Liberians go to the poll tomorrow

Liberians residing here are expected to go to the poll tomorrow, Tuesday, October 10, to elect a president and legislative candidates of their respective choices.

The 1986 Liberian Constitution article 83 (a) states; voting for the President, Vice–President, members of the Senate and members of the House of Representatives shall be conducted throughout the Republic on the second Tuesday in October of each election year.

The data released by the National Elections Commission for Tuesday, October 10, 2017 Representatives and Presidential elections stand at 2,183,629.

The electoral house says of this number, 986,190 or 52 percent are males while 917,039 or 48 percent are females. According to the records, registrants per county include; Bomi County (61,171), Bong County (208,150), Gbapolu County (48,669), Grand Bassa County (145,798), Grand Cape Mount County (65,800), Grand Gedeh County (63,495), Grand Kru (35,506), Lofa County (167, 555), Margibi County (154,328), Maryland County (57,344), Montserrado County (777,503), Nimba County (279, 572), River Gee (35,240), Rivercess (35,600) and Sinoe County (47,952), respectively.

Rivercess and River Gee Counties have the lowest numbers of registered voters recorded at 31,550 and 31,515 or 2 percent each, respectively.

There are 26 political parties contesting in these elections, with 20 presidential candidates, and 1, 08 legislative candidates.

According to NEC’s data, there are 2080 voting precincts and 5,390 polling places throughout the country.

Of the 20 presidential candidates based on campaign activities coupled with debate across the country, there are six major contenders including; the Coalition for Democratic Change of former world best footballer, now Senator of Montserrado County George Manneh Weah, opposition Liberty Party of former Senate Pro-Tempore, Cllr. Charles Walker Brumskine, governing Unity Party of Vice President Joseph Nyuma Boakai, new entrant to Liberian politics Alexander Cummings of Alternative National Congress, businessman-turned politician Benoni Urey of the All Liberia Party and Nimba County Senator Prince Yormie Johnson.

The Constitution of Liberia states that in order for one political party or independent candidate to be declared winner in a presidential race by the National Elections Commission that party or candidate shall obtain 50 percent plus one of the total votes cast.

It is arguable that no political party or independent candidate here can obtain such number in the first phase of Tuesday’s election.

But many Liberians hold the strong conviction that of the six candidates, three stand better chance of making it to the presidential runoff, including the Coalition for Democratic Change, the Liberty Party and the ruling Unity Party.

By E. J. Nathaniel Daygbor-Editing by Jonathan Browne

George Weah is solution for change

Partisans and supporters of the main opposition Coalition for Democratic Change (CDC) express strong conviction here that their Standard Bearer Senator George Mannah Weah and his running mate Senator George Weah are the best team to transform Liberia.

Speaking to this paper in an exclusive interview over the weekend when the CDC concluded its national campaign at the Antoinette Tubman Stadium or ATS in Monrovia, where thousands of supporters converged to listen to him, they said Weah is the only candidate who is determined to build roads, schools and clinics and reduce price of rice, among many changes the country is faced with.

The political atmosphere is already tense, as heads of political parties and their supporters including Legislative candidates ended official campaign here Sunday in a last minute rush to solidify their strongholds ahead of Tuesday’s polls.  CDCians say they are not taking the fight for the Executive Mansion lightly, as evidenced by the turnout over the weekend to welcome Amb. George Weah and his running mate Senator Jewel Howard Taylor at the ATS from a campaign tour to southeast Liberia.

The Coalition campaign rallies to the southeast covered several counties, including Grand Gedeh, Maryland, and Sinoe, respectively where thousands of citizens pledged their support to the soccer legend and his running mate in their quest for the Executive Mansion.

“Whether in the bustling slum of Soniwein or the historic city of various county capitals, the power of the CDC still remains the same,” said a CDCian. “The turnout here today, and last week’s in the southeast, is a clear sign of defeat for the Unity Party and the Boakai team including every opposition political party,” said Michale Toe, a CDC supporter from New Kru Town community at the ATS.

“We’re penetrating the hinterland with a one-round message; and with the momentum, we are now also identifying and recruiting possible poll watchers in the villages even before the campaign season comes to an end,” another supporter explain. The Congress for Democratic Change, which gave birth to the Coalition for Democratic Change, is believed to have more support in the southeast and western regions of Liberia, as in 2005 and 2011 elections, owing to the momentum of their recruitment process.

