John S. Morlu, II
Former Auditor General of Liberia
As a Jeffersonian Republican, I DISTRUST Government and I DISTRUST even more a CORRUPT Government, regime whose legal system has been repeatedly characterized by the United States’ Department of Justice as being for the HIGHEST BIDDER. Further, as a Jeffersonian, I take side on each issue. I do not like to hedge bet or straddle the fence. In this matter, Jefferson Koijee versus the Administration of Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, I am siding 100% with Mr. Koijee.
After the 2011 elections, I advised Mr. George Mannah Weah and Mr. George Solo for us to focus on business so that they would not have to live at the financial mercy of the Sirleaf’s regime. It fell on deaf ears! Mr. Weah and Mr. Solo held multiple discussions with Mr. Robert Sirleaf and his team to trade the Senatorial seat in exchange for cash and access to some oil block but it seems Mr. Solo just overplayed his hands, trying to out-fox his political leader. This is the unfortunate problem in the Congress for Democratic Change (CDC): Political Leaders Trading Places, while the interest of the rank-and-file are undermined. In all of this, where is the commitment to principle?
I also advised that Ellen Johnson Sirleaf should be allowed to appoint her own choice as the next Peace Ambassador, who was Cllr. Winston Tubman. That too fell on death ears. Jefferson Koijee is a victim of a politically motivated arrest and incarnation and Mr. George Weah’s Peace Ambassadorship has weakened his hands to take an unequivocal and unambiguous stance against corruption, impunity and the type of abuse that Koijee is suffering at the Monrovia Central Prison, a prison built for hardcore convicted criminals, not for people who are merely accused of wrong doing.
Whenever I hear a Liberian politician say “constructive engagement” or “loyal opposition,” it is a code word for seeking jobs and monetary favors from the Presidency. It is hard to see how these politicians can win election by “constructive engagement” or being a “loyal opposition.” Again and perhaps the motive is not win election but to use the political party as a vehicle to extract cash from the state.
Liberia “opposition” politicians cannot succeed by straddling the fence, always. The Hilary Clinton and Barrack Obama situation in which both competed and later Mrs. Clinton joined the Obama administration is the often cited example by the Liberian political leaders to prove their monetary collaboration with the Presidency and the ruling party. The difference between me and the Sirleaf administration on the issues of corruption and impunity is light and day.
I don’t support violence against any Liberian. But I also do not like a heavy handed and vengeful government, whose leaders and political cronies use raw power to target and punish people for having differing opinions on how the country is being poorly governed. I even more forcefully oppose actions by a government that seeks to win elections at ANY cost, and therefore target and incarnate people who they perceived as posing a greater threat to their ascendency to political and economic power.
Here in lies the main issue regarding the arrest and incarnation of Koijee. Liberia under the Presidency of Ellen Johnson Sirleaf is a complete lost cause and a waste of significant international and domestic goodwill to put Liberia in good stead for a smooth transition to sustainable democracy. Anyone who thinks Ellen Johnson Sirleaf will make any significant deviation to fight corruption and impunity and put the interest of the Liberian people first and above the parochial pecuniary interests of her family, friends and business cronies is living on planet Mars.
Liberians should “cut their losses” on Ellen Johnson Sirleaf.
Madam Sirleaf has not made it a priority to make a last change in the lives of ordinary Liberians in the past nine years. It is hard to imagine how she is going to make a 360 degree turn around in the next three years when she is a lame duck President, beginning January 2015 after the midterm elections. By January, Liberians are going to be focusing on forming a formidable coalition of principle minded people to take political power in 2017. Ellen Johnson Sirleaf is history and she knows it deep inside her. She is also worried about losing political power, knowing what has happened to corrupt African presidents after they leave power.
Between 2014 and 2018, Liberia will disintegrate into complete chaos, unfortunately leading to bloodshed as the result of public violence because Madam Ellen Johnson Sirleaf and her son, Robert Sirleaf know how much financial damage has been caused to Liberia by their actions and inactions on corruption and impunity. They know they have sole the country on the cheap and serious minded Liberians will surely be looking into all the closets in 2018 when Ellen and cronies are no longer in power.
Madam knows she will lend in prison when she is no longer president and so she has decided that she will put in place a puppet government or create chaos in Liberia before she leaves. The 2014 Senatorial election in which Madam Sireleaf has insisted that her favorite and cherished son, Robert Sirleaf must win at ANY COST is the beginning of the plan to leave behind chaos. There is just no way that Robert Sirleaf can defeat Chris Neyor and Ben Sanvee, much less George Weah whose political party has beaten his mother twice (2005 and 2011) in Montserrado.
In fairly counted ballot, Mr. Neyor will beat Mr. Sirleaf, coming either first or second in the race for Montserrado. But Mr. Sirleaf’s campaign is mistaking to think it is only Mr. Weah they must be worried about.
