From the list of nominees during our search for Personalities of the Year, a legal luminary, human rights activist and fearless lawyer Counselor Tiawon Saye Gongloe was approved from a list of nominees submitted to the Personality Panel in the editorial room. The ANALYST has agreed to honor Cllr. Gongloe in agreement to others who have already honored him, including his fellow lawyers of the Liberia National Bar Association (LNBA) by electing him as President, and the Coalition for Justice in Liberia (CJL), a US-based human rights advocacy organization, that believed that Cllr. Gongloe’s leadership of the LNBA is the right time for justice.
In our view, Cllr. Gongloe merits the title, Lawyer of The Year 2018 on the occasion of his ascendency to the leadership of one of the group of Liberian elites, Liberia National Bar Association. We feel his election is an honor that is long overdue when one catalogs the sacrifices this son of the soil endued in his legal career. Our Lawyer of the year is a strong advocate whose advocacy could not bow to the powerful in line of his duties.
Cllr. Gongloe, was a student activist in the late 1970’s, and was imprisoned and beaten for speaking out against the government of then-president William Tolbert, and later for speaking out against President Charles Taylor. A human rights lawyer – one of the first in Liberia, Gongloe remained in Liberia throughout the worst time. Although he lived briefly in exile in the United States, his goal was always to return to his home country, be key player on the train for change Liberia for the better.
The ANALYST’s Lawyer of the Year, who knows the country’s justice system, never put the almighty dollar first; he represented those who are even indigent, poor or underprivileged to rescue them from overzealous state prosecutors. His preferment to the leadership LNBA obviously reminds us his numerous trials in his quest for straight adherence to the rule of law, social justice and the fundamental rights of the Liberian people.
We vividly recalled that when there is none to provide legal defense for a party litigant who could not easily find a lawyer due to indigence or political reasons, Our Lawyer of the Year is always ready and available to intervene. One of such was the legal service he rendered to the Transitional Government headed by the late Cllr. David Kpormakpor in 1994, when former Chief of Staff of the Armed Forces of Liberia (AFL), General Charles Julu (now deceased), laid besiege to the Executive Mansion and announced that he had overthrown the government, with the support of a group of exiled Liberians referred to as the New Horizon.
The leading human rights advocate and lawyer, of this impeccable professional character has finally landed at the highest echelon of practicing jurists and legal practitioners, after his comrades at law considered him a “congenital candidate” going against two other candidates in the Bar Association’s Saturday, November 31, 2018 election in the port city of Buchanan where several legal luminaries and members of the Bar who spoke have rated our Man of the Year the most suitable to win the LNBA Presidency this time around, judging their opinions on Cllr. Gongloe’s outstanding works over the years as a leading human rights defender.
Cllr. Gongole is a graduate of the Louis Arthur Grimes School of Law at the University of Liberia who was admitted to the Montserrado County Bar Association in 1988 and subsequently admitted to the Supreme Court Bar as Counselor at law in 1994.
Fearless but tough Beginning
The Lawyer of the Year owes his law practice and interest in human rights and public interest law through a mentorship provided by two outstanding and fearless Liberian lawyers, Cllrs. Laveli Supuwood and the late Francis Garlawolo. Before the fall of the Taylor regime, the young legal practitioner and right advocate, Gongloe who was rated Liberia’s most prominent human rights lawyer by international acclamation was brutalized in police custody and hospitalized by the Taylor regime, with police guard remaining by his hospital bed side when he in fact nearly lost his sight and hearing as the result of the police brutality, accounting accounts of the incident reported by the New York Times quoting the Human Rights Watch, International.
Gongloe was one of the independent voices of the regime and the government of Charles Taylor at the time employed violence to silence independent voices, reports said. The arrest of Cllr. Gongloe who was detained at the basement of the Executive Mansion was in connection to a speech he delivered at a March 2002 Conference in Guinea on Peace in Mano River Union, in which he condemned the use of violence as a means of rising to power. Apparently annoyed by analysis made by the learned lawyer to conferees drawn from countries of the Mano River Union and from elsewhere, Taylor who came to power as a result of terrible civil war ordered Cllr. Gongloe arrested amidst international critical voices and tortured him in police detention.
Gongloe has since indulge himself into the practice of availing free legal services to the underprivileged and the indigent, thereby generating for him fame untold in the legal and rights advocacy arena. Our Lawyer of the Year is indeed a strong voice from Mount Nimba, who neither tribalized his practice nor sectionalized it.
Cllr. Gongloe, founder of the Gongloe and a wealth of experience as a human rights lawyer, a state prosecutor and a ranking government official. Gongloe served as Solicitor-General between January 2006 and July 2009, and from July 2009 to November 2010, he was the Minister of Labor, Republic of Liberia. Prior to these assignments, he was appointed executive assistant to the then President of the Interim Government of National Unity (IGNU), Amos C. Sawyer, in November 1990 up to March 1994. Gongloe served as electoral consultant to the Carter Center in Ethiopia In 2005, and has provided legal services to the government over the years.
For these as recounted, we could not find other nominations for the title “Lawyer of the Year” to beat the name Cllr. Tiawon Gongloe, a man who is now being congratulated by friends and well-wishers on the occasion of his election to the LNBA. One of such messages of congratulations came from the leadership and members of the Coalition for Justice in Liberia (CJL), a US-based human rights advocacy organization.
In a message, the Coalition for Justice in Liberia congratulated Cllr Gongloe for his successful election and asserted that “This is the right time for justice.” The coalition is elated by Cllr. Gongloe’s election by his colleagues, who by their votes, have reposed tremendous trust and confidence in in The Analyst’s Lawyer of the Year to lead this pre-eminent Liberian organization through the next several years.
“For those of us who have followed your impeccable track record and longstanding advocacy for justice for the poor, marginalized, disadvantaged, and forgotten, your election came as no surprise and should give hope to the thousands of Liberians who have been eluded by the call for justice; as well as your championing of the rule of law.
“It is our hope that working with your colleagues and team, you will remain steadfast in continuing your advocacy for justice, human rights, and upholding the rule of law. We are also hopeful that you will use this higher platform to bring greater national attention to the culture of impunity that is so entrenched in our social and political culture today and that it is needless to mention, the cry for justice for the more than 250,000 who died during the Liberian senseless 14yr civil war.
Like Our Lawyer of The Year, the Coalition for Justice in Liberia is convinced that Liberia can only experience genuine peace and stability, if justice is allowed to prevail and the rule of law is upheld as no man or woman is above the law. “Again, we in the Coalition for Justice in Liberia would like to wish you all the best as you assume leadership of the Liberia National Bar Association, and would like to avail ourselves in forming collaborative partnership in support of justice for the victims of the Liberian civil war.” We too joined all of the voices appreciating Cllr. Gongloe by conferring upon him the title, “The ANALYST’s Lawyer of the Year 2018”.