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“Mary Broh Faces – Chances, Rejection”

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The New Dawn Liberia The New Dawn Liberia

A Mayor or Mayors are elected.  According to Article 56(b) of the Liberian Constitution (1986), “There shall be elections of Paramount, Clan and Town Chiefs by registered voters in their respective localities, to serve for a term of six years”….

An Analysis

“Mary Broh Faces – Chances, Rejection” – Democrat, New Dawn:

By Bai M. Gbala, Sr.

In their July 16, 2013 Editions, The New Democrat and New Dawn newspapers report that the resigned, former Acting Mayor of our Capital City of Monrovia, now re-nominated by the President, “faces bleak chances” and “faces rejection” respectively, for confirmation by the Liberian Senate, for appointment.

In the light of the reported, very heated, anti-Broh debate recently in the Senate, it is reasonable to conclude that, indeed, Mrs. Broh “faces bleak chances” or “rejection” for confirmation.

What are the Facts?

The position of Mayor of any city is a political position, particularly, the position of Mayor of a big, highly-populated, commercial-industrial, capital city of a nation, such as the City of Monrovia, capital of our country, Liberia. Therefore, the individual holding the position of Mayor should and must possess the relevant, enabling qualities/credentials to comprehend, appreciate and navigate the political nuances of the given, political community, in order to hold on to and be successful in the position.

Apparently, however, the Honorable, Mrs. Mary Broh, had not been able to achieve this critical, important objective. For almost eight years as Acting Mayor of this important, political, capital city of the nation and seat of our national government, Mrs. Broh had been engaged in constant battles with the Nation’s Legislature – the Senate – that held and now holds the only key to her appointment by the President, according to the Supreme decision.

Initially, Mrs. Broh was nominated as Mayor for the City of Monrovia by the President, but that nomination was rejected by the Senate of the 52nd Legislature. Since then, throughout this period of some eight years, Mrs. Broh served in that position as “Acting Mayor” without formal, lawful appointment. She has been accused by the National Legislature of “arrogance, disrespect and disobedience”.

The finale to her service at the Monrovia City Hall, as “Acting Mayor”, came as the result of an episode in which she was not, initially, involved. Former Montserrado Superintendent, Mrs. Grace Kpan, was, apparently, held in contempt by the House of Representatives and ordered imprisoned at the Monrovia Central Prison. Thereupon, according to press reports, the-then Acting Mayor “led a group of prominent women at (to) the Capitol (Building), thence to the prison compound to thwart the process” or in an attempt to prevent implementation of the decision by the House of Representatives.

For this action on the part of the-then Acting Mayor, the House of Representatives, with concurrence by the Senate, cast a vote of no confidence in the Acting Mayor. Moreover, The House, also, declared, with concurrence by the Senate, that “Mary Broh was a non-governmental material and must be removed from office”.  With these developments, the Honorable, Mrs. Mary Broh was forced to resign as Acting Mayor in the effort to avoid, apparently, expected, legal encounters with possible, embarrassing results that she, and the President, stood to endure and lose.

However, the President was and is adamant. She (the President) followed acceptance of Mrs. Broh’s resignation as Acting Mayor with several appointments, but was met with negative responses, leading to the present option – Back to square One – of Re-nomination of Mrs. Mary Broh as Mayor of the City of Monrovia.  “Back to Square One” because, as noted earlier, the President nominated the very same Mrs. Mary Broh for the very same position of Mayor of the very same City of Monrovia, but that nomination was duly rejected by the Senate. Therefore, Mrs. Mary Broh could not be, and was not, lawfully appointed, but kept in the position as “acting Mayor” for almost eight years.

