George K. Fahnbulleh

Ideas and Opinions...

Why Obamacare is Necessary

The 1986 Emergency Medical Treatement and Active Labor Act, makes medical care A RIGHT, as it mandates

"hospital Emergency Departments that accept payments from Medicare to provide an appropriate medical screening examination (MSE) to individuals seeking treatment for a medical condition, regardless of citizenship, legal status, or ability to pay. There are no reimbursement provisions. Participating hospitals may not transfer or discharge patients needing emergency treatment except with the informed consent or stabilization of the patient or when their condition requires transfer to a hospital better equipped to administer the treatment."

What does this actually mean? "There are no reimbursement provisions" means the hospitals and/or doctors bear the COST of treatment of an uninsured person requiring emergency care. How do you remedy this?

At the core of ObamaCare is something called the "individual mandate." The Individual Mandate requires every person to purchase health insurance. As with auto insurance, a portion of the coverage is for taking care of the owner of the vehicle; a portion also serves to INDEMNIFY the owner against the financial harm he/she would cause to others. In plain English, it ensures the damage you cause to someone else is covered.

The individual mandate is also at the core of Republican objections to ObamaCare: they claim the government should not "force" people to purchase health insurance. However, the individual mandate is not some socialist construct, dreamed up by a socialist Kenyan.

"The concept of the individual health insurance mandate is considered to have originated in 1989 at the conservative Heritage Foundation. In 1993, Republicans twice introduced health care bills that contained an individual health insurance mandate. Advocates for those bills included prominent Republicans who today oppose the mandate including Orrin Hatch (R-UT), Charles Grassley (R-IA), Robert Bennett (R-UT), and Christopher Bond (R-MO). In 2007, Democrats and Republicans introduced a bi-partisan bill containing the mandate. " ~ The History of the Individual Health Insurance Mandate 1988-2010

The second accomplishment of the individual mandate, is about how insurance functions. Insurance functions by the pooling of premiums to cover the actuarial risks. This means we all pay our premiums to cover the small percentage of us who would have catastrophic losses. While those risks can be mitigated, in the case of drivers, by regulations such has control of driver's licenses, it is not the same for healthcare. The older people get, the more likely they will have one or more catastrophic health and thus financial events.

So with the individual mandate, requiring every person to buy health insurance, THE POOL of younger, healthier people is greatly expanded, and allows for the coverage of the older persons, with greater risks of catastrophic illness.

The Fly in the Ointment

There is however, a fly in the ointment, private insurance companies.

The massive role of the insurance company in health care serves no purpose other than to transfer money from the health care providers to a group of people who provide no services, yet saddle practices with mountains of paperwork and regulations. Yet these are the very same "industry people" who consistently complain about "government regulations."

Private health insurance, is the sweetest business proposition in the history of business. They insure people just up to the actuarial age, where they are most likely to have a catastrophic health event, 65. After which the patient is turned over to "the government" Medicare.

Persons with expensive kidney failure, who have private insurance, are automatically turfed to the government Medicare system.

So this leaves us with a government run medical insurance program, which by definition, insures the sickest people.

The Remedy

The remedy of this is to lower the Medicare eligibility age, to bring healthier people into the pool.

Let me be clear, this is not "socialized medicine," it is a single payer system. The services provided to patients, insured by Medicare, are provided by physicians in private practice.

This contrasts with an actual socialized medicine program like the Veterans Administration, where the government owns and runs the entire system.

There are those who will argue that a government run system is inherently a bad system. My own experience tells me differently. My experience as a practice administrator, informs me Medicare is the most efficiently run insurance plan out there.

The administrative costs of dealing with private insurance can be as high as 14% of annual revenue. As a practice administrator, whose practice saw nearly 70% Medicare patients, and 30% private insured patients, we incurred a cost as high as 7% just to be able to submit our bills to these private insurance companies. Let me repeat, the 30% of our patients who are privately insured are in fact responsible for nearly 90% of our billing related expenses.

One study has shown the average administrative cost to practices to deal with insurance company pre-authorizations, referrals, and drug approvals is $80,000.

Related to the above, every insurance company has its own set of rules. Every insurance company has its own set of tricks to delay and/or avoid payment to a physician for as long as they can. One such trick is the "we need your Tax ID number trick." This usually occurs at least once a year, from a company that has been sending the practice checks for the past 8 months. How is it, all of a sudden, they need the Tax ID before they can send out the next check? Did all the Tax ID's in their computer system get erased by the IT intern? I doubt it. Every doctor in private practice will tell you the same story: there is no greater threat to their existence than the Health Insurance Industry.

This systematic delay of payments is based on something financial people call "float." Imagine purchasing a Visa gift card as a Christmas gift today. The card is not actually used until after New Years. This allows Visa to hold and invest your money on the short term market. Companies can forecast the average number of days it takes a person to use some/all of these types of funds. The same concept it at work here.

Reimbursement to primary care physicians has not increased at all in the past 20 years; at the same time the cost of health insurance is up 131% over the last 10 years.

To get a grasp of the shocking amount of money sucked out of the health care marketplace by insurance companies one only has to look at the retirement package provided to former United Health care CEO "Dollar" Bill McGuire, who was walked away from his health insurance company with more than $2 billion in his retirement package. This same pattern is par for the course in private health insurance companies. The median CEO pay in 2010 was $10 million dollars.

Click to see list of Compensation Leaders for Healthcare

If one places this income inequality in the context of the recent CBO report, it is easy to see the stark contrast in the health care industry when you compare the income gap between the "providers of health care services" to that of the insurance company executives, with the providers being to do more and more for their patients, while the insurance executives compensation continues to escalate.

In Liberla: A Disgraceful Government


"The further a society drifts from the truth, the more it will hate those who speak it" ~ George Orwell

I read with the utmost amount of shame and disgust, the recent 17 (seventeen) page missive, by a national security operative of the Government of Liberia, Grant Solomon, against the former Justice Minister of Liberia, Christiana Tah. Three months after Madame Tah resigned from the Sirleaf government, the government is still undertaking an intense effort to discredit her. To me, it is evident the President and her National Security Team feel the need to impeach her credibility, to preempt and discredit anything she may say about her time in government.

I have included in this paper, an extensive bibliography, to demonstrate to the "security researcher" that when you write a 17 page document, you should include information which can be verified.

The manner of Madame Tah’s resignation, and the insight it provided into the President’s actions in obstructing investigations, was unlike any other resignation in this government.i

That fear was evident and confirmed in a letter to Madame Tah by the National Security Council, in which the government believed it was necessary to "admonish" Madame Tah, a lawyer, of her obligation not to divulge "state secrets."

Ironically, the people demanding she maintain secrecy, are now spreading gossip, not only about the workings of the Ministry of Justice, under Tah, but about her place of birth, her family life.

There are so many things that are disgusting and false about this piece, it is difficult to even begin to organize my thoughts. Some of the things that jump out at the reader, are not only the venom and vitriol in the letter, but the pettiness.

The piece does not simply deal with Madame Tah’s tenure at the Ministry of Justice, but delves into her personal life and attacks her marriage and her children. This is something low class people do. Mr. Solomon writes:

"She is married to Dr. Tah, a gynecologist, and almost twenty years her senior. The union is blessed with two children, a young lad, of less significance to society, and a budding young lady who is a caricature of her mother’s dual personality."

How is the age difference in a person’s marriage the concern of the national security agency? Mr. Solomon refers to Madam Tah’s son, who is autistic as "a young lad, of less significance to society." Thankfully, the young man is a citizen of a country, America, which values all of its citizens, even the ones with disabilities. What kind of human beings, let alone a President, and her National Security Team, attacks an autistic child to go after his mother?

Solomon goes on to say of Tah’s daughter "a budding young lady who is a caricature of her mother’s dual personality." This young lady has excelled with multiple degrees from some of the top universities in the world.

Although Mr. Solomon states Tah has the following academic credentials:

  1. Masters in Sociology / Corrections – Kent State University
  2. LLB Law Degree – Louis Arthur Grimes School of Law
  3. LLM Law Degree - Yale Law School

He attempts to diminish her credentials by suggesting she graduated from the Grimes Law School with a 2.1 GPA, when in fact she graduated Magna Cum Laude.

