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Next generation call: Uncertainty for Boakai?

President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf on Tuesday, September 19, told world leaders at the ongoing 72nd meeting of the United Nations’ General Assembly that the pending October 10 elections will usher in the next generation of leaders.

“Today, I address you for the last time as I bring to closure my two terms of elected office. Liberia is just 22 days away from historic legislative and presidential elections…This paves the way for the next generation of Liberians to lead the country into the future,” President Sirleaf said in her prepared text.

The President’s statement, which was broadcast here live, leaves behind many unanswered questions and raises uncertainty for her septuagenarian vice president, Joseph N. Boakai, who many thinks is either too old or weak to stir the affairs of the country for the next six years.

Already, she has been accused by critics, many of whom are within her own ruling Unity Party of severing ties with her septuagenarian vice president for youthful soccer legend, George Weah, who heads the Coalition for Democratic Change or CDC ticket. But officials at the CDC have denied receiving any support from Mrs. Sirleaf.

However, CDC Chairman Nathaniel McGill says the party will be glad to welcome Mrs. Sirleaf as one of their high profile members.

On Tuesday, many Liberians took to the social media, suggesting that Mrs. Sirleaf’s statement at the 72nd UNAG was a confirmation that Boakai, 76, is not her likely choice in terms of succession.

These developments come at the time there are rift within the Unity Party with one faction being led by former party Chairman, Senator Varney Sherman, known as the Boakia-UP and partisans considered as closed allies to the President as the Ellen-UP.

Sen. Sherman is on record to have said that the Boakai-led UP group does not need Mrs. Sirleaf’s support to win the October 10 presidential elections. His statement was a public admission of a deep-rooted divide within the ruling establishment which is engaged in a class-war within itself.

The Boakai group in their early campaign had crafted a message which was wholly and solely intended to marginalize the minority Americo-Liberian elite, when it said it was time for the natives to take back their country.

The Country-Congo card here is the equivalent of racism in the western world and other countries that have one color group in minority.

The internal bickering between the UP factions saw key officials defecting from the party – most of the defected executives were considered allies of Mrs. Sirleaf. Those who defected include businessman Musa Bility, Liberty Party’s campaign CEO, Harrison Karnwea, Liberty Party Vice running mate and Gbezohngar Findley, who joined the CDC lately.

On Saturday, September 16, 2017, when Unity Party launched its campaign rally, partisans of the UP sang songs with lyrics like: “Ellen, no Ellen, we will vote for Boakai.” The lyrics in the song were a repeat of Sherman’s comments that the UP did not need Ellen’s support to win the October 10 poll.

On the other hand, Mrs. Sirleaf has repeatedly told members of the media that she stands with her vice president.

But with the president’s latest comment, that the pending election will pave the way for the next generation of leaders, there appears to be an uncertainty for Vice President Boakai, who is well advanced in age and is steps ahead of the current generation of leaders his boss is referring to.

Give or take, Boakai finds himself in a very difficult position of securing a third term victory for the ruling party, which is yet to unify its members. There are much mudslinging among partisans on both sides of the Boakai-UP on one hand and the Ellen-UP group on the other.

It is often said that a divided house cannot stand. And it remains to be seen if Boakai can secure this desperately needed victory for the UP in the midst of these uncertainties and internal bickering that continuous to break the party apart.

Excerpts of President Sirleaf’s 72nd UNAG speech:

“This 72nd Regular Session of the United Nations General Assembly is being convened at a time of historic transition in Liberia, and during a period of acute challenges to our global order. Today, we face the threat of climate change, the violence of terrorism, the risk and indignation of migration, and a nuclear escalation on the Korean peninsula. More over there is a race against time to accommodate a restless youthful population in search of opportunity and a brighter future.

…Mr. President, eleven years ago, in September of 2006, I stood before this august body as the newly elected president of the Republic of Liberia, and, the first woman to be democratically elected as head of State on the African continent.

Today, I address you for the last time as I bring to closure my two terms of elected office. Liberia is just 22 days away from historic legislative and presidential elections. It will mark the first time in 73 years that political power will be handed over peacefully, and democratically, from one elected leader to another. This paves the way for the next generation of Liberians to lead the country into the future.

The election will signal the irreversible course that Liberia has embarked upon to consolidate its young, post-conflict democracy. Indeed, democracy is on the march in Liberia and, I believe, on an irreversible path forward on the African continent.
I thank all our partners who made meaningful contributions, financial and in-kind to ensure peaceful elections, and those organizations which will deploy observer missions to attest to the integrity of the elections process.”

By Othello B. Garblah

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