Monrovia – Two important developments in the last 24 hours may have offered the first hint in months that there may be some breakthrough in recent efforts by regional West African leaders and local stakeholders to initiate a peace pipe between departing Liberian President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf and her vice president and standard bearer of the ruling Unity Party, Joseph Boakai.
Ruling Party standard bearer’s omitted paragraph dampens peace pipe effort as departing leader breaks ranks with Education Minister’s social media rants
On Monday, Mr. Robert Kpadeh, Secretary General of the National Movement to Support Boakai (NAMBO) posted a version of a speech VP Boakai delivered on Monday following his return from Dakar, Senegal where he had been summoned by Senegalese President, Macky Sall, that spoke to the heart of the conflict between President Sirleaf and the man who has been by her side the last twelve years.
The version, partially different from the one Mr. Boakai delivered at his news conference Monday raised some thorny issues that has been lingering between the pair.
Development 1: The Boakai Omission
In the portion of the speech omitted from what Boakai delivered to the press, and later taken down from Facebook by Mr. Kpadeh, the vice president made it clear that President Sirleaf has not been supportive of his campaign.
The version reads:
While I will always remain loyal to the President, my love for our country and its people has made it imperative that I clarify certain impressions that have persisted during the 2017 Campaign process.
Given that I have served faithfully and loyally as Vice President to President Sirleaf coupled with the fact that I now serve as Standard Bearer of the Unity Party (UP), the obvious and natural assumption would be that enjoy her fullest support in this process.
Fellow Liberians, contrary to the assumption and expectations since the start of the formal campaign process for the 2017 presidential and representative, neither my campaign nor the Standard Bearer Emeritus - all attempts by me or individual operating upon my instructions to extend a hand of cooperation to the Standard Bearer Emeritus have yielded little or no success.
Instead, the Standard Bearer Emeritus is on record for making statements to the international media that, wittingly or unwittingly, have the net effect of detracting from our quest for the presidency.
What is even more concerning is not the fact that the Standard Bearer Emeritus is not the fact that the Standard Bearer Emeritus is not supporting us, but we have received disconcerting and credible information from multiple sources even within the opposition political parties that the Standard Bearer Emeritus and individuals close to her and operating under her instructions are in fact giving multiple forms of support to our main opponent in the presidential race, the coalition for democratic change. It is strange and ironic that some of the very individuals whose performances while in government left a bad impression on the minds of the Liberian people would jump ship to the opposition CDC and be urging CDC operatives to hammer the Unity Party for ‘failing the people’
Interestingly and sadly, the excesses of those individuals, whilst in leadership within this very government are the liabilities being borne by the unity party today.
Joseph Nyuma Boakai has been working for the interest of the Liberian people over forty years in public and private sectors, upholding the tenets of integrity, honesty and love for country. However, it is those new opposition financiers and strategies who failed the people that are now wanting to hold on to power through the back doors of the guise of bringing change.
I can assure all of you, my countrymen and women that the real change you yearn for will come under my Presidency, not the presidency of those who are committed to continuing on paths that failed our people before mortgaging their political institution.
In spite of these and many other challenges that have been thrown our way, this is not the first time Mr. Boakai has expressed his outrage over what he feels is the lack of support from President Sirleaf.
Mr. Boakai had previously suggested that the President was quietly supporting the opposition Liberty Party, a charge both the executive mansion and that party’s standard bearer, Cllr. Charles Walker Brumskine have denied.
Boakai, according to sources, was reportedly outraged at Kpadeh for posting the version on Facebook while giving the edited version to some media houses.
A Presidential aide confirmed to FrontPageAfrica Tuesday that the President had read both versions and was not so please about what was said about her.
“The President has done a lot for the Vice President’s campaign. Not sure why the party is accusing her falsely; I won’t lie, she is disappointed,” said the source, speaking on condition of anonymity Tuesday.
Boakai’s anger comes amid efforts by the regional body ECOWAS to bring both Sirleaf and Boakai to some kind of agreement in the waning days of the presidential campaign season.
Boakai was summoned to Dakar on Sunday by the Senegalese President, who also summoned Liberty Party’s Charles Walker Brumskine on Monday for dialogue aimed at ensuring a peaceful end to the ongoing election season.
Brumskine has accused the National Elections Commission of masterminding a massive fraud of the ongoing electoral process and is pushing for the run-off to be called off.
“There has been massive fraud, gross irregularities, violation of the Constitution of Liberia, election laws and other laws of our country.“
“It is such a sad thing for us as Liberians, thousands and thousands of Liberians have been denied their constitutional rights to vote. They went to polling places, only to be told that that’s not where they should vote. They stood on lines for hours, only to realize that there were no queue controllers and that they were on the wrong lines.”
In only a matter of months, Brumskine, who has been struggling to brush off the label that he and his party were regime collaborators, a charge now being branded on the CDC, appears to now be one of the main protagonists in this familiar play made famous by Weah and the CDC in the past two elections.