“In these constituencies, the popularity of the coalition and its illustrious leader, Sen. George Weah is high,” said Mr. Toe.

By Lewis S. Teh-Editing by Jonathan Browne

Liberia needs to graduate from subsistence farming

The West Africa Regional Fisheries Project Coordinator Yevewuo Subah wants Liberia to graduate from subsistence to mechanic farming to ensure food sufficiency here.

Mr. Subah notes that 70 percent of Liberians depend on agricultural livelihoods, but most Liberian farmers are poor as they depend on subsistence farming which barely produces enough to feed their individual families.

He spoke during a presentation at the Governance Commission’s Agriculture and Food Security Forum held recently at the Corina Hotel in Monrovia.
Speaking on the topic, “Agriculture: Commercial and Enterprise Development”, He says Liberia’s agriculture sector is still plagued by a number of challenges including managerial, environmental, climatic, economical, and development which continue to hamper the country’s growth and development.

Mr. Subah continues that these challenges also include Structural constraints, inadequate policy implementation, displacement of farming communities due to conflict, degraded transportation, production and other infrastructures, and diminished productive capacities.

He recommends that for commercialization and enterprise development to become a success in Liberia, government should ensure that it puts in place adequate policy and programs and ensure legislative environment, encourage multi-sectorial coordination; build institutional & human capacity; facilitate trade and promote markets and attract investment to strengthen public-private partnership in agriculture.


LENO opens data center

The Liberia Elections Observation Network or LEON announces the opening of its operations and data center at the Headquarters of the Federation of Liberian Youth, FLY in Monrovia.

LEON says it will analyze data as the arrive from the field thru SMS submitted by 140 Long Terms Observers (LTOs) and 1000 Short Terms Observers (STOs). These SMS go directly in the LEON database through specially developed software. It has a team of data analysts working in shifts, who will be analyzing information on opening, voting and counting throughout Election Day.

The Liberia Elections Observation Network is a platform of four Liberian Civil Society Organizations: The Catholic Justice and Peace Commission (JPC), Liberia Crusaders for Peace (LCP), Federation of Liberia Youth (FLY) and National Union of Organizations for the Disabled (NUOD) with the goal to meaningfully contribute to the democratization process in Liberia by providing an avenue for civil society to participate in monitoring and observing the 2017 elections.

LEON has 133 observers stationed around the country since June, observing all aspects of the electoral process. It has recruited and trained a further 1000 short term observers to be stationed in polling places in all electoral districts on election day, reporting on the voting and counting processes. The 133 Long Term Observers will continue to monitor the post election environment and to report on the tallying process.

LEON observers will be stationed in approximately half of all polling precincts and 20 percent polling places on Election Day. The leadership of LEON will be at the secretariat and will issue statements on the process during and after Election Day. LEON LTOs will monitor the tallying of results at all 19 tallying centers and continue to monitor the post-election environment.

Te organization encourages all political parties to be peaceful during and after the elections and is appealing to the media to allow the NEC to perform its constitutional mandate especially, as the polls close on elections day October 10, 2017.  LEON says the National Elections Commission is the only entity with the authority to announce elections results and declare winners, saying “While we welcome the media announcing results, let us remember that these will be provisional and may not be fully representative since results from remote areas will come in later.”

LEON observers assessed that security forces are playing a positive role in the larger rallies where they are present with only two negative reports and most rallies were peaceful.

“Apart from the well-publicized violent incidents in Sanniquellie and Monrovia, the majority of these were smaller events where there were no police present. There were a further 15 reports of election related violence with destruction of political party campaign materials or longstanding tensions causing the incidents. There were also three reports of candidates being harassed. Serious incidents were mostly referred to the police who were reported to be acting in 73 percent of cases referred to them”, the organization notes.

By Bridgett Milton

Accident strikes ANC supporters?

Two females believed to be supporters of opposition Alternative National Congress (ANC) were reportedly involved in a tragic motor accident at the close of the party’s campaign on Saturday, 7 October in the Fish Market area in Congo Town, suburb of Monrovia.  Eyewitnesses told the NewDawn that the victims were allegedly dressed in ANC party campaign T-shirts while riding on motorbike which later somersaulted several times.

