Written by: John S. Morlu II
September 2013, we have heard some great summons at Church. We have read Paul's letters asking for us to pray for our leaders, politicians, kings, presidents etc even when we know they are running the government in ways we disapprove and in ways that undermine our collective well being. I have prayed for the Liberian President for good health, compassion and good judgment in running Liberia. We have also listen to preaching about the three "Wasteful Parables" Jesus narrated in the Gospel of Luke: The Parable of the Prodigal Son, Parable of the Talents, and the Parable of the Rich Man and Lazarus. I learned today that in order to be hopeful for a better future, we need to forget about being hopeful for a better past, as the past has come and gone and we cannot change that.
From 2006 to December 31, 2012, the Liberian Institute of Public Integrity (LIPI) reported that the current Government has collected and spent $2.01 billion in domestically generated cash flow. Full accounting of these funds have not been made, with so much been wasted and stolen. From December 2012 to December 2017, the current administration is expected to collect and spent another $2.6 billion in domestically generated cash flow, excluding the millions to be collected and spent by state owned enterprises. While we cannot hope for a better past, we can use the past as a proxy for the future performance of this government.
If there are no fundamental changes in the current practice of corruption and impunity, the next $2.6 billion is going to be wasted and stolen, with no tangible change in the well being of the Liberian people. Liberty Party has failed to accept that those demanding for change in governance are concerned not just about the wasted and stolen $2.01 billion, but the wasting and theft of another $2.6 billion between now and December 31 2017. For Liberty Party, it is far better for Liberians to allow the plundering of state resources between now and December 2017, while real people in Liberia are hurting under the weight of poverty and despair. Where is the moral outrage on the party of the Liberty Party to see real people suffering because of the corrupt practices of a few people? At the current rate of corruption, a typical Liberian child will not have the opportunity to become a "Robert Sirleaf" with a purported "wall street experience" and a degree from George Mason. A typical Liberian child is going to die by age 49.
The Liberty Party (LP) was an 'opposition party' to the Presidency of Ellen Johnson Sirleaf during the first term of her administration. After the 2011 elections when it garnered barely five percent of the popular vote, coming a distant third place behind Prince Johnsons' NUDP, Liberty Party's leadership made a conscious decision to become a key part of the ruling party, with the aim of sharing in the national coffers during the second term of the Ellen Johnson Sirleaf administration, including obtaining lucrative jobs and contracts.
Since the inauguration in January 2012, Liberty Party has become the biggest beneficiary of jobs from the Presidency of Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, positioning the party Stewarts at NOCAl, Maritime, Liberia Water and Sewer Corporation, Ministry of Justice, Ministry of Public Works, etc and aligning with known presidential insiders like the former Senior Advisor to the President and Director General of Cabinet.
In no small measure, the Liberty Party, under the current leadership, has gradually replaced the Unity Party as the ruling party of Liberia and the mouthpiece of the Government. The Liberty Party and its Chairman have the God given rights to chart a course that is in their personal economic interests and to defend the Presidency, but the Liberty Party does not have the rights to make misleading statements, questioning the constitutional rights of other Liberians who are demanding a 'good government,' a good government (deliberative legislature, energetic executive--firm and efficient, and a just and fair judiciary), as articulated in The Federalist Papers. The Federal Papers in 1788 (85 in all) is arguably the most serious intellectual argument supporting the form of democratic government adopted by Liberia from the United States of America. Thomas Jefferson described the Federalist "as the best commentary on the principles of Government , which was ever written." In 1885, Thomas Jefferson recommended the Federalist as an authority on the "distinctive principles" of the Government of Virginia and the United States, second in importance only to U.S. Declaration of Independence.
On September 20, 2013, FrontpageAfrica reported, "The Liberty Party (LP) has termed calls for the immediate resignation of President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf as unconstitutional and has categorically stated that it does not support any attempt to unseat another Liberian government especially few years after elections." I have been a good friend to the Liberty Party. I still hold the Chairman and the Political Leader in high esteem. But on this issue of calling the actions of Liberians who have called for the resignation of President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf as "unconstitutional" shows that the Liberty Party does not understand the republican form of Government that Liberia adopted from America.
