MONROVIA: As it is said of President Boakai and his ruling Unity Party of hitting the ground running so some say of the immediate past ruling Coalition for Democratic Change of hitting the opposition ground running. While some politicians are calling for a lull, at least two or three months before they put on their political caps to descend on the current ruling party and its president, the CDC is not seemed sharing the view of cooling off at all. It is taking the bull by the horns at the puberty of things, not willing to wait for its longtime archfoe have a foothold on the governance landscape. Thus, as inks hardly got dry on the state of the nation oration of President Boakai, who is barely a week in office, the CDC launched a huge political ballistic missile at the speech, nearly demolishing its essence and substance. As The Analyst reports, the former ruling party’s critique, which is as long as the President’s oration, is fierce as it is swift.
While it is still nursing the fresh wounds of political waterloo suffered in the November 10 runoff presidential elections, the Coalition for Democratic Change (CDC) is nonetheless in combative gears. Those who must have been thinking the one-term ruling party would be mourning and calculating its chances following such a devastating defeat are mistaken; for the party has mustered its fighting and opposition spirit, throwing political missiles at its archrival, the Unity Party, which is still finding its bearing just a week in power.
The first major tornado released, after it has captured the leadership of the House of Representatives, is a harsh riposte aimed at the first Annual Message or State of the National Address delivered by President Joseph Nyuma Boakai.
Boakai’s message, as dictated by the Constitution of Liberia, requires him as with all other incumbent presidents, to present his legislative agenda and disclose the state of the republic along with income and expenditure statements.
Such orations by a Liberian president normally lasted for hours in the past, not less than two hours, but the new President took the rostrum of the Joint Chambers of the National Legislature for barely 45 minutes—with a brief handpick of policy issues here and there.
While the Liberian intellectual and political publics were still pondering on the manner and issues of the Boakai SONA, the now biggest opposition party six hours, nearly before midnight after the speech came out with its reaction which largely found no good point at all in the speech.
“We think the President [Ambassador Boakai] is completely out of touch with the realities in Liberia or may have been misinformed by his cronies,” the CDC opined. “The CDC, with its thorough understanding of the real-life situation of the Liberian people after six years, would like to proffer this constructive advice to the Unity Party-led government if they are serious about announced plans to transform the livelihood of the Liberian people.”
The statement delivered by its National Chairman Mulbah K. Morlu at the headquarters of the Party in Congo Town, strongly disagreed with and trashed nearly all the propositions made and conclusions of the President’s State of the National speech.
The Party said it was appalled that even at this early stage, President Boakai would seek to mislead the public about the financial situation of the country by disputing the figures quoted by former President Weah during his farewell statement on 21st January 2024 which are available.
“We challenge President Boakai to publish the statement of the consolidated account of the period within 48 hours or the CDC will make public copies of the same,” the statement said.
Speaking further, Charman Mulbah Morlu said: “The government should build on the gains made under the PAPD and strive to make Liberia a middle-income country by increasing the wealth of the country; reducing the vulnerability of the people through the creation of multiple sustainable livelihood opportunities for all Liberians. The pathway to achieving this will be to invest in human capital development, improve the governance mechanism of the country, continue to unlock the binding constraints to economic development, create more jobs through competitiveness, and green our economy.”
He pointed out that while addressing the legislators, the President unveiled a vision he termed as ARREST but failed at mentioning how this vision may be implemented or paid for, and lacking strategy and specification for its implementation.
According to Mr. Morlu, this is nothing more than an unrealistic campaign sloganeering as said vision is built on impracticality, vagueness, and dishonesty.
“The entire address by President Boakai was high on bland clichés, bereft of even the rudimentary ingredients for a sound legislative agenda, falling short of substantive economic or transformative details,” the CDC further asserted.
On the state of the nation as articulated by the President, the CDC Chairman said “contrary to President Boakai’s claim that the ‘State of the Nation is in distress’, he offered no policy prescription or solution on how he intends to ‘Rescue’ this situation, except for saying he would ‘think outside the box’.
“We like to report to you that the CDC left the state of our nation stronger than it met in 2018. For example, President Boakai is inheriting 222.7 million US Dollars in the net international reserve, and over US$40 million in the consolidated account as of January 17, 2023. This amount was left behind by the CDC government compared to the under 7 million the CDC inherited when it took power from the Sirleaf/Boakai-led government in 2017.”
On the question of President’s comments on the budget deficit, Mr. Morlu noted that the FY 2023 budget was recast after actual revenue collection amounted to USD 710 million was achieved, and that this actual collection represented the highest amount of revenue collected in contemporary Liberia.
“While serving as Vice President of this republic, his government never got close to this amount of revenue actualized,” the CDC said of President Boakai.
“The Unity Party government, at the close of 2017, concealed several domestic debts, including USD 107 million from the IMF through the CBL, and USD 65 million from commercial banks, amongst others, and willfully failed to recognize these debts as part of the domestic debt stock. This represented a gross understatement of debt stock. Of the 2.2 billion debt stock reported, about 60% was contracted under the Unity Party regime.”