According to the Yale Law School website "Applicants for the LL.M. program must have completed their law degree at an accredited U.S. law school or a non-U.S. law school with substantially equivalent standards, and must have a strong record of academic accomplishment."ii

We are to be convinced that a person with a 2.1 GPA met the "strong record of academic accomplishment" required by Yale Law School.

The leaves one to wonder, why are these people so insecure that they seek to diminish the accomplishment of others.

It also begs the question: why would the President, not once, but twice, appoint a person of such low academic standing, first as an Associate Justice of the Supreme Court, and later as Justice Minister?

The answer to the first question can be found in the President’s autobiography, "This Child Will Be Great." This is a woman who has been able to con the world that she is a "Harvard trained economist" over the past 12 years, when in fact, she has a 2 year degree from Madison Business CollegeIV, described in Wikipedia as:

"Madison Business College was the name of a business college in Madison, Wisconsin, founded in 1858. It was also known as Northwestern Business College and School of Shorthand, Capital City Commercial College, Madison College, Madison Junior College, and Madison Junior Business College; it closed on September 22, 1998."

She was able, through her work with the Government of Liberia, to parlay that 2 year degree into a 9 credit certificate program designed specifically for people from third world countries, by Harvard. Lawrence Summers, the former US treasury secretary, is a Harvard trained economist.

It is also noteworthy that this president has managed to drive out of her government just about every woman of qualification and substance including Antoinette Sayeh and Olubanke King-Akerele. Imagine a woman president who despises competent women; quite the contradiction.

The NSA robs Korean Businessmen

What seems to strike a raw nerve with the President and her entire National Security Team, was the public disclosure by Madame Tah, of the President’s refusal for the Ministry of Justice to investigate allegations of robbery against agents of the National Security Agency made by Korean businessmen.

Madame Tah’s allusion to this incident, in her resignation statement, so irked the President, that New York Times writer, cum Sirleaf biographer[i], Helene Cooper attempted to cast aspersions and derision on it, in her October 30, 2014 article.  Ms. Cooper wrote:

Ms. Tah, used her resignation news conference to accuse Ms. Johnson Sirleaf of trying to block a corruption investigation into Liberia’s National Security Agency, which is headed by another of the president’s sons. Ms. Johnson Sirleaf denied the charge; it was the same son, Fumbah Sirleaf, who helped American agents pull off West Africa’s largest drug bust in 2010.”

The crime was initially reported on extensively by the National Chronicle, in a series of articles:

  1. In Alleged Organized Crime "Gold, Diamond Deal":NSA, Lebanese National Rob Koreans Of US$284,000
  2. After Sharing Korean Businessmen’s US$284,300: NSA Aids Lebanese Man To Escape

On August 14, 2014, officers of the Police Support Unit (PSU) barricaded and tear-gassed the offices of the National Chronicle, seized computers and arrested its editor, Phillibert Browne. On September 9, 2013, the Police Director, Christian Massaquoi barred Mr. Browne from traveling. The raid was ordered directly by the President of Liberia, bypassing the Ministry of Justice.

The Ministry of Justice’s attempts to take hold of the investigation were thwarted by the Executive Mansion. In a letter dated July, 11, 2014 the Deputy Minister of Justice for Administration and Public Safety, Wheatonia Y. Dixon Barnes wrote:

"We are indeed very concerned about the legal implication this issue poses to the Government of Liberia (GOL), and the potential negative impact it may have on investors. In this connection, therefore, we advise that you forward this matter to the Ministry of Justice (MOJ) for a thorough investigation in conjunction with the NSA. To protect the integrity of the process, we further advise that the amount in question be deposited into an escrow account until the legality of this issue is determined. Additionally, we request that you stay all forms of investigation with respect to this case pending our joint sitting."

Those instructions were never carried out, even though, by law, the Director of the National Security Agency is required to "report to the President through the Ministry of Justice on all Matters affecting the work of the Agency, as circumstances may require or as directed by the President." The law further requires the Ministry of Justice to "issue orders and regulations with the approval of the president with regards to the performance of such additional function as circumstances may dictate for securing the safety of the State." The National Security Agency can give no account of the money, seized by its agents.

Solomon, who claims he is a "security researcher" has obviously never heard of the internet. He tries to pin the dismissal of Deputy Minister Barnes on Madam Tah, when the Executive Mansion website, on September 13, 2014, posted a list of three deputy Ministers from Justice who were dismissed by the President being "out of the country without an excuse."

Why concoct a fantastical lie, when the information is readily available?

The fact is the President dismissed three of Minister Tah’s Deputies even after Minister Tah submitted medical excuses and pleaded in person for mercy for the three Ministers. The real target of the dismissals at Justice was Wheatonia Barnes, because of the instructions she gave Fumba Sirleaf, noted above. The President could not stomach the idea that any person would instruct her son to hold on to evidence of a crime. The other two ministers were simply collateral damage.

We are supposed to believe that 5 rogue agents, seized nearly $250,000 dollars and that money was never turned over to the authorities within the agency?

Madame Tah’s assertions were vindicated when the Special Independent Committee set up by the President, to bypass the Ministry of Justice, and "to investigate accusations of money laundering, counterfeiting, illegal arrest, and conspiracy to defraud" the Korean businessmen made 3 findings and recommendations, which were:

  1. Appropriate administrative actions be taken against the operatives of the National Security Agency (five in all) who were directly involved with the arrest of the Korean and Sierra Leonean nationals immediately.

  2. The operatives of the National Security Agency (five in all) who were directly involved with the arrest of the Korean and Sierra Leonean nationals, and their co-conspirators (two who do not work with the NSA) be handed over to the Ministry of Justice for prosecution in order to clear the name and image of the National Security Agency.

  3. The Government of Liberia refunds to the Korean nationals the full amount of US$247,500, which they withdrew from the International Bank of Liberia (IBLL) on July 8, 2014, and which they proceeded with directly to the City King Hotel, immediately thereafter, and were arrested shortly after their arrival. Liberian Observer 11/10/2014

The President’s attempt to shield her son, and obstruct justice cannot go unnoticed, especially when one considers that one of the NSA agents involved in this robbery, Terrence Doe, has an extensive criminal record in the United States. Doe was tried and acquitted on double murder charges in New Jersey. The question on everyone’s mind, is how, did a career criminal become an agent of the National Security Agency? Perhaps, her son, Fumba Sirleaf can answer that.

NSA robs Nigerian Businessman

Incidentally, this is not the first time agents of the NSA have robbed foreign businessmen in Liberia. In September of 2006, NSA agents confiscated $508,000.00 from a Nigerian businessman, under the guise that the Nigerian was a drug dealer and counterfeiter. The businessman, Valentine Ayika, went on to become a member of the Nigerian parliament. Mr. Ayika sued the government of Liberia in the ECOWAS Court, and in the case Valentine Ayika v Republic of Liberia, the court "ordered the return of $508, 200 dollars by the Liberian Government to Mr Valentine Ayika.

The presiding judge, Justice Hansine Donli, held that the plaintff, Ayika, was exonerated from drug trafficking and money laundering by an investigative team in Liberia.  Donli said Ayika was not indicted by the investigative team and that Liberian Government had no legal justification to confiscate the said money."

President Sirleaf stubbornly refused to obey the ruling of the Court until Liberia’s seat on the Court was denied.

How does one explain, the same agency, committing two of the same kind of robberies, yet expect us to believe the head of the agency knew nothing about it? 

The Cockrum Meeting

Again, Mr. Solomon, the security researcher, tries to place the blame for the Cockrum tapes on Madame Tah. I know both Melvin Johnson and Ellen Cockrum, and I know they have never met with Madame Tah.

The Golden Child

It seems the President and her minions, are still trying to wrap their heads around the terrible election thumping of her golden child, Robert Sirleaf, at the hands of George Weah. This 78% - 11% drubbing of the golden child, has left the President and her inner circle in total shock and disarray. They understand that this was a vote that says the President has no legacy. For all of the love and adulation, they twice showed the President, she has abused them, abused their trust to please her golden child and minions. Coupled with the complete collapse of the healthcare system when the Ebola epidemic hit, after 9 years in office, the Liberian people want nothing to do with anything or anybody named Sirleaf anymore.

