UL Brouhahas Cost President’s Job -Will Nelson’s Fall and Conteh’s Re-rise End Imbroglios

MONROVIA – Weeks of tension and stalemate amongst various leadership components of the University of Liberia has finally caused a huge casualty—the president of the university has been purged and a caretaker named by President Joseph Nyuma Boakai. It is not exactly clear why prexy Dr. Julius Sarwolo Nelson Jr. was sacked; what is known is that the action comes amid sustained dissensions and acrimonies pivoted by the faculty association and student union against him, with calls to resign or be removed. Mediational interventions to remedy issues that triggered the demands of the UL community against its former head failed, and a stampede persisted, classes were closed and finally the visitor to the university, President Boakai wielded the axe, bringing in former UL president Ambassador Al-Hassan Conteh to hold on until Nelson’s replacement is sought and found. The question many are asking is whether the change of guards is a reasonable panacea to UL’s intractable nemesis. The Analyst reports.

The end to Dr. Julius Sarwolo Nelson Jr.’s era at the University of Liberia subculture has come with a sudden axe flexed by President Joseph Nyumah Boakai. This was made possible Monday, June 24 with an Executive Mansion release which stated that the President had “relieved Dr. Julius J.S. Nelson of his position as President of the University of Liberia effective immediately.”

Prof. Nelson was appointed October 2019 by ex-president Geroge Manneh Weah at a time the UL was going through sporadic turmoil over bad learning environment, student protests and faculty’s agitation.

Before his appointment, Nelson was for more than 12 years heading the Department of Student Affairs at the University of Liberia (UL), serving as its Vice President and Dean.

But early this week the newly elected President of Liberia ousted Prof Nelson following several meetings with the Institution’s Board of Trustees and various stakeholders of the University.

The Executive Mansion release noted that the President has appointed former University of Liberia President Ambassador Dr. Al-Hassan Conteh as Acting President to lead the Interim Management Team.

The Board nominated Dr. Conteh unanimously to oversee the search process for a new University President within three months.

The Interim Management Team, the Executive Mansion says, will also initiate necessary reforms and implement the action points conveyed by the President to ensure the University’s smooth operation.

Who’s Prof. Al-Hassan Conteh?

The man named by President Boakai to hold on with the administration of the University, Al-Hassan Coteh, is no stranger to the institution, for he once served as its president.

He served as the President of the University of Liberia (UL) from 2004 to 2008 at which time he helped in organizing the Association of Liberian Universities, which he served as Vice President of Academic Programs from 2005 to 2008.

From 1996 to 2000, he was Vice President for Academic Affairs at the University of Liberia; and from February 1997 to August 2000 working as the Project Director of the United States Institute for Peace’s project on Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) curriculum for post-war Liberian institutions.

He lately was Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the Republic of Liberia to the Federal Republic of Nigeria, with concurrent accreditation to the Republics of Benin and Equatorial Guinea, and Liberia’s Permanent Representative to the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS).

He served as the Chairman of the ECOWAS Permanent Representative Committee and the Mediation and Security Council of ECOWAS at the Ambassadorial Level from 2017 to 2018.

He was Dean of West African Ambassadors and Deputy Dean of African Ambassadors in the Federal Republic of Nigeria. Dr. Conteh was also the Co-Chair of the Board of the Africa Peace Fellows Program at the Center for African Peace and Conflict Resolution at California State University, Sacramento.

He’s a Doctor of Humane Letters (Honoris Causa) in International Relations. Conferred on him by the University of Liberia in December 2015 for his role in the re-development the university.

He is also United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) Fellow, Cairo Demographic Center, Cairo, Egypt, 1978 – 1980, a Fulbright Scholar, University of Pennsylvania, 1983 – 1987.

Causes of Immediate Disenchantments

Though the University of Liberia has been an epic center of agitation for academic freedom, human rights and economic equality, the immediate causes of the unrest that led to the final ouster of Prof. Nelson began early this year as the Boakai administration was just taking over national leadership.

Back in February, the University of Liberia Faculty and Staff Association (ULFASA) threatened a goal slow action which it indicated was a result of ongoing grievances, including delays in salary payments for part-time lecturers, substandard working and learning conditions, and the administration’s failure to meet previously agreed-upon demands.

