Liberia: VP Taylor Blames Journalists for Heightening Political Tension in Bong County

Gbarnga — Vice President Jewel Howard-Taylor has encouraged journalists in Bong County to practice a form of constructive journalism that communicates good news as a means of promoting "positive self-esteem" in the county, which she said has been compromised by a tendency of fueling tension among political aspirants vying for the 2020 senatorial election.

In recent weeks, Deputy Speaker Prince Moye and Senator Henry Yallah have traded jibes at each other via community radio stations in the county, while their supporters have used social media to spew insults at each other in the name of defending the two lawmakers.

Speaking Saturday at the flag-off of installations of solar lights brought by Representative Marvin Josiah Marvin Cole (CDC District 3), Vice President Taylor said: "We are using so much positive self-esteem in Bong due to so much political news being reported about the 2020 senatorial election when the election is still months away," she said.

"Let journalists in Bong rise up and give hope to the county via positive stories about the county. There are a lot of positive things out there that need to be reported but journalists have found interest in reporting about an election that's more than five months away," she said.

Vice President Taylor noted that despite the current situation in the country, politicians in Bong are trying to improve the lives of their various constituents but the media in the county has focused it's attention to the senatorial election and have no room to disseminate good news.

For this reason, Vice President Taylor said has heightened the political tension in the county among aspirants.

She called on journalists in the county to "rise up and give hope to the county via positive stories".

She described Senator Yallah and Rep. Moye as two distant characters who have served the same length of time in the legislature and will be judged by the their level of work they have done over the years by the people of Bong County in the 2020 senatorial election.

"The two people have served and it's left with the people of Bong County to decide who has performed to deserve their vote," she said.

On her choice for the senate seat, Vice President Taylor said the National Patriotic Party will decide who to support when the time approaches. "Bong is the strong hold of the NPP. Whether we will support a candidate from our party or support someone else from different party will decided through a process that will involve everyone," she said.

Before becoming vice president, Howard-Taylor became the first female to win two terms as senator of Bong County -2005 and 2014.

Her silence on her choice of candidate in the senatorial election has increased speculations in the county with many claiming that she might support a candidate from lower Bong County. As of yet, all of those who have declared their ambitions to contest hail from upper Bong.

Who gets Jewel's support?

Prince Moye (Unity Party): The Deputy Speaker has emerged as an early contender for incumbent senator, Henry Yallah. Had it not been for COVID-19, Moye would have been petitioned by citizens of the county. His ambition has generated a lot of momentum in Bong, particularly in upper Bong. In fact, his decision to contest has divided the Bong Legislative Caucus with a segment of its members including Rep Moima Briggs-Mensah (Independent, District 6), Robert Womba (Unity Party, District 4), Senator Henrique Tokpa (Unity Party) all declaring support for him. While Rep Briggs-Mensah is seen as the only person who would woo support to Moye's bid, Senator Tokpa and Rep Womba are viewed by many as "liability" and a "dent" to his ambition.

With rumors that Moye's decision to leave the deputy speaker position to contest the senate is an audition for his rumored quest of becoming a vice president to George Weah, there seems to be no possibility in the vice president supporting his bid.

Senator Henry Yallah: This would be a controversial decision if the vice president was to endorse Senator Yallah. In 2018, the vice president branded the Bong senator as "snake" and called on people of the county to reject him. But Howard-Taylor's call to partisans of the NPP then could not be endorsed as several influential members of the party have already secretly endorsed Senator Yallah ahead of the party's decision on a candidate.

Senator Yallah has gotten the nod of majority members of the caucus, including caucus chair Papa Kolleh (All Liberian Party, District 7), Junior Hills (All Liberian Party, District 1), Edward Karfiah (People's Unification Party, District 4) and Rep Marvin Cole (CDC, District 3) is said to have endorsed Senator Yallah's re-election bid.

Of the five caucus members, Rep. Karfiah seems to be the most influential. He is credited for winning two successive elections in Bong (2011&2017). He served as campaign manager for Jewel when she defeated Henrique Tokpa in 2014. To many, in Rep. Karfiah, Senator Yallah's re-election is assured because of his overwhelming influence.

Jeremiah Sulunteh: On paper, the former Liberian Ambassador to the United States of America is best suited to get Jewel's support. During the presidential runoff election in 2017, Amb Sulunteh, former vice standard bearer of the Alternative National Congress in 2017, was the only senior politician from Bong who endorsed the CDC, particularly for Jewel's sake, according to him. Because of that decision, Amb Sulunteh is reportedly being snubbed by the Collaborating Political Parties in Bong at the expense of Prince Moye.

Sulunteh is seen as the dark horse in the impending election because of the unending words of words trending between Moye and Yallah. Political pundits say Jewel's support to him would be key for his election as senator of Bong County.

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