9 May 2014

Liberia: Disorder in the House - CDC Officials Disagree Over Party's Focus

"I believe, and I will not bite my tongue, and I will not be dishonest as to be the national Chairman of an institution that was founded for the motive of promoting George M. Weah to lead this country through the Congress for Democratic Change and pretend that I will go to a primary and not vote for him", George Solo, National Chairman, CDC

Monrovia - It is the most popular Liberian political party with strong, youthful followers, many of whom are obsessed with the soccer legacy of George Weah who won laurels during his years as a player for several top European Clubs including Italian giant AC Milan.

Just from war, Liberia's first post war election was intriguing grabbing all the headlines due to the presence of Weah who pulled a mammoth crowd across Monrovia and other major cities, attempting to repeat his success on the soccer pitch on the political scene.

Weah's platform was a newly found Congress for Democratic Change (CDC), a newcomer in the political area of Liberia but his fame from his soccer career made the CDC the leading political party in the race and the party to beat.

Beyond the popularity came the embarrassment of the academic credential of the party's standard bearer, Weah who publicly declared that he was not a high school graduate. Weah embarrassed the party on countless occasions with his speech impediment, many times fumbling to pronounce words at public programs.

His 2005 admittance of lacking higher classroom education, below high school education impacted his quest for the presidency even though his youthful followers and perhaps a handful of opportunistic educated individuals who wanted state power on the heels of Weah's popularity did not prevent him from giving politicians including eventual winner Ellen Johnson Sirleaf a good run for their money.

To show for the popularity, the debutant in the political process won the first round of voting with a commanding 275,265 votes representing 28.3% only to be constrained to a runoff by the nearest rival, the Unity Party which managed just 192,326 votes representing 19.8%. Since 2005, the CDC has remained the political party to beat and a major player in Liberia's body politics.

In 2005, the CDC felt cheated and protested the results of the runoff in vain; abandoning the protest with the hope that Sirleaf's promise of one term of office could hold to enable the party take state power in 2011 but on the contrary Sirleaf ignored her earlier promise and contested the 2011 elections.

The CDC's quest to cover-up Weah's limited education by picking former United Nations Secretary General Special Representative and head of the United Nations Political office for Somalia from 2002 to 2005, Cllr. Winston Tubman as standard bearer of the party proved futile as the performance of the party was even more dismal than 2005.

Weah and the CDC were defeated in the first round of voting in 2011 winning 394,370 votes representing 32.7%, far behind incumbent Ellen Johnson Sirleaf and Unity Party 530,020 or 43.9%. With Sirleaf now expected to be ineligible to contest based on constitutional provision which permits only two terms of office, hopes in the CDC are high that the party is destined to produce the next President although in politics, the variables can change at any given moment.

On the overhand, the party has been embroiled in controversies ranging from talks of Weah trading his senatorial ambition to Robert Sirleaf in exchange for money, party officials soliciting money from individuals who want to secure spots in the party ahead of the senatorial election slated for October and many others.

Lacking ideology

Nearly nine years as a political party, senior officials of the CDC are still divided on the ideology of the political party with the National Chairman of the CDC claiming that the party was founded for the purpose of making George Weah President of Liberia while on the other hand, other partisans are arguing that such was not the sole pursue for establishing an entire political party.

George Solo, National Chairman of the party speaking on a radio talk show, Truth Breakfast Show said he could not pretend to state the purpose for the formation of the CDC, claiming that the party was established to ensure that George Weah becomes President of Liberia.

Said Solo "I believe, and I will not bite my tongue, and I will not be dishonest as to be the national Chairman of an institution that was founded for the motive of promoting George M. Weah to lead this country through the Congress for Democratic Change and pretend that I will go to a primary and not vote for him". But another official of the CDC, including the party Chairman in the United States of America, Isaac V. Tukpah disagrees with National Chairman Solo.

Tukpah says anybody who believes the statement made by Chairman Solo is in the CDC for the wrong reason. He further said the foundation of the CDC is to promote the dreams and aspirations of the Liberian people to have the opportunity to earn an affordable living and correct many of the structural wrongs of the past.

