MODELED AFTER THE CONSTITUTION of the United States of America, the framers of the Liberian Constitution went to great length to ensure a separation of powers system of governance through a series of “checks and balances” intended to ensure that no single person or branch of government ever becomes too powerful.
JAMES MADISON, an America statesman and founding father who served as the fourth President of the United States of America from 1809 to 1817 and hailed as the "Father of the Constitution" for his pivotal role in drafting and promoting the US Constitution and the Bill of Rights, knew all too well from hard experience the dangers of unchecked power in government.
Madison’s skepticism was clear: “The truth is that all men having power ought to be mistrusted.”
MADISON AND HIS FELLOW framers believed that in creating any government administered by humans over humans, “You must first enable the government to control the governed; and in the next place, oblige it to control itself.”
THE SYSTEM OF CHECKS AND BALANCES, from Madison’s viewpoint, was intended to make sure that no branch of government be allowed to exceed its bounds, to guard against fraud, and to allow for the timely correction of errors or omissions.
THIS BRINGS US TO PRESENT-DAY Liberia which this week completed a successful transition of power, ending the reign of Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf, and ushering in George Manneh Weah.
LIBERIANS HAVE EVERY reason to be skeptical of their leaders.
AS FAR BACK AS the 1800s, when President Edward James Roye, regarded as the first pure black person to become President of Liberia, died a mysterious drowning death while reportedly trying to escaped from prison to a British ship reportedly with money tied around his waist – thought to be the proceeds from the 1870 Loan.
REMEMBER the Charles D.B. King story? Historians document his reign —1920-1930— as the period that corruption became rife in Liberian politics. But he is famously remembered for his 1927 re-election, which today holds the Guinness Book of Records as historically the most badly rigged elections!
THE YEARS THAT followed witnessed unprecedent and glaring instances like the purchasing of a Yacht for his leisure by Tubman while many of those he governed were dying from simple illnesses, a trend that is sadly, still very much the order of the day today.
TODAY, LIBERIA CELEBRATE its longest-serving President with a holiday, his birthday, November 29.
HIS SUCCESSOR Tolbert came to power at a time of much hope but his reign would soon fall prey.
BY THE TIME coup of April 12, 1980 came around, Tolbert had survived a rice riot on April 14, 1979.
THE COUP LEADERS read out charges of treason, corruption and suppression of civil and human rights.
ALTHOUGH SEVERAL of Tolbert’s Cabinet members were tied to a pole and executed by the Samuel K. Doe-led coup, nothing really changed after that. Liberia’s story would never be the same. In fact, Doe, who was 28 at the time of the coup vented: "Too often have we found public officials dismissed for corrupt practices to be reemployed for higher positions of public trust."
THIS BRINGS US TO NEWLY-MINTED GOVERNMENT headed by President Weah who is currently engulfed in a line of fire over his nominee for attorney general.
CLLR. CHARLES GIBSON was suspended by the Supreme Court last February based on findings from the Grievance and Ethics Committee for misappropriating US$25,322.00 (Twenty-Five Thousand Three Hundred Thirty-Two United States Dollars) from a client. “Counsellor Charles H. Gibson be, and is hereby suspended from the practice of law directly and indirectly in Liberia for the period of two (2) months,” the court ruled.
THE COMMITTEE REPORTS show that the proceedings started from a 2013 final judgment rendered by the Debt Court for Montserrado County, awarding the complainant, GECCO represented by its President, Mr. Anwar Saoud the amount of US $286,200.00 (Two Hundred Eighty-Six Thousand, Two Hundred United States Dollars) against the Global Bank Liberia Ltd.
WHAT PUZZLES US is the fact that Cllr. Gibson waited nearly a year after his suspension and only after he was nominated as attorney general before making attempts to pay his client’s funds he had misapplied.
IN HIS PETITION, Cllr. Gibson averred that the two-month’s suspension has been served and the US$25,322.00 paid to the complainant thus requesting the high court to restore him to his professional status as Counsellor-at-Law of the Court.
THE ISSUE HERE is not that Cllr. Gibson made the payment on January 6, 2018 at the Liberia Bank for Development and Investment (LBDI) almost a year since he was sanctioned from practicing his profession, it speaks to everything President Weah spoke against during his inaugural speech.
SAID PRESIDENT WEAH: “I further believe that the overwhelming mandate I received from the Liberian people is a mandate to end corruption in public service. I promise to deliver on this mandate. As officials of Government, it is time to put the interest of our people above our own selfish interests. It is time to be honest with our people. Though corruption is a habit amongst our people, we must end it. We must pay civil servants a living wage, so that corruption is not an excuse for taking what is not theirs. Those who do not refrain from enriching themselves at the expense of the people – the law will take its course. I say today that you will be prosecuted to the full extent of the law.
WHILE WE WELCOME President Weah’s embrace of the overwhelming mandate he received from the Liberian people, we feel strongly that he risks alienating his base.
THE FORMER GOVERNMENT had five ministers sit in the office Gibson now aspires to lead, it remains one of the most crucial ministries in post-war Liberia.
CRUCIAL BECAUSE a good number of Liberians distrust the justice system and many do not believe that they can receive a fair chance in the courtroom. From land rights, to rape to the backlog of cases clogging the prison system, Liberia continues to lag behind despite immense international support and goodwill toward training of judges, magistrates, prosecutors and public defenders
WE SIMPLY CANNOT HAVE an attorney general in our midst who many rely on to prosecute corruption and other crimes against the state, entangled in unethical dealings.
THIS IS NO DOUBT a betrayal to the cause Mr. Weah has fought for most of his political life.
STICKING WITH the Gibson nomination clearly shows that the new President is poised to follow a familiar refrain from governments of recent past where shady and corrupt characters, riding on a wave of change and hope, have found their way in the corridors of power.
THE TRUTH OF THE MATTER IS, President Weah’s nomination of Cllr. Gibson breaks the bond of trust and a pledge he made that: “I have NEVER walked away from you, my people; and I promise you that if you entrust me with the presidency of our country, I will NEVER, EVER fail you.”
LIBERIANS HAVE entrusted the Weah-CDC-led government with the Presidency, it is high time, this new government breaks away from the old way of doing things and embrace something new.
THE SUPREME COURT and the Senate cannot afford to allow a golden opportunity to show the world that the system of checks and balances still works, that our three branches of government are separate but equal and most importantly, independent of each other. But sadly, we have all seen this movie before and regrettably know how it is going to end, Liberia’s latest sequel of bad governance and corruption appears to be on point for yet another disappointing climax.