Liberia: Jewel’s Apology – A Sign of Deeper Feud with Pres. Weah?
Monrovia – Long before her admission on the Truth Breakfast Show this week, relating to a number of foreign travels without President George Manneh Weah’s consent, murmurs surfaced about a growing rift between Vice President Jewel Howard Taylor and the President.
Report by Rodney D. Sieh, [email protected]
In recent weeks, heightened speculations suggested a growing division between the President and his vice president which was a key factor in the President’s decision to dispatch the first lady Madam Clar Weah and not his vice president to South Africa for the funeral of Winnie Mandela, along with Foreign Minister Gbezohngar Findley even though the vice president had expressed interest in making the trip.
FrontPageAfrica has also gathered that the rift has been deepened by multiple whispers in the President’s ears about the vice president’s ambitions, a chatter which FrontPageAfrica has learned prompted a recent interrogation of some key members of the vice president’s security details by the National Security Agency (NSA).
One source confided to FrontPageAfrica on condition of anonymity that the sentiments in the vice president’s camp is that the interrogation was an indirect jab at the VP signaling distrust about her ambitions for the immediate future.
Some sources suggest that the Vice President had been soliciting the help of some regional leaders in a bid to help soften the deep strains between her and President Weah.
Many are also raising questions as to why the vice president chose a private radio station to go public with her apology and not the state radio, the Liberia Broadcasting System where the vice president apologized for traveling without the knowledge of President Weah.
In pleading for compassion and forgiveness, the vice president pledged never to run amok against the President.
For the vice president, traveling without the President’s knowledge contributed to an already fragile relationship between the pair while expressing that the situation has been “amicably resolved.”
The issue is also stirring up debates amongst Liberians on social media.
Mr. Ijoma Flemingster, a member of the House of Representatives, District #1, Montserrado in the 47th and 48th legislatures explained that when he served as the True Whig Party General Secretary, the rule of thumb was that the both the secretariat of the ruling party and the national security staff in the Office of the President should have been in full possession of the Vice President’s itinerary and agenda in foreign parts. “The ruling party should have been in contact with their counterparts in the foreign venue for purposes of coordination of “political goodwill and cooperation”. The National Security apparatus in the Office of the President should be aware of anyone in the Vice President’s traveling staff who would not serve the political operations/programming of the President – such “heads-up” would be communicated to their counterparts in the foreign venue. Such is the nature of the beast. Note: there is only one political center. It should be stressed that the Minister of Presidential Affairs administers the foregoing arrangements.”
LP’s Dillon: Apology ‘Ill-Advised’
Mr. Abraham Darius Dillon, National Vice Chair for Political Affairs of the opposition Liberty Party, in a post-Wednesday took issue with those suggesting that the vice president did not need an approval from the president to travel. “It is dead wrong for those insisting that a sitting Vice President of Liberia “does not need to seek approval or consent” from a sitting President to travel especially out of the bailiwick of Liberia. By practice, protocol and procedure, it is incumbent upon the Vice President to not only inform the President about his/her travels out of the country, but must obtain the expressed approval of the President. Anything to the contrary suggests, and is tantamount to gross insubordination to the President.”
In the same vein, he said the public apology was ill-advised. “She should have done so in person with the President. Not everything belongs in or should be brought to the public.”
While calling for compassion and apologizing for her error, the vice president went to great length to justify why it is necessary for her to make certain travel, citing the vacuum created with the departure of former President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf, and her personal quest to become the face of women on the African continent. “I would, therefore, have to make representations on [the women’s] behalf.”
Nevertheless the vice president is pledging to be an obedient and law-abiding VP, hoping that President Weah forgive her for the misstep, a sudden departure from criticisms of her predecessor, former vice president Joseph Boakai who came under fire after suggesting he had been racing car parked in the garage for the past twelve years of the Sirleaf administration.
Jewel: VP ‘Member of Cabinet’
In September 2017, the former Bong County Senator who had just been tipped as President Weah’s running mate suggested that the President and the Vice President are elected on one ticket as vision bearers to push the development agenda of their country.
“The President and the Vice President are elected on one ticket, so they are like one. They should be discussing the vision, the plans and progress of their country, that’s the first place of the influence of the Vice President.”
