President Weah Grants Executive Clemency, Freed Brownie Samukai, 100 Others
Ahead of the holidays, Christmas and New Years, the Liberian Leader, President George Manneh Weah has grated a general clemency to the former Liberian Defense Minister, J. Brownie Samukai, two of his deputies, and 100 others through an Executive 101 issued to pardon to 101 convicts, detained at various prison facilities across the country.
The Presidential Pardon is backed by the 1986 Liberian Constitution under Article 59 which states inter-alia that _the President may remit any public forfeitures and penalties, suspend any fines and sentences, grant reprieves and pardons, and restore civil rights after conviction for all public offenses, except impeachment. _
The President has mandated the Attorney General, Cllr. Frank Musah Dean Jr., Minister of Justice to ensure the unhindered implementation of the Presidential Pardon, in keeping with judicial procedures.
Notable among the 101 pardoned individuals are former National Defense Minister, J. Brownie Samukai Jr., former Deputy Defense Minister for Administration, Joseph P. Johnson and the former Comptroller Mr Nyumah Dorkor.
These former Government Officials are also relieved of their legal obligation to refund to the Liberian government the money that they were convicted of misappropriating while serving in their respective capacities at the Ministry of National Defense.
The rest are individuals who were convicted of committing minor offenses by the courts of Liberia and were serving various prison terms, individuals with life-threatening ailments, old age, and individuals who served a substantial amount of the time for which they were sentenced and demonstrated good behavior while serving their respective sentences.
It may be recalled, on the heels of the runoff election between the Unity Party, former Minister Brownie Samukai made a surprised visit at the Church of President George Manneh Weah, which sparked controversy with some members of the Unity Party terming his visit as gross missed step intended to undermine the UP’s victory.
But former Defense Minister Brownie Samukai has clarified that his appearance at the Forkay Klon Jlaleh Church, as seen in a photo with President Weah, has no political link.
Early Monday morning, a group photo in which President George Weah and Mr. Samukai were sitting side by side in the church surfaced on various social media platforms, raising curiosity in the minds of many. Some pundits, responding to the photo, assumed that the former Defense Minister had crossed over to the ruling party, the Coalition for Democratic Change (CDC), to support the re-election bid of President George Manneh Weah ahead of the ensuing runoff election.
But reacting to these claims via a mobile phone call on OK FM in Monrovia, Mr. Samukai clarified that he was simply responding to an invitation from President George Weah. He described the Liberian leader as a friend, adding that his attendance at the church service was not an endorsement of President George Weah’s reelection ahead of the November 14, 2023, presidential runoff election as apparently believed by others.
“I want to make it clear that my attendance at the Forkay Klon Church was not a political or religious endorsement,” Samukai said in an interview. “I was simply responding to an invitation from a friend who is a member of the church,” he said. He added that, as a Christian, he believes in the freedom of worship and he respects the beliefs of others.
The former Defense Minister stressed that he has no political ambition at the moment, noting that his attendance at the church was purely personal and not an endorsement of the Coalition for Democratic Change standard bearer. “I have no political ambitions at the moment,” he said. “I am focused on my personal life and my family.”
Samukai, who served as Minister of Defense during the two-term administration of former President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, has been in the news recently over a court case involving the alleged misappropriation of funds meant for the Armed Forces of Liberia. He was found guilty of the charges and was ordered to pay a fine of US$1.2 million or face imprisonment.
Despite the court ruling, Samukai has maintained his innocence and has appealed the decision. He has, however, restituted a portion of the funds as demanded by the court.
He has also been vocal in his criticism of the government’s handling of the case, saying that he is being targeted for political reasons.
However, Samukai has made it clear that he has no plans to enter politics at the moment and that his attendance at the church was purely personal.
Prior to this executive pardon, President George Manneh Weah in February 2022,
In the pronouncement, Minister McGill said, while Samukai’s prison sentence is being suspended, he will work with the Ministry of Justice to enter a stipulation for the full settlement of the AFL’s money.
In the meantime, he said the President has directed the Minister of Finance and Development Planning (MFDP) to make full payment of the outstanding balance of the AFL money, while Mr. Samukai is going through the Stipulation Payment Agreement.
While Minister McGill did not mention that the clemency extends to Samukai’s two co-conspirators, he said as Liberians joyously celebrate 200 years of existence as a nation and people, the President has further directed the Minister of justice and Attorney-General to submit to his office a list of 500 persons to be pardoned during these festive celebrations.
“The President has also called on all Liberians to reconcile their differences and transform Liberia into a haven of peace,” he said.
‘No Political Witch Hunt’
The President’s latest decision has garnered mixed reactions, with some alleging that Samukai’s trial, conviction and subsequent pardon was a ploy by the Weah-administration to deny Samukai and his Unity Party the Senatorial seat they emphatically won in the 2020 Senatorial election.
But responding, McGill said Samukai was convicted long before the election, and as such, the accusation against the government is unjustifiable.
“The case started before Samukai decided to contest. He was convicted before he started the election. To now suggest that he was deprived of the seat, that is unfortunate,” he countered.