*CDC, a historical look at its formation*
The Congress for Democratic Change was founded in 2004. By that year, Liberians were picking up the pieces from the civil conflict that witnessed the exiling of President Taylor and the setting up of National Transitional Government (NTG) headed by one Charles Gyude Bryant. The NTG was an offspring of the Comprehensive Peace Accord (CPA) signed in Accra, Ghana in August 2003.
Many ordinary Liberians had begun voicing their frustration and misgivings of the Liberian political system. Many attributed the suffering of the masses to the maneuvering of a greedy and selective few and expressed their frustration about the failure of leadership in Liberia to chart a new course of action for the nation after the cessation of the 14-year long civil war. They agreed that the nation had been misled and plunged into chaos by a generation of leaders who placed their individual interests above those of the country and its people. Many also argued that there was a need to change the course of politics in Liberia. A change that will bring to the table, Liberian citizens of unblemished character, who were really passionate about the wellbeing of the Liberian person. Liberians who were selfless and above all, had no part to play in the atrocities of our civil strife.
They also agreed that the failure of leadership and the resulting civil war have greatly impacted the young generation of Liberians. They came to the realization that it is the youths who must break out of their accustomed complacency and provide a new sense of direction for Liberia.
Several names were suggested including that of Ambassador George Manneh Weah, by Chairman Emeritus Joshua Sackie. At the time, Mr. Sackie made a radio announcement inviting Liberians to meet to discuss the formation of a group to petition Amb. Weah to run for the Liberian presidency. There was unanimity about the reputation and character of Amb. Weah. They believed that if he could be convinced to accept the petition, it would be phenomenal. With our past history, he was the right person for Liberia and also a rallying point that all parties to the conflict in Liberia could easily accept. The organizers believed that George Manneh Weah embodied the hopes and aspirations of the masses, and had the ability and influence to mobilize Liberians into an institution that would spare the nation from civil war, destruction and underdevelopment it had been known for.
During a visit to Liberia, Ambassador Weah agreed to meet with Mr. Sackie and friends. The first meeting of this great movement took place at Ambassador Weah’s residence. Many issues were discussed with the Ambassador, including the failure of past regimes due to selfishness and greed. It was suggested that based on his life and character, it will be a honorable thing if he could accept to be the flag bearer of this new movement to send a clear message to the old order that the grass root majority of Liberians were tired of their misrule. The group then went ahead and formally petitioned Ambassador Weah to contest the presidency in the October 11, 2005 general elections.
Ambassador Weah asked the gathering to give him time to consult with his family and friends especially his mentor, African icon, anti-apartheid activist and former president of South Africa, the late Nelson Rolihlahla Dalibhunga Mandela. In that meeting, it was agreed in principle that Mr. Sylvester Williams alias Careca, senior advisor to Ambassador Weah, serves as the Chairman of the Friends of George Weah and that his proximity to the Ambassador will make it easy for his response and impression about him entering politics to reach the body.
That meeting precipitated several other consultative meetings between and among various youth groups and concerned citizen movements. It became evident that all of these groups had a singular objective, appealing to Ambassador Weah to contest the 2005 presidential elections. A group under the nomenclature, The Friends of George Weah, then decided to call a meeting of like minds to form a single movement to oversee this political mission. In the absence of Mr. Sylvester Williams, Mr. Macdonald Wentoe became the acting chairman of the group that was now responsible to work out plan of actions to organize a political party once Ambassador Weah accepts to run as president.
Mr. Orishall Gould and Mr. Varflay Dolley both of whom were Managing Director and Deputy Managing Director respectively of NASSCORP agreed to provide the Conference Room of that Agency for the pillar meetings of the movement, a decision that later proved controversial because there were many principal actors in the National Transitional Government that were jittery about this new movement. Mr. Gould and other members later secured an office on the 14th Street Avenue where election for the leadership of the Organizing Committee was held.
Mr. Orishall Gould won the Chairmanship that was contested by Prof. Edward Forh, now a lawmaker in the Liberian Parliament and Jacob Kabakollie. Others elected were Cole Bangalu as Co-Chair for Administration, Geraldine Doe-Sheriff as Co-Chairman for operations, Steve Stevequiah as Secretary, Mr. Joshua Sackie as Youth Wing Chairman and Jackie Capehart, Chairperson, Women’s Wing. This leadership, the Organizing Committee or simply the *OC* was tasked to secure an office space, mobilize membership, solicit funding and register a political party all in anticipation that Ambassador Weah would accept to run as flag bearer for this movement.
