Liberia: Lofa Traditional Leaders Split over Planned December 31 Protest for the Certification of Senator-elect Brownie Samukai

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ZORZOR DISTRICT, Lofa County – Traditional Zoes in Lofa County who had protested against the delay by the Supreme Court of Liberia to decide the fate of the Lofa County senatorial seat are splitting with the umbrella organization, Traditional Leaders of Lofa County.

A peaceful protest on November 30 saw roads blocked and paralyzed the movement of people and goods between Bong and Lofa Counties. 

The Traditional Zoes threatened to stage another protest on December 31 if the court doesn’t rule on the matter – deciding if the Senate will be declared vacant or not.  

In an interview with FrontPageAfrica Monday, Beyan V. Konie, Culture Inspector of Lofa County, along with 12 Ngaimus – the traditional name of the head of the Poro Society – threatened to counter-react if his colleagues launch another protest. 

“We will resist any attempt by some of our colleagues who will stage a protest against the Supreme Court on the 31,” he said. “We’ve separated ourselves; we’re not part of those who launched the first protest,” said Konie.

“The law should be respected by everyone regardless of being Ngaimu or not. Samukai needs to face the law and we must respect the decision of the Supreme Court.”

Konie said though he regrets that the county hasn’t been represented at the Liberian Senate for a year, the act by traditional leaders of reverting to protest was out of order.

“Traditional leaders of the county should stop being manipulated by politicians. The tradition has nothing to do with politics especially when it involves a controversial issue that the Supreme Court wants to set precedence,” he said.

“We (traditional leaders in support of the Supreme Court’s decision) have organised ourselves and will resist any attempt by our peers who will want to stage another protest.”

The Samukai vs the Supreme Court case

The Supreme Court months ago denied Samukai’s request for the high court to reverse the judgment of the Criminal Court ‘C’ at the Temple of Justice, which found him and two others guilty of misapplying over US$1 million in pension funds stored up in a bank account for members of the Armed Forces of Liberia (AFL) when he served as Defense Minister. 

The disability includes the payment of US$173,276.05 as some portion of his share of money illegally withdrawn from the Armed Forces of Liberia (AFL) pension funds, for which he was found guilty of misapplication of entrusted property, theft of property, and other criminal offenses by Criminal Court ‘C’ with such ruling confirmed by the Supreme Court.

While Samukai made a payment of US$173,276.05, his two deputies Joseph F. Johnson, former Deputy Minister for Administration, and J. Nyumah Dorkor, former Comptroller, did not, despite being found guilty jointly.

Samukai, together with Johnson and Dorkor, were to pay the amount of US$573,832.68 within a six-month period to avoid imprisonment, according to the Supreme Court mandate to the Criminal Court ‘C’.  It was out of the amount of US$573,832.68 that Samukai alone managed to pay the US$173,276.05, which his followers believed is the portion of his share of the money.

The Court then ordered the National Election Commission not to certify him until the disability imposed on him as a result of his conviction for a felony is removed. The Court argued that from a review of the records, Samukai and his two deputies were jointly charged with the commission of the crimes for which they were brought down guilty.

McGill: Traditional protest ‘shameful’

Meanwhile, the Minister of State for President Affairs, Nathaniel McGill, has criticized the Poro Society for protesting against the  Supreme Court. 

“This has never happened in our country, it is a shame and whoever did that must be disgraceful,” said Minister Nathaniel McGill, who is also the Chief of Staff to the President of Liberia. 

“I was ashamed of what I saw.  Whoever did that must be rebuked publicly. That person has brought shame to our tradition,” he said. “My father was a ‘zoe’ and whoever knows me knew that I was ashamed. This is our tradition and somebody is using it for politics.”

He then condemned the Poro Society action and branded it as a disgrace to tradition. Min. McGill noted that “Country Devils” are not responsible for making democratic decisions and, as such, should stay out of it.

Karwor calls for calm

Also speaking, the Chief Zanzan Karwor, head of the National Traditional Council of Liberia, has launched an appeal to traditional leaders of the county to calm their protest action against the Supreme Court of Liberia in the wake of the delay in certificating Samukai.

Karwor described the action of the traditional leaders as grave and highlighted the need to organize a meeting with them in Bong County quickly.

Karwor predicts that there would be serious trouble if funding is not available to organize a member with the aggrieved traditionally leaders of the county.

Huge Police presence seen

FrontPageAfrica reporter can confirm that there has been a huge deployment of police officers at the border town of Bong and Lofa Counties where the first protest was held.

The Liberia National Police had threatened to forcefully remove ‘Country Devils’ and its followers if they again attempt blocking the St. Paul River Bridge in Lofa.

Deputy Police Inspector General Melvin Sackor told MICAT press briefing the action of traditional leaders in the county undermine Liberia’s peace and stability. 

He maintained that the police will not hesitate to use any force necessary to restore law and order if such action is repeated.

According to Sackor, the ‘Country Devil’s action violated the Constitution, cautioning traditional leaders to seek redress using the legal process instead of impeding movement of citizens.

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