Sadly, rather than working to salvage what is left of her tattered legacy, the President is hell bent on settling scores with her former Justice Minister, and anyone she imagines an enemy. This is unwise, and ill advised. I will encourage Madame Tah to speak to the Liberian people, at the time and place of her choosing. 

The reason for highlighting with documentary evidence, unlike our erstwhile security researcher, Mr. Solomon, is to show that he is a liar, a person in a long tradition of government liars which date back to the Tubman era of the Public Relations Officers (PRO’s). They authored documents, wrote "secret memoranda" which they claimed they found in women’s shoes. It is pathetic, that this Continuing Criminal Enterprise which calls itself the Government of Liberia, has decided it will publish lies about a person who has served the Liberian people faithfully

In Liberia: Incapable of Introspection

I read Minister Lewis Brown's response to the Press Statement by the former Justice Minister, and wondered what manner of people are Liberia's leaders who are incapable of introspection.  Mr. Brown, as usual, was in full uninformed attack mode.  Rather than focus on the substance of the Madam Tah's statement, which has resonated across the globe as a scathing indictment of the President and the Government, Mr. Brown chose to be, well...Mr. Brown (see Mr. Brown from the TV Show).

One would think, any response coming from an official government source, would be based on deep introspection, reason, and judgment.  It is clear neither the government nor Min. Brown seem capable of that.

In his very first paragraph Mr. Brown deliberately misrepresents that Madam Tah "finally mustered the courage to exercise her prerogative to resign."  Did Mr. Brown's boss, President Sirleaf, not inform him of the Minister's resignation of March 31, 2014?  Mr. Brown the Minister resigned on March 31, while still under suspension.  Your boss has that resignation letter.  It would be in the best interest of full disclosure that she release to the Liberian public a full copy of the original letter of resignation.

I, for one, am curious, as to why the President refused to accept the original letter of resignation?

As several legal scholars have already written, the President did not give any substantial weight to the precedent set under her by allowing the Court to remove a member of the Cabinet from his / duties.  I continue to believe, the President colluded with the Court to orchestrate the suspension, because she wanted to accomplish other nefarious goals which Minister Tah would not allow. 

If one must listen to people opine about actions of the Judiciary, one should listen to legal scholars who understand legal doctrine.  As is usually the problem in Liberia, people do not know how to "stay in their lane."   In the case of Minister Brown, he should pull off the road entirely.  

Was Minister Brown aware, that Madam Tah returned to Liberia even as the Ebola epidemic was growing, and the president already had her resignation letter in hand?  And he wants to talk about mustering courage?  What exactly did she have to gain? She could have demanded then that the President accept her resignation.  

Now, it is not clear to anyone why Minister Brown thinks that Minister Tah will be angry when she has been magnanimous to return to work and help this Government that is now spiraling into an abyss, without complaining, after her rights were abused by the Judiciary with the complicity and endorsement of President Sirleaf.  It is, rather, the Government that is angry and embarrassed by the forthrightness of the former Minister, which it is incapable of responding to.

Please tell us "what bigger interest" of the Liberian people is served, when the Minister of Justice, cannot investigate allegations of fraud against other government agencies? Or is it just the National Security Agency, which happens to be headed by her son?  You have the audacity to talk about "teaching by good examples?"

Minister Brown, please tell us what "bigger interest" of the Liberian people was served, when the President decided that the Security services under the State of Emergency would be under the control of the Minister of Defense, as opposed to the Minister of Justice where it belonged?

Do you understand this directly contributed to the death of a Liberian citizen, Shaki Kamara.  Apparently, it has not occurred to you and your boss, that her decision to place command where it should not be placed, had consequences for the Liberian people.  I do not need to remind you of the public beat down by the American ambassador regarding the misuse of the Army.  

How does it serve the Liberian people's "bigger interest" when a president, in office is so consumed by petty parochial interests that her decisions lead to the death of a Liberian citizen, and international rebuke?

I also find especially troubling, the misogyny and sexism you demonstrate when you state "the former Minister may be deeply beholden to the human emotions of bitterness and anger."  What is it about crude men like you that you would seek to dismiss the statement from a Minister of Justice as “emotional?”  

Minister Brown, let me suggest, that you resist the urge for your natural tendency to be a fanatic, confer with the President and cabinet, and decide what the government's official response is to the indictment made by the former Minister of Justice.

You seem eager to tell us of your meeting on October 4, where the President expressed concerns about corruption investigations, where she stated there were no sacred cows.  Perhaps then her son, the Director of the NSA is a sacred sheep or goat.  Because when it was necessary to investigate charges of fraud in his agency, the investigation was promptly sent to a private party outside of the Ministry of Justice. 

Mr. Minster please consult with the Minister of Finance, and provide the Liberian people HOW MUCH money has been made available to the Ministry of Justice for investigators and prosecutors?  Please ask the Minister of Finance to provide to the Liberian people the budgetary allotment for LAWYERS, in other government agencies.  How does that compare with what is provided for the Ministry of Justice?

Will those figures reflect a commitment to investigating and fighting corruption?

For a government, which has completely lost the trust of its citizens, it should be evident that whoever speaks on behalf of the government, at this time, should be a person of substantial credibility.  The President seems to prefer the face of her government to be a man singled out, by the Truth and Reconciliation Commission for economic crimes.(TRC Final Report, page 295), and one forbidden to enter the United States. 

Isn’t this the very Lewis Brown who accused the President of desecrating the office of the Presidency, only a few years ago?  

As for Deputy Minister of Information, Isaac Jackson, I will not dignify his comments, as it is evident he lacks the aptitude and the intellectual heft to understand the contents of Minister Tah’s statement.

This President seems to have a penchant for losing women of great credibility, Antoinette Sayeh, Olubanke King, and now Madam Tah.  At some point, you must look in the mirror, instead of looking in the echo chamber, comprised of the likes of Lewis Brown, and ask yourself: what am I doing wrong. 

Finally, with regards to corruption cases, we have seen the President’s attitude towards her cronies, like for example, resubmitting names to the Senate, in the face of brewing scandals.  It does not take a rocket scientist to conclude the Justice Ministry would have been pressured by the President to forego prosecution of her cronies.

We are all waiting to see the government’s performance on corruption going forward…we will be watching.


Heroes Cannot Save Liberia

The following is a rejoinder to Samuel Tweah written 06/25/2007

The Editor 

Samuel D. Tweah, wrote:

"Challenges notwithstanding, the larger vision was that the candidacy of George Manneh Weah, who had earned his wealth outside that culture and demonstrated patriotism and love of country, would catalyze a critical mass of Liberians vehemently opposed to public greed; abuse of power; and violence as a means to self-enrichment. If for any reason the abhorrent forces of stasis were to take over that movement, its liberating mandate, whether or not with George Weah presiding, would have ended even before it began."

Unfortunately Mr. Tweah, like all who have come before him, advocating for this "magical" social transformation, still does not understand how to change Liberia.  Opposition to public greed, and abuse of power are not the domain of any single entity. 

The problem in Liberia is THE SYSTEM.  Everyone who has come before, has come to utilize THE SAME SYSTEM, while pushing one new hero or another!

Being mindful that one definition of insanity is "doing the same thing over and over, and expecting different results each time," it is time for Liberians to wake up and step away from the insanity that is the Liberian Government.

Liberian leaders, political aspirants, opposition leaders have all longed for, and spoken passionately of, social transformation of the "masses."  I submit there can be no social transformation without a complete technical overhaul or re-invention of the government.

The success of any social transformation is due to the capacity of the government to provide a space and ensure opportunities for all its citizens.  All of this capability can only be possible if the government has the ability to manage its fiscal resources in a manner that is transparent, and accountable, and to the benefit of its citizens.

The government cannot create equal opportunities in education in a vacuum.  The government cannot create equal opportunities in health care in a vacuum.  These programs cost money, and when the government's money is mismanaged, those opportunities do not exist.

