Rep. Edwin Snowe Hails Liberia’s ‘Great Strides’ in Regional Affairs

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Monrovia – Representative Snowe (UP, Bomi Dist. #1) has hailed Liberia’s active role in promoting peace and stability in regional and international affairs as a significant milestone in its post-war era.

Rep. Snowe said Liberia, once known for supporting conflict in the sub-region, is now making ‘great stride’ in promoting peace, unity and development, not only in the region but on the world stage.

Rep. Snowe: “Few years ago, Liberia was seen as exporting conflict to other countries: to Sierra Leone, to Guinea and to Ivory Coast. Today, for a Liberian to head a mediation team to Sierra Leone, going to meet with the President of that country, the Speaker, the Chief Justice and the political leaders to bring peace to that country, I think it means a lot for Liberia. And I am extremely honored and appreciate the gesture of my colleagues and I think together we can make our country proud.”

His comments follow his appointment by the Speaker of ECOWAS Parliament, Hon. Moustapha Cisse Lo as head a mediation follow-up mission to Sierra Leone aimed at settling the ongoing impasse between opposition Parliament members.

His assertions also come in the wake of two landmark ECOWAS Parliament Joint Committees’ meetings in Monrovia from 28th August to 7th of September 2018.

The first, according to Rep. Snowe, is a delocalized meeting of the ECOWAS Parliament’s Joint Committees on Communications and Information Technology, Education, Science and Technology, Labor, Employment, Youth, Sport and Culture from August 28 to September 1.

It is geared towards enabling members of the Joint Committee to take ownership of the ECOWAS policy in the area of ICTs and its use in the process of regional integration.

He said the meeting will also mark the official takeover of ECOWAS radio, formerly UNMIL radio.

According to him, the second will be a fact-finding mission that will see the Committees’ members visiting Liberia’s borders with the borders Sierra Leone at Bo Waterside in Grand Cape Mount and Guinea in Ganta, Nimba County to sensitize the people on the objectives of the regional blog and the powers of the ECOWAS Parliament.

Rep Snowe off to Sierra Leone

Rep. Snowe is currently in Sierra Leone as head of the ECOWAS Parliament mediation follow-up mission aimed at settling the stalemate at the Sierra Leonean Parliament between members of the ruling party and the opposition blog.

Speaking to reporters shortly before his departure, he expressed optimism over their mediation effort and noted that it was prudent for Parliament to end the stalemate because Sierra Leone is poised to take over the speakership of the ECOWAS Parliament within a year.

It can be recalled that in early May, Rep. Snowe served as head of the ECOWAS Parliament delegation on a swift joint high-level ECOWAS visit to Sierra Leone.

That visit comprised the President of ECOWAS Commission, Claude Kassi Brou and the Special Representatives of the Secretary-General of the United Nations, Dr. Mohammed Ibn Chambas.

It was intended to settle the dispute between opposition members of Parliament following the election President Julius Maada Bio of the Sierra Leone People Party (SLPP) in the March 31 Presidential runoff.

Background of the Impasse

Although Samura Kamara of then ruling All People’s Congress (APC) lost the presidency, the APC maintained its majority in Parliament, resulting in the first time in Sierra Leone’s history that Parliament is controlled by the opposition Party.

Out of 132 seats in Parliament, the ruling SLPP has 49, while the opposition APC won 68.

In late April, Sierra Leone saw a political gridlock as the High Court placed injunctions on 16 APC and two SLPP parliamentarians, barring them from participating in the opening session of Parliament and thus in the election of the speaker of the House.

The injunctions were based on SLPP and APC claims that the MPs illegally received government salaries during the campaign period and tampered with election results.

In advance of the first parliamentary session scheduled for April 24, the outgoing speaker of the House postponed the session indefinitely due to the uncertainty.

President Bio, citing article 84.1 of the Constitution that gives the President power to summon a parliamentary session, proclaimed that the first session of Parliament would occur on April 25, despite the large number of APC Parliamentarians barred from taking oath.

All APC lawmakers attended the session, prompting police to forcibly remove the 16 APC parliamentarians who could not be sworn in due to the injunctions.

In a moment of political solidarity, the remaining 52 members of the APC also left Parliament.

The APC and its supporters claimed that President Bio’s move was evidence of an attempt to undermine the APC majority in parliament and ensure that an SLPP representative became speaker.

As a result of the APC walkout, Dr. Abass Chernoh Bundu of the SLPP was elected speaker unopposed.

While article 79.1 of the Sierra Leonean Constitution mandates that two thirds of parliamentarians must be present for the vote on the speaker, it does not clarify how the quorum is reached.

SLPP claims that two thirds of the MPs who took oath were present, however APC interprets this requirement differently; claiming that at least two thirds of elected MPs must be present to elect the speaker, which would make this vote unconstitutional.

Bio’s push to move the vote of the speaker forward despite pending court cases appears as a strategic move to ensure a more favorable legislature to back his policy priorities.

Not only does the speaker administer proceedings on the House floor and has the power to recognize MPs to make motions, but the speaker acts as head of government when the President and the Vice President are out of the country.

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