Poem: Is This The Flag I Know?

In Commemoration Of National Flag Day In Liberia – August 24,, 2019:

Waving high above Africa was this flag I know

A flag of symbolic pride

The cradle of hope and heroism

A valuable treasury of common purpose

An impetus of valor

The only flag Africa and Africans knew

It was indeed a continental insignia

Is This The Flag I Know?

As this flag flew high above Africa

The promise of independence was echoed

It inspired the budding spirit of brotherhood

No one could resist its captivating fragrant

Deep in it was a bond of common vision

An aspiration for a New Dawn

What an evoking emblem of resilience it was

Is This The Flag I Know?

Shinning so bright was a glowing Star

The Lone Star of Liberia

Its beaming radiance infused life into Africa

Hence, this Dark Continent came alive

This Rising Star gave Africa a new meaning

A sense of self-determination and self-worth

A sense of belonging and perseverance

No Star could have even done this

Only The Lone Star could stand up and shine

Even colonialism couldn’t stop its piercing force

Its brightness defied imperialism

By becoming a spring of enthusiasm

And a castle of dynamism

This White Star was an ensign of purity

It was a fountain of pan-Africanism

From it, morality rolled like a waterfall

Rising from the plain of the West Coast

There came this GREAT SYMBOL

A bequest of gallantry and bravery

An enviable legacy of Africa’s first Republic

A Republic once seen as THE LONE HOPE

And an epitome of justice and equality

Not bowing down to fear, this symbol rose

Is This The Flag I Know?

Amidst daunting challenges, a new nation was born

Out of this nation’s birth, Africa was inspired

The chorus for independence became so loud

Self-autonomy was a fulcrum of this melody

Nothing could prevent this mass revolution

Pan-Africanism became a bonding catalyst

Africa and Africans owe it to this FLAG

This red, white and blue flag have done so much

This flag bears an emblem of nationhood

It carries within it a fresh memory of sovereignty

In its colors, we renew our allegiance

Firmly holding unto those values of liberty

And vowing to protect a nation of indivisibility

This flag shall forever reign in stardom

What a venerable symbol to hold so dearly

It represents a small nation with rich history

Africa knows this flag

The World is a witness to its evolution

This ‘Lone Star’ will shine

Over all else, it shall prevail

This flag shall make us proud again

And Liberia will rise forever

All hail Liberia – All hail…

Is This The Flag I Know?

In memory of this heritage

Deeply engraved in freedom

We must salute this FLAG with humility

Reaffirming our utmost pledge and loyalty

Bequeathed by this unmatched inheritance

We must pride ourselves with this NATIONAL SYMBOL

It is your flag – it is my flag – it is Africa’s flag

The homage it deserves must transcend ethnicity

The design of this ensign has no link to disunity

Its true essence forbids religious intolerance

It is a replica of patriotism, solidarity and diversity

In abiding love, this flag is our collective image

Under it, we seek self-confidence, assurance and harmony

This symbol is a canopy of our collective destiny

Idolizing its iconic features is an imperative

Is This The Flag I Know?

Is This The Flag You Know?

Today is August 24 – a public holiday

O! Let us host this flag with audacity and delight

Why aren’t you hosting yours?

Why aren’t you resounding “I Pledge”?

Has this vow lost its essence or purpose?

Is this holiday losing momentum?

Why isn’t our flag flying on a lot of homes?

Where have you placed this national emblem?

Is it in your heart or in hiding?

Are you still proud of this flag?

Where is Susannah Lewis’ flag?

Where is Africa’s first flag?

Is it still THE FIRST FLAG after 171 years?

Even Liberians seem to be losing faith in this flag

I am weeping for my flag – Only resilience is holding me up

The flag of our forebear is not revered like before

Its value and significance are being diminished

Did school-going kids parade today?

Are rural communities celebrating this day?

