Liberia: Can Snowe, now Senator, Retain ECOWAS Parliament Seat?

Sen. Edwin M. Snowe.

... House says ‘no’, Reminds ECOWAS Parliament of ‘Empty Seat’ created by Sen. Edwin M. Snowe.

The Liberian House of Representatives has unanimously voted to write the Speaker of the ECOWAS Parliament, Dr. Sidie Mohamed Tunis, to inform him of the vacancy of one of its three seats at regional Parliament.

The House vacant was automatically created when the then Bomi County District #1 Representative,  Edwin M. Snowe, became Senator of Bomi County during the Special Senatorial Election in December 2021. The House’s Plenary on  March 10,  during the 17th day sitting, said the communication will be a ‘reminder,’ and a follow up to a previous communication in which the regional parliamentary body was informed of the vacancy at the House of Representatives.

According to the House,  Liberia’s representation of five are drawn from the House of Representatives with a representation of three, while the Liberian Senate has two.

The House’s overwhelming decision was prompted by an announcement made by Senate President Pro Tempore Albert Tugbeh Chie at the ongoing 1st ECOWAS Extraordinary Session in Monrovia, that Liberia’s delegation to ECOWAS Parliament comprised three Senators and two Representatives. The House of Representatives argued that in 2007, it was agreed and became a precedent, that the representation of Liberia's delegation of five (5) shall be apportioned based on the numerical strength, with the House sending three representatives while the Senate would give two.

The House is currently represented by Rep. Hadja Siryon, who has been there since 2007 and Rep. Clarence Massaquoi was sent to ECOWAS Parliament in 2018. Rep. Clarence Massaquoi replaced Rep. Jefferson Karmoh, who was defeated in the 2017 Representative election. Rep. Edwin M. Snowe was a member of the House’s representation at ECOWAS Parliament since 2014, after serving as Chairman on Rules, Order & Administration.

Sen. Snowe joined Senators Steve Zargo and Jonathan Kaipay. During Thursday's argument in the House’s chamber, Montserrado County District #8 Representative and Chairman on Executive, Rep. Acarous M. Gray, urged Speaker Bhofal Chambers and his colleagues that the House of Representatives is underrepresented at ECOWAS Parliament and therefore, ECOWAS Parliament must be reminded of a vacancy in the House's representation.

Rep. Gray further argued that regardless of whether Liberia’s delegation to ECOWAS Parliament is based on tenure or not, the House’s Plenary has the right to declare a seat vacant.

Representatives Vicent Willie and Samuel Kogar of Bong County District #4 and Nimba District #5, respectively, argued that Senator Edwin M. Snowe forfeited the seat of the House at ECOWAS Parliament the moment he became a Senator.

Meanwhile, according to the motion proffered by Rep. Samson Wiah, following the procrastination of the ECOWAS Parliament to respond to the ‘Communication of Vacancy’, the House will write the President — the Chief Executive, who is responsible for Liberian foreign policy and diplomatic relations (has the power to receive foreign ambassadors and, in effect, to recognize foreign governments), to intervene.