People Are Getting Worried about PYJ’s ‘Bad Influence’ on JNB

Concerns are mounting that Joe Boakai, the standard bearer for the Unity Party (UP) and former Vice President, is adopting radical and dangerous rhetoric just weeks ahead of Liberia’s presidential elections to be held on October 15.

The former Vice President said on September 24, “If they think they will steal this election, it will not hide because if they will do it, that’s the end of this country.” Boakai’s remarks come just a week after his ally, Sen Prince Yormie Johnson, made similar remarks threatening an armed uprising should Boakai not win the presidency.

Henry Costa, a popular talk show host, leader of the Council of Patriots (COP) and Senate candidate for Montserrado County who was once one of Boakai’s loudest supporters, denounced his remarks. Costa wrote on his Facebook page, “At first upon hearing of this grave threat, I found it very hard to believe that former Vice President Joseph Boakai, a usually measured statesman, would make such a troubling statement until I watched the video of him saying it in Grand Bassa yesterday. I believe that no politician has the right to threaten the existence of our country no matter what!

The Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) has already issued a dire warning following Prince Johnson’s remarks about threats to Liberia’s stability as a result of dangerous rhetoric, and the United States Embassy in Monrovia circulated an internal security warning noting the potential for instability. The US Embassy’s warning was widely viewed by analysts as being motivated by Prince Johnson’s dangerous rhetoric, and Boakai’s echoing of such sentiments will only further elevate fears among the international community.

Secretary General Amos Tweah of the Unity Party attempted to contain the damage from Boakai’s remarks, dubiously claiming in an official party statement that Boakai is not saying his supporters will wipe out the country, instead trying to cast blame on the George Weah administration. Notably, Tweah failed to note in his statement that the Unity Party would respect the outcome of next month’s elections.

Many analysts have concluded that Boakai’s radical threats – which are highly unusual for the ageing statesman who has long been referred to by the embarrassing moniker “Sleepy Joe” – are being driven by Prince Johnson. Sen Johnson has made no secret that he views Boakai’s running-mate, his close associate and protégé Jeremiah Koung, as a way to bring himself close to power. Now many experts fear that Boakai’s entire election platform is being driven by Sen Johnson, a former warlord who has been sanctioned by the United States since 2021.

Boakai’s erstwhile supporters appear to be taking note. Even in Lofa County, Boakai’s home turf where he took 84.20% of the vote in his failed 2017 presidential bid, Boakai’s star appears to be fading. President Weah and his Coalition for Democratic Change (CDC) has taken note, and the CDC has been vigorously campaigning in Lofa, seeing it as a new battleground for the October 15 elections. A CDC spokesman Kanio Bai Gbala said his party is aiming to collect at least 50% of the vote in Lofa. A September 25 rally by the CDC in Salayea and Zorzor districts in Lofa drew major crowds, raising fears within Boakai’s camp that even the former Vice President’s home county may now be up for grabs.

President Weah has responded to the threats made by Boakai and Prince Johnson by ensuring the public that the election will be peaceful and transparent, and condemned Boakai’s threats. President Weah declared, “To all distinguished citizens, those who can hear my voice, I want to acknowledge the glory of God and assure you that in our country, there will be no return to a rebel checkpoint.” Joe Boakai appears to be turning desperate just weeks ahead of Liberia’s key presidential elections. Especially considering his alliance with a former warlord who remains notorious for violent acts committed during Liberia’s civil war, the former Vice President’s desperation is setting off alarm bells in Monrovia and throughout the international community.