Credible information reaching The Analyst indicate that prominent citizens of Grand Cape Mount County including some aggrieved aspirants are seriously concerned that if care is not taken, the credibility, freeness and fairness of the pending midterm Senatorial elections could be jeopardized, given specific instances in the past when both sides of the Mano River border between Liberia and Sierra Leone were used and misused by citizens of both countries to interfere in the electoral processes of the two Mano River neighbors. The petitioners are therefore calling on the government of Liberia, ECOWAS and the international community to ensure the relocation of all voting precincts in Grand Cape Mount County near the Liberian border with Sierra Leone which Idrissa Mansaray has used to transport and station contract-voters from Sierra Leone to influence the outcome of Grand Cape Mount County elections; including sanitizing the voters’ rosters for all border precincts, with the goal of detecting and eliminating the names of non-Liberians on the voter’s rolls at border town polling centers, among others.
According to document in the possession of this paper, dated August 15, 2020, and titled: “Petition on Safeguarding Elections in Grand Cape Mount County, Republic of Liberia”, a group of concerned citizens and aggrieved senatorial aspirants some of who include Mr. Sando Wayne of the United People’s Party and Mr. Simeon Freeman of the Alternative National Congress, have alarmed that during the last presidential election of the Republic of Sierra Leone, security forces arrested and detained a prominent Liberian woman in Sierra Leone for alleged foreign citizen interference in Sierra Leone’s election.
“Similarly, Sierra Leone’s businessman, CEO Idrissa Mansaray of Hard Work Company in Liberia, openly campaigned for Victor V. Watson, current Senator of Grand Cape Mount County, from September 10, 2019 to October 4, 2019, in the following communities in Sierra Leone: Zimmi Makpelle, Fairo, Gonohun, Ndombu, Gofor, Gissswolo, Gbah Makpala, Ngegbema, Mano Njeigbla, Teegbema, and Njama Tonkia, and in Grand Cape Mount County,” the petition stated.
Accordingly, the two, Mansaray and Watson, were conveyed at campaign rallies in marked vehicles with label: “Hard Work Company,” contrary to Article 81 of the 1986 Constitution of Liberia, which forbids businesses from canvassing and supporting candidates in elections. Also, Idrissa Mansaray is implementing civil works in Grand Cape Mount County in fulfilment of campaign promises to voters to support his candidate, the petitioners claimed.
“During the 2017 Voters’ Registration exercise, Idrissa Mansaray, facilitated the transfer of Liberian voters’ registration materials to Sierra Leone, and registered more than 10, 000 Sierra Leone nationals, under an infamous contract-voting scheme; that these contract-voters overwhelmingly increase the number of registered voters on the voters rolls of sparsely populated border town-polling centers in Grand Cape Mount County; and that these contract-voters, more so than Liberians, have regularly voted at these centers and influenced the outcome of Liberia’s elections,” the petitioners stated.
The petitioners also fingered National Elections Commission Grand Cape Mount County Magistrate, David Armah, for his alleged continuous election manipulations and malicious interferences, as well as the unscrupulous attitude of some state security personnel, all part of a wider criminal collusion, funded by Idrissa Mansaray, evident by the numerous protests filed by aggrieved candidates following every election that David Armah administered.
“The Liberian state security forces assigned along border entry points are allowing Idrissa Mansaray to enjoy an open cover, by his ordering of multiple physical attacks and assaults on the bodies of Ansumana Fortune, Johnny Simpson, Boima Konuwa, and Prince Kamara in Mano River Kongo in the October 5 2019 Senate bi-election, resulting in serious lacerations on the bodies of the victims named; similarly, on February 28, 2020, Mansaray ordered paid-thugs, riding a Hard Work Company vehicle, marked HW-015, which brutalized and inflicted body injuries on Boima Kondo and Hussein M. Semuvula in Bamballa, Porkpa District; and that the imposition and intrusion of businessman Idrissa Mansaray and his Hard Work Company in the politics of Grand Cape Mount poses an existential threat to the county, to democracy, and to free and fair elections,” the petitioners claimed, and specifically recalled the recent ruling in the protest filed by candidate Sando Wayne of the United People’s Party, following the October 5, 2019 senatorial bi-election, against Victor V. Watson and the National Elections Commission, in which the Commission reminded that the conduct of Victor Watson and Idrissa Mansaray of Hard Work, deploying yellow machines for civil works during an election, was in total violation of Article 81 of the 1986 Constitution of Liberia.