One of the mistakes that we have made in Liberia is that we have focused mainly on the Presidency and the ruling party, whether it is William R. Tolbert and the TWP, Samuel K. Doe and the NDPL, Charles Taylor and the NPP and now Ellen Johnson Sirleaf and UP. We have focused less on REGIME COLLOBARTORS, who in so many instances are even more problem oriented than the ruling party because they have nothing to lose as they are not the actual ruling party and they have to "prove their loyalty at all cost" to the Presidency to keep greasing the wheels. It is the regime collaborators that are creating problems for the President, as they are more interested in lining pockets and positioning themselves for the future than giving disinterest advice to the President.
Ellen Johnson Sirleaf "Beware" of people and groups who will defend any wrongdoing just to prove loyalty. Not long ago in the 1980s, Ellen Johnson Sirleaf was considered by both the United States Government and President Samuel Doe as a "troublemaker," and part of the "noisy minority" in reference to statements from former Assistant Secretary of State Chester Cooker when he rebuked Ellen Sirleaf and group after the 1985 elections.
Major changes in society has come to fruition from the "noisy minority," not the silent majority.
Patrick Henry's "Give Me Liberty, or Give Me Death" speech took a year to get to Boston and for Americans to understand its implications, and when they did, America had the Boston Tea Party and a revolution that ousted the Brits. Mohama Gandhi led a minority revolution to oust the Brits. Nelson Mandela led a minority revolution to oust the Brits. Martin Luther King Jr led a minority revolution to advance the happiness of the black race in America. It was the noisy minority that ousted the Romanian dictator Nicolae Ceaușescu. It was the noisy minority that ousted Tolbert, Doe and Taylor, not the 3.5 million Liberians. It was a Bishop led a demonstration to oust two elected presidents in the Philippines. In America, the minority is always the one that hijack the Government. Today, it is the minority that is about to shutdown the Government of the United States. If one reads the Federalist Papers, one will notice throughout the 85 papers that Hamilton, John Jay and James Madison feared the power of the minority in our constitutional, republican form of Government, but to have a 'good government,' the rights of the minority was made sacrosanct.
A prominent and leading international donor to Liberia just completed a 'Political Economy Analysis' on Liberia recently, a copy of which is in my possession. Similarly, another political analysis was also conducted in Sierra Leone and completed last month, a copy of which is also in my possession. Sierra Leone and Liberia are "minority country," where no single group or tribe can win an election outright. So there is usually a give and take, in sharing of jobs and contracts. Sierra Leone and Liberia are also a "winner takes all" countries, wherein the Presidency has significant control over uncompromising opposition people denying jobs in Government and frustrating every effort for them to obtain jobs and contracts in the private sector.
But from reading the two political economy reports on the two countries, Liberia has a much strong tendency for a "winner takes all" approach. Not surprising Liberia made history in 2011, as the only African country for a group of political parties to contest an election against an incumbent but then turned around and support the same incumbent during the second round of the elections. Liberty Party, NUDP etc all contested against Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, wasting time and resources, only to turn around and support incumbent Ellen Johnson Sirleaf in the second round. It is rather strange but understandable becoming a regime collaborator
Again, after the 2011 elections, Liberty Party has moved away from being an 'opposition party' in the truest sense to become Regime Collaborator. Today, Liberty Party is only acting as a political party on paper but a member of the ruling party in actions. Action speaks louder than words! So it is understandable but not acceptable for the Liberty Party to call the actions of Liberians calling for the resignation of the President of Liberia s unconstitutional. Perhaps, one of the ways we can assist the President of Liberia to clean up the corruption mess in Liberia is to step back, retool, and focus our attention on the regime collaborators, or as indicated in the two political analysis reports, "those creating bottlenecks" in the system. These are people and institutions pretending and defending the Presidency, instead of just telling the President to do the right things for the people of Liberia.
An administration can come and go but the people always remain. Liberty Party and its current leadership should think twice about the direction their own party is taking. The LP is most likely making itself less relevant in the 2017 elections as they have joined a ruling elite that has mismanaged public funds, to the detriment of the Liberian people.
