Liberia: Bong Superintendent at Odds with Citizens

The superintendent of Bong County, Esther Walker.

... Over arbitrary removal of district paramount chief

The removal of Fuamah District Paramount Chief, Joseph Tartee, by the Superintendent of Bong County, Esther Walker, appears to have raised the ire of citizens of the District who have planned a mass protest today to demand the immediate reinstatement of the District paramount chief, the Daily Observer has learned.

According to the report, Paramount Chief Tartee was removed from office on Monday, November 29 by Superintendent Esther Walker during her visit to the district for what the citizens have understood as an age barrier.

Article 56b of Liberia’s 1986 Constitution spells "out that there shall be the election of the paramount chief, clan chief, and town chiefs by the registered voters in their respective localities, to serve for a term of six years. They may be reelected and may be removed only by the President for proven misconduct. The Legislature shall enact laws to provide for their qualifications as may be required." 

However, due to some reason, perhaps economic constraints, this provision of the constitution has remained inactive use since the 1970s. Meanwhile, the indigenous continue to elect those serving as paramount chief and clan chief, town chief based on consensus, with approval by the Minister of Internal Affairs, especially in the case where a leader leaves office as the result of death.

Additionally, with the practice, a paramount chief or clan chief or town chief may be removed from office by consensus due to age that may cause that person to become ineffective. According to elder Omasco Keller, the citizens are not happy about the manner in which the superintendent had removed their leader from office after faithfully serving them for many years.

Elder Keller noted that the paramount chief’s removal by Superintendent Walker was very much distasteful to the citizens and, as such, they have planned a mass protest today, December 1, to demand the reinstatement of their leader as citizens from all clans and villages are expected to assemble before the office of the district commissioner today, in Fuamah, to bring the matter to the attention of the Liberian government.

“We cannot condone the action of the superintendent to remove our paramount chief without the consent of the citizens. This is absolutely wrong and it is something that we will not accept,” he said.

Mr. Keller narrated that on November 29, the Bong County superintendent entered the district and only consulted the commissioner of the District to have their leader immediately removed. He added that the dismissed paramount chief, though considered aging, still has the confidence of his people to govern.

“We have decided that the Superintendent’s leadership role should be limited to this district until she sees reason to reinstate the paramount chief. We are not going to allow her to enter this District by any means,” Mr. Keller angrily mentioned. “If the Commissioner is in the district we don’t want to see him enter his office until we get redress to our concern. In fact, this superintendent is a complete curse to the county. Why must she come here in the district to abuse the elders.”

He said for their leader who has served the District for more than 30 years to be removed without a written communication to the citizens is a disgrace to the elders and people of the entire district. Elder Keller further mentioned that the superintendent is yet to come up with a viable reason why she has dismissed the paramount chief, stating the superintendent has said it is the Vice President of Liberia who has mandated her to do so.

He also accused the district commissioner of being one of the main persons behind the action of the Bong County superintendent.

“The new paramount chief that the superintendent has put into office is the father-in-law of the commissioner. This is a very great affront to the citizens as the district is right now, at a standstill,” he explained. "The commissioner's office will remain closed until they can get redress from the government."

When contacted, the Technical advisor to the Minister of Internal Affairs, D. Emmanuel Wheinyue disclosed that it is not clear as to whether Internal Affairs is aware of the situation.

Wheinyue told our reporter via phone that before any local leader, especially a chief, is removed from office, it must be at the approval of the Minister of Internal Affairs.

“This is something that the Minister is going to look into to find an amicable solution. But we at the Ministry don’t seem to have knowledge about this issue,” he clarified.