LIBERIA: FORMER SPEAKER WARNS NEC BOSS

By Moses D. Sandymds66.sandy@aol.com

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A former speaker of the Liberian parliament, Morris Momolu DUKULY, says Liberia’s peace and stability are more important than the Minister of State for Presidential Affairs in the Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf administration’s comfort and personal interest of the Chairperson of the National Elections Commission (NEC), Davidetta Browne-Lansanah.

Mr. Dukuly, who also, served as Minister of Internal Affairs in the latter days of the Johnson-Sirleaf administration, says Liberia’s peace is “our collective interest, and no one including Chairperson Browne-Lansanah and commissioners of the NEC should toy with by tempering with the electoral process”. He emphasized, Liberia is at an inflection point, and the role of the NEC in the sustenance of the country’s democracy and peace, especially at a critical time like these when citizens of the country are gearing up for the October 10, 2023 presidential and legislative elections can’t be overstated. Adding, “These elections are the most consequential in the political history of Liberia”.

Incumbent President George Manneh Weah of the ruling Coalition for Democratic Change (CDC) is one of the 20 presidential hopes participating in the election. His main challenger is former Vice President Joseph Nyumah Boakai of the Unity Party (UP). Mr. Boakai was former President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf’s Vice President for 12 years, but he lost to Mr. Weah in 2017 when he contested for the presidency.

In 2017, Mr. Weah, a retired soccer icon turned politician, was elected president overwhelmingly by Liberians for a six-year term. He won 14 of the 15 counties in Liberia representing more than 61 percent of the one million votes tallied. He is now seeking re-election after 6 years of dismal performance. Under his leadership, Liberia has failed to thrive in several key sectors such as rule of law, education, road connectivity, health, among others. Also, the problem of graft in the public sector has exacerbated.

Speaking recently in the US where he resides when he appeared virtually as a special guest in The Issues Room, a social media platform owned and operated by a group of US based Liberian journalists, former Minister Dukuly, who is also, an ex-Speaker of the disbanded National Transitional Legislative Assembly (NTLA), said he is troubled by how Chairperson Browne-Lansanah and commissioners of the NEC are handling the electoral process. He observed, “From all indications, it seems the Commission is unprepared for conducting free, fair, transparent, and credible elections in Liberia”.

He said October 10th, the date for presidential and legislative elections in Liberia, is fast approaching, but the Commission is still printing the Final Registration Roll (FRR) for voters. Moreover, he noted, Chairperson Browne-Lansanah comes across as indifferent, unmoved, and arrogant when speaking to political leaders and the media. The former Speaker said Mrs. Browne-Lansanah is not forthcoming in providing updates to the media, political parties, and stakeholders about critical electoral matters including the deployment of election workers and logistics in areas that are inaccessible in rural Liberia.

He disclosed, “I recommended Davidetta to former President Johnson-Sirleaf for appointment as commissioner at the NEC when a vacancy was created, and the President wanted a female representation. Then I was Minister of State for Presidential Affairs. However, I am disappointed and deeply troubled by her underperformance at the NEC. Davidetta is incompetent, and her dismal performance is impeding the work of the Commission”.

He furthered, “This is crisis time in Liberia, but Davidetta is nonchalant because she doesn’t understand the enormity of the task at hand”. He said Liberia is at the brink of a constitutional crisis if the NEC fails to conduct the current leadership elections with honesty and due diligence. Former Minister Dukuly maintained the 2023 leadership election in Liberia is not an event, but a process that “Davidetta and the NEC knew about nearly six years ago, yet they failed to prepare for the task at hand”.

Meanwhile, the former Minister of State and Presidential Affairs says if Chairperson Browne-Lansanah for any reason other than mitigating factors beyond her control, plays with the peace of the Liberian people by tempering with the electoral process and its outcomes, she “will sit in judgement”. He emphasized, “don’t try it because you will be held accountable”.

He cautioned the NEC boss and her team of commissioners to ensure that nothing is done to thwart the will of the Liberian people. He admonished, “Whoever wins the presidency, must win fairly. If the people choose to re-elect Mr. Weah for a second term, then so be it. However, if he loses, he must accept the will of the people. That’s democracy”.

At the same time, former Minister Dukuly is calling on the Liberian media, civil society groups, political leaders, and the religious and international communities to join the campaign for a free, fair, and credible election. He noted, “Everyone must work in unison making sure that the NEC does its work with honesty”. He said the people must speak out and compel the NEC in performing it statutory duties.

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