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Unitary Structure Imperializes the Presidency

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One of the several, critical challenges facing our small nation of less than 4 million people is the awesome, all-embracing and far-reaching Power of a sitting, Liberian President. That power is clearly and rigidly defined, enshrined in and by our Constitution within the Unitary-Structured Government, with supreme, executive (administrative) power duly vested in a president, during these 166 years of our existence, as a free and independent nation.

The Analyst Liberia newspaper (The Analyst Liberia, December 23, 2013) reported that Dr. Amos Sawyer, Chairman of the Governance Commission (GC), the government Think Tank  for public policy reform, “believes that Patronage system is a major obstacle to systematic reforms in postwar Liberia”, and that, according to the New Dawn newspaper (The New Dawn, December 20, 2013), Dr. Sawyer laments that “Patronage stalls governance . . . if President Sirleaf was serious in her quest for governance reforms in Liberia, she must ensure that such practice be aborted quickly”.

To these statements, I differed with Dr. Sawyer. I showed, quite clearly, that it is not patronage or the president that bears responsibility for reform-failures in our country, but the Constitutional, Unitary Structure of government, which vests imperial power in the  presidency, with profound impact on the behavior/functions of individuals in government. I showed, also, that the current president realized and recognized this fact, and, therefore, instituted and announced the National Decentralization & Local Governance Policy with formation/organization of the Governance Commission. I showed, further, that the Governance Commission, also, realized, recognized and admits that, indeed, the major culprit for reform-failures is the Unitary Structure of our government. But the Governance Commission, given the role, power and authority to “fix the problem” decided, on the contrary, to retain and, in fact, recommends retention of the known culprit – the Unitary Structure of our government.

Moreover, Dr Sawyer states (The Analyst Liberia, December 23, 2013) that a “former President (I withhold the identity indicated by Dr. Sawyer) initiated . . . reforms in 1973 in the areas of . . . decentralization”. (But) “Just as these reforms were beginning to affect the lives of the people positively, the military overthrew the government; thereby, de-railing the reform initiatives, re-centralization of power took place at this time”. This claim, in our opinion, opens an excellent historical, interesting opportunity for revisit of this period, in terms of the issues raised.  Dr. Sawyer, I believe, is under obligation to enlighten curious, political obsevers, analysts, readers and the public.

In any case, this article provides support that the constitutional Unitary Structure imperializes the presidency with exclusive, all-embracing power of appointment of, almost, all important, relevant functionaries in government; and that unless and until this structure is replaced, all efforts being made for public-sector reform and the efficient/effective delivery of public services are likely to fail.

The Constitutional Provisions

According to Articles 1 & 3 of our Constitution, “all power is inherent in the people”, and “Liberia is a unitary state divided in counties (15 at the present) for administrative purposes”, respectively. However, Article 50 provides that “The Executive (administrative) power of the Republic shall be (is) vested in the President who shall be head of state and government, and commander-in-chief of the armed forces of Liberia”. Article 54 provides that “The President shall nominate and, with the consent of the Senate, appoint and commission” the following officials of government:

  • Cabinet ministers, deputies and assistants
  • Ambassadors, ministers and consuls
  • The Chief Justice, Associate Justices of the Supreme Court and judges of subordinate courts
  • Superintendents, other county officials and officials of other political subdivisions
  • Members of the military from the rank of lieutenant or its equivalent and above, and
  • Marshals, deputy marshals and sheriffs

Article 55 provides that “The President shall appoint and commission Notaries Public and Justices of the Peace”, while Article 56(a) prescribes that “ . . . government officials, both military and civilian, appointed by the President pursuant to this Constitution shall hold their offices (or serve) at the pleasure and will of the President”.

Article 56 (b) states that “There shall be electors of Paramount, Clan and Town Chiefs by the registered voters in their respective localities . . . They (the elected chiefs) may be re-elected and may be removed only by the President for proved misconduct . . .”

Moreover, the Power of the Liberian President covers all Specialized Agencies of government and State Enterprises (public corporations) created by legislative enactments.

Accordingly, the President is empowered to appoint the following officials:

