Liberia: Liberty Party Alarms Threats against Party’s Leadership; Seeks Protection from Justice Ministry
MONROVIA – Following the surreptitious suspensions of the Political Leader of the opposition Liberty Party (LP), Senator Nyonblee Karnga-Lawrence, and several others National Executive Committee (NEC) members, fear has reportedly gripped the party’s Chairman Musa Hassan Bility and his loyalists as evidenced by a latest communication addressed to the Minister of Justice Counselor Frank Musa Dean.
The LP is one of the political parties that make up the CPP. Other parties that form part of the CPP include: the former ruling Unity Party (UP), Alternative National Congress (ANC), and the All Liberian Party (ALP).
It can be recalled that Mr. Bility, along with few executive committee members of the LP, took a decision to suspended Senators Karnga-Lawrence, Steve Zargo, Abraham Darius Dillon, Jonathan Kaipay, and Representative Han Barchue, among others for allegedly failing to pay their legitimate dues to the party and for administrative reasons respectively.
A communication issued under the signature of the party’s National Chairman and addressed to Senator Lawrence disclosed that the decision was reached to suspend the Political Leader and others from the respective positions for allegedly violating Article IX of the LP constitution.
Article IX of the Party’s Constitution states that: “Persons accepted as member of the party shall pay a monthly membership fee as may from time to time set by the NEC…. members in good standing are members whose…. membership dues are fully current and up to date….. Members who are not in good standing shall not be allowed to hold any office within the party, and if such member holds position in the party, appointed or elected, he or she shall be suspended from the office by the NEC, until he or she shall resumed the status of member in good standing. If after three (3) months, such member is still delinquent, he/she shall be permanently removed from the office, and may also be expelled from the office”.
The communication disclosed that the action to suspend Senator Lawrence and the others from the party and their respective positions was taken by the party’s National Executive Committee (NEC) following their alleged failure to settle their indebtedness to the party.
But those suspended have been firing back at Chairman Bility and his loyalists, claiming that the decision taken did not meet the consensus of two-third majority of the NEC members in keeping with the party’s constitution.
Senator Dillon referred to Chairman Bility as a “criminal” when he appeared on a local radio talk show to respond to his suspension for the second time in less than five months.
“I Darius Dillon regret why I did not make any move to prevent Musa Bility from leading Liberty Party. I thought it was unfair to Musa and anybody in Musa situation to deprive him the right to grow in the party. But he has justified everything the public said about him”.
“Musa is a criminal-I can prove it. Musa altered the constitution of the Liberty Party to get us to where we are today. Nobody who wants growth of an institution-in their normal self and love for the institution-will go to bed knowing that since you took over an institution that was peaceful, it is no longer peaceful”.
But in a communication dated December 9 and addressed to Minister Dean, Mr. Bility complained that threats have characterized the recent action taken by the NEC of the party.
“This is to bring to your attention a matter of grave urgency for your action and intervention. Over the past week, the LP executed several suspensions of officials. Since then, several verbal threats have been made against the leadership of the Liberty Party (LP) by some of these individuals and we have received credible information that there are plans to send thugs to attack the LP headquarters on Friday and not rest until the leadership has been removed”.
He maintained that some of the suspended LP executives are also planning to disrupt the party’s upcoming Special National Convention scheduled for December 16-18, 2021 in Ganta, Nimba County.
He claimed that the information provided is “supported by several utterances made on public radio and in social media posts” by the some of those suspended and others.
“Min. Dean, recent history leads us to believe the information we have received is accurate. A few onths ago, these same individuals were rumored to have been involved in sending thugs to the LP headquarters where they disrupted an ongoing National Executive Committee (NEC) meeting , threw rocks and other objects at the building , attacked several partisans and security personnel, and caused NEC members to be held in the building for several hours until officers of the Liberia National Police (LNP) were sent to rescue the premises”.
