By Alvin Worzi
A presidential hopeful in the upcoming elections and eminent citizen of Liberia, Dr. Togba-Nah Tipoteh, has taken Jerome George Korkoya, chairman of the National Elections Commission (NEC), to the Supreme Court, while the NDC (National Democratic Coalition) has also sued the embattled NEC chairman to Sixth Judicial Civil Law Court of Montserrado County.
In a petition to the Supreme Court, Dr. Tipoteh said Cllr. Jerome G. Korkoya cannot continue to serve as chairman of the NEC, because he is citizen of the United States of America, in possession of that country’s passport and has voted in American elections.
Dr. Tipoteh said in order for the result of the national election to be considered credible, the legal capacity of persons conducting the election, especially its chairman, who speaks for the Board of Commissioners and presides over its meetings, must not be in doubt or questionable in any respect.
Dr. Tipoteh argued that in order for NEC to require all candidates and voters participating in the 2017 presidential and representative elections to comply with the Elections Law of Liberia and for the commission to have the moral authority to rigorously enforce all provisions of said law, the commission and its members must obey, abide by and comply with every provision of the Elections Law of Liberia.
According to Dr. Tipoteh, the petition is being filed in good faith to prevent any post-election crisis led by any party or individual who loses the upcoming election on the sound legal argument that the chairman who conducted the election was not legally qualified to conduct the election because he is not a Liberian citizen.
He said chairman Korkoya is required by law to conduct elections in a lawful manner and to require all candidates and voters to uphold the Elections Law; therefore, “He must also be held to the same standard of upholding the Elections Law by not permitting him to violate section 2.3 of said law. Hence, prohibition will lie to cause respondent to refrain from further violating the law.”
In his petition, Dr. Tipoteh said based on allegations publicly made by various groups and media institutions, Chairman Korkoya has not publicly denied that he is an American Citizen, but has only said repeatedly that he is a Liberian citizen and carries a Liberian passport, and that those claiming that he is a citizen of the United States of America should take him to court.
Dr. Tipoteh said: “Prohibition will lie to prevent the chairman of NEC, from further directing the affairs of the office of chairman, because he is a citizen of the United States as is evidenced by the fact that he holds an American passport and has voted in political elections. Attached are copies of respondent’s United States of America passport and voting records marked as exhibit P/1 in bulk to form a cogent part of the petition.”
He said although the Constitution of Liberia provides under section 28 that “No citizen of the Republic shall be deprived of citizenship or nationality except as provided by law,” it also provides under the same section that “No person shall be denied the right to change citizenship or nationality” thereby giving a Liberian citizen the freedom to give away his Liberian citizenship.
Dr. Tipoteh is a citizen of Liberia who is historically known for standing up for justice, peace, human rights and upholding the law for more than 40 years through the work of the Movement of Justice for Africa (MOJA).
In their lawsuit, the NDC (National Democratic Coalition), said together with other collaborating parties, they have finally dragged “the NEC criminal suspect to court,” adding “We have prima facie evidence that the current Chairman of NEC is an American, not a Liberian citizen. Dual citizenship is illegal and is criminal in Liberia. He lied under oath to be confirmed by the Liberian Senate as Chairman of NEC.”
In carefully worded letters to President Conde of Guinea, the Secretary General of the UN Antonio Guterres, the AU, ECOWAS and US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, and the Liberian media, the NDC said “as a foreign citizen serving as the Chair of NEC, Korkoya has also violated the much talked about Code of Conduct, which he promises to enforce to the letter. These, among other violations, make Korkoya a criminal suspect. “
The NDC said it would like to inform the public that its fight against “the illegal and criminal dual citizenship status of the man presiding over Liberia’s National Election Commission is not a fight against dual citizenship in principle. In the opinion of the NDC, in this 21st Century, when hundreds of thousands of natural born Liberians and their children have been forced to become citizens in foreign countries due to the Liberian civil war and other humiliating conditions at home in Liberia, we cannot allow such Liberians from losing the citizenship of their heritage simply because of the newly earned foreign citizenships of foreign countries. The two citizenships, Liberian and foreign, will legally have to co-exist simultaneously in the near future of Liberia when genuine patriotic Liberians take over the leadership of Liberia.”
