Liberia: Former Defense Minister’s Surprise Appearance at President Weah’s Church Service Sparks Speculation Ahead of Runoff Election

A key member of the strategic advisory team of former vice president Joseph Boakai is turning heads after attending a Sunday morning prayer service with Mr. Boakai’s opponent, the incumbent President George Manneh Weah, ahead of next week’s runoff.

In photos and video of the service which has since gone viral on social media and being widely shared on various online platforms, the former Defense Minister is seated on the podium alongside President Weah, First Lady Clar Weah and Foreign Minister Dee-Maxwell Kemayah at the President’s Forky Klon Jlaleh Fellowship Church.

The former minister who has been embroiled in controversy since being forced out of his Senate seat won at the start of the Weah administration, has been lobbying for President Weah to pardon him.

On 27 January 2022, Samukai, with associates, was convicted and ordered imprisoned for embezzlement.

The Supreme Court of Liberia handed down a two-year prison sentences to Samukai along with deputies Joseph Johnson and James Nyuman Ndokor after they failed to return U.S.$1.1 million worth of stolen money from a government pension account.

The funds were stolen from the Armed Forces of Liberia pension account during the mandate of former President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf when Samukai headed the defense ministry. The three men were ordered by the court to pay US$537,828.15 comprising 50 percent of the total amount within six months but failed to do so.

However, in February 2022, Pres. Weah granted an executive clemency to Samukai, suspending his two-year jail sentence but requested him to work with the Ministry of Justice to enter a stipulation for the full settlement of the AFL’s money.

A Surprise to Boakai

Multiple sources told FrontPageAfrica on Monday that Boakai is incensed by the decision of Samukai to visit the President’s church at the start of the campaign.

A source also told FPA that Mr. Samukai met separately with President Weah for an hour following the service.

While no details emerging out of that meeting, a source told FPA that the meeting was more an attempt by Mr. Samukai to plead for pardon regarding the restitution and less of an endorsement. However, aides to former vice president Boakai are raising eyebrows over the timing of the visit and subsequent meeting between Mr. Samukai and President Weah.

FPA has also learned that Boakai had specific concerns about Samukai’s failure to provide him with a prior notice before the meeting with the President, despite having met with Samukai just a day earlier.

Samukai: Not An Endorsement

The former Defense Minister, however, on Monday evening clarified that his visit to the Church was on the merit of his former military training and orientation that demand respect for the presidency.

According to him, he was invited by President Weah to worship at the family church but emphasized that his visit does not in any way mean he supports the President.

Samukai: “As a former Defense Minister of the Republic of Liberia, I was invited by President George Weah to worship at the family Church and based on the merits of my formal military training and orientation that demands respect for the Presidency, I chose to honor the President’s invitation.

“However, I wish to clearly state for the record that I remain a very loyal, committed and diehard supporter of Amb. Joseph Nyuma Boakai and the Rescue Mission. My visitation at the Forky Klon Church must in no way be construed as me second-guessing my commitment to campaign for the Presidential bid of an astute statesman with a towering record of service to the state and the people of Liberia.”

Brownie Samukai publicly disagreed with Unity Party’s selection of a senatorial candidate for Lofa County. However, it was unsuspected to see him among other top ranking officials of the Weah-led government in a church service along with Pres. Weah, who is believed to have prosecuted him and denied him the opportunity of becoming Senator of Lofa. This development has made members of the Unity Party uneasy and has sparked speculation about Samukai’s potential support for Weah, which could substantially bolster Weah’s performance in Lofa during the November 14 runoff election.

In the October 10 elections, Boakai massively defeated Weah in Lofa County accumulating 73,761 votes (56.16%) opposed to Weah to obtained 35,951 votes (27.37%).

Source: Front Page Africa