LIBERIA: The ‘Little Girl’ Who Roared – T. Urey Defying Convention, Presidency in District 15 Saga

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A POLITICIAN IS BORN: In a rugged campaign during which she has seen stones thrown at her campaign headquarters, supporters attacked by her opponents, Telia Urey appears to have defied the convention of the ruling establishment and rattled the cage of President George Manneh Weah and his ruling Coalition for Democratic Change.

Monrovia – When President George Manneh Weah took the podium in June to launch the candidacies of Montserrado County Senatorial candidate, Paulita C.C. Wie and District No. 15 legislative candidate Abu Kamara, the ruling Coalition for Democratic Change’s picks in the recently-completed legislative and senatorial by-elections, he raised a lot of eyebrows after labeling Ms. Telia Urey, the opposition candidate for the District No. 15 legislative seat as a “little girl”.

Whichever way the saga ends, the woman dubbed a “little girl” by a sitting president has, in only her first try at elected office, elevated her standings in the corridors of Liberia’s rugged political terrain. And even amid the controversy, she remains defiant and unbowed, insisting on ensuring that the will of the constituents in District 15 will be respected.

Many took the President to task for his demeaning rants against a female candidate and Urey in particularly, did not take the hit lying down, telling the President during an appearance on the Henry Costa Morning Show that she was not about to be bullied into submission.

Said Urey: “You are referring to me a political actor as a little girl? You trying to demean me? You trying to bully me? You’re trying to scare me from being involved in the process? You trying to scare women from being involved in the process? You cannot intimidate me, George. I know where I stand, I know what I’m going to do, I know what I want, I will never be intimidated by you.”

Over the past few days, the National Elections Commission has come under fire over its delay in announcing the results of the by-elections, particularly the slow count of the results in District No. 15.

Hijacking Urey? District 15 Under Scrutiny

“This is a man that has never won anything”, the president said of Mr. Benoni Urey in June. “He supported his brother I defeated him, get ready tightened your belts, there is no way the Ureys can win election in Montserrado County because they are wicked people. We are cockroaches but they are killers, we are cockroaches, they are thieves.”

President George Weah, speaking on the Urey family in June

When the first provisional results were finally announced Wednesday by NEC, it was revealed by Chairman Jerome Korkoyah at a news conference that out of the 94 polling centers in Montserrado District #15, 65 centers have reported with Abu Kamara accumulating 5,515 votes accounting for 45.95% while Telia Urey of the All Liberian Party received 4,540 votes which accounts for 37.89 percent.

“We will fight until we get the results that the people in District 15 won. Korkoya cannot do anything about it and you cannot do anything about it. Nobody in the Republic of Liberia can fight what the Liberian people want. I’m sure that if you(President Weah) have the chance to look at it yourself, you will ask yourself, look at me, whole country giant, whole Gbehgubeh, look at me… I’m fighting for district 15.”

Ms. Telia Urey

The four opposition political parties – Unity Party, Liberty Party, Alternative National Congress and All Liberian Party-backed candidate, Mr. Abraham Darius Dillon is already cruising to an emphatic victory in the Senatorial race, way ahead of his main challenger, Wie.

Mr. Dillon has so far received 53, 270 votes representing 53.88%, while Ms. Wie of the CDC has so far accumulated 36,531 votes representing 36.95%.

In fact, the ruling party’s chair Mr. Mulbah Morlu in a statement Thursday, finally conceded the results in the Senatorial race while remaining defiant regarding the District No. 15 elections. Said Mr. Morlu: “We fought a good fight and have reached a final conclusion, in the aftermath of the National Elections Commission official announcement of preliminary results, which projects Mr. Abu B. Kamara as winner of District #15. Whilst congratulating Mr. Kamara, the CDC as Liberia’s biggest democratic institution, likewise congratulates Mr. Abraham Darius Dillion of the Liberty Party as the presumptive winner of the Senatorial Elections of Montserrado County.”

Mr. Morlu’s congratulation of Kamara signals what some say is the clear attempt by the ruling party to hijack the District No. 15 race from Urey, drawing scrutiny on a race many in the ruling party were confident would have been a walkover.

