A faith-based organization popularly known as the Faith and Justice Network (FJN) Liberia has hosted the sixth edition of its “Intellectual discourse on Social Justice and Peace” in honor of the late Catholic Archbishop Michael Kpakala Francis.
FJN is an apolitical, nonprofit, and Christian Institution based in Monrovia, Liberia. It has Christian goals and objectives and operates according to Christian Ethics and Moral Principles.
The program, held recently in Monrovia brought together several state actors, to create awareness and consciousness in the minds of citizens on the work and teachings of the Late Archbishop Michael K. Francis on social realities in Liberia.
It was organized under the theme; “Adherence to the Rule of Law - the Guarantor for Peace, Justice, Social-cohesion, and Prosperity for the Nation” in collaboration with the Liberia Council of Churches (LCC).”
Prof. Dr. Julius Sarwolo Nelson, Jr. President of the University of Liberia, who served as keynote speaker, told the audience that the issue of rules of law calls for collective efforts by everyone if Liberia is to experience the dispensation of justice and adherence to the rules of law. According to him, no one group of people or persons is exempted from the proper way of how the rules of law should be applied in the cost of justice.
He said the religious community, civil society organizations, the business community, ordinary citizens, and politicians are all responsible for adhering to and maintaining the rules of law. Prof. Nelson added that wheelbarrow boy, market women, motorcyclists, taxi drivers, students, yana boys, keke ridders, and the media, among others as actors in adherence to the rules of law.
“Those at the helm of power are to bear the greatest responsibility though, in ensuring that the rules of law is effective and apply to every citizen; but said that the religious community, especially the church, is to do more if the rules of law should be effective and dispensed with without one selfish interest,” he said.
He recounted that the late Archbishop Francis used to speak truth to power, so present church leaders have to follow his example, as his death leaves no vacuum.
The UL president emphasized that the blame game in the implementation and adherence to the rules of law; citing that for fourteen years, Liberia experienced a civic conflict that took away the lives of innocent and meaningful citizens, in the name of seeking social justice, but yet still the country continues to go through multiple acts of injustice, and non-adherence to the rules of law.
Prof. Nelson finalized his assertions by admonishing political actors, especially those with constitutional responsibility to work harder in ensuring that the rules of law are adhered to. "As policymakers, if for any reason, the citizens and the world look up to them for the governance of the state and its people and those residing within the border of the country," he added.
In remarks, Nimba County District # 8 Representative, Larry P. Younquoi and Senator Commany B. Wesseh, of River Gee County termed the forum as appropriate to discuss issues affecting the rules of law in the country; adding that the Liberia Constitution is continually being violated by individuals with state power with no conscience.
The lawmakers said while the fact remains that they are key components in the implementation and adherence to the rules of the law, which is outlined in the constitution, the religious community and spiritual leaders are key in ensuring that the rules of law adhere.
They furthered that following the good examples of the former Archbishop, Michael Francis, the church, with one voice, can speak to power, by reminding government or state actors against any act that has the propensity to undermine the rules of law.
Senator Wesseh and Representative Younquoi noted that in the absence of the church making her voice louder in speaking truth to power, and being robust in engaging government, in the adherence to the rule of law and not drag the country into a constitutional crisis that might eventually lead into internal civic crisis.
Referencing the ongoing election dispute with former Defense Minister, and Lofa County Senator-elect, Brownie J. Samukai, the two lawmakers asserted that this is a total political will and breach of the constitution.
For her part, former Liberia Chief Justice, Frances Johnson Allison has attributed the continued abuse of power and constitutional breached by state actors, due to what she termed as “the Spirit of former Archbishop Michael Kpakla Francis is no more”;
According to Cllr. Allison, the country has degenerated from its original rules of law to political wills and selfish gains; citing that individuals working at the judiciary and the high court are no longer dispensing justice in accordance with the constitution, terming the country as “a country of man political will instead of country of law”.
Also speaking, former Chief Justice, Cllr. Gloria Musu Scott also used the medium to call on every citizen to hold together and ensure that the rule of law is adhered to. She reminded politicians, religious leaders to stand up to their moral obligation in bringing the country back to its constitutional governance to avoid any unprecedented occurrence of violent conflict in the country.