The unprecedented move by the political leader of the Alternative National Congress (ANC), Alexander B. Cummings, to hire the services of two international firms to conduct an ‘independent’ forensic investigation into allegations that he and his party executives tampered with the Framework Document that gave life to the Collaborating Political Parties (CPP), has resulted in a report which the public has already begun to vigorously scrutinize.
And before conclusions start to run amok, we would like to lay bare a few points that could help to guide the public ingestion of this document.
What it is
The 44-page Omnia-Alaco report is a detailed compilation and forensic analysis of all the communications on record within the CPP concerning the iterative process of the development of the Framework Document, beginning with the original copy through the final NEC-Filed copy and how it was derived.
The report, according to Mr. Cummings, the man who commissioned it, aims to provide an independent analysis of what he describes as “bogus and politically motivated allegations … laid against me [by] the government and its cronies [who] have attempted to deceive and lie to the people of Liberia. Our nation deserves to hear the truth. Liberia deserves this report. Throughout the trial, I have used every means legally granted to me, and to all Liberians, through the constitution to defend our movement for change. This report upholds my commitment to transparency and my determination to see good governance prevail.”
Clearly, the above stated purpose of the Omnia-Alaco report serves primarily Mr. Cummings. After all, he commissioned the report — it was not done for free. In all fairness, he has the right to defend his character and integrity by any(?) means necessary, especially in the court of public opinion — even if the court of legal jurisdiction may deem otherwise. We’ll see.
However, the methods employed by Omnia and Alaco may prove instructive of new ways to address conflicts and contentions between parties who would prefer an alternative to the mirey complexities of the Liberian judicial system — without the Cherie Blair price tag, whatever that may have been. It is worth noting that there are non-judicial alternatives out there that could help discordant parties clearly understand their differences and arrive at a point where they may agree to disagree and subsequently decide to move on together or separately.
The credibility of the report
There are two ways to look at this. First, Cummings has been very open about the fact that he commissioned the two international firms “to conduct an independent investigation”, from which the report was expeditiously produced. On the face of it, one could easily dismiss the report as non-independent because, “he who pays the piper…”
But then, if Cummings had not commissioned the investigation, who would have done it? Certainly not his accusers. But he takes it a step further — tapping on the integrity and credibility of a world-renowned lawyer, Queen’s Counsel Cherie Blair, to lay bare the facts and render what is expected to be a truly independent deliberation — regardless of who commissioned her for the work.
According to Omnia and Alaco, Mr. Cummings has commissioned two companies with a proven record of speaking truth to power. “We are internationally renowned for our independence and professionalism, which has ensured our objectivity from day one. This report is a pursuit of truth, without fear or favour,” the two firms said in a joint statement.
Yet, from the fervent tone of the report’s executive summary, Counsel Cherie Blair appears to be putting her neck on the chopping board for Mr. Cummings. Perhaps this is the activist in her.
“As leader of the ANC and a central figure in the formation of the CPP, Alexander Cummings is a prominent challenger to the Weah Government,” Counsel Blair asserts in the executive summary of the report. “Just as we should expect the highest standards from Mr Cummings, we must be wary of allegations and criminal charges that would conveniently neutralise the political threat he represents. History warns us that incumbent governments can sometimes give in to the temptation to load the deck against upstart challengers, and state institutions can end up facilitating such abuse of office, like a football match referee playing as one team’s twelfth man.”
She continues: “This Report is rightly critical of the CPP’s own Investigative Committee’s review and findings, and personally I find it surprising and disappointing that Liberia’s Prosecution Authority would consider bringing such a weak case to court. However, our task has not been to second-guess the ongoing work of Liberia’s courts. My sincere hope and expectation is that the judiciary, as primary guardians of the Rule of Law, will see that justice is done. Liberians deserve nothing less.”
The burning question of what to do with this report is a question for all and sundry, not just for the parties involved. There are those who who will accept, reject or sit on the fence regarding the Omnia-Alaco report — whatever their respective reasons may be. On that note, we Liberians know ourselves well enough for a certain attitude we call “dry-face” — that shameless, deliberate dismissal of the facts or the truth, to continue down one’s chosen path, even if it potentially leads to one’s detriment.
That being said, will the Monrovia City Court admit the report as evidence in he case against Cummings? Will the Liberian electorate find themselves convinced of Mr. Cummings’ integrity? What about Cummings’ accusers and prosecutors?
We close this editorial with two observations: First, while the case against Cummings et al continues at the Monrovia City Court, the court of public opinion has been handed a set of tools to tinker with the evidence and test the mettle of the report by the most rigid standards.
Second, this report is by no means a piece merely for local consumption. In fact, the primary audience is far beyond the territorial boundaries of Liberia. That should be instructive of the kind of weight Cummings can pull when the need arises.
We hope that’s a good thing.