The Judiciary and Politicians
The issue of politics and the judiciary is an interesting episode unraveling in the contemporary world. As a student of international relations and conflict resolutions, I am bemused and bewildered at the role of the judiciary in tackling corruption and charging fraudsters to enjoy their days behind bars. It is unquestionable to say that the judiciary is one of the most powerful arms of government. It is always there to settle conflicts and provide sanity in the society. For democracy to thrive, the judiciary of any country must be independent, fair and transparent. My issue in this article is to question the fairness of the judiciary in a bid to charge politicians in power. Why is it that only fewer countries have charged politicians whilst they are in power? I can count my fingers to name fewer countries in the world where ruling politicians are being brought to face the music of justice. Honestly, that is where democracy works when ruling politicians are charged for their deeds and not when their executive powers have eluded their fingers. (Photo: Ibrahim Sourie Mansaray, author)
In the United States, the judiciary has the power to charge and prosecute leaders in power regardless of political affiliations. The son of Reverend Jesse Jackson, Jesse Jackson Jr, a former Congress man, a Democrat from Chicago (the hometown of President Obama) will be sentenced on June 28 for misuse of campaign cash. Even the Great Bill Clinton had the rough edges of the law when he was nearly impeached during the Monica Lewinsky affair and not forgetting the former presidential candidate, John Edwards who also was in court on charges of misusing campaign funds.
My attention is being brought to certain cases in the world where the judiciary has failed to operate fairly; rather, their posthumous decisions are now the trademark of their profession. The former president of Pakistan, Pervez Musharraff is remanded in judicial custody for two weeks over claims he allegedly detained judges in 2007. Mr. Musharraff had ruled Pakistan between 1999 and 2007. His latest political woes emerged after he ended his self-imposed exile in the United Kingdom and Dubal respectively. He later returned last month to resuscitate his political career when he was officially charged with series of crimes and election officials disqualified him from contesting for a seat in the National Assembly at general elections slated for 11 May. He was subsequently disqualified and ordered to be placed under house arrest. The irony is that, some of the judges detained by Musharaff are now deciding his fate.
In Malawi, the judiciary is charging the brother of the former President of Malawi, Peter Mutharika on the grounds of treason. Peter Mutharika is a former Washington University Law Professor where he taught for 39 years . He later returned to Malawi to support his elder brother in his political journey. Peter Mutharika and Obama had been close friends since Mutharika opened his law firm in Chicago. Sadly, he has been arrested and charged with treason on the grounds of preventing the then incumbent vice president, Joyce Banda from assuming the presidency after the president had died of heart attack.
In Senegal, the son of the former president, Karim Wade is charged with embezzlement and held at the Rebeus prison where some cabinet ministers are enjoying the luxuries of prison. Karim was considered as an heir apparent to his father until the elections of Malicky Sall torpedoed his aspirations. He was in charge of various ministries under his father’s presidency.
Most of these cases of combatting corruption are at the heels of former politicians. So the question that hurts my brain is that, why is it that most of the powers of the judiciary are exercised after leaders had vacated power? Is the judiciary afraid in some countries to prosecute leaders found wanting? Most critics have opined that most cases are orchestrated political witch hunt and the judiciary must exercise their powers even when leaders are in power.
This is where the admiration for Sierra Leone politics keeps winning the heart and souls of political commentators. To say all the past leaders of Sierra Leone since independence have been corrupt free is like swimming with tied hands in the Atlantic Ocean. Though one may cite few instances where former leaders have been brought to book on frivolous charges in Sierra Leone, the truth of the matter is that, the country has learnt to respect past leaders.
The judiciary in any democratic society should prosecute people when they are in power and not when they are out of power. That is where democracy stands.
By Ibrahim Sourie Mansaray, USA
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