2005 Campaign Kicks Off

By Abdoulaye W. Dukulé

The Perspective
Atlanta, Georgia
August 15, 2005


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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 any traffic.

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.

Weah's supporters
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.”

Sirleaf's supporters
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 males.

Sherman's supporters
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