As our collective PRIDE gradually erodes

Almost everyone seems too busy to recite “I Pledge”

Increasing hardship can account for this complacency

Illiteracy and inequality remain harsh realities

But blame this on leadership deficit

Blame it also on injustice and impunity

History may not forgive our generation so easily

Our flag deserves better than this

It abhors dishonor and disloyalty

We cannot forsake our flag

For it is our NATIONAL PRIDE

The least we can do is to salute it and recite “I Pledge”

Amidst rising displeasure, The Lone Star must shine

We must make it shine in unison and fraternal love

By abandoning this cherished idea of our founding fathers

We shall remain guilty to our conscience, country and history

We will also be discrediting those 7 women who made our flag

It is time to use those 11 stripes to heal our wounds

We must use them to end corruption and internal bitterness

We must use them to make our people smile again

Is This The Flag I Know?

A symbol once loved, revered and cherished

This flag must take its rightful position in Africa

The red, white and blue flag must fly sky-high

Patriotism is what matters

Good governance is indispensable in this pursuit

Let us now stand and wave our flag

With it, we shall rise together as a nation and people

Is This The Flag I Know?

The flag I know is a flag of honor and veneration

Is This The Flag I Know?

The flag I know is a flag that promotes genuine peace

Is This The Flag I Know?

The flag I know is a flag that unites for prosperity

Is This The Flag I Know?

The flag I know frowns on injustice and impunity

Is This The Flag I Know?

Yes, it is this flag I know –THE LIBERIAN FLAG.

With standing ovation, I wish all peace-loving Liberians a Happy Flag Day. May this Flay Day unite us for a BETTER and PROSPEROUS LIBERIA.

About The Author: Martin K. N. Kollie is a youth and student activist who hails from Bong County. He currently studies Economics at the University of Liberia.

Sime Darby To Decide On Its Future Operations In Liberia

Monrovia, Liberia – June 3, 2019: In a first admission of business losses, the world biggest oil palm producer by acreage Sime Darby of Malaysia says its net profit fell by about 70% compared to the first quarter of 2018.

 

Malaysia Headquarters of Sime Darby Plantation

According to the company’s Managing Director Mohd Bakke Salleh, Sime Darby is expected to reach a decision by year’s end on its future operations in the West African country of Liberia. The company has a 63 year concession agreement in the country to develop about 220,000 hectares of land for palm oil and rubber plantations in the administrative districts of Grand Cape Mount, Gbarpolu, Bomi and Bong Counties. Sime Darby says it already farming plantations in Grand Cape Mount,. Bomi and Lofa Counties.

Political Subdivision Map of Liberia map
Political Subdivision Map of Liberia map

Liberia will need to maintain the company’s investment, jobs and tax revenues to bolster its struggling economy at a critical time when other major investors including Firestone Rubber and the Turkish MNG Gold Mining Company have slashed jobs to cope to slumping global prices for their commodities.

Sime Darby’s Managing Director who did not disclose names, admitted that there have been ”a number of inquiries about our business in Liberia”. There have been speculations in recent months of that Sime Darby was contemplating leaving Liberia because of heavy business losses. There is no word from the Liberian Government on this latest development.

Economic Affairs Correspondent

West African Journal Magazine

 

Two-Day FPIC, Land Rights Training For Civil Society Orgs and Oil Palm Affected Communities Open In Monrovia

A two – day capacity building workshop for Oil Palm Affected Communities and Civil Society Organizations in Free, Prior Inform Consent and Land Rights has opened in the Liberian capital, Monrovia with call on participants to pay keen attention to lessons being taught for the benefit of their respective communities.

Conference Participants
Conference Participants

The theme of the workshop is: “Improved Technical Capacity of CSOs To Effectively Engage In The Oil Palm Sector”.