Madam Taylor said the office of the Vice President plays a key role in the governing process of the country, asserting that the Vice President signs every document that leaves the house of legislature before the President’s perusal. The Vice President is a member of the cabinet.”
That ironically became one of the first hurdles for the vice president in the first few days of the new government.
A member of the Senate speaking on condition of anonymity told FrontPageAfrica recently that some aides to the President attempted to stop the vice president from presiding over the Senate in a bid to limit her leverage. “They told some of us that they did not want jewel to preside because it would have given her a leverage.
Attempt to Stop VP From Presiding Halted
The VP was reportedly summoned by the President Pro Temp Albert Chie who attempted to suggest that the Vice President should not preside.
A few senators, according to the Senate source cited Article 51 of the Constitution which states: “The Vice-President shall be President of the Senate and preside over its deliberations without the right to vote, except in the case of a tie vote. He shall attend meetings of the cabinet and other governmental meetings and shall perform such functions as the President shall delegate or deem appropriate; provided that no powers specifically vested in the President by the provisions of this Constitution shall be delegated to the Vice-President.”
The push against the vice president presiding was reportedly backed by Senator Varney Sherman (UP, Grand Cape Mount) and the Pro Temp Chie.
“At the end of the day, they realized that constitutionally the woman had the mandate. But this was a serious issue that triggered intense argument amongst senators,” the source added.
Power Play, Dissent in NPP
Despite the apology, the vice president is also facing a barrage of pressure from members of the NPP, with many feeling marginalized out of jobs and accusing the vice president of not prioritizing jobs for partisans.
To date only four slots have been allocated to the NPP, Yvette Freeman, Deputy Minister of Commerce for Administration, the Vice President’s sister, Norwu Howard-Wesson, Esther Walker, Superintendent of Bong County and Charles Bright, Economic Advisor to the President who was elevated in March to a Cabinet-level post.
The issue took another twist Tuesday at the party’s headquarters when tension erupted among partisans over the reinstatement of some of their members who had resigned from the party.
The tussle erupted when the resigned officials, who were reinstated by Vice President Jewel Howard-Taylor, were rejected by the party’s national chairman, Mr. James P. Biney, on the ground that their reinstatement violated the party’s constitution.
Some within the party and the administration have been interpreting the Vice President’s action as an attempt to regain control of the party and appease her base.
But Chairman Biney said the decision of the Vice President to reinstate former officials of the party, who resigned their positions during the 2017 elections to support or contest on other political parties’ tickets is illegal and violates the party bylaws and constitution.
Speaking at a press conference on Tuesday, May 15, Chairman Biney said Madam Howard-Taylor singlehandedly presided over the meeting on Sunday, May 13, in the absence of the party’s national chairman, Secretary General and other duly elected officials of the party to order the reinstatement of the resigned officials.
Chairman Biney added that the decision of their standard bearer is in violation of Article 5, Section 5.1 of the NPP constitution of April 6, 2004.
Strains Have Consequences
Rep. Biney said Article 5, Section 5.1 of the NPP constitution states: “The national chairperson shall be the general supervisor of the management and administration of the party. He/she shall administer the affairs of the party within the framework of the by-laws and constitution of the party as well as by established policies approved by the National Executive Committee.”
In a week of twists and turns, political observers on both sides of the aisle appear to be gauging and attempting to decode the timing of the vice president’s apology. Has she reached a boiling point with President Weah? Was she forced into submission? How amicable was the resolution and would this be the last of lingering reports of spats between the pair?
Liberia’s history has been crowded leadership wrangles as Mr. Dillon aptly pointed out Wednesday:
“This country has suffered the result of strain in relations between then Head of State Samuel K. Doe, Sr. and then Commanding General of the Army Thomas G. Quiwonkpa. This country somehow suffered the result of strain in relations between then Pres. Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf and former House Speaker Edwin Melvin Snowe, etc. We, the people, always suffer whenever we take sides and celebrate these strained relations. Simply put, it is not healthy for our collective growth and development as a country and people, regardless of whatever political, social, tribal and/or religious sides we may each find ourselves. We should always pray for our leaders to unite so as to focus on their responsibilities than take pleasure in them being divided.”