Gbarnga, Bong County – Followers of recent developments in Bong County politics can easily discern that the Kpelle people are divided between the Liberty Party and the ruling Unity Party.
The wave of endorsements chiefs of the county have bestowed on Charles Brumskine and the Liberty Party as well as vice President Joseph Boakai and his party are enough to allude how citizens are currently enmeshed in the state of the dilemma ahead of 2017. It was first believed that the establishment of the Kpelle-driven People Unification Party (PUP) would have united citizens of the county ahead of 2017, but in earnest, as things stand the party appears to have shot itself in the leg due to entrenched division amongst elites of the party from Bong County. The Bong County factor in 2017 In the political equation and as far as election is concerned in Liberia, Bong County holds the third highest voting strength after Montserrado and Nimba. Hence, no serious presidential candidate will jettison what is likely to play out in the two counties. The politics in Bong County has since the 2011 elections taken a new dimension. If Vice President Boakai and the Unity Party must therefore make a telling impact in the 2017 elections, the votes from Bong will be one of the deciding factors. Aware of this fact, and in a swift move to secure the support of the Kpelle people, Vice President Boakai recently stormed Gbarnga in a journey that took him to three prominent individuals including the aging paramount chief Flomo Barworlor, Pastor James Paye of the Christ Vision International Church and Dr. Henrique Tokpa. Boakai’s carrot To those following the political trend, Boakai’s recent visit to Bong County appeared to be the first phase of other planned visits to the county and a quest to appease the people. It is also a testimony, according to political observers in the county, that the Liberian vice president is not a political neophyte as many thought. Though one of the individuals who the vice president visited had denied that Boakai’s visit to him had political coloration, the Liberian vice president during his visit to an appreciation program held by former senatorial candidate of Bong and Internal Affair Minister Dr. Henrique Flomo Tokpa fuelled speculations that the die had been cast for a Boakai-Tokpa presidential ticket. “I thank the people of Bong County for the support you gave Dr. Tokpa during the 2014 senatorial election. I have come to reciprocate the gesture with the hope that things will continue well. We are one. I remain your own.” Since then, the aura of confidence oozing from citizens of Bong County suggests that the county is on the brink of having a vice president in Tokpa due to his recent proximity with Boakai. The Bong Chapter of the Movement to Suport Boakai (NAMBO) appears to be putting its house in order in a campaign which it tagged ‘Operation Capture Bong in 2017’, charging citizens of the county to use their votes to displace the “inept opposition” in the 2017 polls. In the same vein, Bong County Inspector William Kollie had been singing it loud and clear that the Unity Party is battle-ready to claim Bong County in 2017. Kollie told FrontPage Africa Monday via mobile phone that “By the special grace of God, UP will storm Bong County again. I don’t believe that the opposition has got the grip of the county; they can only have a grip if we in the UP do not have unity among us. If you look at the county which we won narrowly, you would realise that we paid dearly for lack of unity within our party. If you add up all the votes of those that worked against the interest of our party with what we scored, you would realise that we would have won Bong County.” Kollie said the UP in Bong County is already aligning itself with people-centred candidates who would return the party to winning ways. ‘UP’s boast laughable’ In a swift response, the Chairman of the Liberty Party in Bong County has dismissed the boasts by the UP, saying the party cannot reclaim power in any of the districts in Bong County. He said the Liberty Party was more than prepared than it was before the 2011 elections to face whatever opposition the UP brings along. “We have always been prepared because our works are there for all to see. That is what we are capitalising on. Our works will surely speak for us and we expect that we should be rewarded.” According to pundits, the forthcoming election will indeed require Vice President Boakai and the UP to pull up their sleeves to achieve the ‘impossible’, as he intends to garner the needed 25 per cent of votes in Bong County. If Boakai eventually emerges as the UP flag-bearer, he would need to evolve a workable arrangement to achieve that feat in the county. Liberty Party influence grows in Bong The primary allegation for the quest for change in Bong County has remained that the UP, has been unable to resolve, satisfactorily, the deep feeling of marginalisation amongst the people. Even the People’s Unification Party, which many of the people saw as their own, had been stalled by continuous internal crises and intrigues, thus leaving the county largely naked, politically. Given this reality, a majority of Bongese (citizens of Bong County), especially those dissatisfied with the status quo, say they see the LP as the long awaited opportunity for political deliverance.
Besides the people’s dissatisfaction with the status quo and the need for a more viable change, FrontPage Africa investigation shows that the growing influence of LP in the geo- political district of the county is also attributable to the influence and acceptability of most of the politicians that are now leading the party in the county. In most of the districts in Bong County, LP seems to have a lot of political figures, who are comparatively adjudged, by citizens, as both progressives. This, according to Ma Nawah Gorlormator, a community leader and politician in Sanoyea district, “has helped the party to enjoy instant popularity and acceptability here,” she said. Salala District Leading the LP in Salala and other parts of electoral district six today is Silas Tokpa. Tokpa has remained steadfast in the political process of the party in the district. Apart from Tokpa, there are also other political heavyweights in the district, whose association with LP has served as a major boost for the party in the county. One person is Lee Rogers of Salala, who recently decamped to the party in a grand style and with many supporters, put by some report, as numbering over 2,500. Jorquelleh District In Jorquelleh district, Mr. Jarpah Tokpa, a renowed entrepreneur in Gbarnga, is the leading force of the party in the district. To concretise his reputation, Tokpa was recently petitioned by citizens of the district to contest, which according to analysts gave a good account of himself as a people’s leader and a firm believer in provision of dividends of democracy. As various political parties commence preparation for the 2017 legislative elections, finding by FrontPage Africa is that the image has continued to pay off for Tokpa, as many of his admirers, including some still within the Unity Party, are daily signifying interest to join him in the Liberty Party. With these coordinated moves to ensure victory for APC in Bong County, it remains to be seen how far the new party can go. Considering the way the party has been received so far, it may not be a difficult task to claim the county. It all depends on how the Unity Party and others will respond to the challenge in the county.