Liberia: Traditional Leaders In Bong Axed For Bestowing Honor On Vice President


Gbarnga, Bong County – The Ministry of Internal Affairs on Monday dismissed two Bong County traditional leaders, two weeks after leaders of the county bestowed the highest traditional honor on Vice President Jewel Howard-Taylor.

Report by Selma Lomax, [email protected]

Chief Moses Suakollie, the Dakpanah (heads of chiefs in the country), and Arthur Kulah, native superintendent in Bong County (head of chiefs in Bong County) lost their jobs on Monday, following a high-level traditional meeting headed by Assistant Minister of Culture at the Ministry of Internal Affairs Joseph B. Jangar and Chief Zanzar Karwor, chair of the chiefs and elders of the National Traditional Council of Liberia.  

Suakollie was replaced by Chief Kerkula Gayflor of Gbarpolu County and Jimmy Kpokein, of Bong County, replaced Kulah.

During Monday’s meeting, Jangar and Karwor frowned on leaders for honoring the vice president, Suakollie said.

 According to Suakollie, Jangar asked: “Who told you people to honor the Vice President? Did you inform us about the honor?” 

Since the ceremony on February 1, 2019, Suakollie said some members of the executive branch of government and officials of the Ministry of Internal Affairs have been pressuring him to revoke the honor, but he refused.  

“I received several calls from people within the executive and the Ministry of Internal Affairs about the motive of the honor,” he said

“Some people have been asking me to revoke the honor, but I felt that doing so would undermine the essence for which the honor was bestowed.’’

Emmanuel Weinyou, Communications Director at the Ministry of Internal Affairs, said he couldn’t speak to the issue because it was traditionally sensitive. 

“This issue is a bush matter. What happened in the bush can’t be brought to the town,” he said.

Meanwhile, Chief Suakollie’s dismissal has drawn criticism from members of the Coalition for Democratic Change  in the county.

Elizabeth Kerkulah, a member of the Coalition for Democratic Change (CDC) said Suakollie’s dismissal will dampen the CDC’s image in the county.

 “The old man is an influential character in the party and dismissing him on issue that is not substantial is a big blow to the CDC in the county,” she said. “Bestowing honor on the vice president is not reason to dismiss anyone.”

 “The reason is unjustifiable because Suakollie once honored the President,” she said.

Emmanuel Peabody, a resident of Civil Compound in Gbarnga, said Suakollie’s dismissal two weeks after the honoring ceremony, only validates rumors that there is a feud between Vice President Howard Taylor and President George Weah.

“I don’t see the essence of dismissing the chief for honoring the Vice President,” he said. “This clearly shows that the Vice President and the President are not cool.” 

The office of the Vice President declined Monday to comment on the matter.

Weah-Taylor feud visible?

The recent developments in Bong County are raising new fears that the long reported feud between President Weah and Vice President Taylor is still fresh and visible.

Since inauguration, the relationship between Vice President Taylor and President Weah turned sour after an internal wrangling with the National Patriotic Party orchestrated by Party Chairman James Biney in an attempt to oust Vice President Taylor.

The plot by Biney was supported by the Coalition for Democratic Change (CDC), one of the parties in the ruling coalition.

While the Biney faction and that of the Jewel faction were in harsh exchanges, the CDC recognized the stance of the faction led by Chairman Biney.

Chairman Biney later accused Vice President Taylor of harboring presidential ambition, something that is believed to have further exacerbated the already sour relationship between the President and the Vice President.

The relationship got worse when the Vice President was reportedly prevented from meeting the president to seek permission for foreign travel to attend a very crucial international forum. 

Since the reportedly shunning of the Vice President, it continues to be reported that President Weah is not according his Vice President the needed respect befitting of her office.

More sympathy for VP Taylor in Bong 

Across Bong, the reported feud between President Weah and Vice President Taylor has seen more sympathy and support for the Vice President.

Some believe the action of President Weah against his Vice President is not healthy for the country since the Vice President is known to be an influential person not only in Liberia but elsewhere. Grace Urey, a resident of Chief Compound, said he was saddened by the way the Vice President is being treated by President Weah. “I voted for the CDC because of Jewel Howard-Taylor,” she said. “This is a big shame to the supporters of the CDC in Bong.”

Risky political play in Bong

With senatorial election lurking in 2020, some say the CDC is embarking on risky political play to engage in a fight with Vice President Taylor in her stronghold, Bong County.

The aftermath of the ongoing action accordingly by the Executive Branch as mastermind to remove chiefs for honoring Vice President Taylor signals yet another big gamble for the ruling coalition. Jibah Bility, a member of Unity Party, said: “A house divided can’t stand. We are just watch the CDC ahead of the 2020 senatorial election. The reported rift between the Vice President and the President is good news for the opposition.”

Already facing barrage of concerns from Liberians due to the prevailing economic hardship, the CDC could lose grip of Bong County should it continue to oppose Vice President Taylor, according to Bility.

In these situations, President Weah has remained silent but the public actions indicate that the Liberian leader is quietly fighting the Vice President, according to pundits.

The Presidency is all powerful and decision to replace a prominent traditional chief is not one left only with the Ministry of Internal Affairs but deeply rooted in consultation with the President.

It can be recalled that in 2018, a decision by Vice President Taylor to replace some chiefs was reversed by President Weah.

Political pundits believe the CDC is poised to face the wrath of what is now seen as a visible feud between President Weah and Vice President Taylor through the ballot box in 2020.