Tuesday, February 2, 2010

In Your Face: Ellen Dares Liberia’s Political Opposition

In Your Face: Ellen Dares Liberia’s Political Opposition

Written by Ralph Geeplay

Tuesday, 02 February 2010

In Your Face: Ellen Dares Liberia’s Political Opposition
….It Is Time to Play Ball She Tells Them!

Ellen Johnson stood before the Liberian congress a week ago, enumerating her administration’s success since she assumed the mantle of state four years ago. Her address would become a bombshell that would send surge of waves way beyond the borders of Liberia and with it she broke new a barrier: being the first sitting president to announce her bid for reelection before a joint chamber of Liberian Assembly.

In the hall foreign diplomats, top business leaders and the very politicians who are at her throat. Her statement did the trick, because it still have us talking and shows she is no novice and will fight to the finish line, the ultimate survivor who’s been in the political trenches for well over four decades, will pick a well deserving fight, a woman surly not to underestimate. A bold statement as such was a taunt: come get my job if you can.

There is much debate within the country that she misused her powers and abused ‘the sanctity of the presidency.’ These charges are coming largely from the opposition. Furious, she is negating her previous pledge to seek just one term, “which is not a binding contract by the way,” says her supporters. Opposition leaders think the president had no business declaring her bid that evening when in fact she was at the capitol to deliver the health of the nation and affairs of state. Her supporters say no; there was no violation of the constitution and she was well within her legal rights. Former President Pro Temp of the Senate, Isaac Nyenabo of the opposition National Democratic Party of Liberia (NDPL) whose party recently merged with the coalition of Congress for Democratic Change (CDC) et al to defeat the Unity Party (UP) in the recent nasty senatorial fight that took place in Montserrado County agrees, the president violated no rules or laws, concurred Darus Dillon of the opposition Liberty party (LP).

Sirleaf’s message was “purely political and a thumb in the eye, if you want to speak to those who think she not relevant politically, especially in the wake of the TRC report and her fight against corruption which has seen less corrupt officials being tried,” says a pundit. “Now she is telling all these men who have controlled Liberian politics for 150 or more years that I am one of you, I know the game and I await you on the (political) battle field. Draw your swords and bring your game because I am ready too.” Sirleaf did not only say she was running she said “I will be a candidate, a formidable candidate, in the 2011 elections…” it is interesting to note she emphasized the word formidable to let the opposition know she was taking the battle to them. Joining the chorus and praised was United States Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, a fighter herself, calling the Sirleaf’s decision “…a delight to hear…” a testament that Ellen Johnson Sirleaf still is a darling of the international community especially western governments and a highly respected in such circles by world leaders.

The looming fight ahead for Africa’s first Executive Mansion will be interesting and mean because battle lines have been drawn and Sirleaf is confident she is going to win. Successfully, she has managed to group together the coalition that defeated Samuel Doe during the 1985 general and presidential elections in which she herself was a senatorial candidate, a coveted post she won but refuse to accept because of protest from the opposition that the General turned President rigged the polls. Besides the ADP of Togba Nah Tipoteh, Sirleaf has the bright and best of the progressive movement and its young minds behind her including most of its founding fathers that provided the idea and dogma that continue to shaped Liberian politics today. And when she leaves office the party suddenly becomes theirs, if they don’t fight over the spoils and can quickly recognized a reputable leader amongst them to provide leadership. With the appointment of county superintendents under her gavel she has an asset to the rural part of the country wherein through this representation she can also reach the chiefs who run the townships and villages that make up Liberia. Local officials, who for the most part are being paid onetime and might support her incumbency and be willing to campaign with her is evident.

Complaints from the opposition that Ellen is misusing her position in announcing her reelection bid seems childish to a point, these are the advantages that incumbents enjoy. The president of the United States will use Air Force One to campaign from state to state, while secret service agents provide protection and the White House his official or unofficial campaign headquarters. For example, when the former foreign minister and close ally of Charles Taylor, Lewis Browne says Sirleaf has desecrated the presidency, abused her powers and is squandering state resources in her bid for reelection, he goes the mile chastising the Liberian legislature for letting the president get away with ‘mischief.’

In a recent press conference he says “It is left to be seen what courage members of the Legislature will summon not simply to halt the cascading public impression with which their reputations have unfortunately come to be associated but also whether they can even muster the will to retain a modicum of self and institutional respect about what used to be popularly referred to as the First branch of government.” Which prompts this question, under whose leadership was the Liberian Legislature ever ‘popularly referred to as the First Branch of Government,’ Tubman, Tolbert, Doe, or Taylor? I need some answer here please. But first Browne must encourage the law makers to declare their assets and fight corruption within its ranks. Browne who served Taylor and made a fortune when the Liberian Legislature won’t even debate the national budget or when his current political partner Charles Brumskin had to run out of the country under the cover of darkness because he opposed Taylor as President of the Liberian Senate is now preaching from the pulpit.

