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Explainer: Requirements for Mayor appointment in Liberia

Introduction

Liberia had run a centralised system of government since 1847, when it declared its independence. The Centre for Constitutional Studies defines a centralised government as one in which the “central government has preponderant weight, whether in legislative jurisdiction, financial capacity, or administrative activity.”

According to a report produced by Naymote Partners for Democratic Development titled “Power to the People,” the level of government centralisation, which it believes is “overly centralised,” has contributed to the underdeveloped state of Liberia and impeded service delivery in the country.

The report also noted that because of the consolidation of authority in Monrovia, most citizens in Liberia have been excluded from decision-making and growth. This exclusion was one of the underlying causes of the civil war (1990-2003). 

Enactment of the Local Government Act of Liberia

Following the civil unrest, the government of Liberia decided to decentralise its power to improve the governance system. To achieve this, the country approved the National Policy on Decentralization and Local Governance in 2012, and the Local Government Act (LGA) was enacted by the government in 2018. 

The Law Reform Commission, the Ministry of Finance and Development Planning, the Ministry of Internal Affairs, and the Governance Commission worked together to complete the Act with support from international development partners such as the United Nations Development Program, Sweden, USAID, the European Union, and local civil society organisations in Liberia. 

The Local Government Act (LGA) 2018, which establishes the legal and regulatory framework for executing the National Policy on Decentralization and Local Government, was signed into law by the former President of Liberia, George Manneh Weah, on September 19, 2018. 

Little education about the Local Government Act

Since the law’s passage, there has been limited awareness about the Local Government Act across the counties. Many Liberians are unaware of what the Local Government law says and its importance to the country’s governance system.

This is evident from a March 4, 2024, social media post made by a reporter of a community radio station, SuperBongese Radio (FM 104.4 MHz), on his official Facebook Page. In the post, the journalist, Gbanquoi Reuben Dolo, Snr., urged the government of President Joseph Boakai to adhere to the educational qualification required for a person to be appointed mayor in the Local Government Act of Liberia.

“Local Government Act (LGA) 2018 Session 2.16k count V A person aspiring for the Mayor Position must have obtained a first degree from an accredited College or University.

“I pray that the appointers will place a premium on the LGA when deciding who will take the mayorship at the Gbarnga City Cooperation. ‘It shouldn’t be business as usual,” he said

Reactions to the journalist’s post

In the comment section, other Facebook users shared varied opinions about the Local Government Act of Liberia. 

Below are screenshots of the reactions to the journalist’s post.

What are lawyers saying about the Local Government Act

Given the interest generated by the journalist’s Facebook post, DUBAWA interacted with the County Attorney of Bong County, Attorney Jonathan Flomo, on the Local Government Act to understand the position of the law. He explained that the Local Government Act of 2018 calls for appointing city mayors and not an election, as claimed by some Liberians.

“The Local Government Act of 2018 in Chapter 2, section 2.16j, mandates the president of the Republic of Liberia to appoint a city mayor in every city across the country. In Chapter 2, section 2.16k, this same law also sets out eligibility requirements for the person appointed to the mayor position,” he said.

What does the Local Government Act say

The Local Government Act of Liberia clearly sets out who the appointing authority of mayors is and the requirements that must be satisfied before one could be handed that appointment.

According to Chapter 2, section 2.16j subsection I of the Local Government Act:

“City Mayors and Commissioners of townships and boroughs shall be appointed by the President with the consent of the Senate. They shall report to their respective councils and to the Superintendents of the counties in which their cities, townships, and boroughs are located.”

Also, section 2.16k of the Local Government Act on “Qualification for City Mayor, Township Commissioner, Borough Administrators” has outlined the requirements a person desirous of being appointed a mayor position in Liberia should meet.

The law provides that a City Mayor, Borough or Township Commissioner:

I. Must be a Liberian citizen;

II. Must have attained the age of not less than twenty-five (25) years;

III. Must be domiciled in the City or Township for at least one year immediately before the date of appointment;

IV. Must not have been convicted of a criminal offence;

V. Must have obtained a first degree from an accredited college or university, except for Township Commissioners, who must have obtained an associate degree or high school/West African Examinations Certificate; and 

VI. Must not have any outstanding due tax obligation

However, Chapter 2, section  2.15x of the LGA provides that:

“Paramount, Clan, and General Town Chiefs shall be non-partisan and shall be elected in accordance with the constitution. A candidate shall not present himself or herself as a political party candidate nor campaign on a political party platform.”

Conclusion

With the current position of the Local Government Act of Liberia, city mayors and township and borough commissioners will continue to be appointed by the president of Liberia until the law is changed and an election is conducted. However, a person appointed to the position of mayor must meet all the requirements set out in the Local Government Act of 2018.

The researcher produced this fact-check under the DUBAWA 2024 Kwame KariKari Fellowship, in partnership with Radio Gbarnga FM 96.5 MHz, Liberia, to spread accurate and factual information.

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