Although Benoni Urey’s All Liberian Party and Alexander Cummings’ Alternative National Congress are also raising issues, it is Brumskine who has taken the lead role in pointing out holes on major problems with the first round of the elections.
The Liberty Party’s standard bearer took aim at Sirleaf while addressing partisans Monday: “Our country is in trouble, we will however not allow this country to go back into chaos, we must pursue the rule of law and conduct ourselves in an orderly manner. Ellen Johnson Sirleaf has done what she could do and she’s not the only Liberian who can manage this country and we will prove that to her.”
Development II: Blogging Minister Shut Down
Amid the twist and turns in the backdrop of the beef has been the rantings of Sirleaf’s education minister George Werner, who in the past few months has not hidden his disgust with Boakai and the ruling party.
Werner is part of a small group of current and former officials that include Commerce Minister Axel Addy, former Finance Minister Amara Konneh, who are said to still be loyal to Sirleaf and unhappy with some officials who in recent weeks have taken to social media to take her to task, now that they are closer to the Boakai camp.
The feud between Sirleaf and Boakai has divided the government with several officials splitting loyalties between Boakai and Sirleaf and openly displaying their solidarities on social media.
Sirleaf’s decision to chastise her education minister is seen by some aides as a sign of appeasement in the wake of efforts by regional stakeholders to end the impasse between the Sirleaf and Boakai.
Before his latest post, expressing his support for the CDC and its vice standard bearer, Senator Jewel Howard Taylor, Werner struck nerves when he appear to be offering a lifeline for Weah’s absence from the first presidential debate.
Werner wrote: “What's the purpose of political debates in Liberia, and who are the debates for? Where's the evidence that a candidate became president in Liberia because s/he was a great debater?
Let those who manage the candidates advise them to campaign to their strengths. Don't debate if it isn't your strength.”
“There are many other ways to articulate your platform or vision for the country.
“The debates could be a setup by the meritocratic elite (for the elite) to show how educated and knowledgeable they are. It's been an essential part of Liberian history, of exclusion even, to eliminate the perceived uneducated through "book" talk. Read between the lines and see the edited videos of Weah's speeches on social media.
“Da book talk we'll eat? For those who are surprised by this post, I haven't changed my views since 2004.”
Quietly, several of Boakai’s aides have in recent weeks, expressed outraged at the President for ignoring Werner’s posts against the vice president.
Equally, aides to President Sirleaf have cited social media posts by aides to Boakai accusing her of not supporting his presidential bid and alleging that she is supporting the CDC.
It is against the backdrop that many were taken aback Tuesday when Sirleaf instructed Minister Werner to desist from attacking Boakai on social media, slamming the minister for statements on Social Media which are unbecoming and inconsistent with his position as a senior official of government.
An Executive Mansion release Tuesday said the President made the statement on Monday during a conversation with the Education Minister during which she, indicated further that the Minister’s social media statement is also a contradiction to and undermines her recent Special Statement on vulgarity, abuse and spread of hate messages by some Liberians during the Electoral process.
The President concluded by accordingly warning Minister George Werner and all other officials of government to stop such attitude and act in ways consistent with their status as public officials. An Uncertain Climax
Mr. Boakai’s reported anger at Mr. Kpadeh for posting the uncut speech on Facebook and Sirleaf finally breaking ranks against her education minister may be the silver lining regional leaders including former Nigerian President Olesegun Obasanjo, Ivorian President Alhassan Outttara and local stakeholders and clergy have been quietly pursuing for months, an end to the unspoken beef between the two.
But even amid what is a clear sign of a possible peace pipe, Sirleaf’s aides remain baffled that much of what she has been doing for Boakai in the months leading to his campaign has not been appreciated by the ruling party and his supporters.
The President was said to have been particularly disappointed when the party’s former chair, Cllr. H. Varney Sherman took her to task for suggesting that the party did not need her support. “In 2014 she did not support me when I was contesting in Cape Mount to become Senator, but yet I won by 60% and more, so it’s possible that Joe Boakai could win by more than 60 percent. I cannot confirm or deny whether she supports the Party”.
It is no secret within diplomatic and domestic circles that the lingering feud between Boakai and Sirleaf has hurt the candidacy of the ruling party in this year’s election. Funds have been slowed and perceptions about support for rival parties have only added more fire to the wave of mounting speculations that appear unlikely to go away anytime soon.
For the immediate future, as Liberians prepare for the crucial run-off elections, regional leaders and many within the ruling party are still hopeful that Sirleaf will come around, hopeful that the pair, Sirleaf once pledge would retire into the sunset together, after their second term ends, may rekindle the sparks of 2005 and 2011.
For the foreseeable future however, the results of the upcoming run-off and pending legal woes over alleged election irregularities, could provide a gauging point to see how badly the beef has hurt the ruling party’s chances of retaining state power - or how quickly the late stitch by regional leaders could save a ruling party, tinkering on the brinks of a lame duck window and eclipsed by a souring beef, mired in denials and uncertainty.