The two main opposition parties in Liberia – Liberty Party and the Congress for Democratic Change - are threatening to initiate impeachment proceedings against President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf if she does not revoke her decision to replace a debt court judge. President Sirleaf, who this week celebrated the second anniversary of her presidency, recently replaced Judge James Jones with counselor Comfort Natt.
But the opposition says the president’s action violated the constitution of Liberia. Israel Akinsanya is chairman of the Liberty Party of former presidential candidate Charles Brumskine. He told VOALiberia does not need an imperial president.
“We believe that’s a gross violation of the constitution and a step toward the imperial presidency being strengthened. And therefore we decided that it was time that we bring the president to book and take action on this. We have requested that the president withdraw the nomination and recognize the sitting judge as the judge otherwise we will no other alternative but go ahead and invoke impeachment proceedings against her,” he said.
Akinsanya said although President Sirleaf has the constitutional right to appoint judges, her decision to replace Judge Jones violated two provisions of the Liberian Constitution.
“Of course she has the constitutional right to appoint judges, but she cannot remove judges. Judges can only be removed through a couple of means provided by the constitution. For example, Article 72 (B) of the constitution provides that Supreme Court justices and other court justices retire at the age of 70 at which time they are removed from the bench and someone can be reappointed in their place. Now Article 71 provides exactly how a Chief Justice or an associate justice or any other justice of the Supreme Court can be removed. As long as they are serving, they will serve for good behavior. Other than that, they may be removed only upon impeachment and conviction by the legislature based on proved misconduct or gross breach of duty,” Akinsanya said.
He said both the opposition Liberty Party and Congress for Democratic Change party have the votes in the Liberian parliament to impeach President Sirleaf.
“It’s not an empty talk. The last time we had the issue with the appointment of mayors, we said that if it wasn’t withdrawn we would go to court, and we went to court. This time around we are saying we are not going to court. We are going directly to our legislature. The two parties – CDC and Liberty Party – have a clear-cut majority in the House that can possibly produce a bill of impeachment and send it forward to the senate for a trial. We do have the numbers,” he said.
Last week, the Liberian Supreme Court ruled that President Sirleaf had the right under the constitution to appoint mayors of a dozen cities across the country. But Akinsanya said the opposition Liberty Party does not agree with the court ruling.
“It was a split decision and we side with the dissenting view that the President does not have the right to appoint mayors. So we still think it was a blow to democracy. The right of the people to choose their representatives, the mayors, is being denied. Sometimes just because you win case does not mean that you have to act upon it. If the president has the right to appoint mayors, why are we still going through an exercise that will supposedly lead us to the election of mayors next year,” Akinsanya said.