Thursday, November 15, 2007

The possible consequences of the electoral battle in Gbarpolu County by-election

On December 4th 2007, the Gbarpolu County by-election is scheduled to take place. Voter’s registration is all set and ready for the elections. Gbarpolu County was created under the leadership of former Liberian dictator “Charles Taylor” in 2001. Gbarpolu County Capital “Bopolu” was the historic headquarter of the Condo Kingdom which secured the establishment of Liberia as a nation state. Gbarpolu County has a huge number of Muslim populations. The Qua speaking are the dominant ethnic group in the County. Gbarpolu was formerly a very important part of Lofa County, Gbarpolu is known for it dense forest and wildlife collection. The County is economically known for it logging, mining, and agricultural contributions to Liberia.

In this analysis, I will be looking at various candidates and the possible consequences of the electoral battle of Gbarpolu County. I will also be drawing out an in-depth analysis of electoral forces and their orientations in the county.
The electoral race in Gbarpolu will be a titanic struggle between Unity Party Theodore Momo, Congress for Democratic Change Malikee Dukely, independent Kanie Wesso, National Patriotic Party’s Siafa V.G Konneh, and former Lofa County senator Armah Zulu Jallah. Mr. Jallah also ran as standard bearer of the National Party of Liberia (NPL) in the 2005 presidential elections. His NPL won 0.4% vote in the presidential pull and fail to secure or win any seats in the senate or lower house. This by-election will be an important millstone in the current development and political crisis in the newly created county. If Former Senator Armah Zulu Jallah Wins, he will cement his position as the logging company’s choice. Since the 2005 presidential and parliamentary elections, Armah and his National Party of Liberia (NPL) have been very dormant. It was reported in the November 16, 2007 edition of the Liberian daily observer that Armah Jallah is contesting the by-election as an independent candidate. The unanswered questions are; is Armahs’ National Party of Liberia un-acceptable to the people of Gbarpolu? Why would Mr. Jallah abandon the political party “he formed” to run as independent candidate? Is Mr. Jallah the only member of the party?

Many have viewed Armah as a photo copy of his father (Paramount Chief Jallah Lone) who has always been in search of greasing his elbow. During the Notorious Charles Taylor regime, Chief Jallah Lone was seen as one of the bones behind the regime. A year after the 2005 elections that brought the Unity Party to power, Jallah Lone appeared on Star radio to divorce his relationship with Former President Charles Taylor. When asked who crowned Charles Taylor as Dahkpannah, the Paramount Chief overtly announced that Charles Taylor hijacks the Dahkpannah title and now that the former president is indicted and deposited in The Hague, he (Jallon lone) script Taylor of the title and is now the holder of the title.
Meanwhile, if Unity Party Theodore Momo wins, this will start the disintegration of Armah Jallah, Jallah Lone and former Lofa County senator Eddington Varmah’s political influence and clout, and the emergence of alternative leadership in Gbarpolu County. Armah Jallah, Jallon Lone and Eddington Varmah, the three, while differing in personality, share the same beast-men-ship temperament and tyrannical thirst for power.

However, Armah Jallah and Eddington Varmah share additional flow, “a propensity to pocket what belongs to the public”. Their chief political vulnerability is that all three men (Armah Jallah, Jallah Lone & Eddington Varmah) greedily pursue personal fortune, and has no qualms about using their public clouts to pursue wealth for beyond anything which might be called their needs or want. Events recently caught up with former Senator Eddington Varmah who was politically dumped in his home town “Bopolu” during the Unity Party primary. Mr. Varmah was fairly whipped by Theodore Momo.
The steaks are very high and the battle in this by-election has an ominous feel about it. Some analysts are predicting that a compromise maybe reached at the end of the first round. The Armah Jallah group will preferred to hang on a Malikee Dukuly leadership than to hang on a Theodore Momo leadership. Armah Jallah can easily relate to Malikee Dukuly than Theodore Momo or Kanie Wesso. To date, according to reliable sources closed to the National Elections Commission in Liberia, there are 22,502 registered voters in Gbarpolu County. Of the amount, a huge percent is from electoral District #3. That part of Gbarpolu is headed by Representative Dickson Temo Yarsiah. Gbarpolu County Junior Senator Daniel Naatehn is also from District #3. Both Hon. Naatehn and Hon. Yarsiah are driving the “Theodore Momo campaign wagons” in their constituent which is believed to be hosting the majority of the by-election’s registered voters in Gbarpolu County.

