Elections Commission Investigating Unity Party for Sable Mining Donations

MONROVIA, Montserrado – National Elections Commission Chairman Jerome Korkoya has confirmed that the organization has launched an investigation into the Unity Party for constitutional violations. The infractions involve receiving political contributions from Sable Mining, as alleged in a Global Witness report.

On May 11, Global Witness released a report charging that Sable Mining assisted in Varney Sherman’s rise to the top as chairman of the ruling Unity Party and also paid for the resignation of Henry Fahnbulleh as Secretary General of the party.

Additionally, the report claimed that Sable provided $200,000 on April 22, 2010, with the purpose explicitly stated as “Political Contribution – UP Convention.”

If proven true, the Unity Party’s acceptance of money from a corporation would be a violation of Article 82 of the constitution, which prohibits “corporate and business organizations and labor unions” from making “contributions to the funds or expenses of any political party.”

“As you know, we regulate the political parties but we heard the news just like everybody else heard it,” Korkoya said in an interview on Wednesday. “So to be clear, what we’ve asked the Global Witness people to do is to provide us with what they have. As you know, we can’t go to Unity Party and say give us evidence against yourself so we asked Global Witness.”

Korkoya clarified that NEC had not yet sent out the official request for supporting documents with regards to the allegations. “We wanted to know how to get communication to them and they wrote us back and gave us their appropriate address. We’re forwarding it to them sometime today or tomorrow,” Korkoya said.

Global Witness’ Senior Communications Advisor, Alice Harrison, confirmed via email that NEC made an initial contact on June 13 and they are “currently awaiting follow-up from the Commission.” Global Witness declined to provide to The Bush Chicken, evidence on the allegations made in the report. Harrison said the organization wanted to avoid affecting ongoing investigations by the Liberian government.

Korkoya hesitated to say what sanctions NEC would levy against the Unity Party if the organization was found to have violated the constitution.

“All I can say to you is that if a registered political party that is under the law breaks the law, the law will take its course,” Korkoya maintained. He did mention that among the possible actions which could be taken, the Unity Party could be forced to transfer those funds to NEC or the party could be assessed a fine “but the supporting documents will really reveal the extent of the violation and make it clearer what the penalty should be.”

Political parties are required to disclose their finances to NEC every year on September 1, including the sources of funding, assets and liabilities, and how funds were used. It is not yet clear whether Unity Party reported receiving those funds in 2010. The Bush Chicken has made a request to NEC for those documents.

Featured photo by Jefferson Krua

Jefferson is a co-owner of The Bush Chicken. He has a Masters in Transportation Infrastructure and Systems Engineering.

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