Liberia: Is the Rescue Train on Track?

President Joseph N. Boakai 

— An Analysis of President Boakai’s 36 Days In Office

By Arthur Ballah  

President Joseph Nyuma Boakai won the Liberian Presidency on the mantra of driving a rescue train, but it seems that the train is losing track and is at risk of derailing prematurely. And so, as a Liberian with an insight into contemporary issues, I am attempting in this article to assist the rescuers. 

President Joseph Nyuma Boakai formally assumed the Liberian Presidency on Monday, January 22, 2024, at noon by taking the oath of office with a promise of a new beginning, where partisanship would give way to nationalism and governance. But it appears that he is sidestepping this noble promise in less than 40 days in office. To support my claim, I will use legal arguments from notable Liberian lawyers and examine specific sections of the President’s inaugural speech to identify instances when his rescue train has deviated from the intended path, in case he is not aware.

Though President Boakai has made some commendable public policy decisions in accordance with his vision outlined in the ARREST agenda, which delineates the growth trajectory he has established for the nation, he initiated a campaign against drugs by declaring drugs a national health emergency, established a committee to address the issues of drugs, disclosed his assets, urged all public officials to do the same, underwent drug testing, and promoted the practice among other public authorities.

Travesty of Justice 

However, a few public statements and acts by the Executive Branch of Government have prompted the necessity for this intervention. The first has to do with the President’s legal advisor’s interference with matters pending before the court, which has ratcheted up concerns about the travesty of justice in this early stage. Our system of governance promotes effective coordination among the three branches while strongly disapproving of intrusion, particularly from the Executive Branch. When the Executive Branch instructs a judge to decide the outcome of a pending court case, it is risky and undermines the judicial system. This is a practice that this government has initiated at an early stage.

Take, for example, the case between Madam Juli Endee and Mr. Nayapougma Oldpa Yeazeahn. I am presenting the case between Madam Juli Endee and Mr. Nayapougma Oldpa Yeazeahn as an illustrative example to demonstrate my argument, without any personal stake in the case’s merits or demerits. Though in my opinion, Madam Endee should have disregarded any negative comments made by Mr. Yeazeahn. Madam Endee’s identity and her impact on Liberia are widely recognized.

Having said that, my argument here is that it is too appalling and constitutes an act of travesty of justice for Cllr. Bushuben Keita, who is the President’s legal advisor, to instruct the City Solicitor, with total disregard to the complainant, to dismiss all criminal charges of scandal and defamation of character, among others, that Madam Endee brought against Mr. Nayapougma Oldpa Yeazeahn, also known as Prophet Key. I believe this is only possible because Prophet Key is an outspoken advocate of President Boakai’s election campaign, despite his reputation for verbally and psychologically abusing and degrading women.

Many different women have suffered the wrath of his awkward behavior. Prophet Key has frequently leveled demeaning accusations against Madam Endee in podcasts, and she has captured these accusations on video tapes and presented them to the court as proof. 

Interestingly, despite this preponderance of the evidence, the city solicitor, without consulting the complainant, stated in his communication to the magistrate of the court that he was dropping all criminal charges against the defendant in these proceedings due to a lack of sufficient evidence to prosecute and may re-file if the need arises.

On the other hand, Cllr. Keita justified his actions by citing the Table Mountain Declaration, which decriminalized free speech during President Weah’s administration, as the reason the state could not pursue the case. It might be accurately inferred that Keita’s actions were authorized by the Executive Mansion due to the absence of any opposing statement from the Presidency.

As Atty. Isaac Jackson has rightfully argued, the Table Mountain Declaration does not grant anyone the unrestricted authority to deliberately and inaccurately disseminate harmful falsehoods about another individual. The Declaration aims to decriminalize free speech, particularly for government officials, to stop targeting journalists.

Many support the view that the Boakai administration is setting a dangerous precedent by undermining respect for the rule of law when Boakai’s legal advisor, without proper authority, decided to drop an ongoing case despite the private prosecutor still having evidence and interest in the matter, amidst the ambivalent practices surrounding the Table Mountain Declaration.