The National Elections Commission(NEC) has accepted and acted on a complaint filed by Ms. Urey concerning irregularities in the District #15 By-elections against NEC temporary employees at some polling stations which are under investigation. At one of those stations, sources confirmed to FrontPageAfrica, the candidate’s poll watchers were reportedly arrested and jailed from three of the centers on election day. Although they watchers have since been released, the absence from the counting of the ballots is already raising eyebrows from Ms. Urey and her supporters concerned that something sinister may be afoot.

The under-fire Korkoyah acknowledged at a news conference Wednesday that NEC is in receipt of complaints filed by Ms. Urey while appearing to rule out “any major incident”.

Said Cllr. Korkorya: “The by-election was successfully implemented without any major incident. Polls opened mostly on time and the counting of votes started immediately on Tuesday, July 30, 2019, here in our tally center. We are pleased to note that to date, the commission has received five complaints. With regards to District 15, of the two complaints received, one involving Ms. Telia Urey of the ALP campaign team against NEC poll workers from precinct code 301 and 306, 305, 308 and 304, 307.”

What the Electoral Law Says

Telia Urey’s performance in the By-Elections is turning heads as controversy mounts over the handling of polling stations by temporary staffers of the National Elections Commission.

The NEC chair reminded parties that complaints regarding polling, counting and tallying irregularities should be filed with the NEC electoral magistrate in upper and lower Montserrado County. “The precincts that have been referred to have already been quarantined and are pending investigation.”

Section 6.1 of the New Elections Law, under contested election, gives a political party or candidate the right to file a complaint no later than seven days after the announcement of the results of the elections. Also, Article 83(c) of the Liberian Constitution allows a candidate to file a complaint after the announcement of final result.

Additionally, article 13 of the NEC’s polling and counting regulations allows a candidate to file a complaint before the announcement of the final results.

Where it gets tricky is Article 83(c) of the Liberian Constitution which requires the elections commission to announce the result within 15 days after the election. However, while the NEC is required to announce the result, the Supreme Court has held that NEC shall not certificate a winner until all complaints against such election have been determined by the NEC (and the supreme court if there’s an appeal).

Ms. Urey, in a post on her Facebook Page Wednesday threatened not to accept any results that does not represent the will of the people.

Ms. Urey, like Mr. Dillon has in her possession ballot papers from polling centers across the district, and like Mr. Dillon, she believes she amassed enough votes to pull off a victory over the ruling party’s candidate, Kamara.

CDC’s Grip in Tatters

“I don’t care if we have to do reelections, you will not step on the will of the Liberian people, not this time, not when Telia Urey is in the race. I will not sell my people of District 15 future, I will not sell their opportunity to get proper leadership in the name of peace because we are not here to go to war but we will protest, we will not sleep if you try to steal from us.”

The aura of invincibility that once gave bragging rights to the CDC has suddenly become vulnerable. Losses in both the Senatorial and legislative by-elections could mean the party has lost grip on the county it once claimed to own.

Additionally, the party which rode on the shoulders of former First Lady and Senator Jewel Howard Taylor for a key win in vote-rich Bong County during the 2017 presidential elections, similarly lost last August By-Elections that won by Henrique Tokpa. In the Oct. 2018 District No. 13 by-elections race, the party’s candidate John Weah lost to Edward Papay Flomo.

This is why many political and diplomatic observers have been paying close attention to a number of developments surrounding the aftermath of the by-elections and the controversy dogging the counting of ballots by the elections commission.

Koijee: Protecting Democracy ‘in Flesh & Blood’

On Tuesday, a melee broke out wounding at least eleven persons.
Mr. Benoni Urey, Chair of the four collaborating political parties, alleged that the police fired live bullets which allegedly resulted into one person being shot in the leg by the riot police officers, who tried to restore calm between the rioters.

The collaborating parties head accused partisans of the CDC for instigating the violence. “We were here at our party headquarters jubilating and merry making when some thugs of the CDC came and started throwing stones and fighting our partisans, when the violence broke out, the riot police came and fired live bullets and some of our people got wounded, 11 of them while one of our partisans got shot in the leg,” he explained.

The accusations have been bolstered by comments made by an enraged Jefferson Koijee, Mayor of the City of Monrovia, and also head of the ruling party’s youth league, who threatened Wednesday that his party will trade fire for fire with anyone staging protest against the government.
Said Mr. Koijee: “The youth league will protect our democracy, we will be on the front burner, we will lead our people like we led them before. Any day that would be announced here by anyone, we want to say to you that similar day would be announced by us. And wheresoever they are, we would also be there and we would meet in flesh and blood.”