Facts of History and some Questions

The foregoing facts of the history of the Honorable, Mrs. Mary Broh’s tenure as Acting Mayor of the City of Monrovia for the period of eight years, the second or re-nomination by the President now before the Liberian Senate, and the reported anti-Broh debate with possibility of another rejection raise crucial policy-prescription and decision-making questions, leading to the present predicament. Firstly, among these questions, the immediate and specifics are the following:

A. Is Mayor of a city elected or appointed?

A Mayor or Mayors are elected.  According to Article 56(b) of the Liberian Constitution (1986), “There shall be elections of Paramount, Clan and Town Chiefs by registered voters in their respective localities, to serve for a term of six years”. A Mayor or Mayors are, in fact, “Town Chiefs” or chief administrative officers of the cities and townships (Corporate Municipalities) of and within urban Liberia, just as a town chief or town chiefs are chief administrative officers of the villages and towns of rural Liberia. Individuals elected to the positions of Mayor and/or town chief perform the same functions, with position defined as “Mayor” in urban Liberia while it is defined as “town chief” in rural Liberia based, simply, on provincial usage and language. 

As a matter of fact and based on this constitutional provision, Mayors have been elected throughout the century of history of the Republic of Liberia, as we shall note later. Of recent, contemporary memory, however, were the vibrant, aggressive campaigns for Mayor of Monrovia by Dr. Amos Sawyer and Mr. Francis Chuchu Horton. It was or is, apparently, on this legal and historic basis that Liberian Senate of the 52nd Legislature rejected the initial nomination by the President of Mrs. Mary Broh for Mayor. Therefore, Mayors are elected by the people, not appointed by the president.

B. Mayors should and must be appointed.

According to the decision delivered January 11, 2008 by the Supreme Court of our country, in the case, CDC/LP vs. The Executive Branch of Government, the Court held that the President has the power to appoint Mayors, consistent with Article 54(d) of the Liberia Constitution of 1986. That Article provides that “The President shall nominate and, with the consent of the Senate, appoint and commission Superintendents, other county officials and officials of other political sub-divisions . . .” Therefore, Mayors must be appointed by the president, not elected by the people.

Reaction to the Senate Rejection

The nomination for appointment by the President is legal, based on the decision of the highest court in the nation; so was the Senate rejection, because there is nothing in the Court decision to vacate or that vacates the Senate’s constitutional right and authority of “consent” [Article 54(d)]. Now, given the highly controversial nature of the Supreme Court decision on the political landscape of the nation, it is reasonable, indeed, necessary and mandatory, in my view, for the Administration to pursue the traditional, political, strategic policy of educated discourse – compromise, give-and-take, for now – rather than the “politics of confrontation”, as it appears to be at the present.

During the prevailing, fast-paced, socio-economic and political conditions of rapid population growth, urban migration, conspicuous consumption without production, complementary as well as conflict of interests in 21st century Liberia, making informed decisions require specialized training/experience and keeping abreast, most importantly, the political dynamics of the people and nation.

Since no one person possess the knowledge or monopoly of rational, decision-making or rational solution options, especially in a top-management/executive position or setting, public or private, presidents, prime ministers, kings, etc., despite training and experience that they may have, hire and surround themselves by highly-trained and experienced professionals in various, relevant disciplines who, as counsels/advisors, plan, develop, prescribe, present and recommend policy and decision-options regarding a given issue, based research and analysis, for informed decision-making. Apparently, this model was not applied, although I am not informed as to the approach, model or system of public policy/decision-making process, presently prevailing.

As former public policy advisor, I hope that it is necessary to share, briefly, the difficulties (about which I have written elsewhere) to which African counsels/policy advisors have been and are being subjected. Briefly, some African leaders, predominantly military men and women, who shoot their way to the presidential palace (an accident of history) but without the requisite credentials for political leadership, tend to surround themselves by trained/experienced professionals as counsels/advisors, simply, for window dressing/public relations purposes. They keep “those book people” at an arm’s length, while they listen only to friends, relatives and sycophants out for economic reasons. They tend to be the only decision-makers, with no officially-known and accepted system of decision-making process. Others, well-trained and experienced, liberal democrats but exceedingly consumed by inordinate desire for raw, political power and the wealth perceived to be associated with such power. This condition leads to gradual blurring of rational, systematic approach to public policy/decision-making, in which the African leader, inevitably, becomes and is the unquestioned, “Lone Ranger”, decision-maker. He/she then appoints and surrounds himself/herself by friends, relatives, cronies, yes-persons, sycophants and dual citizens.

