Liberia's Elections Halted: The Fight to Stop George Weah’s Presidency

The Liberian presidential race has reached a stalemate, leaving the country with an uncertain political future.

Liberia's President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf is not about to get the smooth democratic transition she hoped for. This is due to a stalemate created by the Supreme Court of Liberia that has plunged the rest of the country into a state of uncertainty. The court ruled in a landmark complaint brought forth by the Liberty Party (LP) of U.S trained lawyer Cllr. Charles W. Brumskine, placing a stay order on the ensuing runoff elections. A runoff between former international footballer George Weah, of the Coalition for Democratic Change (CDC), and Vice President Joseph Boakai, of the governing Unity Party—originally slated for November 7—will not go on as planned.

The parties and the rest of the country now have to wait for the NEC to look into the LP's complaint and issue a verdict before the rest of the country can hit play again and proceed with the runoff. In the Monday morning ruling that has had most of the country divided, the Supreme Court wrote: "Wherefore and in view of the foregoing, the Preemptory Writ of Prohibition is granted."

"The NEC is prohibited from holding the runoff elections until LP's case before it is concluded and the appropriate and due process is concluded."

Brumskine's LP is joined by three other parties including the ruling Unity Party of Johnson-Sirleaf, businessman Benoni Urey's All Liberian Party (ALP) and former Coca-Cola executive Alexander Cummings' Alternative National Congress (ANC).

These parties allege that there were massive fraud and irregularities in the voting process during the October 10 poll. But the truth of the matter is that these complaints brought on by the LP is only the tip of the iceberg of the political power struggle that is taking place in Liberia at the moment.

Interestingly, the president's party—on whose ticket she got elected twice—seems to be undermining her authority. The ruling party has launched a series of scathing personal attacks on the President because of her alleged lack of both financial and moral support for the candidacy of her Vice President Joseph N. Boakai, who is running to succeed her.

"The fight between Liberia's political elites will have an effect on the ordinary people who are yearning for change."

Even though the President's office has issued several public statements, pledging support to the Vice President, party stalwarts like disgraced former chairman, Varney Sherman, do not believe she truly supports the party.

"I cannot confirm or deny whether she supports the Party," said Sherman—the disgraced Senator of Grand Cape Mount County, who's facing trial after indictment on a Global Witness Corruption report—in an interview with FrontPageAfrica.

The last few weeks have seen a bitter public struggle between supporters of the President and members of her party who support her Vice President. The ruling party, last week joined the LP, describing the Johnson Sirleaf-led government as corrupt and marred by nepotism for the last 12 years.

It took the ruling party a difficult first round run against LP, and 18 other opposition political parties, to finally admit what every single critic of the President has been saying for over a decade. The party also maintains that massive fraud occurred during the October 10 polls and joined the LP in claiming that the President interfered in the elections.

The ruling party seems to be up for the nullification of the October 10 elections results because they want another opportunity to reevaluate the political climate, and to continue to push the divisive politics of war. Therefore making the elections more about a corrupt President and not about what they bring to the table for Liberians to give them another six years.

The party claimed that thousands of Liberians were disenfranchised but waited more than 20 days to file a complaint even though the law says 7 days after the polls. These political leaders seem to be taking a page from the Kenyan elections playbook which saw the Kenyan courts nullifying that country's elections results and ordering a rerun. But there's a huge difference; Liberia's election is still a manual process and due to under development and lack of access to good road network, elections workers have to carry ballot boxes on their heads and wade through water to get it to the nearest accessible roads.

There is also a major factor in the current stalemate we see unfolding in Liberia today that many don't seem willing to talk about. Liberian political elites seem scared of anything that resembles a country that could possibly be led by a footballer and are fighting tooth and nail to stop it. Members of the Liberian political establishment have always bonded and resolved in the claim that the Football star who is in the lead as one of the favorite to win the has no experience and lacks the sophisticated education from an Ivy League school to lead the country. Many in the elite camp liken a Weah presidency to some sort of evil that is about to be cast a spell upon the country. But Weah is popular among the disadvantaged youth and many ordinary Liberians who lack this sophisticated education but can relate to his wretched beginning.

It has even become worse now that the footballer is running against a ruling party's candidate that carries the burden of a failed regime as a record for the last 12 years. Weah came top of the list among 20 candidates running for President with 38.4 percent of the votes followed by the ruling party's candidate Boakai with 28.8 percent. Weah got the most votes in over ten of Liberia's 15 counties with the incumbent Vice President only able to win his home county of Lofa. It looks like a technical knockout for the ruling elites and challenging the results is a way of regrouping into an anti-Ellen movement; make her unpopular than she already is and paint a picture that she is supporting a Weah-candidacy against her ruling party's choice for President. The Supreme Court would then be used as an antidote to correct the process by calling for a rerun of the polls to give the elites the chance to rewrite the rules of the game.

"As the court delays the prospects for a runoff, many Liberians, including myself, are bracing for a long process of judicial rigmarole."

Many—especially from the LP and the ruling party—have hailed the court's decision of placing a stay order on the elections. But the same court would earlier in the year rule in favor of the vice Presidential candidate of the Liberty Party Harrison Karnwea formerly of the ruling party, who was in clear violation of the Code of Conduct, which called for public officials to resign two years before contesting for political office. The court ruled in the LP's favor on claims that Karnwea, at the time, did not have the "desire" to run for office because he was chosen as running-mate to someone running for the presidency.

During the handing down of this verdict in July of this year, the Justices stated that Karnwea violated Section 5.1 Code of Conduct (CoC) by holding a press conference on March 14, while serving as Managing Director of the Forestry Development Agency (FDA) to announce his resignation from the ruling party and join the LP. Despite this statement, the court gave a less stern punishment for the violations and ordered the NEC to reinstate Karnwea as LP's Vice Presidential candidate.

