17 July 2014

Liberia: 'I Accept' - Rob Sirleaf Will Challenge Weah, Sanvee, Neyor

Photo: Liberian Observer
Robert Sirleaf receiving petitions calling on him to contest October election for Senator from Montserrado, Liberia's most populous country which includes the capital Monrovia.

Robert A. Sirleaf, son of Liberia's President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf has finally settled the dust on speculations that he wants to run for senator in the pending October 2014 elections for the country's most populous county Montserrado.

After giving his supporters a runaround following their petitioning ceremony held on his behalf on Monday, Sirleaf at a quickly arranged forum that was held on Wednesday in the vicinity of the Monrovia College on Camp Johnson Road in Monrovia, said his decision to accept the challenge from the people of Montserrado County to represent them, stems from the fact that they are in dire straits and need a deliverer.

"On Monday, I heard the people of Montserrado County loud and clear; through their petition, they told me about their lives, and hope for a better tomorrow," said Mr. Sirleaf. "And so, with the abiding faith in the Almighty, and a belief which is deep-rooted in the will of our people for progress, today, I Robert Alvin Sirleaf announce my candidacy for Senator of Montserrado County. And we will go on this journey as an Independent candidate."

Sirleaf said his decision to run for the coveted seat, which is being contended by the likes of soccer legend George Weah of the opposition Congress for Democratic Change (CDC), long time youth activist Benjamin Sanvee of the Liberty Party (LP) and human rights advocate Ali Syllah of the ruling Unity Party of which Sirleaf's mother the President is a member, is because he is concerned about the livelihood of the people.

"I care that a public servant must put the interests of the people first - always serving the cause of the people rather than the cause of self," said Sirleaf in a speech almost coined after the historic campaign slogan of United States President Barrack Obama "Yes We Can".

Continued Sirleaf: "I care that here in Montserrado, homes get flooded when it rains, and families have to endure long nights without sleep. I care that the lack of roads, bridges and other basic essentials which make life better have pushed rural Montserrado farther from urban Montserrado. I care that our environment is changing, that erosion is rapidly wiping out historically important places and communities, and that we need affordable housing and better sanitation."

The President's son who many supporters believe have walked in an honorable path since his mother's ascendency to power by creating opportunities for many young people, through the building of sport pitches around the county, has been lashed at by his critics for not serving in the interest of the people when he held two key positions as head of the board of directors of the National Oil Company of Liberia (NOCAL) and as senior advisor in the office of the President; both positions he resigned in 2013.

Sirleaf's critics have alarmed that he has been ruthless in wielding his power as a president's son and has been accused of being a de-facto prime minister who has virtually sold out most of Liberia's oil blocks during his tenure at NOCAL wielding more wealth for the ruling family, something he dares them to prove. Some Liberians are angry that the Sirleaf's wants to use the winner takes all tactics to continue to subject the people to poverty and critics vow never to allow him succeed in his quest to take the Montserrado seat come October.

"We are tired with the Sirleaf's. At the Central Bank of Liberia, you have a Sirleaf; at the National Security Agency, you have another Sirleaf; the Sirleaf's have failed the Liberian people," said a placard wielding opponent to the Sirleaf candidacy, James Fallah. "You have Madam Sirleaf, who is the president of Liberia and today Liberians are coming to make decisions in Montserrado County and we see another Sirleaf coming with promises and we say that these are rhetorical promises."

Marred by protest from his opponents, Sirleaf's acceptance of Monday's petition saw him surrounded by his friends and well-wishers who chanted slogans as the man who has been shrouded in debate for months on whether he would be brave to challenge the CDC's candidate in a race for Montserrado County, finally made it clear that it was not about him but about the many underprivileged in the county whom he said have been poorly represented at the level of the legislature.

"I care that in all these areas the Montserrado County Development Fund will benefit the people of Montserrado and prioritize their wellbeing and welfare," he said.

"Rural and urban Montserrado are not separated by age, gender, religion or political views. We are separated by opportunity. By Thinking Forward and working together over the next 9 years, I know we can continue to close the opportunity gap and build a stronger County, a more prosperous County, a County we can proudly call one Montserrado."

Apparently following in his mother's footstep, Sirleaf has a soft spot for market women and promised to make a change in their status if he wins the elections in October.

"I care that our mothers, brothers, and sisters who sell in the markets have not just a better marketplace, but also access to daycare, playgrounds, and a safe environment where their children and grandchildren can learn and play," he said.

The son of the President said he is concerned about the increase in crime the dilapidated condition of the prisons in the county and the level of youth unemployment and wants to change it.

"My brothers and sisters, I care that our homes and our communities should be safe places, where streets are better lit and our women and children can feel secure," he said

Continued Sirleaf: "I care that many of our children in Montserrado are haunted by the dangerous effects of teenage pregnancy, crime, and drug abuse. I care that our youth, like other young people around the World, will not only have a chance to play and be healthy in body, but will also go to community centers with high-speed internet and computers where they can sharpen their minds and expand their horizons. I care that we must solve the overcrowding of our prisons."

Sirleaf said policy makers must develop programs of rehabilitation that will provide second chances, especially for young offenders, adding that the welfare of the elderly is also important to him.

"Serving time ought not to necessarily consign anyone to a life of crime," he said. "And I care that when citizens serve their country, when they retire, their country must repay them with special care and attention, and treat them with the respect, recognition, and the dignity they deserve."

Sirleaf said even though he had not served in an elected position before, he has always tried to contribute to the development of Liberia in the best possible way he can which has yielded noticeable results and asks that he be given a chance to lead the county at the level of the legislature.

"With the help of friends, I have tried to address some of these needs - To truly impact the lives of our people for a better tomorrow, doing projects that impact real people in real communities," he said.

Continued the former NOCAL board chairman: "My brothers and sisters, I have tried to act more than I speak; to praise more than to criticize; to build up and not tear down. My brothers and sisters, I have tried to show that any position of privilege can, and should be used to improve the living conditions of our people, knowing that caring for others does not only change lives but makes oneself better. And it gives hope - hope that is tangible; hope through change that you can see, hope you can feel; hope that speaks through actions and less through words."

The younger Sirleaf wants to bridge the gap between the rich and the poor and he wants to be the bridge connecting religions in the county and this he said is his ardent desire.

"I will strive to reach across our differences in age, gender, religion and political parties because we should not be divided by these," he said. "I will listen to them, listen to their dreams, their hopes, and their aspirations and together we will Think Forward to make those a reality."

LP contender Sanvee, speaking to FrontPageAfrica welcomed the entrance of Sirleaf into the race, adding that it now creates a level playing field which makes Montserrado a no man's territory as the CDC has claimed. "The reality is this is good for our democracy. We need an honest and spirited debate and this can no longer be called a no go zone," he said.

"We were the first to step into the race last July when everybody else was scared because they felt it was a one way thing, but we turned Montserrado County into a battleground, which is why you see the likes of Robert Sirleaf declaring their intention to contest. We believe we are going to win. We are not scared. Our people are tired of the establishment and Weah is also a part of that establishment."

The race is now an open one with the last speculated contender confirming his participation and as the campaign season heats up, many expect it to be the fiercest political battle of the entire special elections, to be held throughout the country to replace fifteen Senators in what seems a crowded race.

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