20 September 2017

Liberia: Ellen Dispels Notion of Living in Fear After Tenure

Photo: Liberian Government
President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf

Amid rumors that President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf is seeking immunity from prosecution for alleged corruption and for cracking down on her political opponents with the introduction of the Presidential Transition Act at the end of her tenure, she has declared that she does not need such protection from any authority.

She has therefore written to the House of Representatives withdrawing her letter introducing the Presidential Transition Bill.

In her September 15 letter to the House, she told the lawmakers that she is withdrawing the Presidential Transition Act, which "seems to be a subject of controversy and misunderstanding."

"I wish to point out emphatically that I need neither protection nor personal support. I have served this country with patriotism, commitment and integrity and I am convinced that my record of success will stand the test of time," the President said.

"Moreover, I always knew that after service, I would be required to return to the life I have always known - one of earned revenue from hard work," she informed the lawmakers.

The President's letter was read and discussed in yesterday's Executive Session and then forwarded to the House leadership. Currently, the Bill is before the Joint Committee on Good Governance and Executive.

The Presidential Transition Act seeks to put in place an arrangement for the transfer of administration from one democratically elected president to another.

The purpose of the proposed law, President Sirleaf said in her letter introducing the bill, is to build a strong foundation and culture that would enhance a democratic value for sustainable peace, management, and regulation of the transfer of political power, and other matters.

For example, section two of the Act demands services and benefits to be provided to the former President and Vice President, including equipping their offices, vehicles, security, budget allocation, benefits to dependents, among others. Section three calls for privileges for former Presidents and Vice Presidents.

The President's letter went on to say that the proposed law, when enacted, will continue the path of peaceful resolution, smooth transition of political power and governance, stability and a sustained democratic development.

However, many have interpreted the President's letter to mean that she is seeking "protection" through the Presidential Transition Act she submitted on August 17.

They have also argued that the Bill is designed by President Sirleaf to seek refuge, protection and safety under the law, as well as for her family.

This argument, it is believed, prompted President Sirleaf's letter to withdraw the bill. The President said in her August 17 letter to the Legislature, "It is noted that other countries striving to consolidate and sustain their fledgling democracies incorporate provisions for former Presidents and Vice Presidents."

She added, "Such a provision (of immunity) encourages outgoing leaders not to want to entrench and perpetuate themselves in office"

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