Agriculture in Limbo
The CDC further recalled that during the campaign, then Candidate Boakia prided himself as the Agriculture Czar and could use agriculture for immediate economic revitalization and social transformation. On the contrary, the party said, “while addressing the legislature in his State of the Nation, President Boakai offered nothing new, nor any specific strategy for agriculture growth except that he provided a vague vision of ‘strengthening collaboration with international partners and local farmers to improve production.’”
“How such will be achieved, or will achieve growth is left to the imagination of Liberians and our partners alike,” the CDC wondered.
Critiquing the President on his SONA assertions about his Legislative Agenda, the CDC said: “The President seems to have forgotten that many of the bills he seeks to propose as a pillar of his legislative agenda were already submitted to the previous National Legislature. The CDC offers its support in this regard to ensure those bills, of which it is the progenitor, are passed.”
He opposition CDC further stressed: “President Boakai during the campaign and his inaugural speech was very direct and forceful on an Establishment War and Economic Crime Courts for Liberia. This commitment is even heavily backed by our international partners and the locals, but two days ago his strongest ally Senator Prince Johnson mocked him and went further to attack the physical look of the President on such a stance.”
The CDC said it was convinced that President Boakai’s refusal to reiterate his call for the Establishment of a War and Economic Crimes Court in his SONA oration, and set out a legislative pathway to ensure its establishment, is straightly predicated upon the threat coming from the Senator.
“The president must act by submitting such a bill to the Legislature or the CDC will again petition its lawmakers to do the needful,” the CDC urged the President and his UP, stating further that the world stands shocked that the President, who has boasted that he could establish the war and economic crimes court would backslide so early due to political pressure from his God-father ally.
The CDC believes nothing is more urgent and pressing now than the call for justice and the rule of law of which the establishment of the War and Economy Crimes Court is a cardinal cornerstone as was contained in former President Weah’s letter to the previous legislature, to begin steps to ensure transitional justice in Liberia.
Another critical issue for which the CDC held President Boakai’s feet to the fire is about the fate of civil servant under his regime.
The Party declared, quoting the President: “To make the government more effective and efficient, we must focus on public service deliveries. The people, not the government, must come first”. But the CDC said this sloganeering from President Boakai in dealing with the growth in the size of the civil servants is no strategy in mitigating or addressing the issue of civil servants’ growth and wellbeing.
The CDC introduced harmonization which it believes is the best policy and strategy to contain and sustain the growth of civil servants’ salaries.
“That President Boakai did not offer any new policy in contradiction to this policy is a veiled acceptance that all of his and the Unity party’s criticism was vainglorious and pandering to the voters,” the CDC challenged President Boakai.
The CDC statement added: “Fellow citizens, in 2017 you embraced the Change for Hope manifesto that laid the foundation for the Pro-Poor Agenda for Prosperity and Development (PAPD). The plan sought four different but interrelated pathways in achieving goals including human development, macroeconomic stability, job creation, infrastructure development, and sustainable peace and good governance.
“For example, the CDC inherited a messy educational system, as described by the Unity Party’s former Standard Bearer, Madam Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, and turned it into a success story. The CDC government restored confidence in the educational system by admitting Liberia to the West African Senior School Certificate Examination (WASSCE) regional examination, expanding access, and increasing learning outcomes of the WASSCE score from 38% to 85%. With the payment of WASSCE fees for all 9th and 12th graders in public schools, about 240 thousand students benefited from the government-free WASSCE program. This program reduced the financial burden on poor families directly.”
The CDC boasted it took a giant step to ensure prudent fiscal management policies leading to a reduction in inflation from nearly 40 percent in 2018 to about 7 percent in 2023.
The most drastic reduction in inflation in the region, the CDC added: “The Administration also restricted using overdrafts from the Central Bank to bridge financing gaps in the national budget and also used effective tax administration to increase domestic resource mobilization from 445M in 2017 to 668M in 2023. We increased Liberia’s net reserve from 94M in 2017 to about 223m in 2023. Our consolidated account turnover balance increased from 7 M in 2018 it about 40M in 2023.”
Security Or Insecurity
The Party also used its reaction to President Boakai’s SONA to touch on other critical national issues, such as security, something they said is showing worrying signs.
The CDC stated: “Fellow Liberians, while we are bracing ourselves and our president for the level of stability we have maintained since the departure of UNMIL, we see danger ahead of Liberia with the early indications shown by President Boakai. Firstly, the appointment of CLLR Cooper Kruah, a direct protégé to one of Liberia’s notorious Warlords adds to the pronounced national security threat made by his power-wielded puppet master, Senator Prince Johnson. Cllr. Kruah’s confirmation will undermine our legal system and the quest to establish a War and economic crimes Court for Liberia.”
The former ruling Party however reiterated its commitment to a democratic Liberia even whilst in opposition.
“Under the leadership of our standard bearer, we will continue to uphold our solemn pledge to the Liberian people to speak out in the name of peace, prosperity, and development,” the CDC statement further noted.
“We will continue to provide alternative prescriptions and offer policy options for the forward march of our beloved country. This is what we set out to do when we founded the Masses Movement in 2004, and this is what we will remain committed to.”