Liberia: Another Female Joins the Senate

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At long last, the Liberian Senate has welcomed another female Legislator after months of legal wrangling which followed the December 8, 2020 Special Senatorial Elections (SSE).

This comes after the National Elections Commission (NEC) declared Madam Botoe Kanneh winner in the Gbarpolu County senatorial race with 4, 955 constituting 26.20% over her male counterparts including her major contender, Representative Alfred Koiwood of the ruling CDC who obtained 4, 498 amounting to 23.78%.

The NEC board of commissioners after reading the Supreme Court opinion on Tuesday, March 30, 2021 immediately proceeded to announce the winner from the December 8, 2020 following the Special Senatorial Election held on January 8, 2021 in Nomadatuon Town, Gbarma District Gbarpolu County.

Following the pronouncement of madam Kanneh as winner in Gbarpolu County, the NEC immediately proceeded to certificate her to ensure that the county is represented at the National Legislature as was mandated in the Supreme Court March 24, 2021 decision.

Prior to her pronouncement and subsequent certification by NEC, Botoe topped the election in Gbarpolu County with 449 votes to be the first female senator of the county since its formation, but she was not declared winner due to a complain of elections violence and irregularities filed against her by the ruling party Senatorial candidate, Alfred Koiwood.

Koiwood’s December 27, 2020 complain was dismissed by the NEC Magistrate in Gbarpolu County on the basis that the Commission lacks jurisdiction to preside over said matter as it borders on issue of criminality, but Koiwood again took an appeal to the Board of Commission after which the Board of Commissioners(BOC) ruled reversing its Magistrate’s decision by ordering that a full scale investigation be conducted to establish facts and circumstances leading to the December 8,2020 violence in Nomadatuon Town since according to the board an individual cannot cause election violence.

Madam Kanneh excepted to the BOC February 24, 2021 verdict and took an appeal to the Honorable Supreme Court who ruled in her favor on Wednesday March 24, 2021 mandating the Commission to proceed with immediate effect to pronounce the results from the December 8 election in Gbarma District Gbarpolu County.

The court in its ruling agreed with the female Senator-elect that the election house does not have the authority to probe into issue of violence rather the Ministry of Justice and that the board committed revisable error when it ordered her Magistrate to conduct an investigation into the December 8 violence in the county.

“NEC having invited the Ministry of Justice to take cease of the matter, it should have dismissed the case in keeping with section 2.9(g) of the new election law especially where it borders on criminality,” the ruling added.

The court verdict maintains that only the Ministry of Justice had authority to probe into issues of violence and that the MOJ is yet to make any pronouncement of those suspected of the December 8 violence in Nomadatuon Town, Gbarma District.

“With the exception of Nomadatuon Town in Gbarma District, there is no complain by the CDC Senatorial candidate Alfred Koiwood of electoral violence and irregularities in other areas within the district where the election was held,” it stated.

The high Court furthered that the dismissal of Koiwood complains by the NEC Magistrate does not in no way violate his right as claimed.

On the other hand, the Supreme Court, ruled that there is no record of the Town Chief of Gbarma District filing a complaint with the election Magistrate in the district and that assuming the Town Chief had filed a formal complaint, Alfred Koiwood is not in the position to raise any issue to that effect.

In the same vain, Willington Geevon Smith had been certificated and has officially taken his seat at the Liberian Senate following months of contentions over his win as senator of Rivercess County.

According to NEC Chairperson Davidetta Browne Lansanah said Geevon Smith was duly elected as senator of Rivercess County in the special Senatorial election.

Commissioner Lansanah appealed with the two lawmakers not to forget the NEC on grounds that the commission has numerous challenges and that they could be a great help.

Both senators Kanneh and Smith vowed to be NEC Ambassadors in the Liberian Senate to help reduce the many challenges the election house is faced with.

They further pledged to lobby with their colleagues to support the commission to deliver to the Liberian people as per its mandate. With the certification of Madam Kanneh, it means that the number of women at the Liberian Senate has increased to two with a ratio of two women to 38 men. Meanwhile, NEC is reported to owe Over US$3 Million.

The National Elections Commission (NEC) is said to be indebted to partners for the conduct of the just ended ‘Special Senatorial Election’ (SSE) and two By-elections.

Through Commissioner Lansanah did not state how much balance the central government has for the Commission for the conduct of the December 8, 2020 elections, she holds that the Commission is indebted to partners over three million United States dollars.

Making the disclosure Tuesday, March 30, 2021 during the certification of additional two winners from the SSE, NEC Chairperson, and Davidetta Browne Lansanah called on the Government of Liberia to speedily make available the balance funds so as to enable the Commission meet up with their obligations to partners.

At the same time Madam Lansanah said the NEC had disposed of all the cases before it emanating from the Special Senatorial Elections and By-elections across the country.

According to the Chairperson, while it is true that the NEC has disposed of all cases before it, two other cases are on appeal at the level of the supreme court of Liberia.

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