Liberia: MDR’s Vice Chair Slams Prince Johnson for Assertions against Government, Pullout of Support
MONROVIA – The Vice Chairman for Political and Governmental Affairs of the Movement for Democratic Reconstruction (MDR) Wilfred Bangura has taken issues with the party’s Founder and Standard Bearer Senators Prince Y. Johnson and Jeremiah Koung for unilaterally nullifying the party’s support to President George Manneh Weah in the pending 2023 general and presidential elections in Liberia.
By Obediah Johnson, [email protected]
Mr. Bangura previously served as the founding Secretary General and acting Chairman of the MDR. He took the party to a convention that replaces Senator Johnson as Standard Bearer with Senator Jeremiah Koung of Nimba Countyin December 2022.
Senator Johnson is the Founder and political godfather of the Movement for Democracy and Reconstruction (MDR), a party he established barely few months to the conduct of the 2017 general and presidential elections.
Last week, he told the Voice of America last week that he has terminated an agreement he signed to support President Weah. He attributed his decision to the failure of President Weah and his government to benefit citizens of Nimba County since he ascended to the Liberian presidency.
Senator Johnson further disclosed that he is holding talks with other opposition political parties for collaboration.
“What we expected in the past is not what we see on the ground, we had believed that being the World Best, European Best, African Best, all the best, with his election, he would have attracted investors to Liberia to create jobs and alleviate the suffering on our people through their investments, but since his election, the world has abandoned us in the sense that no investors are coming. And what we are doing in the country is just ratifying loan agreements and you cannot build the country based on loans,” Sen. Johnson said.
Sen. Johnson claimed that a delegation from the ruling Coalition for Democratic Change (CDC) comprising the former Minister of State for Presidential Affairs Nathaniel McGill, Minister of Foreign Affairs, Dee-Maxwell Kemayah, Maritime Commissioner, Lenn Eugene Nagbe and the Minister of Finance, Samuel Tweah, paid him a visit to request him to reconsider his decision but, according to him, he turned them down.
The Nimba County Senator, however, said while his party, the Movement for Democratic Reconstruction (MDR) has opted to put a candidate in the presidential race, he also acknowledges that one political party cannot win election in Liberia.
“We are open to all parties, we’re working with the Unity Party, we’re working with ANC, we’re working with the newly certificated party, EFCC, all the parties on the ground, we’re working with them. One party cannot win elections without the other,” he said.
As for Senator Koung, he has been consistently calling for a merger or collaboration of opposition political parties to unseat President Weah.
But addressing a news conference in Congo Town on Monday, January 23, Minister Bangura pointed out that the MDR was never founded to “nurse” the selfish interest of anyone or group of people.
According to him, the party was established to represent the interest of the Liberian people.
He observed that despite its true intent, executives and partisans of the party have been alarmed, concerned and perturbed with media reports on the negative developments within the party less than two months following the ascendancy of Senator Koung to the Standard Bearer position in recent times.
Minister Bangura stated that these reports displayed criticisms of the “most demeaning kind” from both the Founder and Standard Bearer of the MDR, Senators Johnson and Koung against the Coalition for Democratic Change (CDC) led-government that they helped to bring to power.
He pointed out that the two executives have been “showboating” of ending ties with the CDC, without holding any consultation with members of the National Executive Committee (NEC) of the party.
“We join the arena of politics being fully cognizant that our moral upbringing and religious foundation will have the final saying in reality. And I must confess that that moment is upon us now. I had the honor of my life to have served my party as the founding National Secretary General, Acting Chairman and I’m one of the five incorporators of the Movement for Democracy and Reconstruction. I am one of the owners and fore bearers of the MDR.”
“Being thus grounded in the political philosophy of the MDR, it has fallen upon me as my most sacred duty to salvage the MDR from the hands of political demagoguery and mercenaries. The MDR was never founded to nurse the parochial and chauvinistic interests of anyone; it was established to represent the overarching interest of the Liberian people.”
Standing with Weah
Minister Bangura emphasized that despite the showboating of the two men, he and other executives and members of the MDR remain supportive to retaining President Weah in October 2023.
“I stand with the President to ensure his re-election as President of the Republic of Liberia and I will do everything legally, morally and politically possible to ensure that the President is reelected with a decisive mandate in this year’s elections so that he can continue working on the Liberian project.”
He maintained that the MDR is fully on board and would work assiduously towards the re-election of President Weah.
Minister Bangura emphasized that the MDR remains deeply rooted within the CDC, adding that, “we are allies and my party worked very hard in 2017 to bring this government to power.”
He recalled that Senator Johnson sometimes ago was willing to ensure that President Weah goes for a third term, but wondered why he has summersaulted in recent times.
He said any call or action to prevent President Weah from achieving his second term mandate is unacceptable.
Not fielding a candidate
Contrary to claims made by the two Nimba County Senators that the party will contest the presidential elections, Minister Bangura disclosed that the MDR will not field a candidate in the October 2023 elections.
According to him, the party will also not subject itself to a Vice Presidential ticket to any political party in the country.
“We will be very strategic going forward with the opinion and effort of rebranding, repositioning and remaking our party in preparing it adequately for future elections and not this one (2023).”
He emphasized that the MDR is not fully prepared and ready to field a presidential candidate and as such, the party must keep focus on retaining President Weah for the presidency, by vigorously campaigning ahead of the elections.
He stated that Senator Koung is also fully aware that the party is unready to put forth a candidate for the presidency.
Minister Bangura claimed that Senator Johnson, who founded the MDR, has been duly informed about his position on the matter.
He noted that though he does not have evidence to establish whether or not Senator Johnson was engaged into “pay-to-play” as claimed by the United States government, or is contemplating on doing so ahead of the elections, his decision taken to speak on the matter is due to various calls, actions and inactions in the political landscape of the country.
Minister Bangura claimed that Senator Johnson has alluded that his decision was “a good idea.”
He further disclosed that the party’s Standard Bearer Senator Koung was not briefed on his position.
“I have taken a side and I informed Senator Johnson yesterday that I will support the President and I will support his re-election as Senator as well. He’s aware of this position; I discussed it with him and many of the National Executive Committee members. We have to state clearly where we stand and this is where I stand. And he (Senator Johnson) respects my position a lot; and I hope that he will join us and the President will be elected with a big mandate.”
““I am speaking in the sentiment of majority of the people who will not come to your microphones to speak. Though I work for the government, I believe as well as many in our party believe that the government has done well thus far. I know that eventually, we will all support the re-election of the President.”
He stressed that the relationship between the CDC and the MDR remain strong.
He maintained that it is “highly unlikely” that the MDR will not support the CDC during the elections.
Prepare for consequences
It seems that Minister Bangura would be penalized for going contrary to comments made by Senators Johnson and Koung against the marriage of the MDR with the CDC.
However, he appears not to be perturbed of any action or punishment.
“I believe in the philosophy of Martin King that “there comes a time when silence mean betrayal. I honestly believe that I’m doing the right thing and I’m prepared for the consequences of this decision. But I am also confident that this is where my party is going to come eventually.”