Liberia: NPP Descends into Chaos Again

NPP Standard Bearer, Vice President Jewel Howard-Taylor,  left and Chairman James Biney


— As Vice President Jewel Howard-Taylor, the party’s Standard Bearer and its Chairman James Biney, suspend each other

The National Patriotic Party (NPP), a constituent party of the ruling Coalition for Democratic Change (CDC), has once again descended into chaos with two of its top leaders at each other’s throats.

The upheaval, which appears to be a fight for supremacy, has seen the party's Standard Bearer, Vice President Jewel Howard-Taylor, suspend Chairman James Biney who, in turn, nullified the suspension while reciprocating an identical measure against her.

The crisis has split the party into factions, with each leader receiving strong support from their respective outspoken loyalists. Biney and VP Taylor have been at loggerheads for a larger part of the incumbency of the ruling  Coalition for Democratic Change, with majority  members complaining of marginalization within the coalition. 

This has led to divisions between Biney and VP Taylor over their support to the reelection bid of President George Weah and maintaining the party within the coalition.

On March 4, the Taylor faction of the party announced it was suspening Biney for acts incompatible with his status as Chairman, including his failure to honor the instruction of party’s executive committee members 

to sign the framework document of the ruling  Coalition for Democratic Change (CDC) in January. 

The statement, signed by Gus Knowlden, Assistant Secretary for Press and Propaganda, indicated that Biney’s refusal is in violation of the party’s 2004 Constitution.

Biney was then ordered to submit himself to the Grievance and Ethics Committee of the party in three working days to show cause for his acts of insubordination and disrespect.

According to Taylor’s faction, Biney’s failure to do so would lead to his automatic expulsion.

But Biney’s faction, in a counter release on March  5, noted that the party was suspending Taylor and Mulbah for ‘convening an illegal and unconstitutional gathering’.

Biney’s  faction noted that the action by supporters of the two suspended officials constitutes a breach of Article 5 of the party’s constitution. 

Article 5, according to the Biney faction, provides that all executive committee meetings and national conventions are called and presided over by the national chairman. 

The faction also stated that Section  6 of the article  provides that all citations for meeting be duly authorized by the Secretary General of the party. 

“None of these constitutional requirements were obtained to qualify the meeting as being an NEC meeting,” the Biney faction said in its release.

The release was signed by Alexander O. Shannon, the party’s Assistant Secretary General and Charlyne A. Taylor, Vice Chair for inter-party Affairs, and approved by Biney as Chairman.

This latest rivalry, spurred by such disagreement, would have a far-reaching effect with barely eight months to the presidential and legislative elections.

The CDC has been grappling with disunity among its ranks, especially with the NPP and the Liberia People Democratic Party (LPDP), who feel dissatisfied with the manner in which the coalition is being handled.

The LPDP, headed by former House Speaker Alex Tyler, has been reluctant to recommit itself to the CDC on grounds that the party has been ostracized since the coalition won the election six years ago.

The two constituent parties believe they have never been given the due recognition and have often been downplayed in the governance process evidenced by the failure of Pres. George Weah to appoint members of these parties to prominent government positions.

“The coalition is fractured, and no level of pretense can make things look alright when they are not,” Biney said at a press conference last year.

“Majority members of the CDC, with the exception of the Weah faction, are not satisfied. We, the NPP people, are not happy and I’m also hearing that the LPDP are even angrier than us,” Biney said. “So how can this coalition hold? It is not possible.”

The ruling coalition’s internal friction has been ongoing for some time now, but became more pronounced in Febuary, when the ruling coalition hosted its “One Million Rally” for the reelection and renomination of Weah.

On the day of the rally, which was Feb. 4, Biney and his faction boycotted. However, Taylor and her faction attended and, three days later, signed a new framework document with the Congress for Democratic Change (CDC), and  the Liberia People Democratic Party (LPDP) in the absence of Tyler, the party’s political leader who claimed to not be in the know.

It was Tyler’s party’s Chairman, Moses Kollie, who signed the document, claiming it met the approval of two-thirds membership of the executive committee. 

Taylor had signed the framework document despite calls from some counties and district coordinators of the party for her not to do so. The disenchanted coordinators made the plea days before the President's re-nomination ceremony — urging both her and chairman Biney to boycott the event.

With Biney having heeded their call,  the Vice President of Liberia, who is the Coalition’s standard bearer, did not.

Meanwhile, the Biney faction of the NPP noted in its statement on Sunday that VP Taylor and Mulbah’s action to have convened a kangaroo executive committee meeting over the weekend also represents defiance of a recent ruling handed down by the Supreme Court.

Taylor’s past scripts of convening what she referred to as executive committee meetings were prohibited by the Supreme Court.

The court also held that all NEC meetings conducted outside of the process and procedures laid down in the party’s constitution were illegal, unconstitutional, and illegitimate and decisions therefrom are illegal and reversible.