25 February 2013

Liberia: Where Are They?

Following the mandate of the House of Representatives to arrest the Acting City Mayor of Monrovia, Mary Broh and the re-arrest of Superintendent Grace T. Kpaan, there are mounting concern in every quarter as to the whereabouts of the two government officials. The question has been asked "Where are they"?

On Sunday our reporters visited the home of the Montserrado Superintendent but was told that she was not around. A resident of Logan Town who preferred anonymity said since the incident at the Capitol, Supt. Kpan has not been seen around her residence.

Our reporter later visited the Tabernacle Church on Benson/Johnson Streets but was told that she was not in service yesterday. Our reporter later went to the Church but still could not see the Montserrado County Superintendent.

The whereabouts of Monrovia City Mayor Mary Broh and Superintendent Kpaan are now the major discussion in various quarters around Monrovia as they are wanted by the plenary of the House of Representatives to be incarcerated for 30 days for disrespecting that august body.

This paper made attempts to also talk with the Acting City Mayor at her home in Sinkor which is just a stone throw from the residence of her boss President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf. Securities at the main entrance prevented our reporter because Madam Broh shares the compound with President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf.

Our reporter was questioned as to whether he had an appointment with the mayor and upon responding in the negative, the securities disallowed him entry into the premises.

It is not known whether Mayor Broh was inside her residence or is seeking refuge somewhere else but what is factual is that since her public suspension notification on local radio stations, Madam Broh is yet to speak with any journalist or make official statements to the press.

Following news that she was released by the Monrovia Acting City Mayor, Mary Broh, and the mandate by the House to arrest the two officials, the whereabouts of Montserrado County Superintendent, Grace Kpaan and Mary Broh are yet to be known.

Members of the House gathered in full on Friday February 22, 2013 for an extraordinary session because they felt their action was desecrated by Mayor Broh who single-handedly took Supt. Kpaan from the Monrovia Central Prison. At that session, the House unanimously voted 49-0 and with 1 abstention to impose stringent fines on the offender and her appraiser to the crime to serve as a deterrent measure against anyone who might be thinking on doing same.

The decision to arrest the two government officials was followed by an immediate indefinite suspension of both Broh and Kpaan by President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf.

An Executive Mansion release says the decision was reached following a discussion between President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf and Vice President Joseph Boakai. During the weekend, President Sirleaf was attending the inauguration of President Ernest Bai Kroma of Sierra Leone.

The statement reads:

Pending further Consultations, President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf has directed the immediate suspension from office of the Acting City Mayor Mary Broh. The Liberian leader who was in Freetown, Sierra Leone, attending the inauguration to a second term of President Ernest Bai Kroma, has also instructed suspension from office of Mrs. Grace T. Kpaan, Superintendent of Montserrado County. The two suspensions were made by the President earlier on Friday, immediately after she was informed by the Vice President of incidents involving the two officials and the Honorable House of Representatives.

Friday afternoon, members of the House appeared unrelenting in their quest in a united front to bring down the two officials from the Executive Branch of Government. "Distinguished Colleagues, it has been moved and seconded that the city mayor of Monrovia Madam Mary Broh and the Superintendent of Montserrado County be ordered arrested by the Sergeant at Arms and be incarcerated for thirty days and furthermore that this body communicate with the President of the Republic of Liberia on the issues as raised in the motion which is that the two individuals are no more governmental materials," said Speaker Alex Tyler as he read the motion that had been filed by Bong County NPP Rep. George Mulbah and seconded.

Commenting on what unfolded on Thursday before the Monrovia Central Prison, the Sergeant-at-Arms of the House of Representatives Brigadier General Martin Johnson reported to Plenary (the highest decision making body of the House) that when he took the detainee to the Monrovia Central Prison, he was obstructed by the Acting City Mayor Mary Broh.

He told his bosses that Broh along with a group of women who were gathered outside the prison got into a scuffle with him and Broh snatched the Supt. Kpaan away from him.

"I asked her out of the car; by the time she got off the car, I saw Mary Broh coming with a group of people from the opposite direction. She came and held Supt. Kpaan by her arm... Interlocking and said 'Let's go," Johnson said.

In that process, Johnson continued, "I was trying to stop her from moving, and another group came from behind me, started hitting me from the back, to the extent they cut my uniform button. In that process they overpowered me and they took her and put her on Mary Broh's Pickup."

Brg. Gen. Johnson also reported that his duties were obstructed by the prison authorities who had earlier refused him entry into the compound.