On November 24, 2004, Ambassador Weah after a series of consultation with family members and friends agreed to be a presidential candidate in the 2005 elections. This pronouncement was made at the Monrovia City Hall, in Sinkor Monrovia amidst cheers from hundreds of thousands of supporters and well-wishers who had paraded from the Roberts International Airport in Margibi County to Monrovia. Many of the supporters made the journey on foot, something that was unprecedented in Liberian politics.
The Organizing Committee and other stakeholders had initially agreed to name the party, Liberian National Congress (LNC). The OC could not legalize this name at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs as it was dubiously incorporated by another group. This was just the beginning in a series of political tests that movement was to go through.
A committee was later set up that week to come up with tentative names for the new movement. There was a total of 72 names brought forward and it was narrowed down to 2 names, The Liberian Grassroot Party, LGP and the Congress for Democratic Change, CDC. After a general meeting that weekend, the latter name, the Congress for Democratic Change, CDC was endorsed by the entire membership.
Meanwhile, concurrent to CDC’s Activities in Liberia, former Liberian student activists Samuel Tweah and James Kollie, then Minnesota residents, had started meeting with interest groups and interested parties in the U.S., especially in the states of Minnesota and Pennsylvania.
They hosted numerous town hall meetings paralleling the ideologies of the group in Liberia. These two gentlemen sought to meet with other like-minded Liberians and in this process, a clear mandate evolved. A petition to Amb. George Weah was inevitable and he graciously accepted an invite from the group to visit with them in Minnesota where the deal was sealed. The Friends of George Oppong Weah-USA (FOGOW) was officially formed in Minnesota and comprised of Liberian professionals from all backgrounds who were longtime acquaintances of Amb. Weah. With all of this in place, and, upon Amb. Weah’s acceptance of the People’s Petition in Liberia, the groups in the USA and Liberia started working in tandem.
The name Congress for Democratic Change-United States of America (CDC-USA) was officially adopted for the USA group and, a national leadership team was nominated and voted in, to steer the affairs of the US-based organization. CDC-USA’s mandate was to be a solid support partner in the nation building efforts of the home based group in Liberia. To this end, in January of 2005, the CDC-USA, under the leadership of Chairman Emeritus Samuel Tweah, began a nationwide CDC-George Weah “Awareness Tour”. Other Members of original CDC-USA’s National Executive Committee were in full attendance on the tour, including James Kollie, National Secretary General; the late Chairman Emeritus Harry Gbesi (DE), Co-Chair for Operations; Alexander Kerkula (MN), then National Financial Secretary; Jonathan Geegbae (GA) National Treasurer; and W.E. Saydee-Tarr (MN) National Communications Director to name a few.
Also along on the trips were the Chairpersons of Chapters and Committees, and, some members of already established state Chapters, including Alexander Yonly, (MN); Alfred Jardiah (PA); Arthur Katee, Eric Daniels, Onike Sherman, (MA); Jerry Barcon, St. Tomalin George, Dave Jackley (RI); Bertrand Kane, Jerome Beysolow (GA); the late Francis Nimene, Rufus Darkotey (OH); Toyuwa Harris, Aaron Davies (NJ); Alexander Nyenkan, Ruthie Deline (NY); to name a few. The team traveled to major states in the USA, including, NY, NJ, PA, MA, RI, FL, MN, NC, GA, bringing the news of this New Generational Call to Action and introducing Amb. Weah as the petitioned flag bearer of this phenomenal grassroots movement. Amb. Weah for his part, eagerly spoke to Liberians and friends of Liberia in each city, clearly articulating his vision for a better Liberia, while Chairman Tweah and other partisans covered CDC’s Platform, Values and Agenda. In May 2005, several members of CDC-USA and FOGOW, begun returning to Liberia, to join hands with their Liberian based counterparts, in ensuring that the CDC won a resounding Victory in the General elections of 2005.
Back in Liberia, CDC’s Organizing Committee had secured a lease agreement with the Bernard Family for their property on the Tubman Boulevard directly opposite the Old LDBI Complex. The Organizing Committee moved in and there was a spacious ground for political gathering, something that was very helpful in the party’s mobilization efforts.
