By Samuel G. Dweh*
NOTE: On coverage of the elections, my movements were restricted to Monrovia due to financial constraint. I guess the issues provided on Montserrado County were similar to happenings in the other fourteen Counties of Liberia.
This article ends with recommendations—solution methods of upholding global pandemic rules, getting the general citizenry to “cooperate with National Referendum”, and how to prevent a crowd-mentality shock
CORONAVIRUS LAW VIOLATION
Long queues dotted each of the Electoral Constituencies in Liberia’s most developed County—Montserrado—hosting the seat of the Central Government. The sources of the lines were: Special (Mid-Term) Senatorial election (in all 15 Counties) and By-Law election—only in Electoral District #9 (Montserrado) to find replacement of Representative Munah Pelham-Youngblood (member of the ruling Coalition of Democratic Change, CDC) who succumbed to the cold hands of death in a Ghanaian hospital in July, 2020. She had been ill over a protracted period. The Honorable Woman didn’t trust any of Liberia’s Hospitals to heal her.
At Polling Center #2 (see photo above) the mouth of the NEC’s Polling Staff (at the entrance, facing a queue of voters by his right hand) wasn’t covered by a COVID-19-prevention mask. It was the same with many of the voters in each of the two queues (at both sides of the front of the building) created by the NEC. The story was the same with many the people on each of the two voting queues created by the NEC’s Team. This place was Polling Center #2 (building of the Vision Christian Academy), Saye Town, Sinkor, (Lower Montserrado County), Monrovia
The exposure of each person’s face contravened the Liberian Government’s “health protocol”, stated in the Government’s “State of Emergency” relayed through President Weah on April 8. The State of Emergency was in compliance to the World Health Organization’s “Global Pandemic Alert” related to Coronavirys (COVID-19) that entered Liberia in March, 20.
When voting commenced after 8am, a ripple of criticisms came from voters in the queue against one of the Polling Officers over his ushering into the hall a female voter with no mask.
Another female voter with no mask on the face attempted entering into the hall, but was prevented by a member of the NEC Team stationed in the entrance.
“No mask, no entry!” a male voter on the queue announced the Liberian Government’s anti-COVID-19 Creed, through the National Public Health Institute of Liberia (NPHIL), which appears n millions of flyers and pasted on buildings—for the Government, centers, and (some) residential structures.
“You are exhibiting partiality. You allowed a person in without mask, and you are denying another!” the voter prevented confronted the person who denied her entry.
“Wear your mask, and I will usher you in,” the NEC officer said courteously.
“I don’t have any mask!” the lady replied in an aggressive tone. She walked back outside.
“I will always be with my mask, until the World Health Organization declared Liberia Coronavirus-free,” said another lady, in the queue, with a mask covering her nose and mouth.
Later, I asked for her name—as part of my general documentation of actions and comments related to the Special Senatorial Election and the By-Law election.
“My name is Lucy Karkulo,” the masked voter responded to my inquiry.
On the national level, the momentum of preventing the spread of COVID-19 has declined. Majority of Liberians are now back to the “congestion” stage (no social distancing) the World Health Organization had warned Liberia against. Operators of vehicles—private, public (commercial) and governmental are now taking the number of persons the George Weah-led Government had issued a stern warning against in the President’s “State of Emergency” Address to the Nation on April 8
Taxi operators have come back to taking four persons at the back and two persons at the front with the driver.
Law enforcement officers “jam up” at the back of their vehicle when going on “operation”. Officers of the Monrovia City Police and the Liberia National Drug Enforcement (LDEA) are the leading culprits in this kind of “violation”
The Head of State, George Manneh Weah, is on record for violating the “health protocol” of COVID-19. He held his mask down his chin during his speech to a team of National Security officers during his official tour of Joint Security Check Points in April.
At Polling Center #3, at the Liberia Electricity Corporation’s Head Office, on Water Street, voter John Paul was a member of a group of “impatient and angry waiting voters” confronting members of the Police Support Unit (PSU), of the Liberia National Police (LNP), defending “slow NEC’s officials” still sorting out elections materials after 8am. The officers’ collective mission here was to prevent disorderliness in any form, or to quell any that may erupt.
“NEC told us voting will start at six o’ clock in the morning, but the NEC people in the fence are still setting up after eight o’ clock. And you, Police officers, here are defending them by telling us to wait for at least thirty minutes more,” John Paul faced one of the PSU officers. After speaking, he showed his voter’s ID card to the officer, and to his civilian colleagues at the place. “I’m legitimate voter and I have the constitutional right to speak up against any wrong thing on the election.”
