Embassy Row: Don’t raze me, Broh

Lawmakers in Liberia are outraged by strongly worded comments from the U.S. ambassador, who complained about sexist actions by the legislature over a wild political scandal involving the corruption-fighting female former acting mayor of the capital.

Members of the House of Representatives accused Ambassador Deborah R. Malac of insulting the lower chamber of the Liberian legislature and interfering with domestic issues over the explosive dismissal of Acting Monrovia Mayor Mary Broh.

“We think that [the ambassador’s] statement is unfair and should not be condoned,” Rep. Acarous Gray said in heated debate last week on Ms. Malac’s comment.

Rep. Matenokay Tingban complained that the ambassador’s remarks were a “misinterpretation of our decision” to demand Ms. Broh’s resignation.

Ms. Malac last week strongly defended Ms. Broh, calling her an “effective and tireless agent of change” for Liberia and a “strong partner” for the United States.

The ambassador added her concern that the “recent political atmosphere has given rise to unprovoked verbal and physical assaults on women.”

As acting mayor since 2009, Ms. Broh was noted for efforts to clear overcrowded slums, raze vacant buildings and clean up polluted beaches. She also pursued measures to tackle fraud, bribery and other misconduct in Liberia’s notoriously corrupt political system.

However, she went too far late last month when she and a group of women assaulted an official escorting another female official to jail in a separate corruption dispute in Montserrado County, which includes Monrovia.

Ms. Broh and her supporters freed Grace Kpaan, a former county superintendent accused of misappropriating $50,000 in public funds, and sped off in a getaway car.

Liberian President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, a longtime political friend of Ms. Broh‘s, suspended her from her position as acting mayor, but the legislature demanded her removal from office. Mrs. Sirleaf had appointed Ms. Broh to the position as administrative head of the Monrovia city government.

Ms. Broh stepped down Feb. 28. She and Ms. Kpaan are facing criminals charges over the escape.

In her resignation letter to Mrs. Sirleaf, Ms. Broh cited “tension” between the legislature and the president. “I honestly do not want to be a source of conflict” between those two branches of government, she said.

In her four years as acting mayor, Ms. Broh created such a reputation for clearing out portions of the capital’s teeming slums that she sparked a backlash from the poor.

Some slum dwellers even resorted to political sarcasm, inspired by a 2007 Internet video of a disruptive American college student subdued by a Taser. As campus police zapped him, he shouted, “Don’t taze me, bro.”

Clever Liberians printed T-shirts with the slogan: “Don’t raze me, Broh.”

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About the Author
James Morrison

James Morrison

James Morrison joined the The Washington Times in 1983 as a local reporter covering Alexandria, Va. A year later, he was assigned to open a Times bureau in Canada. From 1987 to 1989, Mr. Morrison was The Washington Times reporter in London, covering Britain, Western Europe and NATO issues. After returning to Washington, he served as an assistant foreign editor ...

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