Who’s in Charge: Weah or Bright? Prof. Kaydor Inquires!

Who’s in Charge: Weah or Bright? Prof. Kaydor Inquires!

On 8 March, President George Manneh Weah gave his Economic Advisor, Hon. Charles R.G. Bright, additional powers that eclipse the authorities of the Liberian Cabinet and the President himself. According to Pro. Thomas Kaydor, the “President’s mandate is arbitrary and reaffirms Lord Alton’s assertion that ‘power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely’ in politics”. Prof. Kaydor terms this new mandate as ‘unconstitutional, undemocratic, unwarranted and unwholesome’.

A document entitled “Special Presidential Monitor”, now in the archives of the Frontier, President Weah wrote saying “I, George Manneh Weah, Sr., President of the Republic of Liberia, by virtue of the power in me vested, do hereby acknowledge that Hon. Charles R.G. Bright, my Advisor for Economic Affairs, has the status of a Cabinet Minister with full courtesies and benefits appertaining thereto, and commission him as follows:

To visit all Ministries and Autonomous Agencies, Government Commissions, Public Corporations, and State-Owned Enterprises, (wholly and/or partially owned), to obtain information, and advise me on current policies, practices and procedures as relates to the operations of the Entity in general, and its personnel in particular;

To be an Ex-Officio participant in all meetings at said entities, Board or otherwise, regarding matters with an Economic impact on Revenue, Expenditure, Personnel and other Assets;

To ensure, as practical as possible, that Personnel actions-Employment, Salaries, other benefits, dismissal, retirement and work schedules-are in keeping with approved government guidelines;

To monitor generally, all activities of appointed Officials and, with the written approval of the Minister of State for Presidential Affairs, utilize the expertise of other Liberians as Resource Personnel”.

The Presidential mandate concludes that “In the accomplishment of the above responsibilities, all Heads of Ministries and Autonomous Agencies of Government, Public Corporations, and State-Owned Enterprises are mandated to fully co-operate with my above-named Advisor and provide him with any and all information, documents and support requested. GIVEN UNDER MY HAND AND SEAL OF THE REPUBLIC OF LIBERIA, THIS 8TH DAY OF MARCH, A.D. 2018; signed George Manneh Weah, Sr”.

‘Judging from such unlimited authority given an Economic Advisor, one can unquestionably argue that the President has given his powers to Hon. Bright’, Hon. Kaydor maintains. Some political analysts who spoke with the Frontier and tend to agree with Prof. Tom Kaydor think that the President’s action affirms the views of critics of President Weah that the former Montserrado County Senator, Hon. George Weah, ‘lacks the capabilities to steer the affairs of the Republic of Liberia’. For instance, where the President’s mandate states that ‘to monitor generally, all activities of Appointed Officials and, with the written approval of the Minister of State for Presidential Affairs, utilize the expertise of other Liberians as Resource Personnel’, the IBB acclaimed Professor argues that ‘the President has unarguably given his Presidential authority and powers as well as those of all political appointees to the Economic Advisor, Hon. Charles Bright’.

Additionally, the President mandates that the Advisor has the right ‘to ensure, as practical as possible, that Personnel actions-Employment, Salaries, other benefits, dismissal, retirement and work schedules-are in keeping with approved government guidelines’. According to Hon. Kaydor, a Former Deputy Foreign Minister for International Cooperation and Economic Integration, ‘this component suggests that employment, benefits, dismissals, retirement and work schedules have never been consistent with approved government guidelines. Furthermore, it goes to say that the Civil Service Agency is useless, and that all government entities under the aegis of the Executive Branch are incapable of managing such matters; hence they cannot be trusted by the Head of Government’.

Prof. Tom Kaydor who lectures Comparative Politics and Government, Political Theory and Quantitative Political Analysis at the Ibrahim Badamasi Babangida Graduate School of International Affairs at the University of Liberia, says ‘at no time in the history of the country a Presidential Advisor had ever been given such limitless responsibility to micromanage the entire Executive Branch of Government’. He maintains that ‘it appears that the President lacks confidence and trust in his Cabinet, appointees and public officials assigned under his jurisdiction as Head of the Executive Branch; therefore, he has opted to give his powers to the Economic Advisor thereby making him a Prime Minister within a non-parliamentary system’.

As the new Presidential mandate comes as a puzzle to many, it remains unclear what would be the reaction of the National Legislature, especially the Liberian Senate that has the responsibility to confirm appointed officials including Cabinet Ministers amongst which Hon. Bright has now become First Amongst Equals. This argument is valid because for a Cabinet Minister to be commissioned, the Senate must have confirmed him or her. The President’s Monitor amongst other things clearly states that ‘my Advisor for Economic Affairs, has the status of a Cabinet Minister with full courtesies and benefits appertaining thereto, and I commission him…’

It can be recalled that former President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf created the Project Delivery Unit within the Ministry of State for Presidential Affairs to coordinate government’s projects smooth delivery, but such unit did not have the unending and unlimited authority that has been generously given to Hon. Charles Bright. As the debate continues, Frontier would not hesitate to do or entertain further analysis on the implications of such unwholesome mandate from the Head of State and Head of Government of the Republic of Liberia because it is indeed unclear who oversees the Executive Branch of Government in the Republic of Liberia.