The two females reportedly went unconscious following the incident, while the motorbike operator is said to have also been taken to the John F. Kennedy Medical Center in Sinkor under critical condition.  While security officers at the JFK could not permit our reporter to get access to the medical facility over the weekend, eyewitnesses however attributed the fatal accident to an alleged carelessness on the part of the three victims who are yet to be identified.

Ms. Felecial Horton Duncan and Mr. Winfred Samuel Diggs who claimed to have witnessed the sad event said that the bike rider left the wheel of bike while the two female passengers sat behind him and had their hands up in the air in some campaign zeal.
The operator was said to have left the bike on speed while he had his hands in the air when it lose control and unfortunately somersaulted several times on the main road.

The witnesses claimed that the two females broke their necks while the bike rider broke his left and hand and left foot. According to witnesses, the victims bled profusely on the accident scene.  According to Felecial and Diggs, the motorbike on which the victims were riding had a description that read: “Big Boy One”, and is registered under the Paynesville branch of the Liberia National Motorcycle Union.

They added that the sad situation brought tears to many ANC supporter and passersby who were on the scene.

By Emmanuel Mondaye--Edited by Winston W. Parley

Brumskine poised to win

Presidential hopeful Cllr. Charles Walker Brumskine of the opposition Liberty Party is pretty seated and poised to win next Tuesday’s (October 10th ) 2017 presidential election here with latest poll rating placing him ahead of major candidates in the race for the presidency.

This is no illusion, as it is barely three days from now when Liberian electorate go to the poll to unfold the reality in what is expected to be a history-making event for the man, who has remained very consistent and passionate about his capacity to lead Liberia out of the dungeon of bad governance characterized by corruption, lack of transparency and accountability.

Brumskine wants to considerably reduce illiteracy and poverty in Liberia. To achieve this, he vows to make education free both at primary and secondary levels, if elected as well as increase teachers’ salary to maintain qualified personnel in the classroom.

A lawyer with career experience spanning over 40 years both in Liberia and under United States jurisprudence, he does not pinch his words about what he intends to do immediately upon hitting the grounds of the Executive Mansion, pledging to cut his own salary by 30 percent and similarly those of his top officials to redirect such funds to vulnerable sectors of the economy.

He wants to change Liberia by taking the money from the hands of few elites in Monrovia to invest it across the country, but reminds that it cannot be done without the help of Liberians.

"I need a mandate from the Liberian people so that the country can change and change for the good of Liberians”, he pleads, and continues, “It is time for the old people to enjoy their retirement benefit, it's time for our children to have free education, it's time to take government money from the big shots and invest in the average people."

The LP says it is not taking anything for granted in these elections in its resolve to retire the governing Unity Party at the ballot box. LP Chairman Benjamin Sanvee, notes that the party is underestimating the appetite for change in Liberia, and predicts that the UP will not reach a runoff if there were to be one.

“Look Boakai, the people are going to be very shocked. They’re going to be very shocked, you know they’re underestimating the level and the appetite for change in this country”, Sanvee says, and continues, “most of the people who were driven to go and vote, they vote for the top of the ticket, so in mine estimation, Vice President Boakai [doesn’t have] one vote to start on. At least Brumskine was third and came fourth, at least. So wherever he’s starting from he can start from that.”

The UP is beset by serious internal rift that has left it with a broken spinal cord, diminishing its strength to up a political fight, a situation that is working in favor of the Liberty Party.

Cllr. Brumskine received overwhelming reassurance recently from his kinsmen in Grand Bassa County when young and old folks, career and ordinary people lined up the streets and corners of Buchanan in euphoria to receive him in the country.

Grand Bassa, considered as the political stronghold of the LP strongman proved its loyalty and solidarity with the elative reception accorded his arrival as partisans and supporters vow to this time around take Brumskine to the Executive Mansion, official residence of the Liberian Presidency.

The youths could not hold back their songs and slogans, as they chanted, “We are walking to the Mansion; this is our time; I got mind made up for Brumskine, no turning back, our kind will be the next President,” among others.