“I understand your plight, but please exercise patience again,” the LNP officer said calmly.
Another male voter, an elderly man, confronted another LNP officer. “Old voters and young voters shouldn’t be together on the same line. Create two lines—one for the old people, the other for the young people. Usher in one old voter in first, and then a young voter,” the elderly voter made a suggestion.
“Pappy, what you are suggestion is a violation of the voting right of young voters who had been here since six o’ clock before the older voters came. Besides, I’m not authorized to do what you’re suggesting.” the officer replied.
Minutes later, I got an opportunity to see voter’s information on the elderly voter’s electoral identification card. Name: James Weah; Voter’s Registration Number: 726713457; and Voter’s Registration’s Center Code: 30262.
When the ballot-casting component began, another PSU officer began first with ushering of elderly voters.
“Officer, you know your job!” voter James Weah reacted to the officer’s action.
But one of the elderly female voters, who had cast her ballot, had an issue with information given to her at the Polling Booth.
I asked her about what part of the voting process she was complaining about.
She explained to me: “The person who took my information asked me plenty confusing questions, especially to something called ref..ref..redum, something like that. One of the questions is, ‘how long you feel the President of Liberia should stay in office. The number of years is stated on this other voting sheet’. I only told the person, ‘Just let me vote on the senatorial election for now. I will come another time to talk the feredum, or whatsoever they call it, or President aspect’. I didn’t want to tell the person, ‘I have no knowledge about the subject you’re talking about.’”
On my request, she displayed her voting ID card. The information on the card was: Elizabeth Brooks (name), 726703397 (Voter’s Registration Number), and 30262 (Registration Center’s Code)
Voter Elizabeth Brooks’ “confusion”—on the (National) Referendum (which she stammered on— “ref..ref..redum”) was shared, prior to the general elections date, by majority other Liberians across the Country.
The source of this “confusion” is the George Manneh Weah-led Government’s “insufficient time” (less than six months) for educating the entire Nation about it. No nation-wide awareness, through communities’ Radio stations in remote parts of the Country. No involvement of the Civil Society, except pro-Government persons and groupings who couldn’t go beyond their work places (Ministries or Agencies of Government), Beer Bars, or street-corner “talking points” called “Intellectual Centers”.
The only thing the Government did “sufficiently” was placement of huge banners with photo of “staring Head of State Weah” (see photo above) everywhere in the Nation’s Capital. All “National Referendum publicity” banners have same information: Reduction of service term of each elected official and “endorsement of Dual Citizenship”. For the latter, President Weah is urging his compatriots to VOTE “YES”, during the (Senatorial Election on December 8, 2020) to the following: from 6 to 5 years (for Presidential tenure); from 9 to 7 years (for Senator); and from six to five years (for Representative)
The global football icon-turned politician often brags about being the first Liberian Head of State calling for reduction of Presidential term while still in office. He’s right! But his Government had not convened an “assembly of citizens” to debate on the “merits” and “demerits” of these propositions.
“HUGE CROWD”-MINDSET SHOCK
The mammoth crowd of “CDCians” that dotted every space—in community and Street—of the Nation’s Capital for the Senatorial bid launch of the ruling Coalition for Democratic Change (CDC) scheduled for Liberia’s International Soccer field—Samuel Kanyon Doe Sports Complex—on Saturday, November 21, 2020 created one feeling in more than half of the Country’s population: CDC will sweep the entire Country on the Special Senatorial Election slated for December 8, as well as the By-Election for only Electoral District #9 of Montserrado County. Each member of the crowd here had had ‘military hat’ (beret)—red or blue—on his/her head. This multitude was more than two times the number of persons who paraded for each of the candidates of the leading opposition political bloc: Collaborating Political Parties (CPP) led by former Coca-Cola’s Executive Member, Alexander Benedict Cummings.
The two persons for whom CDCians had been mobilized were: Thomas Fallah (sitting Representative of District #5, Montserrado County) and Frank Saah Foko, Jr.—on his debut mission on the political arena.
“If CDC loses the Senatorial election in Montserrado County, people should write on my back, on the raw skin, tie me like you do to animal, and drag me to my County, Sinoe,” CDCian Prince Wleh, road-side phone credit card seller, resident of the Township of West Point, said to a group of supporters of the opposition bloc—Collaborating Political Parties (CPP)—on Day Four of ballot-casting.
During the By-Election for the Montserrado County’s Senatorial seat, in 2019, created by the death of Senator Geraldine Doe-Sheriff, CDC’s Political Leader, vowed that his party will clinch the seat at all costs, and referred to opposition candidate Ms. Telia Urey (representing the All Liberia Party) as a “little girl” against fielded CDC’s candidate Paulita Wie. Believing in his “towering national popularity” during that time, Head of State George M. Weah was certain of victory for the CDC’s candidate to a point where he could bet with his life.