“We had earlier received indication that this was planned but disregarded the information, as, in our opinion, it seemed unlikely and we believed it to be just talk. Unfortunately that was not the case. As such, we believe that, this time around, it is prudent to not ignore this information and to take the necessary precautions”.
He continued: “Towards this end, we request that you kindly authorize the dispatch of security personnel at the LP headquarters and during our convention and that you launch an investigation into this matter in order to prevent it from escalating to an uncontrollable level”.
Since the election of Mr. Bility, former President of the Liberia Football Association (LFA), and others at a controversial convention held on January 23 in Gbarnga, Bong County, the LP continue to be rocked with internal crisis, leading to the suspension and expulsion of key executives and members, especially those loyal to the party’s suspended Political Leader Nyonblee Karnga-Lawrence.
Bility was elected unopposed at the convention to replace Lofa County Senator Steve Zargo, who resigned from the LP barely few days to the conduct of the party’s convention.
The Liberty Party, which was once considered as a “party of integrity” in Liberia, received barrage of criticism and condemnations minutes after the election of Bility as the new Chair of the party.
Critics made specific reference to the ban placed on Bility at the time he served as executive committee member of the Confederation of African Football (Caf), and accusation linking him to the squandering of funds intended for the resettlement of scores of citizens in Nimba County following the conclusion of a land dispute in 2013, among others.
Bility was banned by football governing body Fifa for 10 years and fined him $500,000 for breaching its code of ethics.
He was found “guilty of having misappropriated Fifa funds, as well as having received benefits and found himself in situations of conflict of interest”. Fifa said it has been investigating the 52-year-old since May 2018 following a forensic audit of the LFA.
The misappropriation of Fifa funds at the time was in relation to those granted under the global body’s “11 against Ebola” campaign and as part of its Financial Assistance Programme. Liberia was one of three West African countries affected by an outbreak of Ebola between 2013 and 2016, when more than 10,000 people lost their lives.
He has also been accused of going after the highest bidder to allegedly protect his business interest in Liberia.
Mr. Bility is the owner of various businesses operating in the country, including Srimex, Truth FM 96.1, Real TV, among others.
Mr. Bility, who has consistently accused Senator Dillon and others, of receiving monies to support his chairmanship, is being seen by his critics as a “political merchant and a pay agent who is sleeping in bed with the ruling Coalition for Democratic Change (CDC) led-government”, to cast a spell and root instability within the CPP in a mid to guarantee a second term for President George Manneh Weah come 2023.
Though the embattled LP Chairman has been openly challenged to disclose the official document of NEC members who affixed their signatures to suspend Senator Karnga-Lawrence and the others, he has failed to do so.
Many partisans and supporters of the LP see the decision taken by Mr. Bility and the others to suspend their political leader and others as a “kangaroo political move” intended to weaken or lure the suspended executives to his uncompromised stance of rejecting former Vice President Joseph Nyema Boakai as Standard Bearer of the CPP, ahead of its long-awaited primary expected to take place later this month.
On the other hand, they have accused Mr. Bility of being used by former Liberian President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf to mastermind the growing wave of internal wrangling within the LP and the CPP in totality.
Already, Madam Sirleaf is on record for not supporting her one-time close buddy- Mr. Boakai in the just ended 2017 general and presidential elections.
She told the international media that it was time for the young generation to take over the leadership of Liberia during the campaign period of the elections.
Her comments led her into trouble with the National Executive Committee (NEC) of the UP. She was expelled from the party on her birthday in 2017 for openly showing support for the candidacy of President Weah over Mr. Boakai.
Months ago, an olive branch was extended to her and other members of the party following the surreptitious removal of Wilmot Paye as Chairman of the UP.
But Mr. Boakai stills see Madam Sirleaf as a friend and holds nothing against her, though her support to his political ambition remains uncertain.
“I just attended her birthday program and I went to visit her. As far as I am concern, I have no problem with her”, he stated in a recent interview with the BBC.
When asked whether he has received the blessing of his former best friend and boss for the 2023 general and presidential elections, Mr. Boakai stated: “it’s a choice she has to make”.