Liberty Party in Deep Crisis

Chairman Bility (right), on Dec. 6 informed his political leader, Senator Nyonblee Karnga-Lawrence (left) that she has been suspended for owing dues of US$18,000 for the period January — December 2021.    

Sen. Karnga-Lawrence: “We will do all in our power to redeem the image of the Liberty Party.”

The opposition Liberty Party, once known for its organizational tranquility, so to speak, now finds itself in the throes of internal wrangling. The ongoing internal commotion, which started a few weeks ago, erupted after the party’s political leader, Senator Nyonblee Karnga-Lawrence, and the Vice-chair for political Affairs, Senator Abe Darius Dillon, openly accused the party chairman and Secretary-General of dubiously making changes to the party’s constitution.

However, the allegations, which the party chair Musa Bility, and the Secretary-General, Martin Kollah, have denied, have spilled over to the suspension of Sen. Dillon.

Sen. Dillon and the party’s vice chairman for press and public affairs, Daniel Sando were suspended for six months for “making several unauthorized public utterances, derogatory statements against the chairman and executives,” said a press statement under the signature of Martin Kollah. 

“The LP condemns the actions of these LP Executives in the strongest terms as it has the propensity to cast unnecessary aspersion on the party and will not be tolerated. Both National Executive Council members have been suspended for a period of six months, beginning October 1, 2021, and ending on March 31, 2020,” said Kollah.       

But Sen. Dillon, who is backed by the party’s political leader, Sen. Karnga-Lawrence, saw his suspension overturned within a day – terming it as a personal and unilateral move that does not conform to acceptable standards of operations within the Democratic space of the party.

Sen. Karnga-Lawrence also overturned the suspension of Sando.  Doing so, she disclosed that neither the party Chairman nor the Secretary-General is clothed with the authority under the party’s constitution to suspend executive members.

“I [have seen] a letter under the signature of the Secretary-General of Liberty Party, purportedly suspending Sen. Dillon and Sando for six months each. The decision, I am told, came as a result of claims made by Bility that the two-party Executives addressed him in a disparaging manner,” Sen. Karnga-Lawerence said.

“This action of Mr. Bility has also come at a time when an internal structure within our Party, comprising eminent Partisans, is making frantic efforts to address the crucial issue dealing with the tampering of the Liberty Party Constitution and its illegal filing with the National Elections Commission by him and the National Secretary-General. Neither Bility nor the Secretary-General is clothed with the authority under our Constitution, as passed on by delegates to the Gbarnga Convention, to effectuate any such decision.”

How did we get here?

Internal wrangling in the Liberty Party has been brewing since Mr. Bility got installed as chairman. However, in recent weeks, the situation has reached a new height, with the party being divided between the chair and the political leader -- a sign that this could persist for a while. And the suspensions of Dillion and Sando are some of the spillovers of the internal crisis coming out of accusation that some provisions of the party constitution submitted to the National Elections Commission (NEC) were tampered with by Chairman Bility.

This underscored the growing challenge Sen. Lawrence faces, exerting control over the party and unifying it. At the same time, it poses a serious challenge for the National Advisory Council (NAC) who continue to work out a safe option to resolve the internal political quagmire that came out of the tempering claims,  as well as finding a safe landing. 

The alleged changes, according to the LP political leader, include the power to call for a special national convention and appoint all convention planning committees; the power of the executive council to adopt financial programs and political operations, and the power to suspend or expel officials or members of the party.

On August 4, 2021, the political leader wrote the NEC, withdrawing the 2021 constitution for “procedural bridges and potential alterations” and, along with some supporters, had vowed to resist changes to their constitution. The changes, the Grand Bassa County Senator said, give Bility enough powers to “micromanage the party and sideline its political leader.”

But Bility, along with the party’s Secretary-General, denies the accusation – which forced Sen. Dillon, who supports the political leader’s position, to publicly refer to the latter as a “crook” who is “all about the money.” He added that Bility is involved with “black money”, as well as bullying and financially inducing members of the Liberty Party Executive Committee to support Alexander Cummings for the CPP standard-bearer post.

In return, Bility accused the senator of being a liability and stepped up efforts to consolidate his base, knowing that he ran the risk of being expelled if the tide turns against him. But, wielding certain leverage, he seems to maintain a stronghold on the party base on the fact that his ascendance to the chair position saw the party acquiring a fleet of brand new pickups and a spacious national party headquarters.

At that time, many executives of the party, including Sen. Dillon, saw him as a “transformer” and downplayed accusations of theft against the businessman turned politician by FIFA when he headed the Liberia Football Association.  Mr. Bility was found guilty by FIFA for embezzling funds intended for the development of football in Liberia. For that, he was banned from all football activities for ten years by FIFA's Ethics Committee. However, Bility denied the charge.

And ahead of the party Convention in Bong County recently, the party's former chair, Senator Steve Zargo of Lofa County, who did not seek reelection, accused  Bility of offering delegates and others huge sums of money to vote him in as the party’s chair. However, Sen. Dillon, who Bility supported financially during his senatorial bid, went on defending his party's decision to elect Bility amid public outcry.

The Senator at the time claimed that his party chairman has changed from “Saul to Paul,” (from bad to good.)  

Meanwhile, Senators Dillon, Karnga-Lawrence, and Chairman Bility, along with others, met on Saturday, October 2, at the Farmington Hotel, in an attempt to mend their differences. But this is not the first meeting of its kind between Karnga-Lawrence and Dillon on the one hand and Bility and his supporters on the other hand. 

In the previous instance, a similar meeting was held to hash out issues concerning alleged tampering with the Liberty Party’s constitution. An outcome of that meeting was a memorandum of understanding (MOU) that would allow the National Advisory Committee to investigate the claim of tampering of the constitution, thereby making their findings binding on officials on either side of the party divide. 

“Bility actions”

Sen. Karnga-Lawrence has said the action taken by Bility is part of his characteristic, which has led to him conducting illegal activities in the counties, including the unauthorized suspension with the ultimate aim of making the “Liberty Party irrelevant in the Collaborating Political Parties (CPP),” which will be contained.

Currently, Bility and the Party Secretary-General are in favor of the political leader of the ANC, Alexander B. Cummings, to head the CPP ticket come 2023, while a bulk of executive committee members, including the party’s Political Leader, are possibly considering former Vice President Joseph Nyumah Boakai, who is the political leader of the former governing Unity Party.

According to the Senator, her office is constitutionally mandated to give political direction to the party. As such, she is nullifying the bogus suspension of the two Party Executives and all other actions, pending a thorough review of the records of the Gbarnga Convention.

“We will do all in our power to redeem the image of the Liberty Party that is being mutilated daily by the uncontrolled ambition of Mr. Bility, Chairman of Liberty Party.”