While condemning Sierra Leonean businessman Idrissa Mansaray for going after and attacking Hon. Bob H. Sheriff, Representative of Grand Cape Mount County, District # 1, in February 2020, for reimbursement for the financing of the Honorable legislative campaign, Mansaray being fully aware that such wrong doing was unprotected by Article 81 of the Liberian Constitution, the petitioners said they are convinced that failure to reprimand and prevent these violations is a recipe for future elections in Grand Cape Mount County to become a contest between big businesses in Liberia, including Firestone, Bea Mountain Mining Corporation, Mano Palm, Arcelor Mittal Liberia, Lone Star Cell MTN, Orange, Hard Work, Medina Rock Query, and not the political parties/independent candidates as enshrined in the Constitution and the New Elections Law of Liberia.
To safeguard the sanctity of the electoral processes in Grand Cape Mount County, the petitioners are therefore enjoining member governments of the Mano River Union, ECOWAS, African Union, the United Nations Development Program, IRIS AID, the Embassies of Sweden, Canada, European Union, including the National Elections Commission, the Ministry of Justice and the Liberian Legislature to investigate the constitutionality of the Hard Work Company and its CEO, Idrissa Mansaray for their involvement in campaign politics of Grand Cape Mount County, consistent with Article 81 of the 1986 Constitution of the Republic of Liberia, including the prosecution and replacement of David Armah, Election Magistrate of the County, for his patronizing role in aiding and abetting Idrissa Mansaray, including determining who is responsible for voting irregularities that fueled the repeated past protest, how it happened, how it is being successfully executed and what lesson to learn from this.
Additionally, the petitioners are calling for relocation of all voting precincts in Grand Cape Mount County near the Liberian border with Sierra Leone, which Idrissa Mansaray has used to transport and station contract-voters from Sierra Leone to influence the outcome of Grand Cape Mount County elections, including sanitizing the voters’ rosters for all border precincts, with the goal of detecting and eliminating the names of non-Liberians on the voter’s rolls at border town polling centers.
The petitioners also called for elections authorities to conduct a risk assessment of Liberia’s election infrastructure near the Mano River border, with the Republic of Sierra Leone, and remedy any identified gaps or vulnerabilities; including institutionalizing pre-election processes against potential election interference areas near the border.
The group also wants the establishment of a designate election infrastructure as critical infrastructure in Liberia and requiring utmost security, and that security strategies, policies and institutions at the national and local levels, be designed and implemented to protect the integrity of elections in Liberia, while ensuring security at every step of the electoral process in order to protect the integrity of the votes.
The regular training and rotation of the state’s joint security personnel, assigned along the Liberian border with Sierra Leone, especially NEC’s designated polling centers, so as to avert potential compromise by state security personnel, including mandating post-election security audits, was also recommended.
Among other things, the petitioners requested routine engagement in public information campaigns about the threat of foreign citizens election interference and instances of attempted or successful interference, and to signal through diplomatic channels, actions necessary to detect, deter, prevent, and if necessary, prosecute and punish foreigners found guilty of election interference; develop public-private partnerships and outreach with civil society, private companies and media outlets concerning election interference, consistent with the Constitution of Liberia and the Election Laws of Liberia, including the setting up of a joint-special task force in the months preceding every Sierra Leonean or Liberian election, to serve as a campaign watchdog mechanism to ensure the integrity of the electoral results, and to maintain public confidence in the electoral process; and ensure the holding of regular consultations with the local leaders in the communities near the Mano River border, prior to elections, with a view of discouraging acts of contract-voting, supported by joint interventions through effective administrative, independent, and nonpolitical authorities, to provide technical and politically neutral expertise, to ensure the integrity of the electoral process from start to finish on both sides of the border.
The petitioners also called for the encouragement of non-government institutions and organizations central to the democratic process, such as political parties and independent candidates’ campaigns, to adopt increased security measures, facilitated by government support, if required, and that a parallel taskforce be created to prevent foreign citizens participation and/or involvement of corporate businesses in elections and campaign finance violations.