So Mr. Sirleaf’s campaign team, supported by former Congress of Democracy Change (CDC) Chairman George Solo, believes that the strongest organizer in CDC is Jefferson Koijee, followed by Mulbah Morlu and Representative Acarous Gray. This is why Koijee was singled out and sentenced for days without trial. Sirleaf and her inner circle believe that by locking up Jefferson Koijee, they stand a chance of defeating George Mannah Weah.
It is not surprising that the Government is now claiming that Koijee must be quarantined for 21 days as he was thrown in a prison with a “known” person who had contracted the Ebola virus. This was done against the advice of the Chief Justice of Liberia who cautioned judges not to throw people in prison during this time of Ebola, especially when an allegation is levied against a person and such allegation is a billable offense. The mere allegation against Koijee is a billable offense under Liberian law. But in Liberia, it is common practice for the police and NSA to arrest people on holidays and on weekend so that they can “teach them a lesson,” as Courts are not open on weekends and holidays.
When I served as Auditor General, I told Robert Sirleaf and his mother on the phone that it would be over my “dead body” if I allowed anyone to arrest the Communication Director of the General Auditing Commission (GAC) without a warrant from a court on a weekend, and that if the President son who is head of the NSA attempted again to arrest any GAC staff on GAC premises, the people of GAC and the public would have him tortured as well, and the President and son backed off. Not even a President owns Liberia and we all know how to fight back hard.
The Government purposely threw Koijee in the Central Prison on “mere” allegation against him and others by a Government sponsored paid agent, a prison designed for hardcore convicted criminals. Paradoxically, although the Government sponsored accuser levied allegations against Mulbah Morlu and others in CDC, the Government singled out Koijee and sentenced him without trial to prison, not even jail. Yes, he was sentenced to prison on a mere allegation that has not been substantiated in a court of competent jurisdiction.
Unfortunately, the so-called Political Leader of the CDC, Mr. George Weah has not appreciated the enormous sacrifice that is being made by Jefferson Koijee and other frontline advocates of CDC for democratic governance in Liberia. Instead, Mr. Weah continues to remain silent, enjoying the prestige and benefit of being called “Peace Ambassador,” a position that has being relegated to irrelevance, mockery and “under the table” money game. What peace has Mr. Weah brought to Liberia since he became “Peace Ambassador?” Is incarcerating the head of the youth wing of his party one of the peace initiatives? Does he realize that this is a gimmick to reduce him to a “nobody”?
Mr. Weah must come out of the darn closet and stand up like a real man. He cannot play on both sides of the fence, as such short term tactical maneuvering to just to make a few bucks will lead to a long term strategic failure. Just as I stood up against an unjust attempted arrest and incarnation of a civil servant doing his work at the GAC, it is hard time that Mr. Weah takes the high role and stand up for “something.” Mr. Weah should immediately register his disapproval of Koijee’s arbitrary arrest and imprisonment by resigning from this corrupt administration, an administration that is selectively targeting people in applying the law.
Ellen Johnson Sirleaf’s administration can jail Koijee on mere allegation but cannot see reason to jail hundreds of high level officials accused of corruption in GAC reports, the TRC report, PPCC reports, the multitude of Special Presidential Committees’ reports, and the LACC reports, etc. This is travesty of justice and will be punished in the future, rest assured.
How can any reasonable Liberian find this type of arbitrariness just and fair? Accused corrupt people walk free but those who have alleged intermural partisan exchange are thrown in prison with hard core criminals? How can Mr. Weah associate with an administration that is selectively punishing his followers, while leaving those accused of corruption, fraud, waste and abuse roaming Monrovia freely?
I am a fervent believer in Republican form of Government that is underpinned by the rule of law, accountability and transparent. But I also believe firmly in civil disobedience when there is unjust and spurious application of laws targeting an individual. It was Rodney D. Sieh, then Octavia Williams, then Philbert Brown and now Jefferson Koijee. All these Liberians are a classic examples and victims of a government that is growing increasingly jittery, uneasy and intolerant of dissenting opinion.
The fundamental arguments for the constitutional republican form of Government we have in America and Liberia are contained in 85 Federalist papers. In Federalist paper number ten, Alexander Hamilton argued that for a constitutional republican form of government to exist, there must be (1) deliberative legislative, (2) energetic executive, and (3) a just and fair judiciary. After 167 years, Liberia is far off from these three cardinal requirements. It seems that the only energy of this administration includes promoting rampant corruption, selling Liberia’s natural resources on the cheap, providing “brown envelopes” to the Legislature, undermining the rule of law by inferring to decide who must be prosecuted and obstructing justice (a charge that was publicly levied by the former Minister of Justice and attorney General of the Republic of Liberia).