I have not formed a definite position on the resignation question, as I will do so soon, but as professional person who was schooled at Thomas Jefferson's University of Virginia with a strong commitment to Jeffersonian Principles, Patrick Henry and George Mason's Bill of Rights, and additionally Alexander Hamilton's argument for a 'good government,’ I will always support any group of people who believe they have had enough of observing corruption and nepotism and want to engage in a non-violent and constitutional process to remove a corrupt regime so as to improve 'life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.’
Clearly, Liberty Party has positioned itself as the 'Information Minister,' and also the 'Secretary General' of the Unity Party. But how does Liberty Party feel about the popular saying in Liberia, "Monkey Works, Baboon Draws." Unity Party worked to re-elect Ellen Johnson Sirleaf and Liberty Party is now drawing on Unity Party's sweat. This is rather unfortunate, as such political benefits are not being obtained from principle positions.
Not long ago in 2010, the Liberty Party said President Sirleaf was "too old" to run for President, when Article 52 (a) of the Liberian Constitution says, "no person shall be eligible to hold the office of President or Vice-President, unless that person is: a natural born Liberian citizen of not less than 35 years of age." There is nothing in the 1986 Liberian Constitution that says a 70 year old person cannot run for President but the Liberty Party was prepared then to violate the Constitutional rights of Ellen Johnson Sirleaf in 2010.
And in 2011, while campaigning in Lofa, FrontpageAfrica reported that the Liberty Party Standard Bearer said this: "President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf and Vice President Joseph Boakai belong to the retirement club and there is no way the two could reform what needs to be done in Liberia." FrontpageAfrica quoted the Liberty Party Standard-bearer: "We fought fourteen years of war. We destroyed our country. We killed almost ten percent of our population. We remain an un-reconciled people. We remain an angry people. We remain a hurt people. Ellen Johnson Sirleaf cannot reconcile Liberia.” These are strong statements and that is what Liberty Party was admired for, standing up for what is just and fair and speaking truth to power.
It is unlikely that the Chairman and Secretary General of the "ruling" Unity Party will argue that it is unconstitutional for Liberians to call for the resignation of the President. Instead they might likely proffer reasons why their standard bearer should not be removed from office. But in the desperate quest to prove "loyalty" to President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, the Liberty Party has made statements voluntarily that have no basis in law and facts, statements coming from a Party whose Political Leader and Party Chairman are lawyers from excellent laws schools in America. The Liberty Party has put itself against the general interest of the Liberian people, a people whose "pursuit of happiness" has been severely undermined by corruption, nepotism, patronage and impunity.
One can be in Government, be a beneficiary of Presidential goodness, and receive contracts and awards from Government but still be able to stand up for what is right and just. Liberty Party has not been able to do that, as indicated in their recent outburst against well meaning Liberians trying to demand a change in Government because the current administration has failed miserably to address the long standing issues of corruption, nepotism, impunity and patronage. It makes anyone to wonder what will drive lawyers from the Liberty Party to make a Constitutional argument, without first reading comprehensively the very Constitution which their party is using against well meaning Liberians, who only want fundamental changes in governance?
In the midst of the wrong constitution arguments being advanced by Liberty Party to defend President Ellen Johnson, it would have suffice for the Liberty Party Chairman who was the initial lawyer for FrontpagaAfrica to state his party's position on the violation of Article 21 of the Liberian Constitution with respect to the excessive punishment against the jailed FrontpageAfrica Editor-in-Chief, Mr. Rodney D. Sieh. Does Liberty Party think it is proper to jail a journalist for 5,000 years when a former President of Liberia is getting 50 years in prison for war crimes and crimes against humanity?
Liberty Party did not think this issue of libel and jailing of Mr. Sieh for 5,000 was a significant constitutional issue to hold a press conference. But it gladly and voluntarily held a press conference to charge Liberians of a constitutional breach for asking for the resignation of the President. Where is Liberty Party's priority: Defending President Sirleaf or fighting to end the actual abuse of the Constitution to intimidate and silence journalist Sieh and others in the media?
