Sirleaf Admits to Feud With Boakai During 2017 Elections

MONROVIA, Montserrado – Liberia’s former president Ellen Johnson Sirleaf has admitted what has been obvious to the public – that a feud ensued between her and former vice president Joseph Boakai during the 2017 presidential elections.

On November 28, Sirleaf, appearing on OK FM, said problems developed between she and Boakai during the elections and “we went the different wrong way.”

“I have since called upon my former vice president and the both of us have talked,” she said.

Though the former president did not mention the precise cause of the separation, she hopes the issues can be resolved.

“The former vice president is not my enemy and will also be my friend,” she said.

Moving further, Sirleaf said internal wrangling within the Unity Party’s leadership needed to be resolved. However, she said the party’s internal bickering does not need to be discussed on the radio. Instead, they must be discussed within the party’s corridors.

“We will go back and do our own evaluation and assessment of what happened and resolve the issues,” she said.

During a radio interview from his Paynesville residence on his 74th birthday on November 30, also on OK FM, Boakai said for the past twelve years at the helm of leadership in the country, the first six years were very successful because he and Sirleaf worked together very well in the interest of the country.

“I was never disrespected,” he added. “I was never overlooked and remained [in] my lane and Sirleaf will never say that I disrespected her, or [that] misunderstanding ensued between the both of us.”

Liberia’s former vice president Joseph Boakai says whatever Ellen Johnson Sirleaf did to him during the 2017 elections is between her and her God. Photo: Zeze Ballah

He explained that the working relationship between he and Sirleaf was very cordial and that the former president visited his private residence once or twice a month to resolve critical issues.

When quizzed by the interviewer as to what went wrong between him and Sirleaf, the former vice president avoided directly answering the question, saying he served his boss well as any good vice president would do.

“Sirleaf is a witness to such,” he added. “Whatever Sirleaf did to me during the 2017 presidential elections is between she and her God, I am not here to judge her.”

According to him, the past will judge both of them but he stressed that “the fallout did not come from me.”

“Sirleaf’s fallout with me is not an issue to discuss but the Liberian people will be the best judge,” Boakai said.

The former vice president said he believes where he stopped in his political career was destined by God.

“I served vigilantly and have no regret for whatever that happened and expect disappointment in life,” Boakai noted. “I have done my best for Liberia and have no sense of remorse.”

He added that he would live his life for the next generation and not the next election.

There were unverified rumors that Boakai refused Sirleaf’s suggestions to take on several individuals as running mates, including the Liberty Party’s standard bearer, Charles Walker Brumskine, former Finance Minister Amara Konneh, or Gbehzohngar M. Findley, the current Foreign Minister in the Coalition for Democratic Change government.

After Findley visited Grand Bassa with Boakai, he was highly expected to be named running mate but the former vice president changed his mind and selected Emmanuel Nuquay, former speaker of the 53rd National Legislature.

Due to mounting public speculations that Sirleaf had withdrawn her support to her vice president, the then-presidential press secretary Jerolinmek M. Piah, in August 2017, denied those claims.

“Our direct response to all of the rumors and misinformation is, as of this point: Boakai remains Sirleaf’s choice for the presidency, realizing though that the actual power of determining who becomes president remains the sole responsibility of the Liberian people,” Piah said.

But Piah’s statement appeared empty when Sirleaf refused to attend the Unity Party campaign rally held at the Antoinette Tubman Stadium in September 2017.

In an interview on ELBC radio, Sirleaf said she had made a promise to some women in Bomi, Suehn Mecca district that she would break ground for the construction of a clinic in that area. She called the groundbreaking “a greater priority than the UP campaign rally.”

It was now becoming clear that Sirleaf was not supporting the vice president in the 2017 presidential election.

Following the first round of the election, which placed Unity Party and the Coalition for Democratic Change in the runoff, Sirleaf in December broke grounds for the pavement of the Gbarnga, Bong-Konia, Lofa road and did not invite Boakai to the program. The optics were significant, given Boakai’s stature as Lofa’s most prominent statesman.

George Weah, the then-Senator for Montserrado and Ellen Johnson Sirleaf breaking grounds for the pavement of the 81-kilometer road. Photo: Philip T. Singbah

The groundbreaking program was attended by the standard bearer and vice standard bearer of the Coalition for Democratic Change, Senators George Weah and Jewel Howard Taylor and other government officials.

Sirleaf’s action angered many citizens, including Lofa’s Sen. George Tengbeh, who expressed disappointment that she had chosen an opposition politician to break grounds for the construction of the road.

Tengbeh said during the 2005 elections campaigning period, Sirleaf, after selecting Boakai as her running mate, proceeded to Lofa and promised the people that if elected, she would pave the Gbarnga-Menikorma road.

“To my disappointment and hundreds of citizens of Lofa, the big question to Sirleaf is: is this the payback she has for us after supporting her for 12 years and in the midst of rumors that she is not supporting Boakai, who hails from the county?” Tengbeh said.

Anthony Kesselly, the then-public policy advisor in the office of Boakai, informed The Bush Chicken that the former vice president did not receive an invitation to attend the groundbreaking program.

Sirleaf, who was accused by party leaders of meddling in the 2017 presidential elections, in which Boakai suffered a bruising defeat, was later expelled from Unity Party.

Four other party officials were expelled, the party said in a statement.

“The behavior of the expelled persons constitutes sabotage and undermined the existence of the party,” the statement said.

The decision to expelled Sirleaf and others was taken by the party’s executive committee.

But it remains to be seen how the former president will resolve the party’s internal wrangling when she is expelled.

Featured photo by Zeze Ballah

Zeze Ballah

Zeze made his journalism debut as a high school reporter at the LAMCO Area School System. In 2016 and 2017, the Press Union of Liberia awarded Zeze with the Photojournalist of the Year award. Zeze was also the union's 2017 Health Reporter of the Year. He is a Health Journalism Fellow with Internews.

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