But the candidate of Liberty Party (now part of the CPP), Abraham Darius Dillon, snatched victory from the grip of President Weah and his party’s favorite candidate.
The end of the recent voting has shown CDC’s loss in Montserrado County—against the dream of Prince Wleh and other true CDCians. CPP’s candidate, Abraham Darius Dillion (incumbent Senator), defeated CDC’s Thomas Fallah for the Montserrado County’s Senatorial seat for the National Legislature. What is more shocking to CDCians, and many other Liberians torn between political parties, was Mr. Fallah’s loss at a Polling Precinct where the President Weah cast his ballot.
The CDC has officially “congratulated CPP’s Abraham Darius Dillion” on his “victory”, ahead of NEC’s official announcement, according to one of Liberia’s leading newspapers, FrontPage Africa, in its Wednesday, December 15 edition. The paper’s story about the concession is on the front page with caption: “DEFEAT ACCEPTED”
The NEC’s official votes-count results in majority of the other Counties also showed the ruling party’s loss. On Tuesday, December 15, when I was producing this article for publication, I got this “official information” of per-County loss for the CDC: Bong, Grand Bassa, Lofa, Grand Cape Mount, and Montserrado. The CDC’s wins included Grand Gedeh, Nimba Counties, with a win in the By-Elections (for the Lower House) in Montserrado and Sinoe Counties.
There were reports of alleged “electoral frauds”, for CDC, in other Counties, which engendered re-counts by the NEC on through-Courts complaints from the opposition bloc, as well as persons that entered the race as “Independent contestants”. One example is Grand Kru County, President Weah’s native Home Town, where the party was represented by incumbent Peter S. Coleman. My Monrovia-based colleague who had monitored the Senatorial election in the County told me on December 18 that the opposition contestants observed “inflation of number of total ballots cast on the Tally Sheet”, done by one of NEC’s Grand Kru County officials assigned to the Tally Sheet. “This caused riots and a call for re-count,” added my source named Theophilus K.B.S. Gippley, III.
With these defeats, many Liberians are asking: Is ‘biggest crowd’ of marching or assembled supporters a guarantee of a person’s victory in (Liberian) National election nowadays?
Year 2020 is different year 2017—when presidential candidate George Manneh Weah pulled the biggest crowd, over Unity Party’s Joseph Nyumah Boakai (incumbent Vice President to exiting Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf), and triumphed at the end of the ballots counting. This was the time the CDC’s political catch phrase—“Vote One, Vote All”—was zealously adhered to by (majority of) CDCians. During that time, only George Weah’s raise of the hand (sign of endorsement) of another CDC (for Representative or Senator) pulled a crowd of eligible voters toward the person, which later translated to a win. Two examples are: Mr. Moses Acarous Gray (CDC’s candidate for District #8, Montserrado County) and Ms. Munah Youngblood (CDC’s candidate for District #9, Montserrado County)
But the national stomach-biting and head-pounding economic hardship, which started with Mr. Weah’s presidency on January 22, 2018, and the Government’s exhibited failure on rescuing the poor masses, have turned majority of the citizens’ hearts against the footballer-turned Head of State.
THE MESSAGES IN CDC’S “MASSIVE DEFEATS” IN THE SENATORIAL ELECTIONS
From my end, there are only two messages. The first is majority of Liberians’ loss of interest in George Mannh Weah’s style of leadership. It is characterized by extreme economic hardship with majority of the citizenry, and has pushed many persons into social vices as survival methods. Mr. Weah started his presidency on a bad note: Building of private duplexes when much of the citizenry was groaning in poverty. This was followed by disappearance of sixteen billion of Liberian bank notes (recently printed) from the Freeport of Liberia. The LRD16bn was later followed by squandered of twenty five million United States dollars the Weah’s Government had told the nation was for “stabilization of the Liberian dollar against the United States dollars”. Then came the Government’s demolition of traders’ market tables (in Monrovia), through the Monrovia City Corporation’s Police, during the peak of Coronavirus’s grinding of Liberia’s economy, as a discouragement methods to push them off “roads”. Many of the affected traders can’t find money to resume business.
