President Sirleaf did not Violate the Longstanding Procedure of Courtesy


By Fillmore S. Hney

The Perspective
Atlanta, Georgia
July 31, 2007


In all honesty, Mr. Zaza has a right to know anything he wishes with regard to what goes on in Liberia. It is always said that in the court of public opinion, everybody has a right to express him/herself. So, no one has a right to accuse the gentleman for speaking his mind. I am responding to Mr. Zaza because his recent article carried by The perspective (July 17) raises a lot of questions. I am not a spokesman for Mrs. Johnson-Sirleaf. Like Mr. Zaza, I have a God-given right to respond to something when the need arises.

Issue: "President Johnson-Sirleaf did not only violate the longstanding procedure of courtesy to consult the Liberian Legislature on major issues, but also violated foreign diplomatic protocol."

Response: Mr. Zaza, this is not a major issue. It is not really necessary for the president to have contacted the members of the Legislature while Africom's permanent residency status in Liberia was being negotiated. I am not suggesting that the members of the Liberian National Assembly should not have been informed at all. What I am saying is that while the negotiations were on-going, it wasn't really necessary to consult with them. Finally, for further clarification, see Article 57 of the Liberian Constitution.

Issue: "How can a president approach a foreign nation to bring its military installation to her country without consulting her own people?"

Response: Are you really sure that Mrs. Johnson-Sirleaf did not consult with anyone at all? How do you know this, sir? It is highly unlikely (despite the fact that she is human) that she could do something as dictatorial as that. She may not have contacted a member or all the members of the National Assembly. But if she contacted the minister of national defense, that would have been presidentially correct! The question is ...did you contact Mrs. Johnson-Sirleaf's minister of defense on this particular issue? Others will accuse you of making a blanket statement, but trust me, I believe that you Mr. Zaza, have a right to know. Just be careful! Some Liberians who are not as educated as you may conclude that Mrs. Johnson-Sirleaf is inept.

Issue: "Why complicate problems associated with the "imperial presidency" syndrome, by not creating a forum for Liberians to discuss issues such as AFRICOM?"

Response: Mr. Zaza, do you really mean that? You could say that a national poll should be conducted. Goodness! I do not believe that a socialist or a communist leader would allow such a thing to occur on his watch. Earlier this year (2007), members of the national assembly were given a rare opportunity to deliberate on the ratification of the Mittal steel deal. The operative words "rare opportunity" are used because unlike all previous regimes in the history of Liberia, it was not possible. You'll agree with me on this one. In any case, the brave men and women deliberated and ratified the Mittal deal. However, it took a longer time to ratify. If I am correct, the US government had to intervene for the national assembly members to expeditiously act. My view is this: it would be nationally and politically correct for the elected members to look at this agreement after the modalities have been worked out by Mrs. Johnson-Sirleaf. After all, that's what the Legislators were elected for, not the ordinary people of Liberia. Consider the length of time it would take to get the 15 counties to talk, the money to do this and that, etc.

Issue: “There is no national security policy, no defense policy because she withdrew the draft policy she had sent to the Legislators for enactment. It is in a national policy vacuum that she is anxiously pursuing the Americans to come and establish their African security head quarters".

Response: Frankly, I do not know what is meant by "national policy vacuum". But I can say that the Liberian people do not have a standing army at this particular time. The country's armed forces are being trained. As the brave men and women are being trained to defend Liberia, contingency plans are in the works. The minister of defense has recently said that he as well as the commander-in-chief, are prepared to produce a new army that will respect the rule of law and serve in international conflicts if the need ever arises. (The minister of defense didn't exactly use those words, but they are a complete substance of what he meant). Therefore, a fair assessment of things should be based on the assumption that a "national policy" is in place. Insofar as the new army is still being trained, it would be ridiculously unhelpful and un-national to expose a "national security policy" at this time.

Issue: In the sixth paragraph, you state that "if a country like Ghana can reject an American request to host the headquarters of Africom, there must be a compelling national or West African interest involved in their decision".

Response: Really? There is no doubt that their are commonalities of interests some times. So at this particular time, Liberia's interests are different from those of our friend, Ghana. Thanks to Ghana for coming to our aid during and after the war. All Liberians will be grateful to Ghana and others who came to our help when we needed help. Let's be realistic. In the late 60s and early 70s, boat loads of Liberians were repatriated to Liberia from Ghana because it was in Ghana's national interest. The Ghana government felt strongly that the Liberians needed to be sent back because they (Liberians) were too many. Educationally, some of Ghana's Universities have more colleges than ours. In terms of infrastructure, Ghana has free and railways that we don't have. Another example is this. During the cold war, France was originally connected to Nato's military wing. As time went on, France divorced itself from Nato's military wing. Why? It was in France's national interest. After the cold war, France re-joined the military wing of Nato once again. To conclude on this topic, it is fair to say that Ghana's interests are not intertwined with Liberia's. They (meaning the Ghanaians) may choose to abnegate if it's in their national interest, but we (the Liberians) do not have to agitate.

Issue: "Liberia got nothing in return for allowing America to use Liberia's resources and territory during world wars 1&2".

Response: Mr. Zaza, you're dead wrong! The Freeport of Monrovia (Bushrod Island) and Robert's international airfield, (Magibi) county were constructed by the very people (Americans) you are partially critical of. Since the 1940s, the Freeport of Liberia and Robert's International have brought economic benefits to Liberia. This is a fact. In recent months, much has been said about the corruption that goes on at the above mentioned entities. You and I may disagree on many things, but we should and must agree that if it is true that corruption is rampant at the above named entities, it is not the fault of the US government. The truth of the matter is economic benefits are coming in as a consequence of the investment that was made by the US government.

In conclusion, I am sure that Mr. Zaza will agree that 15 years of war in Liberia was horrendous. Although I wasn't there during the beginning and the end of the war, I felt the pain just like any Liberian. We have a moral obligation to work hard so that our country will be the once loveable country it was. Destructive criticisms will rally people to do unpopular things. Constructive criticisms will lead us to civility. We all know that Mrs. Johnson-Sirleaf is a crime fighter. She is not an angel, she cannot do the job of crime-fighting by herself. She needs everyone's input. It is fair to inform her if she commits an error but it is wrong to accuse her if she hasn't done anything wrong. As president of Liberia, she (was/is) right to negotiate with the US government regarding the issue of Africom.

The Author: Fillmore S. Hney can be reached at:

© 2007 by The Perspective

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