By Socrates S. Saywon, Sr.
Monrovia – Former Defense Minister Brownie Samukai is having a string of challenges to have his certification ceremony as the winner of the December 8, 2020, midterm senatorial election conducted by the National Elections Commission in Lofa County that is mixed with politics and legality, the debates are everywhere in the country and on social media: what should have or what should not.
Before his participation in the senatorial election, the government of Liberia through the Ministry of Justice charged Samukai with the crime of corruption amounting to embezzlement. The government said Mr. Samukai misappropriated funds belonging to the Armed Force of Liberia, while serving as Minister of Defense during the Ellen Johnson Sirleaf-led administration.
When the case finally reached the Law Courts on Capitol Hill, Monrovia, Samukai, argued that it was former President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf that instructed him to withdraw the money; as a result, he cannot be held guilty for a crime he did not commit. Some critics have also pondered why Madame Sirleaf, if true indeed did instruct Mr. Samukai has been left untouched during this whole process, that has seen her former defense minister under fire and indicted both in the courts of public opinion and of law.
Reports indicate the former Defense Minister, together with two others including Joseph P. Johnson, former Deputy Minister for Administration, and James Nyumah Dorkor, former Comptroller, were pronounced guilty by Criminal Court ‘C’ in 2020 and mandated to restitute the amount of US$1,147,656.35. The money in question was withdrawn from the soldiers’ Pension Savings Account.
Judge Yamie Quiqui Gbeisay in his ruling said, when Mr. Samukai was indicted proclaimed: “The defendants (appellants) are hereby sentenced to serve a term of two years each in a common jail.” The court ruled. “The sentence should be suspended provided the said appellants shall restitute the full amount of US$1,147,656.35 or fifty percent (US$573,828.175).” According to sources Samukai and his co-defendants rejected the lower court’s judgment and subsequently announced an appeal to the Supreme Court.
The fact that Mr. Samukai contested on the ticket of the opposition Collaborating Political Parties (CPP), when he was indicted by the court has also drawn condemnations from many circles. The Former Defense Minister’s troubles have compounded since the ruling. Few days after the National Election Commission (NEC) declared him winner of the highly contested December 8 Special Senatorial election in Lofa County, the Supreme in a unanimous opinion (judgment), affirmed the ruling from Criminal Court C, which declared Samukai and co-defendants guilty of illegally withdrawing money from Armed Forces of Liberia (AFL) pension funds. The Supreme Court however affirmed the ruling of the lower court with some modifications.
What has left many wondering is why the Former Defense Minister Brownie Samukai, after being convicted of economic sabotage, was allowed to contest the December 8, 2020, Senatorial Election in Lofa County? Also surprising was the court Court’s decision to deny an earlier petition filed against Mr. Samukai’s registration to have contested the election in the first place, by Korvah Jorgbor, seeking the Supreme Court to have barred him, or declared him ineligible for the Lofa County senatorial election due to his conviction by the lower court.
However, Chief Justice Francis Korkpor reading out the Bench’s opinion last week on the matter stated that having carefully reviewed the records, heard the arguments and reasons advanced by the counsels representing the parties considered the laws cited and relied upon, it was adjudged that NEC is an autonomous regulatory body of government charged with the responsibility to conduct public elections in the Republic of Liberia. Meanwhile, the Justice Ministry and the National Elections Commission in a twist has come down hard on Mr. Samukai since the High Court ruling, Samukai it seems will not be allowed to take his privileged seat as a senator which the case hanging over his head.
Main Photo: Former Defense Minister Brownie Samukai