JNB’s Farmington River Remarks Spark Murmurings -Some Opposition Pundits Wonder On Whose Behalf He Spoke
MONROVIA – One noticeable episode still making discussion rounds amongst commentators following the Tuesday, April 4 Farmington River Peace Declaration signed by both ruling and opposition politicians is how former ruling party standard bearer Joseph Nyumah Boakai got to take the podium, let alone doing so for and on behalf of the rest of political leaders from the other 26 parties present. But suddenly, he did, and while there were no immediate reactions, the UP standard bearer’s surprise involvement as a speaker and in whose behalf have been a source of contentions and murmurs amongst critical minds in some quarters. The Analyst reports.
Tongues are wagging among some leaders of political parties and other stakeholders to ascertain how as to who authorized former Vice President Joseph Nyuma Boakai, the standard bearer of the Unity Party to speak on behalf of the rest of the political parties in Liberia. Some are wondering who gave Mr. Boakai the space to speak, using the occasion to promote the interest of his Unity Party and some of his foot soldiers at the detriment of the image and interest of the political parties.
Checks by The Analyst corroborated with the position of some of the political parties that there was no provision on the program sheet for Mr. Boakai or any other political leaders to speak at the occasion, let alone to speak on behalf of his colleagues.
After the arrival of dignitaries was completed, the main program which was delivery of speeches from those who were officially slated to address the all-important Farmington River Declaration began with the Chairperson of the National Elections Commission (NEC) who welcomed the audience to the program.
Madam Davidetta Brown-Lassanah was followed by Ms. Giovanie Biha, Deputy Special Representative of the Secretary General and the Acting Head of the United Nations Office for West Africa and the Sahel who delivered a special statement.
The second special statement came from Dr. Omar Alieu Touray, the President of the Economic Community of West African States Commission.
President George Manneh Weah delivered the keynote address at the program where he stated that the Farmington River Declaration signed by the 26 political parties will “serve as a testament of their commitment to national stability, security, peace and development.”
The investigation by The Analyst further revealed that the organizers, prior to the program, had restricted the participation of the political leaders who were all signatories to the Farmington River Declaration to commit them to a peaceful election and no other roles they were to play such as making individual remarks at the program.
Those close to the organizers said the restriction was communicated to all political leaders far in advance and had solicited the full understanding and cooperation of each and every political actor invited to grace the occasion.
“The intent of the organizers was not to permit any political leaders to make any remark that would hurt the good intent of the ceremonies; to avoid possible unnecessary utterances from any of them that could embarrass the program especially the invited guests who came from the UN, AU, EU, ECOWAS, among others.
“You know in recent times, so many attacks and counter attacks have been flying all over the place since the build up to the 2023 general election has been gaining momentum,” a source close to a prominent political leader said, asking not to be named in print. “In the wisdom of the organizers, they were being proactive to avoid some of these situations.”
A source close to the former Vice President said he had since prepared his speech to be delivered at the occasion on behalf of the Unity Party but when he was told that there was a change in the arrangement, the speech was shelved. However, insiders among the program organizers told him to come over with his speech because “anything can happen and you could still deliver your speech.”
Further investigations by The Analyst uncovered that upon arrival of Mr. Boakai at the Farmington Hotel, some staff of the National Elections Commission (NEC) who were in charge of the Farmington River Declaration program decided to allow him to deliver his statement by working around the Master of Ceremony who announced the UP standard bearer’s name to speak on behalf of the various political parties to the disbelief of other political leaders.
“That was the greatest mistake made at the program and thank God none of the other political leaders reacted in such a manner that will vent their anger over this misrepresentation,” another source, begging for anonymity said.
“None of the parties were informed that Boakai was to speak on their behalf and he did not also reach out to any of his colleagues if that was his intention to speak on behalf of his colleagues so as to make input in what to say,” Moses Gbajolo III, a political activist and staunch member of one the political parties told The Analyst.
An obviously furious leader of one of the political parties who pleaded not to be named in the media said allowing Mr. Boakai to speak on behalf of the other parties was a miscarriage and deliberately done to give him an undue advantage to the detriment of the respect of his colleagues.
He demanded a public apology from the organizers for “deceiving the public into believing that it was a consensus for the former Vice President to speak on our behalf”.
He added: “With the help of his enablers, Boakai confidently mounted the podium and deceptively said he was speaking on our behalf, yet everything he said there was about himself and the Unity Party and nothing was there to show that the political parties made input into that show of shame and embarrassment he brought on the opposition community.
“My blood was boiling in me when I was looking at Boakai reading that self-promotion and political advertisement he called a representation statement. I looked at the surrounding and my thoughts recollected that there was no need to dignify the distraction otherwise I would have stood up and sharply rebuke him and his statement so as to send out a clear message out there that both the organizers and Boakai lied not only to the Liberian people but also the international community that has been in the forefront for a free and fair election this year.”
“We are still looking at options to address this unfortunate situation. Our silence for now does not mean all is well. We are not going to sit here and allow this to be given credence and it is sad that Mr. Boakai will go this route.”
The UP number one partisan had even gone ahead to justify that he spoke on behalf of the political parties when he took to his official Facebook page to post a copy of the remarks he delivered at Farmington.
“Before we signed the Farmington River Declaration, the below was my statement on behalf of political parties:
“Statement by Joseph Nyuma Boakai, Sr., on behalf of Political Parties, at the signing ceremony of the Farmington Declaration”, the post reads.
While speaking at the occasion, Boakai did not hide the thoughts of UP on previous national issues and he made full use of the time afforded him to re-echo them as well as acknowledging the contributions of some of his partisans and supporters during the period under review.
“It was at this same venue, the Farmington Hotel, where we signed a commitment to a non-violent election in 2017. I am glad to report here that the 2017 Legislative and Presidential elections under the auspices of the Unity Party led government were largely free of any major violent incident and one the most acclaimed transfer of power occurred”, Boakai went in memory lane to showcase the genesis of the declaration and how the idea originated from UP.
“The Unity Party, even more than our international partners and the NEC, want an election that will be free of any form of physical or emotional violence. While we are all ensuring that the October 10, 2023 polls will be violent, free, fair and transparent, we like to remind our partners and the NEC that the mere absence of violence is not the only requirement for a satisfactory election. There are other cardinal ingredients that when not considered and not implemented, there will be a high probability of not having as much violent free election as we are all yearning to have”, again the former VP spoke on the position of UP and not the rest of the parties..
While speaking about voter trucking which was an issue of concern during the ongoing biometric voters’ registration (BVR), he included what the stance of his UP on the situation especially in D#10, Montserrado County and in Grand Cape Mount County.
“These incidents are particularly prominent in District 10 Montserrado and Grand Cape Mount. In Cape Mount, the UP has been observed with the trucking of Sierra Leoneans from across the borders by businessman, Idrissa Massaley, who is believed to be a supporter of the CDC. We are told by executives of our party from Cape Mount that this has led to violence in Jeijuah, Mano River, Bambala, and Tieni between those that are trucking people from Sierra Leone and those attempting to put stop to such violation of our laws”, he said.
It is not certain what other options the parties are exerted as could be deduced from one of their leaders who asserted that they were considering other options to take corrective measures to save their name and reputation from being injured.