Introduction: Sungbeh, the web publisher of the Atlanta based Liberian Dialogue in this piece gives his analysis on the candidates in the upcoming Liberian elections. The polls are being hotly contested, and should serve as a bench mark on how far Liberia has come since the last 2005 elections. A peaceful and successful electioneering process free of violence and seen as fair should solidify democracy and transition the country well from war to peace, say analysts.
The Liberian people are gearing up for what appears to be a highly contested presidential election scheduled for October 11, 2011. In the race is the incumbent, President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf and hordes of other candidates who want to replace her.
Almost six years ago, the Liberian people, in the wake of a senseless civil war trusted and elected the tough-talking Ellen Johnson Sirleaf to lead the nation, and made history by becoming the continent’s first ever female democratically elected president.
The president’s tenure has been a mixed bag of ups and downs depending on how one feels about her politics and the direction in which she’s taking the country. This year, there are 16 presidential candidates far less than what it was in 2005 when 40 presidential candidates ran for the highest office of the land.
This year’s list is a diverse one comprised of the former warlord, Prince Y. Johnson whom many believe should be in prison right now and shouldn't be running for president for his deadly role in the Liberian civil war.
There is no way I can get to all the presidential candidates since they are too many. However, in this report, I will focus only on the few major candidates whom most Liberians believe have a slim chance, no chance or a good chance of winning in October. Below are the candidates.
Ellen Johnson Sirleaf
Age: 72 - Incumbent
Marital Status: Unmarried
Respected internationally where she once worked for years in the financial sector. Strong financial background; and worked hard to reduce or eliminate Liberia’s foreign debt. Ellen Johnson Sirleaf is strong-willed, tested both as a political prisoner, presidential candidate, and as president. The president’s tenure has given Liberia international respect and recognition in most international circles. Another thing: The Liberian nation has enjoyed peace and stability during the nearly six years she has been president.
Ellen Johnson Sirleaf is a tireless campaigner with a strong political base both in Liberia and in the Diaspora. Unlike some of the presidential candidates who are dirt poor and cannot raise funds, Ellen is well funded and can go all the way with her own money or the state’s funds (as is the case with most Liberian presidents) to stay in power.
President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf has been haunted by her war past, her financial support of the civil war, her alliance with Charles Taylor, and the incendiary wartime remarks she made about burning down and rebuilding Monrovia. She has since dissociated herself from those remarks and from Charles Taylor, and has also apologized publicly.
Another issue: President Sirleaf is among a long list of former warlords and financiers of the civil war who are barred by the TRC from running for political office for 30 years. The president has since ignored the TRC report, which has become an albatross around her neck, and has opted to run for another term. Why appoint a Truth and Reconciliation Commission whose opinion you will not honor? Some see President Sirleaf as legally unqualified to run for public office.
Ellen Johnson Sirleaf is a frequent flyer who is always out of the country running after the nation’s business when there are appropriate and qualified appointed officials who could have done the job she has been constantly traveling abroad to do. There is no accountability and transparency in her administration. Corruption is rampant. Crime, and especially armed robbery is on the rise. Unemployment is high, 85%. 80% of the population is below the poverty line. There are little or no jobs in Liberia. Opportunities are zero. There is no law and order in the country where government officials can beat or send an innocent Liberian to jail for asking questions.
Healthcare is unaffordable as treatable diseases such as hypertension and diabetes are killing Liberians in record numbers. Education is unaffordable and still hasn't reached the level of the past when Liberian students could compete with students elsewhere.
President Sirleaf is vulnerable politically. The August 23 referendum, which was clearly defeated at the polls and was promoted by the president exposed that vulnerability. However, can Ellen Johnson Sirleaf win in October? Yes, she can unless the unexpected happens.
She has name recognition, enough money to campaign across the country, and the bully pulpit of the presidency to promote her interests and causes. Ellen is expected to win because the presidential candidates are terribly disorganized, opportunistic, not credible, and lack the message that resonates with the Liberian people. So far, the only message the opposition politicians have is their unanimous call to unseat her.
Dew Tuan Wleh Mayson
Former College Professor & Ambassador
Marital Status: Married
Dew Tuan Wleh Mayson made his name in the late 70s and early 80s when he and like-minded progressive college professors and political activists organized and agitated a popular rebellion that is credited with toppling the entrenched Americo-Liberian ruling dynasty. Mayson also has name recognition among university students and the elitist intellectual base.
After the popular uprising that catapulted him to fame faded away, Dew Mayson found employment with the unpopular dictator Samuel Kanyon Doe, whom he served from 1980-1983 as Chairman of the National Investment Commission (NIC).
Mayson also served as Samuel Kanyon Doe’s Ambassador to France from 1983-1985. Dew Mayson helped to overthrow one dictator, President William R. Tolbert Jr, and later worked for another, President Samuel Kanyon Doe.
After serving in the Doe administration, Mayson was missing in action from the political scene for a while. However, it is alleged that he was involved in the sale of arms, and was a close associate of Dutch arms dealer, Gus Kouwenhoven. It is widely believed that Dew Mayson is a millionaire – the first in Liberia. How did he acquire that wealth? You make the call. Once a key supporter of President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, it is believed Mayson fell out with Ellen when the president did not offer him the job as Foreign Minister.
Dew Tuan Wleh Mayson seemed politically opportunistic when he joined a coalition – the National Democratic Coalition (NDC), comprised of the deadly National Patriotic Party (NPP) of the Charles Taylor; and Samuel Kanyon Doe’s equally deadly and discredited National Democratic Party of Liberia (NDPL), to nurse his presidential ambitions. Mr. Mayson quit the coalition only when key officials of the two political parties attempted to blackmail him by requesting sums of money from him. As a former political activist, Mr. Mayson should have known better!