Liberty Party--Reason 1
According to FPA, "Cllr. Koffa contends that Liberia has a democratic system of government, which allows citizens to change their leaders at a stipulated period, if those leaders do not perform to expectation and not for individuals to continuously call for the unseating of elected presidents."
FPA quotes Liberty Party Chairman, “we set up a constitutional structure to ensure how our governments change. Every six years, we will have elections in which our people have the ability; the opportunity to decide to change their government and no one individual can occupy more than two terms. That’s the constitutional system we set up, so that the government continues to be accountable to the people."
According to FPA, Liberty Party Chairman said, "Liberia’s system of government is not one that it invented, rather, the country emulated the examples of the Americans and Europeans in creating an avenue for regime change in a peaceful and democratic way and anything outside of that cannot be backed by his party."
My Response #1
Liberty Party Chairman relies on this provision, 1986 Constitution, Chapter VI, the Executive, Article 50 which says, "the Executive Power of the Republic shall be vested in the President who shall be Head of State, Head of Government and Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces of Liberia. The president shall be elected by universal adult suffrage of registered voters in the Republic and shall hold office for a term of six years commencing at noon on the third working Monday in January of the year immediately following the elections. No person shall serve as President for more than two terms."
But he failed to take into account the following equally important provisions within the Liberian Constitution. After elections, citizens still can remove a corrupt and incompetent president, as laid down in the Constitution, as indicated below:
In the 1986 Constitution, Structure of Government, Article 1 says: "All power is inherent in the people. All free governments are instituted by their authority and for their benefit and they have the right to alter and reform the same when their safety and happiness so require. In order to ensure democratic government which responds to the wishes of the governed, the people shall have the right at such period, and in such manner as provided for under this Constitution, to cause their public servants to leave office and to fill vacancies by regular elections and appointments."
In the same 1986 Constitution, Fundamental Rights, Article 17, says "all persons, at all times, in an orderly and peaceable manner, shall have the right to assemble and consult upon the common good, to instruct their representatives, to petition the Government or other functionaries for the redress of grievances.."
In the 1986 Constitution, Chapter VI, the Executive, Article 63 (b) says, "whenever the office of the President shall become vacant by reason of death, resignation, impeachment, or the President shall be declared incapable of carrying out the duties and functions of his office, the Vice-President shall succeed to the of the President to complete the unexpired term. In such a case, this not constitute a term."
Article 63 (b) of the 1986 Constitution acknowledges that a President can resign, whether by choice or through the popular demand of the people. In Liberia, Article 63 (b) of the 1986 Constitution provides four instances when the Presidency can become vacant: (1) Death, (2) Resignation, (3) Impeachment, and (4) Incapable of carrying out the duties and functions of his office. Resignation is second, as it is right after death. Basically instead of waiting for a long drawn out impeachment battle, citizens can force the President to resign if they choose to do so. This was done in the Philippines in 2001. Did Liberty Party read the 1986 Constitution?
U.S. President Barrack Obama has said that "democracy is more than just elections." It is about governance after the elections. Liberty Party likely disagrees with President Obama.
There are a list of examples of national, state and local leaders that have been forced out of power in America after election for poor conduct of the affairs of the public good. U.S. President Richard Nixon resigned. The people of California recalled the Governor Gray Davis. In 2012, in Wisconsin the people demonstrated, obtained signature and call for a referendum to recall the Governor, although the Government won the recall election. Richard Nixon did not go down to the Watergate and do wrong. Instead he was accused of obstructing justice and cover and consequently forced out of Office.
Let Liberty Party go and tell the people of Argentina who removed an elected president through demonstration and refused to accept five replacements until President Bill Clinton had to make a personal intervention for the people to accept someone as a President. Today, Argentina is better for that popular uprising. It would be hard to get another non-performing president who does not listen to the people of Argentina.
