Liberia's 2017 Elections to be Presided Over by Individual Who Lacks Integrity

By John H. T. Stewart Jr.

The Perspective
Atlanta, Georgia
September 15, 2017


NEC Chairman Jerome Korkoyah

And so, for the first time since the end of Liberia’s Colonial period which lasted from 1820-1837, and the Commonwealth period which lasted to 1847, the year Liberia declared her independence, Liberia’s elections will be presided over by a United States national, contrary to the laws of Liberia, and contrary to political practice hoary with age. This is an uncomfortable fact which raises questions not only about President Sirleaf’s own sense of nationalism and respect for the rule of law but about the acceptability of the results when they are eventually announced.

With a crowded field of over twenty Presidential candidates and just about twice as many legislative candidates, no can rule out the possibility of legal challenges arising before the Supreme Court whose credibility was severely eroded by its recent decisions on the Code of Conduct. But just why President Sirleaf has allowed or encouraged such blatant violation of the country’s electoral laws to persist, although being fully aware that Korkoya, as a U.S. national is legally incompetent over the elections, is the question she must answer to posterity.

Why because, as sure as the sun rises and sets, there are going to be legal challenges to the elections results, especially with such a crowded field of contestants, both presidential and legislative. One of such challenge is sure to be the question of Korkoya’s nationality and his legal competence to have presided over elections in Liberia. President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf’s remarks at the NEC head offices recently, where she commissioned its Executive Director, and commended Chairman Korkoya for doing a good job has raised public concerns about the integrity of the forthcoming elections for several reasons.

Aside from the fact that the NEC is plagued with runaway corruption, Chairman Korkoya is a foreign (U.S.) national who is legally incompetent to preside over the country’s elections, and there are other Presidential and legislative candidates as well who are nationals of other countries including popular football star George Weah as well as Mr. Alexander Cummings both U.S. citizens and both of who are contesting the Presidency. George Weah has already declared that he will accept no other results but a win while Benoni Urey has in similar vein declared that victory is his except if there is fraud.

And so, the stage is being already set for conflict and confrontation well ahead of elections day, just going by the declarations of both Urey and Weah who maintain that no other results other than a win shall be considered acceptable. These are indeed remarks which cannot be taken lightly considering that both individuals have more than sufficient wherewithal to stoke the flames of conflict if they feel cheated.  

This brings in the Supreme Court who should be the final arbiter but with the credibility of the Court in virtual tatters since its flip-flop decision on the Code of Conduct, other potential losers, as could possibly be, in the case of Urey, may not find it appealing to look to the Supreme Court for redress. Why because the Court had already demonstrated bias in the case of Harrison Karnwea and exhibited virtual impotence when it found itself faced with the issue of Korkoya’s foreign nationality.

This was not the first time the issue of Korkoya’s nationality had been raised before the Supreme Court. It was first raised in 2011 by none other than Korkoya himself who at the time sought a Declaratory judgement to determine whether as a U. S. national, he was qualified to contest a representative seat in the 2011 elections. The then Justice-in-Chambers, Phillip A.Z. Banks wrote a brilliant opinion on the matter, clearly stating that dual citizenship was incompatible with our laws. But the full bench of the Supreme Court, for unexplained reasons never made a ruling on the matter and so Korkoya did participate in the 2011 elections, howbeit illegally, but lost.

When his nationality issue resurfaced before the Supreme Court in a law suit filed by Dr. Tipoteh raising the issue of Korkoya’s legal incompetence to preside over the elections on account of his foreign nationality earlier this year, the Court instead buckled and in a complete volte-face declared that there were sufficient remedies available in inferior Courts.

But, according to legal analysts, the matter was rightfully placed before the Supreme Court since, according to law and the Constitution of Liberia, any elections related matter involving disputes or contestation should be directly referred to the Supreme Court. In their opinion, the Court, by its ruling had failed to live up to its true mission as the Guardian of Democracy.  Then came the flip-flop decision on the Harrison Karnwea qualification issue which only served to further engrain widely held public opinion that the Supreme Court is unworthy of public trust.

The Court will however have a chance to redeem its image in the eyes of the Liberian people if and when disputes arising from elections results are brought before it. With some of the candidates, especially Urey and Weah, declaring no other results other than a win shall be considered acceptable, the Supreme Court will soon find itself hard-pressed to make strong decisions and not resort to subterfuges or bow to threats neither from Weah, Urey or even President Sirleaf.

