Incumbents Missing From Debates in River Cess

CESTOS, River Cess – Four representative candidates contesting in River Cess’ second district recently participated in the final legislative debate in the county, in the presence of dozens of voters.

Five trending issues, including the management of county social development funds, legislative support projects, healthcare, education, and roads were the focus of the debate.

Four of the eight candidates contesting the district seat at the House of Representatives including incumbent Byron Zahnwea did not show up, although the organizers said everyone had been invited.

There has been no official statement from those absent but the resource officer of Zahnwea, Trokon Freeman, noted on Facebook that Zahnwea had been advised by doctors not to travel long distance.

The representative survived a tragic motor accident on July 8 while traveling to Monrovia and was flown out of the country for further treatment.

The panelists were Isaac Vah Tukpah of the Coalition for Democratic Change, Sayee Yason Alamadine of the All Liberian Party, Liberty Party’s Matthew Walley, and former Senator Jay Jonathan Barney of the Movement for Economic Empowerment.

The four candidates promised sustainable management and accountability of the county’s social development funds, improvement of roads, health and education when elected.

The ALP candidate, Sayee Alamadine said if elected, he would give 20 percent of his salary back to the county for development purposes. However, he did not say what mechanism would be put in place to manage the 20 percent.

On the legislative support projects, Alamadine said, “I will use the funds to complete the mini stadium here in the county.”

“River Cess will have her stadium, which is a prerequisite for hosting the county sports meet, that will boost the economy,” Alamadine said.

Each budget year, the National Legislature allots a specific amount of funding for each electoral district in the form of the legislative support projects. These are distinct from the county social development funds.

CDC’s Isaac Vah Tukpah told voters that he would push to cancel the legislative support projects.

“I do not support this whole legislative support project,” Tukpah said. “Because I believe [lawmakers] are using the funds to gain re-election as it had a significant impact on their people.”

Former Senator Jonathan Banney of MOVEE cited human resource capacity building as a priority in his platform.

“If I am elected as district two representative, my number one priority is people, because if you have educated people, River Cess will develop,” Banney said.

Matthew Walley of the Liberty Party said he has four “R’s” to develop the county.

“On top of the four R’s is reconciliation because the people are divided, and the county can’t develop in the absence of reconciliation,” Walley said.

The debate was the final of three debates in River Cess organized by the Center for Media Studies and Peace Building, funded by USAID through Internews.

In a previous debate held for the first district, four out the thirteen candidates showed up, according to Christain Chea, one of the moderators.

Coincidentally, the two incumbents (Rep. Byron Zahnwea of the second district and Rep. Alfred Juweh of the first district) were missing from both debates.

Featured photo by Eric Doue

Eric Doue

Eric Opa Doue is a co-founder of Echo Radio Station, which does a series of programs in Bassa, Kru, and simple Liberian English. Under his leadership, Echo Radio was selected as one of the Moody Radio global partners for training opportunities in 2013 and 2014. Eric was one of a handful of reporters who received training from Internews in 2015 on humanitarian reporting during the Ebola outbreak in Liberia. He holds a diploma in Journalism, from the Ghana Institute of Journalism.

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