Liberia’s Minister of Internal Affairs, Varney Sirleaf, has instructed Bong County Superintendent Esther Walker to reinstate chiefs who she recently dismissed.
Supt. Walker, it can be recalled, dismissed several local chiefs, who she claimed were members of the former ruling Unity Party, in Bong County and immediately replaced them with partisans of the National Patriotic Party (NPP), one of the parties that is a member of the Coalition for Democratic Change (CDC).
The NPP was organized in Gbarnga in 1992 during the de facto National Patriotic Reconstruction Assembly Government (NPRAG) of Charles Taylor, then leader of the National Patriotic Front of Liberia (NPFL). There are still many die-hard NPP partisans in the county particularly among the elders.
Supt. Walker could not explain why those chiefs were dismissed but her action came barely a month after Vice President Jewel Howard-Taylor, former senator of Bong County, informed chiefs to join the CDC or risked being fired.
A letter in the possession of The Daily Observer from Minister Sirleaf, dated June 15, mandated Supt. Walker to reverse the decision and reinstate the dismissed chiefs.
“It is the standing policy of the Ministry of Internal Affairs that no chiefs be dismissed by the superintendent or any other county official without the minister’s expressed approval,” the letter explained.
The minister, according to the letter, took the decision after consultations with President George Weah.
Political analysts in the county said the decision to reinstate those dismissed chiefs stemmed from the recent visit of President George Weah in the county when seven members of the Bong Legislative Caucus boycotted the program on grounds that Superintendent Walker and the CDC Representative Josiah Marvin Cole were unilaterally dismissing local chiefs without the consent of the Minister of Internal Affairs and the President of Liberia.
Minister Sirleaf reminded Madam Walker of concerns expressed by chiefs at the just ended national conference of Chiefs and Elders from June 4 to 6 in Ganta, Nimba County, of their perceived dismissal by local officials.
“Arbitrary dismissal of chiefs without probable cause is inconsistent with President Weah’s pro-poor agenda for prosperity and development” the letter furthered.
The dismissal of the local chiefs by Superintendent Walker has been condemned by citizens of the county and the Bong Legislative Caucus.
Senator Henry Yallah, the Chairman of the Bong Legislative Caucus described the action by Madam Walker as a “political witch hunt” and said people should not be prosecuted for their role they played in the 2017 elections, adding, “elections are political period; after elections, it is governance period, so you don’t punish anybody for he/she did during the elections”.
“Elections are over and I don’t think people should be witch hunted on the basis of their decisions in elections” Senator Yallah asserted.
Yallah said that during the 12-year rule of the Unity Party, officials of the National Patriotic Party of which Madam Walker is a staunch member served in leadership in the county and were never targeted by the powers that were at the time.
“No chief from the NPP under the Unity Party led government was dismissed because of their political affiliation. The superintendent needs to understand that power will come and power will go and I will pray that God will speak to our superintendent that she will see reason to work with us and not to take us as enemies because of our affiliation with the former ruling Unity Party ” the Senator concluded.
Representative Papa Kolleh of District #7, whose paramount chief James Binda was dismissed by Madam Walker, hailed the reinstatement of his chief as a new dawn for his district and citizens.
Representative Kolleh said it was against the spirit of reconciliation that Madam Walker opted to dismiss Paramount chief Binda despite his 23 years’ service to the district with diligence and commitment.
Kolleh identified reconciliation as the hall mark for development and as such if Liberians want to embrace reconciliation, they should do away with acts that have the propensity to derail such process.
Kolleh said Superintendent Walker and the CDC led government should refrain from witch hunting if the CDC wants to succeed in Bong.
He said the caucus, which comprises one CDC lawmaker, could strangulate the local administration if the party continues to strangulate nonpartisans.
“You can’t be having one CDC lawmaker and begin to witch hunt our chiefs and expect us as members of the caucus to dance to your tune in the legislature… it is impossible” Representative Kolleh stressed.
Meanwhile several citizens who spoke to this reporter lauded members of the caucus for uniting to advance their plight to the minister and said the decision to reinstate the dismissed chiefs was in the interest of genuine peace consistent with President Weah’s dream and aspiration in reconciling the people of Liberia.