“The youth league will protect our democracy, we will be on the front burner, we will lead our people like we led them before. Any day that would be announced here by anyone, we want to say to you that similar day would be announced by us. And wheresoever they are, we would also be there and we would meet in flesh and blood.”

Mr. Jefferson Koijee, Monrovia City Mayor

Mr. Koijee explained that the decision has met the consensus of the party’s youth league. “Make no mistake to think that because we bear certain titles or bear certain space in government, that position has taken from us our true identity. What we fought for, we will not sit here as spectators and watch it come under attack. Those who believed that nothing good could ever come under our watch, we want to say moving forward when there is any called demonstration – as lawmakers lead, we want to say in our official capacity, whether you call me mayor or you call me youth chair person, we want to assure the public and the international community that we will be protectors of our democracy, we would lead such forces also.”

Selective Policing Drawing Ire

Mr. Koijee said no one person or group has monopoly over violence. “Unless we are not in this corridor. We have the capacity to rubble the peace of this country.”

Although Police spokesman Mr. Moses Carter rubbished the claims by Mr. Benoni Urey that shooting occurred during the clashes between partisans of the CDC and the opposition collaborating parties, some observers are beginning to draw comparison to an attack on the District No. 15 headquarters of Telia Urey at the weekend during which no arrests were made by the LNP.

What some are describing as selective justice is adding more fuel to the fire of a saga that continues to drag on.

As the ruling CDC struggles to maintain grip on its Montserrado base, some party insiders are rejecting the notion that the by-election loss is a reflection on President Weah, while struggling to rule out the protest vote theory which some say is growing legs as more and more Liberians, including CDCians were looking to send a clear message to President Weah regarding the way he has steered the authority of the state so far.

This was clear when party chair Morlu averred Thursday. “Our President is a popular person with a good heart for all Liberians. We all have to help our leader deliver for the people of Liberia. This election doesn’t mean that our government is unpopular with the people of Liberia. What it means is that our partisans and the people of Liberia in general need us most at this critical juncture in our national political journey. My fellow partisans, we are emerging stronger than ever in our political history, and with this increasing strength we shall never repeat a loss in our stronghold of Montserrado County again.”

Weah’s Backing of Kamara Criticized

Critics are also taking President Weah to task for endorsing and lifting the hand of Kamara, who was hooked by the Liberia Anti-Corruption Commission (LACC) for receiving double salaries and benefits which could lead to future charges of theft.

The LACC recently established that Mr. Kamara received double salaries while serving as Deputy Managing Director of Liberia Petroleum Refining Company (LPRC) and from his previous job as Deputy Minister of Post and Telecommunication. The LACC’s investigative report shows that Mr. Kamara consented to receiving US$ 8000. 00 and L$200,000 and promised to restitute the amount. But in May of this year Kamara expressed guilt to the allegation by the legal division of the LACC.

The LACC’s legal division recently put out a restitution plan in the total amount of US$8,164.70 and L$271,114.74 including an interest of 14 percent accumulated over three months, October-December. On June 25, 2019 the first payment of US$500.00 was paid by Mr. Kamara and since then no payment has been done. If he fails to restitute the amount, Mr. Kamara will be charged with theft.

In a year that has seen the ruling party deal with a number of allegations of corruption, Kamara’s endorsement is striking nerves.

The District No. 15 saga is also being complicated by many residents in the area concerned that Kamara’s election could dampen the legacy of Adolph Lawrence, the deceased lawmaker, both Kamara and Urey are vying to fill.
Prior to his death, Lawrence, once a good friend to the President, was a thorn in the side of the Weah administration.

He was one of the aggrieved members of the House of Representatives and a founding member of the Independent Legislative Caucus which aims to restore independence, sanity and credibility to the House of Representatives as well as to resurrect the Legislature from its current state of a partisanship Legislature.

Attack on Ureys Put NEC’s Integrity on the Line

Appearing on the Costa Show Thursday, Telia Urey lamented that there were several glaring discrepancies at the polls. “Going through the elections, normal trends as that, we have 94 polling centers in the district, I mean from what I have seen, we have won 52, Mr. Kamara has won 41 and I think we are tied at one polling place.”

As the counting continues, Urey and her supporters hope the alleged irregularities at some polling stations would be thoroughly investigated and change the dynamics of the results in her favor.

