May 6, 2021

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Presidential Aspirants Begin Early Engagements in Rural Liberia for 2023 Votes

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Monrovia  – After a recent five-day visit to Nimba County. Alexander Cummings, the political leader of the Alternative National Congress and former chair of the Collaborating Political Parties(CPP) spoke of the importance of reaching out.

Said Mr. Cummings: “We must reach every town and village with the ANC/CPP message of hope for a better Liberia. Our women, youth, elders, and children must not lose hope. This country belongs to all of us, and together we will make it better. Like I always say, ‘Liberians Deserve Better!’ That also means the people of Liberia must have a say in platforms and policies that are meant to impact their lives.”

Mr. Cummings’ recent outreach to towns and villages is reminiscent of the failed 2017 Presidential bid during which he won over strong support for his Jehovah’s Witness-style door-to-drive in search of votes. 

Mr. Cummings recent tour has so far taken him to Garplay, Mah Diaplay, Behleglay, Wehplay, Fair-play, Gweahlay, and Bahn City in Nimba. The tour has also taken him to Kpalla, Kanwee, Flumpa, Bunadin, Saclepea, and Kpein, the District No. 8 stronghold of Rep.  Larry P. Younquoi(ANC, Nimba).

The ANC leader has also visited Bong, Lofa and other parts of Liberia trying to make the case not just for the presidency but also his quest to head the CPP ticket in the 2023 Presidential elections.

The ANC leader is not alone. President George Weah has used much of the past few months embarking on his first tour of the counties since winning the presidency in 2017.

Playing to the strengths of his incumbency, President Weah has been trumpeting his achievements so far while emphasizing on development with Rural Liberians.

In stops to North and Southeastern Liberia, President Weah mingled with rural Liberians, dedicating projects, initiating new ones and exchanging development ideas with rural folks. 

After stops in Bong, Nimba, Grand Gedeh, River Gee, Maryland, and Grand Kru, Bomi County and Gbarpolu, the President’s tour has also included Grand Cape Mount and Grand Bassa.

At a town hall meeting in Jenneh Three, Dewein District, the President expressed appreciation to residents for electing him into officie.

In Klay and Tubmanburg, President Weah heard the cries of the people, declaring that his administration would exert all necessary efforts and seek every available avenue to address their development needs in line with Government’s Pro-poor Agenda for Prosperity and Development (PAPD).

According to the President, his government has been working over the past three years to justify the confidence reposed in him, vowing more aggressive developments in the next three years together with every citizen. “This government is working for you in three years. You need to know that your vote is not in vain. So. I have come here to say ‘thank you’ for electing me,” President Weah told jubilant residents of Jenneh.

The President has emphasized that a lot of the developments undertaken so far, has prioritized road connectivity as the best way to develop the country, stating that with togetherness and oneness of mind,  Liberians can achieve the little things that eluded them for years. “By lighting up the streets, children will have time to study and those who selling their wards will be out later than sooner as light brings economic development,” the President said.

The citizens hailed the government’s national agriculture development program, providing the President 100 acres of land to bolster his agriculture development program.

Former Vice President Joseph Boakai is set to embark on his stretch of tours that would take him to Lofa and Nimba. The former Vice President recently identified with the Islamic Community in Gbarnga, Bong County during the Ramada season and made available rice to Imam Abu Sackor.

During that stop, Mr. Boakai spoke highly of the Islamic Community in Gbarnga and how they have contributed to the peace and stability of the country.

The former Vice President has in recent weeks been shoring up his base that despite his age, he is the only viable candidate strong enough to take on the incumbent Weah.

Recently, Mr. Boakai threw pointed jabs at the Weah administration’s governance lapses. “When those who make the laws, those who interpret the laws and those who enforce the laws, are in constant breach of the laws the nation slips into lawlessness thereby undermining investment, economic growth, political stability and peace.”

Addressing the Charles Walter Brumskine Memorial Lecture Series on the campus of the University of Liberia Auditorium, recently, Mr. Boakai asserted: “When confidence in the judiciary erodes the people will no longer seek redress in the courts, it becomes a dangerous situation for the country. When citizens go to bed at night and worry whether they will see the next day, then the Rule of Law and Good Governance are no longer functioning, that should claim the attention of the Government, because it is the right of citizens to live in peace.”

Although new to the political playing field, Dr. Daniel Cassell, Vision Bearer of the newly established People’s Liberation Party (PLP), has used his stops in counties like Margibi, vowing to fight for the redemption of Liberians, particularly those who have been marginalized from the equitable distribution of the country’s wealth and resources, the destitute, abandoned and neglected Liberian citizens.

Dr. Cassell’s PLP, was certificated by the National Elections Commission (NEC) as a full-fledged political party in December 2020 and recently raised eyebrows with the recruitment of the former Chairman of the ex-governing Unity Party (UP), Mr. Wilmot Paye.

For Dr. Cassell Liberians have been marginalized for far too long. 

The PLP leader made his case recently in Larkayta Township in electoral district No. 4 Margibi County where he dedicated three newly-constructed concrete bridges worth US$250,000 in Larkayta Township in electoral district # 4, Margibi County.

The bridges which link Laykarta to Cinta Township were constructed by the PLP political leader, through his foundation-the Dr. Cassell’s Foundation operating in the country.

