Monrovia – Selling voting rights for less than US$10 explains the extent to which poverty is crippling democracy in Liberia and how powerful and influential people seeking elected positions are exploiting the vulnerable youths and the disadvantaged in country.
Three days into the start of the Voters Registration Exercise, three men in possession of 16 voters ID cards which are believed to have been bought were arrested in District #10, Montserrado County.
The Police promised to investigate thoroughly and disclosed the name(s) of whoever was behind the act. To date, the identity of the mastermind remains a secret to the public, though the suspects have been processed for court.
In a smart play to rob competitors of prospective votes, some aspirants are believed to be buying voters ID Cards from members of the districts they are contesting in, in a move to stop them from voting for their counterparts; while at the same time paying people from the district and other districts to register in their district as a means of accumulating more votes at the expense of their competitors.
This process has come under heavy criticism by the journalist-turned politician, Robert Kpadeh of the Movement for the Support of Boakai (NAMBO), who said NAMBO’s intelligence unit has discovered with audio and documentary evidence of some members of the Legislature who are engaged in the illicit act.
“We have some intelligence with specific names, we’re trying to conclude our investigation and we will be naming and shaming people, especially members of the House of Representatives,” Kpadeh said.
“We all have equal responsibility to protect our democracy; some of us fought hard for this democracy and democracy is basically about freedom – the right to assemble, the right to speak freely the right to vote for your choice.”
“So when other people who have economic might and influence take solace and find pleasure in disenchanted young people and exploiting the economic hardship by going to them and dissuading them against the process and buying their vote, it is wrong and it’s a crime,” Kpadeh lamented.
Describing those involved as “nemesis” to the country’s democracy, he called on lawmakers involved in the process to desist.
“I think if you have served your people to the extent where there is satiety, you should not have any worry; you shouldn’t be trucking people from one quarter to another, you shouldn’t be buying young people’s card and keeping their cards,” he added.
Kpadeh wants those caught in the act to be disqualified by the National Elections Commission.
But while Kpadeh sees the act as a crime that should not be left with impunity, many Liberians who are being taken advantaged of see it as a means of making ends meet.
“All I want is money, so I had school this morning to attend, but when my friend told me about A.V.C (A. Varmuyan Conneh) buying serial number from our NEC voter card, I came because I want money.”
“The country is already spoiled so we will spoil it one time”, Yama Zanga told FrontPage Africa in Vai Town on the Bushrod Island A. Varmuyan Conneh is a member of the House of Representatives.
Yama is one of several prospective voters who has received money in exchange for voters ID card. She said in some cases, the serial number of the card is taken down, and the card is returned to them.
The sitting lawmaker of District #14, Abraham Vamuyan Conneh, is largely accused of being the one behind this scheme. Payments to individuals interested in his offer are made in a local restaurant owned by him.
Siatta Konneh who also traded her Voters ID Card serial number for cash said, “I can’t do two registrations, but I came here to give them my serial number. I’m supposed to go to school and I was only told by our chairlady that we should come here to do registration and one man will take our serial number for LD$700 so I here for that.”
Most of those receiving money allegedly from Conneh are from far away districts, some came from as far as Brewerville (District 17) to register in District 14.
“They took us from New Georgia on Tuesday, we were 16-20; we came early in the morning and they spread us in the district to vote [register] and later we rode kehkeh (tricycle) to come here, but I couldn’t get my money because I had to run somewhere so I came for mine.”
“I don’t know yet if I will vote for him because I haven’t collected my money. Also, the place is always packed. I don’t know what the NEC is doing about such a thing,” said Abraham Konneh who was promised US$20.
FrontPageAfrica identified one of those disbursing the money on behalf of Rep. Conneh as Leo. He told FPA that recipients were asked to stand far away so that suspicions would not be raised.
“The group stays far while their leaders bring in their serial numbers and Ma-J give the number,” he said.
Another staff of Rep. Conneh who withheld his name said, “My boss is a lawmaker without border because the people already getting their benefit so we are not waiting.
“So getting the serial number is an assurance to us that they will vote for us. We are the only representative without boundary; we are taking people out of county, we are assured that those serial numbers are for us.”
“Let me inform you that we are expecting people from Bible College (Brewerville) who are currently at polling centers doing their registration.”
“Yesterday, (Tuesday) we had people from New Georgia, Jacob Town, Barnesville, and in time past we had people from Grand Cape Mount, Bomi, so when they come we can let them gather in one area and someone come for the money,” he said.
Rep. Conneh could not be reached by FrontPageAfrica up to press time on Wednesday.