As for footballer George Weah, now firmly fixed in marriage to the Charles Taylor NPFL, thru Taylor’s ex-wife and confidante Jewel Howard Taylor, his mass following consisting mainly of lumpen elements and uneducated urban youth and his embrace of the NPFL has begun to send jitters through the sub-region especially the Mano River Basin countries (Sierra Leone, Guinea and Ivory Coast) whose leaders, according to reports have openly declared to President Sirleaf that under no circumstances are they prepared to accept the resurgence of the NPFL in Liberia under whatever guises.

Although the stance of the leaders of the Mano River Basin countries went virtually underreported in the media, it cannot by any means be considered insignificant why because President Sirleaf apparent warming up to the CDC/NPFL alliance and her virtually open disavowal of support for her Vice President recently in the presence of high ranking officials from these countries has apparently driven them into making such public statements of concern about our electoral process which is out of diplomatic protocol.

But this was by no means surprising because it appears that MRU leaders had apparently run out of patience trying to drive the point home to President Sirleaf that they remain ever mindful of the bloody trail of death and destruction blazed by Charles Taylor in the sub-region. For example, Sierra Leoneans in particular, still bear strong reminders  of the attendant horrors, i.e., wide-spread amputations, arson and summary executions-visited upon them by the Taylor supported Revolutionary United Front(RUF).

La Cote d’Ivoire and Guinea also bear strong reminders of the atrocities committed by the Charles Taylor led National Patriotic Front (NPFL). La Cote d’Ivoire, in particular, is still faced with problems of insecurity along its border with Liberia as evidenced by sporadic armed attacks on Ivorian Government forces by elements believed to be based in Liberia. In this regard, neither Governments of Guinea, Sierra Leone and La Cote d’Ivoire would tolerate the resurgence of Charles Taylor to power in Liberia in whatever form, whether it is through his ex-wife Jewel Howard Taylor who still maintains close ties to him, or any of his surrogates including former close associates, Benoni Urey and Oscar Cooper or deal maker George Weah.

Thus, without realizing it perhaps, President Sirleaf has raised the stakes alarmingly high in these elections. According to sources, it is now clear that she stands far apart from the leaderships of the MRU as well as ECOWAS on her troubling oversight of these elections which should mark her end of office tenure. According to diplomatic sources in Abuja, President Sirleaf, in the presence of foreign diplomats, has exhibited a most demeaning attitude bordering on total disrespect to her Vice President, Joseph Boakai, who has served her so well over the last twelve years and which, according to sources, is most unwelcome and troubling to West African leaders.

Another issue of troubling concern is the final Voters’ roll. After coming under intense public pressure and with help of experts surreptitiously brought in from the Kenya Electoral Commission who have been working virtually around the clock to clean up the messy Voters’ roll, NEC has finally released what it calls a Final Voters roll with only about 27 days remaining to elections. This last-ditch effort whose results are yet to be gauged, is considered by Korkoya as an acceptable substitute for the rerun of the Voters’ registration exercise which was recommended by the ECOWAS team according to sources.

But the question is what were the (East Africans) Kenyans doing at the NEC in the first place when they could not even get it right for their own elections? Is there not sufficient elections expertise available in the sub-region? Sources say that President Sirleaf ignored the recommendations of the ECOWAS team who, according to sources, suggested a rerun of the Voters Registration (VR) Exercise. Her option was to bring in a team of experts from the Kenyan Electoral Commission, experts whose credibility have since been impeached by the Kenyan Supreme Court’s decision that declared fraud and ordered a rerun of the elections within sixty days.
So here we find ourselves at a very critical period in our history, a period which should be our proudest but which promises otherwise owing to continuing the blatant violations of our electoral laws to which we as a nation continue to bear witness. Through all of this, President Sirleaf bears the greatest responsibility. She has allowed violations of our electoral laws to persist without taking concrete actions to protect and uphold the laws of the land as she swore under oath to do yet, she declares consistently that she is committed to a genuine and peaceful transition.

How she then intends to achieve such a transition remains to be seen. She (President Sirleaf)  must however remain mindful of her sacred obligation to respect the laws of the land which is key to the successful transition she has repeatedly promised. She must also be warned of the unforeseen but dire consequences of playing up to George Weah and his newfound NPFL love.

She must harbor no illusions that George Weah, Jewel Howard Taylor or both acting in concert together can protect her from the public scrutiny that is likely to follow after she leaves office. That is granted George Weah is elected President which is uncertain. What will be her options then if Joseph Boakai makes to the second round with George Weah? Will she still go all out in supporting Weah or will she make amends with Joseph Boakai and ensure herself a soft-landing of sorts? All this and many more remain to be seen.  In the finally analysis, the choice is hers.                                                                       


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