16 April 2014

Liberia: Gyude Bryant Is Dead

Photo: The New Dawn
Former interim president Gyude Bryant.

Former transitional Chairman Charles Gyude Bryant has passed following a brief illness. He died Wednesday at the John F. Kennedy Medical Center.

The actual cause of death is not known, but aide said the former transitional chairman reportedly complained about breathing problems.

His body was taken from the J.F.K. yesterday and deposited at the Samuel Stryker Funeral home in Sinkor. Bryant, born 17 January 1949, was a Liberian politician and businessman. He served as the Chairman of the Transitional Government of Liberia from 14 October 2003 to 16 January 2006.

The installation of the transitional government was part of the peace agreement to end the country's second civil war, which had raged since the Liberians United for Reconciliation and Democracy (LURD) rebelled against President Charles Taylor in 1999.

Bryant was previously a businessman and was chosen as chairman because he was seen as politically neutral and therefore acceptable to each of the warring factions, which included LURD, the Movement for Democracy in Liberia (MODEL), and loyalists of former President Taylor. He is a prominent member of the Episcopal Church of Liberia, a regular worshipper and was critical of the governments of Samuel Doe and Charles Taylor.

President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf won the 2005 elections and took office in January 2006, succeeding Bryant, who retired into private life until his death.

However, it can be recalled, a year after Madam Sirleaf came to power in 2007, Mr. Bryant was questioned by police regarding allegations of corruption during his time in office. On 27 February 2007, he was charged with embezzlement in which his transitional government was alleged to have embezzled more than US$1 million.

He was arrested on March 12, 2007 and sent to court for trial but his arrest was stalled after his lawyers took flight to the high court for constitutional interpretation.

In court, his lawyers argued that Bryant constitutionally enjoyed immunity for actions taken as head of state, while the prosecution argued that he did not, because his appointment resulted from the Accra Peace Accord in August 2003 and occurred outside the constitutional framework.On 24 August 2007, the Supreme Court ruled in favor of the prosecution's argument, enabling Bryant's trial to continue.

However, following long trial, on 30 April 2009, Bryant and four members of his government were acquitted of stealing US$1 million from the state oil refinery. Additional charges regarding the alleged theft of US$1.3 million from the state were also dropped subsequently.

Born in Monrovia during the early years of the Tubman era, Bryant was a member of the Grebo tribe. He attended Cuttington University in 1972, and in 1974 he married the former Rosilee Williams; together they had three children.

Before becoming the chairman of the interim government, he operated a company that supplied machinery for the Freeport of Monrovia, and he was the chairman of the Liberian Action Party, which has since merged with President Sirleaf's Unity Party.

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