[Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf] has said she wants the dour Joseph Boakai, 69, to be the candidate of the governing Unity Party in 2017. Many think he lacks charisma but Johnson-Sirleaf has said she will do her best to make sure he wins.
George Weah, the former football star who nearly defeated Johnson-Sirleaf in 2006, has announced that he will stand for the Congress for Democratic Change. [...] Although still popular on the streets of Monrovia, Weah is not adept at making political deals and that has let him down in the past. Money could also be a problem.
No such issues afflict Benoni Urey, who until December was subject to a United Nations’ travel ban and assets freeze because of his past relationship with former President and now convicted war criminal Charles Taylor. Urey has promised to run as an independent. He is a millionaire with a large media empire in Monrovia, including newspapers, and television and radio stations, and is generous with his funds. Everyone knows his name and his past connection with Taylor probably won’t hurt him because the gaoled warlord has wide residual popularity across the country.
Urey is said to possess Taylor’s charisma without his sanguinary ruthlessness and has already attracted huge crowds in the capital and other towns.
“Yeaho: dey president’s convoy passed without trouble despite the CDC children dem songs dey were singing against her.”
Have you ever wondered what university former Liberian presidential candidate George Weah has been attending? I have. The answer: DeVry. He graduated in June.
That’s one fun fact from a new International Crisis Group report on the political scene in Liberia ahead of the October 2011 national elections [pdf]. Weah lost the CDC’s presidential nomination, but is running mate to the winner, Winston Tubman (nephew to ex-president William Tubman).
- Prince Johnson, a presidential candidate, says if he wins his administration will make corruption punishable by death.
- Voter registration earlier this year was very successful. About 85% of eliglbe voters were registered.
- You might have read about a referendum in Liberia a few days ago that proposed lowering the residency requirement for presidential candidates from 10 to 5 years. How, you might wonder, was Sirleaf able to get around this requirement? Crisis Group explains: “The 23 August referendum seeks to amend portions of the constitution that were suspended by the Election Reform Bill the National Transitional Legislative Assembly…passed in December 2004. That act suspended the constitutionally mandated ten-year residency requirement for presidential and vice-presidential candidates. The…proposed constitutional change [would] reactivate the requirement but reduce it to five years…”
- A 2010 decentralization law has not been implemented in any meaningful way. Service delivery is still very much Monrovia-controlled.
What I learned from a (gated) Africa Confidential article on developments in the October 2011 presidential race in Liberia, that is already well underway:
- “There are no plans to replace [Ellen Johnson Sirleaf's] Vice-President[,] Joseph Boakai, 66, but many favour a younger running mate. We hear that former human rights activist and current Minister of Public Works Samuel Kofi Woods, 46, is a favoured candidate.”
- “The UN Secretary General’s Special Representative, Ellen Margrethe Løj, again hinted that UNMIL may stay well beyond October 2011 – investors want their own security guarantees.”
- “In August, the CDC [formerly the Congress for Democratic Change] announced that it had become the Coalition for Democratic Change. Its fellow coalition members include former foes such as the Progressive Democratic Party, led by Sekou Damate Conneh, better known as leader of the Liberians United for Reconciliation and Democracy (LURD); the National Patriotic Party, still irrevocably linked to ex-President Taylor; the Liberia National Union, headed by Winston Tubman, and the True Whig Party, a very slimmed-down version of the party that dominated Liberian politics for decades. Dissidents in the CDC and other parties have questioned the viability of this coalition of rivals.”
Former and current Liberian presidential candidate George Weah appeared naked in a Roberts Noir perfume commercial in 1996. (Hat tip to Taa.) This has just come to light in Liberia, and does not bode well for Weah’s political ambitions. For reasons that I don’t completely understand, Liberians get incredibly worked up over acts of perceived indecency. (The New Democrat has a highly amusing synopsis of the advertisement.)
“If the Congress for Democratic Change…can justify George Weah’s butt naked video on the international information highway on some constitutional right, then Liberians’ must be prepared, God forbade, under a CDC rule, to give audience to the legality and normalness of murder and even cannibalism.”
And here’s a reaction from a Liberian businessman:
“Should Liberians rest assured that under a CDC political leadership, Liberians will be free to perform in nudity as Weah as done in the video and the likes of [Weah's spokesman] will be providing advocacy and encouragement for the society to endorse such practices?”
This African Confidential article on Liberian politics is the Page Six of Liberian gossip. Or to mix metaphors, Harry Potter for Liberiaphiles. (h/t to Jairo)
Unity insiders say US diplomats had told Sirleaf about alleged connections between members of her security apparatus, including her son Fombah Sirleaf, Director of the National Security Agency, and a mysterious Russian businessman.
The Russian, Victor Bogosyan, was deported in May 2009. A source close to the presidency says he ‘had a line of government people waiting to see him’. Money-changers in town said he paid massive premiums for loans, while he set up a popular nightclub run by attractive Peruvian women. The US officials are said to have linked Bogosyan to drugs deals. A Unity Party insider said that the President then summoned an informal meeting with all her security chiefs, at which [former Minister of Justice] Banks’s officials explained that they knew all about this, and ‘it was not something Madam President needed to know about’. Banks was soon fired.
- Sirleaf is credited for breaking up the Lebanese monopoly on importing rice, but this article says the Liberian who Sirleaf’s government helped enter this market is Allen Brown Jr., the son of a former Charles Taylor associate.
- The article explains how the the merger among the Unity Party and other parties further cements Americo-Liberian rule.
- Apparently Varney Sherman (a main contender against Sirleaf in 2005, strong ties to Lebanese) is legal counsel for ArcelorMittal in Liberia.
A New Democrat article describes a fist-fight that broke out while the Congress for Democratic Change (George Weah’s party) was attempting to elect its nominee for a senatorial by-election in Montserrado County. One of the party leaders was attacked after declaring that he had orders from Weah not to conduct the election until Weah returns to Liberia from the US (supposedly today). The New Democrat paraphrases another party leader saying:
…it was time that the CDC decentralizes the party in order to meet present day reality. He said the party is an institution that should relay on the decision from it members and not individual.
I wonder how Weah has managed (even nominally) to stay head of this party when my understanding is that he has been in the US full-time since loosing to Sirleaf in 2005.