…Describe It As ‘Bad Intent’ To Steal Their Votes
Some Citizens of Montserrado County speaking on trucking of voters
Several Citizens are in the queue at one of the BVR registration centers
By: Leila B. Gbati
There were reports of voter trucking during Phase One of the Biometric Voter Registration (BVR) exercise in several registration centers by politicians who are contesting the much-publicized Presidential and Legislative Elections on October 10, 2023.
The BVR exercise started in Bomi, Grand Cape Mount, Grand Bassa, Gbarpolu, Margibi, and Montserrado Counties on March 20, 2023, and ended on April 9, 2023.
Several registered voters and citizens of Montserrado County have expressed dismay over trucking of voters during the registration process.
The National Elections Commission (NEC) preliminary results from Phase One of the BVR process in the five counties indicate that over 1.4 million people have so far registered to vote in the elections.
Speaking to the citizens during the close of the BVR process in Montserrado County, they told the Women Voices Newspaper that the outcome of the elections in their district will be unfair because of the trucking of people into their communities to register.
According to them, politicians, who are in the habit of trucking people from one place to another, have succeeded over the years in forcing bad leaders on them, most especially the ones whose emergence was facilitated not by people from their constituencies but by others who have no interest in the constituencies where they voted.
The citizens said that trucking has the power to cause chaos in the elections most especially to destroy the current peace and stability of the country.
Jimmy Johnson is a resident of Montserrado County District #10. He registered on the first day of the registration process in his district.
Johnson claimed that politicians, who have money, are the ones in the habit of trucking people from one place to another.
Johnson further claimed that the people and district are the affected party regarding trucking.
“I am from District #10, Montserrado County and you bring somebody from District #5 to register in my district and that person doesn’t know what are issue affecting us in the district; this is why you see some incumbent lawmakers do not have time for their constituents. They do things on their own because in past elections they brought people into the district that don’t know the challenges there,” he asserted.
According to him, they saw a lot of strange faces in District #10, during the BVR process who they believed were trucked to register.
The District #10 resident pointed out that authorities of the NEC have to be in the position to control trucking, stating, ‘‘I hail from Sinoe County and residing in Montserrado. If I want to go to Sinoe County to register I will have to go on my own, nobody has to give me US$20 or US$10 and bring a car to carry me.”
He maintained that authorities of the NEC will have to put into place mechanisms to curtail the trucking of voters.
According to the Election Coordinating Committee (ECC) Phase One Report on the BVR process, Montserrado County with an estimated population of 1,920, 914, recorded 891, 201 voters during the BVR process.
George Kiadii, a resident of Montserrado County District #14 intoned that he registered on the first day of the registration process in his district.
Kiadii said that the act of politicians trucking people is not only bad but against the will of the people who are currently residing in the district and intended to steal their votes.
“To those politicians trucking people, they want to cause chaos in our country. If the people in your district like you, you should not truck people. If you have done well for the people, let your work speaks for you,” Kiadii stated.
‘‘Mostly to the incumbent lawmakers, if you made six years in power and you believe in yourselves that the people love you and you have done well in your district, there is no need for you to truck people, your works will speak for you,” he added.
Nancy Kollie, a resident of Montserrado County District #7, who was seen with her voter registration card, said her vote is her power and she is going to use said power to effect what she termed as a positive change.
Madam Kollie used the medium to call on well-meaning Liberians to remain in their district and register, emphasizing that their votes are their power and that on October 10, they will have the power to make decisions and that decision should affect everyone.
Solomon Watkins, a representative aspirant of District #10 Montserrado County said he registered and even sensitized residents of the district to participate in the registration process.
Watkins indicated that it was very unfortunate that people were seen leaving their districts into District #10 to register.
“It’s a very glaring issue, information was reported from community chairpersons, political actors, activists including ourselves (politicians) are on record for speaking against trucking during the registration process, especially in District #10. Imperially, I do not have statistics to prove that trucking went on but we rely on information by community dwellers reported cases of trucking,” he said.
He mentioned that NEC must ensure that there are measures into place to remedy trucking and there should be no room for trucking because it has the prerequisite of stealing the people’s votes and manipulating their decisions.
“It has serious undercut to democracy. There has been a series of trucking in other places and there should have been a recommendation from NEC to ensure that trucking is curtailed so that every time they cannot say they don’t have control over trucking. We condemn in whatever message coming from NEC that they don’t have control on trucking; it is a misstep by them,” the Montserrado County District #10 representative aspirant asserted.
He further stated that more need to be done to ensure all hands are placed on the desk and that is why they (politicians) are into the electoral process to ensure that various laws on books are being reviewed and new laws being introduced to ensure that the system is properly up to the task and work for everyone.
“Individuals with resources feel that they can go to work and manipulate a democratic process by getting people from one place to another to register especially in District #10, which is being affected greatly by the number of persons who reportedly came to the district to register. Citizens of our country and the districts are seriously affected by trucking because it undercuts the democratic process, prohibits developments, and creates a whole lot of wide gaps in decision-making. You will realize after the elections, decisions being made by whoever that is elected feel unaccountable to the people. some current lawmakers will even tell you, look you didn’t vote for me because they brought people to vote for them so there is no reason for the people to be in decision-making or silicify their view as it relates to policy that affects them. If you look at District #10, they are lacking public high school all of these are happening because of trucking,” he accentuated.
