Good Governance in Liberia Depends on the Balance of Power in Government


By Winsley S. Nanka

The Perspective
Atlanta, Georgia

November 1, 2004


…“ It is not only individual measures but also the overall political will that has the importance for how society will develop”-Policy Document, Ministry of Justice, Stockholm, Sweden 2000.

Liberian politicians and stakeholders are preparing for the 2005 national elections in Liberia under the illusion the only office that matters is the presidency. Almost any Liberian of consequence believes that he or she can make his or her greatest contribution to the development of sustainable democracy and economic development in Liberia from the Executive Mansion.

Liberia has a tripartite system based on the executive, legislative and judiciary branches of government. Under the Liberian constitution, the three branches of government have equal power. Each branch of government serves as a check and balance on the other branches. The rationale for this constitutional framework is to equally distribute power, which avoids the concentration of power in a single branch of government.

Given the list of Liberian presidential aspirants, one would believe that the legislative branch of government is not deserving of Liberian politicians of consequence. Notable Liberians from Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf to Winston Tubman are all said to be interested in the presidency. The manifestation of interests by all the distinguished Liberian politicians and others in the presidency may leave the legislative branch of government with less qualified people.

Currently, there is immersed concentration of interest on the executive branch of government by some of the best Liberia has to offer at the expense of the legislative branch of government. Good governance in Liberia will succeed if Liberians recognize the importance of the balance of power between the executive, legislative and judiciary branches of government and redistribute their “competencies” across the branches of government accordingly.

The development of a powerful legislature in Liberia to counter balance the executive branch of government depends upon the quality of people that represent Liberians in the legislature. For examples, imagine Ellen Johnson-Serleaf and Gabriel Baccus Mathews emerging as Senators from Montserado County, Henry Boima Fahnbullah, Jr. and Abraham James as Senators for Grand Capemount County; Winston Tubman, Senator from Maryland County. Togba-Nah Tipoteh, from Sinoe County, Scott Toweh and Joseph Korto, Senators from Nimba County, Cletus Wotorson, Senator from Grand Kru County, Dusty Wolokollie, a representative from Lofa County and Speaker of the House of Representatives, etc. These Liberians and others could make the Liberian legislature a powerhouse that would counter-balance the power of the president. Some Liberians may not like the politics of these people, but one thing is clear, they are not pushovers.

Further, imagine a future Liberian Supreme Court with Cllr. Tiawan Gongloe as Chief Justice and Cllr. Phillip Banks, III as Associate Justice, etc. These and others are some of the best jurists Liberia has to offer. The distribution of the competencies of Liberians across the government would truly enhance good governance in Liberia.

Liberians must recognize that good governance is not the function of the executive branch of government alone. It takes a legislature that performs its oversight responsibilities without fear or favor and a judiciary branch of government that interprets the constitution and the law of the land fearlessly. If Liberian politicians of consequence neglect the legislative branch of government and allow it to be occupied by people who are incapable of making independent judgements, and understanding their constitutional obligations, it will be difficult to achieve good governance in Liberia.

It is the responsibility of every Liberian to understand that good governance will be a fantasy if Liberians with political aspirations and others fail to recognize the importance of the legislative branch of government. Liberians could have the Holy Father, Pope John Paul, II at the executive mansion but if the legislature is swarmed with people who have difficulties understanding their legislative responsibilities then Liberia is likely to end up with a weak legislature and consequently a powerful presidency that dominates all aspects of life in Liberia. Therefore, it is in the interest of the Liberian nation for the politicians to consider the impact that the concentration of interest in the presidency will have on the balance of power in Liberia in the future.