Many Liberians would reject Sirleaf 2nd term, rival say
MONROVIA — The main rival of Liberian president and Nobel laureate Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf issued a veiled warning on Saturday, saying tens of thousands could reject her re-election in a looming vote, making it hard for her to govern.
Winston Tubman, who dismissed Johnson-Sirleaf’s Nobel Peace Prize award on Friday as unmerited, did not expand on the warning three days before polling. A dispute over the last election in 2005 led to rioting in the capital Monrovia.
About 1.8 million Liberians will head to the polls on October 11 in the West African state’s second presidential vote since a civil war that killed more than 200,000 people and which will be seen as a bellwether of the nation’s post-conflict recovery.
“Thousands are impatient and they are ready to take the country back on the right path… We are not seeking revenge but we are seeking a new path,” Tubman, the opposition CDC party’s candidate, told Reuters in an interview after a packed rally in the capital Monrovia.
“These tens of thousands you have seen in Monrovia and other places demonstrating and clamoring with passion for us, they will not accept being cheated,” he said.
“So, if they come out with a result and say … they won, the fact is they will have to govern. If they do not have the support of these tens of thousands of the people, it will be difficult for them to govern.”
Tubman, a Harvard-educated nephew of former president William Tubman whose running mate is former AC Milan and Chelsea soccer star George Weah, is expected to give Johnson-Sirleaf her toughest battle for re-election.
A smooth election in the country, one of the least developed on the planet, could pave the way for billions of dollars in mining and energy investments.
“NOBEL LAUREATE? WE DON’T CARE”
Johnson-Sirleaf earned fame for becoming Africa’s first freely elected female head of state in 2005, two years after the end of the 14-year civil war, and has since maintained stability in the country while convincing donors to write off billions of dollars in debt.
But she has taken criticism at home for the slow pace of rebuilding infrastructure and creating jobs, and for failing to root out rampant street crime and government corruption.
Analysts say the playing field tipped further in Johnson-Sirleaf’s favour last week after she was jointly awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for her work restoring peace — a prize Tubman says she does not deserve.
“They do so on the eve of our elections, when the people of Liberia want to pull her out of office,” Tubman said. “She is not known for peace. It is quite the opposite. She is known for bringing war.”
Tubman said Johnson-Sirleaf’s early support for rebel leader Charles Taylor, a warlord notorious for his child armies and who is on trial at the Hague for alleged war crimes, should have eliminated her from the running for the prize.
Johnson-Sirleaf has said she provided food, supplies and money to Taylor during his efforts to oust authoritarian President Samuel Doe, but said she later withdrew that support.
Tubman said he was confident that he would win, and that Johnson-Sirleaf’s Nobel prize would have little local impact.
“Yes, internationally, people will look and say ‘Hi, Nobel laureate’. But inside Liberia, it does not have that effect,” Tubman said. “I am a hundred percent sure we will win, not eighty percent.”