Kabineh Ja’neh: Justice for One and All


By Theodore T. Hodge


The Perspective
Atlanta, Georgia
March 16, 2006


According to recent reports out of Monrovia, the confirmation hearings of Counselor Kabineh Ja’neh as a Supreme Court Justice have reached an impasse. Many are now of the opinion that the man who has just served the nation in the distinguished capacity of Minister of Justice, during the recent interim administration, is not qualified to serve as an associate justice. According to his critics, Counselor Kabineh Ja’neh lacks the moral standards necessary to become an associate justice of the high court. Is this a fair charge? Let us examine the case at hand.

It is claimed that he “lacks the moral credentials to occupy such position, citing his affiliation with the defunct rebel movement, Liberians United for Reconciliation and Democracy (LURD), which caused mayhem and destruction of Liberia.”

In his own defense, Cllr. Ja’neh admits to once being an executive of the defunct rebel group (LURD) but said his action was in the “national interest”. In my view, it is important to examine the allegation of moral ineptitude as levied against Cllr. Ja’neh and his own defense of acting in national interest.

President Charles Taylor, whose dictatorial reign plunged Liberia into the dark ages and almost caused a cessation of the country, was forced to flee the country under intense military and political pressure, brought on mainly by LURD. At the time it was believed that the country was on the verge of total collapse; Liberia was an international pariah, a rogue state isolated by international pressure.

But the opposition was not limited to just LURD. There was another military group, the Movement for Democracy in Liberia (MODEL), and many political, civil rights, religious and media groups both in and out of the country were calling for an end of the Taylor regime. Eventually, representatives of these diverse groups of Liberians meeting in Accra Ghana, under international patronage drew up the Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA), which led to the establishment of an interim administration; eventually, national elections were held

All the groups that openly opposed Taylor’s rule and finally ousted him did so under legal and moral authority. Here is how the Constitution of the Republic of Liberia addresses the issue. In Chapter One, Article One, the Constitution states:

“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.”

There is irrefutable proof that Charles Taylor jeopardized the safety and happiness of the Liberian people. Since, according to the foregoing, all power is inherent in the people who have the right to alter and reform their government, the Liberian citizens who organized armed rebellion against a totalitarian government exercised their moral rights under the constitution. It is, therefore, counter-intuitive and in my view quite erroneous to levy these allegations against Cllr. Ja’neh for his association with LURD. After all, “War is a continuation of politics by other means”, according to Carl von Clausewitz.

It is fair to conclude that Cllr. Ja’neh’s motives were political, whether in “self” or “national interest”. It is hypocritical to agree that the nation did the right thing to oust Charles Taylor yet have the audacity to question a citizen’s right to exercise his due constitutional rights by any means necessary. LURD’s actions to wage a war against the dictator were constitutional, whether one agrees with their tactics or not.

All candidates should be quizzed about their knowledge of jurisprudence and their specific professional track records and judicial philosophies. If it becomes necessary to quiz the candidates about their moral stands, then all candidates should answer similar questions. For example, the other candidates should be asked about their political views on the Charles Taylor administrator. Did they oppose the regime on moral grounds, if so, what did they do to express their opposition? Obviously ignoring or remaining silent about the tyrannical rule of Charles Taylor cannot be considered “moral credentials”, or could it? To ignore such relevant and critical questions regarding the other candidates and yet focus on Cllr. Ja’neh is simply a matter of arbitrary and selective justice; that’s not fair. It simply isn’t fair.

If Cllr. Ja’neh was good enough to serve as Justice Minister, he should be good enough to serve as Associate Justice of the Supreme Court.