The NDC said that until the old and primitive laws on the books are changed, “individuals like Jerome George Korkoya and their likes, who criminally ascribe to dual citizenship for the purpose of criminalizing our democracy and for the promotion of selfish partisan ideologies of the minority elitist class interests, we shall fight illegal dual citizenship to the dead end.”
The party said that President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf had twelve years to reform the legal system and other sectors of Liberia to the core, including the national economy, but she blatantly failed to do so because her priorities were in other directions – “plunder and self-enrichment.”
“Yet she is keeping Korjoya in such a key public position in gross violation of the Liberian Constitution that she took oath to uphold, while flagrantly failing to defend and uphold the rule of law,” said the party.
Meanwhile, the NDC legal team comprises some of Liberia’s finest and reputable legal minds, including Cllrs. J. Leveli Supuwood (former Minister of Justice and Associate Justice of the Supreme Court); Leveli Koboi Johnson (former Minister of Justice); and Tiawon S. Gonglo (former Solicitor General of Liberia and human rights lawyer).
In a related development, while combining its legal struggle with advanced political actions, the NDC has formally written several world leaders, including, the Secretary of State of the United States of America, the Secretary-General of the United Nations, the Presidents of ECOWAS and the AU respectively, calling their respective attentions to the current Korkoya issue because of its proclivity to invite conflict at this juncture of critical transition in Liberia.
“This is the country in which,” the NDC further emphasized, “that the international community has invested billions of US Dollars for the restoration of normalcy and stability. Two immediate previous successive elections of the country were smooth and they are evidences that Liberians prefer transparent and fair democratic elections as the singular route to transfer power from one leader to the other,” said the NDC letter.
The NDC’s letters to the US Secretary of State, UN Secretary General, as well as the ECOWAS and AU Presidents, respectively, further highlighted that the NDC’s move to unprecedentedly write these world leaders “constitutes an early warning signal” about the situation in Liberia in relation to the 2017 General and Presidential Elections.
“As a major stakeholder that fought for the attainment of peace in Liberia, including signing the 2003 Comprehensive Peace Accord (CPA), the NDC is under moral and political obligations to scrupulously defend the peace,” the letters further emphasized.
It may be recalled that in April this year, the NDC wrote President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf and urged her to remove Cllr. Jerome George Korkoyah’s from the chairmanship of the National
Elections Commission (NEC) with immediate effect and have him turned over to the Ministry of Justice for prosecution.
The NDC’s call on the President for Cllr. Korkoya’s immediate dismissal as chairman of the NEC comes in the wake of the discovery of Cllr. Korkoyah’s dual Nationalities, which constitute criminal offence and loss of Liberian citizenship under the Laws of Liberia.
The NDC disclosed to President Sirleaf that Chairman Korkoya is an American citizen and holds an American passport issued on March 18, 2010, with the expiration date of March 17, 2020.
“His US passport bears the number: 4670780024. While in possession of an American Passport as American citizen, Cllr. Korkoya simultaneously and criminally acquired a Liberian ECOWAS Diplomatic passport,” said the letter.
The NDC attached to its letter dated April 17, 2017, to President Sirleaf, a photocopy of said expired passport. The NDC further pointed out that Cllr. Korkoya fraudulently used his Liberian ECOWAS Diplomatic passport in transit to countries between the United States and Liberia.
“The NDC is of the strong opinion that Cllr. Korkoya is in possession of his Renewed Liberian ECOWAS Diplomatic passport that he is currently using to travel given the date of expiration (2015) of his old Liberian passport. When other Liberians choose to collaborate with a president that shows gross disrespect for the Liberian people and the organic law of the land, the NDC will act differently. It is time in the remaining few months to show to President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf that Liberia is not a farm of any individual, and no one shall be allowed to treat the country act as such. Enough is enough,” said the NDC.