Rebecca Kollie, resident of District #10, Montserrado County said trucking is wrong and also right because of individual interest in the elections.
“What makes more people leave their districts and go to another district to register is because if we vote for the people most times they turn their backs on the district so for that reason in the next elections we can’t put our heads on cutting board by putting them back so we prefer going to another district to vote for our own interest,” Kollie claimed.
Reported trucking incidence during Phase One of the BVR process
It was widely reported that violence broke out in District #10, Montserrado County between supporters of District #10 incumbent lawmaker, Yekeh Kolubah and the Coalition for Democratic Change (CDC) over the issue of voter trucking with each side pointing accusing fingers at each other.
Another trucking incident was reported in Grand Bassa County involving incumbent Lawmaker Representative Mathew Joe.
It was alleged that Rep. Joe was using bus to take people to his district to register.
Also, it was reported on the second day of the voter registration that angry citizens against voters trucking damaged one of the National Transit Authority (NTA) Buses bearing plate number B-30510 at Brewerville Store outside the capital of Monrovia.
According to reports, about 200 persons were onboard the NTA bus, which was heading to Bomi County to form part of the registration process.
On the second day of voter registration, some aggrieved citizens organized themselves from Suehn Mecca and went to Dissikla Town to prevent huge trucking into their District.
NEC Response to Trucking
However, the Chairperson of the NEC, Davidetta Browne Lansanah, speaking on the issue of voter trucking in an interview said that it is an old aged problem and in order to curtail it stronger laws are needed to effect the actions and deter unscrupulous individuals who are engaged in the unlawful act.
Madam Lansanah indicated that in the absence of stronger laws to stop or minimize voter trucking Liberians will have to live with it, emphasizing that because of the absence of the required law to stop the practice, some citizens themselves are taking actions that sometimes lead to violence.
ECC Phase-one Observation Report on the BVR Process and Response to Trucking
According to ECC, they received three incident reports of massive voter trucking by aspirants, some of which include students who are primarily first-time voters.
The report stated that a total of only 12 critical incidents on voter trucking were reported by ECC observers throughout the entire phase one of the voter registration in Margibi, Montserrado, and Grand Bassa.
The report stated that in Margibi Electoral District #1, there were trucking of over 100 students from the King Foundation School in Montserrado including Gbarpolu and Grand Bassa Counties.
The Chairman of the ECC, Cllr. Oscar Bloh, in an interview, described voter trucking during the registration process as an unacceptable, illegal, and electoral offense in keeping with Section 10.1 of the New Election Law of Liberia.
Cllr. Bloh said the NEC and the Ministry of Justice never addressed and responded to voter trucking situations during the BVR process.
He condemned this practice and called on the NEC and other relevant state institutions to enforce the law on electoral offenses.
ECOWAS Ambassador, Josephine Nkrumah, in an interview, said that the illegal act of voter trucking can only be curtailed if Liberians exhibit responsible citizenship.
Amb. Nkrumah stressed that voters’ trucking is a very pertinent issue that the ECOWAS closely followed during the conduct of the BVR, but maintained that citizens have a cardinal responsibility to reduce the act by refusing politicians’ offers and raising alarm to the appropriate authority.
“When we talk about voter trucking, it takes two parties; it takes the political parties or the politicians on one hand, and the citizens on another hand; so all of us cannot fight voter trucking when we are also part of the problem. The politicians can come and take you somewhere to register, but it’s up to you as an individual, as a responsible citizen to kick against it,” Amb. Nkrumah said.
“I think the first step is for us to understand that there is a regulatory framework. NEC is the electoral regulatory body and voter trucking is one of those offensives under the regulatory framework of NEC. There is one thing to have the law and another thing to begin implementation that follows there in terms of preventive measures and consequential offensive that is committed,” she asserted.
She reminded citizens of Liberia that key issues political parties have committed themselves to April 4, 2023, Farmington Declaration is a free, fair, and transparent election, and one key subject that was highlighted during the meeting is the issue of voters’ trucking.
Speaker Bhofal Chambers, in an interview, said the issue with trucking voters from one county to another or from one district to the next is advantageous to aspirants but disadvantageous to citizens of the county or district from where they are being trucked as it decreases the populace of those areas.
Speaker Chamber pointed out that trucking is an anti-democratic practice that should not be tolerated because it undermines development which is driven by population.
“Politicians who are in the habit of trucking voters are only doing that to get power they are not in the interest of the people. The undemocratic practice of voter trucking only imposes leaders who aren’t the choice of the residents of the county they have been trucked to,” he mentioned.
However, he called on political aspirants to desist from such acts and allow the citizens to register in their county of residence.
The Chairperson of the National Civil Society Council of Liberia (NCSCL), Loretta Pope-Kai, has condemned all acts of voter trucking, terming the act anti-democratic.
Madam Kai, in a statement, said voter trucking in the BVR process is not good for the electoral process and Liberians must desist.
“If we are to have a free fair democratic process for the people to exercise their political franchise, politicians must desist from the habit of trucking voters. On the other hand, the voter too, must attach value to themselves by realizing the importance of being eligible to vote in a national political process in the first place. Not only the government even Liberians (voters) need to protect this process by keeping things peaceful. We are in a critical time this is a defining moment for our democracy,” she said.
Madam Kai further expressed displeasure over the increasing violence that took place during the BVR process at some registration centers, most especially in Montserrado County.