Liberia: ALJA Calls for Johnson and Sherman’s Removal from Senate Leadership
Minneapolis, Minnesota – In the wake of widespread condemnations including that of the US Embassy based in Monrovia against the Liberian Senate for the recent elections of Senators Prince Y. Johnson and Varney Sherman to prominent leadership positions in that august body, the Association of Liberian Journalists in the Americas (ALJA) is urging the leadership of the Senate to rethink its decision.
ALJA says the Liberian Senate recent re-election of Senators Johnson and Sherman as chairmen on the Defense, Security, Intelligence, and Veteran Affairs, and Judiciary, Human Rights, Claim, and Petitions Committees respectively, have caused that august body unwarranted public disrepute. Senator Johnson is Nimba County Senior while Senator Sherman represents Grand Cape Mount County in the Liberian Senate. They were re-elected on May 18, 2021 when the Liberian Senate conducted its leadership elections.
In a press release issued on May 27, 2021, ALJA called on the leadership of the Liberian Senate to with immediate effect request the resignations of the senators from the committees’ chairmanships or replace them because of their stained public and human rights records.
The US based Liberian Journalists organization says given the two senators’ troubled past, their respective elections as chairmen of the committees on Defense, Security, Intelligence and Veteran Affairs, and Judiciary, Human Rights, Claims, and Petitions are unnecessary distraction for the Liberian Senate and the Weah Administration as Liberia struggle to clamp down on public sector corruption, human rights abuse, and the culture of impunity.
ALJA says it opposes the re-elections of the senators to positions of trust in the Liberian Senate, because of their shady public records. The Association further argued that the two senators are morally unfit for such elevations. ALJA says Senator Johnson is accused of committing some of the worse forms of atrocities during the civil wars including callously sending scores of Liberians and foreigners to their early graves.
ALJA recalled that during the heydays of the ended Liberian civil wars, the Senator, then referred to as Field Marshall of the disbanded Independent National Patriotic Front of Liberia (INPFL), is allegedly responsible for the maiming and slaughtering of hundreds of Liberians and foreign nationals
ALJA proposed that instead of elevating the notorious warlord to such an enviable position in the Senate, the lawmakers should instead lend their moral and legislative support to the ongoing local and international efforts that are being made for the establishment of a war and economic crimes court in Liberia where the Nimba County Senior Senator, former war lords and combatants, and their political supporters would be tried for crimes committed against humanity.
Regarding Senator Sherman’s election, ALJA says it is unfathomable that the Liberian Senate, which is considered the House of Elders in the National Legislature, opted to re-elect as chair of its Judiciary Committee, a disgraced legislator and lawyer, who is currently serving the US Department of Treasury’s Global Magnitsky sanction placed on him for rampant acts of corruption in Liberia. In December 2020, the US Department of the Treasury named and publicly shamed Senator Sherman for reportedly facilitating bribery in the Liberian judiciary and that, in one instance, he reportedly bribed Liberian legislators to support the impeachment of a judge who ruled against him in the past.
The Grand Cape Mount County Senator is one of several individuals in Africa and Asia that the U.S. Department of the Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) has placed on its sanction list for brazen acts of dishonesty in their respective countries. An OFAC Executive Order (E.O.) 13818 issued in December 2020 said the designation of Senator Sherman and the others for placement on the sanction list by the Department of the Treasury is one of several actions by the US government targeting corrupt actors and their networks across several countries in Africa and Asia. The Global Magnitsky Human Rights Accountability Act targets perpetrators of corruption and serious human rights abuse.
Early this year when the US Department of the Treasury placed Senator Sherman on the Global Magnitsky sanction list, ALJA then called on the Senator to recuse himself from the chairmanship of the Judiciary Committee or be removed from the position by the leadership of the Liberian Senate. However, neither the Senator nor the leadership of the Liberian Senate heeded the Association’s advice.
At the same time, the Association is commending the US Embassy accredited near Monrovia for its recent statements of disapproval issued against the Liberian Senate for Senators Johnson and Sherman’s re-elections to positions of trust in that august body.
The US Embassy in its statement of condemnation referred to Senator Johnson as a notorious war lord with public records of gross human rights violations; and vowed not to have any relationship with him as chair of the Committee on Defense, Security, Intelligence, and Veteran Affairs. For Senator Sherman, the US Embassy said it notes the continuation of the Counselor sanctioned by the U.S. Department of the Treasury for corruption involving judicial bribery, as chair of the Senate Committee on the Judiciary, Human Rights, Claims and Petitions. The Embassy maintained that by giving Senator Sherman such leadership role, the Senate was in-effect ensuring that corruption and lack of accountability flourish in the George Weah’s administration.
ALJA is a conglomeration of current and retired Liberian journalists residing in the Americas. It is a 501c (3) non-profit organization. The Association was founded in 1998 with the objectives of fostering companionship amongst its members and their American counterparts. Additionally, the Association is committed to advancing press freedom through media capacity building and the fostering of good governance in Liberia through media advocacy.