-Cllr. Koffa, Rep. Briggs Mensah push for the Speaker and Deputy Speakership

By Jerromie S. Walters

The clash for the speaker and Deputy Speakership of the 55th National Legislature of the Republic of Liberia has begun, and as many didn’t expect, women are walking steadfastly with the men, as they have mustered the courage to participate in the process.

Interestingly, there’s an ardent representation of women in the process through Bong County District #6 Representative Moima Briggs Mensah. As unveiled by her deliberation to this paper, she’s not just involved to be seen or known as one of the different contenders for the Deputy Speakership, but she’s seeking the postwith a strong desire to ensure an improved and responsible legislature.

“I want to see a responsible legislature, where legislators will respect their colleagues, and we will take our jobs very seriously that the public perception will change about us,” Representative Briggs tells WomenVoices in an interview Thursday, November 23, 2023, at her Capitol Hill office.

In her opinion, an awkward perception has been built about the legislature by the public, with this, the need for a responsible legislature, like the one she envisions is intrinsic. “We want to see the agenda being given to lawmakers a day before the session so they will have an input.”

Inclusive of its uniqueness, and being a responsible legislature, she holds a strong interest in ensuring that the workings of the legislature are easily known by Liberians, through the digitalization of the august body by means of an effective website. This, she believes will enable Liberians to have a clear picture of their lawmakers’ performances at the legislature.

More to the above, she says her presence in the post will push to ensure that the rules of the legislative body are adhered to, to shift public perceptions. This, she says will be applied to their punctuality, respect for legislators’ views during sessions, recognition of legislators during sessions void of political affiliation and a lot more.

Commenting on how she intends to reflect her presence in the post on women, Representative Briggs narrated- “I want to see women being represented, it hurts me at times when petitions are brought in for women issues, the manner in which it is treated, but if we have a woman sitting there, that will create a gender balance, and women’s matters will be taken seriously, and I believe it will increase the number of women in leadership and even in the House of Representatives.

“We are not coming as burden, we are coming to work with our colleagues to speak to issues, to make sure that women are visible and women’s issues are flagged out in the right and proper way (s) that they can be protected,” Representative Briggs stressed. She adds- “We stand in solidarity with with, we have a legislature that we want to see gender balanced, the women are very few in the House, and giving us a space on the top will also give us visibility, the people will know that Liberian women are on path with the men.”

With this, she rallied her colleagues at the Legislature, “We want to see people that will balance the discourse, we want to see people that will balance the House, where you will see a female and a male, so we are asking for their support, make a history so that Liberia will have its first female Deputy Speaker, especially under this regime.”

Representative Moima Briggs Mensah, is lobbying other female and male lawmakers who believe in women empowerment and participation in national leadership. She brings to the table integrity, hard work, teamwork, and lobbying ability. 

With her experience and works at the legislature over the last six years,

pundits believe if she’s elected as the Deputy Speaker, it will mean much more for Liberian women and their quest to exceed to the highest seat of the political space. Like several other Liberians have said, she says her election as Liberia’s next Deputy Speaker will be a motivation for the women of Liberia, especially those that are interested in occupying public posts.

As Liberia continues to strive for gender equality and women’s empowerment, Representative Moima BriggsMensah, is also among scores of other women that have not allowed herself to be defined by her gender, and she’s now in an endeavor to secure the Deputy Speakership of the 55th Legislature of the Republic of Liberia.

Meanwhile, she articulated- “Presently I work with Fonati Koffa, and I think he comes with lots of experience, he’s accessible, and he cuts across and I won’t have a problem being his Deputy Speaker.” With Representative Fonati Koffa as the Speaker while she serves as his Deputy, the Bong County District #6 Representative foresee an inclusive legislature.

Representative Mensah earlier contested for the Deputy Speakership. Though she didn’t succeed, she has been consistent in her works at the legislature over the last five years. This was vividly referenced following her reelection.  Till date, she remains the only female that has attempted to occupy the post since the establishment of the Liberian legislature. 

Though it requires a lot to uphold the post, political pundits have emphasized that Liberians must consider that it is crucial to recognize the significance of supporting a female like Representative Briggs, for the Deputy Speakership of the Legislature.  As she will be recorded as Liberia’s first female Deputy Speaker if she wins, pundits have stressed the need  for women and her colleagues at the legislature to support her political bid.  Moreover, they hold the belief that it remains apt in promoting women’s leadership.

Amongst the many men that have expressed interest in the post of the Speakership, is 

current Deputy House Speaker of the 54rd legislature,  Cllr J Fonati Koffa koffa of Grand Kru County.  As widely known- Cllr. Koffa comes with lots of experience as a parliamentarian and a seasoned politician/ lawyer. He is also a humanitarian and a international lobbyist. He brings so much to the table.

The current Deputy Speaker is expected to confront Madam Prescilla Cooper of Montserrado County District #5,  Mr. Musa Hassan Bility, and current Montserrado County District #5 Representative Thomas P. Fallah, who recently won in Lofa County, district#1. 

The Speaker and Deputy Speakership

Dr. Bhofal Chambers, Maryland County District #2 Representative, was elected Speaker of the House of Representatives of the 54th Legislature Monday, January 14, 2018. He was defeated in the just ended October 10, 2023, legislative and presidential elections.

Though he complained about irregularities and the case is being looked into, his tenure as Speaker will end on January 15, 2024. 

Dr. Chambers, a member of the Coalition for Democratic Change (CDC), was elected on a “white ballot” after former Deputy Speaker Hans M. Barchue and former Speaker Edwin M. Snowe, Jr. declined their respective intentions after being nominated earlier. 

The Maryland County lawmaker replaced former Speaker James Emmanuel Nuquay of the 53rd Legislature, whose tenure expired Monday, January 15, 2018. 

Following his election as Speaker of the 54th legislature, he assured to reform the House of Representatives and declared, “I will like to let you know that you will not be disappointed. This House will be rebranded. Your hopes will not be withered. We will build your prospects.” He urged members of the 54th Legislature to be honorable and “to be within your authority not to diminish the honor that the people have reposed in you.” 

Like the Speakership, Cllr. J. Fonati Koffa koffa of Grand Kru County is the current Deputy House Speaker of the 54rd legislature. He replaced Representative Hans M. Barchue who served under the Speakership of current Bomi County Senator Edwin M. Snowe, Jr.  They both declined their respective intentions after being nominated earlier.