In an article entitled "Philippine citizens overthrow President Joseph Estrada (People Power II), 2001," The Global Nonviolent Database reported on 17 January 2001, "Manila Archbishop Jaime Cardinal Sin led a National Day of Protest which included a march in the city of Manila asking President Estrada to resign... Estrada did not resign. Cardinal Sin made a public statement asking the people to gather in the Ortigas Avenue and Epifanio de los Santos Advenue in Quezon City. Cardinal Sin called upon the people to rise up as they had years earlier in 1989, for the People Power movement when they overthrew the then dictator Ferdinand Marcos (see Filipinos campaign to overthrow dictator (People Power), 1983-1986). The Cardinal called this People Power II, and within a single day 100,000 had gathered in Quezon City to protest."
In Liberty Party's logical thinking, Manila Archbishop Jaime Cardinal Sin actions to demand for the resignation of an elected President of Philippine was unconstitutional.
In Europe where the Parliamentary System is usually the chosen form of Government, they can just dissolve a corrupt Government and start over. It is likely Liberty Party has followed events in Greece, unless it is not well informed on international events.
Liberty Party--Reason 2
“Look at the American democracy today, I look at President Obama’s approval ratings, from the American people, it is at 43%. 43% of the American people, says Obama is doing a good job; so I say to myself; ‘where is the Obama Step Down campaign?’ because I can almost bet if you run the same thing here, Madam President will be hovering at 43%... Approval ratings and job performances of presidents go up and down; today she might have a low approval rating; next year she might have a high approval rating. That’s why the constitution says you have six years to accomplish what the people elected you to accomplish."
My Response #2
First, there is nowhere in the Liberian Constitution that says Liberians should wait six years before they can ask a sitting President to resign because he or she has not performed to expectation or has engaged in corrupt activities by participating in corruption, aiding corrupt practices, and condoning corrupt practices. On the secret recording between the former Managing Director of Liberia Airport Authority and the Defense Minister of Liberia, the Defense Minister said the President of Liberia is in the habit of condoning and protecting corrupt people in her Government, because she has refused to prosecute them for breaking the law by stealing from the Liberian people. In Article 1, 17 and 63 (b) are all constitutional options to remove a sitting president from office.
President Barrack Obama is not condoning corruption, impunity and bad governance. It is true that approval rating can go up and down for any leader, but the Americans are not calling for the resignation of President Obama because President Obama is seen also by majority of Americans to be making the best effort to solve the economic problems facing America.
Again, there is no Obama Step Down campaign because he is not running a corrupt government and if he did, he would be asked to resign just as Americans asked and got the resignation of Richard Nixon. In Liberia, we have these corruption reports and no actions:
Many Government institution reports have met same fate as audit Reports--NO Action: General Auditing Commission Audits. Several Anti-Corruption Reports (LACC said it had to unilaterally take the case against the police director to Court because Justice Ministry said not enough evidence). Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC). LEITI, Moore Stephenson Audit Report on Contracts and Concessions, 2 of 68 met legal standards). Global Business Solutions Audit of LWSC.
Many of Ellen Sirleaf's own Commission reports have met same fate as audit reports--NO Action. Dunn Commission Report, Knuckle Gate II Corruption Email Scandal. Nagbalee Warner's Commission on Carbon Harvesting Report. Ndobor Jallah's Commission on Private Use Permit Report. Justice Minister's Investigative Committee on Harry Greaves and Aloysius Jappah, Zakhem Contract . Western Cluster Fraud Scandal. Tiawon Gongloe' Commission Report. Dr. Boima Fahnbulleh's Commission Report. Many Several international reports have met same fate as audit reports--NO Action: U.S. State Department Human Rights Reports. U.N. Panel of Experts Reports. Global Witness Reports. International Crisis Group Reports.
Additionally, Liberia is considered the "most corrupt country" in the world by Transparency International, a report that was carried prominently in the largest paper in America called USA Today. Did Liberty Party see President Obama signed away 66 illegal and irregular concession contracts? If he did that in America, he would be asked to resign immediately.
Essentially, it is unfortunate that Liberty Party will choose to compare one of America's best Presidents to the current President of Liberia's inability to uphold the oath of office and protect the assets and resources of Liberia. It is the right of Liberty Party to defend the corrupt practices in the current administration, but it is completely unacceptable and a 'poor taste' to compare President Obama with the current wave of corruption in Liberia.
