The Daily Observer publisher, Kenneth Y. Best and Diplomatic Correspondent Joaquin Sendolo have been summoned to appear this morning before the Chief of Staff of the Armed Forces of Liberia (AFL), Brigadier General Daniel Ziankahn. But Counselor Tiawan Gongloe, when contacted by the Daily Observer, advised Publisher K.Y. Best that he should not appear before the Chief of Staff because the summons is “a clear violation of the Uniform Code of Military Justice (UCMJ).”
Cllr. Gongloe said that according to the Code, no civilian should appear before military personnel. It is the Ministry of Defense, not the Chief of Staff, that should intervene, and the Ministry should see civilian through the Liberia National Police (LNP). Cllr. Gongloe warned Mr. Best that should he (Mr. Best) appear before the Chief of Staff, he, Mr. Best, would also be in violation of the Constitution of Liberia.
“You would be asking the army to take over the investigation of civilians, and this is wrong. The military has absolutely no jurisdiction over civilians,” Counselor added. “Civilians,” he explained, “are subjected to administrative or criminal law, not military law.”
Cllr. Gongloe stated that Article 19 of the Constitution restricts only members of the AFL and the militia to military law. Counselor Gongloe said the Chief of Staff’s summoning of the Observer staff is a reminder of the past, during the Doe and Taylor regimes, when military people assumed supremacy over the whole populace. Today, on the other hand, the Constitution of Liberia is in full force and the military is therefore restricted to exercise military law only over military personnel.
Brigadier General Ziankhan’s summons of the Observer publisher and Correspondent follows a story entitled ‘Latecomers’ published in the Daily Observer on May 30, 2016, which reported that several Liberian government officials appeared late for a program marking International
Day of United Nations Peacekeepers, held on Friday, 27 May, 2016, beginning at 09:00 a.m. The invitation had been extended by Mr. Farid Zarif, Special Representative of UN Secretary-General and Coordinator of the UN Operations in Liberia. Correspondent Sendolo reported that two Liberian officials, Deputy Foreign Minister Elias Shoniyin and Deputy Justice Minister Wheatonia Dixon Barnes arrived along with the United States Embassy Charge d’Affaires Sheila Paskman at 8:45 a.m. After waiting for 10 minutes, the uniformed officers of UNMIL marched and stood in formation to receive the SRSG, Farid Zarif. “As the SRSG arrived with [expectation] that the Liberian officials would soon arrive, the Master of Ceremonies and UNMIL Public Information Chief, Russell Geekie, had to apologize repeatedly to guests for the delay on the part of the expected government officials.”
Mr. Sendolo observed that “most of the foreign guests expressed their displeasure by their facial expressions and at the same time murmured at the length of time standing and sitting.” After 22 minutes of delay, reported Mr. Sendolo, William Mulbah, a senior LNP official arrived along with Bureau of Immigration and Naturalization (BIN) Commissioner, Lemuel Reeves, and were escorted by SRSG Zarif. Messrs. Mulbah and Reeves were followed at 9:24 by Chief of Staff Ziankhan and 13 minutes later, at 9:37, by Defense Minister Brownie Samukai. That was when the program actually started.
Before then, the AFL Band was repeatedly called upon to render selections to pass the time. It was upon Minister Samukai’s arrival that the program actually commenced. Strangely enough, it was not Correspondent Sendolo’s story that provoked the Chief of Staff’s summons. It was rather the Observer Editorial of Thursday, June 2, 2016 entitled, “Time is God’s—not a White or Chinese Man’s Business.”
The Editorial reflected on the Correspondent’s story in which he stated that several Liberian government officials were late for the Peacekeeping Day program. The only mention of the Chief of Staff’s name in that Editorial was positive and had nothing to do with late coming. “We know
Defense Minister Brownie Samukai and Chief of Staff, Brigadier General Daniel Ziankahn, Jr. are very serious people,” the Editorial said, and went on to recall the tribute President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf paid to them during the past Armed Forces Day celebration, February 11, 2016.