Liberia: Pres. Weah, Vice President Taylor Appear to Have Reconciled Their Differences
Monrovia – Recognizing the progress made by the European Union in achieving gender equality, President George Manneh Weah, during a speech at the European Development Day Summit in Brussels, last week, trumpeted his commitment to women political participation with the choice of former Bong County Senator Jewel Howard Taylor as Vice President.
Report by Rodney D. Sieh, [email protected]
The mention of the former first lady to former President Charles Ghankay Taylor came in the aftermath of VP Taylor’s public apology to the President amid what appeared to be some visible strains between the Pair.
The vice president had reportedly been visibly upset back in April when she was sidestepped from attending the funeral of South African icon Winnie Mandela in Johannesburg, in favor of First Lady Clar Weah.
The strains were even more visible when aides to the President reportedly sought to keep the vice president from presiding over the Senate in a bid to limit her leverage and influence. “They told some of us that they did not want jewel to preside because it would have given her a leverage,” a senior member of the Senate told FrontPageAfrica recently, on condition of anonymity.
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.
The issue was compounded when the Vice President took to the airwaves to publicly apologize to the President over her failure to notify him prior to making foreign travels. VP Taylor called for compassion and apologize for her error in judgement.
Weeks after the apology, it appears the VP is back in the good books with the President.
When President Weah returned home from his visit to Europe last week, his vice president was on hand to greet him bearing flowers and smiles.
Aides say the pair note only rode from the Roberts International Airport together that day but they have been working together in cohesion in the past few days. In fact, aides from both camps say, the vice president was visibly active in engaging her peers in the Senate in the push for the controversial US$536 million loan being processed through Eton Financial Private Limited out of Singapore.
“Everything is cool now, it is water under the bridge,” an aide with the vice president’s office, speaking on condition of anonymity said Saturday.
Despite the reversal of relationship ties between President Weah and his vice president the recent strains between the pair reignited debate over the extent and limits of the role of the vice president, triggered by a statement from former vice president Joseph Boakai who came under fire during the 2017 presidential elections when he suggested that he had been a race car parked in the garage for the past twelve years of the Sirleaf administration.
It is a debate that transcends beyond the boundaries of Liberia and feuds between presidents and vice presidents are not new to Africa.
In next door Sierra Leone, former President Ernest Bai Koroma dismissed his vice president in 2015, over accusations that Samuel Sam-Sumana fomented violence and tried to form a new party.
In Malawi last week, vice-President Saulos Chilima publicly attacked the corruption of the President Peter Mutharika’s government and announced his resignation from the ruling party, leaving the door open for a presidential run of his own.
Mr Chilima was handpicked by to run alongside him in the 2014 elections on the Democratic People’s Party (DPP) ticket. His dramatic decision to quit the DPP exposed a widening rift in the ruling party, which has come under heavy criticism for alleged corruption.
Prior to his demise, former Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe dismissed his powerful vice-president, Emmerson Mnangagwa in a bid to clear the way for his wife, Grace, to succeed him. Mnangagwa made claims of assassination attempts on his life before fleeing to South Africa. He was sworn in as Mugabe’s success on November 24, 2017.
In Liberia, chatters of friction between President Weah and VP Taylor has been unnerving for many due to the influential role the former first lady played in helping Weah and his Congress for Democratic Change win state power. Her influence in vote-rich Bong County was seen as key to the CDC’s victory in the 2017 elections.
But despite the role played by the woman dubbed the jewel in Weah’s crown during the presidential race, speculations remain heightened that some of the President’s aides are pushing for the vice president to be dropped ahead of the 2023 elections in a bid to remove the Taylor stigma some say continue to dog the Weah presidency.
In spite of the controversy, last week’s public display of affection by the president and his vice appear to have erased perceptions about a full-blown spat some say had become irreparable.
For President Weah, Jewel’s selection was a gamble worth taking. Not just for the obvious vote-rich factor in Bong but driving home his quest to close economic gaps and eradication of gender-based violence which remains a major problem especially among young people. “The return of stability and democratic governance has provided the space to roll out national program to address these challenges, bearing in mind that Liberia cannot fulfill its development objectives if the development of women is ignored as women constitute more than 50% of the population,” the President told the EDD summit in Brussels last week.
For the foreseeable future, political observers say those pushing the line of dropping VP Taylor for the next elections, which is still years away may be a bid premature for a government still trying to find it feet in the door.
For the immediate future, the chatter about a feud is at least for now on the back burner as President and vice president look to shift public perceptions in hopes of turning attention to the dogging issues of the administration’s pro-poor agenda.