In Jackson’s presentation, he asserted that Nolle prosequi is a formal declaration by the prosecutor or plaintiff that they have chosen to drop the prosecution or litigation. Like Atty. Jackson, I am equally dismayed, in this particular situation, Madam Juli Endee, the private complainant, has not dropped her complaint; however, President Boakai's legal counsel directed the City Solicitor to nolle prosequi the matter without the private complainant’s knowledge.

Mr. Jackson submitted that President Boakai’s legal team is advising the public that the Unity Party will not penalize its members who violate the law. I'm joining to ask Mr. President: how does flagrant abuse of the law connect to the rescue ideology? President Boakai must beef up his oversight because, as Atty. Jackson stated, his party’s committed supporters are willing to jeopardize his administration's reputation to defend an individual who cannot distinguish between nouns and pronouns.

Recipe for Chaos 

My second submission pertains to the president's cabinet's decision to replace all officials from the prior government who hold tenured jobs. According to the President’s legal counsel, tenure positions compromise the President’s authority to appoint under Article 56 of Liberia's 1986 Constitution. Furthermore, he claims that tenure jobs are contractual, hence President Boakai's cabinet chose to cancel and pay off all such contracts. He stated that numerous tenured officials broke the code of conduct during the campaign by actively participating in campaign activities and that such individuals are automatically removed without pay.

This position of President Boakai's government not only contradicts his inaugural address but is also illegal as several lawyers, including Cllr. Arthur Johnson, Sinoe County Senator Cllr. Augustine Chea and Speaker Cllr. Fonati Kofa, have disagreed and abrasively criticized the Executive Mansion.

Cllr. Johnson described the President’s Legal Advisor’s statement as the result of a misreading, misconception, misunderstanding, and misinterpretation of the legislative intent, meaning, and history of tenure. He stated that tenure is not about contracts, but about safeguarding independence, knowledge, and autonomy in order to ensure professional continuity in a political setting.

Similarly, Cllr. Augustine S. Chea, who is the Chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, has disagreed with the President's Legal Advisor that the tenure law violates Article 56 of the Constitution or that the President did nothing wrong by appointing people to positions or offices occupied by tenure holders, citing the Supreme Court's decision in the Edward Kla Martin, former LACC Chairman's case, as their reliance.

Cllr. Chea contends that the President's Legal Advisor and others have misinterpreted the Supreme Court's ruling or lack a complete understanding of contract law. He said in his argument, that the Supreme Court determined that Cllr. Martin should be compensated for the remaining period of his tenure due to the violation of his contract rights. The court emphasized the importance of upholding contracts, as outlined in Article 25 of the Constitution. The wonder for any reasonable person is why then the advisor arguing that tenured officials merely have contractual rights and not tenure because the tenure statute contradicts Article 56 of the Constitution, which gives the President the authority to dismiss his appointments at his discretion.

“So what is this contract that the Supreme Court upheld? It is the tenure. Additionally, the tenure law guarantees that certain categories of public officials, i.e., those who have tenure, will be immune from removal from office by the President at any time while they are still serving out their full tenure”, Cllr Chea argues.

He is contending that if the tenure law was unconstitutional, as they said, or if the Supreme Court invalidated the law, the Supreme Court would not rule that Cllr. Martin benefits from that ‘illegal law’.  He has inferred that if a contract is void (not voidable), it is void ab initio, meaning it is invalid from its very inception or from the day it was made. Conversely, if the Supreme Court declares a statute or law unconstitutional, it is not law from the day it was enacted, and, therefore, no rights will accrue under that statute or law.

Cllr. Chea in his submission said the purpose of the tenure law is to protect the independence, autonomy, and integrity of some public institutions so that their leaders can carry out their duties without interference and without worrying about the President removing them at any time. And this law promotes good governance. Isn't it? So, why should anybody have a problem with that? Is it because some people want the jobs so badly and don't want to wait for the position holders' tenure to expire, or is it vengeance? But this is the kind of evil the law was enacted to prevent. 