The latest UN Panel of Experts Report tells us LPRC has under collected taxes to the tune of 7.5 million USD.  The Report also tells of no-bid (opportunity reducing) contracts being awarded.  The Report further lists another contract for oil that has gone un-reported.  Who is to blame for this mismanagement? The President of Liberia, no one else.  The Buck Stops at the President's desk!

The law which set up LPRC requires LPRC has 3 deputy managing directors.  To date, the President of Liberia has not appointed any deputy managing directors of LPRC.  The President is required to follow the law.  She cannot ignore the law, because she does not agree with the law.  

If the President disagrees with the management structure of LPRC, as prescribed by law, then the President must seek to have the law changed.  She cannot shirk from her solemn oath to "faithfully execute the laws" of Liberia, simply because she disagrees with one law or the other.  She does not have that choice!!!  Appropriate advice from the Minister of Justice should have made this clear to the President.  But then again, the Minister is busy finding caps to fit whatever head she chooses.

But LPRC represents only a microcosm of what has always been wrong with governance in Liberia. I have always maintained Liberia is in the predicament it finds itself in, because Liberian Presidents have selectively enforced the very laws they swore to uphold.  They have used that selective enforcement of the laws to persecute their enemies and/or reward their friends.  The same selective enforcement is going on in Liberia today.

Bank robber, Willie Sutton, when asked why he robbed banks gave a concise and clear answer: “Because that is where the money is!”  The same is true of the Liberian Government: that's where the money is.

If Liberia is going to be transformed, it will not be transformed by the cult like worship of Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf!  Madame President don't be fooled, every Liberian president before you has had a cult worshipping him.  Every one of them!  Everyone one of them before you has failed because they tried to manage the same broken system!  If you decide to do the same thing, please see the above definition of insanity.

If Liberia is going to be transformed, it will not be transformed by the cult like worship of a George Weah or any other personality.

Liberia must be transformed, it will be a by leadership which understands graft and corruption are crimes of opportunity.  That opportunity exists because the government of Liberia is technically broken and cannot be repaired by the sheer will of any personality.  The government of Liberia needs a complete audit of all the processes in EVERY MINISTRY and agency to identify those processes which present opportunities for graft and corrupt activities. 

Once this audit is completed, existing processes can be re-engineered or new processes can be put in place, which are more immune to the practices of the past.  Until this is done, it does not matter who is president of Liberia, the government will remain the target of the Willie Suttons of Liberia, who have rightly figured out "That's where the money is!"  

George K Fahnbulleh,
Mesa, AZ

An Open Letter To the President of Liberia

we cannot grow the Liberian economy, if we do not transition from a cash economy, to a credit economy.  The most fundamental concept which a functional credit economy is based, is the ability to uniquely identify every individual participating in that economy, in a manner that is reliable and non-refutable, and the ability to tie every asset to one or more individuals based on that identifier

Dear Madam President

As we approach the beginning of your 8th year in office, we need to examine the steps you need to take to place Liberia on a solid footing for growth, after you leave office. 

As an Information Technology professional, my suggestions are based on the need for a unified and managed approach to the acquisition and implementation of technology for the government of Liberia. 

In my opinion, this is the single most important legacy you can leave for Liberia, bar none. 

As things currently stand, there is no central authority which manages all of the Information Technology initiatives of the government.  Ministries implement their own systems, programs outside on their own and there is no professional oversight, neither is there the capacity for these systems to talk to each other.  There are three things which can be implemented on very short order to begin to leverage the technology for the future. 

1) Information Technology Management

The Government of Liberia should set up a government wide technology management agency, which will manage and oversee ALL technology projects for the government and the para-statals.  Fortunately, Madam President, the laws of Liberia already provide for such an agency.  The Bureau of Data Processing, currently under GSA, is, by law, in charge of all data processing systems within the Government of Liberia. 

I recommend you second the Bureau of Data Processing as a stand alone entity, within the Office of the President, while at the same time begin to work on legislation to transform it into the Bureau of Information Technology, to be headed by a Chief Technology Officer, and contain:

  • A shared services group - which will provide integrated architecture, development and implementation of all data systems within the government.  Yes I do mean all.
  • Database Management Group
  • Network Infrastructure and Security Group
  • Telecommunications Group

This Bureau of Information Technology will also examine all systems to ensure they meet the requirements of the National Security apparatus as well as the Records Management requirements of the Freedom of Information Act.

2) Growing the Liberian Economy

The government of Liberia must implement a single entity identifier, i.e. social security number, which NASSCorp already has the capacity to do, as well as a Business Entity Identifier.  These were spelled out in a previous paper, entitled "A Protocol for Asset Declaration and Verification."

Madam President, we cannot grow the Liberian economy, if we do not transition from a cash economy, to a credit economy.  The most fundamental concept which a functional credit economy is based, is the ability to uniquely identify every individual participating in that economy, in a manner that is reliable and non-refutable, and the ability to tie every asset to one or more individuals based on that identifier. 

Yes there are more than 10 John Flomo's in Liberia; however, if each is assigned a social security number, it is possible to determine who each of them is, which assets each owns.

Today in Liberia, banks do not serve the economy because of the risks involved for lending.  The biggest risk factor, faced by banks, is the inability to reliably determine each applicant's risk profile, his assets and his liabilities.  It is ONLY possible to this by using the above mentioned unique identifier.

People cannot buy and sell property, raise capital, because it is not possible to reliably establish the ownership of a piece of property.  Even with the current effort of the National Archives, which is digitizing all land records.  It is still not possible to definitively determine ownership of a piece of property.  The requirement that each property record be tied to a social security number, will allow property to be bought and sold in a reliable, irrefutable manner, which will lead to an explosion of capital investment.

The ability of banks to provide long term (20+) mortgage loans as well as automobile loans will also lead to an explosion of building construction and purchasing, putting many Liberians to work, while both increasing and expanding government revenue.

It will also have an impact on reducing corruption.  You see, in a cash economy, I have to come up with $25,000 to purchase a car. In a credit economy, I may only need $5000 and a reasonable monthly payment.  If I have to come up with $25000 at one time, where is the best place to find it?

3) Recruiting Talent

The government MUST establish a database of Liberian professionals in the Diaspora, who it can call on for assistance.  There is no field of human endeavor, in which Liberians have not excelled.  We cannot educate or teach our way out of the brain drain.  Today much of the capacity gap, is being filled in by ex-pats, who while doing a admirable job, are in it for the furtherance of their careers after their Liberia assignments are over. In too many instances the cost for these services is too high, but Liberia has no say because the funding is being provided by "partners." 

Now is the time for government to systematically begin to take ownership of these projects, to ensure their long term survivability, and the success of Liberia as a whole.



George K. Fahnbulleh

Philip A. Z. Banks, III: The National Elections Commission and the Citizenship Issue

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Philip A. Z. Banks, III

[August 28, 2005]


Several years following the 1985 Presidential and General Elections I had the occasion to meet with Ambassador Emmett Harmon who served as Chairman of the Special Elections Commission, the body that conducted the 1985 elections. Although the meeting, which occurred at the Liberian Consulate in New York, was an unscheduled one, it was one I had longed for. Why, I asked him, did he and his Commission turn the Liberian peoples’ dreams and aspirations for a truly democratically elected government upside down and flat on its face, and deprive our nation and its people of the hope for a glorified stable future? I felt the urge to ask the question, perhaps the same as any other Liberians, but more so not only because I had worked for several years with the Morgan Grimes and Harmon Law Firm, of which Ambassador Harmon was a senior partner, but also because I was one of the lawyers who had put his life on the line. I enjoyed working with the firm; it allowed for honesty and competence amongst its lawyers, even in the midst of disagreements as to the firm’s own approach to the resolution of legal issues. When I left the firm, I had already risen to the rank of Managing Director. 

