Moriah Yeakula Rips Cummings’ Critics to Shreds -Says CPP Approved Changes lawyers Made in Framework Document
As the 2023 presidential and legislative elections draw closer, all sides of the political aisle are hellbent on exerting every effort to solidify their gains in convincing the voters to cast their lot for them. But the current rift within Liberia’s biggest opposition bloc which seems to suggest that the opposition Collaboration of Political Parties (CPP) might not be ready to stop the ruling Coalition for Democratic Change (CDC) from winning a second term after December 2023 was debunked by a stalwart of the Alternative National Congress, Attorney Moriah Yeakula, when she appeared on one of Liberia’s popular talk shows last Friday to debunk criticisms within the CPP camp that her boss, Alexander Cummings, political leader of the ANC, who is also one of the constituent members of the CPP, is mastermind of the current CPP rift attended by his alleged alteration of the Framework Document (FD) to favor his run for the CPP Standard Bearer position against Unity Party’s political leader and standard bearer Joseph Nyuma Boakai.
Explaining the current brouhaha with the CPP, Attorney Yeakula said the CPP is at a stage where it’s going to get nasty, but eventually the organization will find its bearing.
“A lot of people expect me to attack, but we must understand what’s at stake, especially when we’re dealing with a political system that is averse to change. But it was really important for me to come here to clear the air about some of the vicious lies that were told. Within the public space, unfortunately, the population that we have is not very educated to make decisions on the information that is put out to them. I am here to give inside information about what happened, as I was a part of the framework drafting committee. I was also Chief of Staff at the time all of this happened,” Atty Moriah Yeakula stated.
She further explained that what promoted the recent wave of vitriolic attacks within the CPP is the attempt by some political parties to try to get out of the CPP agreement; and the fact that the CPP agreement is so binding, that even though a lot of parties will withdraw from the CPP, it also prohibits parties from fielding candidates on the party ticket. So the Framework Agreement actually has everyone stuck in the CPP.
“The framework document is being attacked to make it seem that it was meant to benefit one party. The attacks are strategies to cop out of the CPP, but still be able to run. But there is a process that binds all political parties with the Framework Document,” she stated.
Regarding the process, Atty. Yeakula stated that the Framework Document was signed on May 19 via Zoom because all of the political leaders were in different locations.
“Everybody had their copy and they signed it. So no one gave any five copies to any one person. They signed the individual copies, and they kept their copies. When that document was released, there was huge public backlash because there was a clause in the Framework Document which stated that only known and visible CPP members could get jobs (the employment clause). And that caused a huge backlash for a week or so. And so, the CPP leadership came back and said there was a need to review the document, and a Legal Committee was set up to do just that. That committee did their work and submitted the same. Not only did the committee submit their work, but submitted issues arising out of the document,” she emphasized.
Atty. Yeakula stated that the Framework Document provided for the establishment of a Legal Committee; the resolution of issues arising from the document and the formation of an agenda to the CPP political leaders to discuss the issues.
“It was sent June 22. The meeting was held June 23 where the political leaders agreed on the changes to the Framework Document. The agenda required for the leaders to discuss not only the changes made in the framework by the lawyers for their approval, but it also provided a timeline for all parties to go back to their individual parties to review the feedback, approve it, sign a resolution approving it, and submit it to the CPP, so that they can file the CPP document at NEC, so we can get our registration and accreditation in time for us to field candidates for the 2020 by-elections. Every party submitted their resolution to the CPP,” the ANC former Chief of Staff stated.
She furthered that, according to the ALP’s resolution which was submitted July 6, and signed for by the secretary in Aloysius Toe’s office, the resolution clearly stated that the political parties were endorsing the Framework Document that would set the basis for the formation of the CPP.
“Again, Liberty Party (LP) sent in their resolution. Unity Party also sent their resolution. Those resolutions were added to the FD that had been approved. The resolutions were signed by ALP, ANC and the LP. Mr. Cummings as CPP Chairman at the time reminded his colleagues of the deadline to register the CPP,” Madam Yeakula indicated.
She said, when all the CPP political leaders signed on May 19, they needed to have one signature sheet with everybody’s signature for the Framework Document.
“Mo Ali was given the responsibility to get the signatures of all the political leaders on a piece of sheet. Mo Ali got the signature of all the political leaders and the chairperson and submitted it to Aloysius Toe. The Framework Document and the resolutions were notarized and filed at the NEC. CPP got registered and accredited. I informed the CPP to pick up their copies from the office, only Unity Party picked up their copy.
“We used that document for the 2020 midterm elections. Why is it now that this document is suddenly altered? Nothing was changed, added, or removed. Not one. And nobody in the CPP can say that the lawyers were not authorized to make the changes that they made. Everything was done in accordance with the process. But apparently, now, it’s becoming real, because some people want to get out of this CPP,” Atty. Yeakula averred.