Supporters of Urey who have been asked to assemble at the Liberty Party headquarters today to mount a strong protest against the election irregularities are unlikely to allow the elections to stand in the midst of what Telia Urey believes are proven irregularities.

For Urey, the integrity of NEC is on the line, especially after President Weah had threatened that no member of her family would ever win an election as long as he’s president. “This is a man that has never won anything”, the president said of Mr. Benoni Urey in June. “He supported his brother I defeated him, get ready tightened your belts, there is no way the Ureys can win election in Montserrado County because they are wicked people. We are cockroaches but they are killers, we are cockroaches, they are thieves,” President Weah said in June.

Many are now making reference to that statement to suggest that President Weah is perhaps looking to ensure that he does not swallow his own words, especially when he took the fight against the Ureys to the core. “I came here to make fuss today… In fact, that’s why I came with my own cars and not government cars… I want to speak like George Weah and not President Weah”.

Appearing on the Costa Show Thursday, Telia Urey lamented that there were several glaring discrepancies at the polls. “Going through the elections, normal trends as that, we have 94 polling centers in the district, I mean from what I have seen, we have won 52, Mr. Kamara has won 41 and I think we are tied at one polling place.”

The legislative candidate noted that looking at the results, everything was glaring. “You can see that at a particular place, which is Samuel T. Koon, you can see the numbers are unstable. You see someone at 70, the other at 110, that’s pretty normal but you know fifty, sixty points gap between us(the contestants) is pretty normal – and then you go to one precinct, you see Mr. Kamara getting 190, I’m getting 20. I’m not saying 800 votes, they were able to get 800 votes on top of me, just from one precinct, with six polling places in it at the Samuel T. Koon precinct.”

Urey Expected Fight, Irregularities

The Samuel T. Koon center, according to Urey was just one of three places flagged by her poll watchers. “When I saw the result, I immediately knew that something was wrong and so I began to call my supervisors from there and they alerted me that there were many of such instances there. The first one was at one of the polling places when the poll watcher noticed discrepancies on the voter roll. We expected the government to fight us in these elections that’s why none of these results come as a surprise to us. We expected there to be a lot of these irregularities because we that are in the district know that our lead was a solid lead, there wasn’t anything we were struggling for.”

“The verdict from our people in the just-ended polls in Montserrado is not only a wakeup call to action, but an insistence the party will not ignore to change course.”

Mr. Mulbah Morlu, Chairman Ruling CDC

Ms. Urey said she notified Cllr. Korkoyah prior to the elections about the potentials for irregularities. “We wanted to make sure that the voter roll was the same as 2017 and two, we needed to make sure that we had representation to make sure that the we can observe what the VIOs are doing. They did agree and allow us to have voter roll observers. So, I made sure all of my poll watchers had a copy of the 2017 voter rolls which is the voter rolls that they should have been using and they sat there with the VIOs to observe what they were doing. In one of those polling places – the Samuel T. Koon – that is currently under quarantine, the poll watcher flagged that the voter roll that was being used was not the same voter roll that they had – from the 2017 elections.”

Ms. Urey explained that despite the concerns raised, authorities at the center tried to brush the poll watcher off. But the poll watcher continued to press on. “He then proceeded to inform the supervisor that the voter roll that was being used was not the same voter roll that the poll watcher had in their possession. The supervisor tried to engage the poll watcher and got angry and became antagonistic. The head office was called immediately and notified of what was unfolding. This was in the afternoon on election day. Our chairman of the movement proceeded there, the Unity Party Chairman of the district proceeded there – and they went there and they showed all of the proof that it was the wrong voter roll – and not the same as the 2017 voter roll. Do you know what they did? They changed the voter roll right there and then – after doing what they wanted to do at that point.”
It was then she said she decided to file a complaint with NEC.
At another center, the Donald Caranus, Urey says the same margins of errors were observed.

“Many people saw a live video in which the secretary general of my movement and some poll watchers were arrested and charged, accused of paying people to go inside and do this and that and the other. And you can see the polling staff who is one of ours, he’s there saying, ‘your charge me’; If I got money on me, your charge me, your will see. I don’t have any money. Why are you all doing this?”

