17 June 2019

Liberia: Dialogue On Not Just the Economy, but On Governance, Mr. President

opinion

President George Weah, having delivered his message in response to the June 7 protest that shut down Monrovia, has called for a dialogue, inviting leaders of opposition parties, religious leaders and others in the public and private areas to discuss and find solutions to the economic issues facing the country.

The President's suggestion comes as the Council of Patriots (CoP) presents a petition calling on the President to fix the spiraling economy wherein prices have skyrocketed amidst depreciation of the Liberian dollar and the ordinary citizens are catching hell to purchase basic commodities and transport themselves from one place to the other.

The protesters also put forward demands that the President, with immediate effect, declares his assets publicly and remove his wife's personal charitable foundation from the national budget.

It can be acknowledged that the economy is in a bad state and needs an immediate intervention, but could this be the only issue confronting the Liberian people? Of course not, there is a serious governance issue that is the basis for which the economy is such as it is.

Governance, by definition, means the act of governing or exercising authority in a country or body. The executive authority of the country is the President, who appoints and commissions ministers, ambassadors, heads of autonomous agencies and local government officials, and serves as Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces of Liberia (Articles 50 and 54, 1986 Constitution).

Mr. President, the way in which you are exercising the authority reposed in you by Liberians through their votes on December 26, 2017, needs discussions to find solutions as well.

While taking your oath of office during your inauguration at the Samuel Kanyon Doe Sports Complex on January 22, 2018, you promised to uphold and defend the Liberian Constitution as President of the Republic, without any compromise or exception in any part.

However, the public wonders whether, in some cases, your exercise of the executive power vested in you can be backed by the Constitution you pledged to defend.

To point out a few governance issues, we do recall the Montserrado County District 13 by-election campaign in 2018, when you went to show support for the Coalition for Democratic Change (CDC) candidate. Reports of the violence that erupted in the district that day grossly implicated one of your staunch supporters, Monrovia City Mayor Jefferson Koijee.

Since this violence occurred and people sustained wounds and one reportedly died, the administration is yet to investigate to bring out the truth surrounding the case, especially as it relates to the Mayor and the party's reputation.

Before the June 7 protest, Montserrado County District 10 Representative Yekeh Kolubah had been attacked while returning from an interview on Sky FM Radio. Shortly thereafter, he was accused of ordering the flogging of an individual believed to be one of the attackers.

In response, the government ordered Representative Kolubah's arrest and over 50 armed Liberia National Police (LNP) officers besieged his residence on the Old Road.

With the intervention of some diplomats and lawmakers, Kolubah was escorted to the police headquarters where he was quizzed and later charged with 20 others and sent to court.

Okay, this may be backed by the Constitution in Article 11(c) that "All persons are equal before the law and are therefore entitled to the equal protection of the law."

But what about Montserrado County District 8 Representative, Acarous Moses Gray, who is being accused of ordering the flogging and stabbing of a citizen shortly after the incident involving Representative Kolubah?

Interestingly, this other lawmaker was not given the kind of public spectacle that Rep. Kolubah received, but is comfortably riding along with you to attend a state function hosted by the President of Nigeria. Even if it were not is doing, wouldn't he have the first publicly clear his name from the allegation?

Where does Jefferson Koijee stand with the accusation on his head? Do he and Gray have political or criminal immunity?

The Constitution of Liberia in article 8 states that the Republic shall direct its policy towards ensuring for all citizens, without discrimination, opportunities for employment and livelihood under just and humane conditions, and towards promoting safety, health and welfare facilities in employment.

In recent times, the public has observed the government's concentration on employing mostly members of the ruling party; with the party's chairman, Mulbah Morlu, taking lists of CDC partisans to government ministries and agencies for employment, even against the Civil Service law.

In Article 5 (c) of the Constitution, it is enshrined: "The Republic shall take steps, by appropriate legislation and executive orders, to eliminate sectionalism and tribalism, and such abuses of power as the misuse of government resources, nepotism and all other corrupt practices.

Does the President know that the divisive statements made by Deputy Information Minister Eugene Fahngon is against the Liberian Constitution and he needs harsher punishment than a few weeks of suspension?

There is public outcry for Central Bank Governor Nathaniel Patray and Finance and Development Planning Minister Samuel Tweah, to account for the use of US$25 million meant for a mop-up exercise. Why has the President reneged on taking a decision to get these people clear their public records? Liberians still remember your vow to fight corruption and finish it.

Where does the President stand on the protection of rights to freedom of expression and information, as well as the signing of the Table Mountain Declaration? Article 15(a) of the Constitution calls for freedom of expression and that this freedom should not be restricted or enjoined by the government, but on the day of the protest the internet was shut down in the country.

Mr. President, dialogue to find solutions to fixing the economy is good, but this cannot be done in the absence of finding solutions to the governance issues that are burning on the hearts and minds of the Liberian people.

Liberia

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