Liberia: Traditional Chiefs Council Outlines Several Missteps in George Weah’s Government
Monrovia – Traditional leaders under the banner, Council of Chiefs and Elders of Liberia, are concerned about the current economic condition their nation is faced with and have taken steps to speak “truth to power”, by outlining various missteps in government.
Report by Willie N. Tokpah, [email protected]
The traditional leaders, who just concluded a week-long conference in Monrovia said they cannot sit idly while vices that lead conflict continue to take the public space. At the end of the conference, they presented a petition on Monday, September 9, to President George Weah on the matter at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs’ Cecil Dennis Auditorium in Monrovia.
The document did not only draw the attention of President Weah, but also throw lights on the opposition community, the Executive, Legislative and Judicial Branches of government for not playing roles that will promote unity, peace and development in Liberia.
The petition, drawn out of hearings conducted by the chiefs in their conference held in Monrovia, highlights speeches, complaints, defenses and suggestions as well as recommendations from sons and daughter of Liberia from different political, social and traditional backgrounds.
“In our capacity as those charged with the responsibility to protect, promote and preserve positive culture and tradition and to also serve as advisory arm to the Liberian Government and the people of Liberia in general, we have heard our own children and have observed every word of their experiences and wisdom; we have taken out time to write down these few words as our position of recommendations to our children, both government and the opposition,” Isaac Gbapue, Program Officer of the Council of Chief and Elders of Liberia.
“The country is shaking because the government refuses to clear our doubts. Madam Yousader Gaye, the Auditor General of Liberia told our conference delegates that she did her work in the US$25million case and forwarded the report but the government is refusing to act. The Senate, through Senator Henry Yallah accused the past and present administrations for not acting on audit reports submitted to them because of nepotism and friendship.”– Traditional Chiefs Council
With direct reference to President George Weah, the petition speaks to lack of accountability in the Executive, with unwillingness of the leadership to fight corruption, poor healthcare delivery, lack of freedom of speech, freedom to walk the streets of various cities with no intimidation from too many criminals, “freedom from nepotism and friendship administration where the love of friend or family member supersedes the general interest of the people,” lack of peace of the minds where people are worrying over salary cut, instead of rejoicing over pay rise and poor livelihood.
It noted: “Permit me, Mr. President to address you directly. One of the many things spoiling our country is accountability. The people of Liberia voted you to power with the highest majority ever in the history of this country, by the exception of Charles Taylor for three things and they are: Hope to fight corruption, hope for a man to walk home and present an earning that will put smiles on the faces of children, hope to walk to the hospital telling their children I am coming back and sure he returns and all the pains is gone because the facilities are up to date. Hope for equal justice.”
The petitioners said it would be better for President Weah to construct rehabilitation centers that will improve the lives of disadvantaged youths, otherwise known as ‘zogos’ than giving them handouts, which has the propensity to drive them deeper into the bad habit of drugs consumption.
“When that is done, the traditional people will name that, Operation Restores Hope.”
The chiefs reminded the President that it is no secret that he took the mantle of authority when the country economy was in a deplorable state; however, they are concerned about him making no efforts to disprove a statement made by former President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf that there was money left in the coffer, instead he continues to blame on her leadership for economy collapse under his leadership.
“The country is shaking because the government refuses to clear our doubts. Madam Yousader Gaye, the Auditor General of Liberia told our conference delegates that she did her work in the US$25million case and forwarded the report but the government is refusing to act. The Senate, through Senator Henry Yallah accused the past and present administrations for not acting on audit reports submitted to them because of nepotism and friendship,” the petition noted.
The chiefs are further demanding government through President Weah to act on the 25 Million case in the shortest possible time.
It added: “We want you to have this issue of L$16 billion done with, so as to give your people a sign of relief. In our hearing, the Central Bank Governor said no money was missing, but was placed in the vault and later removed. If so Mr. President, your fathers want you to clear their doubt as to what happened to that money.”
They have committed themselves to payment of taxes as requested by the Weah’s leadership but want the War and Economic Crimes Court to be established as a guarantee to protect said fund.
The chiefs are also recommending that the payment of their taxes should commensurate with benefit of direct developments in various counties, which they said would encourage taxpayers to be patriotic.
