By Bai M. Gbala, Sr
Increasingly, the credibility of the forthcoming 2017 General and Presidential (democratic) Elections is being called into question with the Chairman of the National Elections Commission (NEC), Cllr. Jerome Korkoya, at center of charges and counter-charges that he is citizen of a foreign country, a violation of Liberian law, including elections law.
Because of the critical, crucial importance of the issues – dual citizenship and loyalty/patriotism to the Nation - this article takes a close look at the developing events with reflections on the facts of history of the NEC.
Elsewhere, we observed recently that the “NEC’s investigation, certification and registration of political parties; oversight of the finances and spending by political parties; demarcation of constituencies, voter registration, political education, guide/control of campaigns by political parties, management of the elections (electoral process), votes counting, adjudication of complaints, etc. had NOT been, are NOT FREE, FAIR, TANSPARENT, ACCOUNTABLE and LEGITIMATE”.
The Liberian people have no confidence in the integrity and credibility of the NEC because they believe that the NEC is not independent, but controlled and manipulated by ruling political party governments. Case in point was the recent secret, unannounced resignation and departure from the country by the-then Chairman of the NEC, while in the midst of accusations of electoral fraud by political parties.
Now Approaching 2017
It has been persistently, consistently reported by the Press, prominent political party personalities and the National Democratic Coalition (by communication addressed to the President of Liberia) that the current Chairman of the NEC, Cllr. Jerome Korkoya, is a citizen of a foreign country and that he, Cllr. Korkoya, lied under oath about such citizenship, in flagrant violation of law, including elections law, with validated evidence.
Moreover, in the event that the accusation and evidence prove truthful, then our President is an accessory to the violation of law, because she knew; if she did not know, then she is incompetent as executive manager, unfit to lead at this national high-level, because she should have known, by prior investigation before appointment.
There were, also, recent charges that Senator George Weah is citizen of the United States with a passport identified by number and that Mr. Robert Sirleaf is a US citizen who is in the country on a work permit. Both gentlemen were cleared and admitted as candidates by the NEC for the Liberian Senate during the recent, 2014 Senatorial elections. Mr. George Weah is now Senator for Montserrado County, perhaps, in violation of Article 30 of the 1986 Constitution.
Back in 2005, during the first general and presidential elections held after the civil war and Mr. Taylor’s “jungle-justice” administration, three Liberian organizations, Progressive Action for Change (PAC), Brains of Liberia (BOL) and Coalition of Political Parties Youth (CPPY), submitted complaints against Mrs. Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf, Mr. Nathaniel Barnes, Cllr. Charles Brumskine, Mr. John Morlu, Cllr. Varney Sherman, Mr. George Weah and others to the National Elections Commission (NEC), with request that they be denied clearance to stand as Candidates for President of Liberia and as candidates for membership of the National Legislature because, these organizations claimed, that the individuals are citizens of foreign countries.
The Daily Observer newspaper of Tuesday, July 19, 2005, quoted Mr. George Weah as having admitted naturalized citizenship of the Republic of France and that he has renounced that citizenship. But Mr. Weah did not show evidence that he has completed re-application for Liberian Citizenship in accordance with constitutional and Immigration & Naturalization laws, while there had been, and is, no recorded response from Mrs. Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf, Mr. Barnes, Cllr. Brumskine, Cllr. Sherman and others, only the statement of the-then Chairlady of the NEC, Cllr. Frances Morris Johnson, to the effect that a forthcoming ruling was in favor of all the defendants on the grounds of “short-term peace, unity and security”. Mr. John Morlu admitted US citizenship, publicly, recently.
About the complaint/request made to the NEC and its decision, we wrote (from Lancaster, Pennsylvania, USA, August 2005) and observed as follows:
“That the allegations by PAC, BOL and CPPY sought to bar the prominent, ‘high-power’ candidates for the Presidency and Legislature from standing for office on the grounds that they are guilty of acts of political infidelity to the Republic by allegedly denouncing and renouncing their “Liberian citizenship and taking on citizenships of foreign countries . . . It was argued, as we shall see later, that the Constitution of Liberia provides, in unequivocal language, that only Liberian citizens shall have the right not only to stand for office, but also to register and vote. Others are charged with treasonable acts for their involvement in the 1989, military-type, illegal invasion of Liberia”.
“Recalling our nation’s turbulent past and recent history of politics and political leadership deeply-rooted in ‘self-interest’ and ‘get-grab-and-go’ (GGG), those historic conditions that, among others, led to our recent, national tragedy, such that young and older Liberians of today place critical premium not only on commitment to democratic, political pluralism, modern management with trained/experienced political leadership qualities, but also on character (honesty) and patriotism or love of and dedication to country, with demonstrated or demonstrable evidence of progressive, responsible involvement”.
