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Judge Melvin Johnson and Ellen Corkrum: A call for permanent cease fire and truce

Ellen CockrumJudge Melvin JohnsonBy Arthur B. Dennis                       


From the beginning of the corruption allegation drama between the Government of Liberia and Judge Melvin Johnson and Ellen Corkrum (known in the press as the) “pair,”  some  Liberian citizens at home were blaming the alleged corruption scandal on the dual citizenship status of the pair and called on lawmakers to deny the application for  dual citizenship to be legal in Liberia. To  set the record straight, we published an article title: “Can a Dual Citizenship Holder be Extradited?”  The article was not meant to take side in debate.

However, the message delivered by the pair at the forum held May 25, 2014 under ‘Liberia Destiny Debaters’ seems to suggest that the 2-year old corruption-allegation drama appears to be reaching a crisis proportion;  and we need to  raise a white flag for a permanent cease fire and truce not only for peace, but also for the following reasons to wit.

Dual Citizenship Holders Have No Right  in Liberia

At the May 25, 2014 forum, the pair brought with them an anti-corruption petition to be signed by Liberians at home and abroad for circulation to the Government of the United States, ECOWAS, United Nations, and other world body in order to pave the way for the appropriate legal action against the Ellen-Johnson Sirleaf government for corruption (we stand to be corrected in our  quotation).

However, it is sad to report that the major roadblock that this petition will encounter is that  a dual citizenship holder has  no right in Liberia to petition the impeachment, prosecution, or removal of any sitting government official from office for any offense against the citizens or the country. Under the current Laws of Liberia, the right to do so is  exclusively reserved for people holding only Liberian citizenship, supported by the voice of the international community. In short, dual citizenship is not recognized under current Liberian laws.

Therefore, since more than 85 percent of those expected to sign  the anti-corruption petition  are dual citizenship holders in the Diaspora, the lawmakers in Liberia who are vested with the powers under the constitution to impeach or remove elected officials from public office, will invoke these anti-dual citizenship laws in order to dismiss the pair’s petition with prejudice.

                Liberians Want to  Avoid the Charles Taylor Experience

The 1980 military coup was ushered into power in order to eliminate rampant corruption and misuse of public office. But in the first year of the coup, newspapers began carrying daily stories of corruption in low and high places in government. Charles Taylor was  then serving in government as GSA Director. Taylor knew about the corruption scandal but did nothing to resign in order to exonerate himself. Instead,  Taylor mysteriously disappeared from the country and surfaced in the United States where he  was accused of stealing over US900,000 from Liberia. The Government of Liberia filed an extradition petition to the U.S. Department of State and Department of Justice. But nothing happened.

In the years that followed, instead of fighting to exonerate himself from the corruption allegations, Taylor mobilized support from Liberians in the Diaspora and returned to Liberia in December of 1989, accusing the Doe government of corruption and gross abuse of human rights. This is how the 14-year civil conflict started and destroyed Liberia.

Thus, if the pair believes the corruption allegation against them is truly false,  the best honorable recourse is to use the law in order to prove their innocence. In so doing, they could either wait until the Government of Liberia pursues them in court or wait until the statute of limitation for the allegation ends where they would be free to file a defamation lawsuit against the Government of Liberia.

But the anti-corruption petition is not a viable option for peace in Liberia. At the height of the civil crisis in 1990, the world advised Taylor to wait for the new elections scheduled in 1991 for Doe to leave; but he insisted that the time was too long. Therefore, in order to avoid the Charles Taylor experience, the pair is advised to abandon the petition drive and use the legal recourse or wait for the 2017 general elections. We do not want troublemakers and opportunists to take advantage of the petition in order to undermine the hard-earned peace in Liberia.

Corruption-Allegation Drama Undermines Pair’s Future Career Advancement

The truth is,  the 2-year old corruption allegation drama is undermining the pair’s future career advancement than President Ellen-Johnson Sirleaf. After 2017,  President Ellen will be out and the pair would like to return to Liberia in order to utilize their skills and education under the new  elected President. But will the new President trust the pair to be appointed to work in sensitive areas of government when they were seen secretly recording people voices in President Sirleaf’s Government? Of course, not. The same is true in the United States. The price for whistleblower everywhere in the world is lifetime isolation from sensitive and confidential information.

However, in the case of Liberia,  the only surest way to remove this fear or confidence crisis over the pair is to completely quit the recording spree and abandon the controversial anti-corruption petition now.  The pair should also abandon the news media and treat every news story with silence and contempt. Many people, especially Liberians, have short memory. The memory of their fear and confidence crisis will mysteriously disappear as soon as the pair disappears from the news media–press, web, facebook, twitter, etc. In Liberia, we believe in the theory that says: “Out of sight, Out of  mind.

Therefore, the term ” permanent cease fire”  as used in this article means quit the recording spree and abandon the anti-corruption petition. The term “truce” as used herein means completely withdraw from the news media war and focus on advancing the pair’s career for the future. In short, the pair should focus on repairing their image for the future, not on the past.

 Arthur B. Dennis is a retired Army Brigadier-General residing in New Jersey. He can be reached at 609-328-5260 or

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