My Fellow Liberians:
Let me begin by extending my solemn condolence to all Liberians who have lost loved ones to the deadly outbreak of the Ebola Virus Disease or have been otherwise affected by the epidemic. My prayer remains that all of us will continue to work together with international partners who have come to our aid to remove this scourge from our country and from the region as a whole.
I have convened this Press Conference this morning to inform the Liberian public that I have just respectfully asked President Sirleaf to accept my resignation which I tendered on March 31, 2014. You may recall that last October, the Supreme Court of Liberia held me in contempt for granting “compassionate leave” to Rodney Sieh, in keeping with Section 34.20 read in concert with 34.2(d) of the Criminal Procedure Law, ILCL Revised. Pursuant to a public hearing on October 21, 2013, where my counsels were not allowed to raise any legal arguments, but were instead browbeaten into offering an apology to appease the judiciary, the Court proceeded on January 10, 2014 to render a decision suspending my license to practice law for six months. At the instance and reasoned expert advice of my lawyer, Counselor Varney Sherman, I petitioned for re-argument. Regrettably, the court affirmed the decision to suspend my license as punishment due to its objection to my good faith enforcement of law which it construed as disrespectful, amounting to evidence of contempt of court.
In a letter dated March 31, 2014, I tendered my resignation as the Attorney General and Minister of Justice of the Republic of Liberia to President Sirleaf. However, for reasons best known to her, the President delayed acknowledgment of my letter and ultimately postponed consideration of my prerogative to resign from her cabinet appointment.
On July 11, 2014, I formally notified President Sirleaf by letter that I had completed the six-month suspension imposed by Supreme Court on my license to practice law and that the Court had ordered that I resume practice. She responded immediately, asking me to return to work and indicating that we will discuss my letter of resignation of March 31, 2014 at a later date. Out of deference for the Office of the President and in view of the national security crisis posed by the outbreak of the Ebola Virus Disease, I obliged and continued with my schedule of duties, while in utmost good faith awaiting President Sirleaf’s convenience to ratify my longstanding decision to resign.
On July 17, 2014, in the interim of my good faith anticipation of the follow up discussion about my resignation which the President had promised, I was shocked and dismayed to learn that the Minister of Information, the official spokesperson for the government, issued an eight-page statement which pronounced the parody of justice in the Contempt Proceedings Against Christiana Tah, Minister of Justice and Counselor Beyan D. Howard as a classic example of judicial independence and equality before the law, irrespective of social class.
The copious press release, which was disseminated without the commonplace collegiality of informing me ahead of time, failed to acknowledge my pending resignation notice. Indeed, the ceremonial appeared to be aimed at a preemption and/or retaliation of the prerogative to resign, which I sought to exercise nearly four months earlier.
My fellow citizens, as difficult and as painful as it has been for me to be objectified into a lightning rod for controversial claims about “the rule of law,” I was willing to subordinate my grievances to the best interest of our dearly beloved nation, to bite the bullet, and to count it “all in a day’s work,” as the saying goes. I was particularly appalled that the Government chose to announce its reaction to my matter with the Supreme Court given that the nation was at the height of its fight against the Ebola Virus Disease.
Nevertheless, it has become unbearable to me to persevere in name as the dutifully appointed Minister of Justice of the Republic of Liberia when in reality concrete actions indicate a determination to systematically undermine and gut the portfolio of relevance and effectiveness. The landscape of the Liberian Jurisprudence is being transformed in arbitrary and inscrutable ways that make it onerous to conscientiously navigate. Amidst the prevailing interpretation of the doctrine of separation of powers and the ensuing blurring of the rules and roles of engagement, even within the executive arm of government itself, the investments of national and international stakeholders promoting the rule of law is being eroded by actions that contradict the values that underpin the fabric of our society.
I cannot be the Minister of Justice and not supervise the operations of the security agencies under the Ministry of Justice, for example; or what is “the rule of law” if the President asserts that she does not trust the Ministry of Justice to independently investigate allegations of fraud against the National Security Agency? What is “the rule of law” if a duly appointed Minister of Justice with oversight for security has grave concerns about what her volitional resignation will mean for her own personal security and freedom as a Liberian citizen?
Cognizant of the President’s rhetoric of commitment to the rule of law, my own painstaking efforts to help re-establish the foundations for justice and venerate defining principles such as the separation of powers in our nascent democracy, and most importantly the duty of transparency and accountability that we owe Liberians as public servants, I believe that it is unconscionable for me not to resign with immediate effect. Accordingly, I have asked President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf to accept this reiteration of my notice to resign from her cabinet as the Attorney General and Minister of Justice of the Republic of Liberia with immediate effect.
Many of my friends and family who have lived through this trying experience with me, and were perplexed that I tabled my decision to step down on March 31, 2014 at the behest of the President, have asked: “why did you decide to go back to that job, after everything you have been put through?” The answer is simple: Love of country! Furthermore, the interest of our nation is bigger and paramount over any personal or partisan concern(s). I would also be remiss not to underscore my enduring belief that leadership must be enacted as an art in self-transcendence and that a public servant must necessarily prioritize the collective good through thick and thin. Finally, I deem it important to lead by example in showing young people who struggle everyday with the vicissitudes of life that integrity is its own reward and adversity is an element of growth. In this vein, I believe that as a public servant my oath of office means that I pledge to deepen our collective learning and institutional growth, even if it entails humbling myself at great personal costs.
It is the same public spiritedness that informs my world view which underpins the ethical dilemma that has compelled my decision to unequivocally draw the line beyond which I cannot continue to fill the position of the Minister of Justice in name without the substantive support of the Chief Executive. This is especially given that my allegiance is first and foremost to our nation. Having relented at retreating at the height of my own personal pain when my hard-earned professional asset was suspended and my credibility called into question, and having deferred to the President when she denied my prerogative to promptly exit her administration, it is with justifiable relief that I inform you that I can no longer continue to struggle to vindicate the portfolio designated for the office of the Attorney General and Minister of Justice of the Republic of Liberia when it is eviscerated and reduced to a pretext to legitimate and perpetrate arbitrary activities and inscrutable practices under the guise of “the rule of law.”
My fellow Liberians, to say that these are perilous times for our nation is to put it mildly. Nonetheless, I take solace in our resilience as a people as I pray that we learn and emerge from the challenges of our nation-building stronger.
I do honestly thank President Sirleaf for the opportunity to serve my country in the capacity as Attorney General and Minister of Justice for nearly six years. I thank the Liberian people for your support, cooperation, and understanding in even the most difficult times. God Bless the Republic of Liberia.