But there was a second reason why I felt a special sense of disappointment with the course being pursued by the Special Elections Commission and, in the light of that disappointment, the urge to have Ambassador Harmon give an account of his deeds as Chairman of the Special Elections Commission. I was one of the lawyers who, like a few other lawyers, had put his life on the limb in the hope of seeing a democratic process emerge in Liberia after such a long period of national failings at democratic attempts. I wondered how the Ambassador could find peace in and with himself after presiding over the theft of the Liberian people elections and consequently taking the country and its people down the path of utter disaster. “Counsellor Banks”, the Ambassador said in response to my query, “I had no choice. It has always remained a trouble spot for me, but it was either allowing Mr. Doe to become President of Liberia, however he turned out to be, or plunging the nation into an immediate blood bath and the lost of a great many lives.” It seemed plausible that such could have been the fate of the Liberian people and nation, but that, I thought, was for history to judge.  My reply to him therefore was that even with the scenario he had outlined, the Special Elections Commission still acted wrongly, that the ramifications of its action for the Liberian nation and people would be far greater and more disastrous than he could have ever imagined, and that the Liberian nation and people would feel the effects far beyond his own lifetime, perhaps even for decades. Twenty years after the fateful decision of the Special Elections Commission, in what was nothing short of a complete disservice to the Liberian nation and people, we, the people of Liberia, are still trying to deal with the effects.


We have come full circle in twenty years.  Today, we have the Francis Johnson-Morris National Elections Commission (NEC).  It isn’t a Commission set up by an elected government; contrarily, it is a Commission set up by the most corrupt government in the history of Liberia, a government comprising some of the most brutal people in the history of our nation, a government characterized by a level of incompetence unknown in our nation’s history. It is a Commission the appointment of whose members, with minor exceptions, generated great disappointment. Today, almost twenty years to the date of the announcement of the results of the 1985 elections, we seem to be witnessing in the Francis Johnson Morris National Elections Commission the return all over of the Emmett Harmon Special Elections Commission.  On August 13, 2005 the NEC, in response to two of the challenges filed before it against certain presidential and vice-presidential candidates on the grounds that they had taken up citizenship of foreign countries and therefore barred from contesting the Liberian presidency, issued out an opinion that may go down in Liberian history as monumental, comparable perhaps only to the announcement made by the Emmett Harman Special Elections Commission in 1985. On that fateful October day, Liberians shed tears of blood for their country, their hopes dashed aside, and only a bleak future to look forward to. On that day, we saw the Emmett Harmon Special Elections Commission abandon all respect for the rule of law, the same as it had in the days preceding the announcement. I remember how ballot boxes were removed from their stations of storage under the cover of darkness; how ballots were destroyed; how ballot boxes were stuffed with fake ballots; how pooling personnel were sidelined and a 50 member body, comprising primarily Mr. Doe’s friends, relatives, officials and compatriots, was appointed to count the ballots; and how political parties representatives were denied the right to ensure adequate counting of even those ballots that were not destroyed. Today, we are watching unfold a course by the Francis Johnson-Morris National Elections Commission that is increasingly disregarding the law and turning the rule of law flat on its face.  The speculation that its decisions are being dictated from without is not important to this discourse, the same as the excuses by the Harmon Special Elections Commission for the violation of every rule of law principle was not relevant to its abridgment of the law. What is relevant is that the consequences of the decisions of the Francis Johnson-Morris National Elections Commission could be as far reaching as those made by the Emmett Harmon Special Elections Commission, and that the Liberian nation and its people could suffer serious ramifications for many years (or even decades) to come, perhaps even beyond the life of Francis Johnson-Morris and the members of her Commission.

Whether or not the members of the NEC can appreciate the magnitude of the role they are called upon to play in determining the future of Liberia, and I seriously doubt from their actions to date that there is such appreciation, the truth is that the seven members of the National Elections Commission hold the key to the success or failure of Liberia’s quest for democracy. They have in their hands the power to determine whether we have peace--- sustainable peace --- or whether we see our people return to war.  They can never afford to bend the rules, ignore the law, or taint the electoral process. We must speak out every time we see this happen, even if this makes our foreign friends (and those not our friends) uncomfortable. This is why, in the first instance, the nation needed its most honest, sober, committed, and professionally qualified sons and daughters for those positions. Those positions should never be filled merely by people who are looking for jobs, or who are the friends of government officials, or who can pay their way into being selected and have no conscience to live with when the dust have fallen on us.  I can say without hesitation, and am prepared to accept the consequences, that as with most other appointments where he had the power of choice, the Chairman of the National Transitional Government of Liberia did the Liberian nation and its people a great disservice.

Notwithstanding, I had hoped, without much enthusiasm, that the National Elections Commission of this transitional period would for once, unlike the Emmett Harmon Special Elections Commission, demonstrate the foresight to properly deal with the issues presented in accordance with the law.  I had hoped that for once the NEC would disappoint me in my assessment of it and would display the level of competence expected of an institution of that nature.  Although I never believed that the NEC, in whose hands the Chairman of the National Transitional Government of Liberia (NTGL) had placed the future of Liberia and its people, possessed the competence (except perhaps as to a few of its members) to properly perform the functions associated with the conduct of free and fair elections, I prayed that it would not take action that would place the future of Liberia and its people at risk. The Doe and Taylor eras had done enough to deprive Liberians of their honor, pride, dignity and self-respect, and the Bryant Transitional Government had equally compounded our self-inflicted disgrace by bringing even greater shame to our nation and people and to cause the international community to look upon us as undeserving its respect. Our people, I thought, needed a new start, in which the virtues of respect for the rule of law, could be seen and practiced by our National Elections Commission. We must not allow ourselves to be fooled into believing that such is practiced because of the number of candidates the Commission has allowed to contest various elective public positions.  It isn’t the number of candidates that is important. What is important is whether the NEC respects the rule of law. We had seen such disregard for the rule of law in the past that another mistake could be disastrous for Liberia, place Liberians again in a state of uncertainty, and dampen the small glimmer of hope they were only just beginning to develop again. Now, more than ever, I am of the belief, and that belief is strengthened by every action taken by the NEC, that that body, either because of its incompetence or other factors, which we must still seek to understand, is placing the future of our country and our people at great risk.  Like the Harmon Special Elections Commission, the NEC is under the illusion (or is it a deliberate course) that our future and the future of our country can be made more secured if it chose not to follow the law.

Take a brief look at a few of its actions. Firstly, in what seemed a remarkable lack of appreciation for the rule of law, the NEC commenced its work on the faulty premise that it had powers that the Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA) had not reserved to it but rather to the international community to ensure that conduct exhibited by past elections commissions are not repeated and that the ensuing elections are free, fair, transparent, consistent with the laws of Liberia, and meet international standards.  And, as to those powers that were reserved to it by the Liberian Constitution, as for example ensuring that the fundraising and other financial reporting provisions in the Constitution and the Elections Law were scrupulously adhered to by political parties and candidates, or investigating the sources of funds being exhibited by political parties and candidates, it showed remarkable acceptance of violation of the law by certain parties.  To date, except for the publication a few days ago (two years late) of financial the requirements, the NEC has asked no questions and made no enquiries as to how some political parties, virtually penniless prior to the interim period, accumulated the wealth that they are currently displaying.

Secondly, on February 7, 2005, the NEC placed over 300,000 Liberians outside the country on notice that it was taking the bold step of disenfranchising them of the right to participate in determining who the next leaders of their country should be. It didn’t matter that the right to vote was a fundamental one guaranteed Liberians by the Liberian Constitution; it didn’t matter that most of the affected Liberians were out of the country not of their own volition but because of the security condition that threatened their lives and very existence; and it didn’t matter that the Liberian Constitution never envisioned that Liberians would be deprived of that right merely because they escaped a war in which death seemed so eminent, or that they would be discriminated against for having the foresight to escape the wrath of death that was consuming the nation and its people.  The only apparent offense which formed the basis for the withdrawal of the critical constitutional right to vote --- the benefit of Liberian citizenship --- was that they had chosen to accept the safe sanctuary of refugee camps in foreign lands or the security of foreign nations sympathetic enough to offer them a second chance at life or an escape route from the impending fate of death that had befallen hundreds of thousands of their brothers and sisters. By its edict, it seemed, the NEC preferred that Liberians who had escaped the death trap of the war should have remained in Liberia and await their turn to be massacred by one or the other of the warring parties whose child soldiers had been turned into human killing machines for that purpose, or that in the alternative, they should have stayed to face the inevitable plight of starvation, disease, sickness, and consequently death.  How can the NEC justify denying these Liberians of the right to vote while at the same time allowing those who seek political offices to be exempt from the constitutional residence requirement?  I do not believe that the ten-year residency requirement was fair, reasonable or equitable, and I have been opposed to it from its very inception.  However, if seemed reasonable to dispense with that provision (and I reserve comments on the manner in which the provision was amended), then why was it also not reasonable to dispense with other provisions, which, under the interpretation that the NEC accorded to those provisions, deprived Liberians of the one opportunity, presented to decide on the leadership of their country?