On August 19, 2011, the International Crisis Group, the organization that provided the intellectual support to the International Contact Group on Liberia as that group sought to bring peace to Liberia, wrote, “some Liberians interpret the decision not to renew Morlu’s contract as a sign of growing intolerance of dissent by the administration. The president recently threatened to arrest the Movement for Progressive Change (MPC) leader, Simeon Freeman, and charge him for sedition over a proposed public demonstration against corruption. Press Secretary Cyrus Badio later said the threat was an “April Fool’s joke”, widely considered to be in bad taste. After authorities agreed to give him a licence, Freeman cancelled the protest, claiming the government planned to create chaos.”
In March 2011, after series of meetings in London, I purchased a ticket to come to America and do some additional consultation. After consulting with family and trusted professional colleagues, I wrote and told Madam Sirleaf to take her “darn” job. I had been forewarned that the President and her son were increasingly uneasy and jittery with my presence in Liberia; especially as election 2011 was approaching. I was advised to retreat and reposition to fight another day. So I completely understand lives that people like Jefferson Koijee are living, under an administration that is noted for scheming and targeting perceived enemies.
Koijee is the latest victim. If Liberians cannot rise up against this type of ruthlessness, then most of us will become victims sooner or later of this vengeful President, vengeful president’s son, and wannabes who must prove their loyalty to keep their jobs. If Koijee is not released, Liberians must register their outrage and take on this regime forcefully; if it means removing the president from power constitutionally we must do it.
Equally so, if Mr. Weah refuses to resign, he too must be kicked out of CDC, as his presence in the government is giving a false sense of inclusion, when such inclusion of a major political opposition is without substantive support and demonstrable performance.
I am not a member of the CDC or any political party. But I love the people in CDC because we are from similar backgrounds and want fundamental change for the ordinary people of Liberia. I believe Jefferson Koijee, Mulbah Morlu, Rep. Acarous Gray and the many good people in CDC have a good heart for the wellbeing of Liberians. They are victims of continued bad political leadership. Essentially, what pains me is how the political leadership of the CDC has continuously put their own economic aggrandizement above the rank and file of the party, always using party leadership as a “cash cow,” forever extorting money and privileges from the Government. This is just utterly dead wrong.
October 14, 2012, Ellen Johnson Sirleaf through former CDC Chairman Lenn Eugene Nagbe called from Japan to seek permission to appoint veteran and well-respected international statesman, Cllr. Winston Tubman as “Peace Ambassador” after the rightful resignation of Nobel Laureate Layman Gbowee in protest against pretense, corruption, nepotism and impunity on the part of President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf. But some in CDC informed the President of Liberia that Cllr. Tubman was not qualified to be Peace Ambassador.
I say then and now, that was wrong and that Cllr. Tubman a seasoned Diplomat who have served as U.N. Peace Envoy in the Balkans and Somalia, a graduate of the London School of Economics, a true graduate of Harvard Law School and former Justice Minister of Liberia. If he was not qualified to serve as Peace Ambassador, then who was? Former CDC Chairman Eugene Nagbe and President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf cannot deny the fact the Peace Ambassador post was being offered to Cllr. Winston Tubman.
Again, it is hard time that Mr. George Weah shows the world that beyond soccer he stands for “something.” Just saying, “I am a peace loving person” is not enough. We are all peace loving but we do not condone abuse of others’ right, nor do we condone complacency by remaining in a government that is corrupt. The missing ingredient in democratic governance in Liberia has been the complete lack of a “compassionate” leader, who wants to take all Liberians out of this permanent state of poverty and despair. Using the political apparatus to galvanize the support of youth only for self-economic aggrandizement is not the way to demonstrate compassionate leadership. The politically motivated arrest and incarnation of Koijee in prison is a litmus test for Mr. Weah.
The world is watching to see whether Mr. Weah will stand by Koije like I stood by GAC’s Communication Director and was willing to go to prison and die before he was arrested and incarcerated on a Saturday, knowing fully well that he was going to be tortured and humiliated by the Secret Police, the infamous National Security Agency headed by the President’s other son.
The fact that George Weah has not spoken against the arrest and incarnation of Koijee for almost a weak speaks volume. Is he that compromised?
I had a strong relationship to Madam President and Mr. Robert Sirleaf, even writing her book proposal, “This Child Will Be Great.” But…I said a BIG NO to the practice of corruption and impunity. Am I not still living a normal life? Of course, I am. Life does not begin and end with the Sirleafs or any President for that matter. I had a choice to have just “kept quiet” and not challenge in a public way a corrupt regime.
I am a proud card carrying member of the people President Sirleaf called “angry minority,” as history has shown that it is always the “angry minority” that has removed corrupt regimes from power. It has never been the salient majority who suffers in silence. Take Boukina Faso’s strong man, Blaise Campore. It took only a handful of Boukinabes to chase Campore out…barely 100,000 people out of a population of 16 million people. It took Ellen Johnson Sirleaf and handful of people to topple Presidents Doe and Taylor.
Let George Mannah Weah STAND UP FOR SOMETHING, for once. We, too, are “peace loving.” This is COMMON SENSE.