He explained that when he got to the prison compound, the prison guard disallowed his vehicle from entering the prison compound. "The First person I encountered was the Deputy Superintendent of the Central Prison by the name of Eric Davies who told me that his immediate boss who was the superintendent proper was not present, so I had to wait," he said.

The Sergeant-at-Arms said he was still determined to carry out the mandate of the House adding: "At present, I am still in pursuit of Grace T. Kpaan. I still remain resolute and where ever I find Grace Kpaan, she will be arrested. As we speak Grace T. Kpaan is still on the run, because the mandate of the plenary still stands."

The transgressions of Acting Mayor Broh and her associates including Gender Minister Julia Duncan Cassell was described by CDC Rep. Moses Acarous Gray of Montserrado County district #8 as a gross affront to that august body adding that it undermines the principle of coordination in government and the rule of law.

"Not only was the action a breach of the rule of law, but if this august body cannot take a decision it could undermine our integrity and our moral standing amongst our people," Rep. Gray said.

"Let me begin by stating categorically, that we look at the prevailing situation that occurred yesterday not only as a defiant move against the House of Representatives, but against the entire electoral districts throughout the length and breadth of the Republic of Liberia that elected us," Gray added.

Gray emphasized to his colleagues that no one is above the law in Liberia citing instances where individuals in positions of public trust were arrested, while serving their respective positions. He cited the arrest of a sitting Deputy Speaker at the time in person of Bong County Rep. Tokpa Mulbah during the 52nd legislature by state security forces.

Rep. Gray recalled vividly that the 52nd legislature could have resisted, but his distinguished Speaker Tyler, who was then the Speaker, intervened and said the sitting Deputy Speaker should turn himself over, in order to protect the rule of law.

The CDC lawmaker described the action by Broh as undermining the lawmaker's constitutional function terming it as unprecedented and consistent action by the executive to always interfere with the mandate of the legislature when it comes to using its contempt powers against individuals who grossly defy it. Rep. Gray accused the Mayor of being involved in a series of aggravated assault and the state has failed to act.

"Justice cannot in any manner or form be partial; justice must be impartial.....I would suggest that now is the time. Not only must the Sergeant-at-Arms go after Mary Broh, the Sergeant-at-Arms must be instructed, empowered... to go after all of those who obstructed justice," he said. He said those who escape justice are fugitives and so is the Montserrado Country Superintendent.

Representative Eugene Fallah Kparkar of Lofa County (Liberty Party) who was somehow lenient with the Superintendent on Thursday seemed outraged by the action of the Monrovia Acting Mayor adding that she went too far in her disrespect.

"We stand united in respect of the sanctity and credibility of this chamber. This chamber is an embodiment of the Liberian people and the constitution is crystal clear that power is inherent in the people," Rep. Fallah Kparkar said.

"Even if someone has a dissenting opinion and the House comes up with a decision, that decision should be respected to the letter. I dissented and I expressed my opinion but the House took a decision and that decision was in keeping with article 44 of the Liberian constitution which empowers the legislature to apply reasonable sanctions." The Lofa County lawmaker added.

At least a female lawmaker, Munah P. Youngblood made a contribution to the matter and called on the August Body to take a tough action that will go down in history as a leading light for future governments.

"I am asking you along with my colleagues that we should stand together and hold together and pass this decision together," Youngblood noted.

The female CDC lawmaker mentioned that the matter is not ordinary because their integrity, and the constituents are watching, to hear whatever decision that we take here today which might live after us.

"We must take into consideration that there are so many things that must be looked at; simple assault, aiding and abetting, harboring a fugitive and also obstruction of justice," she added.

With the lawmakers' decision to punish Mayor Broh for her action coupled with the President's decision to suspend the two officials in her government, the legislature has asked for the assistance of the police in effecting the arrests.

"I will be ready to vote if we could insert a sentence that all law enforcement agencies grant support to the Sergeant-at-Arms in enforcing the plenary mandate," said Rep. Henry Fahnbulleh (UP- Montserrado).

Copyright © 2013 The Inquirer. All rights reserved. Distributed by AllAfrica Global Media (allAfrica.com). To contact the copyright holder directly for corrections — or for permission to republish or make other authorized use of this material, click here.

AllAfrica publishes around 2,000 reports a day from more than 130 news organizations and over 200 other institutions and individuals, representing a diversity of positions on every topic. We publish news and views ranging from vigorous opponents of governments to government publications and spokespersons. Publishers named above each report are responsible for their own content, which AllAfrica does not have the legal right to edit or correct.

Articles and commentaries that identify allAfrica.com as the publisher are produced or commissioned by AllAfrica. To address comments or complaints, please Contact us.