GBARNGA — Over the past two decades, Bong County’s political landscape has been dominated by two major parties. For a significant period, the Unity Party (UP) and Congress for Democratic Change (CDC) were the primary forces in Bong County, with most Bongese (natives of Bong County) unable to envision any other party holding sway.
The upcoming presidential elections in October are shaping up to be the most fiercely contested yet, particularly due to the meteoric rise of influential leaders in the county who have been entrusted with leading political activities for various political parties.
The Collaborating Political Parties (CPP), which comprises the Alternative National Congress (ANC) and the Musa Hassan Bility faction of the Liberty Party (LP), was initially downplayed in the lead-up to the October elections. Proponents of President George Weah’s Coalition of Democratic Change (CDC), a conglomeration of three political parties including the former ruling National Patriotic Party (NPP), the Liberia People’s Democratic Party, and the former ruling Unity Party in the county, consistently dismissed the CPP’s chances.
However, against all odds, the CPP appears to have made headway in Bong County, as demonstrated by their showing last weekend, which surprised many political observers and even some supporters.
In the 2017 elections, Alexander Cummings, the ANC’s standard bearer, finished third in Bong County, despite choosing his running mate, former Liberian Ambassador to the United States of America Jeremiah Sulunteh, who is a native of Bong County. The ANC and Alexander Cummings heavily relied on Sulunteh to deliver the desired results from Bong, even though he had spent the six years prior to the 2017 elections in exile.
At that time, Sulunteh was the sole prominent Bong County citizen actively supporting the ANC, while the then-ruling Unity Party had influential sons of the county who were politically proven and experienced members of its campaign team. This included former District Two lawmaker Prince Moye, former Senator Henry Yallah, former District Seven lawmaker and two-term legislator Corpu Barclay.
Meanwhile, the CDC’s campaign team boasted its biggest asset, two-term senator Jewel Howard-Taylor.
As the presidential election approaches, many believe the playing field has become somewhat level, with the previously “politically irrelevant” ANC now squaring off against the two major parties in Bong County. The ANC has not only strengthened its political structure at the grassroots level but has also attracted influential stakeholders in the county to lead its campaign. These include former Bong County senator Henry Yallah, who garnered over 25,000 votes in his unsuccessful re-election bid in 2020, Jonah Nulee Tokpa, an influential young man aspiring to be a lawmaker for District Four, Melvin Savage, a former protégé of Vice President Jewel Howard-Taylor who lost the 2021 by-election in District Two by a difference of four hundred votes, District One representative Albert Hills, and Lerpolu Torlon, formerly of the Unity Party.
In essence, the battle for political supremacy in Bong County between the ANC, UP, and the CDC is a proxy fight between the political elites of the county who feel marginalized and those who have exerted immense dominance over the past two decades.
ONES TO WATCH in BONG: VP Taylor, CDC
In terms of political strongholds, Bong County is often associated with the NPP, a phenomenon for which the vice president receives significant credit. She has won the county twice as a senator in 2005 and 2014 before helping the CDC secure victory in Bong County during both the first and second rounds of the election for the first time.
However, since then, the CDC has struggled to replicate this success in Bong County, losing three by-elections. In 2018, independent candidate Henrique Tokpa defeated the CDC’s senatorial candidate. In 2020, Senator Prince Moye of the Unity Party emerged victorious, and in 2021, Representative James Kolleh of the opposition People’s Unification Party (PUP) won. Internal party conflicts have been responsible for these three defeats in Bong County for the CDC. The party’s ability to unite ahead of October will be a crucial factor in reclaiming Bong County.
HENRY YALLAH, ANC:
Henry Yallah has dispelled criticisms that he is no longer relevant in Bong County politics following his loss to Senator Prince Moye in 2020. Yallah gathered thousands of his supporters for a political rally at the David Kuyoun Sports Stadium in Gbarnga.
The former Bong County senator has vowed to ensure that Alexander Cummings of the Collaborating Political Party finishes first in the county. In his speech on Saturday, Yallah said, “Mr. Cummings, make no mistake, Bong County is a political battleground. We don’t have political godfathers here. We, as a people, decide for ourselves despite having a vice president from here.” Yallah’s remark directed at the vice president could mark the beginning of what to expect between the two individuals after Howard-Taylor played a significant role in his electoral defeat in 2020.
PRINCE MOYE, UP:
With Moye, the UP has a political fighter who appears ready to go all out to ensure the party’s victory in Bong. The lawmaker defeated Yallah by a margin of over 15,000 votes, a feat largely attributed to the legacy he established for himself during his two-term tenure as a lawmaker for District Two. It is always an intriguing political battle when Moye and the vice president support different sides during elections in Bong County. In 2014, Jewel Howard-Taylor narrowly defeated Moye in her bid for re-election, and in 2018, Moye defeated the vice president’s candidate Marvin Cole through proxy candidate Henrique Tokpa.