Liberia: Can Our Legislators Truly Be Called Honorables?

Capitol Building, Liberia. 

 

The rather knee-jerk reaction of members of the House of Representatives to Madame Makanvee Sheriff’s physical confrontation with Representative Nathaniel Bahway on the grounds of the Capitol, on November 16, 2021, was by no means surprising.

With the exception of a female representative who appealed to her colleagues to temper justice with mercy, the rest appeared as though they had long been itching for a fight with anyone challenging their authority.

And the actions of Madame Makanvee Sheriff, it appeared, provided them the perfect opportunity to flex their muscles. And they did so with a rage of vengeance completely ignoring their colleague’s appeal to temper justice with mercy.

But at the heart of the matter is the issue of justice. Madame Sheriff was without doubt feeling aggrieved by the action of Representative Bahway who hit her car in an accident on the Gabriel Tucker Bridge.

Not caring to stop to address the situation, he sped off to the grounds of the Capitol. Not deterred by his arrogance, she drove to the grounds of the Capitol where she, according to reports, angrily confronted Representative Barway about hitting her vehicle, damaging it and speeding away.

But he ignored her, according to eyewitness accounts, and walked away. It was at that point, Madame Sheriff, apparently feeling enraged by such displayed arrogance, yanked Representative Bahway by the collar of his shirt.

And his colleagues acted swiftly to exact punishment by ordering her incarceration even after she tendered profuse apologies to the members of the House of Representatives.

By all accounts, not even a listening ear was paid to Madame Sheriff’s side of the story. Her car was damaged by the Representative. But he has walked away with impunity and even jailed her in what is being seen as a travesty of justice.

Madame Sheriff has been punished for her “contemptuous” action, yet nothing has been said about her damaged vehicle. 

Truth be told, Madame Sheriff was going about her normal business as a peaceful law abiding citizen until the Representative hit her vehicle and ran off justifying his action, claiming Legislative immunity.    

And this is because these individuals have passed a law granting them the privilege to drive in the opposite lane at the risk of grave danger to the lives of occupants of oncoming vehicles.

But such is a classic display of the arrogance of power. Such arrogance feeds on the culture of impunity and, in fact, drives it. For too long in this country, big shots have trampled on the rights of the people with impunity. 

Much too often, Liberian big shots fail to learn from history. Much too often they forget or ignore the dangers of pushing people too far, pushing them into a state of desperation. 

They seem to have completely forgotten the lessons of the civil war which was characterized by gross and egregious human rights abuses. To date, no one, thanks to the culture of impunity, has been held to account for such massive abuse of human rights. 

What would it have taken from Representative Bahway to have apologized to Madame Sheriff for damaging her vehicle in his rush to get to the grounds of the Capitol? That was the least he could have done.

And he could have acted more honorably by recognizing his fault and adding his voice to that lone female Representative to temper justice with mercy. But no, he did not and instead drew a dagger stabbing and mortally wounding her hopes and pleas for clemency. 

In Liberia today, peaceful citizens are being killed in their homes. People are living in fear of hired ritual killers in search of human parts for ritualistic sacrifice. 

And the Police, rather disappointingly, attributes the rash of dead bodies with missing body parts discovered around Monrovia and other places, to people deliberately and freely disposing of their dead relatives.

And they added that this is being done in order to paint an ugly picture of this government to the outside world. In view of these developments, Liberians are left wondering just where or who to turn to for the protection of their civil liberties.

Under the watch of our legislators, more than 25 percent (25%) of the country’s total land area has been given out to concessions. 

In the process, thousands of people have been forcibly displaced from their ancestral lands and have nowhere to conduct farming and other related activities.

Also, under the watch of our legislators, 64 bogus concession agreements harmful to the interests of the Liberian people, were passed into law. 

Our legislators work for only six (6) months of a year and for two days a week, eight (8) times a month and ninety-six (96) days total out of 365 days a year.

Only recently, they received a hefty sum of US$30,000 each for what appears analogous and indistinguishable from mere image building purposes.

Currently before the House of Representatives is a concession agreement, the Bao-Chico Mineral Development agreement. It has already met Senate approval. 

However, the House has placed a hold on it for reasons described as procedural errors in that the proposed bill did not originate from the House.  

At this point the public is completely in the dark about the terms of the agreement. The Senate passed it without making public disclosure about its content. This has given rise to mounting public suspicion of bribery.

In the view of the public, keeping the agreement under wraps and failing to subject it to public scrutiny is tantamount to gross dishonesty on the part of the Senate.

Our legislators, it appears, cherish the title of “Honorable” but, too often fail to act as men and women of honor. Can they then truly be called Honorables?