Liberia: Electoral Fraud or Not, Ruling CDC Could Hinge on Brownie Samukai’s Pending Case Before the Supreme Court to Thwart His Reaffirmed Victory
MONROVIA – Lofa County Senator-elect Brownie Samukai of the opposition Collaborating Political Parties (CPP) might be forced into the Supreme Court to defend his victory as the ruling Coalition for Democratic Change (CDC) is leaving no stone unturned in seeing to it that the result is overturned amid their claim of electoral fraud.
By Lennart Dodoo, [email protected]
But with a case pending before the bench – theft of property and criminal conspiracy – Samukai now stands on the edge of a great loss should the Supreme Court ruling in his pending appeal turn out to be a confirmation of the lower court’s guilty verdict.
Mr. Samukai, Liberia’s longest serving Defense Minister along with Joseph F. Johnson, former Deputy Minister for Administration and J. Nyumah Dorkor, former Comptroller were all found guilty in March 2020 but took an appeal to the Supreme Court.
Criminal Court ‘C’ Judge Yamie Gbeisay sentenced Samukai and his deputy to two years imprisonment but with a condition to restitute US$1.3 million over a one-year period.
A summary of the prosecution argument is that defendant Samukai and his co-defendants had no authority to use the AFL pension funds; that in fact said funds were private funds although they charged Samukai for using public funds; and that the defendants issued checks in their own names for personal benefits.
Misuse of private funds has another legal remedy, as compared to misuse of public funds for which Samukai and co-defendants are charged. It means the prosecution made a legal blunder charging someone for something but argued on another legal ground. This is an element of doubt to the detriment of the prosecution, but to the benefit of the defendants.
Samukai’s Sticky Issue
This is where it gets sticky for the Senator-elect whose would have to put up a strong argument before the Supreme Court that would overturn the ruling of the lower court. And should that ruling be confirmed, it is either imprisonment for Mr. Samukai or he would have to break bank to restitute such huge sum of money.
The ruling CDC knows this weak link in Samukai’s battle to retain his victory even if it is confirmed by the Supreme Court.
Although there is no law or statue that could stop Samukai from becoming Senator after an election, such embarrassing verdict has the propensity to dampen the enthusiasm that has engulfed his victory sitting as a Senator, diminish his spirit of serving the people of Lofa, and cast a shadow of doubt, with such a verdict hanging over his head.
Samukai’s victory in the December 8 Special Senatorial Election was unanimously reaffirmed by the Board of Commissioners of the National Elections Commission over the weekend, but his contender excepted the ruling and announced his quest to level his contention up at the Supreme Court.
Samukai’s road to the Senate was bumpy from the very beginning. Even his nomination to contest had to be cleared by the Supreme Court when it was contested that he had been found guilty of theft of property and criminal conspiracy.
The first post-election complaint against Samukai was brought about by two individual voters, alleging fraud, but NEC Hearing Officer dismissed said case upon due process, that the complainants had no legal standing. The Second post-election case alleging that some of the tallying papers were not stamped by NEC although they were signed by all pool watchers.
What Could be the CDC’s Moves?
It is no secret that for a ruling party that lost massively in the December 8 elections, having the opportunity to grab at a straw to stay afloat cannot be afforded to slip through the fingers.
The CDC may not have the efficacy to influence the Bench decision in the electoral dispute case. Legal and political pundits believe Samukai’s victory is very convincing and the ruling CDC is quite aware but only attempting to take advantage of a loophole.
And since it may not have the efficacy t influence the Bench decision on the electoral matter, being Samukai’s prosecutor in the theft of property case for which he has already been sentenced to two-year imprisonment, this could be the hook to get him off the political scene, at least for now.
What many are yet to fathom is how come Samukai’s pending appeal case outside the political arena has suddenly surfaced on the Supreme Court’s priority docket.
And if the lower court’s decision is upheld, it means Mr. Samukai might be serving his jail sentence while the electoral dispute case is being heard.
How will Justice Korkpor’s Bench explain itself for bringing forth by 5-G kinetic speed a non-electoral appeal case at this time?
New speculations have since emerged that some elements within the hierarchy of the Weah-led government are putting forth a stronger case for a woman to be the next Chief Justice, due to the ailing health of their previous choice. Such speculation is fed by the sudden, and surprising twist and turn of the decision of Justice Korkpor’s Bench to obtain a majority to potentially and immediately bring forth the case of the former Defense Minister and his colleagues, after NEC confirmation on Friday, 06 February that Samukai is the duly elected Senator of Lofa County.
When such speculation turns out to be true, that indeed this case has immediately taken priority over very urgent electoral matters, it will be a shame that personal interest has be-clouded the sacred nature of service to the legal profession. It will lend further credibility to the U.S. government report of bribery, and other influences that have engulfed Liberia’s Judicial system and made them spineless.