Cllr. Kanie Wesso is another candidate from District #3 and is going as Independent candidate. Cllr. Wesso “according to sources from Gbarpolu”, lost terribly during the 2005 presidential and parliamentary elections. According to the sources, Cllr. Kanie Wesso won less than twenty votes in Bopolu and Gbarma. Prior to the 2005 elections, people from Cllr. Kanie Weso’s home District (Belle District) complained about his disassociation with his own people. He was described by one colleague as “very self centered”. The colleague cited few examples: “look! We all went to Belle Yalla when President Sirleaf visited the place. On our way back, Cllr. Kanie Wesso drove his car empty while our elders walk days looking for means of transportation to Monrovia. Will this gentleman be a true representative of our people”? On another occasion, some youths from the district went to his (Cllr. Weso’s) office to try to find out his side of the political issues between him “Cllr. Weso” and Hon. Dickson Yarsiah. Kanie again arrogantly drove the youths out of his office and threaten to whip anyone found in his office to talk about such issue”. Keenly analyze those two instances and tell me weather we “from his own district” should queue up for him.

In the U.S., this author has been fortunate to talk to few people from the Belle District residing in the U.S. The responses from some of the people were reverberating. One of his former school mates narrated. “I called Cllr. Kanie Wesso when I had some legal problems that I needed help with in Liberia. I mainly called him because I felt he’s from my District, my former school mate and even a family to me, but surprisingly, he charged me exorbitantly and was “above all” very rude in the process, I believed he’s not the right person for this job”.
Many believed Cllr. Kanie Wesso has been undertaking development projects in the District only because he was badly whipped in the 2005 elections in which he was running as Senator. The 2005 electoral shuffle is one of the latest changes in the history of Liberia. People who considered themselves as “political brand names” were disappointed when the elections results were announced. During those results, three major things happened: People were surprised their names were not in the winning numbers, people were surprised who won & people were surprised why they didn’t win. Liberians are now getting to know the real patriots from the political opportunists.

During the Unity Party primary in Bopolu, Bartu Dorley was one of those whipped by Theo Momo. Batu’s trouble started during the1997 elections. Bartu Dorley, a close relative of Cllr. Varmah, had spent time out of her home County of Gbarpolu and hardly knew anyone in the county. She contacted Cllr Varmah in search of advice and reunion with her origin. Bartu put a package together for her people in Bopolu. She asked Cllr. Varmah to take the token to her people and inform them that it was a gift from their daughter “Bartu”. A perfect case for a chameleon; Cllr.Varmah transformed himself into Bartu Dorley and presented the token in his own name. When Batu appeared in Bopolu to talk to her people, she was considered a complete stranger. Batu is a very hard working lady but she unfortunately used the wrong medium of contact or reunion with her people. What she probably needs to do now is to work independently to prepare her self for the next general parliamentary elections. Her withdrawal from this by-election race was a very smart one.

There is also rumor of withdrawal of Coalition for the transformation of Liberia’s (COTOL’s) Isaac Manner from the race. In a recent Front Page Africa grade board, COTOL scored a “B”, but others referred to the party as “empty place”. COTOL won 7.8% in the presidential race and secured eight seats in the Senate and seven seats in the House of Representatives. Manner’s reason(s) or plans to drop from the race are still not known but if he does, he will be putting Unity Partys’ Theodore Momo, CDCs’ Malikee Dukuly at the top.

Not much is known about Isaac Johnson. Recently during a workshop in Bopolu, Johnson ‘along with other candidates’ was asked by Gbarpolu County development Superintendent “Mr. Monlonporlor” to remove their campaign vehicles that were packed on Government property in Bopolu. Isaac Johnson cried fetid political harassment by the superintendent but observers says Mr. Johnson is not even the fourth potential person in line for the job.

