Liberia: Rep. Youngblood - 5th Death in 54th Legislature

opinion

CDC's 'Political Lioness'

Rep. Munah Pelham Youngblood became known as the Political Lioness of the Congress of Democratic Change (CDC), because of her "strong voice" -- one year after her election as Representative of Montserrado County #9, when the late Sen. Geraldine Doe-Sherif resigned from the CDC.

She was regarded as one of the most remarkable and colorful personalities ever to come into national politics at the age of 28 (2011). Great company, utterly irreverent, full of life and fun.

Speaking of her death in Accra, Ghana on Wednesday, July 8, after a protracted illness, Rep. Acarous M. Gray, who she called her "political twin", described the late Rep. Youngblood as a "natural politician" who could read a situation and analyze and assess it faster as any female politician from the CDC.

"The only thing she couldn't handle was stuffiness of any kind and that was because she didn't want to," Rep. Gray said.

Youngblood is the fifth member of the 54th Legislature and the second female among them, to have died, all in the short space of three years -- barely half-way into the George Weah administration. Her colleagues who predeceased her include Representatives Adolph Lawrence and J. Nagbe Sloh, as well as Senators Geraldine Doe-Sherif and Edward Dagoseh.

Like the late Senator Doe-Sherif did in the Senate, Youngblood served as chairperson of the Committee on Executive.

The ruling party chairman, Mulbah Morlu, sobbed: "We're devastated by the news of Hon. Pelham's untimely death; the CDC has lost a Revolutionary Lioness, an accomplished ideological partisan that has sprawled an indelible mark on the horizons of our popular struggle. At this point, it's not even possible to grasp the extent of the damage of this tragic news and how heavily it bears on the revolutionary psyche of the CDC. We're shattered in spirit."

The House's Judiciary Chairman, Cllr. J. Fonati Koffa said: "She will be missed for being a prolific floor fighter for the CDC; outspoken on the things she believes; and an excellent organizer."

The former Montserrado County District #9 Representative was the co-chair on Executive during the 53rd Legislature (2011-2017), she was the Secretary General to the Majority Bloc that ousted Speaker J. Alex Tyler.

She read the "Vote of No Confidence" against Speaker Tyler in August 2016 and the enunciation was clear. She was an avid reader, a champion of women's right and one of the founding members of the Women Legislative Caucus in the Legislature.

As chairperson of the House's Executive Committee, she spearheaded President George Weah's first three State of the Nation's addresses to the Legislature (2018, 2019 and 2020). She was very instrumental for the House of Representatives and the Senate to adopt the first Joint Resolution, entitled #001/2018, for the Inauguration to be moved to the City of Paynesville instead of the traditional (normal) City of Monrovia.

Also during the State of the Nation Addresses, she interchangeably made the motion or seconded after the call of the Sergeant-at-arms, Martin Johnson, on the arrival of the President for the Joint Legislature to open for a special session.

Youngblood and illness

The late Youngblood, after President Weah's inauguration, got "very ill" where she want for advanced treatment in USA and India respectively from April 25, 2018 and returned in the country in July that year.

"I am grateful, I just want the thank God Almighty that I am alive. I went to India and I am back, but others went there and they didn't come back," Rep. Youngblood said in 2018.

After the 2019 State of the Nation Address, she went away again for medical treatment in February that year and returned the country in January 2020. After executing her responsibility as the House's Executive Committee chairperson over the 2020 State of the Nation Address, she went back for treatment and would never return until her demise on July 8, 2020.

One of her political arch-rivals in Montserrado County District 9, Fubbi Armah Henries, called into question Rep. Youngblood's extensive absences from legislative duty. According to him, by her absence of several months at a time, the lawmaker could be deemed incapacitated to hold legislative office. It is not clear whether a petition started by Henries to this effect ever made it through the House of Representatives.

'Tom and Jerry'

Upon her latest return from medical treatment in January 2020, she threw a jibe at Senator Abraham Darius Dillon, claiming he has trashed his legislative privilege to discuss national issues on the 'sacred floor' of the Senate and resorted to publicly joining a series of protests against the very government in which he works and gets paid monthly.

Surrounded by hundreds of supporters, she likened her challenge to Sen. Dillon to a "Tom and Jerry" scenario, saying that, "when the cat is away, the mouse will play." By this she was alluding to the fact that Dillon got elected in her absence -- when she was away on her second extended leave of absence for medical reasons. But when she returned earlier this year, she declared: "No more votes will come from my district in favor of Sen. Dillon."

In a sportive response, Senator Dillon, on his Facebook page, said: "Happy Sunday, folks! I listened to Rep. Munah Pelham's 'attack' on my person. I laughed it off!! Do not 'attack' her, please! Let us continue to thank God for her gradual recovery and safe return home. Wishing you, all of you, a positive brand new week!"

Rep. Youngblood was an influential member of the House of Representatives and the ruling CDC and has been battling illness for nearly three years.

Munah was born unto the union of Walter and Elizabeth Pelham, on September 22, 1983. Her father, the late Walter Pelham, was a former coach for the Lone Star national football team during the 1980s, and later joined the top brass of the Liberia National Police during the administration of ex-President of Liberia, Charles G. Taylor. Mr. Pelham died in the late 90's in a plane crash. Her mother, Elizabeth, is the comptroller in the House of Representatives.

As a youth, Munah graduated from the St. Michael Catholic High School and later earned her BSC in Mass Communication and a master's degree International Relations, both from the University of Liberia. Early on, she became a fashion model, but he entrance into politics was a stroke of luck. Once, when her campaign for president of the University of Liberia Student Union did not materialize, she took her political ambition to mainstream politics, in the 2011 legislative elections, where she won on the CDC ticket as Montserrado County Representative of District 9, at the age of 28. In 2017, she was reelected.

In 2013, she got married to Dr. Raymond Youngblood, a union that was blessed with a daughter, Sarafina.

Robin Dopoe contributed to this story.

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