Liberia: Constituents Angry at Representatives’ Decision to Contest outside Montserrado￼
MONROVIA –– The kangaroo-style of politicking in which politicians abandon and neglect constituents in their respective districts to contest for elected positions in other counties is said to be a new phenomenon among politicians in post-conflict Liberia-a move which agitates and compels citizens to regret the decision they made to canvass and vote for these individuals during past elections.
For sometimes now, Liberian politicians have been neglecting their constituents barely two years after they were given the mantle of authority to represent them at the level of the National Legislature.
Two of those who recently joined the new political trend include Representatives George Beyan Samah and Hanson Kiazolu of districts # 12 and 17 in Montserrado County Representatives.
Representative Samah was declared the winner of the 2017 legislative elections by the National Elections Commission (NEC) after he accumulated 7,401 votes or 22.42% of the total number of valid votes 33,018 votes cast in a race that was heavily contested by 23 candidates. The incumbent Representative Richmond Anderson got 4, 324 or 13.1%.
He contested as an independent candidate.
But barely few years after he got elected, Representative Samah became scarce in the district. His developmental and empowerment initiatives were surreptitiously cut off to the dismay of his followers, supporters and others.
Citizens of the district never had the second thought that the man, who they stood in the rain and the sun to canvass and vote for, could one day leave them and throw his political fishing hook elsewhere to test the water for a bigger salary and benefit.
Moving to Lofa
On multiple occasions, residents of district # 12 in Montserrado County have complained that their lawmaker was not accessible. In fact, seeing Representative Samah at public gatherings or events is almost like a taboo in the district.
Of late, the whereabouts of the lawmaker were unknown as evidenced by a constant locked office at Bardnesville, outside Monrovia.
His constituents are normally greeted with “the Honorable man is not here” wherever they paid a visit at his home in the Stephen Tolbert Estate, or at his Capitol Building office in Monrovia.
The reason is simple- the lawmaker housed himself in Lofa along with bulk of his office staffs, who were to be assigned at his office in Monrovia-working for the people of Montserrado.
Representative Samah was among the six candidates who participated in the just ended election in Lofa County.
The remaining were: Independent candidates: Momo Tarnuekollie Cyrus, Mariamu Beyan Fofana; Joseph Kpator Jallah, Galakpai W. Kortimai of the Unity Party, and Sumo G. Kupee of the People’s Unification Party (PUP).
Out of the total of 60,394 valid votes cast, Representative Samah managed to obtain 2,621 or 4.34%, far from the winner, Independent candidate Cllr. Jallah who accumulated 22,019 votes or 36.46%. He was the least in the race.
Representative Kiazolu is a National Executive Committee (NEC) member of the former ruling Unity Party (UP).
In 2017, he surprisingly announced that he would contest for the representative seat of electoral district # 17 while serving as acting Comptroller General of Liberia during the dire minutes of the administration of former President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf.
He was pronounced the winner by the NEC after he obtained 7,924 or 20.23% of the total number of valid votes cast in a race which was contested by 23 persons.
Representative Kiazolu noticeable absence from the district for a little over two years continues to claim the attention of his constituents.
Moving to Cape Mount
Last week, a flyer portraying that the UP lawmaker is expected to contest the senatorial seat in Grand Cape Mount against incumbent Varney Sherman during the pending 2023 elections surfaced on the social media.
Senator Sherman is also an executive member of the UP.
Representative Kiazolu has busied himself by engaging into developmental initiatives across populated towns and villages in the county, neglecting his constituents in district 17.
In multiple reports released by the Institute for Research and Democratic Development (IREDD), a renowned civil society organization operating in Liberia, Representatives Samah and Kiazolu have scored failing marks in fulfilling their constitutional responsibilities as lawmakers, as well as attendance and participation during regular sessions at the House.
The decision taken by the duo to contest in Lofa and Grand Cape Mount counties is being negatively greeted by their respective constituents.
The citizens claimed that their trust and confidence reposed in the two lawmakers have been eroded as evidenced by the manner and form in which they were treated barely two years after their elections.
Fahn William Sackie is the Chairman of a pressure group named and styled Movement Against The Re-election of George Beyan Samah in district # 12, Montserrado County.
The group, which comprises of over 200 members in various communities in the district, has been soliciting signatures to impeach the lawmaker from office
Sackie maintained that for too long Representative Samah has allegedly “abandoned the district by domiciling in Lofa County”.
He noted that the decision taken by the lawmaker not to end the popular mandate of his people to serve them for six years was intended to reap personal benefits.
He observed that Representative Samah put forth his personal aggrandizement above the interest of his constituents when he domiciled in Lofa to contest the senatorial election in gross disrespect to his employers.