Liberty Party--Reason 3
“Why we want to circumvent that process now when we’ve had ten years of uninterrupted peace-of a broken country. Every revolution that has come has come against nepotism and rampant corruption and we’re still advocating against those things. It means our formula for changing government based on those ideas or those ills is essentially wrong. Maybe the problem is not in our style, it is in ourselves; so unless we institutionalize –we structure things right, every government will face the same fate of two, three years in power-somebody organizing for its removal. Let us be serious.”
My Response #3
It is true that every revolution in Liberia has stated "rampant corruption" and "nepotism" as justification for removing a sitting President. It is also true that we are "still advocating against those ills." But it is fundamentally wrong for Liberty Party to say that "it means our formula for changing government based on those ideas or those ills is essentially wrong."
Instead, the ideas of changing a corrupt and nepostic regime cannot be wrong. It is always right to change a corrupt regime. In Liberia, what has been wronged in the past are two things: (1) the means through which we have changed corrupt and nepotistic regimes in Liberia; and (2) who we have put in the place when the presidents ousted from power.
The three democratically elected regimes we have changed has been done through violence and war. William R. Tolbert and his cabinet were murdered. Samuel Doe and some members of his cabinet were murdered. Charles Taylor and some members of his cabinet were on the brink of being murdered, thanks to ECOWAS and African Union that sent in President Mbeki to save Taylor and his men from the advancing forces of LURD and MODEL.
We replaced Willie Tolbert with Samuel Doe. We replaced Samuel Doe with Charles Taylor. We replaced Charles Taylor with Ellen Johnson Sirleaf. All of them have had corrupt and nepostic tendencies from the start, none of them with any track record of ever being a frontline fighter against corruption. Samuel Doe had no record of fighting corruption or implementing good governance practices. Charles Taylor had a known record for stealing from GSA, convicted in America for stealing from Liberians. Ellen Johnson Sirleaf was Minister of Finance in Willie Tolbert administration, an administration that was considered satiated with corruption, nepotism and that he was running Liberia as a "family business," according to Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, in her book, "This Child Will be Great."
Unlike the war mongers who unseated Tolbert, Doe and Taylor, the recent actions by Liberians is the most constitutional option and a clear path to the continuation of Liberian democracy. There would have been a different outcome if those who removed Tolbert, Doe and Taylor had followed what ordinary Liberians are doing today: demonstration and demanding resignation.
The Liberty Party Chairman concluded, "Is everything ok with the country and how people perceive it to be? I say no. Are more people kind of disgruntled? Probably but the issue is what is the constitutional solution or answer to that problem? It is called ‘2017’.
How will a Liberty Party Government be different in 2017 than the current Government, since it is a regime collaborator? Liberty Party is a Regime Collaborator so we understand from where they come. Liberty Party has a right to its own opinion on the current demand by Liberians for the resignation of the President for nepotism, corruption, patronage, and illegal acts. But Liberty Party does not have the rights to the facts, as spelled out in the 1986 Constitution and in practice, as in America.
Interestingly, Liberty Party was the same party that said Ellen should not run during the second term because she was very old when in fact there is no constitutional limitation on old person. Once you 35 or above you are sanctioned by the constitution to run for the Presidency. One wonders why LP will condemn another group of Liberians who peacefully calling for the resignation of President Sirleaf .They breached no law calling for the President resignation as this is guaranteed in the Constitution that the President can leave office either by resignation, death ,impeachment or incapacitation.
Reasonable minded people will agree that corruption is not a victimless crime. It hurts everyone including the corrupt, as it undermines the tenets of democracy--the rule of law, accountability and transparency--and consequently raises tension and resentment, which in turn creates insecurity, which in diminishes public confidence, and which in turn can lead to chaos. This is why, all reasonable people have agreed with President Sirleaf that "Corruption is Public Enemy Number One," except that as the Defense Minister of Liberia confirmed what we already knew: President Sirleaf has aided, abetted, nurtured and condoned corruption.