Commentary: Peaceful Election Truly Represents a Major Milestone for Liberia’s Democracy

Tears welled up in my eyes as I read the Concession Statement delivered by Vice President Joseph N. Boakai on Friday, December 29, 2017, following his defeat by Senator George Weah in the hotly contested but peaceful presidential election in Liberia. Irrespective of whatever the outcome turned out to be, I was simply moved by a sense of pride about this major democratic milestone Liberia has accomplished.

Runoff Candidates George Weah and Vice President Joseph Boakai Voting December 26
Runoff Candidates George Weah and Vice President Joseph Boakai Voting December 26

The peaceful conclusion of what was undoubtedly a contentious electoral process marks a profound break with the recent past, where change of Liberia’s leadership was characterized by violence, bloodshed and destruction.

In his concession statement, Vice President Boakai, who is the Standard Bearer of the ruling Unity Party, said … “a while ago, I called Ambassador George Manneh Weah of the Coalition of Democratic Change (CDC), to congratulate him on emerging as the winner in the presidential contest. I also availed myself to help him in any way he may find me useful to advance the good of our country.”

Vice President Boakai then called on all his supporters and well-wishers “to support peace and collectively join hands to continue to build our country, heal our wounds and serve our people with honesty, as well as a renewed dedication and commitment.” He also called on all Liberians to close ranks and work together for the betterment of Mama Liberia.

Thanks be to the Lord that we are witnessing a period in the life of Liberia where a presidential candidate would concede defeat with such grace and dignity as Ambassador Boakai did, a demonstration of his true statesmanship. I recall that I was an intern at the Daily Observer newspaper in Monrovia in my early 20s training to be a journalist when hell broke loose in 1985, following the disputed general and presidential elections. Hundreds of people were killed and there was wide-spread abuse of human rights

The unspeakable acts of brutality perpetrated during that time served as the fuel that set Liberia ablaze through nearly 15 years of bloody and devastating civil war. In his concession statement, Vice President Boakai acknowledged that the history of Liberia is characterized by episodes of fraudulent electoral processes that have engendered conflicts. He also cautioned Liberians to “remain cognizant of the extent to which elections are conflict-prone and have the potential to destroy nations, disintegrate families and undermine the sanctity of a nation.”

As Liberia went through the period of political uncertainty over the past few months, there were concerns and fear that the country might be plunged into another state of instability or armed conflict.

Poll Workers
Poll Workers

This is why it is noteworthy to proudly highlight that, despite the heated partisan rhetoric and the months of uncertainty that characterized the 2017 Presidential Election, Liberians conducted themselves peacefully.  Even though emotions were high during the election disputations, they remained patient to allow for the constitutional process and the due process of law to play out. It was heart-warming to see mothers with their babies on their back, along with other children mixing with everyone else at peaceful political rallies and parades that often took on a carnival affair.

Also across the length and breadth of Liberia, in villages, towns, and cities, people gathered in their numbers to attend political debates and forums. Those events provided them the opportunity to hear from candidates and their representatives regarding their platforms.

Photo of National Coat Of Arms of LiberiaLiberians in the Diaspora also invested their hearts and souls, resources, and time to be actively involved in the electoral process supporting various political parties and candidates. Many travelled to Liberia to be directly involved in the political process. Thank you for your support and sacrifices to help keep Liberia on a course of progress. An enhanced engagement of the Liberian Diaspora with the homeland is critical for Liberia’s rapid transformation. Through continued and sustained engagement, Liberians in the Diaspora will help create the enabling environment that would engender the transfer of knowledge, skills and resources to accelerate Liberia’s development and progress.

Through this historic election, Liberians have yet again demonstrated to the world, as they did in 2005 with the election of Madam Ellen Johnson Sirleaf as Liberia and Africa’s first democratically-elected female president, that they are a peaceful people.