According to our Monrovia correspondent, the workshop which is organized by the Civil Society Oil Palm Working Group (CSO-OPWG) is sponsored by Tropenbos International and Rights & Resources Initiative. Participants were drawn from 6 counties where oil palm concessions are actively taking place. The counties include Maryland, Grand Kru, Sinoe, Grand Bassa, Bomi, and Grand Cape Mount.

Social Entrepreneurs for Sustainable Development’s Coordinator, Daniel Krakue said the objective of the FPIC and Land Rights training is to empower local civil society actors and community leadership on how to engage oil palm companies on basic human rights principles in line with FPIC and community land rights, which focuses on the newly passed Land Rights Law for the general good of the communities. “The main objective of the workshop is to build the capacity of CSOs working in the oil palm sector in basic  human rights principles and community land rights”, Mr. Krakue said.

Speaking on the importance of the FPIC process, Mina Beyan said, FPIC is an international legal standard that is protected by both Liberia’s national law and the legally binding human rights treaties to which Liberia is a party.

She said, during FPIC process, communities have a right to decide their own future, and not for someone to decide for them relating to the usage of their lands. According to her, FPIC is covered under both national and international instruments which protect or provide clear guidelines for communities during negotiation for land for concession purposes.

The Environmental Protection Agency of Liberia and the Liberia Land Authority are both serving as facilitators for the training. Also making presentations are Chris Kidd of Forest Peoples’ Programme (FPP) and James G. Otto of the Sustainable Development Institute (SDI).

The introduction of FPIC and land rights training in the Liberian oil palm sector would not have come at better time when affected communities and civil society organizations are struggling to combat non compliance to social agreements and illegal clearing of vast forest land by concession companies mainly Golden Veroleum and Sime Darby.

The processes leading to these concessions have been described by right groups including Global Witness as illegal and detrimental to communities. For instance, Liberian Land Rights Act encourages the allocation of land for concession purposes for 50 years. But the agreement with GVL says 65 years while the agreement with Sime Darby is 63 years.

In addition, these agreements do not meet the principles and criteria of the Round Table Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO) and Free, Prior Inform Consent (FPIC), which are internationally agreed standards for operating oil palm concession. With the coming into play of the FPIC and RSPO, it is expected that communities will not be forced into inducement, coercion, intimidation or manipulation during negotiation of land for concession purposes.

By Paul M. Kanneh reporting from Monrovia, Liberia

Correspondent, African Star

 

 

 

 

Accused Liberian War Criminal Indicted In Switzerland: To Face Trial

Geneva, Switzerland, March 26, 2019: It appears that a former Liberian rebel and war actor will face prosecution in Europe, Switzerland after all.

Swiss Attorney General Michael Lauber
Swiss Attorney General Michael Lauber

The SWI swissinfo.ch – the international service of the Swiss Broadcasting Corporation (SBC) reports that after nearly five years of investigation, the country’s Swiss Attorney General has issued an indictment of Alieu Kosiah for war crimes he allegedly committed during Liberia’s back-to-back wars and his case will now goes to trial.

A statement from the Office of the Swiss Attorney General seen on Tuesday by the West African Journal Magazine says, “The defendant is accused of having ordered the murder respectively murdering or participating in the murder of civilians and soldiers hors de combat, desecrated a corpse of a civilian, raped a civilian, ordered the cruel treatment of civilians, recruited and employed a child soldier, ordered several pillages and ordered and/or participated in forced transports of goods and ammunition by civilians.”

Accused War Criminal Alieu Kosiah
Accused War Criminal Alieu Kosiah

Mr. Kosiah was picked up and detained in Switzerland since 2014 and he is the first person to be held for prosecution on charges brought by the Office of the Swiss Attorney General.

Following criminal complaints filed by several Liberians in 2014, the accused Mr. Kosiah was identified as a former rebel commander with the United Liberation Movement of Liberia (ULIMO). He has been a resident of Switzerland. The Attorney General then launched an investigation into criminal charges that Kosiah was responsible for committing war crimes in Liberia.