Dew Tuan Wleh Mayson’s campaign platform on his website calls for the “Declaration for Jobs, Rice and Rights” as the central focus of his presidential campaign, but failed miserably to explain, explain and elaborate how he’s going to create those jobs, rice and rights.
Another thing: Mayson’s failure to campaign aggressively to promote his platform, vision and ideas for the country could possibly bury his presidential aspirations.
Can Dew Tuan Wleh Mayson win the Liberian presidency? No! Too much unexplained baggage.
Lawyer and former U.N official
Marital Status: Married
The Tubman name is well known in all of Liberia because of Winston’s uncle, William V.S. Tubman, the nation’s longest-serving despotic president who ruled Liberia with ironclad for 27 years. The Tubman name could also be a burden for Winston because of just that. It is difficult to fathom why Liberians will elect another Tubman as president. The candidate is also a former U.N. peace negotiator.
During the 2005 national and presidential elections, Winston Tubman ran on the ticket of Samuel Kanyon Doe’s National Democratic Party of Liberia (NDPL), only to loose to the eventual winner, Ellen Johnson Sirleaf.
In 2011, Mr. Tubman, for some unexplained reasons successfully lobbied George Weah’s Congress for Democratic Change (CDC), and reportedly toppled Mr. Weah during that party’s election at its national convention to become its Standard Bearer.
What is so stunning about this episode is the fact that Mr. Tubman joined a political party, the CDC whose ideals and beliefs he does not share, but joined only to exploit Mr. Weah’s popularity in a football-crazed country such as Liberia that revered Weah’s celebrity.
It is alleged that Mr. Tubman sold the Liberian Embassy in France. However, the explanation he has given to the press so far has been cloudy.
Winston Tubman’s role as CEO of the then-Liberian Sugar Corporation (LIBSUCO) of Maryland County from 1978-1980 is muddy, especially after the company that employed (at the time) many Liberians went under. There is no explanation so far as to what went wrong that caused the company to fold.
Winston Tubman’s role as Legal Counsel to the Sawyer-led Constitutional Drafting Commission needs to be examined also. What does he know about the undemocratic provisions such as the “Residency Clause” and the long term limits of Senators and Members of the House of Representatives inserted in the Constitution?
In the space of one year, Winston Tubman changed 3 political parties, NDPL, LINU and now CDC. What are his beliefs and why is he hopping to so many political parties?
Finally, what does Winston Tubman know about the last (dying) days of President Samuel Kanyon Doe and his despotic regime? Remember now that Mr. Tubman, as Justice Minister in the Doe administration led a delegation to the United States to discuss Doe’s exit.
Can Winston Tubman and the CDC win? Unless miracle happens.
Charles Walker Brumskine
Lawyer and Opposition Leader
Marital Status: Married
Candidate Brumskine is a tireless campaigner who understands the issues and is considered a serious player in the political arena.
However, whether his “Friends of Brumkine” group that once championed his causes and also once campaigned for him both in Liberia and abroad is still functioning is unknown.
Mr. Brumskine, like the rest of the presidential candidates failed to campaign aggressively, and Brumskine also failed to separate himself from the incumbent Ellen Johnson Sirleaf. As a result, Brumskine got lost somewhere or in the middle of nowhere and his message got lost with him.
Charles Brumskine is the man who pushed Mr. Taylor’s draconian policies through the Liberian Senate, when he was the dictator’s floor leader.
The Taylor factor was a problem during the last presidential campaign; however, I don’t think it is today because Brumskine re-invented himself and tried hard to be on the side of “righteousness” to be taken seriously as a credible opposition politician.
Can Charles Walker Brumskine win in October? Not really. Brumskine either got lost somewhere or fell asleep during the presidential campaign. He appeared to be irrelevant and lacked an appealing message during the course of the campaign. What happen to the Charles Brumskine of 2005?
Economist and former College Professor
Marital Status: Married
Candidate Tipoteh is steely, uncorrupt and principled. Had the Liberian nation had many more Togba-Nah Tipotehs around now, that country perhaps would be in a better shape than what it is today.
A capable organizer, Mr. Tipoteh has enormous name recognition and is know throughout the country by his last name, ‘Tipoteh.’ In fact, he’s by far one of few politicians in Liberia today who stayed in the country throughout the civil war and has never worked in government after he left the employment of the Doe administration as Minister of Planning and Economic Affairs in the early 1980s.
Mr. Tipoteh is known for his incredible convictions and earned the respect and admiration of many for his activism, and his dedication and contributions to the Liberian nation. Mr. Tipoteh understands the issues and is stubbornly committed to the ideas, beliefs and the many causes he championed throughout his life.
If the Liberian people could just pay close attention to Tipoteh’s public and private records and look at his positives and his contributions to the nation, he certainly could be what Liberia need at this time.
Mr. Tipoteh is seen as part of the problem because of his role in helping to bring multi-party democracy to Liberia. Some also see his incessant and perpetual run for the Liberian presidency every election season as a nuisance.
Can Togba-Nah Tipoteh win the presidency? No! His chances of winning are slim because of the negatives. He also does not have a dedicated, committed political base, partisans, and competent campaign advisors and staffers to take him to the finished line.
Remember the 1997 political disaster when key members of his then-LPP political party abandoned him for the opposition?