“Hence in doing so, we urged the government to speedily establish the Economic and War Crime Court in the country for the protection of hard earned money that we will pay and to avoid the recurrence of thing that place our country in this deplorable condition.
Security and Violence
“Mr. President, a hungry man is an angry man, we want the Ministry of Agriculture to be proactive.”– Tradition Chiefs’ Council
On the issues of security and violence, the traditional leaders called on the Office of the President to act on the matter relating to the flogging of Deputy Police Director for Operations.
They believe if nothing is done, it will stand as an embarrassment for the Weah administration and Liberia at large.
Too many spokespersons for one government is something the traditional leaders have frown at, stating that such a situation is responsible for the escalation of tension in Liberia.
“To ease the tension, we expect only two persons to speak beside you, the Information Minister and your Press Secretary for your Office. Please talk to some of your people to focus on what they struggle for over the past 12 years, which is the Liberian people’s job and remove yourself from the presidential defense team to avoid confusion,” the petition stated.
They term as diservice for President Weah to forgo his Presidential title, only in the name of campaigning for the Coalition for Democratic Change’s candidate in the just-ended Montserrado County District #15 by-election.
They said reminded him that he was elected President by all Liberians and not CDCians alone.
The chiefs said they have not heard anything concerning the report of the late Odell Sherman and wants GOL to make such information public.
At the same time, they want government focus on promoting agriculture in an efforts to improve on food insecurity challenges faced by the country.
“Mr. President, a hungry man is an angry man, we want the Ministry of Agriculture to be proactive,’ the petition read.
The traditional leaders fear ‘wanton dismissal’ of chiefs and elders as well as other senior political officials based on political reasoning under the current administration.
“We are being dismissed anytime and anyhow by our Superintendents and other senior government officials, either because we did not run a campaign for a given regime or individuals; we want this to stop,” they added.
They have further requested the government to fully implement the Domestic Bill of 2019, so as to build the capacity of women and girls.
For reconciliation and peace-building, the participants noted that there is a need to sustain all efforts by the government of Liberia and all collaborating partners for excessive dialogue in every sector of society.
They recorded that previous historical record in Liberia has been inaccurate and lacks objectivity, resulting to further division of the diverse ethnic, religious and traditional communities.
Words to the Opposition
“No one is exempted from the hardship we go through today, be it opposition or government supporters; therefore, we think the time has come for we all to look for a solution and stop the fussing. We, your father and mother want to caution you that what you do today and how you do what you do, will set the stage for you tomorrow.”– The Traditional Chiefs’ Council
They informed members of the opposition community that Liberia is the only home they have and its destruction in any way, be it an economic crisis or physical destruction, will have a negative impact on every Liberian.
“Economic hardship does not pick or choose, the cost of school fees draws no line for political parties, prices in the market are not based on who or which party you belong to, but the economic reality of the day.
“No one is exempted from the hardship we go through today, be it opposition or government supporters; therefore, we think the time has come for we all to look for a solution and stop the fussing. We, your father and mother want to caution you that what you do today and how you do what you do, will set the stage for you tomorrow,” they requested.”
The request is, therefore, calling on the opposition to engage the ruling establishment with constructiveness, love for country and future generation.
According to them, it is not a wrong thing to disagree with leaders, especially in a democratic certain, appealing that such disagreement be channeled through a civil manner, void of disrespect to the Presidency.
They furthered: “The traditional leaders as advisors to both you opposition and the government. We pray that you channel all of your grievances, be it petition or any other complaints that is unattended to by the ruling establishment through us your fathers and mothers from all around the nation to the government for peace sake.”
Meanwhile, the chiefs and elders have condemned the act of calling certain people “unusual names” which they termed as ‘total detrimental’ to the peace and reconciliation process.
To the aspect of social media, they say discussing Liberia on Facebook, twitter Instagram or whatever social media will portray its ‘bad image’ to the world.
GOL in Particular
Leader in the country have been warned by the elders that they are elected or appointed to govern as the dispensers of the rule of law and should be good examples of justice and tranquility.
“Some efforts and corrective measures being put in place by the government appears not to be having the desired effect. The international partners have communicated to express concerns over the worsening situation,” they stated.
Therefore, the conference calls on the government through the Office of the President, to maintain consultations with all local stakeholders and international partners to improve the situation in improving the quality of life of Liberians at home and abroad.
