Liberian president Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf has returned home after attending her first African Union summit in the Sudanese capital, Khartoum. The Sudan trip followed on the heels of a one-day visit to Gabon to attend the inauguration of President Omar Bongo.
Some Liberian legislators have expressed concern because President Johnson Sirleaf did not consult with them before making the trip. But the president has said she does not need to get clearance from the national legislature before leaving the country.
Edwin Snowe is the new speaker for the Liberian House of Representatives. He told English to Africa reporter James Butty that while the legislature wants to cooperate with the executive, the issue of informing the body is one of precedence.
“Yes, there’s no written law that requires the approval of the [legislature], but the president of Liberia is the property of the state. So we thought that it would be fair for the president to inform us where she is going, especially when it has to do with the budget – how much it’s going to cost. It’s just fair for the honorable House to be aware of it.”
Snowe says the legislature is going to do its own research to substantiate or disprove President Johnson-Sirleaf’s claims that she does not need the approval of the legislature in order to travel. He says President Johnson-Sirleaf informed him that her first trip to Gabon was paid for by the Gabonese government, while her trip to Khartoum was paid for by Libyan leader Muammar al-Qaddafi. But Snowe repeats that the president is the property of the state.
“So it’s still fair for us to know what’s happening; it’s still fair for us to have enough notice so that we can discuss the issue. This should be a cordial relationship. The separation of powers; we’re speaking about accountability.”
Snowe says the legislature wants to have an amicable relationship with the executive and therefore does not intend to make a big issue of President Johnson-Sirleaf’s travels.