21 March 2013

Liberia: No Loyalty to Ruling UP - Liberia's Elections Chief Nominee, Opposition CDC Trade Barbs

Photo: Helen Andreasson/UNDP
Voters line up at a polling station in Monrovia.

The man tipped to head Liberia's National Elections Commission heading into the crucial 2014 Mid Term Elections and the 2017 presidential elections says he owes no loyalty to the ruling Unity Party.

Jerome Kokoya, reacting to concerns raised by the opposition Congress for Democratic Change Thursday regarding his association with the ruling party in the 2011 presidential and legislative elections, told FrontPageAfrica Thursday, the CDC is wrong about him.

'Not a real politician'- Kokoya Responds

Responding to the concerns raised by the CDC over his nomination, the Cllr. Kokoya admitted contesting as a legislative candidate for the UP in District 1 in Bong County but said that does not make him biased and will not affect his new role as head of the NEC.

Speaking in an interview with FrontPageAfrica on Thursday, Cllr. Kokoyah said: "I am not a real politician."

Cllr. Kokoya who has suddenly become the center of attention overnight said he denounced his UP membership after the 2011 election.

"I ceased being active as a Unity Party partisan right after the elections because I didn't like the way things went in Bong," Kokoya said told FPA on Thursday.

The Kpaii native wants Liberians to forget his previous political attachment to the UP and see him as a character worthy of public trust and confidence.

He said before his appointment to head the NEC, nobody asked him if he was still a member of the party.

"One of the things in Liberia is people don't really ask questions and so they don't get a lot of information and they therefore formulate what they want to say," Kokoya said.

Kokoya's political history dates as far back as the early 1980s when he joined the Liberia Action Party (LP) before joining the UP prior to the October elections in 2011.

'CDC don't know my character'

Kokoya responding to questions about his neutrality raised by the CDC said: "CDC is a political party.

They have the right to comment on any national issue of concern."

"I have been nominated to serve as head of the agency that governs the electoral process in Liberia where the party has vested interest. I have not deal with them. They don't know what I stand for."

Kokoya's comments came just moments after the CDC came out with a strong criticism of President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf's appointment of Kokoya and other members to the National Election Commission.

On Thursday, the CDC national Chairman George Solo, addressing a news conference at the party's headquarters in Monrovia, described the appointment of Kokoya as a big joke.

"As you are all aware, there have been appointments made on the Commission including the Chairmanship of the National Election Commission. Not only are those unacceptable, to the CDC it is insulting to our political landscape," said Solo.

CDC Declares Pullout from Bi-Elections

The CDC strongman said his party is disappointed that President Sirleaf will ignore the concerns put forth by the party during the 2011 elections and continue the same trend of appointment on the commission which brought that body into question during the election.

"For a President to nominate individuals related to her party, that are part of her party and that even contested in a recent election that being the 2011 election is insulting to our entire democratic space," he said.

"When we've come from two critical elections, when in the last elections the opposition being the CDC did not go to the second round only because of its advocacy for fairness and the subsequent relinquishing of its qualms in the interest of peace and some sort of national stability that is supposed to lead us all to this final progressive place where Liberians and Liberia can be proud."

The CDC Chairman threatened that there will be no bi-election held if the President does not rescind her decision to appoint Kokoya and others on the NEC.

The CDC alleges that Kokoya is from the ruling Unity Party and that he contested the 2011 legislative election for representative of District #1 Bong County on the UP ticket coming second to CDC's Tokpa Mulbah.

"When it comes to campaign in the Republic of Liberia, let it be campaign; let it not be one group campaigning and one group saying 'please make it fair'. We will not tolerate that, we will not wait for the Electoral process to make that known," Solo told reporters.

Continued Solo: "I want the President and the government to know that this is unacceptable. The Congress for Democratic Change will fight those nominations; the CDC will not accept another political condition where the electoral process is clouded or emphasized by unfair practices."

'We will demonstrate'

The CDC national chairman told journalists that the party is ready to use every option available to it to stall the process of the upcoming Grand Bassa Bi-election.

"We have our youth wing; our youth might get upset tomorrow and say all of them wearing white T-shirts and stand in front of the party gate; these are all groups that have the right to do what they have to do," said Solo.

Election will fill Whitfield void

"Our legal people will be doing their legal work and taking legal directions on what needs to be done to halt these different processes. The political group will be galvanizing Liberians to align with the ideology and the thoughts of the CDC on these issues."

Political parties are currently in the process of nominating candidates desirous of contesting the Grand Bassa County Senatorial By-Election which commenced on Monday, March 11, 2013 and the process is set to close on March 26, 2013.

The vacancy in the Senate was necessitated due to the death of Senator John Francis Whitfield on February 17, 2013 and the NEC was officially notified of the existence of a vacancy in the House of Senate on February 18, 2013.

"The commission wishes to inform all interested candidates and political parties, individuals and the public that, as part of efforts to decentralize the electoral process, all activities relative to the conduct of the Grand Bassa County Senatorial By-election will be held in the county," said the NEC in a release.

Kokoya appointed

President Sirleaf on Wednesday nominated persons to the NEC in keeping with Chapter 2, Section 2.2, of the New Elections Law of 1986, and as amended in 2003 and 2004.

Those appointed include: Cllr. Jerome Kokoya - Chair, Cllr. Sarah Toe-Co-Chair, Cllr. Elizabeth Nelson - Member, Mr. Jonathan Weedor - Member, Mr. AnsumanaKromah - Member, Ms. Henrietta Madia Peters - Member and Mr. Samuel Joe - Member

The President's appointment comes as the tenure of five of the Nelson-led NEC expires on March 26, which would have created a vacancy for one additional member.

In a statement announcing the nominations, President Sirleaf said the outgoing NEC, as constituted, had served Liberia for several years with great commitment and dedication.

According to an executive mansion release the President said the NEC members contributed immensely to the conclusion of two successful democratic elections and several by-elections. She also stated that her nominations sought to achieve balance, in both gender and geography.

The President noted that in the interest of continuity, she had re-nominated a few of those who previously served on the commission, ensuring that the new configuration of the NEC benefits from the invaluable experience gained over their years of service.

The re-constituted NEC members come from Bong, Gbarpolu, Grand Bassa, Grand Gedeh, Montserrado, Nimba and Sinoe Counties.

"The burden of consolidating our democracy and deepening its practices are ours to share," said President Sirleaf.

"To do this, we do not seek a perfect Liberian; we seek a committed Liberian - committed not to an individual or a party, but dedicated to the shared aspirations of recreating our society into one which is safely guided by the values and virtues of democracy, and by the unwavering commitment to the principles of fairness, equity and equality before the law."

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