Further, the NEC, in what I believe has now become its characteristic exhibition of a lack of foresight, determined that notwithstanding the clear wording of the CPA, the National Transitional Legislative Assembly (NTLA) had the authority to amend the Liberian Constitution simply by the passage of an Act.  It therefore submitted to the NTLA a draft legislation for passage into law.  It is difficult to understand by any parity of reasoning that the NTLA has the authority to amend the Liberian Constitution.  The CPA reserved no such power to the NTLA and none is vested in it under the Constitution, which the CPA clearly recognized as still being in effect.  I do not question the laudable goals sought to be achieved.  But no goals, however noble, can justify a resort to disregard or disrespect for the rule of law.  If we give the impression that it is permissible to violate the law and show a disregard for the rule of law simply because the goal we seek is noble, we could be setting the stage to perpetuate the disaster that has befallen our country. Yet, the NEC chose to pursue that course either because it lacked the foresight to design an alternative course or because it believed that the expediency of the moment superseded the need for respect for the rule of law.  I strongly believe that it was this kind of conduct that generated the first draft of the EGAP, which similarly sought to have the Liberian Constitution amended by either an Executive Order of the Chairman or the NTGL or by Act of the NTLA.

And more recently the Commission, in yet another display of its disregard for the law and a show of gross negligence in the performance of its duties, has created the real possibility that for the first time in our nation’s history, Liberia could have a president and/or vice president who, because of his citizenship of another country, holds allegiance not to Liberia but to a foreign sovereign power, and that a substantial number of the Liberian legislators could be similarly placed.  The issue presented for the NEC’s determination went beyond a mere violation of Liberian law, as important as that element may be. It involved national security and sovereignty: The control of the nation by persons who may not be Liberians and who owe no allegiance to Liberia. The Commission reached its conclusion by asserting that a person raising the issue of the Liberian citizenship of a candidate seeking elective public office, where the law requires that such person be a Liberian citizen or a naturalized Liberian citizen, has the burden of proving that candidate is not a Liberian citizen. The decision by the NEC turns the law on its head since, under the NEC reasoning a person seeking elective public office does not have the burden of proving to the Commission that he is a Liberian citizen even though the law requires that the candidate be a Liberian citizen or a natural born Liberian citizen. Even more disturbing is the fact that the NEC seems to believe that the duty imposed on it by law to ensure that candidates seeking elective public offices are Liberian citizens should be shifted from it to the objectors who must now prove that the candidates are not citizens of Liberia. That decision could have profound consequences for the future of Liberia and its people. 

A point of clarity is important at this juncture. It doesn’t matter to me who the candidates are and I refuse to dwell on personalities even though some of them may be the focus of the current ongoing controversy over the citizenship issue. Instead, I prefer to deal with the broader issue that as a consequence of the NEC’s decision many persons seeking various political elective offices (presidential, vice-presidential and legislative) and who are not citizens of Liberia could be elected to such offices, not only in violation of the laws of Liberia, but also in having our constitutional branches of government controlled by persons who are not citizens of Liberia, who owe allegiance to another sovereign power, and who therefore could put our nation and people to risk. Accordingly, my approach is to treat the issue within a constitutional, rule of law and national security context rather than a personality controversy. Thus, in any situation where I make mention of a candidate it is only to put the issue in its proper context.


Several weeks ago, the Liberian Observer Online carried an article in which Dr. Walter Gwenigale, a contestant for the Standard Bearer’s position of the Liberian Unification Party (LUP), challenged the right of Dr. Shelton Beedoe to contest the same position.  The article stated that Dr. Gwenigale had written a letter to the Chairman of LUP challenging the election of Dr. Beedoe as LUP’s Standard Bearer to contest the Liberian presidency because, according to Dr. Gwenigale’s, Dr. Beedoe was a citizen of Liberia and the United States. Dr. Gwenigale’s reasoned that Liberian law does not allow dual citizenship and that therefore Dr. Beedoe was barred from holding a position in the party from which he could seek the presidency of the Republic.

At around the same time, the Observer Online also published an interview that it stated it had had with another presidential aspirant, George Manneh Weah. According to the Observer, it posed the following question: “Amb. Weah, a lot of your critics, rivals and enemies have made a big deal about the citizenship issue.  Some say that because you are a naturalized citizen in France and maybe in Italy, you should not be in this race. Is that a fair assessment and is there any truth that you hold a European citizenship?” Candidate Weah is said to have responded as follows: “… You know, I will be honest with you because I have an honest life and don’t want to cheat anybody. In the past when I played in Paris, of course I played under dual nationality status.  So before I came into politics because of the love of my people and when I was petitioned to run I knew there would be rules and I would have to abide by the rules of the elections commission so I renounced my French citizenship and I have all the documents to prove it….” The issue took on prominence when the Coalition of Political Parties Youths (CPPY) filed a complaint against presidential aspirants George Manneh Weah and Marcus Dahn, accusing the former of holding French citizenship and the latter of holding United States citizenship. CPPY asserted that in taking up the citizenship of foreign nations, the two presidential aspirants had lost their Liberian citizenship, and as such, they should be barred from contesting the presidency of Liberia.

In yet another development surrounding the citizenship issue, The Analyst reported that two other Liberian groups, The Progressive Action for Change and Brains of Liberia, had filed challenges with the NEC against presidential aspirants Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf, Togba Nah Tipoteh, Alhaji G. V. Komah, Nathaniel Barnes, Charles W. Brumskine, H. Varney G. Sherman, John Morlu, Robert Korto, Winston Tubman, Roland Massaquoi, and Sekou Konneh.  Although the basis for the challenges varied, the primary allegation, the Analyst noted, related to the question of Liberian citizenship.  Like the Coalition of Political Parties Youths, these groups also asked the NEC to bar the named individuals from contesting the presidency.

How the issue is resolved is critical to Liberia’s future.  It spans not only presidential candidates, but also legislative candidates, many of whom allegedly hold citizenship of other countries.  It was important therefore that the NEC dealt with the issue in a manner that preserved and protected the oneness of the Liberian nation, ensuring not only that the candidates meet the citizenship requirements of the law, but also that non-Liberians who owe no allegiance to Liberia not become executive and legislative leaders of Liberia.  It isn’t a question of whether we like the law or believe that it should be changed; it is a question of whether we follow the law as mandated and preserve the rule of law.

This was the expectation held by many Liberians when the NEC availed itself of the opportunity to speak to the issue in the case involving presidential aspirants George Manneh Weah and Marcus Dahn.  In its decision, the NEC declared: “It is the ruling of the NEC that the evidence by the complainants is not sufficient to prove the dual nationality of Ambassador Weah and Dr. Marcus Dahn to render them ineligible to contest in the 2005 elections as presidential candidates.”  The NEC explained that on receiving the complaints and “considering the enormous constitutional gravity of the allegations made by the complainants”, it had its senior legal counsel communicate with the United States and French Embassies “to confirm the citizenship or non-citizenship of Dr. Dahn and Ambassador Weah of the US and France respectively”.  The NEC decision noted further that the United States Embassy had failed to respond to the query but that the French Consular Attaché in Liberia promptly responded, informing the Commission that the French Consulate did not have a listing of all French nationals and stating that “the French Judiciary authorities are the only competent authorities vested with the power to clarify any doubt over the French citizenship of any individual.” The Commission added that notwithstanding, the French Consulate General in Abidjan and in Monrovia had indicated that the Consulate had “a list of individuals who chose to register as French citizens residing in Liberia or Cote d’Ivoire.” It quoted the French Consulate response as stating that it “does not have and never had any French citizen by the name of George Weah registered as a French citizen residing in Liberia.  Furthermore, the Office of the Consular Attaché in Monrovia never handled or even saw a French passport under the name of George Weah, since it opened in December 2003. However, the Office of the Consular Attaché came across documents belonging to Mr. George Weah on two occasions, both of them pertaining to a visa request in order to enable Mr. Weah to travel to France. The first time, in May 2005, a visa was requested by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs on a Liberian diplomatic passport; the second in July 2005 on an ordinary Liberian passport.””

