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GeneralLiberia news

Grand Bassa District#5 Candidate cries injustice

-In NEC’s hearings

By Kruah Thompson 

Amidst the ongoing pulling and hauling in the Grand Bassa District #5 Representative Elections disputed, Representative candidate Christine Juah Settro, Dennis has denounced what she perceives as injustice in the electoral process.

Addressing a press conference at Mamba Point Hotel in Monrovia, over the weekend, Mrs. Settro expressed frustration over what she described as “systemic obstacles,” obstructing her certification, as winner of the district’s seat during October 10, 2023 election.

She accuses NEC officials of showing favoritism towards her opponents and disregarding pieces of evidence that support her eligibility.

The October 10, 2023 election in the district was concluded amidst reports of malpractices and irregularities by NEC, prompting Ms. Settro to file complaint at the Commission’s office in Grand Bassa.

However, the NEC dismissed the complaint, which led her to file an appeal before the Board of Commissioners in Monrovia.

Subsequently, a hearing was granted, but despite evidence indicating the need for an automatic recount, NEC denied such opportunity. 

Ms. Settro and her team then sought relief before the Supreme Court, and on January 17, 2024, the Supreme Court ordered the National Elections Commission to conduct a recount of results from all 78 polling centers within the disputed district, but they did only 70 centers, leaving out 10.

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In a statement issued to local media outlets, during the weekend, Madam Settro expressed deep disappointment in the NEC handling of the process, emphasizing that during the recount, numerous irregularities were discovered, including broken boxes and discrepancies in sealed numbers, further noting that at polling place number 1, three thousand people voted, but after the recount, the number reduced to 259, indicating a shortage of 41 votes in the box.

Besides, she revealed that in Paystown, she had an additional five votes, while in Koko David town, additional three persons voted, but after the recount, the ballots increased by three hundred and fifty-one votes, lamenting “So the number in the different polling places was like rising and falling after the recount.”

During the conference, the aggrieved candidate emphasized that these concerns were raised during the process, but NEC officials attributed them to bad road conditions and proceeded with the recount, despite objections from her team.

“They even went ahead to open additional counting areas without proper staffing, further complicating the situation for us,” she notes, indicating that NEC initially informed them of five counting areas, but there was a sudden increase to ten, leaving her team unprepared.

“During the recount, NEC transferred some of these boxes to additional areas for recount without notifying us. This led to tensions and objections when boxes from previous polling centers where problems were noted, were brought back into the recount despite our initial agreement to quarantine them”, she explains.

According to her, total number of persons who voted in the October 2023 election was 20,931, but she further claimed that after the recount, the number increased to 20,951, something, she says raises concern.

She says despite these challenges, the recount continued unabated, leaving a sense of unease among those present.

Immediately after the recount on January 26, Candidate Dennis filed a Bill of Information before the NEC Board and subsequently amended same on February 1. However, the Board of Commissioners declined to entertain the Bill of Information on grounds that they lacked jurisdiction.

 Not being satisfied, she announced an appeal to the Board’s decision but later withdrew it and filed a Bill of Information before Associate Justice in Chambers Jamesetta Wolokollie at the Supreme Court.

The full Bench of the Supreme Court declined to issue a writ against NEC, prompting the complainant to subsequently file a writ of mandamus.

In her complaint filed before NEC, Candidate Dennis argued that NEC did not successfully implement the Supreme Court’s mandate as it was required to do. She also highlighted that the recount team refused to reconcile the closing seal numbers of October 10, 2023, ballot boxes with those of the opening seal on January 23, 2024, and that most of the seals came broken from the boxes.

Candidate Dennis, who revealed how NEC Magistrate Daivd Logan and staff moved into the NEC Magistrate’s office and stayed there for four nights from January 18th to the 22nd before the recount, noted that while her writ of mandamus was pending before the Supreme Court, Mr. Goshau was certificated on Thursday, February 8, by the House of Representatives.

However, she emphasizes a need for transparency and accountability within the NEC, calling for international support and women’s groups to stand against the injustice against her.

Notwithstanding, Madam Settro maintains that she will use all legal means possible to ensure her case sets a precedent for future electoral integrity in Liberia.

Meanwhile, as consultations continue, the aggrieved candidate remains resolute in her pursuit of justice, vowing not to rest until her case is heard and resolved.

She calls for solidarity and action to address marginalization of women in Liberia’s electoral processes. Editing by Jonathan Browne

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