By Joe Bartuah*
Reports from multiple sources in Liberia say a groundswell of excitement is bubbling in the country, especially in the northeastern region, as the nation awaits a formal response from eminent human rights lawyer, Counselor Tiawan Saye Gongloe, whether he would affirmatively answer the clarion calls to duty by his thousands of admirers and supporters in and outside of Liberia, to seek the coveted executive chair in the 2023 presidential election.
Dubbed by its organizers as “Declaration Day”, or simply tagged as “December 4th”, the event promises to be a crowd-pulling gathering slated to commence at 9 a.m. on December 4, 2021 at the Ganta Methodist School Gymnasium in Gompa City, Nimba County.
Speaking during a recent teleconference, the chairman of the Steering Committee of the United States-based Friends of Gongloe, Dr. Emmanuel Kamara disclosed that hundreds of supporters of Counselor Gongloe, led by an array of traditional leaders and elders from both Bong and Nimba Counties, would be gathering in the central city of Saclepea on December 3rd, in massive preparation for the Ganta event the next.
He noted that because Counselor Gongloe’s late mother, Ma Elizabeth Mengua-Gongloe was a daughter of Bong County, a special high-powered delegation from Bong County, comprising the human rights activist’s traditional uncles, would travel to Saclepea, where they will be formally presenting him to the Liberian people, through Team Gongloe, indicating that they are one hundred percent satisfied with the exemplary public service orientation and leadership acumen of their nephew, and are as a result, sufficiently confident that Tiawan Saye Gongloe would be an effective president with a transformative policy paradigm for the country.
According to Dr. Kamara, following the historic traditional presentation ceremony in Saclepea, the legal luminary will embark on his historic trek to Ganta, with a 100-person motor-cyclist VIP escort.
According to Mr. Spencer Glay, Nimba County Coordinator for Team Gongloe, massive mobilization is underway in strategic parts of the county to ensure the success of the program. Speaking to our reporter on November 25th from Ganta, Mr. Glay disclosed that numerous community and traditional leaders across the county have been invited to grace the occasion.
“As we speak, our district coordinators are carrying on their mobilization to ensure that the occasion becomes a grand success”, he noted. He said besides ordinary folks who are expected at the program, they also expect a five-person official delegation of traditional leaders from each of the electoral districts in Nimba to grace the occasion.
The county coordinator also noted many local musicians would be in attendance so as to make the program much more festive.
Also speaking to our reporter, Mr. Weah Karpeh, Team Gongloe’s Head of Media Research and Strategy said multiple civil society organizations will be represented at the Ganta event.
He noted that even though they expect some VIPs (very important persons) and some political bigwigs to be in attendance, the December 4th program in Ganta is essentially a grassroots gathering, mainly intended for ordinary compatriots, or as he put it, “street corner people” like mechanics, carpenters, motor-cyclists, petty traders and farmers, among others, who have over the years, been groaning in poverty and also incessantly yearning for a better leadership and a responsive system of governance in Liberia.
Mr. Karpeh said Team Gongloe is also inviting folks from the various political parties, because as far members of Team Gongloe are concerned, they consider all Liberians, even those in other political parties as partners, rather than “opposition” in the socio-economic development of the country.
Mr. Karpeh also observed that Team Gongloe’s overarching political concept depicts Liberia as a gigantic corporation in which every citizen is considered a shareholder in the corporation called LIBERIA and therefore, everyone is expected to play pivotal role in its holistic development agenda.
Counselor Gongloe, 65, who has been leading the Liberia National Bar Association (LNBA), the umbrella organization of Liberian lawyers for the past three years, is a renowned jurist, locally and globally well-known for his fearless human rights advocacy, with a 33-year legal practice to his credit.
Besides his private legal practice during which he has represented hundreds of clients, many of them low or no income clients on a pro bono (free of charge) basis from varied segments of the Liberian society, Gongloe is also an Assistant Professor of Law at the Louis Arthur Grimes School of Law at the University of Liberia.
Prior to studying law, he had served as an Instructor of Economics at the University of Liberia from 1982 until President Samuel Doe’s infamous invasion of the university’s main campus on August 22, 1984, when Gongloe, along with other faculty members and students, was severely tortured, almost to death.
Counselor Tiawan Saye Gongloe has had two exemplary stints in Government. From 1990 to 1994, he served as Executive Assistant to Dr. Amos Sawyer, then President of the erstwhile Interim Government of National Unity. His second stint in Government began in 2006 when he was then a Human Rights fellow at Harvard University, following a call from then newly elected President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf, urging him to join her government.
A consummate patriot, Gongloe subsequently returned to Liberia and became Solicitor-General in the first Ellen administration. He later became Labor Minister during which he was reputed for his scrupulous enforcement of government’s Liberianization policy, to which past administrations had paid lip service without actual implementation.
Many pundits opine that not since the candidacy of the late Jackson F. Doe in 1985 as the standard-bearer of the Liberia Action Party has the potential for a possible presidential candidacy of a son of Nimba County generated intense buzz across the socio-economic, political spectrum in recent times.
While many people attribute the dazzling features of the Team Gongloe movement to the topnotch lawyer’s epic advocacy for human rights, the rule of law, social justice and his impeccable character as a sort of magnetic force in attracting hundreds of compatriots from all walks of life to the movement, many others also contend that the multi-ethnic and multi-regional diversity of Team Gongloe has equally been instrumental in accelerating its forward-looking appeals across the country.
Analysts say at a time when rampant corruption has pervaded the fabrics of the Liberian society, a principled leader well-known for his consistency and integrity, who is actually au courant with the intricacies of public policy formulation such as Counselor Gongloe, is needed at the helm of the executive, to help mitigate the country’s backward slide and stimulate comprehensive national development.
As a result, not only are politically-inclined Liberians gravitating towards Team Gongloe’s corner, but even hitherto apolitical compatriots of varied age groups and diverse backgrounds across the country are seemingly excited about a potential Gongloe’s candidacy.
Observers note that multiple political initiatives and even some registered political parties in post-conflict Liberia typically tend to be ethnocentrically parochial, but so far, that’s not the case with the visible diversity of the burgeoning Team Gongloe movement.
In Liberia, the umbrella Team Gongloe movement, which made its political debut on July 31, 2021, is headed by Counselor Jimmy Saah Bombo, a young, brilliant jurist from Lofa County, while Mr. Weah Karpeh, a son of River Gee County, is spearheading the terrific media team, with Dr. Augustus G. Quiah, a young medic from Sinoe currently serves as its Chief of Logistics.
As a further testament to its acceleration, some affiliates of the movement have been sprouting in the diaspora, especially here in the United States. Dr. Emmanuel Kamara currently heads the steering committee of Friends of Gongloe, with Dr. Sam G. Kpahn spearheading mobilization, while Mr. A. Gounquoi Domah, a veteran progressive militant serves as the group’s General Coordinator.
The Movement for Gongloe (MOG) is another diaspora affiliate, mainly based in the Midwestern region of the U.S., with Messrs Tony Lewaye and Dennis Kotee leading the charge, while Washington Donokolo is spearheading the mainly diaspora youth wing of the movement known as Team Gongloe Global.
Imbued with such level of diversity and dynamism, coupled with a seemingly urgent sense of determination, it remains to be seen whether Team Gongloe can actually create the well-known biblical “David versus Goliath” scenario in the 2023 presidential election.
Considering the fact that Team Gongloe formally appeared on stage debut within the Liberian political theater barely five months ago, its conspicuous visibility is an indication that the movement is making some headways in a relatively short period of time.