relying on aides which could be something of uncertainty.”

“Liberia deserves better and urgent attention to tackle heavy toll of work not only from office but in the fields- counties, districts or Liberia landmass, and importantly chief ambassadors shuttering globe. These he wouldn’t afford to bear because of old age. Wise he take cue or advice to sit back, relax and enjoy his graceful age as retired vice president of Liberia. There still opportunity to revive CPP and select pair for vice running mate to Alex B Cummings, and he( Boakai) serve the Godfather by the curtain,” Brown maintained.

“How I wish they listen to this independent and well-respected voice of our country! The former vice president must retire!,” Chris Z Harris intoned.

Lincoln Zenneh Nybullor added: “This is the honest truth, nothing but the honest saying. The old man isn’t strong in health to stir the affairs of this nation. The old man needs to rest to focus on his health. All those that are pushing the old man to run for the highest seat are all glory seekers; they have hidden motives, they don’t mean good for this nation.”