One of the major accomplishments of the government of President Sirleaf is the tolerance of dissent, which has birthed an unprecedented level of freedom in Liberia. This is manifested by the fact that in 2010, Liberia became the first country in West Africa to pass a Freedom of Information (FOI) act into law. The Liberian people are beginning to see and enjoy the dividends of freedom as our nascent democracy grows from strength to strength. During the just ended general elections, an overwhelming majority of members of the National Legislature seeking re-election were defeated, while a very few who were regarded to have performed up to public expectations were re-elected.

Liberia
Liberia

Liberians are beginning to realize the power in their vote, and how they can leverage it to improve their lives. So if they give you the opportunity to serve and bring about some improvement but you are found to be an incapable custodian of the public trust, then they will show you the way out the door and let someone else take charge. It is hard time that the standard of public service in Liberia is improved to a generally acceptable and desirable level, and people charged with responsibilities are mindful of public expectation for progress.

With an increasingly vibrant and proactive civil society, buttressed by a free and economically vibrant media, Liberia’s democratic foundations can only be further strengthened. Hence, there is a need for increased support for civil society organizations and the media, so as to enable them to continue to be proactive in holding government accountable, as have been the case during the administration of Madam President.

We appreciate the positive role of all the presidential candidates who did not succeed during the 2017 presidential elections, and their supporters, who have shown by their peaceful disposition that Liberia continues on a course of peace and progress. Liberia’s democracy would be further enhanced by a strong opposition that will stay the course and continue to be constructively engaged with the government to ensure that the people’s business is done.

Ecowas Flags
ECOWAS Flags

We also thank the international community for the sustained engagement with Liberia since the end of the civil crises and the beginning of post-war reconstruction. The United Nations, Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), African Union (AU), European Union (EU), and also to mention major partners such as the United States and China, must be highly applauded for staying the course with Liberia. With continued and deepened engagement and support, as manifested by the involvement of the international community in bringing a peaceful end to the 2017 General and Presidential Elections, there is reason to be hopeful that Liberia would remain on a steady course of democracy and economic progress.

Indeed, while Liberia is faced with enormous challenges, progress has been made. Upon taking office in 2006, the Government of President Sirleaf inherited a country internationally backlisted and regarded as a failed state. Today, Liberia has continued on a path of reconstruction, and she enjoys an international status as one of the most respected countries among the comity of nations.

Considering the longstanding historical ties subsisting between Liberia and the United States, one of the notable foreign policy accomplishments of Madam President was the establishment of the U.S.-Liberia Partnership Dialogue in 2013. The first of its kind with the United States since Liberia’s establishment, the U.S.-Liberia Partnership Dialogue is the institutional framework for cooperation between both countries. In this light, irrespective of who is in the Executive Mansion in Monrovia or in the White House in Washington, D.C., there is an established institutional framework by which the relationship between both countries is governed.

Flag of the US
Flag of the US

Convened every two years on a rotational basis between Washington and Monrovia, the third round of the U.S.-Liberia Partnership Dialogue took place on January 10, 2017 in Washington to build on the special historical and bilateral ties between the two countries and to convene four working groups focused on:  Overcoming Challenges to Liberia’s Economy, Expanding Agriculture Production and Trade; Enhancing Liberia’s Investment and Infrastructure Climate; and Supporting Post Ebola Recovery and Health System Strengthening Efforts.

U.S. support for the rehabilitation of the Mt. Coffee Hydro is an example of what is being achieved under the U.S.-Liberia Bilateral Partnership Dialogue, which also covers energy or electric power and road development, as well as human development.

Following Ambassador Boakai’s historic concession statement in Monrovia on December 29, 2017, The White House Press Secretary in Washington issued a statement congratulating the Liberian people on the successful conclusion of the presidential run-off, and President-elect Weah on his victory. The White House statement also paid homage to Vice President Boakai for his “years of honorable service to Liberia.”

Noting that the election represents a major milestone for Liberia’s democracy, the White House statement concludes: “The United States is committed to our longstanding relationship with Liberia and its people. We will continue to support the success of this historic democratic transition and the peace and prosperity of Liberia.”

