|Campaigning for two presidential candidates?
The tropical August rain started on Saturday evening
and went on for two days uninterrupted, except for
a few moments, now and then, just to allow the clouds
to gather again to pour more rain on the wet city
of Monrovia. Then, today, Monday, August 15, 2005,
around 10 a.m., as if to allow the campaign for the
2005 presidential and general elections to kick off,
the downpour stopped. Not sooner has the rain stopped
that crowds started to take over the major arteries
of the city. Trucks and pickups as well as taxis crammed
with partisans with colorful T-shirts emblazoned with
the portraits of politicians zoomed on Tubman Bld,
oblivious to the millions of potholes that would halt
After we managed to start our car, we got on Tubman
Bld, maneuvering a passage between taxis, buses, UN
vehicles, political convoys and the thousands of Monrovians
trying to get to the city center. It is somehow amazing
that in a city with close to a million people, tens
of thousands of cars and trucks and with no traffic
lights or signs of anything, there is ever any accident.
Most cars, especially taxis have no blinkers and make
use of their horns. Pedestrians cross the street anyway
and anywhere they can.
At Bernard Beach, the headquarters of George Oppong
Congress For Democratic Change (CDC), traffic came
to a standstill. My friend got off the car and snapped
some pictures. The big yard was filled with thousands
of young partisans of the former soccer star turned
politician. His posters were everywhere. They danced
and sang. “You know book you not know book,
we will vote for you.” “This is the winning
party.” They all wanted their pictures taken.
The crowd filled the yard and went across the boulevard.
On our way to the center of the city, we encountered
more buses, more pickups and more marching and drumming
partisans. On the walls of stores and fences, posters
of a few politicians were competing for space. However,
these were mostly posters of Ellen Johnson Sirleaf,
George Opong Weah and an accidental poster of Varney
Sherman here and there.
John S. Morlu at LINU
We decided to pay a visit the Liberia National Union
(LINU) o n 16th Street, Sinkor. There were hundreds
of people in the street and in the yard. There were
no drums and posters. Inside the building, we found
two groups in meeting, the first was composed mostly
of elders and chiefs and the second group, further
down was a strategy meeting chaired by LINU standard
bearer John S. Morlu. After greetings them,
we left for the city.
Some still loyal to Taylor
As we passed by the Rally Time Market, a lone campaigner
carried a huge black and white poster of Charles G.
Taylor that reads: CHARLES TAYLOR, PRESIDENT OF LIBERIA.
He paced up and down the few yards he carved for himself
on the sidewalk. He posed for camera, smiled and said:
He is our pappy.”
On Broad Street, all the way from Johnson Street
where we parked our car, it was hard not to miss the
crowd that was moving in and out of Ellen Johnson
Sirleaf’s Unity Party (UP) headquarters. We
managed to find our way in the yard amidst drummers,
yelling partisans, drummers and dancers. There must
have been thousands of people, most of them wearing
ELLEN FOR PRESIDENT T-shirts. Every now and then,
a pickup filled with partisans and drummers took off.
Some of the pickups ever ha Tiger generators to power
their speakers and audio systems. The standing room,
only crowd was very mixed, with people of different
ages, unlike the Oppong crowd mostly composed of young
To complete our first day tour, we stopped by the
Liberian Action Party (LAP) offices near Waterside.
As we walked closer, a bus of partisans, with a Gio
Devil dancer sitting on top of the bus drove by. A
few people wearing party T-shirts with Varney Sherman
effigy walked in and out of the office. It was somehow
quiet and it seemed that they had not yet started
the campaign, although on our way, we saw a few posters
of Varney Sherman on the walls.
Early in the afternoon, heat and humidity slowed
down the movements of crowds. The clouds are again
moving into a formation and the city may again go
under another downpour before the end of the day.
So far, about 22 candidates for the presidency have
been cleared – or have not been eliminated - by the National Elections Commission. The issue of George Oppong Weah double citizenship is still hanging in the air, with the group that brought the challenge wowing to go as far as the Supreme Court. Marcus Dahn, the vice-presidential candidate of Dr. Togba-Nah Tipoteh faces the same uncertainty. The five presidential and vice-presidential nominees who have been “eliminated”
by the election commission have also decided to appeal
to the Supreme Court. “Let everybody run, and
let see who really got the juice,” says my friend,
who thought eliminating someone like George Weah from
the race would create unnecessary upheaval.
Although there were posters of candidates torn off
the walls here and there, the campaign seems to have
started quietly. The UN, the elections commission
as well as the government have been advising political
parties to remain civil. On Saturday afternoon, partisans
of Oppong held an open-air seminar for campaign workers
under the theme “What Should Be Our Moral Conduct
As Campaign Workers?” So far, things have been
without incident. Chairman Charles Bryant has also
been on the air, calling on partisans to debate issues
rather than fight.
The 2005 campaign is on, quietly. It is a marathon
and it remains to be seen who keep the momentum for
the next two months… or who will still be standing