Sackie recalled that for several years now, Representative Samah has allegedly failed to provide legislative report to his constituents in keeping with the 1986 Liberian constitution.
Dead devil act
He termed the participation of Representative Samah in the senatorial by-election in Lofa even though his mandate in the district has not elapsed as a “dead devil act” that is so disappointing to his constituents.
“Representative Samah has been perpetually absent from the district. He has been continuously absent from sessions and has failed to sponsor or co-sponsor a bill. He abandoned us to contest in Lofa. Since the lawmaker office, he moved to district # 13 and since 2019, he moved to Lofa to focus on his campaign. But God has already started to pay him. We are feeling very, very much disappointed”.
He said vast majority of residents in the 17 communities in the district are downhearted and frustrated over the lukewarm performance of a man who they thought could change the narratives.
Sackie declared the sitting Representative as a “public enemy in the district” that should not be pardoned or given a second chance as a result of the manner and form in which he allegedly ill-treated his constituents.
“Samah is declared as a public enemy in the district and once he’s not in our interest, he will not enter the House again. We will use all legal means to ensure that Samah is not our Representative. We have already started the process to impeach him from office”.
Sackie noted that community dwellers are responding to the call to impeach Representative Samah from office as evidenced by the signatures and voter registration card numbers enshrined on a document.
He vowed that his group will assiduously work to ensure that Representative Samah does not get a second term come 2023.
“Representative Samah’s situation is looking like when you are in a relationship with a female and the female left the home and she’s asking to come back. If she fails to take on certain responsibilities in the home, will you still confine in her? What we are saying is that, Samah has betrayed the trust and confidence of the people of district 12 in as much he went to Lofa to contest”.
He wondered why his lawmaker didn’t wait for 2023 to contest in Lofa but rather chose to downplay the feelings and decision of his constituents by participating in the just ended electoral process in Lofa though he was not popular in the area.
He, however, challenged Representative Samah to come back in the district to contest the 2023 general and presidential elections to “see how the people will embrace him”.
District # 17
James Johnson is the Chairman of a group calling itself Concerned Citizens of district # 17, Montserrado County.
The group has been mounting pressure on Representative Kiazolu to give account of the district share of the US$20,000 he received as Social benefits from China Union few years ago. But the lawmaker has justified that the money was used to carry out developmental initiatives in the district.
Johnson pointed out that the decision taken by Representative Kiazolu to “abandon constituents is a “blatant disrespect to a constitutional mandate and the people’s aspirations” in the district.
He said residents are reacting “disdainfully to the lawmaker’s action” as evidenced by their decision to let the sleeping dog lies and support a formidable aspirant come 2023.
He attributed the reason for the lawmaker’s action to “gross ineptitude and incompetence”, adding that, “we want to encourage our brothers and sisters from the western cluster belt not to elect Kiazolu”.
Johnson claimed that since his ascendancy, Representative Kiazolu has only managed to report to his constituents once, depriving others from critiquing or checkmating his workings at the National Legislature.
“I have not seen the lawmaker for the last two years. I think that the lawmaker’s decision to abandon the people of district # 17 to contest in Grand Cape Mount is a sad day for democracy. This lawmaker has abandoned his constitutional responsibilities, including oversight and this district still remains challenged with the issue of electricity”.
He added that bad road conditions and lack of access to safe drinking water remain the order of the day in the district, while the lawmaker, who was elected by vast majority of the constituents, has abandoned his responsibilities to canvass and contest in another county far away from the district.
“Representative Kiazolu is not saying or doing anything substantial for which we can say that we have a lawmaker”.
Johnson maintained that the partial provision of electricity and the Banjor road pavement projects cannot be credited to Representative Kiazolu, but the World Bank and the executive branch headed by President George Manneh Weah.
He recalled that during the ground breaking for the Banjor Road project, their lawmaker was “booed and jeered at” before the President and others for his poor-representation and failure in the district.
“The lawmaker is hanging on the strong to survive. Knowing that he has miserably failed, he’s looking around to see something positive to hang on”.
He stated that since the Banjor road pavement and electricity projects came to a standstill in the district, Representative Kiazolu has not been able to exercise his oversight responsibility to guarantee the resumption of the projects.
“What intervention has Honorable Kiazolu made since the engineer died? Have we seen any communication that he has proffered calling on the attention of the Ministry of Public Works that the road project has been stalled?”
He termed as a broad day robbery the claiming of glory for projects that were not initiated or implemented by the UP lawmaker in the district by him and his supporters.
Johnson emphasized that Representative Kiazolu has absconded a democratic mandate and as such, he does not care anymore about those who made it possible for his name to be registered in the archive of the first branch of the Liberian government.
Don’t be trucked
He used this medium to urge residents of district # 17, Montserrado County not to allow themselves to be used or trucked to cast their votes for Representative Kiazolu in Grand Cape Mount.