“First, they said that it was Musa Bility that altered the Framework Document, now it comes down to Cummings. Therefore we need to ask ourselves, “to what end; how does it benefit Cummings to alter documents?”
Regarding one of the contentious issues that had to do with “good health”, which was recently raised by talk show host Henry Costa to be one of the three cardinal changes that Mr. Cummings allegedly made to the document, Atty. Yeakula said the term is defined in the document as “physical or mental state”.
“The lawyers have submitted the documents, NEC has submitted the document, nothing has changed. It’s not about the substance, it’s about the perception to say, let’s paint this person who is perceived as clean hands to be someone with unclean hands,” she stated, noting that when the lawyers, including Benedict Sannoh, Kofi Woods and Gbehzongar Findley, made those changes in June 2020 and presented the outcomes to the CPP political leaders, nobody raised issues with the document, and that even ALP political leader Benoni Urey admitted recently that the lawyers made changes and they all agreed to it.
Regarding some of the issues raised about changes in the Framework Document that were allegedly unilaterally done by Mr. Cummings, especially as it relates to the issue of dispute resolution which Talk Show host Henry Costa alleged that the ANC political leader made substantive changes that made dispute resolution very cumbersome, Atty, Yeakula said there is nothing wrong with the issue of dispute resolution in the Framework Document.
“If a party is aggrieved, you file your complaint. They set up an ad hoc grievance committee which will investigate and send the findings to the National Executive Committee, who will decide. If you don’t agree with the NEC decision, you then appeal to the NEC. Whatever decision from there is final. Why is that cumbersome? That’s standard dispute resolution,” she said.
Regarding the issue that dwelt on Mr. Cummings’ refusal to submit copies of the Framework Document submitted by the National Elections Commission to the political parties, Moriah admitted that copies were submitted.
When queried whether the issue of alterations in the Framework Document could have implications on the 2020 midterm elections regarding its authenticity, Attorney Yeakula averred that if truly the document was altered, then it would have an implication of the 2020 elections result, but that’s not the case, because it was not.
“The documents that the lawyers presented were agreed on by all the parties. If you believe that the original documents were altered, just take your documents to the National Elections Commission, and compare them with the ones at NEC. Moreover, the burden of proof lies with the accuser. Those who are accusing have not shown what was removed, added or changed in any way that is different from what we agreed on,” she stated forcefully.
In a comical twist of events, the Spoon Talk host Stanton Witherspoon attempted to railroad Atty. Moriah Yeakula to agree that, because there were discrepancies in the date of signing, notarization and submission of the Framework Document to the National Elections Commission, there could have been foul play. But Madam Yeakula challenged the talk show host to show evidence where such a chain of events suggests any hint of foul play.
“Who told you that when you sign a document it is forced to be notarized on the same date and filed to the NEC on the same date?” she challenged the Spoon Talk host.
Regarding the issue that the CPP leadership, especially Nyonblee Karnga-Lawrence requested of the ANC twice to submit the Framework Document but to no avail, Atty. Yeakula said it’s not true because the document was submitted. “Senator Lawrence asked for the final document and they submitted it,” she stated.
ALP’s Telia Urey Counters
With the express permission of the guest, the hosts invited All Liberia Party (ALP) executive Telia Urey via mobile to provide her views on the issues under discussion, a decision that added more spice to the debate.
According to Madam Urey, members of the CPP Advisory Council and the Framework Regime Committee worked on the Framework Document for months and months, after which they came together, agreed finally, and sent the document to the review committees to be sent back for approval.
“On May 19, all Political Leaders signed the Framework Document. Every member endorsed on May 25, but in the final process, they put May 19 on the document. The reality is that the entire document is different from what we the committee worked on, which Moriah and I were on. Signatures were just extracted from the Framework Document that we agreed on, and they just put those signatures on this new document that the lawyers created. The Framework Review Committee had about 12-15 members on it; they didn’t see one copy of this framework agreement that’s going all over the place,” Madam Urey alleged, noting that the Zoom call which Atty Yeakula mentioned was made in April, and not June.
Countering Madam Urey’s accusations, Atty Yeakula stated emphatically that Telia Urey lied, and that the Zoom call was made in June because all of the political leaders were at different locations at the time. She also stated that Madam Urey was never part of the committee that worked on the document.
As the banter between the two CPP stalwarts became heated, Madam Urey surprisingly called for calm and reconciliation, a reflection of the simmering tension that is currently dividing Liberia’s biggest opposition bloc.
“Things need to come down. The attacks are not necessary. The two camps’ supporters need to calm down. The infighting is real. My hope is that we can calm down and concentrate on what the CPP was formed for,” she stated philosophically.