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 ULAA Council of Eminent Person's 65-Page Verdict Problematic

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PostSubject: ULAA Council of Eminent Person's 65-Page Verdict Problematic   Wed Apr 20, 2011 1:20 am

The closest I ever got to a
ULAA convention was in the early 1980s, in my previous life when as a
young and unemployed flight student I left my morning maneuvers briefly
and traveled from Tulsa to Oklahoma City to attend ULAA’s convention
that was scheduled there that weekend.


I was excited to be there to
learn more about ULAA, and to finally meet some of the actors and major
players whose names resonated in my ears, and also resonated in the annals
of contemporary Liberian politics.

whatsoever could have stopped me from attending that convention because my
mind was made up to be there; except that when I finally made it to
Oklahoma City, the late Arnold Tonpea, who was at the door at the time did
not allow me in because I couldn’t afford the sitting fee.

Incumbent Anthony Kesselly and challenger, Mariah Seton

After I moved to Atlanta years later, Arnold and I met and joked about the
unfortunate incident, which did not dampen my spirit at all about Liberian
politics and public service but strengthened my resolve to make a
difference. Arnold Tonpea regretted the incident, anyway, and apologized
to me before he passed away.

The Oklahoma City convention of the early 1980s, which was partly centered
around the campaign to elect Bobby Sandimanie or not to elect Bobby
Sandimanie (whom many thought was unqualified for the position), was just
the beginning of a rocky road for an organization that touts itself as the
“umbrella organization founded in 1974 for the primary purpose of
uniting the various Liberian Community Associations that were bourgeoning
within the continental United States.”

Mr. Sandimanie later prevailed
over his critics in 1982 and was elected president of ULAA only to be
impeached later. It wasn’t too long after the resolution of the
Sandimanie impeachment crisis did ULAA encountered another electoral
crisis, which did not garner the same public relations nightmare as the
current crisis has done since 2008.

With the Bobby Sandimanie,
Woewiyu/Geebro and the Clay crisis behind the organization, many thought
ULAA was now ready to move forward and work to implement practical
programs intended to assist its many citizens in the Diaspora for which
its constitution claimed the organization was founded.

Unfortunately, ULAA did not
implement those programs but is once again wrestling with another
high-profiled leadership crisis that seems to be the most potent of the
crisis that could seriously threaten the survival of the Union of Liberian
Associations in the Americas (ULAA).

The Woewiyu/Geebro crisis
started in 1983, when after a ULAA election in Newark, New Jersey, Joseph
(Joe) Geebro, who lost to Jucontee Thomas Woewiyu at the time called the
police after the election and later filed a motion in a federal district
court to stop Woewiyu from being inaugurated. The case was later thrown
out of court when Geebro couldn’t prove his case. The other incident
occurred when Ignatius Clay, who was both a member of a three-man ULAA
Board of Director’s delegation from New York, and also Chairman of the
Board of ULAA was forced to resign his position as chairman in 1982.

At the heart of the current
crisis is the disputed 2008 presidential election between incumbent
Anthony Kesselly and challenger Mariah Seton, both of whom claimed the
presidency, and also served simultaneously as president of the same
organization or different version of ULAA, which has taken a toil on the
individuals, the various chapters, friends, family, and even President
Ellen Johnson Sirleaf and the former Ambassador to the U.S., M. Nathaniel
Barnes whose opportunistic involvement to end the crisis did not bring
peace to the organization.

As the long-running feud takes
an exhaustive path so are the burning desires of all to find an amicable
and lasting solution to end it. Against this backdrop, the feuding parties
frustratingly sought the intervention of the ironically misnamed ULAA
Council of Eminent Persons, whose hopes were to end the crisis peacefully.

While the Eminent Council
members were meeting to resolve the Kesselly/Seton crisis, it was widely
reported that they had difficulty reaching a consensus as to which way to
go and how to pursue the matter. As a result, some members of the
mediating team such as Bai Gbala, Emmanuel Wettee and Leslie Norman Cole,
according to a UCEP report either dissented or recused themselves from the

When he was contacted to
elaborate on this issue for this article, former ULAA President Emmanuel
Wettee briefly addressed UCEP’s problem this way via telephone. “The
Board itself was in disarray. The Board had internal conflict and not an
established institution to do for itself.”

Also, at the heart of the ULAA
crisis, according to a copy of the report from ULAA’s Council of Eminent
Person are charges and complaints from the Seton camp of
“inconsistencies of fees – lack of fees across the board, violations
of certain provisions (cited therein) of the ULAA Constitution” and
“the electoral panel was not present at the meeting of National
Elections Commission regarding the 2008 elections, and that there was
without a quorum of two-third majority as required by the ULAA

The question is, since ULAA’s
General Assembly, according to ULAA’s own Constitution is
constitutionally mandated to resolve disputes in the organization, is the
ULAA Council of Eminent Persons within its constitutional boundary to
investigate and render a verdict in any case without amending the
constitution, and without seeking the approval of ULAA’s member

ULAA former President Emmanuel
Wettee, who was asked by UCEP to remove himself from the mediation process
because of “electoral irregularities and other constitutional
violations” that occurred on his watch acknowledged that the
organization’s constitution gave the Council of Eminent Persons the
authority to investigate and resolve ongoing disputes within the
organization. When I pressed him further for more answers, he promised to
e-mail me an excerpt from the constitution for my perusal.