He said citizens should take keen from the manner and form in which they are being treated and avoid passing over similar suffering to citizens in the western region.
Johnson noted that residents should not be carried away by similar cash violence that was allegedly used by Representative Kiazolu to win their minds in the district during the 2017 general and presidential elections by neglecting their district to register and vote in Grand Cape Mount.
“Constituents are living in regret. They feel that it was the greatest political miscalculation they made by electing Representative Kiazolu”.
Civil society taskforce
He pointed out that a civil society taskforce against voters’ trucking will be established in the district to discourage and prevent residents from going elsewhere to cast their votes for Representative Kiazolu or any other aspirant.
He said citizens would not hold their elected officials accountable if they are trucked elsewhere to vote for individuals for the sake of what has been offered them.
Refugee in the district
Johnson disclosed that Representative Kiazolu now appears as a “refugee” in his own district.
According to him, the lawmaker was constrained to hold his wedding in district # 15, Montserrado County few years ago due to the manner and form in which he is treating his constituents.
The wedding was held under tight security at a church in Logan Town during the late evening hours when news broke out that some residents of the district were planning to disrupt the celebration on grounds that Representative Kiazolu allegedly failed to give adequate account of the China Union US$20,000.
He used this medium to call on citizens of the district not to make similar mistake made in 2017, but shine their eyes and vote for an individual who has track record of consistency and has made numerous contributions towards development on the district.
We are happy
As for Johnnie Gbayelakpor, he termed as “good news” the decision taken by Representative Kiazolu to contest in Grand Cape Mount.
“The people of district 17 felt relieve when they heard that Hanson Kiazolu was contesting in Grand Cape Mount. This means that our district will be redeemed because Hanson Kiazolu is leaving. We are very happy because over the years the district has been under-represented”.
He observed that for too long the exercising of oversight responsibility by those representing the district and county at large has been lacking and as such, residents are overwhelmed for the decision.
“The necessary methodology a lawmaker supposed to put in order for the district to be among the best is lacking and the lawmaker has not done it. Sp for our lawmaker to politically migrate to Grand Cape Mount to seek greener pasture, I think it is welcoming because, we are very conscious in district 17. It’s good news that he is going Grand Cape Mount”.
Gbayelakpor pointed out that despite the numerous suggestions and recommendations proffered by residents of the district to the lawmaker’s office, nothing has been done to actualize those suggestions.
He named the rehabilitation of roads, empowerment, among others as some of the recommendations.
He questioned the rationale behind the claiming of glory for the ongoing electricity and Banjor road projects in the district by supporters of the lawmaker.
“If we are trying to give accolade to people for the electricity, we should be giving accolade to William Dakel (former Representative) because, it was during Madam Ellen Johnson Sirleaf era that the electricity project in district 17 was signed. If Satan was even going to be the Representative for district 17 in 2017, the issue of electricity was going to be inevitable”.
“The issue of the road was President Weah feeder road projects in various communities. Hanson Kiazolu never played a single part for that road to go in district 17. All of his claims are mere political calculation to gain favor from the constituents and we will not bow to it. We have begged the lawmaker for our district report but he has failed to provide us report”.
Gbayelakpor stated that as a result of his alleged failure, Representative Kiazolu is now migrating to Grand Cape Mount to “ride on the vulnerability of the people to have him elected”.
He wants the UP lawmaker to admit to his failure in the district and ask for forgiveness before moving elsewhere to contest.
“He would not survive in Grand Cape Mount because, the county has people who been there with them including their sons and daughters. I learnt that he’s constructing a property and he has a farmland there. These are all tactics to ride on the gullibility of the people because he’s not dependable. He’s a political green snake in a green grass”.
When contacted via mobile phone, Representative Kiazolu termed the claims raised by some of his constituents as “unfortunate”.
He said his move made to contest in Grand Cape Mount is a progressive one intended to forge ahead in his political sojourn.
“My kind of life has been progressive. To be representative for 12 years, I see it inappropriate and the lack of passion to progress. I cannot do more for district 17 more than what the national government can do. My desire to contest in any part of Liberia is a solely thing that I decided to do with the approval of my family and friends”.
Representative Kiazolu bragged that lawmakers of other districts across the country do not have anything to show, but as an opposition lawmaker, he was able to attract electricity and road construction in the district.
“It is under my watch that district 17 is being electrified and the Banjor Road project commenced. If they talk about my personal finance to develop the district, I don’t have such finance because my salary was harmonized”.
He said his desire to contest in Grand Cape Mount does not in any way imply that he has abandoned his district.
Speaking to this writer via telephone, Representative Samah stated: “I don’t want to comment on these allegations and those making these dubious and unfounded allegations should wait for the votes of 2023 to count”.