Earlier in February 2022, the Liberian Senate, through its secretary J. Nanborlor Singbeh, informed the NEC of a vacancy within the Senate to be filled under Article 37 of the Liberian Constitution. Secretary Singbeh informed that “under the law, a convict is not eligible for position to public office or to hold public office; therefore, the vacancy for a seat in the Liberian Senate for Lofa County remains pending following determination by the Supreme Court”.
The NEC on December 20, 2020, conducted the Special Senatorial elections to fill 15 vacancies for 15 Counties within the Liberian Senate. The outcome of the elections sawMr. Brownie J. Samukai as the successful candidate to fill the vacancy in the Liberian Senate for Lofa County. He received the most votes of the 11 candidates who vied for the Lofa County senatorial seat. Samukai received 20, 431 votes, followed by Independent candidate Cllr. Joseph Jallah with 13,968 votes. However, he couldn’t be accredited and seated as a consequence of charges of ‘Theft of Property, Criminal Conspiracy, Economic Sabotage, Misuse of Public Money and Money Laundering levied against him in the case: the Republic of Liberia by and through the Armed Forces of Liberia (AFL) and the Ministry of Justice, Plaintiff versus Brownie J. Samukai, Joseph Johnson and James Nyumah Ndokor, Defendant for which Mr. Brownie J. Samukai and his co-defendants were convicted by Criminal Court “C” of the First Judicial Circuit Court.”
Further, the outcome of the 2020 Special Senatorial Elections (SSE) was marred by several legal challenges and the adjudication of disputes was in Constitutional breach. Additionally, the 2021 Representative by-elections held for Bomi, Bong, Nimba, and Grand Gedeh counties were characterized by isolated instances of electoral violence and disputes. Elections in Liberia remain a test for maintaining the country’s peace and democratic stability in the absence of external peacekeepers. Coupled with the threats/attacks posed to democracy in the region, Liberia is at the critical stage of maintaining democratic stability, especially before the 2023 general Presidential and Legislative Elections.
Following the announcement of the vacancy for the Lofa Senatorial seat, there were mixed reactions both from citizens and state actors on the constitutionality of the process. Many believed that the election was in constitutional breach to prevent Samuka from taking the seat while others believed that the process was a political tactics by the government to take control of the vote-rich county of Lofa as a gain for the 2023 general elections. The public reactions during the days leading to the conduct of the elections were uncertain till the announcement of results.
It was therefore a surprise realization when the people of Lofa turned out peacefully on June 28, 2022, even though there were allegations of vote rigging by the opposing Unity Party.