Is this the return of the Taylor’s Agenda? It can be recalled that during an open session hearing of his trial on February 15, 2010, former President Taylor highlighted the important role Mr. Bright played in his war to rid Liberia of Samuel Doe.  Asked specifically about his relationship with Mr. Bright, Mr. Taylor said ‘General Bright served as Finance Minister in his government. In fact, the last Finance Minister before I left office.”

Asked how he first met Mr. Bright, the former President said: “I first met Charles Bright I would say about 1991 going into ’92 in Gbarnga”. The former President went on to explain that ‘Mr. Bright was a part of the INPFL, the Independent National Patriotic Front of Liberia that was headed by Prince Johnson’. He said, “at some point in ’91 there were attempts on my part to mend fence with the INPFL and bring the combatants back together.”

Taylor recalled that “Charles Bright was one of the representatives sent by the INPFL to Gbarnga for the negotiations and he was selected to come up for those negotiations.” Asked about General Bright’s background, the former President said, ‘Bright had an MBA from a top United States university’. He said “I don’t know which one of them. The Bright family, like I say, is about the wealthiest family in Liberia, so I’m sure he went to a very good school. He has an MBA. His business background, he ran – in fact the Bright family had the largest chicken farm in the Republic of Liberia and so he was involved in business, commerce and with his family business’.

Asked whether he maintained a relationship with Bright following his initial meeting, the former President answered in the affirmative. “Well, yes, in a way. It’s good to note that I got to find out in fact when he came, my wife at the time, Agnes, happened to have been a first cousin of Charles. So, when I got to find out that we were all in the same family, we did maintain contact after he left.”

The former President was then asked: “When you moved to Monrovia in ’95 to take part in the interim government, did he come with you? To which he answered: “Yes”. President Taylor said during the hearing that he persuaded General Bright to join the NPFL after his forces arrived in Monrovia. Asked what Mr. Bright did for the NPP, Mr. Taylor responded: “the same organizational work that Urey was doing. Basically, at that particular time all the best minds sat and started putting together a programme for the NPP and a strategy to win the election.”

 

Asked whether he considered Bright a friend, Mr. Taylor replied: “I would say Charles – well, you can call it a friend. We got – yes, I will call it that way. We were both, we found out – I found out Charles was born in 1948 like myself so we used call ourselves the ’48 Boys. So, we became close. I would call him – I would say he was a friend”’

Last year, the former Chief of Investigator of the United Nations Special Court for Sierra Leone, Dr. Allan W. White, said in a Voice of America (VOA) interview that ‘former President Taylor had been in discussion with Sen. Weah, which culminated into Senator Jewel Howard Taylor (Mr. Taylor’s former wife) becoming vice standard bearer to Sen. Weah in a three-party coalition pact that includes Mr. Taylor’s National Patriotic Party (NPP)’.

Dr. White in that interview disclosed that ‘Mr. Taylor was interfering with the elections in Liberia, by trying to ensure that there would never be a war crimes court established in Liberia and Sierra Leone’. White also alleged that ‘when Taylor left, there were millions of dollars that were buried and left behind with the hope that whoever is elected seeks to get his sentence reduced and subsequently gets him back in Liberia will benefit from the booty’.

President Taylor acknowledged that General Bright did not play any role at first in his government but came in later. “Immediately, no, Charles did not play any role. He went back into his family business. He did not – and we called him – by the way, no, wait a minute. I made – I said something that is incorrect. Charles at that time did come in. He served as President of the National Bank of Liberia at that time”.

“When I came to Monrovia. When I came to Monrovia from their side and the INPFL side, he worked as a – he was given the post of President of the National Bank, and I’m being – because it was changed. Through my government we made it central. It was called the National Bank of Liberia. He was President of the National Bank at that time.  He remained in that role going into my presidency. After my election and the bank was changed, we removed him from that role and he went into his private business”. Mr. Taylor said, ‘in 2002 General Bright took over as Finance Minister, explaining that he had removed the Finance Minister at the time, Nathaniel Barnes, for certain improprieties and then put Charles in charge’.

Prof. Kaydor is worried that ‘the ongoing narrative could be the beginning of the Samuel Kanyon Doe’s governance scenario whereby the very Americo-Liberians that were overthrown on April 12, 1980 used the back doors to take full charge of the Military Regime, and completely expelled the agents of transformation-indigenous progressives’.

Asked whether he is pessimistic about the success of the Weah pro-poor agenda, the out spoken scholarship said, ‘he wants Liberia to progress, but is worried about the poor people who sacrificed to bring the CDC to power because the very rich people who appropriated the resources of the State and enriched themselves are gradually taking charge of the so-called grassroots struggle’.

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