The senator has also charged the President with violating the law. He said appointments to tenured positions where the position holders still have tenure are illegal as they violate the tenure law. The President was ill-advised by his legal advisor, so he must now act to rescind or revoke his appointments.  

“I will advise the Senate not to confirm anybody so appointed. Because doing so will make us accomplices to this law violation”, the Senator concluded.

Another legal argument that I would like to proffer is that coming from the Speaker of the 55th Legislature, Cllr. Fonati Koffa of Grand Kru County. Cllr. Koffa has stated that tenured positions cannot be established under Article 56, as those roles are considered “at-will” employment. He said the legislature has the authority to establish agencies in accordance with Article 89, such as autonomous commissions, which can include “other necessary agencies”. While registering his disagreement with the tenure granted to certain agencies, he said it is undeniably within the legislative prerogative to create tenure positions.

Now that the legal case has been presented, let's examine how I believe the cabinet's stance contradicts President Boakai's inaugural speech and undermines the goal of national reconciliation. The President stated that the people's historic decision has granted him the authority to serve as the 26th President of the Republic of Liberia, making him the leader of all Liberians within the country and abroad. He stated that the elections had concluded. Partisanship should be replaced with nationalism and inclusive governance. The nobleman's conciliatory speech is being undermined by the controversial position of the legal advisor. Removing a fellow Liberian from government due to their political stance is completely wrong, especially in the current delicate political climate following the recent elections where President Boakai won by a narrow margin.

The people of Liberia refuse to tolerate a deceitful administration. The President needs to choose between maintaining the status quo or completely departing from business as usual. He has pledged to the people of Liberia a fresh start where different segments of the population will come together in a brotherly manner to construct their nation on principles of fairness, impartial access to legal recourse, and equal chances for all.

I am aware that the president has a full appreciation of the situation because, in his inaugural speech, he said, “I began my quest for the presidency because something seemed wrong with us Liberians and the leadership of our country. Rather than the positives, we were accentuating the negatives of our country and about each other. We were initiating false starts, building on poor foundations. We were deepening our differences, creating new social fault lines. Inclusive and accountable governance was at an all-time low. We created a culture of unfinished business and engaged in ad hoc undertakings, making this behavior the “new normal.” We were curious about the rule of law. We lowered standards in many domains of our common life as a people. We seem to have lost our way and lost hope.

Given the wonderful speech and understanding of prevailing circumstances, one could have anticipated this government to concentrate on strengthening its authority by working towards reconciling the people and moving past any conflictual issues. Why doesn't the government invest in programs like the development agenda proposed by ARREST instead of using money to pay off tenure holders, when such money is needed in other areas of greater need? Removing tenure holders is a flagrant violation of their rights, as renowned legal minds have established, and in my opinion, it is a recipe for chaos.

Liberia’s Foreign Mission 

The issue of placement in the Foreign Service of Liberia is another contending area that has ignited interesting public discourse mixed with politics. Considering the importance of this topic, I will write a separate article to provide a detailed understanding of what is supposed to be done. Because it is not enough for the constituted committee to just look into placement in the field, much more is needed to be looked at in order to shift our foreign mission to be responsive to the needs of the country. However, in my opinion, it is noteworthy for the Minister of Foreign Affairs to form a committee to examine any recent placements made by Minister Kemayah, with the caveat that such a review should be based on verifiable standards to prevent witch-hunting.


I submit that President Boakai need not be told that he is on a rescue mission, as he is fully aware of the level of division in the country based on politics, as acknowledged in his inaugural address. There are too many things that the government needs to address, not to focus on witch-hunting people based on their political views. There are issues of national security that should urgently claim the attention of the government, as our subregion is too volatile. Other issues such as electricity, drugs, education, roads, agriculture, etc., should be of priorities. If the rescue train will get back on track, it has to focus on its development agenda, as brilliantly articulated in ARREST.