16 January 2018

Liberia: Has Expulsion Tinted Iron Lady's Legacy?

Photo: Liberian Government
President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf

Monrovia — Whatever way the script is written, Liberia's outgoing President's 'expulsion' from the Unity Party puts a dent on her legacy.

There's an ongoing counterargument by allies of President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf in the outgoing ruling party that there were procedural errors leading to the decision to expel her.

"The announced or pronounced expulsion is illegal and the President is not disturbed by that," argues Jerolinmek Piah, Sirleaf's Press Secretary.

"The party's constitution lays out procedures and reasons for expelling".

Piah's response to a FrontPageAfrica inquiry into President Sirleaf's reaction following her party's shocking decision to oust her on Saturday, January 13 epitomizes the severity of the party's decision against the outgoing leader.

By the early morning hours of January 14, the news of Sirleaf's ousting had spread across the world as international media put different twists to the story.

"Liberia's outgoing president has been expelled from her own party, for allegedly failing to support its candidate to succeed her," reported the BBC on Sunday.

Added British news agency Reuters: "Liberia's ruling Unity Party has expelled the country's outgoing president, Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, who is accused by party leaders of meddling in last year's presidential elections in which its candidate suffered a bruising defeat."

Regardless the reactions from Liberia's outgoing president or her surrogates about the decision, the damage has already been done. And it now seems improbable to unravel.

Before Piah's comments, several pro-Ellen partisans scorned the party Executive Committee's decision to oust the standard bearer emeritus.

Former Nimba County representative Saywah Dunah claimed Sirleaf's expulsion contravened the party's constitution, which he said, allows for such decision to reflect the views of two-third of party's executive committee members.

But a press release explaining the decision said: "The vote was taken as a result of several violations of the party's constitution and other acts inimical to the existence and reputation of the party".

It states Article VII Section 1(e) of the party's constitution, which underscores the "Obligation, Rights and Entitlements of Members of the Unity Party and Section clearly spells out the role of partisans in elections", including supporting the party's candidate through campaigning, providing support for any candidate of the Unity Party at any election.

According to the resolution by the Executive Committee, Sirleaf and three other partisans are culpable of violating the aforementioned stipulation in the party's rulebook and have now been expelled.

Sirleaf's fallout with outgoing Vice President Joseph Boakai during the 2017 elections reportedly questioned her loyalty to the party and sparked the feud.

The rift was glaring between Sirleaf and certain hierarchies of the party as speculations heightened that she was backing George Weah of the Coalition for Democratic Change (CDC) in the presidential election - he's now President-elect of Liberia.

"The President not only refused to support the candidate of the Unity Party, but she financed to some extent and openly supported the opposition party that won the election, and that is a gross violation of the party's constitution," Mo Ali, Assistant Secretary General of UP, told New York Times recently.

Irrespective of the 'somewhat belated' decision to kick-her-out of the party, the 'Iron Lady' is not scrupled.

For her, the party's punitive action is illegitimate and would not tint the almost finished script recording her 78-year-old legacy as a famous and influential female politician on the planet.

A Nobel Peace Prize laureate who has led Liberia for 12 years, Sirleaf, has also received praises at home and abroad for helping to bring stability to the West African nation after years of civil war.

"The President has already been celebrated globally for what she has achieved. Her legacy is determined by her works over the years, not an illegal expulsion," said Piah.

But she has also suffered criticisms for failing to significantly curb corruption and revitalize the struggling economy.

While critics at home are scrutinizing the impact of her ousting and how it shreds her legacy, Piah says she is committed to handing over power to the next President.

"The President is rather focused on the transition as she wants to ensure that she smoothly hands over to the next government. It's in no way affects the President's legacy," he said.

News of a purported legal action against the 'illegal expulsion' recently surfaced, but Sirleaf told American network FOX that she would ask the party to reverse its decision after the inauguration on January 22.

It is not clear how that would play out with the party after she settles down as a private citizen.

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