4 January 2019

Liberia: A Reminder to President Weah

The year 2017 was indeed a tumultuous year marked by the changing of the guard from a septuagenarian to a popular youthful leader. During his inaugural address on January 22, 2018, President George Weah scored a high point when he declared that adherence to the Constitution of Liberia will be a hallmark of national governance under his rule and that the Constitution will serve as his guide to the conduct of national policy.

The President quoted entire sections of the Constitution as if to drive home the point that he would indeed abide by the Constitution. By implication, his lieutenants who would help him shepherd the nation would also abide by the Constitution just as he explicitly made clear that he would do just that. But this was just the beginning of a six-year journey though and all sounded so well and fine. What was now left was to do just as he pledged.

Now looking back one year down the road, it appears that President Weah may have inadvertently strayed off the path of respect for and adherence to the Constitution and all laws and by-laws of the Republic to which he, on January 15, 2017, solemnly pledged to remain true. This newspaper recalls for example the ongoing controversy about the Asset Declaration requirement to which, according to the Liberia Anti-Corruption Commission (LACC), President Weah has complied but which has yet to be publicly disclosed as required by law.

His crop of officials, with the exception of perhaps a few, has failed to comply with the Asset Declaration requirement. This newspaper feels duty bound therefore to remind President Weah of his Inaugural pledge to adhere at all times to the Constitution of the Republic of Liberia. In doing so this newspaper also feels duty bound to remind President Weah of the 2003 Accra Comprehensive Peace Agreement under which rubric national organs such as the Public Procurement and Concessions Commission(PPCC), the Liberia Anti-Corruption Commission (LACC) the Truth and Reconciliation Commission(TRC) etc, were created.

These bodies were especially created to help build and restore Public trust in the national governance process and organs of national governance whose credibility and public trust had become severely eroded by the effects of unbridled corruption and impunity. Since the ascension of this government to power one year ago, Liberians are beginning to express fears of what they see as a gradual return to the ugly past of this nation's history.

The ongoing tussle, for example between members of the House of Representatives and the Judiciary over the impeachment of Justice Ja'neh and the resultant and apparent split in the membership of the Supreme Court Bench on the issue is another matter that borders on respect for and adherence to the Constitution of Liberia. And the longer this matter persists legally unresolved, the greater the threat to the Constitution and rule of law becomes.

And this brings us to the most recent development which is clearly in conflict with the Constitution. And that is the appointment and commissioning of an Ambassador to the United States of America by President George Weah without the confirmation of the Senate as required by the Constitution. Article 54 of the Constitution of Liberia specifically provides: "The President shall nominate and, with the consent of the Senate, appoint and commission -- a) cabinet ministers, deputy and assistant cabinet ministers; b) ambassadors, ministers, consuls; and c) the Chief Justice and Associate Justices of the Supreme Court and judges of subordinate courts; d) superintendents, other county officials and officials of other political sub-divisions; e) members of the military from the rank of lieutenant of its equivalent and above; and f) marshals, deputy marshals, and sheriffs."

That the President of Liberia would proceed to commission an Ambassador to the United States of America, Liberia's oldest ally, speaks volumes about the competence of his officials who should, under the circumstances, provide guidance to the President on such procedural matters. The Daily Observer is thus constrained to ask just where Foreign Minister Gbehzongar Findley in all of this was. Questions are already being asked whether the President was advised accordingly or whether he acted without consultation with his officials.

This situation has proved to be a very embarrassing episode and should never be allowed to recur. What if for example the Senate does not concur with the decision to have Mr. George Patten serve as Ambassador to Washington? It is even arguable whether the United States government will correspondingly accept his nomination to serve in their capital given that his appointment has not received confirmation of the Liberian Senate.

This newspaper urges officials of President Weah's government to desist from sycophancy as sycophancy is known to be a destructive element which always has the potential to render a leader impervious to concerns of the common folk and highly intolerant to divergent opinion. Creeping signs suggest that sycophantic officials in the quest for self-aggrandizement are publicly telling lies even when the public knows they are lying through their teeth and unwittingly preparing a crown of thorns which the leader, as experience from elsewhere shows, is bound to bear singlehandedly.

As we begin a new year this newspaper calls on all Liberians, especially President Weah and his crop of officials, to reflect and take the necessary measures to address growing public concerns about what appears to be runaway corruption and the lack of transparency in government. Reflecting on President Weah's analogy that a team while on the field of play has a bench of substitutes from which players may be called to replace non-performers, this newspaper reminds all and sundry that it is about high time "Technical Director" Weah calls in players from the bench in order to change the outcome of this game which he fast appears to be in danger of losing.

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