According to the Office of the  Swiss Attorney General, the collection of evidence against the accused was complicated by what it called the “lack of cooperation from Liberia and long period of time which had elapsed since the events in Liberia.”

About 25 witnesses have given testimonies to the Office of the Swiss Attorney General which has also received legal assistance from several international organizations.

Former Warlord Turned Senator Prince Y. Johnson
Former Warlord Turned Senator Prince Y. Johnson

Liberia was wracked by  horrendous civil wars in the 1990s. Various militias are accused of committing gross human rights abuses against unarmed civilians including the intentional dislocation of large sections of the populations.

Following the wars, belligerents agreed to the establishment of a Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) which completed its work in June, 2012, submitted its Final Report to the Liberian Government and among several recommendations called for the establishment of a War Crimes Tribunal to prosecute those identified as responsible for gross war and economic crimes.

But The Government of Liberia has been reluctant to implement recommendations of the TRC.

Accused Agnes Taylor and Tom Woweiyu
Accused Agnes Taylor and Tom Woweiyu

Some of those accused in the report including former rebel warlord turned Senator Prince Y. Johnson of the Independent National Patriotic Front (INPFL) have angrily rejected any attempts to bring them to justice and have vowed to resist the establishment of a War Crimes Tribunal in the West African country. The main rebel leader Charles Taylor turned former President Charles Taylor was forced from office, later arrested, prosecuted and convicted on 11 counts of aiding and abetting war crimes and crimes against humanity for supporting rebels who carried out atrocities in Sierra Leone in return for “blood diamonds”. He is presently serving a 50 year jail term.

The reluctance of the new Weah Government to commit to fully implementing the recommendations of the TRC, in spite of calls the local rights groups and the international community, has led to a campaign to support the establishment of a War Crimes Tribunal in Liberia.

President George Weah and Vice President Jewel Howard Taylor - File Photo
President George Weah and Vice President Jewel Howard Taylor – File Photo

Support for proposed Congressional House Bill 1055 is growing in the U.S. for the establishment of a War Crimes Tribunal.

Seal of International Justice Group
Seal of International Justice Group

Last week a rights groups including the Movement for Justice in Liberia (MOJL) and the International Justice Group (IJG) led supporters to the office of U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and presented a statement in which they said, “… we are equally optimistic that Resolution 1055 will be a reality, War and Economic Crimes Court for Liberia will be a success story, and corruption and impunity will become history. It is only when we achieve these milestones, will we become an economically, socially and politically vibrant nation..”

Seal of Movement For Justice In Liberia
Seal of Movement For Justice In Liberia

Already, some supporters of the Congress for Democratic Change (CDC) led Government are accusing rights groups of supporting the “economic strangulation” of the Weah government by their statement to U.S. House Speaker Pelosi.

Several Liberian war actors including former Liberian President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, Tom Woweiyu, Agnes Reeves Taylor and Martina Johnson are facing international justice. Mohammed “Jungle Jabbah” Jabateh, a former ULIMO rebel commander, is currently serving a 30 year prison term on immigration fraud charges in the U.S.

Sealed indictments have been drawn up against some Liberians which have been accused of war and economic crimes in Liberia.

Political Map of Liberia
Political Map of Liberia

Others accused of committing atrocities and who fled the country are living under assumed names in parts of Africa, Europe and the United States. One of such persons is a former commander in the Armed Forces of Liberia (AFL) who, in the early days of the rebel invasion in Liberia, led a death squad that murdered a prominent Liberian architect and Mayor of the suburban city of Clay Ashland, Mayor Mr. R. Vanjah Richards. At the time, the Defense Ministry in Liberia said Major Johnson and his men “deviated from their mission”. Johnson later disappeared from Liberia.

West African Journal Magazine has been reliably informed by credible sources that the accused, Henry K. Johnson, is hiding out in the U.S.