Then joins in Edwin Snowe a former Taylor son in law and close ally, who just graduated with ‘honors’ that “The President address is a big shame to this country...” Snowe statement,” an observer says “draws laughs, and this was this calculating fierceness in the first place that prompted Sirleaf to announce her candidacy before these men who she knows very well and whom she also know have no record to stand on.”

“The opposition is riddled with checkered characters that are today reinventing themselves at the speed of a bullet,” says a student leader at the University of Liberia. inserts political commentator Joseph Fallah in an article recently published on the Liberian Forum that politicians of yesterday who were once lords and benefited from the suffering of the people must be brought to book adding “the fact that some of these politicians were leaders in past governments and actively participated in plundering our natural resources, mortgaging our economy to foreign cronies, and institutionalizing public corruption must not be ignored.” Mr. Fallah went on to admonished those officials seeking prudence in Sirleaf’s fight against public corruption howbeit flaw to be fair, and admit that she has made a difference and stood firm against this endemic since she came to office. To date, no one can make the claim that Ellen has stolen any penny from our coffers. From a foreign reserve of 5 million when she came to office four years ago the country today has more than 200 plus million in reserves and investment is pouring in, while the country image has enjoyed a tripled digits jump while national debts are being paid, she reminded the Liberian people during her address. These are feats to be proud of. Give a credit where it is due damnit.

Those who watch Liberian politics know the coming election will be unprecedented in its course for debates, substance and campaigning. In the aftermath of the recent senatorial fight between the Unity party and CDC, its winner Geraldine Doe Sheriff had a prediction and here was her pivot: 2011, she said was a ‘tsunami’ coming that the ruling UP was not willing and ready to embrace especially in the wake of her victory, she told newsmen and women in Monrovia. The political opposition was beaming at her victory and forecasting that this was a precursor of things to come, and quickly, the Secretary General of the CDC Mr. Acarus Gray, issued a statement in which he foresaw that come 2011, there would be a peaceful political transition in Liberia, tipping his party and its coalition to wrestled the gavel of the presidency from its current occupant. But pundits have warned the opposition to yet, not feel too comfortable, “Monrovia,” they said “is not Liberia, that while it is populated, the country stretches from Cape Mount to Maryland.”

Every Liberian should be proud that the Liberian political opposition is finally coming together and expressing its intent for competitive political engagement. “Peaceful political transition” as Mr. Gray correctly opined is the way to go. In our dealing to institutionalized democratic ideals and participatory governance, tolerance and peaceful transitions must be the heart and art of our politicking. But Sirleaf thinks she’s a big player, and has welcomed the challenge to lead again, telling us, “I know from whence we came yesterday. I know where we are today and where we need to be tomorrow.”

Unless the opposition comes forward and put up a strong foot Sirleaf wins again, and for that the iron lady will have herself to thank, having mastered the game and having given the boys a whooping a second go ‘round, and then after that we can debate her legacy. It’s on! Johnson Sirleaf dares the Liberian opposition to take her Executive Mansion! Now stop whining guys and get to work. And ohh, please excuse me for my incoherent sentences. I live in a world of clauses and phrases.

Ralph Geeplay is an exile Liberian journalist. He previously worked for the Independent Inquirer Newspaper based in Monrovia, as its Diplomatic and senior correspondent.

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Everyone is a genius. But if you judge a fish on its ability to climb a tree, it will live its whole life believing that it is stupid. – A Einstein

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Crimes sponsored, committed, or masterminded by handful of individuals cannot be blamed upon an entire nationality. In this case, Liberians! The need for post-war justice is a step toward lasting peace, stability and prosperity for Liberia. Liberia needs a war crimes tribunal or some credible legal forum that is capable of dealing with atrocities perpetrated against defenseless men, women and children during the country's brutal war. Without justice, peace shall remain elusive and investment in Liberia will not produce the intended results. - Bernard Gbayee Goah

Men with unhealthy characters should not champion any noble cause

They pretend to advocate the cause of the people when their deeds in the dark mirror nothing else but EVIL!!
When evil and corrupt men try to champion a cause that is so noble … such cause, how noble it may be, becomes meaningless in the eyes of the people - Bernard Gbayee Goah.

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Any attempt to institute the system mentioned above in the absence of rule of law is meaningless, and more detrimental to Liberia as a whole - Bernard Gbayee Goah

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Solving problems in the absence of war talks

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