FrontPageAfrica (Monrovia)

25 May 2014

Liberia: Petitioning Rob - Redemption Squad Aiming to Neutralize Weah

Monrovia — The battle for Montserrado County senatorial seat is the talk of the town as a former standard-bearer and vice standard-bearer of the Congress for Democratic Change Football legend George Weah is set to run for the much-coveted seat.

Now with the likes of Weah in the race it seemed the area is a no go zone for many who might be considered political novices against a heavyweight.

Suddenly a group of young Liberians under the banner 'Montserrado County Redemption Squad led by JowelAma Hansford say they want to change that and make the race in Montserrado a challenge for Weah, therefore the group wants to introduce the President's son-Robert Sirleaf onto the tracks for what seems a baton relay.

"Unlike before when Ambassador Weah announced his candidacy, there was no one to counter his force because there were no heavyweights," said Hansford in an interview with FronPageAfrica.

"But with the introduction of Mr. Sirleaf, it is going to be an uphill battle for Weah and it is not going to be a free ride." The group, made up of several young persons have embarked on a campaign, soliciting signatures that would culminate into a petition to be presented to Mr. Sirleaf.

"It is a great thing to be here today, to ask you to join us, as we ask this great man called Robert Sirleaf to contest for the senatorial seat of Montserrado County," said Hansford as he explained the group's vision to the people of Gbondio Town in rural Montserrado County.

"If we do it that way, we think the people of the rural Montserrado County, will be a part of the political governance structure of Montserrado County because for too long, they have been pushed aside; their views have not been heard."

Hansford believes that people who live in the remote parts of the county, are not feeling the impact of the ongoing development that is taking shape in the country and he thinks Mr. Sirleaf can change that.

"There is a reason why we have decided to come to the people of rural Montserrado; for over a long period of time, the people of this part of Montserrado have been grossly unrepresented," he said.

"This time around for you to be redeemed from the pains of under representation, and so this time around, we are saying, for you to be redeemed from the hands of under representation for over nine years, we have come to you to join us, so that you can help us ask this man called Robert Allen Sirleaf to contest. Let power come from you."

For his mother's sake

Ishmael B. Kromah is Principal of the only public school Gbondio Public School, for him, electing Mr. Sirleaf is like a payback to his (Sirleaf) mother, President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf's kindness.

"I am going to contact my student registration form and those who are eligible to vote will vote for Mr. Robert Sirleaf," said Kromah.

"I haven't see Mr. Sirleaf but there goes a saying that if you have never come across a leopard or a lion, but when you see the skin, that's the leopard there. For Ellen Johnson business, I put my head on chopping board because, the motorbike that I'm riding now, it was from Ellen. For me, Ellen has been the first head of state to visit us in this area, since Liberia was founded."

Kromah said President Sirleaf's sacrificed to visit them sometime ago, despite the deplorable road condition, and it is something to show gratitude for by electing her son senator for Montserrado County.

"The time Madam Sirleaf came here... just imagine it was raining, but the President said I'm coming there. The President came under that torrential rain, she came and dedicated this our building," he said.

"Ellen government is one of the best governments, we have had in this country; so because of Ellen I will consult my student registration listing all my students that are eligible to vote, will vote for Robert Sirleaf."

Vandi Kahn walked an hour thirty minutes to get to the meeting because he wanted to make a point to the group and this was what he told them:

"When it comes on the line of seeking support from the less fortunate and making all this fine statement than when it is done the people will not come back to us; many of our senators when they take the seat, they just think from Sinkor to Johannson is Montserrado County," said Kahn.

"I want to give a scenario; the representative before Dakel was Victoria Lynch; we met the woman ... just listen to these words she told us 'Am I the only member of the caucus that you continue to come to me?' So when people come with these kinds of messages, it can always reflect my mind on those negative things that she said to us."

The Hansford-led group shares the view of people like Kahn, who thinks the CDC deserves a punishment for what they call the dereliction of duty and misuse of power. The group thinks Robert Sirleaf can deliver the needed change.

But Weah, the man at the center of the Montserrado senatorial battle said in a FrontPageAfrica interview that he is not deterred by any name that might pop up even at the last minute.

"You say the big gun, then you say I'm afraid? This is not a game for me. Coming into the race is about the people that are looking for hope I have gone into two elections on the Congress for Democratic Change, and if you look at the statistics, it will tell you that even in the Presidential race; two elections, CDC won Montserrado County," he said.

Still strong

For Weah, Montserrado is still his cradle, and no amount of galvanizing by his opponent can rob him of his moment.

"We are still strong, we are optimistic; we have the strength to beat anybody in Montserrado County. It is not about name, it is not about Robert Sirleaf, it is not about who's coming. I think it is about our party; we are motivated more than ever before," he said.

"We know the race is going to be a tough one; we are not complacent. Like I said, the race is not a game; it is to represent our people. I have no fear. I have gone to two elections against Madam Ellen Johnson Sirleaf and I have proved that Montserrado County is our county."

Even though it has been rumored that Mr. Sirleaf would throw his hat in the race for Gbarpolu County, the latest effort in Montserrado County by the MRS is the first serious move to bring the former National Oil Company (NOCAL) chairman into the race. But sources say Mr. Sirleaf is still not keen on jumping in the race until he sees a decisive base of support from the people.

According to the National Elections Commission (NEC), the CDC candidate Geraldine Doe Sheriff in the 2011 senatorial election secured 52.7% of the total votes cast (233,038). The group looks to mobilize over 40,000 signatures in order to be able to petition Mr. Sirleaf.

Montserrado County is the most populous in the country and winning the county is a big task even at the level of the presidency. Senatorial elections in Montserrado County from 2005 to current have all been won by the CDC.

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