Unity Party Theodore Momo has built an extraordinary reputation for himself and his party over the years. Theo “a graduate of the University of Liberia” is currently the deputy director of the Liberia Broadcasting System (LBS). Sources closed to the Unity Party hierarchy says Mr. Momo is highly favored by President Sirleaf for his hard work and clean Character. With his campaign team being headed by District #3 representative, Hon. Dickson T. Yarsiah and Gbarpolu County junior Senator Daniel Naatahn “whose also from District #3”, Theodore Momo stands a better chance than all of the candidates in the race.

Congress for Democratic Changes’ Malikee Dukuly is observed by many as “the second potential person in line for the job”. Malikee is from Medina, a Town few miles south of Bopolu City. Malikee Dukuly, Armah Jallah & politically battered ‘Cllr. Eddington Varmah’ are all from the same environs but are politically diverse. In 1998, Cllr. Eddington Varmah unceremoniously walked away from his elected senatorial position to take on a presidential appointment under his political mentor and creator Charles Taylor”. The price he’s eventually paying for his unpopular 1998 political decision is just unimaginable.
Cllr. Varmah’s replacement process started few months after his unceremonious departure from the Senate. In that 1998 primary held in Bopolu, Armah Zulu Jallah was fairly whipped by Gibson Tania but that defeat lasted for few hours. Armah’s father “Paramount Chief Jallah Lone” dispatched a team to Cyril Allen. Allen served as the Party Chairman of the ruling National Patriotic Party at the time. The team was well prepared to kick Gibson Tania out of the race. An identity card was covertly made with Gibson Tania’s photograph, making him “Tania” a member of Alhaji Koroma’s ALCOP. When NPP’s Cyril Allen received report on his desk about Gibson Tania contesting the election under false identity, he “Mr. Tania” was immediately thrown out of the race, putting Armah Jallah in the luxury seat at ease. Jallah Lone’s action was just a repeat of his usual ways. It can be recorded that Jallah Lone was whipped several time in election in Bopolu. In one of those elections, Jallah Lone went against the Late Malikee Siryon. At the time, voters queued behind their choice of candidate and a head count was conducted to determine the winner. Malikee Siryon whipped Jallah Lone several time but Jallah Lone went to Monrovia and returned with Presidential mandate “declaring him the legitimate winner of the election”. Malikee Siryon won several time but was never inaugurated in office.

Armah entered the Upper house but was soon found collecting money from investors that were expressing interest in logging in Gbarpolu County. In mid August of 2003, Charles Taylor was coerced into exile. After his departure, the National Transitional Legislative Assembly ( NTLA) was created as part of an August 2003 Peace Agreement that ended a civil war between the government forces of Charles Taylor and two rebel groups: The Movement for Democracy in Liberia (MODEL), and Liberians United for reconciliation and Democracy (LURD). The agreement also called for the broad-based transitional Government that would rule for two years, ending with the holding of elections in October 2005. The NTLA replaced the bicameral Legislature, which was elected in 1997. That agreement automatically took away Armah’s ax.

Since the departure of their creator “former Dahkpannah”, they have been hunted by the stigma of their political mentor “Charles Taylor”. Armah is likely to pay the price for his past actions and connection to the NPP regime.
During the 2005 presidential and parliamentary elections, Siafa V.G. Konneh Sr ran on the National Patriotic Party’s (NPP) ticket but was electorally manhandled by his opponents.
In the November 16, 2007 edition of the Daily Observer, reporter J. Rufus Paul reported that the Gbarpolu by-election campaign is in high gear and voters are eyeing three candidates. Looking at the number of voters’ registered in Gbarpolu, Bopolu is not a place to determine who the possible choice of the voters is. Armah Jallah and Malikee Dukuly are all from suburban Bopolu so residents of the area are quite familiar with them. As the old saying goes, “the strength of Tamba is limited to Foya”, so Armah, Malikee, and Siafa need to expand their campaign else where to test their popularity.
Secret ballot election is quite deceitful. Because of politicians tricky games in the past, electorates are all prepared to clap for anyone who offered something in return for votes but the real price will be awarded at the ballot box.
With the crammed full electoral field in Gbarpolu, first round winner is just unavoidable. With this predications and analysis, I anxiously wait for the first round results.

Sam K Zinnah
Smyrna, Delaware


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