Just Not Possible

It was then, she said the Police 105 arrived on the scene to arrest the poll watcher and her observer at the precinct. “They arrested him and the SG who was the supervisor for that place and took them straight to jail and that precinct was left unprotected for hours while they were going through that rigmarole and they were transferring those guys to prison.”
Again, Urey lamented: “Do you know that from that particular polling place the same margins of errors showing Abu getting 80 percent and I getting 20 percent? Where my people were arrested and taken from? You see the number and you wonder how this is happening?”

At a third center, she explained the same trend was visible. “But this one gets interesting, you see them saying Abu gets 70 percent and I get 30 percent but then all of those precincts, I win. How? How can you be winning by 80 percent in all five polling places and in one polling place, I just win. So, we flagged those issues at NEC, I filed a complaint and said this is what is happening and these results must be quarantined.”
Urey says she is interested in hearing from NEC, what happened at these polling places. “Once we’re able to investigate them, we will know what really happened in these elections. I want you all to understand that the Samuel T. Koon precinct and the Donald Caranus precincts alone, Abu Kamara was able to get a 1, 200 – point lead over me. Not 1,200 votes, 1, 200 – point lead over me in the entire elections from two precincts. How is that possible? How does that affect any results that you want to consider free and fair? That two precincts out of 34 will make up for over 30 percent of the votes in that election, impossible. It’s not possible.”

Even in Kamara’s own backyard, at the Botswain area, she won a polling place there while other results in the same area have them running neck and neck. “Then in Jamaica Road, you will come again and win me by 80 percent? I mean we have to be serious and honest.”
Urey says when she saw the issues, she flagged them immediately and sent a letter to the magistrate who agreed and assured that the results would be quarantine and would not be in the results announced by NEC.

In a rugged campaign during which she has seen stones thrown at her campaign headquarters, supporters attacked by her opponents, Urey appears to have defied the convention of the ruling establishment and rattled the cage of President Weah and his ruling CDC.

But even amid the controversy, Urey remains calm. “There were so many people throwing rocks and different objects, shooting at our headquarters and leaving our supporters in fear. Over 30 people were wounded and our headquarters under siege and video showing the police sitting there and watching out people getting brutally attacked. There are people still trying to heal from the trauma of that day. The district was like a war zone as people came to terrorize us on that day when we were supposed to be celebrating the end of campaign.

Wake-up Call Tests Weah’s Popularity

The barrage of attacks, Urey endured during her quest for the legislative seat coupled with Dillon’s Senatorial victory, has no doubt triggered a wake-up call for President Weah, whose popularity is being tested. “The verdict from our people in the just-ended polls in Montserrado is not only a wakeup call to action, but an insistence the party will not ignore to change course,” Party chair Morlu said Thursday.

For Telia, Urey, the pettiness to which President Weah has relegated the presidency is unforgiveable. “He calls himself country Giant and we have beaten him, now he says he is District giant for District 15 – and we will still beat him there. The President needs to understand – that I’m not fighting for power, I’m not fighting for representative, no. I’m fighting for the issues that are on the table. Our people are living in abject poverty, our people are suffering and looking for leadership and looking for someone to come and solve the problems they are faced with.”

Ms. Urey said the movement is a revolution not just of minds, but one of ideas. “We will not sit down and allow you to dictate to NEC and say that they are carrying out a mandate for you to rig us in an election or deprive us of good leadership because of your own ego, because you have come so low in your presidency that you are fighting a district, you are fighting a citizen, you are fighting a woman that helped you get to where you are.”

Whichever way the saga ends, the woman dubbed a “little girl” by a sitting president has, in only her first try at elected office, elevated her standings in the corridors of Liberia’s rugged political terrain. And even amid the controversy, she remains defiant and unbowed, insisting on ensuring that the will of the constituents in District 15 will be respected.

“We will fight until we get the results that the people in District 15 won. Korkoya cannot do anything about it and you cannot do anything about it. Nobody in the Republic of Liberia can fight what the Liberian people want. I’m sure that if you have the chance to look at it yourself you will ask yourself, look at me, whole country giant, whole Gbehgubeh, look at me, I’m fighting for district 15. Let me make it clear, we will not accept any results from NEC. I don’t care if we have to do reelections, you will not step on the will of the Liberian people, not this time, not when Telia Urey is in the race. I will not sell my people of District 15 future, I will not sell their opportunity to get proper leadership in the name of peace because we are not here to go to war but we will protest, we will not sleep if you try to steal from us.”

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