Liberians are expected to cast ballots in a special senatorial election on December 16. Among the high-profile candidates in the race in Montserrado County are football legend and two-time presidential candidate George Weah and one of President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf’s sons, Robert Sirleaf.
But, 33 year-old former youth leader Benjamin Sanvee said he’s the real candidate of change. Sanvee said that if elected, he will fight for what he calls “bread and butter” issues, as well as the establishment of an anti-corruption court to fast-track corruption cases.
“I believe that I bring to the table a breath of fresh air, new ideas, a 21st century approach, not forgetting where we’ve come from in our history, but also understanding that about 80 percent of Montserrado County’s population is young people. And, I believe that the time has come for us to have a senator from that county that shares the dreams and aspirations of that generation, but also someone who is able to bridge the gap and work with people from older generations, so that we can start to solve the problems confronting us as a county and as a nation,” he said.
Sanvee served as National Youth Advisor in the government of former Liberian President Charles Taylor. Some of his critics said young people should reject his candidacy because he “failed to properly represent the hopes and ambitions” of the youth when he served as youth advisor.
Sanvee said he has no regrets about serving his country when he was called upon and, if called upon, he would do so again.
“I see it as something that has shaped me into the man that I am today. I’m a totally different person. I’m a father today, I’m a husband, and I consider myself a patriot, someone who deeply cares for his country. And for me, if I were asked to serve, I would do it in a heart’s beat because I believe that service to country is the proudest gift that any citizen can give his or her country,” Sanvee said.
Two of the prominent candidates in the already crowded Montserrado County senatorial race are Robert Sirleaf, one of President Sirleaf’s sons, and football legend and two-time president candidate George Weah.
Weah told VOA that he would win the contest, having won the county in the last two presidential elections against Sirleaf. Last week, 14 lawmakers from Montserrado County presented Weah with a petition endorsing his candidacy.
Sanvee described Weah as a patriot who loves Liberia as he does, but he said he has fundamental political differences with Weah when it comes to who should represent Montserrado County in the Liberian Senate.
“I believe that this election will not be about George Weah; this election will not be about Benjamin Sanvee; this election will not be about any other potential candidate who might seek that seat. I believe that this election, and as long as I’m a player, this election will be about the issues. It will be about bread and butter issues,” he said.
He described corruption as a plague on the country and that what is needed the threat of punishment.
“If I’m ever privileged to serve as senator, I think one of the things that I’m going to push for, and I’m going to rally colleagues and fellow senators, is to push for an anti-corruption court. I think if we have an anti-corruption court, where people who are accused or are indicted for corruption can get a fast-track case or a fast-track trial implemented, I think [it] will deeply help in this fight,” Sanvee said.
Sanvee also said corruption is not just a governmental problem but a societal problem. He said, as a senator, he would also be an advocate for changing the mindset of Liberians.
“If a policeman is taking [a] bribe, that’s corruption. If someone in the NGO sector is taking bribes, that’s corruption. So, it’s not just a governmental issue, it’s a wider issue because it’s a societal problem,” Sanvee said.