ULAA Elects New Board Leadership

The Perspective
Atlanta, Georgia
November 3, 2003

Mr. Anthony Varfilay Kesselly, the ULAA Board Representative of the Liberian Association of Pennsylvania, Inc., has been elected the new Chairman of the Board of Directors of the Union of Liberian Associations in the Americas (ULAA). At the just-concluded 29th ANNUAL GENERAL ASSEMBLY in Lowell, Massachusetts, Mr. Kesselly was elected by more than two-thirds of the ULAA Board members present at a regular session, following a break from the general activities of the convention.

Mr. Kesselly defeated Mr. Ijoma Flemister, to clinch the chairmanship of Board. Mr. Kesselly earlier received a written petition from several members of the Board, who pleaded with the Pennsylvania Representative to reconsider his published decision to not seek the chairmanship of the Board. In receiving the petition, Mr. Kesselly stated that he had every intention of abiding by his decision to stay out of the chairmanship race, but could not however turn down the passionate plea from his colleagues on the Board.

Mr. Kesselly was nominated by a Board member from New Jersey-North, while Mr. Flemister was nominated by a Board member from Washington, DC. Following the announcement of the results, Mr. Flemister shook hands with Chairman Kesselly to the applause of sitting board members. The new ULAA Board Chairman joined the Board in December 2001, as the representative of the Liberian Community Association of Pennsylvania. He recently served as Chairman of the Board of Directors of his local chapter.

Mr. Kesselly has been an open and strong critic of what he sees as gross abuses of power in the Union as well as the lack of accountability and tenets of good governance. Many in the ULAA member chapters see his election as “a make it or break it” decision for the parent organization of Liberians in the Diaspora.

In another development, long time Board First Vice Chairman and Washington, D.C. Representative, James Rogers, was reelected to the position. Mr. Rogers emerged victorious in his contest with New Jersey-South Representative Andrew Gursay while Michael Wreh of Rhode Island defeated newly accredited New Jersey-North Representative Victor Smith.

In line with the tradition of the Board, the newly elected officers were immediately sworn in office. Mr. Mathu Gibson (ULAA Board Chairman from 1984 - 1986), who was the Keynote Speaker at this year's national conference, inducted the new Chairman Kesselly. First Vice Chairman James Rogers was inducted by Mr. Augustus Majors (ULAA Board Chairman from 1997 - 2001). Elderly statesman and ULAA Board Member Harry Yuan inducted Second Vice Chairman Michael Wreh.

In his brief remarks, Chairman Kesselly pledged to always remain committed to the Board Rules, especially Rule 32, which stipulates that the chairman shall remain under the authority of the Board in his discharge of all of his functions and responsibilities. He said his focus would primarily be working with his colleagues on the Board to establish systems that work and to support the National Administration in institution-building efforts. Chairman Kesselly admonished his colleagues not to hesitate to point out his errors but to do so purely based on principles and not on personal prejudice.

Later, upon the reconvening of the plenary session of the General Conference, the new corps of officers of the Board were officially presented to the general body by three prominent past leaders of the Union, Mr. Augustus Majors (former Board Chairman), Mr. Mathu Gibson (former Board Chairman) and Mrs. Mydea Reeves-Karpeh (immediate past President).

ULAA is the umbrella organization of Liberians and their various organizations in North America. It is a voluntary, nonprofit and non-governmental organization formed on April 21, 1974 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, United States of America. The mission of ULAA is to advance the just causes of Liberians abroad and Liberia at home.

The general principles of ULAA are to promote and encourage national reconciliation, integration and unification; preserve and protect Liberian culture, history and traditions; uphold and defend fundamental rights, including the human rights and civil liberties of Liberians everywhere; cultivate and harness the energies and resources of Liberians to improve the quality of life of all Liberians; and advocate and advance the cause of constitutional democracy and sustainable national development in the Republic of Liberia.

The organization, which now has sixteen chapters across the United States, has a legislative arm, the National Board of Directors, an advisory National Leadership Council, comprising heads of all the member chapters, and a National Administration, headed by a national president. The current National President is Mr. Mohammed S. Kromah.

The Union now has chartered memberships in Massachusetts, Rhode Island, New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Maryland, Washington, D.C., North Carolina, Georgia, Ohio, Michigan, and Minnesota. New applications for membership have recently come in from the States of Illinois and Wisconsin.

Newly elected Chairman Kesselly becomes the first Board representative from the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania to head the ULAA National Board of Directors, notwithstanding the fact that ULAA was founded in Pennsylvania some 30 years ago.