Two down three to go
By Hawa Wesseh
To call Tiawon Saye Gongloe, the people’s lawyer would be an understatement, for he has done more to merit that distinction, he has also been busy these many years representing the poor and down trodden in the Liberian society; he has spoken when he needed—[when the losts were silent!] Gongloe also, has been unafraid to take on the powers that be, even with tyranny staring in his face blatantly with looming threats to his personal safety—who would challenge a blood thirsty dictator when all the odds and chips would be against him?—And this Gongloe did to Charles Taylor, mustering the resolve—talked about “profile in courage,” and he paid the price dearly, Charles Taylor was unforgiving.
Liberian society, time past and present, is not short of men with integrity and courage, it’s just that, they have not been justly rewarded, either due to a misplaced ambition or because the citizens themselves have not paid back these honest individuals, and yet complained incessantly at every junction that the system is rigged against them by their leaders!
The country would get no better unless Liberians begin to elect people who have a track records of competence, an unwavering advocacy and the guts for standing up for rights and policies issues—when it wasn’t so conducive to do so! Tiawon Gongloe by all accounts considering what he has given the country can be considered a fine Liberian patriot, and electing this son of Nimba County to the Executive Mansion in 2017, would say we want our country to heal by putting in power an honest broker whose track record speaks for itself!
Gongloe, is a product of student politics in the 70s and 80s which saw an era of enlightenment as the True Whig Party [TWP] was crumbling under the weight of its own excesses and the so-called progressive leaders, seen as beacons of hope—-most of them have turned out to be disappointment and a somewhat embarrassment to the very politics they preached, inutile demagogues! For example where’s the voices of people like Boimah Fanhbulleh as Ellen rips the country apart in this corruption blitzkrieg?! And someone just said aloud oh but why you pick him out from the bunch—yes I just did, and give me a reasons why not to! Yesterday, they were shameless and today they are more so even shameless in their politics! The politics they once preached they could not defend once they had the chance at reform and a place at the leadership table, betraying a peoples’ trust and a long costly march bundled in sacrifices [a lot give their lives for the struggle,] but give credit to individuals like Tiawon Saye Gongloe, he has remained consistent, a hallmark of a true leader! Here’s a problem with the a very narcissistic society: everyone think they are something [it] even when it is glaring many are not, GIVE men like Saye Gongloe his due.
His national political sojourn would begin when he served the Interim Government of National Unity [IGNU] under the Amos Sawyer led interim govt as Executive Assistant, providing legal advice and assistance to Dr, Sawyer, and attending peace conferences so find lasting solutions to Liberia myriad problems during the 1990s, with Charles Taylor hell bent he had to lead the country, a mission he would accomplished by 1997.
By 1997 Taylor would win elections to lead Liberia first post war democratically elected government, the same period also as Tiawon Gongloe was quickly emerging as one of Liberia ‘s top human rights lawyers. A strong critic against the abuses and violations of rights in the country; he saw the cases piled up under Charles Taylor and, spoke up he did. And for his courage he was arrested and brutalized on April 24, 2002, by Taylor’s security men, severely beaten and manhandled he lay paralyzed and confined by the dictator security apparatus. Following intense pressure from local and international bodies, he was taken to a hospital bed. Fearing that he would be rearrested and tortured upon his release, international organizations esp. the Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International secured Gongloe and his family’s flight, as he left Liberia. But the country he left was still on his mind as he took up residency at the Harvard School of Government, in Massachusetts.
Keen, that justice and the rule of law is seen entrenched in a Liberian society where the ordinary citizen have not live freely and which has seen so much violence against the downtrodden the preceding decades; he took on examining the failings of the Liberian judiciary and the role of the justice system—sin contributing to the breakdown of the state, while still a fellow at the Carr Center for Human Rights Policy at Harvard University’s Kennedy School of Government. And for his courage and bravery, Saye Gongloe was honored as a 2003 Human Rights Watch Defender, amongst many other accolades he would bagged over the years. Gongloe is unpretentious, he’s not greedy, has always serve the public good!
By the time Ellen Johnson Sirleaf appointed him as her first solicitor general upon winning election in 2005, Tiawon Saye Gongloe had already established himself as a preeminent lawyer and defender of rights in the Liberian society, having won the respect from all Liberians on both sides of the ales! At the Ministry of Justice, he tried but accomplished less as Solicitor General, because the political will under Ellen Johnson Sirleaf to move forward her own transformational agenda in post-war reconstruction Liberia had no push from the Executive Mansion itself. But nonetheless, as Liberia’s chief prosecutor, he made recognizable efforts to argue the Government of Liberia [GOL] cases before the courts.