In a special statement issued recently, following a U.S. Congressional hearing on “The Future of Democracy and Governance in Liberia”, Cllr. Brumskine welcomes what he terms strong interest and support from the United States, as well as recognition of the unique bond between America and Liberia that share intertwined histories and peoples.

He says the upcoming election is undoubtedly a watershed moment for Liberia as it will be the first transfer of power via the ballot box since the elections of 1943, and very likely the first time power is democratically transferred from a ruling party to an opposition political party since 1870.

“This is a moment when we need our friends most, because nothing should be taken for granted in Liberia – least of all our democracy, stability and peace”, he notes.

-Story by Jonathan Browne

UP uses AFL in campaign

The ruling Unity Party or UP has been accused of “incumbency abuse.” It is alleged that Defense Minister Brownie Samukai deployed officers of the Armed Forces of Liberia or AFL to provide security for the contractors hired to construct a podium in Barnersville for the launch of its representative candidates’ campaign ahead of vice president Boakai’s visit there, the Institute for Research and Democratic Development (IREDD) claim.

IREDD Project Manager Madam Sackey claims that such measure was as a result of fear from resistance by locals.At a news conference in Monrovia Thursday, Madam Sackey accused the UP of “incumbency abuse,” claiming that the party uses Labor Minister Neto Zarzar Lighe and Defense Minister Brownie Samukai to serve on its campaign team and executive committee.

She claims that IREDD’s monitors have reported that Min. Samukai allegedly assigned some officers of the Armed Forces of Liberia (AFL) to provide security for contractors hired for the construction of a podium erected in Barnesville for UP’s representative candidate’s campaign launch and Vice President Joseph Nyumah Boakai’s visit through the influence of Min. Samukai.

“We call on all government officials to draw a line of distinction between public and private resources, and see the need to desist from using assigned and public vehicles and other public assets for campaigning purposes,” she cautions.

IREDD further calls on the Chief of Staff of the Armed Forces of Liberia (AFL) Gen. Daniel Ziankhan to investigate the use of AFL soldiers to provide security for the construction of UP’s podium as a matter of urgency and take practical steps to prevent its reoccurrence.

Citing Sections 5.1 and 5.2 of the Code of Conduct that restricts the involvement of all officials appointed by the president in political activities, IREDD claims that the UP seems to have been relaxed so far.

She alleges that senior government officials continue to canvass support for the incumbent government, thus expressing IREDD’s strong condemnation of the use and involvement of the AFL in political activities when they are supposed to be neutral.

The Madam Sackey also claimed that vote buying is very common electoral corruption practice in Liberia, alleging that in different forms, all political parties and candidates have been involved with it.

“In some instances, institutions are reported to have been involved with political parties in providing some financial aid to them in the guise of investing in national corporations to have them revived,” she said Thursday, 5 October when IREDD released its findings on the campaign process here.

The Institute is recommending those electoral laws and other codes that govern the behavior` of officials and political contenders alike be respected and upheld, while also urging the National Elections Commission (NEC) to be forceful and ensure compliance of the provisions of the elections law.

The research institute also recommends that all political parties should commit to a non-violent participation in all the electoral processes, saying it will be achieved by refraining from provocative speeches that can spark violence.

By E. J. Nathaniel Daygbor-Edited by Winston W. Parley

Several parties in coma?

Several political parties and their presidential candidates appear to have gone into coma here for reasons best known to them, given the level of uncertainty over when they will ever launch their political campaign for the Tuesday, 10 October presidential and representatives’ elections.

It seems electorate are yet to feel the presence of some of these parties that claim to be fielding presidential candidates, with no certain dates known here to the public as to when they will showcase their political strength with just few days left for the polls due next Tuesday, 10 October.
Concerns have been mounting in the camp of one of such parties, Redemption Democratic Congress (RDC) of former National Transitional Legislative Assembly (NTLA) speaker Mr. George S. Dweh, where an anonymous party official claims that RDC’s campaign launch is set for next week after receiving some vehicles from its political leader.

Another political party that is yet to launch its campaign is the opposition New Liberian Party (NLP) with headquarters situated in Caldwell, Montserrado County.  Former Central Bank Governor, Dr. J. Mills Jones’ Movement for Economic Empowerment or MOVEE is also yet to launch its campaign.

