AP News

Liberia: Opposition outrage at president


MONROVIA, Liberia (AP) — Liberia's opposition is outraged by President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf's recent admission that some of her supporters hid their sons' cards to prevent them from voting against her in 2005.

Sirleaf said some Liberian women cheated to help her in the 2005 election race against retired international soccer star George Weah, according to FrontPage Africa, a leading Liberian daily and internet news provider.

Sirleaf made the disclosure last week when she addressed a women's fundraiser while in New York attending the United Nations General Assembly. The fundraiser to support of Sirleaf's Market Women Project, was held at a public school in Harlem.

The president said that some women market-sellers in Monrovia prevented their sons from voting the 2005 elections because they were afraid the young men would vote for Weah.

"Knowing then that they had young sons who would all be the followers of one of the young candidates, they took all their voter cards from them in the night to make sure that they were not able to go to vote," said Sirleaf.

The president is further quoted as saying: "They (the women) even did some unorthodox things, as they confessed to me later on ... and I can say it now since I am not running again."

Sirleaf, who turns 74 on October 29, is serving her second and final term.

In the 2005 election — the first after the end of Liberia's 14-year civil war — Weah came in first in the first round but was defeated in the second round by Sirleaf who got 56 percent of the vote while Weah received 46 percent, according to the electoral commission.

Weah and his Congress for Democratic Change party protested and charged deliberate cheating and "ballot stuffing" in favor of Sirleaf.

Sirleaf's new admission has rekindled the opposition's anger.

Acarous Gray, a Member of the House of Representatives from Weah's party said Monday the president's remarks about women stealing their sons' voter cards "have brought the presidency to public disrepute" and the president "deserves resignation."

"As I speak to you," Gray said, "we are speaking to like-minded lawmakers besides the Congress for Democratic Change along with a crack team of lawyers to ensure whether we can get a possible bill of impeachment during our January sitting against the president of Liberia."

He said although the president's statement "is not a surprise," it "does not only embarrass the international community's declaration of the election being free, fair and transparent; it also undermines the president's ability to fight corruption."

Gray recalled Sirleaf's pledge on taking office in 2006 to fight graft, a fight that has gained very little success in a society where the president herself admits "corruption is endemic."

"This president said she would have zero tolerance on corruption, corruption would be public enemy number one ... when a group of people come to you to disenfranchise other group, the president is under obligation to take action against them, but the president has failed," Gray said of the women who the president said had stolen their sons' voters' cards.

"So this is a constitutional breach under our laws to deprive anybody from voting in terms of stealing voter registration cards," he said.

Sirleaf, in an interview played on local radio stations this week, could not deny what she said but she dismissed local reports as "absolute nonsense nurtured by irresponsible reporting and irresponsible statements."

"If anybody thinks that a few women take(ing) their sons' cards will influence the results of an election in which over six hundred thousand persons participated, that person ought to go examine their head," she told reporters on her return from the U.N.

The president's spokespersons have defended her this week.

Isaac Jackson, deputy information minister said the call for Sirleaf to resign or be impeached "is utterly nonsensical."


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