Although it's quite true that wearing a city's mayoral sash and brandishing an official oversized pair of ribbon cutting shears makes someone pretty powerful, it doesn't (usually) mean that they're above the law, which is why Monrovia's powerful mayor was forced to resign recently. Mary Broh, the reform-minded mayor of the Liberian capital and a close friend of President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, was ousted from office after springing a close friend from jail and going on the lam in a manner that has caused some media outlets to invoke the sacred cinema names of Thelma & Louise.
The Daily Beast's Claire MacDougall and C.L. Williams offer a pretty thorough account of the political drama that has enveloped Liberia over the past several weeks, echoing through almost every government office and dividing a nation still recovering from a brutal civil war. Broh, a controversial reformer who has sought to clean up Monrovia Rudy Giuliani-style (minus all that dirty Mickey Mouse money), was so displeased with the imprisonment of her friend Grace Kpaan that she decided to round up a posse, storm Monrovia's South Beach prison, and ferry Kpaan away in her pickup truck.
Kpaan, the Superintendent of Montserrado County, had been ordered ordered to serve a 72-hour prison sentence by the House of Representatives for failing to implement a legislative mandate concerning misappropriation of the county development fund. You know, just regular old corruption stuff. Once Broh sprung Kpaan from custody, the Liberian legislature labelled the pair "fugitives," and ordered their arrest and dismissal from government office. Although Sirleaf suspended both women indefinitely from their posts, critics wondered whether the president would really take serious action against her longtime friend and political ally. It appeared, however, that the wheels of justice were grinding quite efficiently:
The Ministry of Justice charged Broh with "obstructing government operation and disorderly conduct," and the legislature ordered the pair to be incarcerated for 30 days, in a separate case that went all the way to the Supreme Court.
Days later, Broh was met by hundreds of demonstrators gathered at the Temple of Justice, who wanted to make a "citizens arrest," and some protesters slapped and kicked her. The police dispersed the crowd, but Broh's lawyer has stated that she must be escorted to and from the court for her own safety while proceedings against her are underway.
Broh's brash prison break seems to be in keeping with her mayoring style. Her critics argue that, though she has done a lot to restore Monrovia to its former glory after Liberia's 14-year civil war, she sometimes ignored or circumvented the law whenever it obstructed her. There's a general consensus among her supporters and critics that Broh was a "hardworking mayor," but that her methods, in Sirleaf's own words, "may not have pleased everyone."
Broh ran afoul of the legislature on more than one occasion, like when she slapped a senator's assistant across the face and was given a vote of no confidence after failing to offer an official explanation for her action (Broh later claimed that the woman had publicly insulted her). She had also attracted scrutiny for her role in the post-2015 development agenda implemented in Monrovia in February, when many of the city's poorest residents were effectively rendered homeless after their makeshift houses lining Monrovia's main thoroughfare were razed.
Defenders of Broh, however, say that the backlash against the former mayor is purely gender-based, and that the attack at the Temple of Justice is simply a high-profile manifestation of gender-based violence. The U.S. Ambassador to Liberia, Deborah Malac, issued a statement saying she was "concerned the the recent political atmosphere [in Liberia] has given rise to unprovoked verbal and physical assaults on women, such as that directed against Mary Broh."
Still, even those who have come to Broh's defense in the wake of her attack have acknowledged that Broh must be subject to the rule of law. Nobel Laureate Leymah Gbowee urged Liberian women to uphold the rule of law, and Muna Youngblood, the youngest female legislator, reminded everyone to remember that Broh's deplorable treatment outside the Temple of Justice is all the more reason why the legislature has to take legitimate, let's-all-sit-down-like-civilized-humans legal action against her:
We must take into consideration that there are so many things that must be looked at. Simple assault, battery, aiding and abetting, harboring a fugitive and also obstruction of justice took place.
After all, rules and regulations keep civilized people from devolving into a mouth-on-the-water-fountain, cut-in-line, breathe-on-every-goddamn-apple-in-the-grocery-store mob of savage libertarians.