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Editorial: Liberia’s Contribution to Mali: Senate Must Concur With House

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President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf, on Saturday, January 19, 2013, announced to the people of Liberia that Liberia would contribute troops to the West Africa state of Mali. President Sirleaf announcement to the nation followed her return from neighboring Cote d’Ivoire where she and other West African Heads of States attended an extraordinary summit of ECOWAS on Mali.

The President’s decision for the deployment of a Platoon of soldiers of the Armed Forces of Liberia in Mali on peacekeeping mission attracted critical comments from some members of the Liberian Senate, including the Chairman of the Committee on Defense and Security, Senator Prince Y. Johnson of Nimba County. Senator Johnson described the President’s action as a violation, emphasizing that she should have consulted the Liberian Legislature before her decision to commit Liberian troops to Mali. While members of the Liberian senate continue to ‘drag the feet’ on the matter, the House of Representatives has seen reason in the decision on Constitutional ground.

Also differing with his Senate’s counterparts, the Chairman on National Defense of the House of Representatives, Representative George Sylvester Mulbah of Bong County noted that President Sirleaf was never in any error for the decision taken in the Ivorian Capital, Abidjan during the extraordinary ECOWAS Session on Mali. In a counter-argument, Mulbah attributed the decision to the Constitution of Liberia which provides that President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf is the Chief Architect of Liberia’s Foreign Policy. He said as such, the President was in good standing with the law of the country to take such a position before returning home for any consultation with the Liberian Legislature.

If the Constitution of Liberia is very clear on the President’s position as chief implementer of our foreign policy, there should be justifiable reason for the posture being taken by some members of the Liberian Senate, including Senator Johnson. We are of the fervent belief that the Senate should have exercised some degree of patience for engagement by the Liberian Leader as was done by their colleagues of the House of Representatives. “Jumping the gun” to hastily become critical of Liberia’s decision at the recent ECOWAS Summit of Heads of State was not only unfair to the Madam President, but their consciences.

If this is the robustness spoken about by some members of the Senate following their return on January 14, 2013, we must be heading for other sour relations between the Senate and Executive Branch on one hand, and Senate and House of Representatives on the other as we experienced in 2012.

Our lawmakers must be aware that such situation does not only delay the people’s work they ‘claim’ to be doing on Capitol Hill, but impede the progress of Liberia, as well as narrow  their popularity with their constituents, especially those poised for the mid-term senatorial elections in 2014. As members of the “House of Elders”, members of the Liberian Senate should be the last group of public officials to exercise “sentimental emotions” in such manner and form they did over the last few days.

They must now be challenged to reconsider their decision to renege on ‘giving the blessing’ for our soldiers to go to Mali on peace-keeping mission.  Their position may be genuine, but to ‘far-fetched’ and untimely. They must quickly concur with the House of Representatives in the interest of sub-regional peace and security, remembering that yesterday when it was Liberia, Mali, too, was there and here in the interest of peace for Liberia.

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