People from all walks of life flocked to the party’s premises seeking membership and many of them brought their own t-shirts to have the graphic of Ambassador printed on it.
The party launched her drive for registration at the National Elections Commissions and its membership list was challenged twice. After a series of hurdles, the party was finally certified in July 2005 to run in the October general and presidential elections.
The party had its National Convention in Buchanan, Grand Bassa County which was preceded by primaries in the various counties to elect legislative hopefuls on the party’s ticket. The Convention ran from July 29 to August 1, 2005. The keynote speaker was Mr. Samuel Tweah, a former student activist from the University of Liberia, then Chairman of the party’s US-based group. Ambassador George Manneh Weah was endorsed as the first standard bearer for the Congress for Democratic Change, CDC in a colorful convention, he promised to improve the livelihood Liberians; provide better educational and health opportunities for all.
Other elected officials were, Cole Bangalu as Chairman, Joshua Sackie as Vice Chairman for Administration, Geraldine Doe-Sheriff as Vice Chairman for Operations, John Youboty as Vice Chairman for Finance, Eugene Nagbe as Secretary General, Acarous M. Gray as Deputy Secretary General, Sidike Fofana as Youth League Chairman and Madam Hannah Brent (deceased) as Women League Chairperson and Louise C. Karmorh as Chaplain. CDC participated in the 2005 general elections and achieved greatness beyond expectation for a young party. CDC won more legislative seats than the any other competing party and CDC emerged with the highest percentage of votes to be the first round winner in the presidential elections. Unfortunately, CDC lost in the second round of the presidential run-off. Immediately thereafter, Mr. Bangalu was expelled from the party due to constitutional violation of a policy statement that the party was not attending the certification ceremony of Madam Sirleaf, in protest to the party’s fraud allegation about the elections. Joshua Sackie replaced him as Chairman.
In the summer of 2007, upon invitation from CDC-USA, several members of the CDC’s NEC, including Mr. Joshua Sackie, then Party Chair, Mrs. Geraldine Doe-Sheriff, Co-Chair for Operations and Mr. Acarous Gray, Deputy Secretary General, traveled to the US to attend a Mini-Convention hosted by CDC-USA. At the end of the Mini-Convention, CDC-USA had voted in a new Leadership team with Dr. Matthew Nimpson as Chairman, Harrison Sorsor as Co-Chair for Administration, Jerome Beysolow as Co-Chair for Operations, Alexander Yonly as National Secretary General, and Alexander Kerkula as the National Treasurer. A Joint Resolution that clearly defined the relationship between the two bodies was signed by the leaders of the NEC of both groups present.
After the Executives from Liberia returned home, they also took the party to a Mini-Convention in 2008. It was held at the Thinkers Village resort in Montserrado County, and Senator Geraldine Doe-Sheriff (Montserrado) was elected as Chairperson of the CDC.
Since the much disputed 2005 elections, CDC stands tall as the most viable opposition party in Liberia. The results of various By-Elections and/or Special Elections that have been held, has proven that CDC is the preferred party of the people, a fact proven by the Liberian people’s voting CDC over the ruling Unity Party! This was most recently exemplified in 2009, where CDC’s National Chairperson, Madam Geraldine Doe sheriff, won what is being referred to as an astounding “tsunami’ victory over the incumbent UP’s candidate.
Just as it has been since its embryonic stage, the CDC remains committed to the position and grassroots philosophy it held sacred at its inception. The CDC remains open to all Liberians who seek accountability and the creation of a new system of government and functional institutions focused on identifying and implementing innovative solutions to the problems faced by the nation and the people.
In 2011, the CDC again participated in the General and Presidential Elections with the intent to deliver to the Liberian people. Amb. Winston A. Tubman, came out victorious in the CDC presidential primary and selected Amb. Weah as his running mate. The CDC came second in the first round but were again the victim of electoral fraud and irregularities. Unfortunately, the National Elections Commission (NEC) and the international observers did not consider CDC’s claims as weighty with a preponderance of violations to nullify the elections. The NEC decided to proceed with the second round. The CDC in collaboration with other political parties refused to participate in the second round and Madam Ellen Johnson Sirleaf won the elections with reports of very limited attendance at the polling stations that did not reflect the final numbers produced by the NEC.
The history of the CDC is still being written as you are reading this portion…