Liberian Voters At Rally Town Market jpg
Liberian Voters At Rally Town Market

Whenever there is a change in national leadership, people who are affected wonder what the change means for them; how is it going to affect the security and well-being of them and their families; how is the change going to positively or negatively impact their society or country as a whole.

As we all ponder the issues of what the new democratic change means for Liberia, I thought to contribute to the ongoing public discourse regarding how we can focus on building upon the gains that have been made to accelerate the process of development. I do so not unmindful that there are those who hold a contrary opinion, which is in keeping with the spirit of democracy.

For me, I see the glass half full, considering from whence we have come as a people and a nation.

Congratulations to President-elect Weah and Vice President-elect Jewel Howard-Taylor on your historic ascendency to our nation’s highest offices.

About the Author: Gabriel I.H. Williams is the Minister Counselor for Press and Public Affairs at the Embassy of Liberia near Washington, D.C. A journalist and author, he served as Deputy Minister for Public Affairs at the Ministry of Information, Culture and Tourism before taking up his current diplomatic assignment in the United States.

Eurasia Group 2018 Risks Group: Africa

The Eurasia Group has released its 2018 Top Risks Group which includes Africa. The following is an in-depth analysis for Africa.

Africa
Africa

THE “AFRICA RISING” NARRATIVE REMAINS APPEALING, but this year will face a new challenge. The continent’s core countries (Cote d’Ivoire, Nigeria, Kenya, and Ethiopia, among others) have recently demonstrated robust investment climates, and they’ve been generally sealed off from the troubles of the “periphery” (Mali, South Sudan, Somalia, etc.). But in 2018, negative spillover from Africa’s unstable periphery will increasingly spoil the continent’s success stories.

The threat lies in security risks: militancy and terrorism. The dangers posed by Al Shabaab in East Africa and Al Qaeda in West Africa are not new, but they’re set to intensify. Despite losing territory in 2017, Al Shabaab is still carrying out successful one-off surprise attacks and will look to more international targets in 2018. The Islamic State is likely to increase activity in West Africa and expand into East Africa as it is pushed from traditional strongholds in the Middle East.

Boko Haram Fighters
Boko Haram Fighters

Countries targeted by militancy and terrorism are more vulnerable than they’ve been in years, and external partners are less able to provide unified support.
Target countries are more vulnerable than they’ve been in years, and external partners are less able to mount a united front of support. Local actors in “core” countries are already suffering from weakened political capacity. Kenya’s government will focus on economic recovery after a prolonged election cycle. Nigeria enters an election season with uncertainty over its current leader’s health. South Africa faces internal political strife. Angola is busy with a fresh leadership transition. Mozambique is still struggling with a years-long debt scandal.

Foreign partners who have helped stabilize weak governments in the past are distracted. In the east, a preoccupied Europe has reduced its salary support for troops of the UN-mandated African Union Mission to Somalia operating in the Al Shabaab hotspot. Across the Sahel, the G5 counterterrorism partnership of Chad, Niger, Burkina Faso, Mali, and Mauritania plans to launch a 5,000-strong force in March 2018. But differences among France, the US, and UN officials will slow the necessary funding, leaving the region at risk, despite an injection of financial support from Saudi Arabia and the UAE.

The growing fragility of Africa’s top performers has several implications. Kenya, Nigeria, Uganda, and Ethiopia face increased security costs at a time when their governments need to reduce spending. A spike in attacks would also undermine foreign investment perceptions already shaken by the election-related violence in Kenya, a growing social protest movement in Ethiopia, and presidential succession uncertainties in Nigeria and Uganda.

Naira-The-Trent
Nairas

Foreign investors may see their assets directly targeted. Tourist and energy installations will be especially at risk. This will put downward pressure on FDI into the continent, leaving development reliant on limited local capital. And the pressure of security-related refugee flows—on countries in the region and in Europe—will not abate, creating a headache for policymakers on both sides of the Mediterranean.