To his credit, Emmanuel Wettee
e-mailed me the excerpt of ULAA’s amended Constitution, which states:

Article 1 “The Arbitration and
Conflict Resolution Commission hereinafter referred to as the Commission
shall be comprised of members of the ULAA Eminent Persons Council, which
is comprised of former National Presidents and National Board Chairpersons
of the Union who served honorably and completed their full term of

Article 5 of the same
constitution states: “If the findings and recommendations of the
Commission are REJECTED by a party or parties to the dispute, the National
President shall within 30 days, call a Special Joint Emergency Session of
all Organs of the Union to deliberate and vote on the findings and
recommendations of the Commission. A simple majority vote of a Special
Joint Emergency Session shall constitute FINAL closure to the issue and
shall be BINDING on all parties.”

If the part of the constitution
that Emmanuel Wettee e-mailed me is quoted correctly then the current
President Anthony Kesselly, who is also a party to this contentious
dispute would also be the National President who “shall within 30 days
call a Special Joint Emergency Session of all Organs of the Union to
deliberate and vote” on this matter.

However, if the judgment of the
mediators is rejected as it is today and as a party to the dispute, can he
also contest the presidency while calling for a Special Joint Emergency
Session in 30 days? Is the arrangement fair? Is there a conflict here?
Anyway, UCEP’s report was made public on March 8, 2011, and the day of
this article is April 15, 2011. Is it 30 days yet?

Because this crisis has dragged on for so long, the most prudent
approach to bring an end to the conflict at least in my opinion would be
for the ULAA Council of Eminent Persons to suggest and enforce the
resignation of Anthony Kesselly; and replace him with the appointment of a
neutral person who will serve as interim president until the October 2011
election. So, why didn’t UCEP’s members render that courageous
decision for Anthony Kesselly to resign the presidency before the October
2011 election?

It is true there should be a
role in organizations that encourages or allows former leaders to
contribute to their organization’s growth after the end of their tenure.
It is also equally true that those former leaders has to be bold, neutral
and above the fray when rendering judgment so as not to undermine the
integrity of the individual, the office, and the issues before the person.

While it is true that there are
winners and losers in all or most disputes, and that the losing party is
the one that often accuses the peacemaker of bias and unfairness, it is
also fair to question or scrutinize (in this matter) the neutrality of the
mediators and the manner in which the “Eminent Persons” reached their

What is so obvious about this
dispute, however, is that the lingering lengthiness has made most
Liberians and some of the former leaders to undermine their own
neutrality, which has even worsened the conflict as evidenced by this
blunt April 10, 2011 letter from the Seton camp to UCEP’s Chairlady
Mydea Reeves-Karpeh, in response to the group’s 65-page decision.

“Let it be known, therefore,
that you have violated the mandate to mediate or facilitate and assist in
restoring peace and sanity to ULAA. You neither have the power to render
arbitrary decisions independent of the parties or the authority to make
incoherent conclusions with unsupported claims nor the consent to treat
the contending parties unequally or with such unimaginable bias and
unacceptable disrespect to the party.”

That is a tough statement, which
speaks louder and says a lot about the decision of the “Eminent”
persons. It is also a tough case to mediate, and the idea that this mess
has dragged on for so long exposed the weaknesses of ULAA, the feuding
parties, and also exposes the Council of Eminent Persons’ judgment,
their conflict resolution skills and experience in dealing with a crisis
of this kind.

Item: According to UCEP’s
report, the incumbent Anthony Kesselly did not show up on several
occasions to meet with the group (and when he finally meets with UCEP, did
not submit a “response to the allegations on the grounds that he was
uninformed about the charges as contained in the complaint,” and
apparently showed no interest in the matter when he “took the podium and
the opportunity to “lecture” UCEP on the proper procedural approach in
matters of this nature.”

What does it say when a party to
a case refuses to appear before a body to answer to charges regarding an
issue? Do you reward the individual or do you punish the individual?
Or does it mean that a judgment be rendered in the person’s favor
for the sake of “tranquility and peace?”

This is a good effort,
unfortunately, the “Eminent Persons” did not do a good job when they
left Anthony Kesselly in as president, and also did not do a good job when
they allowed Mariah Seton to stubbornly run her own manufactured ULAA.

Instead of turning the furnace
off completely to cool the heated environment, the “Eminent
Persons’” brand of crisis resolution left the crisis boiling over,
which is not good for an already dysfunctional ULAA.

With their own biases and perhaps their fondness for a particular
candidate, coupled with a woefully tribalistic and unstatesmanlike conduct
of some of the “Eminent” persons in the deadly Liberian civil war made
their roles as mediators painfully comical, downright hypocritical, and
does not warrant elevation to an “eminent” person status.
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