International investigators say they will continue to pursue accused Liberia war and economic criminals and bring them to justice or bring justice to them.

By Our Correspondents in Europe, Liberia and the U.S.

West African Journal Magazine

 

 

 

Nigeria: Buhari Re-elected To 2nd Term

Abuja, Nigeria – February 26, 2019: Nigeria’s incumbent President Muhammadu Buhari of the All Progressives Congress (APC) party has been declared the winner of the February 23  Presidential election.

Map of Nigeria
Map of Nigeria

The country’s Independent National Electoral Commission  announced the final results on Tuesday, February 26, 2019.

The main opposition People’s Democratic Party (PDP) of Presidential candidate Atiku Abubakar, is already rejecting the officials results and is calling the vote count to be stopped following unconfirmed allegations of electoral irregularities across Nigeria during polling over the weekend.

The vote margin was a little under four million with Buhari’s All Progressives Congress taking 19 of 36 States. The BBC reports that turn out was the lowest in 20 years with only a 35% turnout of registered voters.

West African Journal Magazine

Opinion: Blind Colonialism of China’s Belt and Road Initiative (BRI)

Is China’s agenda hidden? Read between the lines. people. Is China exerting influence because of being nice?

Africa- China Trade

In just within the timeframe of 20 years, China is leading the world as Africa’s largest trading partner topping $128 billion by 2016 and increasing at an accelerating rate. It’s foreign direct investment (FDI) stock reached approximately $35 billion by 2015.

McKinsey & Company estimates that about 10,000 Chinese firms operate in Africa today. Yet, the continent unemployment rate is still high, because those firms bring their own people to do the work, exploiting limited skills gap in these countries in which they do business.

Gone are the days when Beijing’s supported anti-colonialism and anti-apartheid movements in Africa. Those ideological efforts have been replaced by shared economic, security, and strategic interests in sometimes complex and partnerships that are controversial.

The speed at which China’s activities are increasing makes some to believe that it is masterminding reverse neocolonialism that would plunge many African nations into debt which could strip these nations of their resources and ability to exist.

For example, in Djibouti, China controls about 80 percent of its public debt which is exceeding 86 percent of GDP. Similarly, in Zambia, it is suggested that unsustainable and uncontrolled lending is resulting into takeover of the public electric company.

Africa – China Cooperation Summit 2018 -Beijing

Because China financial institutions are willing to provide low interest loans and more flexible payment terms and few questions asked, as compared to globally recognized and reputable international financial institutions such as the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the World Bank, African leaders and decision-makers find them attractive trading partners without reading the fine print and writing on the wall. Don’t be fooled. China is doing no one any favor. Before we move forward with these things, we should do research so the data can drive decision-making. Also we should learn from other African countries where this relationship has soured.

Flag of China

The latest news from the just ended ‘Forum on China-Africa Cooperation in Beijing’ revealed an upbeat attitude and optimism from African leaders who do not understand what China is up to. Have an open mind, folks.

These meetings and engagements are intended only to drive China’s “One Belt One Road” (OBOR) initiative that has been classified as a debt trap diplomacy on the one hand and its excess capacities and migrate excess and overburdened factories that have created negative externalities such as pollution and greenhouse gas emissions.

Similarly, from a geopolitical lens, this China world order is an attempt to enhance a robust regional connectivity through Asia, Africa and Europe that enhance and push for China’s dominance in global affairs with a China-centered trading network that is a kind of economic globalization and regional integration effort. This would include 71 countries that account for half the world’s population and a quarter of global GDP.

China Belt and Road Initiative in East Africa

Countries are beginning to read the writing on the wall. For example, just recently (2018) Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad cancelled two China-funded projects, a $27 billion East Coast Rail Link and $3.1 billion dollars awarded to the China Petroleum Pipeline Bureau and warned “there is a new version of Colonialism happening.” Conversely, Sri Lanka, where the government leased a port to a Chinese company for 99 years is struggling to make payment terms.

