Liberia: ALJA Condemns Deputy Defense Minister's Appointment

-- Says nominee lacks moral and professional pedigrees required for such a post

The appointment of Deputy Minister of Defense for Operations, Tarplah Davies, a ruling party zealot, and strong apologist of President George Weah, has been met with a barrage of criticisms, and public outbursts with many calling on the President to revoke his nomination.

Davies, according to a release from Association of Liberian Journalists in the Americas (ALJA), had no idea what the immediate future had in store for him when he took to social media threatening to kill Liberians, who are dissatisfied with the manner in which the country is being governed, and would intend to vent their grievances through protests.

In what seems to be a move intended to please and solidify his position and loyalty to the President, the release said Davies, popularly known as Zoely Zoe, in a Facebook post, which has now gone viral, threatened to kill would be participants of the December 30, 2019, street protest being planned by Liberia's controversial talk show host, Henry Pedro Costa, against the Government of President Weah.

Davies' appointment has been met huge public disapproval, the latest of which comes from the ALJA. The group has therefore called on President Weah to withdraw Davies' nomination.

ALJA said in a statement on Tuesday, October 22, 2019 that the Liberian military is a professional institution, whose members are expected to perform their duties in a nonpartisan manner in accordance with democratic values and regards for human rights.

The statement was signed by the secretary general of the association, Akai Awuletey Glidden, and approved by its National President, Joe S. Mason.

Davies said in a live facebook video, "The symbol of everything that I have worked for personally is in Liberia. And I told people, anybody tries my property, I will kill them. I have said it and will continue to say it openly," he stated.

He added: "I, Zoely Zoe or Tarplah Z. Davies, will never ever sit down in this America when Henry Costa and his likes, who are thinking about covertly overthrowing the Government of Liberia, and thinking about looting the resources of our country. When they carry out their wicked plan, I will not sit in this America and witness my country in chaos.

I will defend my properties, I will defend my government and people, I will defend my family, and do everything possible to ensure that those people who have their devilish intention of trying to subvert the Constitution, their plans are reverted and the Constitution will take over."

The association finds Davies' comments troubling and inimical to the country's peace and stability. Though a civilian position, the group believes that his association with the military, if confirmed, could compromise that institution's independence--noting that it is hypocritical for the government to criticize the use of "inflammatory and hateful" messages by journalists and talk show hosts, while rewarding supporters of the government, who engage in similar rhetoric with high profile appointments in government.

Many have viewed his appointment, coming amidst such "unwarranted social media outburst, as a threat to national security."

Though the President has the appointing power, ALJA said those appointed to strategic posts, especially in the security sector, should not espouse views that run contrary to the values of the military.

"Their appointments must be based on professionalism, but not their loyalty to the presidency or the ruling party," the statement noted.

ALJA notes that the nominee's social media outburst is a clear manifestation that he lacks the moral and the professional pedigrees required for the position. "Calling for violence and death against Liberians make him unfit for the position to which he was appointed," the group said.

Founded in 1998, ALJA is a conglomeration of current and retired Liberian journalists residing in the Americas. As a non-profit organization, it is committed to advancing press freedom through media capacity building and the fostering of good governance in Liberia through media advocacy.

The citizenship of the nominee is another issue that is drawing public concerns, as he is a veteran of the US Army. Many are wondering whether he has denounced his American citizenship--if he ever had one. He served in the U.S. Army from 2009 to 2019.

To enlist in the US military, one must be either a citizen of the U.S. or a permanent resident (Green Card holder) in the U.S.

There are legal implications to an American citizen's decision to pledge allegiance or take up an elected or political post as on official of a foreign country. The U.S. State Department's travel page explains:

"A U.S. national's employment, after attaining the age of 18, with the government of a foreign country or a political subdivision thereof is a potentially expatriating act pursuant to Section 349(a)(4) of the Immigration and Nationality Act if the individual is a citizen of that foreign country or takes an oath of allegiance to that country in connection with such employment. Such employment, however, will result in one's expatriation only if done voluntarily with the intention of relinquishing U.S. citizenship. Running for foreign office, even foreign head of state, is not a potentially expatriating act; only accepting, serving in, or performing the duties of a foreign office are potentially expatriating as described above."

Referencing the Liberian Immigration Service Law, ALJA says: "The fact that you take on another country citizenship; automatically you have forfeited your rights as a citizen."

The legislature, in their recent dual citizenship bill, issued some restrictions, that a natural-born citizen of Liberia may hold the citizenship of another country, but shall not qualify for elected positions and the following appointed positions: Chief Justice and Associate Justices of the Supreme Court; Cabinet Ministers, Deputy Ministers; all heads of Autonomous Commissions, Agencies and Non-Academic/Research/Scientific Institutions and Ambassadors."

The group has therefore called on President Weah to withdraw Davies' nomination. With such decision, ALJA believes the President will be sending a powerful message that his government is opposed to inflammatory rhetoric from all sides of the political spectrum. It will also deter others, who use social media to spew hate messages that have the propensity of undermining the country's peace and stability.

The Association has also called on the Senate not to conform the nominee if the President refuses to rescind his decision.

"Some Liberians are now wondering how the country's international partners will welcome such an appointment of a man, who openly threatened to kill opposition supporters. With such move, many think President Weah is helping to undermine his own government," ALJA said in a statement.

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