Liberia’s on path to return to ruthlessness, signs of Taylor’s influence

Weah’s CDC Allegedly Burned the Home of Journalist Smith Toby

LONDON, UK –––Reports from Liberia point to a country on the verge of chaos, ‘jungle justice’ and misrule as political transition process gets underway with the pending election of a new president to replace outgoing president Madam Ellen Johnson Sirleaf.

Tension is high among adherents of political fixtures idolized by mainly street gangs and semi illiterate youth groups in various political parties, but more so in the Coalition for Democratic Change (CDC) party headed by former soccer star George Manneh “Oppong” Weah.

Both presidential and legislative elections were held on 10 October 2017. While the legislative election went largely peaceful, the presidential election has been chaotic with several, if not all, political parties are accusing the country’s National Election Commission (NEC) of fraudulent activities, vote rigging, data manipulation, and incompetence in the NEC’s leadership.

Critics are also accusing President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf of unnecessarily interfering in the country’s political and electoral process in hopes of influencing the choice of a successor that would shield her from possible prosecution from corruption and mismanagement during her reign. Others say the president’s interference is an attempt to secure a political footing for her son, Robert Sirleaf, and his associates in Liberian politics.

Despite these criticisms, the Liberian leader seems unfazed and is determined to see a successor to her emerges from the scheduled November 7 presidential poll runoff in which her current vice president HE Joseph Nyumah Boakai and Montserrado County senator and former soccer star George Manneh Weah are contenders.

Internationally, commentators say the level of political involvement and activism in Liberia seem encouraging but there are lingering and deep concerns: The country is beginning to show signs of slipping tin disarray.

Emmanuel Bodior, a Liberian computer engineer living in California told Globe Afrique by phone that this is exactly what President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf wants, to leave the country in anarchy so that she and her allies can tell the world that without her Liberia cannot survive as a peaceful nation.

He added, “She is intentionally sowing the seeds of conflict and she knows everything she is doing.”

Another Liberian, Martha Kirby in Bohn, Germany,  agrees. “We are tired of being away from our country and all this mess continues because we mistakenly elected a wicked president in the person of Sirleaf.”

President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf – She is unfazed with criticisms against her

“Until that country burns into ashes, Ellen Johnson Sirleaf will never be pleased,” she concluded.

Sirleaf is accused of collaborating with Charles Taylor in supporting the CDC which has on its ticket Taylor’s ex-wife, Bong County senator Jewel Howard Taylor. Weah and Senator Taylor have both denied being supported by the former president, Charles Taylor.  But what is clear is that the CDC is being favored by President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf who wants her son Robert Sirleaf to replace Weah as a senator for Montserrado County in the upper chambers of the Liberian legislature should Weah wins the presidential election.

Weah is loved by most Liberians because of his past generosity and athletic skills as a one-time world greatest soccer player. However, there are deep concerns and fears that he may be unable to manage the affairs of the country, and more so, control the unruly street gangs attached to his campaign as well as the many tainted associates from the defunct rebel group, the National Patriotic Front of Liberia, of Charles Taylor.

Sources say Weah has, as his close associates, some of Taylor’s old allies and rebel “generals” like Kuku Dennis, notorious during the Liberian civil war. Eye witnesses say Dennis has been campaigning for the CDC nationwide, mainly in the southeast of the country.

One policy analyst in Washington, DC, Jason Wheller, who spoke to Globe Afrique said it’s worrisome that followers of the CDC are allegedly beginning to torch the homes of private citizens, opposition and civil society members, and journalists as it used to be during the days of Charles Taylor.

A senior staff with the UN Human Commission in New York told Globe Afrique that Weah, out of a thirst for power, was setting himself for international reprimand should his unruly following engage in acts that plunges the country into chaos.

The official who said he was speaking in a private capacity, said he would like to remain anonymous to have being seen as taking side or interfering. He added, “All politicians in Liberia and Africa in general should know that the days and time for impunity are long gone.  I wish Weah, a celebrated soccer star does not set himself up just because he wants power.”

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Dave Okonjie

Dave Okonjie is a public affairs analyst, researcher and senior issues correspondent.
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