The NEC noted that in respect to candidate George Manneh Weah, who did not appear in person at the hearing, his counsel “denied the allegation and contended that at no time did Mr. weah take on French citizenship and renounce his Liberian citizenship.” The Commission stated that candidate Weah’s counsel presented the following documents in support of the denial: “A Liberian diplomatic passport bearing number D/0002014-00 issued on July 13, 2000; another Liberian Diplomatic passport bearing number D/004193-04 issued on December 7, 2004; . . . a birth certificate issued by the Ministry of Health and Social welfare on march 23, 2005 as well as a copy of the list of players of the National Football team of Liberia by the Confederation of African football and FIFA dated January 20, 2002 and June 18, 2002 respectively.”

As to the complainants, the Commission noted that they had presented no evidence with respect to candidate Marcus Dahn and that with respect to candidate George Weah, they had only made reference only to the interview carried in the Daily Observer newspaper. The complainants contended that we Mr Weah had not rebutted the statements attributed to him, the same constituted an admission by Mr. Weah. This response was not satisfying to the Commission and, hence, on August 5, 2005 it requested the complainants to produce the tape so that could be assured, under the best evidence rule, that the voice on the tape was that of candidate Weah and that he had admitted to being a French citizen. It noted that the complainants had failed to meet this request, and therefore had not met the test of the preponderance of the evidence to substantiate their claim as to Mr. Weah’s French citizenship.  The Commission also dismissed as hearsay the FIFA Magazine Article of 1996 which stated that Mr. Weah had “dual Liberian and French citizenship”.  The Commission therefore concluded that the complainants had not provided sufficient evidence against candidates Dahn and Weah to prove their dual nationality as would render them ineligible to contest the 2005 elections as presidential candidates.

Perhaps even more disappointing is the fact that the Commission chose not to hear or pass upon challenges made against other presidential candidates prior to pronouncing them eligible to contest the presidential elections.  Did the Commission not consider that it was only appropriate and fair that as it did with the complainants against Dahn and Weah, it should also have dealt with the complaints against the other candidates prior to declaring them eligible to contest the presidential elections? How could the NEC declare any candidate eligible to run for an office when the law requires that the person’s eligibility depended on his citizenship of Liberia and a challenge had been posed to that person’s assertion of Liberian citizenship? How, after such blunder, does the Commission propose to subsequently inform any of the candidates it had declared eligible that it had now determined that they, or any of them, were after all not eligible to contest the presidency?  One can only imagine the chaos that such a declaration could bring to Liberia, only because, perhaps as expected, the Commission chose once again to exhibit its incompetence.  What about the other candidates who are seeking presidential and legislative offices? What if no challenges are posed? Does the NEC, on that basis alone, declare that the candidates are eligible to contest the presidency and legislative positions? What were the views of the so-called “senior legal counsel”? And what of the Elections Advisor(s) seconded to the Commission by the international community or the United Nations?  Is this how they verify citizenship in their respective home countries or deal with the issue when a challenge is raised? If this is how they would advise the conduct of elections in their respective countries, then I can only pray that the Lord will have mercy on those countries, the same as I am praying that the Lord will have mercy on Liberia.  Or is it that our foreign friends believe that we are undeserving of the same democratic and rule of law standard practiced in their own homes?

Notwithstanding my disappointment with the NEC, it is important to note, to the credit of two of the lawyers on the Commission, that Commission’s decisions was not unanimous.  Of its seven members, four signed the opinion, one abstained, and two, for whatever reason(s), did not append their signatures to the document. I assume that the two members who did not append their signatures to the document disagreed with the decision.  If that is the case, I am disappointed that they did see fit to write dissenting opinions so that the Liberian people and the world could have a glimpse of how they felt about the issue and the proceedings as conducted by the Commission.  It is noteworthy nevertheless that out of the three lawyers on the seven members Commission, two (a majority of the lawyers) disagreed with the decision.  It is most unfortunate that the non-lawyers on the Commission did not see fit to listen to the majority of the lawyers as to the legal implications of the decision.  It is also unfortunate that the majority of the lawyers on the Commission did not voice a public concern at clearing candidates to contest elective public offices without first determining whether they qualify as citizens of Liberia as required by the Liberian Constitution and the Aliens and Nationality Law.

Now that the preliminaries have been dealt with and the premise laid, I propose to examine the role, duties and responsibilities assigned to the Commission in regard to the citizenship issue and to undertake a diagnostic study of the proceedings as conducted by the Commission.  This may give clarity as to where I believe the Commission has gone seriously wrong.  A good place to start is with the Liberian Constitution.  We know that the Comprehensive Peace Agreement of August 18, 2003 suspended certain provisions of the Constitution.  We know that the CPA also declared that those provisions of the Constitution not suspended remain in full force and effect. And we know further that the CPA did not suspend the provisions of the constitution relating to Liberian citizenship and the eligibility criteria for contesting elective public offices, whether for the presidency, vice presidency, senator, representative, or chief. One common theme runs throughout the requirements: The aspirants must be Liberian citizens. However, the standard is set much higher for persons seeking the presidency and vice presidency: They must be natural born Liberian citizens. (Lib. Const., Art. 52).

The first question for query is who then is a Liberian citizen? The Constitution states the following, at Article 27: (a) All persons who, on the coming into force of this Constitution were lawfully citizens of Liberia shall continue to be Liberian citizens; and (b) only persons who are Negroes or of Negro descent shall qualify by birth or by naturalization to be citizens of Liberia.  That organic document recognizes that persons born of Liberian parents, although outside Liberia, are also Liberian citizens; but it states that upon attaining their majority such persons must relinquish any other citizenship acquired by them by virtue of they having been born outside Liberia or unto parents, one of who was a foreign national.  Equally important is the document’s declaration that no Liberian will be denied the right to change his or her Liberia citizenship or nationality. (Lib. Const., Art. 28). And it vests in the Liberian Legislature the power to prescribe additional qualification criteria for and the procedures by which naturalization may be obtained as well as the broader power to establish laws for citizenship, naturalization and residence. (Lib. Const., Arts. 27(c) and 34)

Pursuant to the powers granted under the previous Liberian Constitution the Legislature in 1973 passed the Aliens and Nationality Law (ANL). The 1986 Liberian Constitution, at Article 95, proclaimed the said law as being fully in force. The Aliens and Nationality Law outlines the criteria for acquiring Liberian citizenship, and the manner in which that citizenship can be lost. It states that Liberian citizenship is acquired through birth or by naturalization. (ANL, secs. 20.1 and 21.1).  Under the said law, no person claiming Liberian citizenship can hold dual nationality, except for the following:  (a) where a Liberian woman, by virtue of her marriage to a foreign national, and without and affirmative action on her part, automatically becomes a citizen of her husband’s country; (b) where by virtue of birth to parents, one of whom is a foreign national, a Liberian acquires the citizenship of the parent’s country; and (c) where a Liberian acquires the citizenship of another country by virtue of having been born in that foreign country unto one or  more Liberian parents.  However, in both of the latter instances, the Liberian citizen must, at the age of maturity swear allegiance to Liberia and renounce his or her foreign citizenship; otherwise he or she loses his or her Liberian citizenship. (ANL, sec. 20.1).

