1 November 2017

West Africa: Ecowas, AU Intervene in Electoral Standoff

Photo: Nick N. Seebeh/Liberian Observer
From left: ECOWAS Chairman and President of the Republic of Togo, Faure Gnassingbé; President of Liberia, Ellen Johnson Sirleaf; and AU Chair and President of the Republic of Guinea, Alpha Condé, at the high table. The AU and ECOWAS are working to resolve the political impasse that has gripped the Liberian nation since the release of the results of the October 10 polls.

Convene emergency meeting with major political stakeholders in Monrovia

The African Union (AU) and the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) are making frentic efforts in resolving the political impasse that has gripped the Liberian nation since the release of the results October 10 President and Legislative polls over three weeks ago.

ECOWAS Chairperson, Togolese President Faure Gnassigbé and his AU counterpart and President of the Republic of Guinea, Alpha Condé, early Wednesday morning arrived in the country to meet with major political stakeholders to help quiet down the growing tension in the ongoing electoral stalemate in the country.

The two African statesmen were received upon arrival at the RIA by President Ellen Jonson Sirleaf and were taken straight to a local resort in Monrovia where they began immediate closed-door interactions with leaders of political parties in the ongoing electoral process.

Political leaders invited at what could be termed as the Monrovia peace conference were the aggrieved standard bearer of the Liberty Party (LP), Charles Walker Brumskine; Senator George Weah of the Coalition for Democratic Change (CDC), Vice President and standing bearer of the ruling Unity Party (UP); Alexander B. Cummings of the Alternative National Congress (ANC); businessman Benoni W. Urey of the All Liberian Party (ALP), and the political leader of the Movement for Democracy and Reconstruction (MDR), Sen. Prince Yormie Johnson, who was absent from the meeting.

The team also met with top officials of NEC, including its Chairman, Cllr. Jerome Korkoya and the Full bench of the Supreme Court

The growing political tension in the country between some political parties, especially the Liberty Party (LP) and the National Elections Commission (NEC) has led to calls for the dissolution of the NEC board of commissioners and the removal of its Chairman.

President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf is also being accused of interfering into the electoral process. The President has since rubbished the claims, terming her accusers as "agent provocateurs."

The AU Chairperson, President Alpha Condé, said it could not have been a better time to intervene and help keep the peace in the country.

In a brief with the media immediately following the closed-door meeting with the stakeholders including political party leaders, Chairman Condé said with the prevailing tension on the ground, it was necessary indeed for them to come and see how they could intervene in bringing the situation under reasonable control.

The AU Chairperson disclosed that all of the parties have agreed to follow the legal path to resolve any problem that might have come out of the electoral process.

The Supreme Court of Liberia on Tuesday evening, Oct. 31, ordered the National Elections Commission (NEC) to stay any and all actions in the pending runoff election scheduled for November 7, 2017 affirming the writ of prohibition prayed for by the Liberty Party.

The Liberty Party requested the Writ of Prohibition and a rerun of the October 10 presidential and legislative elections, citing mass irregularities and fraud. UP, ALP and the ANC have all joined the Liberty Party's pursuit for a re-run of the October 10 polls. Former soccer legend and Senator of Montserrado County, George Manneh Weah and his CDC, is set to face the Vice President for Republic of Liberia, Joseph Nyuma Boakai of the Unity Party in the run-off election scheduled for next Tuesday (Nov. 7) -- though the aforementioned writ of prohibition has been issued by the Supreme Court restraining the NEC from conducting every electoral activities toward the run-off election.

Through an interpreter, the Guinean President said, "We have convened here to see how the stability in our region can continue. With the tension that is brewing after the October 10 elections, we found it very necessary to come here to meet with these political stakeholders.

He disclosed that all of the stakeholders involved in the political impasse have agreed to seek resolution through the legal system. "They all have agreed to go through the court," he said.

"Upon our arrival here, we spoke with them and everyone has told us his/her mind. All of those we have spoken to have admitted irregularities during the elections. So we want to see how the Supreme Court, the NEC, the Diplomatic Corps the religious leaders can somehow intervene in solving this problem," President Conde told the press.

