Liberia: VP in Hot Water over Travel, Triggering Quit Fears as President Eyes Supreme Court Justice’s Impeachment
WASHINGTON – Multiple sources within the Liberian presidency have confirmed to FrontPageAfrica that visible strains between President George Manneh Weah and his Vice President Jewel Howard Taylor appear to be triggering fears within the VP’s camp that she may be asked to resign her post upon her return from her current trip abroad.
Report by Rodney D. Sieh, [email protected]
Noise Over Permission to Travel
FPA has learned that prior to the VP’s travel, she visited the President’s office in a bid to let him know that she was about to travel to Accra, Ghana for an international health conference and later to Reykjavik, Iceland to participate in the 2018 Women Leaders Global Forum which runs from November 26 to 29.
To her surprise, FPA has learned, the VP was kept waiting for nearly two hours before being told by the President’s Chief of Staff, Finda Bondoo that the President was too busy to see her. The VP, according to sources, reportedly left a file detailing her travels with the Chief of Staff and asked her to kindly relay the message to the President.
The VP, prior to that visit had reportedly been denied multiple requests to see the President, according to sources.
To the VP’s surprise, FPA has learned, the President reportedly called her while in Accra, ordering her to return home at once, declaring that he had no knowledge of her travel and would face consequences upon her return to the country.
The travel controversy is the latest between the pair.
In April, the VP was forced to apologize to President Weah after making a trip without the president’s knowledge. FPA has now learned that the VP did in fact inform the President but chose to apologize for the sake of peace and to ease any sign of tension.
The latest travel by the vice president is said to be causing serious friction and the President has reportedly expressed his anger to some aides that his second in command will be reprimanded upon her return.
In recent weeks, VP Howard-Taylor appeared to be making serious efforts to remain on President Weah’s good side, taking flowers to greet him after trips abroad and even going to the distance to leave her office to welcome him home recently. The body language between the pair following the President’s recent trip abroad raised some eyebrows that something unsettling was in the air.
The ruling Coalition for Democratic Change was critical to the election of President Weah in the 2017 presidential elections but the coalition has been on the rocks of late with the National Patriotic Party of former President Charles Taylor gravely divided.
Rep. James Biney, Chairman of the former ruling National Patriotic Party (NPP), recently went public and accused the VP Howard Taylor of harboring an ambition to contest for the office of the presidency in 2023 which the lawmaker says is creating the feud because some members of the party are resisting her ambition.
Weah Mum Over Biney’s Accusations
President Weah has not yet commented on Biney’s accusations but FPA has learned that the Executive Branch insisted on state radio, LBS playing Mr. Biney’s recent press conference during which he made the accusations against the vice president in its entirety more than once.
The VP appears to have taken notice, posting a cryptic Instagram post at the weekend, channeling former US President Roosevelt, alluding to her current ordeal. Roosevelt in one of his famous speeches on fascism and democracy said: “The first truth is that the liberty of a democracy is not safe if the people tolerate the growth of private power to a point where it becomes stronger than their democratic state itself. That, in its essence, is fascism — ownership of government by an individual, by a group, or by any other controlling private power…. Among us today a concentration of private power without equal in history is growing.”
Aides say the VP who has been quietly holding in her frustration stemming from ill-treatment lack of respect meted against her in the first year of the Weah presidency, is in a state of awe.
Earlier in the year, President Weah designated First Lady Clar Weah and Foreign Minister Gbezohngar Findley to attend the funeral of late South African icon, Winnie Mandela, even though the vice president had expressed interest in making the trip.
Shortly after his inauguration, the President also sought to wrestle influence away from his veep with a push to stop the vice president from presiding over the Senate in a bid to limit her leverage.
FrontPageAfrica reported in April that the VP was summoned by the President Pro Temp Albert Chie who attempted to suggest that the Vice President should not preside.
A few senators, according to a Senate source at the time, 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.”
Then came last week’s decision by the president to submit a bill to the national legislature, seeking to take away oversight responsibilities of the National Lotteries Corporation from the office of the vice president.
Since 1993 when the legislature first enacted the bill, the vice president has had oversight of the lotteries. In the past twelve years, former vice president Joseph Boakai had the deciding vote on the lotteries board.
Section 1: Amendment to Part III regarding the establishment of the Board immediately upon the passage of this act Part III, Section 15.2(a) reads: “The Board shall consist of Seven(7) Members; A senior policy staff of the Office of the Vice President of Liberia as Chairman, with the right to cast a deciding vote in addition to his/her regular vote; is hereby amended to read as follows: 15.2 – The board shall consists of seven(7)Members- A Chairman to be appointed by the President, with the right to cast a deciding vote. The act shall take effect immediately upon publication into handbill.”
Accelerating High Court Impeachment
In a related development, President Weah is also said to be accelerating his effort to have Associate Justice Kabineh J’aneh impeached from the Supreme Court bench.
FPA has learned that J’aneh currently has the support of the two women on the bench – Associate Justice Jamesetta Wolokollie and Associate Justice Sie-A-Nyene Gyapay Yuoh.
Chief Justice Francis Korkpor and the recently nominated former Senator, Cllr. Joseph N. Nagbe who replaced the retired Associate Justice Phillip A.Z. Banks are said to be in favor of J’aneh’s impeachment, causing a serious split on the high court.
President Weah, according to sources strategically appointed Nagbe in a bid to bolster the push to remove J’aneh from the bench.
The high court consists of the Chief Justice, who is also the top Judiciary official, and four Associate Justices, who are nominated by the President and confirmed by the Senate.
J’aneh is currently recused from the impeachment proceedings due to his involvement.
Under Section 2.7 of the Judiciary Law, “no Justice of the Supreme Court shall sit on any case in which he is interested or has made a ruling as a Justice presiding in Chambers in connection with an application for a remedial or extraordinary writ or on which he sat while a judge of a lower court.
Section 2.8. furthers that “when more than two Justices of the Supreme Court cannot sit on a pending case, the Chief Justice shall direct the Clerk of the Court to notify the President, who shall make ad hoc appointments to reconstitute a quorum from among the judges of the circuit courts.
Article 71 of the constitution states: The Chief Justice and the Associate Justices of the Supreme Court and the judges of subordinate courts of record shall hold office during good behavior. They may be removed upon impeachment and conviction by the Legislature based on proved misconduct, gross breach of duty, inability to perform the functions of their office, or conviction in a court of law for treason, bribery or other infamous crimes.
The impeachment saga is being complicated by a well-documented but unexplained feud between J’aneh and the Chief Justice Korkpor, whose son, Michael Korkpor is head of projects in the office of President Weah, raising yet another case of potential conflict as the President intensifies his quest to consolidate power and control of the three branches of government.