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Liberia’s judiciary and prosecutors were accused of double standards in Samukai’s case

MONROVIA, LIBERIA (GA) – The Government of Liberia, through its judiciary and justice ministry prosecutors, has vehemently pursued the prosecution of the country’s former defense minister, J. Brownie Samukai, and two other defense ministry officials for corruption and theft of public funds even though the current Liberian administration has openly indicated and refused to audit the previous administration in which Minister Samukai served when the alleged corruption and theft of funds occurred.

According to a document produced in the case, former Defense Minister Samukai on “orders” of former President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf used some monies set aside for the Liberian army for administrative and operational purposes.  As President, Madam Sirleaf acknowledged issuing the directive because the government through the Ministry needed to address some critical issues and problems related to some military activities and the wellbeing of some soldiers.  The government at the time had hoped that at a certain point in time the funds would have been refunded for the purposes for which it is intended. That did not happen until 2017 when the Unity Party government ended its twelve years in state power.

What appeared to have happened was unfortunate and is a general pattern in governance practices in some African nations where presidents issued orders for expenditure and their lieutenants take the fall.  In addition, adherence to and support for transparency, accountability, and the implementation of the rule of law are a hallmark of good governance.  However, these should not be done or carried out as a selective process, as in the case of Samukai and the other two accused, especially so when former President Sirleaf is said to have acknowledged instructing the Minister and Lofa County senator-elect and his associates to spend the funds for official ministry’s purposes.

Selective Justice

The alleged funds were used by the Liberian government on orders of the then-sitting president.  If the current administration which is fighting corruption and graft is pursuing corruption committed during the previous administration such action should be across the board rather than being selective and using the judiciary as a partisan tool and the prosecutors at the Ministry of Justice to rattle the senator-elect.

According to court records, the funds in question are about US$1.4 million. In February 2021, the Supreme Court of Liberia affirmed a lower court ruling preventing Senator-elect Samukai from being sworn as Senator for Lofa County and in addition ordered him to restitute the funds or face two years’ solitary imprisonment.

Many Liberians and non-Liberians as Liberia’s international partners believe corruption is bad.  It impacts political cultures and economic systems negatively.  Moreover, not only does corruption adversely affects economic development in terms of economic efficiency and growth, but it also affects the equitable distribution of resources across a country’s population. Corruption also widens income inequalities, undermines the effectiveness of social welfare programs, facilitates poverty, and ultimately leads to lower levels of the human condition. But fighting corruption should not be politically selective and nor should it be a politically weaponized strategy targeting a few in a country where millions of dollars went missing and are unaccounted for at various agencies including at the National Oil Company of Liberia (NOCAL), the Ministry of Public Works, the National Social Security and Welfare Corporation among others.

While Liberians in the diaspora and at home welcome the government’s stance against corruption, they see a double standard in the prosecution of the former defense ministry officials because the current administration made it clear from the day of assuming office that it does not and will not audit the previous administration and former officials. Two questions.  So, why are senator-elect Samukai and his two deputies are the exception? What role is the judiciary playing in this double standard?

The Liberian judiciary is generally viewed by Liberians at home and abroad as well as the international community including the European Union and the United States government as inept and extremely corrupt. Western followers of African politics and governance think the composition of the current Liberian judiciary is the worst across Africa due to its lack of judicial independence, political deference and collaboration, pay-to-play and win cases, and willful interpretation of the law.

The U.S. State Department has repeatedly recorded instances of judicial weakness in the country and the role of the Supreme Court of Liberia and its justices in the process. The U.S. Treasury Department even sanctioned influential Liberian politicians accused of bribing the entire Liberian judiciary which is being accused of selective justice in the prosecution of Samukai’s case. According to several international interpretations, selective prosecution is a violation of the constitutional guarantee of equal protection for all persons under the law. In the United States, for example, the requirement of equal protection is contained in the DUE PROCESS CLAUSE of the FIFTH AMENDMENT to the U.S. Constitution. The Liberian government cannot refuse to audit officials and the former administration and yet elect to cherry-pick who have become political opposition.

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Globe Afrique News Desk

Globe Afrique’s News Desk coordinates and analyses news stories from around the world as well as the gathering or distribution of news. Globe Afrique, a US-based institution, is Africa’s leading investigative media entity. The institution’s researchers, analysts, reporters, and contributors deeply investigate and report on a single topic of interest, such as serious crimes, political corruption, or corporate wrongdoing. The institution, which sometimes spends weeks or months researching and preparing investigative reports, also researches into social and legal issues. Have a news tip, write to globeafriquellc@gmail.com
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