According to Tukpah, an institution cannot be built on one man and all partisans who feel that CDC was designed for this purpose need to read the history of the CDC. He further cautioned all partsans who share the mindset expressed by Chairman Solo and another partisan to begin to re-orient themselves on the fundamental purpose of the CDC and join those who are in the CDC to build an institution for the ages.

Why Urey's warning?

Solo said the CDC warning to Urey was based on the rules and regulations governing the party as a political institution explaining that Urey was going beyond what he termed exploratory political activities.

"The situation with Mr. Urey and the communication to Mr. Urey has to do with the regulations of the CDC. Membership is voluntary in political institutions, but those political institutions are still governed by the rules and laws because if you do not have those things than the very affiliation and possibility for success is limited, so we say when more than one person is in an ideological space than you have to put rules to govern them", said Solo

He continued "The rules are there to govern the institution and not individual, one of those at the CDC is you can engage in exploratory political activities as a partisan of the CDC. When those exploratory political activities go to certain extent that the party feels can affect or adversely affect the strategy, movement, position and the countenance of the institution, then it is that institution right to say to you caution". Solo explained that exploration activities at some point can be harmful to a political party and at such point the party must call its member to check.

"Exploration is just looking into something, how deep you do it is what matters, there are lots of people exploring now who want to be president, nothing wrong with that, but I am saying to you within the CDC, there are regulations on how much you can do before we redefine exploratory. Exploratory at a certain point can be harmful to the institution to which you are a member, that is clear, but that is a conversation between the institution and the member" the CDC Chairman said.

Urey, Solo admitted has been a member and supporter of the CDC. "Mr. Urey has supported the CDC that I can confirm; I can confirm to you he is a member of the CDC. It is Mr. Urey right; it is his right to contest the presidency. How do you see the contradiction? I said to you in 2017 for the standard bearer of the CDC, I support Ambassador George Weah, I did not say that nobody else has the right to go against him in a conventional process".

Solo under pressure from some partisans and a cross section of the Liberian public for expressing his support for George Weah without a primary of the party said he sees nothing wrong with his support for Weah.

"I see nothing wrong with George Solo supporting George Weah; I have one vote, what happened to the other partisans when George Solo said Ellen should step down? The other partisans stood up and said George Solo stop".

Solo defended his support for Weah "To look at George Manneh Weah, the founder and political leader of the Congress for Democratic Change, you look at the only candidate, the aspirant who has officially informed the institution and his national chairman that he is running, you look at a man who the entire strategy of the entire institution surrounds ... you say to me because I George Solo said that I support George Weah for Montserrado County, it is wrong".

Political pundits believe that the CDC has a lot to do going into the 2017 elections as the current state of affairs of the party are all signs that it cannot handle the affairs of the Liberian nation. A party with officials disagreeing on the purpose for establishing an institution speaks volumes that handling a nation of more than million people is a big risk.

Be that as it may, Liberian politics is noted for the unpredictable as even warlord Charles Taylor was voted overwhelmingly in 1997 after leading the National patriotic Front of Liberia rebellion with many Liberians singing slogans such as "you kill mama, you my pa I will vote for you".

While it is unarguable that Weah's popularity is a factor, Liberian politics has proven over the years to be a seasonal process where people follow a particular political party at a given time and later shy away sometimes later. During the regime of former President Samuel K. Doe, the National Democratic Party of Liberia (NDPL) witnessed the exodus of Liberian, but after the demise of Doe, NDPL became a dead institution.

Same as the National Patriotic Party of Liberia (NPP) of former President Charles Taylor which also experienced increases in membership during the reign of Mr. Taylor and it has seen a reduction in partisans since Taylor's left power.

For the CDC, Weah is still around and that could help. Besides Montserrado and Grand Gedeh Counties, the CDC has not been able to convincingly win votes than other political parties in any counties in Liberia. If not careful, observers believe Weah and his CDC could be smelling state power in the dream world and 2017 variables could prove the contrary.


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