As Dr. Conteh Reaches the Stage: Drama At UL
-Dr. Kollie Still Holds the Gavel

By: Lewis K. Glay


Monrovia, Liberia

Distributed by

The Perspective
Atlanta, Georgia

August 23, 2004

Dr. Al-Hassan Conteh
Barely twenty-four hours following the appointment of Dr. Al-Hassan Conteh as President of the University of Liberia by Chairman Charles Gyude Bryant, professors and teaching assistants at the nation’s highest institution of learning, subsequently laid down their chalks in protest to the appointment.

This action was followed by a peaceful march to the Capitol Building on Wednesday by students in search of what they termed as “amicable solution.”

Perhaps touched by the growing tension at the UL, a government negotiating team headed by Information Minister Dr. C. William Allen, held a meeting with aggrieved members of the University Faculty Association (ULFA) in order to bring the situation under control.

During a radio talk show over the weekend, representatives of the government and the UL Faculty Association as well as students centered their deliberations on the amicable resolution of the UL crisis. According to ULFA, it was stated within its communication that while negotiation was going on, all appointments including that of the president of the university be withheld.

But Dr. Allen, Chairman of the Search Committee on UL Presidency, said Chairman Bryant made the selection of Dr. Conteh based on applications received from five individuals out of which three names were short listed, with Dr. Conteh taking the lead. He said his committee members including Cllr. David Jallah, Dr. Lewis C. York and other prominent Liberians scrutinized the dossiers of all applicants before submitting same to the Chairman for his own nomination to the Board.

Dr. Allen also argued that the appointment of Dr. Conteh was a way of “infusing new blood into the university”, adding, “Dr. Kollie has not challenged the process after the selection was done by the Chairman.” However, ULFA representatives counter-argued that Liberian leaders should learn to promote people within the system so as to motivate them, citing President William R. Tolbert as a classical example when he appointed president within the university.

For his part, one of the callers, Deputy Information Minister Barnard Waritay said, the rejection of Dr. Conteh’s appointment by ULFA was based on tribal sentiments. “Dr. Conteh is qualified to head the university but because he has a Mandingo background this is why they don’t want him,” Min. Waritay asserted.

Although the entire student body of the university is arguing that what matters is the smooth running of the institution, other campus-based organizations including the Students Democratic Alliance (STUDA) and the Student Unification Party (SUP) see the issue from a different dimension. For instance, STUDA argues that it does not have any qualm with the appointment of Dr. Conteh because it was done in line with UL Hand Book. “The UL presidency is a professional office,” Michael Diggs of STUDA said.

Contrary to STUDA’s position, a member of the Central Revolutionary Committee of SUP, Mohammed Alli said the party is not interested in who becomes the UL president, rather it is interested in seeing students learn under a conducive atmosphere.

Other students said the timing for the appointment of a new president to the university was inappropriate because, according to them, they were concentrating on their mid-term exams. “The issue of appointing new president to the university should have been done at the end of the semester instead of creating confusion at this time,” one junior student commented.

It can be recalled on Tuesday, 17 August that this paper reported about the resignation of Acting President, Dr. Kollie amidst pressure from both Chairman Bryant and the UL Board of Trustees to give way for the appointment of Dr. Conteh.

Meanwhile, Chairman Bryant is expected to meet with the leadership of ULFA this week to address its concerns.

© 2004: This article is copyrighted by the Forum newspaper (Monrovia, Liberia) and distributed by The Perspective (Atlanta, Georgia). All rights reserved.