Accordingly, the Traditional Council cautioned that no one branch should interfere with the other function or carry out their duties as enshrined in the Constitution.
The Legislature Problem
“We believe it is waste of resources to use our taxpayers’ money and useful time for which you are being paid for the making of laws that will benefit only a selected few, including yourself. It is unfair to us, the people, who elected you.”– Traditional Chiefs’ Council
Addressing the Legislature, the petition said the first branch of government which is supposed to be a reservoir of wisdom has now turned into a ‘gladiatorial arena’ where physical assaults are the order of the day.
“We hold the legislature responsible for our pain. It is not our pleasure to publically ridicule you as our leaders.”
It is often said, ‘Open rebuke is better than secret love.’ In our hearings, some of you spoke to us the truth and cautioned us to speak the truth also. We want you to remember that the Legislature is not where you go to accumulate wealth, but to serve your country and people well so that history will remember you,” it stressed.
“We believe it is waste of resources to use our taxpayers’ money and useful time for which you are being paid for the making of laws that will benefit only a selected few, including yourself. It is unfair to us, the people, who elected you.”
The petitioners frowned at members of the Legislature for “taking half a year to pursue the removal of one man from office,” as a means of satisfying their political appetite.
The traditional leaders urged members of that august body to practice democratic tendency by respecting each other views. “It has come to our understanding that others are deprived from putting forth their views when it comes to critical national issues.”
The traditional chiefs said they suspect that the aspect of legislators’ duty, including them calling on the Presidency to be answerable to them has completely lost its essence.
Instead, of being the respected ‘house’ it is supposed to be, the chiefs are disenchanted that the lawmakers are easily influenced by the Executive Mansion.
“Lastly, honorable sons and daughters of the legislature, we elected you because we trust your understanding. You are all important men and women that when you are willing, you can change the course of our history positively. So, don’t demoralize your dignity for little or nothing. You are our representatives and not the representatives of any other persons, be it the Executive or any branch of government.”
‘We don’t need a rocket scientist to tell us when we are running into problems until the poor get justice at your hands in this country, until money stop running the courtrooms and you stop others from intruding into your business in the name of cash and politics.”– Traditional Chiefs’ Council
According to the document, instead of closing its eyes to dispense justice, the Judiciary has taken a posture of siding with one group of people in the name of friendship, politics and all family.
It fears that the Judiciary has now become the constables of the executives of all the administrations.
The chiefs in their petition warned: “We shall only enjoy peace in this country when you shall stop being selective in the dispensing of justice when every man is equal before the law.
“Some of you place on the judgment seat of this country are not placed there because you are the most alert in the Judicial System, but the government has chosen you to serve and dispense justice to all without regards to connection or favor, but you have completely swayed from your call for duty.
‘We don’t need a rocket scientist to tell us when we are running into problems until the poor get justice at your hands in this country, until money stop running the courtrooms and you stop others from intruding into your business in the name of cash and politics.”
The Council of Chiefs and Elders of Liberia then urged the Judiciary to go after those that committed crimes.
They lauded the international community for their support to Liberia and urged them to continue such gesture.
At the presentation ceremony, Internal Affairs Minister Varney Sirleaf clarified that President Weah has not given him any authority to dismiss any chiefs in Liberia.
In his response, President Weah said he will read through the document before coming up with official comment at a later date.
However, President Weah said there were clauses in the petition that are not in the right direction, but were only based on gossips.
These portion according to the Liberian leader will not be accepted but other in good fate will be considered.
“You listen to the Internal Affairs Minister, he said there was no mandate to dismiss anyone. I’m sure besides that line, there were other lines that were not in place, but we will sit and look at it. Everything here that is good for our country, we will make sure we adapt them and those things that are not good are just mere gossips and will be out of them,” President Weah asserted.
As a former Peace Ambassador of Liberia, President Weah said his work is centered on peace and without peace, such work will be difficult.
“I hold nothing against anyone. I have an opportunity to serve as a leader of this country, I want to do my best, and I want to perform.
“All of the allegations that are levied are not my focus, my focus is to make sure that the economy of this country grows and the people succeed.
“I listen to the reader of this document, what is in this document and everything stated, I don’t want to make comment to that because I think, what we seek for is for this country to be peaceful and move forward,” President Weah concluded.