MONROVIA – President George Manneh Weah on Tuesday, March 14, 2023 issued Executive Order #117 mandating all appointed officials of the government aspiring to contest elective positions in the impending October 10, 2023 Presidential and Legislative Elections to resign on or before April 7, 2023. But pundits are viewing President’s Weah EO#117 as a political sham meant to allow his officials to eat their cakes and have them too, given the fact that the Executive Order has been issued six months to the October 2023 elections, as opposed to the regulatory one-year timeline given for elected officials to resign under EO #117 or the mandatory two years resignation period under the Code of Conduct.
Executive Order #117, which seeks to ensure the government’s compelling interest to create what President Weah calls “for a level plain political field to prevent Liberia’s competitive politics from unfair and undue advantages”, acknowledged that the objectives of the Code of Conduct is to dissociate the fiduciary duty of trust, integrity and loyalty owed by public officials to the people from their personal desires to contest elections at the expense of public resources.
Reminding appointed public officials, the President’s executive order states: “The Act provides that all officials appointed by the President including all cabinet ministers, deputy and assistant cabinet ministers, ambassadors, ministers consuls, superintendents of counties and other Government officials, both military and civilian, appointed by the President pursuant to Article 56(a) of the 1986 Constitution, and any managing director, deputy managing director, assistant managing director of corporation owned by the Government of Liberia, any commissioner, deputy and assistant commissioner of any commission established by the Legislature, and any official of the Government who negotiates and executes contracts, procures goods and services, and/or manages assets for and on behalf of the Government of Liberia, who desires to canvass or contest for an elective public office within the Government of Liberia shall resign his or her position one (1) year before the date on which the election for the post for which he/she intends to contest.”
Also, President Weah furthered that with about seven months to the conduct of elections on October 10, 2023, the amended Act can’t prevent public officials from contesting in said elections and thus mandated the resignation of all such person effective April 7, 2023, relying on the constitutional power vested in the Executive Branch of Government to execute the Executive Powers and thereby issue Executive Orders in the public interest, either to meet an emergency or to correct situations that can’t wait the lengthy legislative process.
Knowledgeable pundits have surmised that the justification for Executive Order # 117 runs contrary to Law as it indicates that the legislature deliberated and passed on the legislative instrument to prescribe a timeframe at which a public official who desires to canvass and contest should resign, and that at the time of the issuing of the said Executive Order, the legislature was still in session and could have made adjustment to the amended Code of Conduct if they so intended.
“The condition under which EO # 117 was issued outweighs the justification of lengthy legislative process and thus casts more doubt on the true intent of the President, as if he meant to shield his lieutenants and appease current legislators promising him support for his re-election bid,” says Stanford Tippayson of Caldwell.
Notwithstanding the President’s Executive Order # 117, Party Leaders of the Congress for Democratic Change (CDC) and Collaborating Parties including the National Patriotic Party (NPP), Liberia People Democratic Party (LPDP) and Movement for Democracy and Reconciliation (MDR) continue to occupy privileged positions in the government, in gross violation of Part V, section 5.8 of the Act Prescribing a Code of Conduct (COC) as Amended 2022.
Section 5.8 of the COC provides that “It is unlawful for any Civil Servant employed in any branch of the Government to use his official authority or influence for the purpose of interfering with an election or affecting the result thereof. No officer or employee in the Executive Branch of Government, or any agency or department thereof, shall take any active part in political management or in political campaigns. All such persons shall retain the right to vote as they may choose and to express their opinions on all political subjects.”
In a rather sharp contradiction to the Executive Order # 117 and in gross violation of the Code of Conduct part V, section 5.8, all Presidential appointees and employees managing political parties and engaged in active political activities must immediately be removed from office in keeping with in Part V, Section 5.9 of the said code.
“Any public official, after due process, who is found guilty of violating any provision of this section, shall be immediately removed from the position or office held by him/her, and thereafter no part of the funds appropriated by any law for such position or office shall be used to pay compensation to such person,” the Code of Conduct averred.