Giving reasons why the NLP has not launched its political campaign, the Coordinator of the NLP 17 electoral districts Madam Tetee Sando, attributed the late participation of its presidential candidate into the campaign launch to financial constraints. She, however, claims that efforts are being made by the party to have its political campaign launched in Montserrado County.

There are a lot more political parties that claim to be fielding presidential candidates for the October 10 polls but are yet to showcase their political strength since campaign activities were declared opened by the National Elections Commission (NEC). Information gathered by this paper suggests that some of parties are facing logistical and financial constraints to jumpstart their political campaigns.

It has also been gathered so far that some of the political parties’ presence are yet to be felt in several parts of the country due to their inability to reach electorate residing in remote places.

By Emmanuel Mondaye--Edited by Winston W. Parley

Action Aid, media partner for peaceful elections

Action Aid Liberia in partnership with the Liberian media and the Liberia National Police kicks off an exercise aimed at creating a conducive environment that will lead to free, fair and peaceful elections in the country.

In separate interactive forums, the media and LNP officers converge on Thursday, 5 October at the YWCA, Congo Town, outside Monrovia to discuss ways in contributing positively to peaceful elections. The Coordinator of Youth and Election project at Action Aid Liberia, Joseph Madzvamuse says his institution thought to bring the police and the media together based on their pivotal roles in society. “We recognize the role of the media in sustaining the peace,

therefore, it is very necessary for us to bring members of the media and the LNP to engage in these interactive discussions to promote peace,
especially in the elections period”, he says.

Mr. Madzvamuse notes that the forum also highlights human rights violations, especially involving marginalized groups such as girls and women, whose voices are heard in society based on the role of the media, instead of just focusing on the elections coverage. “The role of the media is very critical in this period and after the elections, where there will be a balance in reporting so as to avoid conflict. Most of the foot soldiers are young people, how does the media reportage affect those people?” He asks.

On maintaining the peace, he says the media should be able to identify potential threats during elections and report them so that institutions and organizations working toward peace can  immediately arrest those potential threats identified. According to him, media practitioners need to work together through networking to highlight such issues, adding “If there is conflict, the media is to be blamed."

Liberians go to the poll on Tuesday, 10 October to a new president and members of the House of Representatives that would transition political power from one leadership to another, the first in 73 years.

By Bridgett Milton-Editing by Jonathan Browne

Anna Elizabeth Foundation identifies with pupils

Anna Elizabeth Neal Foundation, a local NGO has put smiles on pupils of the government-owned Augustus F. Cane Elementary School in Brewerville, outside Monrovia.

According to the local NGO, the decision to identify with the students is in the wake of economic hardship faced by school going children across Liberia. The kids Thursday, October 5, received educational materials, including text books, pencils, curriculum, maps and assignment books, among others to help strengthen their learning capacity.

Anna Elizabeth Foundation Neal is foundation that consists of group of Liberians, who are living in the United States of America, and saw the need to give back to their country, especially children that are in need of educational materials to prepare themselves for the future. Speaking to reporters at the formal presentation program held at the school campus in Virginia, the head of the foundation Mrs. Andrea C. Kamara, explains that her late mother Mrs. Anna Elizabeth Neal Kamara was principal of the Augustus F. Cane Elementary School, but when she passed in 2005, her grand children decided to have a foundation in her honor to keep up the vision of the school.

“So when we the children came down from the United States to bury her in 2005, one of the first priorities was the school, we noticed that the school was going down, this is why we decided to keep her dreams alive by providing support”, Mrs. Kamara explains. When asked about the monetary value of the donation, she quickly responds, “For us, we don’t attach any cost to this process, because you can’t attach money to education but we do know that few thousands were spent to have these things here today.”

Meanwhile, she says her organization will continue its efforts as long as the school has more students that are eager to learn. “My dream is to see the Augustus F. Cane goes to a junior college.” For his part, the Principal of the school, Mr. Mohamed Siryon, expresses delight for the gesture, saying I” am lack of words from what is happening here today at this school.”

“This school is a government-run school, but authorities at the Ministry of Education have all turned their backs in terms of giving support, this is one of the many challenges we are encountering here.” According to him, students share classes due to lack of logistical support, lamenting that at times the school survives through help from the Parent-Teacher Association or PTA.

By Lewis S. Teh-Editing by Jonathan Browne

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