Quite recently, the Center for Global Development found eight more Belt and Road countries at serious risk of not being able to repay their loans. Similarly, Djibouti, Kyrgyzstan, Laos, the Maldives, Mongolia, Montenegro, Pakistan and Tajikistan will soon owe more than half of all their foreign debt to China. To compound on it, China created its first military based in Djibouti in 2018 to expand its influence and put stamp on its interests there.

We must think through these things carefully and why I think it is a good idea for the opposition parties in Liberia to press and challenge the current government on the US$2.5 billion resources swap alleged deal based on the points made. We, as a country, have done very poorly managing our resources in ways that create missed opportunities to improve the standard of living for our people.

Look, Liberia doesn’t have a resource gap problem but a leadership and management problem. Unless we think things through and change our worldview about how we develop our country, nations like China will exploit our weaknesses driven by weak institutions and corrupt policy makers and leaders to own and control us. A hint to the wise is quite sufficient.

African and Chinese Officials at 2018 Summit in Beijing

So, we need to be smart about what we do. For example, In the first three months of 2018, China faced its first current account-deficit since 2001 and it’s foreign-exchange reserves felled to roughly $3.1 trillion from $4 trillion in 2014 and its production capacity has weakened in the midst of trade wars with the United States.

If we decide to move forward with a deal, we must make sure that it is in our best interest and any resources is maximized to achieve its intended out because as Gina Heeb of Business Insider just observed, China’s pockets may not be deep enough to bail out emerging markets. And Ting Lu opined “China is still financially healthy, but its pockets are not as deep as they were.”

About The Author

Dr. A. Joel King has a doctorate in Management and a diploma in Public Policy Economics from Oxford and Executive Coaching from Cambridge.

New International Human Rights Advocacy Group Established

The global fight for international justice has just intensified with the formation of a new organization known as the International Justice Group (IJG).

Scales of Justice

As part of its programs, the group says, “We as the IJG, research, document, publish and advocate for the appropriate and relevant solution to the commission of the following crimes: drug trafficking, Crimes Against Humanity, Human Trafficking and Economic Crimes and Money Laundering. Led by the venerable former head of Liberia’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) and human rights lawyer Jerome Verdier, the IJG has as its motto, “Let’s Strive For Peace” 

Programs

“Crimes against humanity (common in times of war) are certain acts that are internationally and knowingly committed as part of a pervasive or organized attack or individual attack directed against any civilian or an identifiable part of a civilian population. Finalized fifty years later in 1996, the United Nations Draft Code defined crimes against humanity as various inhumane acts, i.e ” murder, extermination, torture, enslavement, persecution on political, racial, religious or ethnic grounds, institutional discrimination, arbitrary deportation forcible transfer of population,” the IJG says.

As part of his global program, the new group of international advocates say their work is, “…to research, investigate, document, expose and hold accountable , through the international justice system, individuals and groups that are responsible , support and aid in the commission of crimes.”

International Human Rights Lawyer and IJG Executive Director Jerome Verdier

 

Leadership

Leadership of the IJG include Luigi Spera, Principal Deputy Executive Director, Ms. Massa Washington, Deputy Executive Director for Justice, Advocacy and Policy and John T. Stewart, Special Adviser and African Programs and Senior Director. Chief Investigator is an international security expert Garretson Al Smith while Koleh Boayue serves as Senior Program Officer and Counsel for War Crimes and Crimes Against Humanity.

The group’s Director for European Programs is Amos Kortu while Ms. Adriana Maria Maria Lopez serves as Director of South and Latin Americ Programs. Mr. Mambu James Kpargoi is Director of Media and Public Relations.

Advocacy

The IJG joins a list of credible international human rights and advocacy groups who are dedicated the promotion of international justice and accountability.

Establish recently, the IJG is expected to officially launch shortly.

By Emmanuel Abalo

West African Journal Magazine