"He resigned after the Code of Conduct was declared constitutional. His conduct of not resigning two years earlier is in violation, we don't believe that the action is egregious in nature," stated the court.

As the court delays the prospects for a runoff, many Liberians, including myself, are bracing for a long process of judicial rigmarole, something that is looking to be a fight between Liberia's political elites and Johnson-Sirleaf.

The fight between Liberia's political elites will have an effect on the ordinary people who are yearning for change.

During the early days of the campaign, the ruling party and other political commentators accused President Johnson-Sirleaf of bankrolling Charles Brumskine's Liberty Party, which the LP has vehemently denied. They still ran a campaign that claimed that they wouldn't attack the President because she is no longer running for office. All of that changed when Brumskine lost the elections and launched a verbal attack on the President on the BBC.

Brumskine, in an interview with the BBC, accused outgoing President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf of not following the law when she refused to take up her seat as Senator of Montserrado County under then military despot Samuel K. Doe in the 1985 elections.

"Election took place long before election day," claims Brumskine but he went ahead anyway and participated in the polls along with the other candidates who are contesting.

"...Unlike in 1985, when President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf ran to be Senator of Montserrado County, when her party lost the election and she and others felt that they were cheated, they brought a war upon our country that cost the loss of lives. Our country was completely destroyed."

The government fired back through the ministry of information in a strongly worded statement condemning Brumskine's attacks on the President.

"[These are] simply the rants of a sore and selfish loser who is so blinded by ego and arrogance that even after 12 years of rejection by the voters, he is unable to accept that he is not the presidential choice of the Liberian people," Information Minister Eugene Nagbe said. It must be stated that people loyal to the President have been distributed across the major political parties including LP, UP, CDC and the ANC.

The fight between Liberia's political elites will have an effect on the ordinary people who are yearning for change, as expressed in the first round of the elections. But that change will only come if the democratic process is not hijacked by the courts in, what looks like, an attempt to create a constitutional crisis that would then pave the way for an interim government.


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Back in 2015, a group of Black women activists appeared in the French media: les afrofems. They were and still are, fighting against police brutality, for better inclusion in the media and to destroy harmful sexual stereotypes surrounding black women among other worthy goals. Since then, more influential Black women have gained a bigger representation in the media. And, even better, some of the afrofems activists, like Laura Nsafou and Amandine Gay, have made films and written books to bring more diversity to the entertainment industry.

2018 has, in many ways, been a year where black women made strides in France, at least in terms of culture. From winning Nobel prizes, to having best selling books and being on top of the charts, Black French women have showed that, no matter how much France wants to keep them under the radar, they're making moves. And, no matter the tragedies and terrible events that have shaped the year, it is something worth celebrating.

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We begin with Aya Nakamura, France's new queen of pop music. Her song Djadja was a summer hit. Everyone from Rihanna, to the French football team who successfully won their second world cup, sang it. Her sophomore album "Nakamura" has been certified gold in France and is still on top of the charts. She is the first French singer to have a number one album in the Netherlands since Edith Piaf in 1961. The last time a black woman was as visible in pop music was in 2004, with Lynsha's single "Hommes...Femmes".

Nakamura has received a huge backlash, mostly due to misogynoir—misogyny directed towards black women where race and gender both play roles. From a French presenter butchering her African first name despite the fact that he can easily pronounce words like "Aliagas", to online trolls calling her ugly and manly when a picture of her wearing no makeup surfaced, to people complaining that she is bringing down the quality of the entire French pop music industry, Nakamura responds to her critics gracefully. Her music is not groundbreaking but her album is full of catchy songs with lyrics using French slang she masters so well that she came up with her own words like "en catchana" (aka doggy style sex). And most importantly, many black girls and women can finally see someone like them in the media getting the success she deserves.

The Nobel Prize Winner

Photo via Wikimedia Commons

Another Black French woman has broken records this year: the Guadeloupean writer Maryse Condé who won the Alternative Nobel Prize, a prize meant to replace the Nobel Prize in Literature, after the scandal that the Swedish Academy of Literature faced last year. Condé wrote her first novel at only 11 years old and has been prolific ever since. A former professor of French literature at Columbia University, she has published more than 20 books since the 1970s, exploring the complex relationships within the African diaspora. "Segu", her most famous novel, is about the impact of the slave trade and Abrahamic religion on the Bambara empire in Mali in the 19th century. Condé's work is radical and she remains committed to writing feminist texts exploring the link between gender, race and class, as well as exploring the impact of colonialism. Condé is a pillar of Caribbean literature and it's taken long enough for her work has been acknowledged by the Nobel prize committee.

The Children's Books Writers

From Comme un Million de Papillon Noir

And finally, 2018 has been the year where France's children's literature industry has finally understood how important, for the public, writers and publishers, being inclusive and diverse was. From Laura Nsafou's Comme un Million de Papillon Noir, a best selling book about a young black girl learning to love her natural hair which sold more than 6000 copies, to Neiba Je-sais-tout: Un Portable dans le Cartable, the second book of Madina Guissé published this year after a successful crowdfunding campaign, there are more and more children's and young adult books with non white protagonists. In France, there are still no stats about how diversity is doing, but in America, in 2017, only 7 percent of writers of children's literature were either Black, Latino or Native American.

There's still much to accomplish in France for the Black community to have better representation in the media, politics and all walks of life, but important strides have been accomplished this year, and it make me hopeful for what 2019 and the following years have in store.

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