Resolving the House Impasse: Chief Zanzan Kawor Has a Chance

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The Chairman of the National Traditional Council (NTC) has thankfully intervened in the conflict in the House of Representatives, where the Speaker, Bomi County’s Alex Tyler, and his Deputy, Grand Bassa’s Hans Barchue, are at loggerheads.

Both are holding rival sessions, the Speaker in the regular House chambers, and Barchue and his faction in the Joint Chamber of the National Legislature, which his supporters forcibly opened last week to hold their separate session.

The Daily Observer editorially criticized the Barchue-led faction for doing this, breaking down the door to the Joint Chamber, because it not only bespoke violent action, which is illegal, but showed gross disrespect to the Upper Chamber, the Senate, which equally shares the Joint Chamber with the House. It is the sacred venue where both Houses meet each January to receive the President’s Annual Message; and also to discuss and resolve critical national issues and problems.

It is troubling that the conflict had reached crisis point, that same Editorial expressed. It furthermore called for the swift intervention of several important and influential groups to help resolve the impasse, which had brought the entire government into chaos. For one thing, it has brought the first branch of government into disrepute—fighting among themselves when they should be preoccupied with the people’s business and setting wholesome examples

Secondly, and even more critically, the National Budget for 2016/17 languishes in the divided house, threatening to bring the entire government to a standstill due to the lack of Legislatively-approved money to operate.

We have urged several institutions, including Civil Society, the National Bar Association, the Media, the Liberia Council of Churches and the Traditional Council of Chiefs, to intervene to resolve the crisis.

Chief Kawor’s intervention is welcome news. We think he has taken the right approach, by first meeting with each contentious faction. Then last Thursday he and the Council held their first scheduled meeting with both sides, on the neutral ground of the Council’s Sinkor office.

The NTC has a distinct and unique chance of helping to resolve the crisis—why? Because the vast majority of members of the Legislature are traditional people, belonging to the nation’s traditional societies, the most powerful among them being the Poro and Sande, to which many of them, especially those from Bomi, Bong, Grand Bassa, Grand Cape Mount, Lofa, Nimba and Rivercess counties are very strong adherents. But the rest of the counties, too, all have their own traditional societies, not necessarily related to the Poro and Sande, but there is a strong cultural bond among them all.

The reason the Daily Observer, in an attempt to help resolve the crisis in the House, recommended that the Liberian Council of Churches (LCC) also be involved is because again, the vast majority of Legislators are Christians. They should listen to the prelates and other church leaders, too.

There are two other important groups that might be included in the mediation. They are the Masonic Craft and the Inter-Religious Committee, which comprises Christians and Muslims.

We mention the Craft because so many people across the country, including many adherents of the Traditional Societies, are now Masons. The Masonic Grand Lodge also has lodges in several counties. The Masons are no longer a settler-based society. We also suggest that the Interreligious Committee, comprising the LCC and the National Muslim Council of Liberia, become involved in the mediation.

Given all of these possibilities, we suspect that the impasse in the House will soon be broken. Most members of the House are responsible men and women and should, therefore, listen to the voices of reason.

We hope and pray that they will, so that the First Branch of government will get back to work and conduct the business that the people of Liberia have elected them to do.

We also trust that the Executive branch of government, which has lately shown indications of taking sides in this strictly legislative controversy, will immediately back off. The Executive branch should stop interfering with legislative problems, which is tantamount to treading on unconstitutional grounds.

Heaven knows that the country has enough trouble right now. Who needs another brawl over the unconstitutional behavior of anyone?

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