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Kemayah’s Self-Nomination for ECOWAS’s Special Envoy in Jeopardy Amid Sexual Harassment Allegations

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Monrovia, Liberia – In a move that has ignited a firestorm of controversy, Dee-Maxwell Saah Kemayah Sr., the former Minister of Foreign Affairs of Liberia, has self-nominated to serve as the ECOWAS Special Envoy to Sierra Leone.

This unexpected maneuver took place in a few days when the government he served in was expected to turn power over to the then President Elect, Joseph Nyuma Boakai. And as Sierra Leone’s President, Julius Maada Bio, is poised to receive a letter of credence regarding this nomination, there are mounting calls for its rejection based on serious allegations of misconduct.

Kemayah’s nomination has raised eyebrows and sparked significant backlash from various quarters. Critics argue that his candidacy is marred by a troubling history of allegations related to gender-based violence and sexual harassment. Notably, while serving as Liberia’s Permanent Representative to the United Nations, Kemayah was accused by Mrs. Wynee Cummings Wilson, a staff member at the Permanent Mission of Liberia to the United Nations in New York. Wilson, who served as a Secretary at the mission, alleged that Kemayah sexually harassed her, a claim that has cast a long shadow over his career.

In September 2020, Mrs. Wynee Cummings Wilson formally reported the alleged sexual harassment to the Office of Foreign Missions at the United States Department of State. According to Wilson, after she reported the incident, Kemayah retaliated by refusing to approve her salary from that point onwards, exacerbating her distress and raising serious questions about his conduct and abuse of power.

These allegations have resurfaced with renewed vigor as Kemayah’s nomination to the ECOWAS Special Envoy position becomes a subject of scrutiny. Various advocacy groups and concerned individuals have called on President Julius Maada Bio to reject Kemayah’s letter of credence on the grounds of these serious allegations. They argue that appointing someone with such a controversial background to a high-profiled regional position would undermine efforts to combat gender-based violence and promote ethical governance within ECOWAS.

Furthermore, the timing and manner of Kemayah’s self-nomination have added another layer of controversy. His move to nominate himself for the ECOWAS role took place just days before the end of the administration he served as Foreign Minister, leading to accusations of conflict of interest. Critics point out that Kemayah lacks the endorsement of the new administration led by President Joseph Nyuma Boakai of Liberia, raising questions about the legitimacy and propriety of his candidacy.

The Boakai administration in Liberia, which has signaled a commitment to integrity and accountability, has not publicly supported Kemayah’s nomination. This lack of backing further complicates his bid for the ECOWAS position and highlights the contentious nature of his self-appointment. Many within Liberia and across the region are calling for a more transparent and merit-based selection process for such a crucial role, emphasising the need for candidates who embody the values of justice and ethical leadership.

In light of these developments, several civil society organisations and women’s rights groups have mobilised to oppose Kemayah’s nomination. They have launched campaigns urging President Bio to carefully consider the allegations against Kemayah and the potential ramifications of his appointment on the reputation of ECOWAS and the broader effort to combat sexual harassment and gender-based violence in the region.

As the situation unfolds, the spotlight remains firmly on both President Bio and the ECOWAS leadership. The decision on whether to accept or reject Kemayah’s nomination will be closely watched and will likely have significant implications for the regional organisation’s credibility and commitment to ethical governance.

Moreover, Mr. Kemayah’s ongoing political activities raise additional concerns. He serves as the Standard Bearer of the Movement for Economic Empowerment (MOVEE), a political party in Liberia, and holds the position of Executive Secretary in the office of former Liberian President George Manneh Weah. Diplomatic and foreign service roles typically require individuals to be insulated or immune from active politics to maintain impartiality and focus on their duties. However, Mr. Kemayah’s continued political involvement disqualifies him from appropriately serving in such a capacity.

Additionally, there are growing demands for the government of President Joseph Nyuma Boakai to formally communicate with ECOWAS, requesting the rejection of Mr. Kemayah’s self-nomination. Liberians believe that the outgone administration’s last-minute moves should not bind the new government, particularly when such actions are mired in controversy and lack proper endorsement.

The coming days will be critical as President Bio and the ECOWAS leadership deliberate on the nomination. The decision will not only affect the immediate situation but will also send a strong message about the region’s stance on ethical leadership and the importance of addressing and preventing gender-based violence and sexual harassment.

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