According to ULFASA, it had overly called for the resignation of UL President Dr. Julius Sarwolo Nelson and his administration, holding them responsible for the unresolved issues.

Then in June, when it appeared remedies to grievances were not coming forth, the ULFASA renewed its warning, calling on lecturers to stay away from the university premises, threatening unspecified action against any departments that defied its directive.

This strike came at a critical time, coinciding with the students’ final exam period, which actually had significantly impacted on academic progress.

The group said at the time that its decision to strike reflects the growing frustration among faculty and staff over the administration’s handling of their concerns, demands for better conditions and timely salary payments have been ongoing, but that little progress was been made, leading to this drastic measure.

“The administration’s neglect of our demands is unacceptable,” said another ULFASA member. “We are committed to providing quality education, but we cannot do so under these conditions. It is time for Dr. Nelson and his administration to step down and make way for leadership that will prioritize the needs of both staff and students.”

The call for the resignation of Dr. Nelson and his administration marked a significant escalation in the ongoing disputes between ULFASA and the university’s leadership, something that student union also joined in solidarity to the faculty and staff.

Negotiations, Interventions

Both the Trustees of the University of Liberia and the Executive Mansion were closely involved in finding solution to the stampede and standoff on the campus, convening meetings with students, staff, faculty and leadership of the university.

Of utmost contention was demands by ULFASA for the immediate ouster of UL President Nelson who, the said, should not stay even up to the pending graduation exercises.

They blamed the former UL president, Dr. Nelson, for what they said was an untenable situation they were faced with.

“Our part-time lecturers have not received their salaries on time, the working and learning conditions are poor, and the administration has continuously failed to honor our agreements. We can no longer stand by while these issues persist,” they would tell negotiations,” they complained.

In the last moves by negotiators, following a lengthy meeting with the University’s stakeholders, the Chair of Board, Senator Numene T.H. Bartekwa, set up a Mediation Committee with a five-point Terms of Reference, considering the issues raised by the stakeholders and the UL Administration, and mandated the Committee to meet with ULFA, ULSA and the student leadership on Tuesday, June 18 2024, on the Capitol Hill Campus of the University to find an amicable solution to their concerns.

The Committee consisted of Dr. Al-Hassan Conteh, former President of the University of Liberia, Chair; Dr. Jarso Maley Jallah, Minister of Education, Co-Chair; Mr. Richard B. Falla, the Government Affairs Manager, Firestone Liberia; Honorable Thomas Romeo Quioh, Chair Committee on Education and Public Administration of the House of Representatives; Hon Dixon W. Seboe, Chair, Ways, Means, Finance and Development Planning, House of Representatives; and the Senior Advisor to the Visitor of the University, Dr. Augustine Konneh, who is Ex-Officio of the Committee.

During the meeting, the concerns of all the stakeholders of the University, including the faculty, staff and students were deliberated. The Board also received a report from the President of the University, Dr. Julius Sarwolo Nelson, Jr., on the current situation of the University, including academic and student affairs, institutional development and planning and the University’s endowment with the Trustees of Donations for Education in Liberia (TDEL).

The Axe Falls

While the Board was looking out to the committee, there came the sudden announcement from the Executive Mansion that the Visitor of the University had relieved Prof. Nelson of his job as President of the UL.

According to reports, the Board nominated Dr. Conteh unanimously to oversee the search process for a new University President within three months and the Interim Management Team will also initiate necessary reforms and implement the action points conveyed by the President to ensure the University’s smooth operation.

With the change of guards at the University—the fall of Dr. Nelson and the rise or re-rise of Dr. Conteh—there are concerns if that action will now lay to final rest the simmering, unending issues of protests, go-slows, agitations which are the oils with which students and faculty eat their academic meals.

For decades now, the UL remains of the bastion of political agitations, giving some observers reason to wonder if the academic referral institution is a political party or a place of academic revival and center of invention.

2 Comments
  1. Jake Doe says

    We watch if Conteh got integrity or not regarding finding a new president who is not Conteh himself.

  2. bestiptv-smarters says

    I do not even know how I ended up here but I thought this post was great I dont know who you are but definitely youre going to a famous blogger if you arent already Cheers

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