Dr. Cassell further observed that Liberians and others who killed their fellow humans to obtain public offices normally “die like dogs” and end their lives “miserably”. “I know what you people going through; and so, I am here to fight for you people. God has sent me for us to work together. I am not a politician; I have not been in politics before; I have not worked for government before. My hands are clean and I never fear any human being. I never went to the dark world before to get my money. People who go to the dark world for cannot do anything good with it because, the devil does not have a free gift. I believe in the Most High and it is who I trust”.

He added: “Look around-those who killed people for government positions-how do they end up? They end up miserably; they died like dogs. They have wasted so many blood on this land. That’s why this land needs to be cleansed. The lives or the blood of the innocent that have been shed on this soil throughout the nation is weeping. We need redemption”.

The call for redemption has been made for years with variations of political configuration making promises that often fall short of voters’ expectations. 

This is why many political observers are keenly watching the ongoing assault of politicians in the various political subdivisions.

In the 2017 Presidential elections, President Weah won fourteen of the fifteen counties, losing only to VP Boakai in Lofa.

Ironically, politicians appear to be focusing on key vote-rich counties.

Nimba, for example is the largest of Liberia’s 15 counties, consisting of six statutory districts. As of the 
2008 Census, it had a population of 462,026, making it the second most-populous county in Liberia.

Senator Prince Y. Johnson, leader of the erstwhile Independent National Patriotic Front of Liberia(INPFL) has been a major decider of presidential candidates in the past few elections, except in 2005 when he supported Weah who lost to Sirleaf.

Lofa, the home of former vice president Joseph Boakai has  a population of 276,863, making it the third most populous county in Liberia.

Boakai still enjoys popularity in the county although that has not stop rivals from stepping on his turf. 
President Weah is expected to make a stop in the county soon an Mr. Cummings has also visited a few times, in hopes of shoring support.

Bong, the stronghold of former President Charles Taylor where his former wife, Jewel, still enjoys immense support is another strategic haven for votes.  As of the 2008 Census, it had a population of 328,919, making it the third-most populous county in Liberia. The county was organized in 1964 and is important for its mining industry.

In recent years, Margibi has been a rising force in election decider.

Emmanuel Nuquay’s People’s Liberation Party(PLP) has turned the once unheralded county into a major political force in Liberia. 

As of the 2008 Census, it had a population of 199,689, making it the sixth most populous county in Liberia. The party currently has two influential senators in Nuquay and Jim Tornoloah.

Grand Bassa, the stronghold of the late Charles Walker Brumskine has a population of 224,839, making it the fifth most populous county in Liberia. In the aftermath of Mr. Brumskine’s death, Senator Nyonblee Karnga-Lawrence is emerging as the new face of the county although her recent thin victory against former Foreign Minister Gbehzonga Findley has raised some questions about her strengthen in the county. 

The country with an estimated 5,057,681 people, according to UN data. Liberia, representing 0.06% of the total world population is once again prepping for another crucial presidential elections.

The October 2017 elections represented the first peaceful political transfer between democratically elected governments since 1944.

The 2023 elections will like emphasize how much of an importance the various candidates  place on recruiting new voters.

In the aftermath of the 2017 elections, the Carter Center in its post-elections report trumpeted the fact that the failure of Liberia’s legal framework and electoral process to bring women’s political participation in line with the country’s international commitments is one of the greatest weaknesses of Liberia’s democracy. 

This is why, political observers say, the push for a new demographic of voters is key. 

The Carter report also heralded the political participation of minorities. “In light of Liberia’s commitment under Article 18 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, to ensure that no ethnic or religious groups are excluded from political participation, the Liberian constitution should continue to protect religious freedom and should not be weakened, including by amendments that would identify a preferred faith.”

Candidate venturing to rural Liberia, would be keen to also pay close attention to right to vote for youth, pre-trial detainees, and the hospitalized. Procedures to extend voter registration to persons turning 18 between the end of voter registration period and election day, as well as to pre-trial detainees and the hospitalized, should be established in order to prevent unlawful disenfranchisement of persons eligible to vote. Extracting the voter registry from a civil registry in future elections.

Two percent requirement. The requirement for political parties to obtain two percent of the votes in the constituencies where they contest or be prohibited from participating in the next two elections is an undue restriction on the right to participate in public affairs, and is inconsistent with Liberia’s commitments under the ICCPR.

Outside an election year, county tours serve mostly as a litmus test of candidates strength and weakness. But more importantly, offers them a chance to gauge support from those in the rural areas.

The crowds are not as large as election year but as Mr. Cummings pointed out recently, the direct engagement in close-knit environment may be good for the long term. “One of the things I enjoy most is meeting our people in their communities, whether in small or large groups,” the ANC leader averred. “I intend to continue making more of these community visits across the country. I find it true that Liberians from all walks of life have the same stories and pretty much the same requests. Groups and communities want good-paying jobs, good education for their children, scholarships, a better business environment,  roads, electricity, safe drinking water, secure and safe communities, better opportunities, etc.”

According to Mr. Cummings, the direct engagements offer a chance to share the pains of the prevailing situations people are living through daily. “These conditions have existed for far too long, and successive governments have failed to take concrete actions to change our people’s living conditions. That’s why I keep telling Liberians that we have a great opportunity in 2023 through the CPP to do things differently – choose leaders with different experiences and different ideas about how they want the country to be developed.”

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