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Liberian president wants security as tenure ends

With the elections approximately six weeks away, the winner of the popular vote will be entitled to just a brief moment to gloat and then get down to the business of assuming leadership of the country.

And from the day the President-elect and Vice President-elect are announced, a series of transitional activities must take place leading up to inauguration.

President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf has submitted a new bill (act) to the Legislature that, if passed into law, will be titled, The Presidential Transitional Act of 2017. The bill makes room for, among other things, any logistical, political, security, appropriative and other activities that would be required for the smooth transfer of political power between the President and Vice President and the President-elect and Vice President-elect, respectively.

The act will seek for former presidents and vice presidents to be provided with adequate and appropriate security, as may be from time to time and be determined by the director of the Executive Protection Service (EPS) in consultation with the former presidents and vice presidents. It also provided that in no event shall the security detail around the former president be less than five armed security personnel, and around the former vice president be less than three at all times.

In identical letters to the Speaker of the House of Representatives and the Senate Pro-Tempore, President Sirleaf said, “The aim of the draft law is to set up a framework for the smooth transfer of political power and governance and build a strong foundation that would enhance the democratic value for sustainable peace.” The letter was read on Tuesday, August 22 to the Lower House in session.

“The Act when passed into law, will continue the path of peaceful resolution, smooth transition of political power and governance, stability and a sustained democratic development,” the President wrote. “Liberia needs continuity, peace and smooth transition of political power from one elected president to another. l, therefore, request your kind and timely consideration to enacting into law this important legislation that is germane in keeping the long peace enjoyed in Liberia.”

Immunity necessary?

The President seemed to volley the idea of immunity, the necessity of which the Legislature may choose to consider. On that issue, the President argued that other countries are “striving to consolidate and sustain their fledgling democracies” and so “incorporate provisions of immunity for former presidents and vice presidents.” She said such a provision on immunity encourages outgoing leaders not to perpetuate themselves in office.

“I have not sought to include such a provision (immunity) into this law,” the President noted. “Instead, l have thought to defer to the wisdom of the Legislature to determine if it will be deemed necessary (to have) an immunity provision that would contribute to the promotion of a healthy, vibrant and irreversible path for our country,” the President stated.

The House’s Plenary has mandated the Committees on Judiciary, Good Governance and Government Reform, and Executive to review and advise the body on Tuesday, August 29.

According to Sirleaf, the former president and former vice president shall be provided, by the General Services Agency (GSA) or any successor agency, such suitable office spaces appropriately equipped with furniture, furnishings, office machines and equipment and supplies within the Republic of Liberia for the rest of their natural lives.

On the issue of vehicles, the bill said, former presidents shall be provided two vehicles and former vice presidents, one vehicle. For budget, the bill provides that there shall be an annual budget appropriately for the upkeep of the former president and the former vice president, which shall be subject to cost of living adjustment for the rest their natural lives.

On their dependents, the bill said, the surviving spouse and legal minor dependents of former presidents and vice presidents shall be entitled to one -third of the annual budgetary appropriation referred to above, respectively. “The spouse shall receive said amount for his/her natural life, and the legal minor dependents shall continue to receive said amount until they reach age 18,” the bill added. The law will also establish an arrangement or a mechanism for the proper management of the transfer of political power or administration from one democratically elected president to another democratically elected president.

According to the law, it will be applicable and triggered immediately after the declaration of the winner of the presidential election in any year the election is held, beginning with the 2017 elections, and where the incumbent occupant of the office of the president is not declared winner in accordance with the Constitution.

When the law is passed, there will be a Joint Presidential Transition Team, in which the president will appoint 15 persons and the president-elect, 15 persons. The decision of a transition team shall be made by consensus and any disagreement will be resolved by the president and the president-elect.

Other African Countries

In Ghana, the new amendment of the Presidential (Transition) Act of 2012, says the outgoing president and his vice would be required to vacate the official bungalows one month before the swearing-in of the new president on January 7. The Act also grants the office administrator general legal powers to forcefully evict an outgoing president and his or her vice when they exceed the grace period.

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