  • Director & deputies of Civil Service Agency (CSA)
  • Auditor-General, deputies & Members of the General Auditing Commission (GAC)
  • Managing Director, Deputies of Forestry Development Authority (FDA), chairperson & Members of the Board of Directors
  • Managing Director, Deputies of Liberia Industrial Free Zone Authority (LIFZA), chairperson & Members of the Board of Directors
  • Managing Director, Deputies of Liberia Electricity Corporation (LEC), chairperson & Members of the Board Directors
  • Managing Director, Deputies of Liberia Water & Sewer Corporation (LWSC), chairperson & Members of the Board of Directors
  • Managing Director, Deputies of Liberia Telecom Authority (LTA), chairperson & Members of the Board of Directors
  • Managing Director, Deputies of Liberia Airport Authority (LAA), chairperson & Members of the Board of Directors
  • Managing Director, Deputies of Liberia Fishery Authority (LFA), chairperson & Members of the Board of Directors
  • Managing Director, Deputies of Liberia Maritime Authority (LMA), chairperson & Board of Directors
  • Managing Director, Deputies of Liberia Petroleum Refining Corporation (LPRC), chairperson & Members of the Board of Directors
  • Managing Director, Deputies of National Port Authority (NPA), chairperson & Members of the Board of Directors
  • President, Vice-President of National Oil Company of Liberia (NOCOL), chairperson & Members of the Board of Directors
  • President, Vice-President of Liberia Bank for Development and Investment (LBDI), chairperson & Members of the Board of Directors
  • President, Vice-Presidents of the University of Liberia (UL), chairperson & Members of the Board of Trustees
  • Executive Governor, Deputies of the Central Bank of Liberia (CBL), chairperson & Members of the Board of Directors
  • Chairperson, vice chairperson & Members, National Investment Commission (NIC)
  • Chairperson, vice Chairperson & Members, National Elections Commission (NEC)
  • Chairperson, vice Chairperson & members, Governance Commission [(GC)
  • Chairperson, vice chairperson & Members, Land Commission (LCOM)
  • Chairperson, vice chairperson & Members, Independent Human Rights Commission (IHRC)
  • Chairperson, vice chairperson & Members, Law Review Commission (LRC)
  • Chairperson, vice chairperson & Members, Constitutional Review Commission (CRC)
  • Chairperson, vice chairperson & Members, Public Procurement and Concession Commission (PPCC)
  • Commissioner and Deputies, Bureau of Immigration & Naturalization (BIN)
  • Director and Deputies, National Security Agency (NSA) and
  • Director and Deputies, Liberia National Police (LNP)
  • President, Vice Presidents and all high-level Administrative officials, Chairman and members of the Board of Trustees of the University of Liberia
  • President, Vice President and Administrative officials, Chairman and members of boards of trustees of all County Community Colleges, including all state-owned Educational Institutions

All other specialized commissions, committees of Inquiry to investigate and report findings

This list is, by no means, complete.

Indeed, these individuals are the intellectual, academic, technological and socio-economic and political “cream of the crop” of Liberian professionals; they teach, write, research, study, analyze, prescribe and recommend, as well as manage/implement, the plans and programs that determine present and future directions of our nation; they constitute the upper and middle classes of Liberian society. However, their lives – hopes, fears, dreams personal growth and development, careers, etc. – depend upon and are determined, to a large extent, by the “will and pleasure” of one person who is answerable to no one, according to the doctrine of our Unitary Structure of government. Very few, if any, can muster the “guts” or courage to challenge “presidential power” or prerogatives for fear of “losing it all”, including being labeled a “trouble-maker who wants to rock the boat” and ostracized socially, economically and politically.

Examples of the Wide-Ranging, Far-reaching Impact/implications of Presidential Power

Superintendents of counties and other officials of the nation’s regional, political sub-divisions serve not upon elections or the will of the citizens of those political sub-divisions, but upon the appointment and “the will and pleasure” of a president, whether you like it or not, because that is the law!!

In an, apparent, effort to maintain and continue the tradition of the status quo – the rigid centralization of political, economic and administrative power in the Republic of Monrovia, with supreme executive (administrative) power vested in an Imperial President – the Governance Commission (the Ph.D club) prescribes that “Liberia shall remain a Unitary State with a system of local government and administration which shall be decentralized with the county as the principal focus of the devolution of power and authority (National Policy on Decentralization and Local Governance, Governance Commission, January 2011, page 2)”.

The Lawful independence of the Judiciary

The Police, National Security Agency and Bureau of Immigration & Nationalization

The National Elections Commission, indeed, the electoral process is seen by Liberians as being manipulated and controlled by ruling, political parties. The recent, unusual and un-ceremonial abandonment of his position as chairman of the Nation’s National Elections Commission (NEC)   un-announced departure from Liberia  by the Honorable Fromoyan, while in the midst of several allegations of electoral fraud is a case in point.

With an, apparently, inexperienced National Legislature also, apparently, dominated by dual citizens and the power of the President, Some Liberians, in the USA/Diaspora, sought and secured support and “collaboration” with the Government of Liberia through the Liberian Ambassador in Washington, D.C., in their effort for introduction and recognition of Dual Citizenship in Liberia. What are the implications?

Are the work and responsibilities of the Law Review Commission and Constitutional Review Commission for real or is it a political ploy designed to placate the increasing demands by the citizens, given the power of the President? It can be reasonably argued that the work of these commissions is not only inevitable, but also that it is very critical to the survival of our country. Let’s have your say!!

We wish for you all and loved ones a joyful, healthy, long life and a very prosperous New Year.

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