About EURASIA GROUP: 

According to its website, the Eurasia Group says it connects geopolitics and business to provide valuable strategic and operational insights. Its combination of strategy consulting methodologies, deep industry sector coverage, and best-in-class country expertise is applied to areas including:

Risk-adjusted market assessment, market prioritization, and market entry planning

Political risk assessment and messaging strategy

M&A macro risk due diligence

Enterprise risk management & process design support

Strategic risk identification and monitoring

Source: The Eurasia Group

 

White House: Statement by the Press Secretary on the Presidential Election in Liberia

Issued December 29. 3017, Washington DC – The United States congratulates the people of Liberia on the successful conclusion of the presidential runoff election, and President-elect George Weah on his victory.  This is Liberia’s first peaceful transfer of power from one democratically elected head of state to another in decades, and represents a major milestone for Liberia’s democracy.

Liberia Electorates
Liberian Voters

The United States commends the National Elections Commission for administering an orderly election process.  We also recognize the important role Liberia’s Supreme Court, political parties, security forces, and civil society organizations played in holding a peaceful and transparent contest, and we welcome the statements by international and domestic observer missions affirming the conduct of the election.  We also thank Vice President Joseph Boakai for his positive campaign and years of honorable service to Liberia.

The United States is deeply committed to our longstanding relationship with Liberia and its people.  We will continue to support the success of this historic democratic transition and the peace and prosperity of Liberia.

West African Journal Magazine

 

Liberia: Presidential Transition Team Set Up

Monrovia, Liberia – December 27 2017:  In order to support the smooth transition of power, the Liberian President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf has issued an Executive Order  No. 91 which establishes the Joint Presidential Transition Team of 2017.

An Executive Mansion release copied to West African Journal Magazine on Thursday said,Whereas the Constitution and laws of Liberia do not provide the protocol and mechanisms for the orderly transfer of power from one democratically elected President to another democratically elected President”;

Executive Order No. 91 notes –Whereas Liberia has not experienced the transfer of power from one democratically elected President to another democratically elected President for over 70 years; whereas there is a need to develop appropriate protocol and mechanisms for the smooth transfer of power from one democratically elected President to another”; and

Photo of National Coat Of Arms of LiberiaThe Executive Order furthered whereas systems and mechanisms have to be put in place for the management and coordination of the transition of power from the incumbent President to the incoming President.

“Now therefore, I, Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, President of the Republic of Liberia, by virtue of the power and authority vested in me pursuant to Chapter Two, Article 5(c) of the Constitution of the Republic Liberia (1986), hereby issue this Executive Order to be called the Presidential Transition Executive Order”, the release said.

SECTION 1. PURPOSE

The purpose of this Executive Order is to establish mechanisms for the proper management and orderly transfer of executive power from this current administration to the incoming President.

Section 2. NAME AND COMPOSITION OF THE TRANSITION TEAM:

A Transition Team is hereby established to be called the Joint Presidential Transition Team (JPTT).

  1. Composition: The President of Liberia shall appoint fifteen (15) persons to the Joint Presidential Transition Team and they shall be as follows: 1) The Minister of State for Presidential Affairs; 2) The Minister of Justice; 3) The Minister of Foreign Affairs; 4) The Minister of Finance and Development Planning; 5) The Governor of the Central Bank of Liberia; 6) The Minister of Internal Affairs; 7) The Minister of National Defense; and 8) the Director of the Executive Protective Service; 9) The Minister of Information, Culture & Tourism; and others members to be appointed at the discretion of the incumbent President.
  2. The Director General of the Cabinet shall be the Secretary of the JPTT.
  3. The President-Elect shall appoint fifteen (15) persons to the JPTT, all of whom must be Liberian citizens. A sitting member of the Cabinet may be preferred. The President-Elect shall name his/her appointees to the JPTT not later than twenty-four (24) hours after the declaration of the President-Elect by the National Elections Commission (NEC).
  4. The President and the President-Elect shall be co-chairpersons of the JPTT. They may designate any member of the JPTT to act as a Co-Chairperson in their absence.
  5. Decisions of the JPTT shall be made by consensus and any disagreement shall be resolved by the President and President-Elect, acting jointly.