"We want to ask the NEC to solve many of those problems that were observed during electoral process and other problems that cannot be resolved can go through constitutional reform. "Peace and tranquility are essential to our region," he added.

"Our Sister, the President, must stay above the fray." Condé said of President Sirleaf who has been accused by her own party of meddling and manioulating the electoral process.

ECOWAS and AU Charimen meet with Liberian Political Leaders ahead of Run-off Election

President Sirleaf

In her opening remarks, President Sirleaf said that though there are some complaints and some challenges to the results of the elections but that process is ongoing in keeping with the laws.

"We would like to say to you, Mr. President, that we believe ECOWAS stand by the position that this democratic process must be concluded within the timeframe of our constitution so that I may be able to retire and end this transition successfully... We expect that all of those who are here -- the political leaders around this table -- also believe in peace; also believe in Liberia and will make sure that whatever they do is in the interest of the country so that we can end this process successfully. They have contributed to the past 12 years of peace that have led us to where we are. And so we all deserve to end this in such a way that we all can be proud of our country."

Upon delivering her opening remarks, the President departed the meeting venue providing an opportunity for the visiting heads of states to interact with the political leaders, delivering to them the messages they had brought from their respective organizations.

Cllr. Brumskine: Good Will Prevail Over Evil

Cllr. Brumskine, in an interview, said at the end of the process, "good will prevail over evil." He however appreciated the continental and regional Chairpersons for their interventions and for listening and considering what they have decided as major stakeholders in the electoral process.

"Such a situation in the past led to bloodshed and war but this time my mission is to make sure no Liberian gets killed, no bloodshed; but good will prevailed over evil," he said.

Briefing the media on what they told the visiting team, LP political leader said, "We just expressed ourselves about the constitutional violations and the violations of the statutory laws of our country; the gross irregularities and the frauds that marred the October 10 electoral process."

Cllr. Brumskine indicated that he could not elaborate more on the discussions during the closed door meeting, as the matter is already in court.

Cummings-The Wrongs Must be Corrected

ANC standard bearer, Alexander B. Cummings, told the press that the stay order that the Supreme Court was placed on the process will prevail. The ANC, he said, has been consistent in its assertions that the electoral process was imperfect, was incompetent in some respect, and there were evidence of frauds and rigging of the elections results. "We have been very consistent in our views and we only said yesterday that base on these, we supported the suit taken on by the Liberty Party," he noted.

"This is a serious matter," Cummings continued. "This is about our country, our people and we want to make sure that the will of the Liberian people is reflected through the real results of the electoral process and there will be some questions as to whether these have been the case or not.

He maintained that all partisans of the ANC follow the rules and laws and will remain peaceful in our protest against the October 10 polls.

He indicated that the ANC will definitely agree with any decision from the Supreme Court, if even the decision does not go his way.

"The discussion today just confirms our commitment to a peaceful process and it was meant to encourage us stay within the rules and allow the Supreme Court and NEC run their course and we agreed with this perspective.

However, he said it is not good enough for anyone to think because there were irregularities in 2005 and 2011 and there are irregularities in the 2017 elections and so we should allow such to become the status quo. "It is not good enough for people to say there were irregularities in 2005, in 2011 and irregularities in 2017, so we should accept it. For us, we say no. if there were irregularities, these should be corrected and we should make sure the results reflect the will of our people. And we do not believe the process on October 10 reflected the will of our people."

In a short statement, Senator George M. Weah said he and the CDC will allow the legal process to prevail. "We all have agreed to follow the legal process for peace sake," he said.

Many of the attending political leaders were present at the meeting with either their vice standard bearers or party chairmen or both, in some cases.

The vice standard bearer of the ANC, Ambassador Jeremiah Sulunteh, who it is being reported is at the verge of endorsing the CDC for the run-off election, was present at the meeting. However, the VSB of ALP, who according to reports, has endorsed the CDC, was not present. Neither was Sen. Prince Y. Johnson, who is on record for making remarks that border on threats to peace in favor and against either candidate in the pending run-off election. He however recently endorsed the presidential bid of Sen. Weah.

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