All the above followed the collapse of Mr. Weah’s personal business ventures: Football team (Junior Professionals), Wears Boutique (located in the heart of the Nation’s Capital), and Radio/Television Station (King’s FM/Clar TV)
The collapse of these business centers, prior to ascendancy of Mr. Weah to Liberia’s exalted Seat, caused feeling in many Liberians that he was “unfit to manage a Country, since he couldn’t manage small private economic ventures.” However, (majority of) Liberians voted for him in the Presidential election in 2017—a non-verbal statement that they were fed with “highly educated persons or internationally connected persons who couldn’t jerk the masses out of poverty” in a Country they “contributed to destroying” during civil war years.
During my sampling of senior citizens’ views on general economic life in Liberia under under the former FIFA’s World’s Best Footballer for this article, an elderly woman, living in one of Monrovia’s slum communities (Township of West Point), explained:
“Before our son, George Weah, became President of Liberia, I had never experienced the kind of hunger I’m experiencing with my husband, my children and grand children every day. Only during the civil war period, between 1990 and 2000, I experienced such severe suffering on a daily basis. Please don’t publish my name in the paper because my husband is on George Weah Government’s pension scheme, even thought he hasn’t got a dime over two years now. Every time we went to the bank, the tellers told us no money has entered my husband’s account yet. I was a street sweeper with MCC (Monrovia City Corporation), and later moved to a private sanitation company named N.C. Sanitors. But I became seriously sick and left the job. So, my husband is collecting people’s garbage, and I’m selling washing materials in front of our zinc house, to get money for foods and other needs.”
The second message in the CDC’s massive loss in the Senatorial Election in December (2020) is the masses’ way of telling the George M. Weah-led Government: ‘Replace this national hardship-causing leadership style with a national suffering-reduction one, if you want to win back our love for your second-term presidential venture in 2023.’
OTHER “ISSUES” OF THE SPECIAL SENATORIAL ELECTIONS
The major ones—this is my opinion—were two: Absence of the names of “registered voters” on the Voter’s Roll pasted on the wall of voting center and delayed commencement of voters by NEC’s Field Officers over the voting materials.
Earlier in this article, I reported a voter’s confrontation with police officers (at Polling Center #3), indicating “late commencement” of voting.
I spoke with others on absence of personal voter-registration information on the Voter’s Roll.
“I replaced my damaged voter’s identification card at the New Jerusalem Church, designated by NEC, in Jallah Town, Sinkor. It was at the same place I registered to vote in the Senatorial election going on now. But when I went to vote, I couldn’t see photo, my name, and my serial number. I met four other persons who had one or two of the problems preventing me from exercising my electoral franchise” a lady, self-introduced as Johanna Dickson, narrated to me at the Vision Christian Academy (mentioned earlier in this article)
I was attracted to Johanna when I saw her sharing “free COVID-19 masks” to some of the voters in the queue here.
“A friend who registered here, Saye Town, called me that she forgot her mask at home and she doesn’t have money to by any, so I came with four of my spare masks to give her and three other persons who would not face denial from voting here on no-mask issue,” Johanna said further.
The price of a Coronavirus mask is fifty Liberian dollar (US ten cents), but many Liberians couldn’t afford this amount over in a day.
Where Johanna registered to vote adjoins where she had come to give free masks.
RECOMMENDATIONS UPHOLDING GLOBAL PANDEMIC RULES
The Head of State and national law enforcement officers should be “doers” of the COVID-19 gospel they “speak” about everyday. When ordinary citizens see the President’s mask under his chin (like in the story above) or law enforcer officers “clustered in the back of an operation vehicle” (a common scene since the beginning of the national fight against COVID-19), they would feel “Coronavirus has left Liberia”
GETTING THE GENERAL CITIZENRY TO “COOPERATE WITH NATIONAL REFERENDUM
The Government should stretch the National Referendum education over at least six months and should be taken to the remotest corner of Liberia (example: communities accessible by canoe) Placing the President’s image on huge banners is a minutest part of this education.
HOW TO PREVENT A CROWD-MENTALITY SHOCK
The best way is to flush out the feeling that “(anybody) who wears your political identity and chants Muyan…Muyana” is for you. Another way is to do crowd-mentality study, which tells you the real people FOR or AGAINST.
I conclude my article with comment by my biological mother—an unwavering “worshipper” of George Manneh Weah and an “unwavering” loyalist to George M. Weah’s political party: “You can’t continue loving George Weah when you are hungry, when you can’t find job, and when your children or grandchildren are out of school because no school fee.”
About the Author
Samuel G. Dweh is a member of the Wedabo ethnic group of Grand Kru County, situated in the South-Eastern part of Liberia. He’s a member of the Press Union of Liberia (PUL), and President of the Liberia Association of Writers (LAW) He can be reached via: —+231 (0)firstname.lastname@example.orgemail@example.com