By Samuka V. Konneh
Just as the dust is settling down in the public about gross public misconduct by aide-de-camp of Liberian President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf, reports have again emerged of another gross public misconduct of someone close to her.
Cleopatra Cummings Boima, a lead protocol officer, the person following the president almost everywhere she goes, was on Thursday, October 1, 2015 involved in a brutal fistfight with a community woman identified as Mafata Dukuly. The fighting led to severe physical bodily injuries on Mafata, which her husband, Yayah Y. Dukuly, a former NPA worker under Chairman Gyudi Bryant, described as unaccepted and a breach of the laws of Liberia.
Cleopatra lives an estimated 120 feet from her fight-mate. “This woman has been terrorizing us in this community. Everyone complains about her. She jumped over her fence and ran over 100 feet to attack my wife in my yard and caused her these injuries,” Mr. Dukuly a former executive mansion photographer during the regime of late president Samuel K. Doe,” lamented.
A neighbor in an apartment separating Cleopatra from the Dukulys confirmed the incident. “I did everything I could to stop her but to no success. I saw her jump over her fence, sweating and adamant to fight. Look at her barefoot marks here in the sand. Her own mother came struggling to stop her but she insisted to fight the woman who was busy washing her dirty clothes. All I did was just sit down there and cry. She could kill her. The woman was not prepared. She was bending down washing – not even looking. She brought her house maids to join the fight and they joined,” she said.
The president’s protocol officer declined speaking in an interview. “Are you here as a pressman? Then I can’t speak. The matter is court. So, I can’t speak,” Cleo, as she affectionately called, told me when I visited her residence for an interview.
When contacted on the matter concerning the attitude of people surrounding the president, Executive Mansion Chief of Protocol Rufus D. Neufville, could neither comment nor decline to speak on the issue. “I will be in Liberia on Friday,” he told me.
Obstruction of due process of law? Well, maybe not
The husband of the victim, Yayah, has accused Cleo of “using her power” to breach the due process of law. “Immediately the incident happened, I reported it to the police for intervention. Our power relations are not the same. So, I relied on the police to protect us. When the police came in to effect an arrest, she hid herself in her house. Just as the police left, she ran to the court to file in a lawsuit. This is obstruction of due process,” Mr. Dukuly in a frustrated tune blasted.
Yayah’s accusation is true, that’s according to officers at the Zone Four police depot in Garndnersville. Agartha Juwley is one of the officers handling the case and she confirmed that while the police was in the process of investigation, Cleo ran to the court. “I was among those (police) who went to effect an arrest. We didn’t see her. Within less than minutes, I got a call from the Town hall (Garndersville magisterial court) that a case has been brought to their attention. I went there to let them know that that particular case was under police investigation. But no one listened to me. In fact, her (Cleo) defense counsel shouted and told me that the court was above the police – so I should get out. He said it was not time yet for the police to be witness,” Agartha told me in an interview.
Cllr. Cerenus Syphus is a respected defense lawyers in Liberia. For him, Cleo may not have done anything legally wrong by going to court nor did the court do anything legally wrong to take on a case under police investigation. “Even if the police completes investigation and there is probable cause for indictment, where would they go, not the police? By right in this case the woman she (Cleo) fought is supposed to be the complainant, but now that Cleo has taken her to court, she is now a defendant. That puts her in a better position because Cleo and her lawyers now have to burden of proving probably during preliminary hearing why this woman should be liable. If she and her lawyer can’t show sufficient reason, the judge may decide not to proceed with the case,” Cllr. Syphus told me in an interview.
Using power, resource to buy justice?
Mr. Dukuly and his wife also accused Cleo of using money to buy in justice. “We saw her gave money to court officials to speed up the case. First, she gave LD$100 to them, they refused it. Then she changed $20.00 and gave them LD$300,” Mr. Dukuly accused. While court officials would not admit receiving bribes, eyewitnesses confirmed seeing argument between Cleo and court officials over money issues. Moreover, news of court officials taking bribe is commonplace in Liberia. “I saw her arguing bitterly with them (court officials.) I even heard one person saying ‘you think that for your LD$100 we left our houses to come here’? One eyewitness told me.
On September, President Sirleaf dismissed her aide-de-camp, deputy Executive Protective Service (EPS) director Darlington George for similar act of gross public misconduct. An executive mansion release said George was relieved of his duties and directed to report to the Ministry of Justice for investigation for assaulting one Esther Glain. The mansion also “strongly directed that others involved in the fracas that are not EPS agents should also report to the Ministry of Justice.” The office of the president assured the public that it “will not condone such acts of sheer indiscipline and total lack of morals on the part of any member of State security institutions especially the EPS, which has been subject to thorough psychological reform in order to give a human face to the public service they are entrusted to perform.”