The holding of Public Office by Presidential Appointees and Political Party’s executive/manager positions conflicts with the abovementioned provision in Part V, Section 5.8 and thus egregiously undermines the objectives of the Code of Conduct as accentuated by the President in Executive Order # 117.
Political pundits continue to ponder whether the refusal of the President to also mandate the immediate resignation or dismissal of all Presidential Appointees holding Political Party’s executive positions is deliberate or he wasn’t properly advised by his Legal Advisors. The major issue that lingers now is whether the President intends to implement the Code of Conduct by requesting the resignation and or dismissal of over 50 Presidential appointees from the Congress for Democratic Change and Collaborating Political Parties in the Movement for Democracy and Reconstruction (MDR).
Critical Minds in the Opposition Community have hinted this paper that, the President’s Executive Order # 117 is intended to create an impression of wanting to implement the Code of Conduct even though it affects a very few Public Officials with the desire and intent to contest in the pending October 10, 2023 elections; meanwhile, providing a cannon fodder to protect the over 50 presidential appointees holding executive positions in various parties aligned with the ruling Coalition government.
Weah is the first President since the coming into force of the Code of Conduct in 2014 to institute measures for the appointment of County Chairperson of his party, the Coalition of Democratic Change (CDC) to the positions of Superintendents, Development Superintendents and other local officials including Town Chiefs, Paramount Chiefs, and Township Commissioners, among others. The holding of these appointed positions and at the same time serving party positions is in gross violation of Part V, Section 5.8 of the Code of Conduct as amended 2022.
This somewhat explains why President Weah has declined setting up and or appointing the Office of the Ombudsman as required by Part XII, section 12.1 and 12. 2 of the COC.
Why the Ombudsman?
The Office of an Ombudsman was established as an independent autonomous body responsible for the enforcement, oversight, monitoring and evaluation of the adherence to the Code of Conduct.
The Office of Ombudsman shall receive and investigate all complaints, in respect to the adherence to the Code of Conduct. In the case where there is a determination of guilt and violation of the code by private and Public Officials and Employees of Government, said violation shall be submitted by the Ombudsman to the Liberia Anti-Corruption Commission (LACC) or other relevant Agencies of Government. The Office of the Ombudsman shall be responsible to collaborate with the three Branches of Government and Civil Society Organizations in order to develop regulations for the Code of Conduct.
“The decision of the President to issue Executive Order # 117 mandating the resignation of a few appointed officials without appointing the Office of the Ombudsman makes the implementation of the Code of Conduct complicated and somewhat unenforceable. The precedent set by the President to call for the resignation of few appointed officials has set the tune for his office to immediately dismiss or call for the removal of all public officials currently in violation by holding both party executive positions and appointed positions within the executive branch of government. This is completely totalitarian,” says Jusufu Mansary, a self-proclaimed freethinker of Gardnersville.
Officials of Weah’s government holding key party positions that are expected to be affected by EO#117 include Ambassador Dee-Maxwell Kemayah, Minister of Foreign Affairs, who is also Political Leader of the Movement for Economic Empowerment (MOVEE).
Others include Post and Telecommunications Minister Clr. Cooper W. Krauh, Chairman, Movement for Democracy and Reconstruction (MDR); Atty. Augustus Janga Kowo, Comptroller & Accountant General, Ministry of Finance and Development Planning, Vice Chair for Legal Affairs, Congress for Democratic Change; Mr. Samora P. Z. Wolokollie, Deputy Minister for Fiscal Affairs, MFDP, Vice Chair for Finance, CDC; Mr. Jefferson Tamba Koijee, Mayor, Monrovia City Corporation (MCC), Secretary General, CDC; Mr. George Sylvester Mulbah, Deputy Director General, Liberia Civil Aviation Authority, Vice Chairperson, NPP; Madam Piso Saydee Tarr, Minister of Gender, Vice Chair for Gender, CDC, among others.
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