The Liberian Constitution: The Biggest Joke of them All
By Jesse B. Ghoah
Posted May 6, 2002
It is mind bungling that in the late 20th century, a group of so called Liberian intellectuals could have written a document, called the Constitution of Liberia (http://www.theperspective.org/liberianconstitution.html), which is binding on all Liberians today as well as future generations, so devoid of thoughtfulness, reasonableness, legal implications, and foresightedness. Why did this group decide to give the power of an emperor and a king, combined, to an elected president of Liberia? Just who are the people who drafted this document and forced it on the Liberian people to approve and adopt it? As far as I am concerned, the Liberian constitution, as written, is not worth the paper it is written on.
Please visit with me, fellow Liberians, certain articles of the Liberian Constitution as written, and let me show you why I think the constitution is not worth the paper it is written on. Our first stop in the constitution is Chapter V1, Article 52: No person shall be eligible to hold the office of President or Vice-President, unless that person is:
a. A natural born Liberian citizen of not less than 35 years of age;
b. The owner of unencumbered real property valued at not less than twenty-five thousand dollars; and
c. Resident in the Republic ten (10) years prior to his election, provided that the President and the Vice President shall not come from the same County.
Now, let's examine Articles 52a, 52b and 52c. 52a - if that article 52a means anything, how is it that Samuel K. Doe was elected president of Liberia in 1985 at age 33? When Doe came to power on April 12 of 1980, it was printed in all the papers of the world that he was 28 year old. Definitely, he could not have been 35 years of age, five years later; unless that was some new mathematics somebody invented. Next, we come to 52b. The twenty five thousand dollars, is that the equivalent of $25,000.00 (American currency)? 52c - why was the 10 year resident requirement necessary if a Liberian who was running for the presidency already met the requirements of 52a and 52b? You think about it! I think that requirement was written to exclude Liberians in exile or Liberians living abroad from the political process.
However, since 52c is part of the constitution, has anybody investigated the time that Charles Taylor returned to Liberia? Mr. Taylor was elected president of Liberia in 1997. In order to comply with article 52c, he would have had to reside in Liberia all of 1988 through 1997. It is my understanding that in 1988, Mr. Taylor was either in jail in Massachusetts for embezzlement or in training in Libya, to learn how to kill fellow Liberians. He returned to Liberia near the end of 1989. If this is correct, that makes Charles Taylor's election to the presidency of Liberia illegitimate, according to the constitution. He was almost two years short of the 10-year time requirement. Some may argue that the 1997 election was a special election.
Now, lets stop next at chapter V1, article 56:
a. All cabinet ministers, deputy and assistant cabinet ministers, ambassadors, ministers and consuls, superintendents of counties and other government official, both military and civilian, appointed by the president pursuant to this constitution shall hold their offices at the pleasure of the president.
b. There shall be elections of Paramount, Clan and Town Chiefs by the registered voters in their respective localities, to serve for a term of six years. They may be re-elected and may be removed only by the President for proved misconduct. The Legislature shall enact laws to provide for their qualifications as may be required.
Fellow Liberians, what I want you to look at carefully is article 56b. Even though the Paramount, Clan, and Town Chiefs are elected by the voters, they serve their term at the pleasure of the president. Is there anybody in Liberia who is not beholden to the president? With all this power granted the president by this constitution, we could have avoided expending all that energy by declaring an emperor or a king. That way, everybody in Liberia would be the emperor's or the king's subject. In addition, why did the constitution leave the qualifications determination of those officials to be determined later by the Legislature?
Now, I would like to take you to the most bizarre, revolting and shameless article of this constitution, Article 97. The Article reads as follows:
97a. No executive, legislative, judicial or administrative action taken by the People's Redemption Council or by any persons, whether military or civilian, in the name of that Council pursuant to any of its decrees shall be questioned in any proceedings whatsoever; and, accordingly, it shall not be lawful for any court or other tribunal to make any order or grant any remedy or relief in respect or any such act.
97b. No court or other tribunal shall entertain any action whatsoever instituted against the Government of Liberia, whether before or after the coming into force of this Constitution or against any person or persons who assisted in any manner whatsoever in bringing about the change of Government of Liberia on the 12th day of April, 1980, in respect of any act or commission relating to or consequent upon:
i. The overthrow of the government in power in Liberia before the establishment of the government of the People's Redemption Council;
ii. The suspension of the Constitution of Liberia of July 26, 1847;
iii. The establishment, functioning and other organs established by the People's Redemption Council;
iv. The imposition of any penalties, including the death penalty, or the confiscation of any property by or under the authority of the People's Redemption Council under a decree made by the Council in pursuance of but not limited to the measures undertaken by the Council to punish persons guilty of crimes and malpractices to the detriment of the Liberian nation, the people, the economy, or the public interest; and
v. The establishment of this Constitution.
Fellow Liberians, I doubt if Samuel K. Doe himself could have written a better constitution than this. As far as I am concerned, the troubling question here is where were our big time legal minds, when all of this was being done? I am willing to bet that Mr. Charles Taylor has probably read this constitution from front to back. I am also sure that part of Charles Taylor disdain for the Liberian people stems from document such as this. Let's assume that an election is conducted in 2003, and Mr. Taylor should lose the election. As long as this constitution is in place, nobody in power will be able to lay a finger on Mr. Taylor for the crimes he has committed against the Liberian people. The constitution will protect him.