6 October 2017

Liberia: ANC Acting SG Resigns

With just four days to national elections, the National Acting Secretary General of the opposition Alternative National Congress (ANC), Jeremiah S. Swen, yesterday resigned his position, citing several reasons.

Swen had earlier suspended his membership with the party based on two reasons, according to an earlier letter to the party's National Chairman, Lafayette O. Gould, dated July 26, 2017.

The drastic and unprecedented spread of the Ebola virus in Liberia in 2014 forced former Assistant Minister of Labor, Ms. Meapah Meme Kou Gono, who was also at the time the Secretary General (SG) of the ANC, to escape to safety in the United States. Swen said that since Gono's departure - for which she was eventually dismissed as Assistant Minister of Labor by President Sirleaf for her refusal to return to Liberia, "the Secretary General position of the ANC has remained constitutionally dormant."

But as a temporary corrective measure, Swen said the ANC in July 2014 requested that he serve as Acting Secretary General and Deputy for Administration, the position he held until he announced his decision to quit the party yesterday.

According to his letter to Chairman Gould, the three plus years he acted in the capacity of the party's SG are "utterly impractical and fall far below the norms of international best practices in any functional democracy."

Swen admonished that "the ANC as a political party, presumably a government in waiting, should engage in democratic practices that convey a message of change. Unfortunately, this issue has been handled with patronage and personal considerations. It is mind boggling that at this time of our electoral processes, the Secretary General and Chief Scribe of the ANC remains in absentia," said Swen, adding that "it is only prudent at this time of our political engagements this position be officially regularized."

He said the decision to regularize the SG position will further help to strengthen the ANC and create a lane between policy and action - a pathway to best judge the ANC led government and its stance against patronage governance. "More besides, I find this completely incomprehensible - to have such mammoth tasks engrossed in these elections without the full participation of the Secretary General," he added.

It may be recalled that on Thursday, September 28, the United Methodist Radio station (ELUM 98.8) through its call-in talk show 'The National Hour,' deliberated election related matters, including the resignation of the ANC's estranged National Secretary General, Madam Meapeh Meme Gono, and her subsequent decision to throw her support to the opposition Liberty Party.

In a press release to local media organizations, Swen said that after he tendered his July 26 membership suspension letter to Chairman Gould he experienced moments of "poor leadership and was inhumanely treated". Despite interventions from reputable institutions to settle the impasse, all of which proved futile, Swen said the party "maintained a non-conciliatory posture and attitude."

Stating the second reason for his decision to not further his ANC membership, Swen said the National Secretariat of the ANC, comprising the SG and seven deputies, "is handicapped - a well coordinated plan aimed at destroying coordination, breeding disunity and hampering our strategic contribution and impacts."

He went on to list the current situation of the ANC National Secretariat as lacking a well secured office space and a vehicle for the office of the SG; logistics and equipment (laptop/PC and other devices) for SG and members of the Secretariat; a secure and completed National Secretariat Poll (no work stations for the Secretariat); lack of structural platform for document storage and research; lack of integration of the office of the SG with the National Campaign Process; and lack of the SG's full participation, contribution and knowledge of policy and program development and implementation framework.

Commenting on an allegation that he was absent from the party's public activities because he misappropriated campaign-entrusted funds, Swen said: "I want to inform the general public that at no time did I receive any funds to be used by the office of the Secretary General towards these elections. It is further expedient to note that my office was not structurally or financially empowered to carry out its constitutional duties."

Meanwhile, several efforts to reach ANC National Chairman Lafayette Gould did not materialize as his number rang endlessly before going to press.

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