Liberia: Lofa County Might Be A Difficult Win for Unity Party in Upcoming By-election

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VOINJAMA, Lofa County When the people of Lofa County go to the polls to elect a new senator on June 28, they will make a choice out of seven candidates.

It is poised to be a highly intriguing event after the Supreme Court of Liberia ruled this month in favor of the opposition Unity Party that it can field a candidate in the ensuing by-election in the county.

Lofa was the only county that overwhelmingly voted for the former ruling Unity Party and its standard-bearer, Joseph N. Boakai in the 2017 presidential elections.

During the first round, Unity Party obtained 91,324 votes, representing 78.5% of the total valid votes cast, with the Coalition for Democratic Change (CDC) getting 8,194 votes amounting to 7.0%.

In the run-off, which was contested between Boakai and George Weah, things did not improve for the CDC, with the Unity Party getting 79,258 votes representing 84.2% and the CDC getting 14,860 votes or 15.8%.

The results from the run-off indicated that Lofa was the only county where the Unity Party and Boakai defeated the CDC massively, while the remaining fourteen counties were all won by the CDC.

Statistics indicated that the votes from Lofa contributed hugely to the election reaching a run-off.

Fast forward to the June 28 by-election, the CDC didn’t field a candidate but it seems the ruling party is making frantic efforts to win the Senate through a proxy candidate, Cllr. Joseph Jallah, an Independent candidate.

In recent years, officials from the CDC hailing from Lofa County have been frequenting back home and building strong political bases in what looks like a clever political game plan.

Prominent among those making headways in Lofa County are Monrovia City Corporation Mayor, Jefferson T. Koijee and Montserrado County lawmaker, Thomas Fallah, both of whom are natives of Foya District.

Koijee made his presence known or rejuvenated his presence in Lofa County during the 2019/2020 edition of the National County Sports Meet, where he attended all the group stage games played in Voinjama and up to Monrovia and became one of the highest donors to the county teams.

The CDC official was seen everywhere with the Lofa County football team and even took them to hotels and other places for lunch in Monrovia as a sign of motivation.

Koijee, an influential young man from the Kissi chiefdom, has been going all out to ensure the victory of Jallah, given the “mandate of his party”.

Fallah, meanwhile, has been heavily involved in stamping his influence in Foya by constructing a US$ 300,000 town hall in the district and has been instrumental to the pavement of streets in Foya.

Could CDC actors in Lofa propel Jallah?

Fallah favors a lower Lofa candidate, believing that this would enhance the CDC’s chances in that region. As National Vice Chairman for Operations of the Coalition for Democratic Change, Fallah continues to work tirelessly to ensure that his prominence is maintained in the lower Lofa region, particularly in District one, where he is poised to contest against the incumbent representative Francis S. Nyumalin of Unity Party.

In addition, Superintendent William Tamba Kamba, a former representative candidate of District One and a prominent son of lower Lofa, has been using his influence to guarantee that Jallah is elected based on the “party mandate”. 

Jallah could also receive the political blessings of Boakai’s long-time campaign manager and a current CDC supporter, Paramount Chief Tamba Taylor, who is the traditional leader of the Kissi chiefdom and a highly regarded actor in the region. Prior to the cancellation of the by-election, he publicly endorsed Jallah and urged residents of Foya to do the same.

In comparison to prior elections, the presence of these four famous personalities from the lower Lofa region, especially Foya, could likely give Jallah a comfortable lead and increase his chances.

However, the presence of Boakai, Nyumilian, and Brownie Samukai, who lost the current seat after the Supreme Court ruling for money laundering, have been campaigning for the Unity Party candidate Kortimai. This, according to political pundits, would be the greatest obstacle of the CDC in Foya District.

Also, District Two representative Julie F. Wiah, a member of the CDC, has already given her nod to Jallah through Friends of Julie, a political group in the district. Wiah participated in the most recent mid-term election and earned an overwhelming majority of votes in District Two. Political pundits believed Wiah’s support for Jallah would have a greater chance for him than in prior elections. 

Could Jallah break his election jinx?