The Decision of the Supreme Court

This decision by the supreme court granting absolute power to the President  to appoint Mayors is a monumental reinforcement of the power of the Liberian imperial presidency; the rigid centralization of political, economic and administrative power at far-away Executive Mansion in Monrovia (while the nation is awash in support of  and demand for implementation of  the declared National Decentralization Policy); and validates the accusation by our “partners-in-progress” and friendly donors that the Liberian Judiciary is not independent of political control, but is enmeshed in political manipulations by its decision-making process and authority.

Above all, let it be known that the majority decision was crafted by learned men and women of letters and in the law who understand and realized but, consciously, ignored the clear, unequivocal and explicit provision of Article 56(b) of the same constitution for, apparent, political expediency. To this, Counselor-at-Law, Mr. Charles Brumskine, Esq.,  responds  “that important, national principles (and beliefs) were at stake . . . a fundamental right of the people versus enlarged power of the presidency; and participatory democracy versus autocracy. The most recent history of Liberia has been . . . political violence and unconstitutional changes of governments, wars and deep, national divisions (Cllr. Charles Brumskine, 2010)”.

Continuing in historical terms, Cllr. Brumskine observed that “The dissenting opinion (of Justices Janeh and Korkpor) . . . reminds us that . . . Mayors have always been elected throughout the history of Liberia . . . as far back as 1915 when . . . a Mayor and common councilmen were elected for the city of Buchanan (Grand Bassa County) . . . Recourse to the 1847 Constitution (Article V, Section 3) will show that even during pre-independence years, municipal corporations existed. Not only have city Mayors been elected . . . but also (that) immediately following the adoption of the Constitution, in 1986, the Liberian Legislature enacted the Election Law [Section 2.9(q)], which provides that the Elections Commission shall be the sole judge of all contests relating to the election and accreditation of city Mayors. Moreover”, the learned Counselor-at-Law concludes that “the very government in whose favor the Supreme Court has ruled (granting power to appoint Mayors), sponsored and participated in a consultative meeting as late as 2006, to arrange for the holding of elections for city Mayors and chiefs. Participants included officials of the government, the Elections Commission, and representatives of the international community”.

In the light of the foregoing, the majority decision of the Supreme Court and supporters will be hard-pressed to defend this decision in terms of constitutional law, our commitment to basic principles of constitutional democracy and our socio-cultural belief systems. Indeed, how do we explain the decision regarding   relationships with our “partners-in-progress” and friendly donors, including the international community of the United Nations. For, this decision denies the right to vote to hundreds of thousands of citizens of several, big and highly-populated, urban cities and townships. However, in a representative democracy such as ours, though developing, the right to vote, particularly, the selection of important, public officials – Mayors, town chiefs, presidents – is an inalienable right that inheres to adult citizens by virtue of their citizenship. That right is, indeed, the primary means of ensuring that governments are responsive to the will and needs of the governed. Such denial is patently anti-democratic!!

And finally, the rational, lawful and peaceful resolution of the saga of the Honorable, Mrs. Mary Broh, concerned with the re-nomination debate now before the Senate, will come when and if “the Supreme Court of Liberia would do a great service for our country and . . . to all of us, including the President, by re-calling the Majority Opinion as early as possible. That would not be the first time in the history of the Court” (Cllr. Charles Brumskine, 2010).

Brumskine, Esq., AB LLB LLM, Charles Walker, Supreme Court Grants The President Constitutional Power to Appoint City Mayors: A Bad Omen, [2010] LRLawJl 2; (2010) 7  Liberian Law Journal 1.

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