Liberia, the first African country to elect a woman as president, could make history again as two female candidates are among the 20 contenders for the presidential elections today.
The incumbent, George Weah, faces a tough challenge from former Vice President Joseph Boakai and former Coca-Cola Executive Alexander Cummings, who are seen as the main rivals in the race.
Sara Beysolow Nyanti and Bendu Kromah are the women who aspire to succeed Weah, who recently vetoed a bill that would have guaranteed 30 per cent quota for women representation in politics. Nyanti is running on the platform of the African Liberation League, while Kromah is an independent candidate.
Nyanti has more visibility than Kromah, owing to her previous roles as a humanitarian worker and a UN official. However, both women are considered political newcomers, compared to the seasoned male candidates.
Liberia made history in 2005 when Ellen Johnson Sirleaf defeated Weah in a run-off election to become the first elected female president in Africa. She served for two terms until 2018, when Weah won the second round against Boakai.
Liberia has a bicameral legislature with 12.33 per cent female representation, according to a 2022 report by the Inter-Parliamentary Union. The country ranked 39 out of 146 countries in the 2023 global gender gap index by the World Economic Forum.
With a voting population of about 2.4 million, according to the country’s National Elections Commission, a female candidate would need to secure at least 50 per cent of the votes cast to win the presidency. If no candidate reaches this threshold, the two top candidates will proceed to a run-off election.
Speaking about the chances of a female president in Liberia, Mary Ikoku, founder of Emerge Women Development, in an interview with Daily Trust while acknowledging Nyanti’s remarkable efforts and campaign reach, expressed doubt over her ability to win the elections based on certain factors that, according to her, might not favour the female candidate.
“The fact that she joined the race a bit later than others, an early joining would have given her enough time to cover most grounds if not all grounds, and secondly her political party platform is not so known among the big parties. So, she has not been sold to the public for a long period of time which is something you also need to do in electioneering.
“There’s also something about the power of incumbency which George Weah has above most of the candidates and then being a woman even though Liberia has experienced the first female president,” she said.
Ikoku added that even though Nyanti came with a lot of democratic ideals and a lot of competencies for the job she submitted, many people still don’t know her and what she is capable of doing.
Sara Beysolow Nyanti: Born in 1968 to the family of Winston Beysolow and Frances Hayes, Nyanti was the oldest of seven children and an ordained Reverend at the Zion Grove Baptist Church in Brewerville.
Nyanti was said to attend the College of West Africa and thereafter proceeded to Cuttington University, after which she obtained a master’s degree in public administration from the New Charter University in the United States.
With about two decades working as a development expert, Nyanti’s campaigns have been anchored on encouraging patriotism against other vices capable of causing divisions and harm to the unity of the country.
Notable among the organisations Nyanti has worked for include UNICEF, UNDP, and the World Bank. She is married to Stephen Joeboe Nyanti, with children and also grandchildren.
On the other hand, Bendu Kromah was born in Gbarnga City, Bong County where she reportedly grew up and attended Cuttington University. She then proceeded to the University of Liberia and graduated with a bachelor’s degree in economics and mathematics.
Kromah later obtained a master’s in business administration in the United States of America where she worked as a civil servant in the state of California.
According to information from her LinkedIn profile, Kromah is currently a senior auditor at the state compensation insurance