SECTION 3. DURATION:

The JPTT shall commence its functions and exercise the powers and authority granted by this Executive Order no later than forty-eight hours after the declaration of the President-Elect by the NEC. It shall cease to function after the publication of its Final Report which shall be no later than January 31, 2018.

SECTION 4. FUNCTIONS AND POWERS OF THE JPTT:

The following shall be the functions and powers of the JPTT:

  1. Formulate guidelines and policies to govern the transition;
  2. Ensure the provision of regular national security briefing for the President-Elect during the period commencing immediately upon the constitution of the JPTT by the incumbent President and the President-Elect;
  3. Ensure that every lawful step is taken to promote the orderly transition from the incumbent President to the President-Elect;
  4. Liaise with all government agencies to ensure the effective provision of services and facilities in pursuance of this Executive Order;

SECTION 5.MEETINGS AND REPORT OF THE JPTT

  1. The President shall call the first meeting of the JPTT within forty-eight (48) hours after the declaration of the President elect by the NEC.
  2. Every meeting of the JPTT, after its first meeting shall be convened by the President and the President-elect jointly, or their designees.

Section 6. FUNDING AND SUPPORT OF THE JOINT PRESIDENTIAL TRANSITION TEAM:

  1. Immediately upon constitution of the JPTT, the President shall authorize the reallocation of resources and assets to support its operations and the provisions contained herein.
  2. The appointees of the President to the JPTT, who are executive of the Liberian Government and receiving salaries and emoluments up to the end of the mandate of the JPTT, shall not be entitled to any additional compensation for their services.
  3. The appointees of the President and President-Elect to the JPTT, who are not public servants, shall be paid honorarium as shall be decided by the President and President-Elect.

SECTION 7. SERVICES TO BE PROVIDED TO THE PRESIDENT-ELECT AND VICE PRESIDENT-ELECT

The JPTT shall ensure that services are provided to the President-Elect and Vice President-Elect, which shall include office facilities, logistics, transportation, travel allowances, communication services, daily briefing and other services and benefits.

SECTION 8.SURRENDER OF ASSETS ANDSERVICES TO BE PROVIDED TO THE INCUMBENT PRESIDENT AND VICE PRESIDENT

The incumbent President and the Vice President shall vacate their official offices and official residences on or before Inauguration Day. Notwithstanding this provision, the JPTT shall ensure that services are provided to them which shall include, but not limited to, two vehicles and chauffeur each, VIP Protection (EPS and Police Services), logistics, allowances, other benefits and services to be determined by the JPTT.

SECTION 9. NON-TENURED PRESIDENTIAL APPOINTEES

Non-tenured presidential appointees shall be presumed to have resigned as of the date of inauguration. Notwithstanding, such officials shall continue to function until their successors have been nominated, confirmed, appointed and commissioned. This Executive Order shall take immediate effect.

Final results of the run-off elections are expected to he announced on December 29, according to the country’s electoral body. Preliminary results announced on Thursday indicate that Senator George Weah is on track to become the next President of Liberia.

West African Journal Magazine

Senator George Weah Leads In Provisional Results of Run-Off Election

Presidential Run-off Preliminary Results 2017   

Provisional results of Liberia’s run-off elections held Tuesday and announced by the country’s electoral body indicate that WEAH, George Manneh (CDC) HOWARD-TAYLOR, Jewel C. (CDC) Coalition for Democratic Change (CDC)-CDC, NPP & LPDP with 720,023 or 61.5% while incumbent Vice President BOAKAI, Joseph Nyuma (UP) NUQUAY, Emmanuel James (UP) Unity Party (UP) gained 451,088 or 38.5%.

Liberia
Liberia

This preliminary result represents 5,286 of 5,390 (98.1%) Polling Places Reporting.

