MONROVIA – As the country prepares itself for the 2023 presidential and general elections in which the media is expected to play a yeoman’s role to ensure transparency and accountability of the electoral processes, the country’s umbrella media hub, the Press Union of Liberia (PUL), is itself becoming embroiled in a situation that could jeopardize its watchdog role. As The Analyst reports, one of the two contending candidates in the PUL race is calling on all of his supporters, members of the Press Union of Liberia, and those interested in the democratic development of the PUL and Liberia to stay put and stay clear of any and all activities surrounding the pending 2022 PUL Congress that will pave the way for the next PUL elections in Gbarnga, Bong County this weekend.
“Staying put and staying clear of the Congress means, please do not venture going to Gbarnga as yet, as doing so, would amount to condoning and crowning an illegitimate process, characterized by fraud and being orchestrated by what is revealing itself to be a network of fraudsters,” aspirant Julius Kanubah and his team stated in a press release issued Thursday, November 17, 2022.
According to Karnubah, there are several germane issues that need to be addressed regarding the 2022 PUL Congress, the first of which has to do with the membership registration which aspirant Kanubah alleged was characterized by irregularities amounting to fraud.
“Second, the Membership Committee, which is a permanent/standing committee of our Union, has not officially published the Final Membership Register of 2022. What was published under the signature of the Membership Committee Chair, Ms Fabine Kwiah, was the provisional Membership Register.
“Third, we have seen the release of several membership listing since 07 October. One listing had a membership of 1,372; followed by a list of 1,410, and an addendum of 36.
“Fourth, the latest Membership Register or what is being referred to as the Voter Roll was released on 13 November 2022 under the signatures of Carolyn Myers-Zoduah, Chairperson of the 2022 PUL Congress Committee, and Attorney-at-Law Ade Wede Kekuleh, Chairperson of the 2022 PUL Elections and Inauguration Committee,” stated the Karnubah team that is opposed to the ascendancy of PUL Vice President Daniel Nyakonah to the Union’s highest post.
According to Karnubah, unlike the previous provisional membership registers, the current register or voter roll has a total of 1,426 persons for which his side does not know how this number was produced and how the number increased over time; yet these persons listed are deemed as Full Members of the PUL, meaning they are considered as eligible to participate in the 2022 PUL Congress and to vote in the Union 2022 elections.
“Disturbingly, however, we have found that the Voter Roll (Membership Register) has not been disaggregated in line with Article 10 Section 7 of the PUL Constitution. Article 10 Section 7 states that: “The Membership Committee, with the approval of the PUL leadership, shall publish in not less than two local dailies registered members of the Union not later than 30 days before Congress. Lists of all registered members of the Union shall be disaggregated into categories of membership; males and females; due paying and non-due paying (delinquent) members; editors, reporters, etc.” Article 4 Section 1 spells out the Membership Categories of the Union. It says, (i) Full Membership of the PUL shall be granted to Liberian journalists who hold degree(s) in journalism or mass communication from a recognized institution and have practiced for two years. (ii) Full membership shall also be granted to journalists with degree(s) in any other discipline who have practiced for a minimum of three years. (iii) Full Membership shall also be granted to journalists who have practiced for five years with recognized and accredited media institutions, employed by or freelancing with either electronic or print media institutions.
“Troublingly also, we have found that the current Voter roll (Membership Register) is flooded with non-journalists and individuals who have not met the eligibility criteria to hold Full Membership of our Union. But also, the Fabine Kwiah Membership Committee is not aware of the latest Voter Roll.
“Fifth, in releasing the new Membership Register, the names of several eligible journalists, media workers and communication professionals who have expressed their unflinching support to us, have been removed without due process. This an act intended to disenfranchise and suppress legitimate members of the PUL.
“But also, we have the case of several journalists whose ID cards have been seized by the PUL leadership because these journalists are deemed to be supporters of us and desirous for change. Considering the above points and the repeated ignoring of our calls for an independent panel to audit the 2022 Membership Register of the PUL, we would like our supporters and members of the PUL to remain where they are until they can hear from us on the next steps.
“We should say we are exploring all available avenues to ensure the right thing is done in the interest of our Union. To this end, we call on relevant civil society organizations including the Elections Coordinating Committee (ECC) as well as the National Elections Commission to intervene by prevailing on the Coffey – Nyakonah leadership to do the right thing by refraining from hosting an illegitimate Congress.
“We are also asking the National Elections Commission (NEC) not to participate in facilitating the 2022 PUL Elections as doing so would amount to an assault on the democratic process and to condoning acts of fraud in the PUL which should be a democratic institution,” the Team Karnubah press release stated emphatically.
Key Points of Team Kanubah’s Contention
According to Team Karnubah, the Congress of the PUL which is a constitutional necessity should be held the second week of November every three years for not less than one day and not more than three days.
“The current leadership of Charles Coffey and Daniel Nyakonah has been struggling to convene the 2022 Congress of our Union. Just last week, the Coffey–Nyakonah leadership unilaterally postponed the Congress, using the publicly declared National Census Day (Friday) as an alibi. This postponement was done without our input as leading candidates for the Presidency and Vice Presidency of our Union.
“Notwithstanding, the Coffey – Nyakonah leadership, through Musa Kenneh, released a statement falsely claiming that as candidates, we were consulted. That was and is a blatant lie by the Coffey – Nyakonah leadership along with Musa Kenneh. In postponing the Congress, it was announced that this week, from 17 to 19 November, the Congress would be held.
“Key to the convening of any Congress of the PUL is the Membership Register since the Congress, as “the supreme decision-making body of the UNION”, brings together “the entire membership.”
“As of this press conference today, the outgoing Coffey – Nyakonah leadership has failed to produce and publish any credible Membership Register of the PUL for 2022, despite occupying and serving the Union for nine solid years.
“Their failure is similar to the ugly situation of 2019, which, based on a fraudulent Membership Register, led to a rigged electoral process even before the day of voting; thereby producing an illegitimate leadership,” Team Kanubah stated in its release.
All attempts to reach out to Team Daniel Nyakonah to get their side of the story proved futile. However, since this is a developing story, we intend to follow up on the PUL leadership crisis to the letter.