For weeks, the Collaborating Political Parties (CPP) has been on the verge of falling apart. The culprit is Benoni Urey of the All Liberia Party (ALP) and his explosive allegation in August that the CPP’s framework document was tampered with by Alexander Cummings of the Alternative National Congress (ANC) prior to filing the document with the National Election Commission (NEC).
From the beginning, Cummings has denied the allegations against him, insisting that he and the ANC acted honorably. But Urey’s irresponsible allegations nevertheless gained traction within the CPP, and Sen Nyonblee Karnga-Lawrence of the Liberty Party (LP) – the leader of the CPP until she handed over the reigns to Joe Boakai of the Unity Party (UP) on October 15 – publicly accused Cummings of tampering with the framework document. Notably, Boakai has been very careful with his words on the subject and has declined to echo Urey and Lawrence’s accusations.
Benoni Urey, whose political fortunes have long been stymied by his questionable sources of wealth, participation in arms dealing and war crimes, and sanctioning by the United States and the United Nations, must have been patting himself on the back for his apparent political masterstroke. By accusing Cummings of tampering with the framework document, Urey strengthened Boakai, his political patron while weakening Cummings, with whom Urey has long had an acrimonious relationship.
Unfortunately for Urey, his political games have backfired spectacularly. Not only has he put at risk the integrity of the CPP – the only route to defeating President George Weah and his Congress for Democratic Change (CDC) in 2023 – Urey’s allegations appear to be entirely fabricated.
On Thursday, a letter authored by the team of lawyers which were responsible for studying the alleged tampering of the CPP framework was released to the public, and it was scathing. It noted that “we would like to state [that] we made a number of revisions both in substance and structure and the framework document as revised was presented at a meeting convened for that purpose and attended by the Leadership of the four Political Parties.”
In other words, the “nefarious tampering” alleged by Urey were made by the lawyers, and Urey and the three other party leaders making up the CPP signed off on these changes.
What is more, the lawyers added in their letter what observers of Liberian politics realized from the beginning: “[M]ay we remind you that there are risks associated with the unceasing public engagements on this matter. Accordingly, we advise that some form of collective restraint is put in place and that the political leaders urgently exert efforts to bring closure to this matter.”
It is difficult to envision a scenario in which Urey will escape blame for the damage that he has brought upon the CPP. Will he next try to claim that his signature was faked? That he forgot about that meeting he attended with the lawyers to discuss the revisions? Urey has dug himself into a hole and it is difficult to see how he climbs out with any trust or integrity intact.
It is important to recall that Urey’s allegations against Cummings and the ANC came while the Liberty Party, also a member of the CPP, was undergoing its own internal wrangling over alleged tampering of its party constitution. Did Urey see an opportunity to pile on by launching similar accusations of his own at the CPP level? Was he acting on his own, springing unfounded accusations on his fellow CPP members unexpectedly, or was this political brinksmanship somehow coordinated?
Whatever his motivations, Urey’s accusations have left the CPP in tatters along with the ALP leader’s own reputation. And he has left his alleged political ally Boakai, as the current head of the CPP, with the daunting and perhaps impossible task of trying re-unify the CPP.