Jallah is a serious political competitor to Lofa’s body politics, as proven by his consistent second-place finishes in two consecutive elections (2014 and 2020) and third place in 2011.

He hails from a Kolahun District that has continuously voted him, and he is the sole contender from lower Lofa, the county’s most politically populous division, with more than half of the county’s registered voters.

When he ran in 2011, he came in third place with 12,420 votes out of 91,402 valid votes cast among ten candidates. In 2014, Jallah came in second behind Senator Stephen Zargo with 8,570 votes out of 48,812 total valid votes cast, with nine candidates running, including former senator Sumo Kupee and Kortimai, who came in fourth and sixth, respectively. Jallah finished second behind Brownie Samukai in 2020, receiving 13,968 votes out of 64,252 valid votes cast for 11 candidates.

Jallah has earned the trust of his kinsmen, notably those from the Gbandi chiefdom and, by extension, the lower Lofa area, who regards him as their “legitimate representative”. 

Clearly, Jallah has had a significant amount of support from the lower Lofa as compared to the upper Lofa in all of the elections in which he has contested.

In 2011, he finished second in District One, behind former Senator Tengbeh, with 1,403 votes, third in District Two with 1,975 votes, and first in District Three with 5,508. 

Jallah earned 8,886 votes in 2011, accounting for 71.54 percent of his total 12,420 votes, with Upper Lofa accounting for the remaining 28.46 percent. Similarly, he earned 11,157 votes from lower Lofa in the 2020 midterm Senatorial Election, accounting for 79 percent of his total votes cast.

Interestingly, he finished first in Districts Two and Three, with larger vote totals than in prior years, with the exception of District One, where he ended fourth.

Jallah’s main opponent would be former Lofa County Superintendent Kortimai, despite the fact that there is no other candidate from the lower Lofa region and with the support of CDC as well as his consistency in all elections he has participated in, in recent political history.

Chief Moses Kollie could prove key for Jallah

Kollie is a highly powerful politician in Lofa County, with political capital dating back to 2005 and 2011, when he was elected and re-elected as representative of electoral District Four, now District Five, which includes the Zorzor and Salayea Administrative Districts.

Kollie has retained political control in the county through his Friends of Moses Kollie (FOMK) political movement, which was founded in 2004 and has a massive presence in the county. 

He has employed several Liberians – mainly natives of Lofa County – through his approximately 250 acres of farmland in Ganglota Town, Salayea District, the ELMO Event Palace in Paynesville, and his Geniuen Group of Companies in Margibi and Montserrado Counties. He has also has a huge rubber farm on both the Zolowua and Tinsue roads in Lofa County that has been providing employment for many in Lofa County since 2006. 

In recent years, many believed that Chief Kollie has provided more chances for Lofians than any other politician in the county. As Minister of Labor from 2018 to 2020, he assisted in the employment of more qualified Lofains as inspectors and in other roles, such as Labour Commissioners. 

In addition, since 2005, he has provided educational assistance to a large number of high school, college, university, and professional school students. Over three thousand young people have benefited, and some of them are even now generating employment opportunities for others in the county.

With the positive track records and influence of Moses in Lofa politics, as well as his role as Vice Chairman for Administration of the Governing Coalition for Democratic Change(CDC) and Chairman of the Liberia People Democratic Party(LPDP), which is a constituent political party of the CDC, Kollie’s support for Independent candidate Jallah, in addition to the CDC’s open declaration of support for Jallah, is an added advantage and could result in Jallah gaining more votes.

On the other hand, many see Kollie as a potential replacement for Senator Stephen Zargo in 2023. Those who hold this view believe that electing someone from upper Lofa, based on the geopolitics of the county that has existed since 2005, would be detrimental to their choice and trust in Kollie, should he accept their request to run in 2023. 

Since Jallah is the only contender for the lower Lofa region, they view him as the best candidate to pave the way for their 2023 pick. Even those who are not CDC members, but are members of the Friends of Moses Y. Kollie, are campaigning again for Jallah.

If everything continues as it is, Jallah could receive around 2,000 votes from District 5, which would give him a more secure advantage than in past elections he has participated in.

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