“That this requirement is a critical necessity is self-evident; in that, members of the national Legislature make the laws and policies that define, guide, regulate and protect not only the interactions of, by, between and among citizens, but also the neighborly nations of the world, including the “vital interests” of Liberian citizens and nations – social, economic, political, and the national security. Moreover, it is the responsibility of a president of the nation to implement or execute fully these laws and policies.
“It is in this respect that citizenship plays a crucial role as the most important requirement, in standing for and holding the positions of president & vice president, and other members of the Legislature of Liberia. Accordingly, our nation’s Constitution provides (Article 52) that ‘No one shall be eligible to hold the office of president or vice president unless that person is a natural, born Liberian citizen . . .’ For members of the national Legislature, the Constitution provides (Article 30) that only ‘Citizens of Liberia . . . are eligible to become members of the Legislature’”.
“But, for quite so long a time that there had been and are some Alien ‘Liberians’ who participated and continue to participate in the making/implementing of important national decisions in our country, but no one dared or had the ‘guts’ to ‘rock the boat’ by questioning or challenging the ‘pillars’ of Liberian society for fear of being judged ‘trouble-maker’ and ostracized socially and politically. Not today or any longer; for, the socio-political fallout from the patriotic, courageous action of PAC, BOL and CPPY will, forever reverberate for all time on the Liberian political landscape, such that it will never be the same henceforth. Those Liberians, who covet, prefer and/or have obtained foreign citizenship for economic reasons, social class, prestige symbols and privilege will now have to think very seriously about the consequences of such decisions”, as is the case now in 2017.
NEC Ruling on the complaints/Request
“As indicated earlier, the NEC, a quasi-judicial body, gave its ruling in all of the most important challenges in favor of the defendants based, primarily, on technical, legal arguments for ‘short-term peace, unity and security’, seemingly not to ‘rock the boat’”.
“The rest is left, now, in the fragile hands of the Liberian Voters, an overwhelming majority of the nation’s Body Politic which, as well-known, is poor, hungry, often sick, uninformed, relatively uneducated and lack the skills/ability to reflect, analyze and interpret the critical issues of these general elections, with particular respect to the requisite or desirable qualities for political leadership and impact of their votes in these crucial elections”.
Now, the Voters will be asked, come 2017, as they were asked in 2005 and 2011, “to select/elect leader(s) from the mosaic of Liberian ‘politicians’ - some come from the traditional, conservative school of Liberian politics ‘who refuse to ‘rock the boat’, but ‘stay the course’, whatever that may portend, while oppressive, dishonest and corrupt; others are ‘progressives’ who crossed carpet to become ‘traditional, carpet-baggers’ and hypocrites to their principles; still some are ‘utopian, socialist activists’ with a tinge of Karl Marx and authoritarianism; while there are others who are purely democratic, political theorists but with tyrannical tendencies; and yet others, who claim to be ethnic/tribal ‘patriots’ who refuse or reject the inclusion of other ethnic/tribal groups, particularly, the so-called Congo- and Americo-Liberians in national, political affairs”.
“In all of this state of our political affairs, it is important to recall the saying, that, ‘a people get the government that they deserve’. At this cross roads of Liberian political history, what, indeed, is the sort of government that we deserve?”
Today, fellow citizens, Mrs. Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf has been President of Liberia for 12 years, now retiring with dismal, disastrous national record, Mr. Nathaniel Barnes, a member of the Charles Taylor NPP, just resigned from the CDC coalition; Cllr. Charles Brumskine and Senator George Weah are presidential candidates, while Mrs. Jewel Howard-Taylor, NPP Senator for Bong County, is Vice Standard Bearer/Running Mate for Senator Weah’s CDC/NPP/Tyler Coalition and Cllr. Varney Sherman is Grand Cape Mount County Senator, “politically-connected lawyer” and under indictment as the principal defendant for the historic bribery trial.
It is very important, a matter of Law and, specifically, a major political requirement, that these prominent Liberian Citizens (?) tell you and the Liberian Nation where lie their allegiance, loyalty, and patriotism. Mr. John Morlu has, already, told you, publicly, that he is an American citizen.
Indeed, some twelve years after one of the most hateful, ethnic/tribal bigotry; the destructive, massive displacement of people from their homes as refugees; mind-boggling human suffering and brutal killings by the civil war nightmare in our country, there is, now, a mosaic or collection of the so-called new breed of political animals, “politicians”, with, hopefully, liberal “progressive” ideologues. But are they, in real terms, the emerged/emerging, political class or the old-line, “back-to-business-as-usual” liars, thieves, “politically-connected lawyers and individuals drowning in the cesspool of public dishonesty and rampant, roaring Corruption, Inc.?