Liberia: Several Arrested as Residents Protest in Lofa Over Delay in Certificating Senator-elect Samukai
Voinjama, Lofa County – Thousands of people took to the streets of Voinjama City and other areas in Lofa County on Thursday to protest the delay in the certification of Lofa County Senator-elect Brownie Samukai, and police made several arrests after crowds broke through barriers and reportedly attempted to lock the main entrance of the county’s administration hall.
In Voinjama, the county’s capital, the participants marched from Monrovia parking junction to the Administration Building, carrying signs saying “stop the manipulation” and “stop delaying our senator.”
There was a heavy police presence in Voinjama, including mounted police and riot officers in response to what Lofa County Superintendent William Tamba Kamba said was unauthorized protest activity.
Police confirmed a number of arrests had been made after protesters reportedly attempted to lock the door of the Administration hall.
The police in the county said it recognized and supported the rights of peaceful assembly, but the protest later turned violent after local staffs of the Ministry of Internal Affairs were reportedly prevented entry into the Administration hall.
“The priority for the Police is always the safety of the wider community,” William Johnson, Assistant Commissioner of Police said.
In Foya District, Samukai’s native home, thousands of protesters turned out chanting “freedom.” Some of them lit flares as they gathered around the Square.
They held banners, including one that read: “This is not about Samukai; it’s about the people of Lofa County.”
The series of protests come days after Associate Justice Joseph Nagbe granted the Government of Liberia a petition to disallow the National Elections Commission (NEC) to certificate Samukai.
Associate Justice Nagbe ordered that Samukai will only be permitted to sit at the Legislature if his conviction is removed according to law.
Samukai and the road to the Senate
Samukai, of the opposition Collaborating Political Party (CPP), received the most votes in the December 8, 2020 senatorial election. Of the 11 candidates who vied for the Lofa County senatorial seat, Samukai received 20, 431 votes, followed by Independent candidate Cllr. Joseph Jallah with 13,968 votes.
Samukai has experienced mixed rulings with the Supreme Court since he won the senatorial seat in Lofa.
On February 24, 2021, the Supreme Court of Liberia ruled in Samukai’s favor in the electoral dispute case filed by three of his rivals, claiming irregularities and fraud in Lofa County District No. 4.
The Supreme Court ruled in favor of Samukai and mandated to the NEC to proceed with the matter.
On February 8, 2021, the Supreme Court upheld a criminal court’s verdict in the corruption case involving Samukai and a former deputy minister and the former Comptroller at the Ministry of Defense.
On March 24, 2020, the Criminal Court “C’’ found Samukai, Joseph F. Johnson and former Deputy Minister for Administration and J. Nyumah Dorkor, former Comptroller of the Ministry of Defense guilty of misappropriating US$1.3 million from the Armed Forces compulsory contributing fund that was deposited at Ecobank Liberia.
Samukai and his lawyers appealed the case. In his ruling issued last week, Judge Yamie Gbeisay, said the government did not produce sufficient evidence to convict Samukai and his two deputy ministers of money laundering and economic sabotage.
But the Supreme Court in its decision upholding the lower court’s guilty verdict said all public officials and employees shall obey all lawful instructions issued to them by their supervisors and they shall be held liable and responsible for acts of commission or omission as in the case of the corruption verdict.
The Supreme Court ruled that the sentence will be suspended if the defendants shall restitute the full amount of USD 1,147,456.35 or 50% thereof within the period of six months and plan with the court to pay the remaining portion in one year.
Failure to pay will result in the defendants’ incarceration in the common jail and there in until the full amount is paid or liquidated at the rate of 25 USD per month as provided by law, the Supreme Court ruled.