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Giving Kokoyah’s NEC the “Benefit of the Doubt”

On Monday, April 1, 2013, five commissioners of the reconstituted National Elections Commission or NEC were commissioned by President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf in Monrovia. Out of the seven commissioners recently nominated by the President and confirmed by the Liberian Senate, only Cllr. Jerome G. Kokoya, Chairman; Cllr. Sarah M. Toe, Co-Chair; Mr. Jonathan K. Weedor, Member; Mr. Samuel Z. Joe, Member; and Mr. Ansumana F. Kromah, Member underwent the exercise. Two of the commissioners-Herenrietta Mardea Peters, withdrawn for not meeting age requirement and Elizabeth Nelson, conspicuously absent, did not participate in the ceremony.

Monday’s event was preceded by the vocal opposition of the Congress of Democratic Change or CDC to the Chairmanship of Cllr. Jerome G. Kokoyah, backed by threats of ‘street protests and other actions as publicly announced recently by its Chairman, Mr. George Solo. He and his CDC had attributed their rejection of Chairman Kokoyah to credibility problem, regarding his membership status with the ruling Unity Party-something sixteen of Liberia’s nineteen political parties resisted as untrue.

Not only did President Sirleaf assure the Commission of Government’s fullest support as she performed the ceremony at the Foreign Ministry in Monrovia, she also committed her administration to continuously respecting the independence and will not interfere with the work of the elections commission. As a clear indication of her commitment to the independence of the NEC, the Liberian Leader reminded the newly commissioned members of the commission that their responsibility was awesome and commanded the highest degree of integrity, commitment and dedication in the discharge of their duties.

Further admonishing the new NEC Commissioners, the President expressed the hope that those re-nominated will continue serving Liberia with the same level of commitment and diligence, also urging the newcomers to bring to their tasks freshness of ideas, energy, dynamism and courage in helping the Commission play its pivotal role in the consolidation of the country’s young democracy, and at the same time, appreciating individuals not re-nominated for their service to the country with a promise to explore how each of them may continue to serve Liberia in other ways.

Two Oaths of Office, including the second required by Chapter 2 (Section 2.5 and Section 2.9) of the New Elections Law, approved September 29, 1986 and amended January 29 2003 and December 23, 2004 relinquishing any possible allegiance to any political party or group and will in no manner or form undertake to do anything illegal in the interest of any party thereby undermining the discharge of their duties and responsibilities, were taken by the five commissioners.

Despite the persistent opposition to his Chairmanship by Chairman George Solo and his CDC, Chairman Kokoyah, at the head of his colleagues, must now exert all of the necessary efforts to allay the fear of partisanship and unfairness as he serves the country. While he must be hailed for his high level of maturity and moderate reaction to the CDC’s claims, Kokoyah must see the party and its leadership as partners for democratic progress.

With the assurance by the new NEC Chairman that they were mindful that the task to perform was not about personal glory; rather it is more about Liberia, its peace, democracy and stability, Chairman George Solo, the CDC and few “civil society” organizations opposing Cllr. Kokoyah’s Chairmanship must now see reason in giving him and the rest of the NEC Commissioners the “benefit of the doubt”.

Even though no one Liberian may be “neutral” as it relates to political affiliation, Kokoyah must be allowed the chance to ensure confidence building at the core of their activities at the Commission as a way of driving away the fear of the CDC. In as much the CDC may not be thriving on the right political path as the “largest opposition party” in Liberia, it must be constructively engaged by the Chairman and members of the new National Elections Commission in addressing some of its qualms.

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