It now appears Senator Weah is on track to be the next President of Liberia and succeed President Ellen Johnson Sirlead who has led the small African country for the last 12 years.

In the first round of voting held on October 10th, the ruling Unity Party (UP) led by incumbent Vice President Joseph Boakai gained 28.8% of the vote while the Congress for Democratic Change (CDC) of Senator George Weah collected 38.4%. As the two highest voter getters, they were eligible to contest the run-off elections.

Liberian Voters At Rally Town Market jpg
Liberian Voters At Rally Town Market

The second round of voting was delayed due to legal challenges filed against the conduct of the process by the third place winner in the first round – the Liberty Party(LP) which cited “fraud and irregularities”. Following an investigation by the National Elections Commission (NEC) the LP’s claims were dismissed. A second challenge by the ruling UP to delay the run-off was over ruled by the country’s high court. An estimated two million Liberians were eligible to vote. However, voter turn-out was low across the country.

International observers say the polls were better organized than the first round in October with no major issues. According to the electoral body, a woman who attempted to vote twice was caught and turned over to police. The head of the regional economic grouping ECOWAS observation mission and former President of Ghana John Mahama described the conduct of the run-off elections as “free and fair.” The UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres has welcomed the peaceful vote in the country.

The new President will be inaugurated in January, in line with the country’s Constitution and serve a six-year term.

West African Journal Magazine

 

Former President Obasanjo Leads UN Support-Mediation Team To Liberia

27 December 2017 –

UPDATE: Liberia’s National Election Commission (NEC) says it will begin the release of provisional results of Tuesday’s run-off elections on Thursday, according to a statement issued in Monrovia on Wednesday.

Meantime, former Nigerian President Olusegun Obasanjo has been tipped by the Secretary General of the United Nations to lead support of the first peaceful transfer of power in Liberia.

UN Sec Gen Antonio Guterres
UN Sec Gen Antonio Guterres

According to a statement issued Wednesday by a spokeperson for the UN Secretary, “The Secretary-General hopes that the will of the Liberian electorate will be respected and that a seamless transfer power will take place within constitutional timelines,” and welcomed the peaceful conduct of elections in Liberia.

Former President Obasanjo will travel to the Liberian capital Monrovia on Thursday, on the request of Secretary General Antonio Guterres.

Political Subdivision Map of Liberia
Political Subdivision Map of Liberia

Vote counting is underway in Liberia following run-off election held on Tuesday to decide who will succeed President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf. Incumbent ice-President Joseph Boakai and former international football icon turned Senator George Weah participated as candidates in the run-off elections. Nearly two million Liberians were eligible to vote in the second round of voting but reports say turnout was low across the country.

The former Nigerian leader Obasanjo serves as a mediation advisor to the UN Secretary General and has been involved in such efforts in several African counties including Namibia, Angola, South Africa, Burundi and Mozambique.

West African Journal Magazine

Counting Underway Following Run-Off Elections in Liberia

Counting is underway in the west African country of Liberia following voting in crucial run off elections on Tuesday.

Political Subdivision Map of Liberia
Political Subdivision Map of Liberia

The winner will replace two-term incumbent and Nobel Peace Laureate Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf.

Contestants are incumbent Vice President of the ruling Unity Party (UP) Joseph Boakai and former international football star turned Senator George Weah of the Coalition for Democratic Change (CDC)

Both candidates cast their votes earlier on Tuesday and each said they were confident of winning. President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf voted in Bomi County, her hometown.

Liberians Waiting To Vote
File Photo of Liberians Waiting To Vote

The polls are being observed by local and international organizations and community who, late on Tuesday, said the polls were better organized than the first round. The voting passed of peacefully. across the country.

The BBC reports that turn out was relatively low compared to the first round on October 10th. Nearly two million Liberians were eligible to vote in the run-off which will see the peaceful transfer of state power in over 70 years..

The country’s electoral body is expected to announced the results later this week, The new President will be inaugurated in January.

West African Journal Magazine