If Gongloe is not a push over, and stern in his believe for democratic traditions in his native Liberia, it is so, because he started as a student activist in the late 1970’s, as he was imprisoned and also manhandled during the regime of then-president William Tolbert, even today, it seems he remains an activist at heart, and is on of the few individuals, both as a citizen and a past government official who have openly criticized Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, even though she has been good to him and his family—appointing him and two of his siblings to high governmental positions. One a junior labor minister, the other a county superintendent, but those gestures didn’t buy his loyalty to keep quiet against the ills and President Sirleaf’s outright disregard for public opinion during her reign in power.
Tiawon Saye Gongloe would come head on with Ellen Johnson Sirleaf and her failures to be the true transformational leader she promised she would be when she was ignuarated in 2006 as Africa’s first female president, evidenced by her glaring practice of being nepotistic by appointing her sons and several relatives to high profile govt. positions, while at the same time denying she did. Her’s has been a rule of entrenching a culture of impunity and corruption, perhaps her legacy is being written, anybody can do anything in Liberia and get away with it—ritualistic killings, police brutality, rape, arm robbery, corruption, poor health care, degenerated education etc; the systemic failures in the govt are just too numerous to name. And these are the issues that Tiawon Saye Gongloe has tackled and spoken about while Sirleaf has looked the other way, and basically amongst these has been nepotism under Sirleaf’s watch!
“Sirleaf’s appointment of her sons to positions in government is in clear violation of the Constitution of Liberia. It is therefore, a violation of her oath of office as President of Liberia. She does not have the right to violate the Constitution of Liberia. In this regard, her recent statement, “I will not fire my sons” as reported in the New Democrat Newspaper is unconstitutional. What she is really saying [to] the Liberian people is that she will not respect Article 5 (c) of the Constitution of Liberia. In a country of great men and women, should any president violate the constitution and go free? She did, because a bunch of spineless legislators don’t know what the heck they were doing!
While Alex Tyler and the Liberian Assembly he leads did nothing—as they literally and basically surrendered their constitutional proclivities and responsibilities “in a country of great men and women…” If anything they could have IMPEACHED Sirleaf and put fear in her [just begin the proceedings and have the tv cameras and radio oulets cover it live and see what would have happened], but no they would rather have her glaringly disrespect public opinion and appoint her sons, three of them in all to critically important posts while there were outcries in the streets from the people, but because they are not accountable themselves, they lack the moral jurisdiction to bring her to book—this is what has been a sad story of the Liberian State! Now that Nocal which her favorite son headed, the govt most profitable corporation has gone bankrupt and the security sector reform is hardly working with her other son as the nation’s intelligence chief, we now know Cllr. Gongloe was right all along!
The country went to war for these reasons and fought a bloody for nothing civil war, and the same reasons that led the country to war still continue unabated! But Tiawon saye Gongloe was not Finished, he called on Ellen Johnson Sirleaf to resign and vacate the Executive Mansion for violating article 5c! But the bravado he showed was well noted, the woman who promised to run for one term of office and walk in the steps of Mandela, reneged on her promises. Having her resigned the highest office in the land would take cable wires to pull her off the presidential pedestal!
“The president’s resignation [is] the only way to keep Liberia peaceful until the next general and presidential elections. Liberians are becoming increasingly unhappy about the President’s blatant disregard for our constitution and the longer she stays in power the more angry people will become. This could lead to a reversal of peace and progress in Liberia. I call upon the international community, who’s human and material resources helped us to find peace, to seriously re-examine its position on President Sirleaf in light of the risk that she presents by her blatant violation of the Constitution of Liberia with impunity.” People have lost their trust in govt and Sirleaf, a major reason Ebola spread like wild fires early when it hit Liberia, no one believe govt could do anything, but give Sirleaf credit she would later turned it around, if she fought corruption the way she fought Ebola perhaps she could salvage her legacy!
Sensing Sirleaf wasn’t the kind of leader he would work for having been close to the seat of power and seen Sirleaf first hand, he resigned his Minister of Labor position and refused another appointment as Minister of post and telecommunications, his resignation followed several high profile resignations from the Sirleaf led Unity Party govt thereafter.
Gongloe is young and ripe for the presidency and has been at the forefront of the struggle for rights and justice in his native Liberia for the past three decades. He graduated the University of Liberia’s Louis Arthur Grimes Law School, and have worked as managing director of a law firm in Monrovia beginning 1994 when he left the Interim Government of National Unity as a policy adviser until 2002. He have always defended the rights of the poor. This human rights lawyer has always stayed in Liberia despite the cost to his life and has been consistent in his advocacy for rights of the ordinary Liberian!
Why he must run: Those who care about Liberia and want to see impunity end so that the country is peaceful and the country resources equally distributed and corruption fought as the enemy number one it is and ought to be must not sit on the fence while those who criminalized and looted the state and yet those who know nothing about the issues put themselves forward as credible candidates. Gongloe hails from Nimba County a huge county of much significance in Liberia, if he can find a groundswell there, he should be okay!
Pic: Former Solicitor General Tiawon Saye Gongloe