The current debates center around persons who were born of Liberian parentage, or, being of Negro descent, acquired Liberian citizenship by virtue of having been born in Liberia.  The allegation is that although some of the aspirants for elective public offices were born Liberian citizens by birth and therefore were natural born Liberians, they had subsequently determined to, and did acquire, the citizenship of foreign nations; that by virtue of their affirmative action, they had lost their Liberian citizenship; and that as a result of that lost of Liberian citizenship they were not eligible to seek any elective public office where the law states that only citizens of Liberia are eligible to contest such office.  Some of the complainants have even stated that certain of the aspirants had acquired dual citizenship of Liberia and the foreign nation and that this formed the basis for their exclusion to contest the ensuing elections.

It is worthy to reemphasize that Liberia does not recognize dual nationality, except in the instances mentioned above.  The current issues do not involved any of the exceptions noted above. Rather, the issue involve allegations of affirmative action taken by certain of the political aspirants in acquiring the citizenship of other nations.  Our Alien and nationality is clear on the issue.  It states, at chapter 22, that a Liberian loses his citizenship automatically and without and proceedings being instituted for that purpose if he or she does any one of the following acts: (a) obtains the naturalization of another state upon his own application, upon the application of an authorized agent, or through the naturalization of a parent having legal custody of the person then twenty-one years of age unless the person enters Liberia and establishes it as his/her permanent residence prior to his/her twenty-third birthday; (b) taking an oath or making an affirmative or other declaration of allegiance to a foreign state or a political subdivision thereof; (c) entering or serving in the armed forces of a foreign state of one free choice without the specific authorization of the President of Liberia; (d) voting in a political election in a foreign state or voting in an election to determine the sovereignty of a foreign state; and (e) making a formal renunciation of Liberian nationality before a diplomatic or consular officer of Liberia in a foreign state in such form as may be prescribed by the Minister of Foreign Affairs of Liberia.

Knowing what we do know of Liberians, it is safe to say that many no longer possess Liberian citizenship as a result of one of the above acts, especially in respect of those who have naturalized in a foreign country and those who have served in or are continuing to service in the armed forces of foreign states without the specific permission of the President of Liberia.  Even those who have voted in foreign elections have automatically lost their Liberian citizenship. As painful as that may be, it is the law of Liberia.  What then were the duties and responsibilities of the NEC in respect of the aspirants for elective public offices?  The fact that a person has a birth certificate showing that he was born in Liberia and/or unto Liberian parents some 35 or 40 or even 50 years ago, showing that at the time of birth the person was a Liberian citizen, does not necessarily thereby make him a citizen of Liberia in the present.  If he took up the citizenship of another country at any point after his birth, he automatically lost his Liberian citizenship, but he would still be entitled to a birth certificate.  No judicial proceedings were necessary to cause the lost of his citizenship; that lost was caused by the affirmative act of naturalization with a foreign state.  Yet, such person would still be entitled to a birth certificate, f he made the request for one.  That certificate would show that he was born in Liberian unto Liberian parents. The truth of the matter, however, is that such person would no longer be a Liberian citizen. Indeed, even assuming that he subsequently relinquished his foreign citizenship or nationality and again took up Liberian citizenship he could no longer be deemed a natural born Liberian. His new status would be a naturalized Liberian.

Nor is the possession or production of a Liberian diplomatic or official passport, dated long after the years an individual is alleged to have acquired the citizenship of another state, conclusive as to the person’s Liberian citizenship.  We know that many foreign nationals possess Liberian diplomatic passports, sold to them by some government officials or others, or given to them by virtue of serving as Liberia’s Honorary Consuls, for whatever reasons. Even the holding of an ordinary Liberian passport does not establish Liberian citizenship for purposes of holding the nation’s highest executive office.  Moreover, the failure by a foreign embassy to respond to a citizenship query wrongly posed to it by the NEC, the wrong party to pose such query, does not provide justification for the NEC’s assumption that the aspirant is a Liberian citizen.

The Commission owes the Liberia nation and people the duty to ensure that those persons seeking elective public offices meet the requirements of the law, principally that they are citizens of Liberia.  It had the mandatory responsibility and owed the Liberian people and nation the mandatory duty to investigate each candidate, without awaiting a challenge from any person, to ensure that all of the political aspirants are citizens of Liberia. As a first step, and particularly given the given the importance of the office of the presidency of the nation and of Senators and Representatives, the NEC should have had each aspirant swear to a declaration, under penalty or perjury and disqualification, in which he/she answers certain key questions, including the following: (a) Are you a citizen of Liberia? (b) By what method did you become a citizen of Liberia, birth or naturalization? (If naturalized, please attach instruments of naturalization). (c) Did you at any time relinquish your Liberian citizenship or have you ever taken up the citizenship or nationality of another country since becoming a Liberian citizen, by birth or naturalization?  If yes, when?  (d) How long were you a citizen of that foreign state? (e) If you acquired the citizenship of a foreign state, did you relinquish that citizenship and again become a Liberian citizen? When?  (f) Have you ever held dual citizenship of Liberia and a foreign state? Under what circumstances did you acquire or hold such dual citizenship?  Have you relinquished the citizenship of that foreign state? (g) Have you served in foreign armed forces or voted in any election for political office in a foreign state? Have you ever contested an election in a foreign state or held office in a foreign state growing out of an election? These would have provided the basis for the NEC initial investigation of the aspirants to ascertain whether there were citizens of Liberia, especially as the Aliens and Nationality Law makes it clear that dual nationality is not recognized in the Liberian jurisdiction, except in the special circumstances stated before. It did not require any great brains to know that these preliminary steps were necessary and went to the core of establishing that the aspirants are Liberian citizens.  Yet, no where in its opinion does the NEC state what documents it required of the aspirants, which documents it received from them, and what in the documents indicated that at present the aspirants were citizens of Liberia, that they have never renounced their Liberian citizenship for that of another nation, or that having renounced their Liberian citizenship, they had undertaken the naturalization process prescribed by law to regain their Liberian citizenship. To the contrary, the Commission’s opinion leaves one with the impression that the only documents it possessed relative to aspirant Weah were those presented by his lawyers for the first time during the proceedings. No mentioned was made of any documents presented by aspirant Dahn. And nothing was said of any documents required by the Commission and presented by the said aspirants or any other aspirants contesting elective public offices. One must therefore wonder how the Commission determined in the first instance or otherwise became convinced that the aspirants for elective public offices were Liberian citizens, or that being Liberian citizens they had met the further requirement of natural born citizens, as warranted the aspirants being cleared to contest the elections.

Moreover, no reference was made in the opinion to the Ministry of Justice which, under the Aliens and Nationality Law, has the authority, with certain prescribed intervention of Liberian courts of competent jurisdiction, to administer the said law with regards to Liberian citizenship. Nowhere does the opinion state the procedures the candidates were required to pursue and what those procedures had revealed of the candidates; no where does the Commission show how the duty imposed on it by law to certify that a person is a citizen of Liberia shifted from it to the objectors to prove that a contestant for elective public office is not a citizen of Liberia; and no where in the opinion does the Commission state that it enquired of the candidates whether there were citizens of Liberia or if they had ever taken up citizenship of a foreign country, or if they had, what was the current status of that citizenship.

The NEC is not clothed with the right or the authority, whether under the Constitution or the Elections Law, to make any assumption as to the Liberian citizenship of any of the political aspirants without the adequate evidence presented by such aspirants and certification by the appropriate government agency as to that citizenship. Nor should the Commission have relied on the complainants to produce evidence to the contrary in the absence of it having failed to fulfill its role as required of it by law to ensure that each aspirant for elective public office is a citizen of Liberia.

The object of the constitutional and statutory requirements regarding Liberian citizenship relative to aspirants seeking elective public offices is to ensure that no foreign persons contest Liberian elections and that no foreign person ends up holding elective public offices, as would bring into question issues of allegiance, sovereignty, security, and the like, which could put the Liberian people and the Liberian nation state at serious risk. The duty therefore was on the NEC in the first instance, and the burden similarly was on the political aspirants in the first instance to show citizenship, not the objectors to show the non-citizenship of the aspirants. Constitution clearly states that no Liberian should be prevented from renouncing his Liberian citizenship and taking up the citizenship of another country.

In part 2, I shall examine further how the Commission should have carried out that duty and the responsibility imposed.