Liberia: Brownie J. Samukai Is Not A Thief
When the people of Lofa appealed to President George Weah to “help” find a solution to the case involving former Defense Minister Brownie Samukai, he said he couldn’t do anything because it was a case in the judiciary. And added that he and Samukai “go way back…” But the President could have and can still help. He can make an executive decision to reverse this madness and have government return any money Samukai may have incurred in this process.
These are the indisputable facts, known to all, are:
1. President-elect George Weah, outgoing President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf and former Defense Minister Brownie Samukai met and they discuss this issue. Sirleaf told Weah she had asked Samukai to spend money from the soldiers pension funds.
2. President- elect Weah said publicly and that the meeting had taken place and that his administration will replenish the funds.
3. The incoming Weah administration put US$460 000 in the funds, thus beginning to replenish the account.
These are the facts and the great unknown is how they were turned upside-down and how Samukai ended being charged for theft.
Anyone who ever worked in government knows about “digging holes to cover holes.” I have seen it happen on and on. It happens everywhere, including in the US.
How was Samukai brought to face a criminal court in a non-case? I was privy to a conversation that Samukai had had with a member of the administration who asked him to either join CDC or desist from running for the senate seat in Lofa. If he were to reject those suggestions, he could find himself in court to respond to charges about the pension funds. We didn’t take the threat seriously and laughed it if. We could not imagine that something that had been agreed upon by two presidents in his presence could be reversed for political reasons.
This is the kind of political games that can not be won. Lady Karma never fails.
This whole situation is akin to a bad joke, which turned into a flimsy threat but ended up in a life chattering witch-hunt.
Corruption. “Rampant Corruption.” President Sirleaf has admitted that she was leaving office without winning the corruption battle. That recognition became a slogan for those who want to throw the baby and the bathtub and a justification for broad day systemic corruption. It seemed easy to sacrifice someone like Samukai on the alter of failed politics. After all, he was heard on tape telling Ellen Corkrum about corruption in the government. He exhibits all the signs of wealth and sounds arrogant at times. Why not?
He earned his money the old fashion Lofa way.
President Weah claims to be serious about fighting corruption. Hundreds of thousands of dollars are being spent on lobby to convince American officials that this fight is real.
The challenge for him is to dust off the hundreds of case at GAC, LRA, LACC and that have been dormant and go after the culprits.
Lion killed your baby and you blame Rat.
After we left IGNU in 1993, Samukai started a security guard service with other friends. He also engaged in pig and chicken farming. He and Monie Captan provided all the chicken, pork, eggs, tomatoes to Monrovia and most of Liberia for years. When he became uncomfortable living under Charles Taylor, he left the country and joined the UN. His businesses never stopped running. At some point, the guard service had more more than 1000 persons on the payroll.
Samukai has an MBA and served in the military. He set up the pension funds for the soldiers so that they would not face the same after-service deprivation that his generation and soldiers before him faced once discharged.
Why, with this background , would he steal a million dollars from the one place where theft was impossible, leaving trails of evidentiary documents everywhere?
In this whole saga, Samukai has acted like a soldier. The judge wondered why he did not cite former President Sirleaf as a witness. A soldier will not summon a superior to court to testify for him or her. They expect it to happen without request. Politics is the deadliest game in Liberia. Innocence does not matter. Truth in court? Smokescreen.
As my other friend said, the best way to predict the future is to look at past behavior. Samukai has occupied many positions in the government where he could have stolen millions – police director, deputy at state, deputy at defense and minister. He worked in government when accountability was not an issue. With the tens of millions of dollars that went through Defense yearly, why would (MBA) Colonel Samukai steal from the one place open to everyone’s scrutiny?
Whatever salary he ever got from the government was minuscule compared to his private sector revenues. He is more an entrepreneur than a bureaucrat but he loves public service. He has political ambitions, and some don’t like it.
This whole episode has been a serious waste of resources and energy.
Samukai may be a lot of things but he is not a thief. He is not one those who joined government penniless to be millionaires overnight.
Then again, the longer this story goes on, the more people will see the hands of political actors and Samukai will only gain in popularity, becoming a living martyr. He may even be jailed, but will not be broken.
Mr. President, you know the thieves, and Samukai is not one of them.
Dr. Abdoulaye W. Dukulé