The Dictatorship of the Majority

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By Abdoulaye W. Dukulé

If there is anything worse than a small minority imposing its will on the majority, it’s when the majority becomes the oppressor. Small groups lose their voices in the cacophony and are tramped on. This is something to worry about when one party wins a landslide victory and is soon joined by others in the opposition. The ruling of the Coalition for Democratic Change (CDC) is on the path of becoming so powerful that it may start acting like a one-party system.

The current debate about the impeachment of Associate Justice Kabineh Ja’neh is a cause for worry, because one could determine the outcome if the legislature acts as it did recently. Liberians were told two months ago that two private companies – ETON and EBOMAF- were ready to invest close to a billion dollars in Liberia to build roads. This was a very positive development, but almost “too good to be true,” as a Government Minister put it.

The media and the opposition questioned the deals and when they asked for transparency, they were accused of being “enemies” of the people. In less time than it takes to load paper into a printer, the two deals passed through both houses at the speed of lightning. The two deals may have been good ones but only the legislature could have ascertained that fact and then inform the people of Liberia. Now, there is all likelihood that the two deals may not materialize.

Looking at the speed with which the legislature put its stamps on two major deals without due diligence, one must worry about what would happen to the case of Associate Justice Kabineh Ja’neh. If the triumphalist and vocal majority manages to scare away dissenters and impose a vote along “majority lines” we may never find out if Associate Kabineh Ja’neh is guilty of anything or innocent. There is always the belief that the Supreme Court – in the US as in Liberia – is apolitical.

This may not really hold water since members of the Court are appointed by the President according to his or her ideological lining. Therefore, the high court can only be immune to political manipulations by appointing powers by sticking to the Constitution. Was there any plenary debate to decide whether Representative Fonati Koffa could pose prejudice to the case… because he was member of an opposition party, Liberty Party (LP) a party that Associate Justice Ja’neh sided with in the recent electoral dispute?

Does the fact that Cllr. Koffa has now joined the CDC makes him more credible in leading the investigation… Ok, too late for this time. In a recent radio talk show interview, Honorable Acarious Gray admitted that he wanted to impeach Associate Justice Ja’neh as far back as in 2014. Is this an old issue between the two that now resurfaces because Honorable Gray has the majority behind him?

What is so urgent about impeaching an Associate Justice for the Senate to postpone its annual break to deal with the issue? The dictatorship of the majority is akin to a horde of elephants stamping in a cornfield. They kill everything on their path. It’s not a good sight. Not what Liberia wants. Liberians have the right to expect a clear and transparent process, that would lay out in the open all the issues.

This is a first time in this dispensation. We hope it will be dealt with fairly, according to the Constitution. And serve as a lesson for the future.

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1 COMMENT

  1. The alarm raised by the paper has a remedy. And that remedy is a viable constitutional democracy. Historically as shown in a constitutional democracy like the U.S, when a party in leadership with a particular ideology goes to the extreme, the voters have always put a check on that party by voting for the opposing party. Voters tend to be centrists. And it starts with Congress in the U.S. and would be with the Legislature in Liberia. The key is that the powers rest with the electorate. Are they going to exercise their rights or not? If they don’t vote, they can’t bring about a change or hold elected officials accountable.

    While I am not privy to what took place during the confirmation hearings of the recently confirmed Justice to the Supreme Court, Nagbe, I have read nothing about whether the hearings dealt with or addressed his opinions on constitutional matters as well as prior legal opinions he expressed, including legal acts of his in private practice, if any. These should be the basis for the Senate hearings and confirmation. Many of the issues being raised now about prior actions by some of the justices on the court would have been discovered and raised a reason to not be confirmed (e.g., there’s a story about the current Chief Justice’s actions in a case with the Nyema’s family, when he was in private practice that should’ve raised a red flag during his confirmation).

    On the concern about Mr. Fonati’s potential to prejudice a hearing based on a legal opinion Justice Janeh rendered that benefitted Fonati’s party has no legal merit. It’s also untrue that we may never find out if the Justice is guilty or not. Upon completion of the Senate’s trial and decision, the transcript of the trial will show the evidence and the laws relied on to reach a decision. Hearsay and assumptions outside the scope of laws about what the process are not admissible and irrelevant in determining the validity of the trial.

    Impeachments proceeding put a cloud over a position of public trust and should be given a high priority for finality. This office is a public trust entrusted to one who is charged with alledged acts that are contrary to the character expected of a person who holds the office that impacts the lives of every Liberian and every case that have constitutional implication, such as dual citizenship, presidential authority concerning tenured public officials, incarcerated individuals’ rights to a timely due process and Judicial Review of the constitutionality of the process followed in enacting the questionable loans.

    To ignore or suggest this proceedings simply because its implication appears abstract is to ignore what could impact the many concrete things many are suggesting should be the focus.

    Lastly, impeachments always have a political motive, but that doesn’t make it unconstitutional. The reasons have already been given. Folks on either side should address the underlying charges to prove the merits or disprove the merits and avoid unrelated hearsays and attacks.

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