Liberia & France Collaborate To Investigate Alleged War Criminal, Civitas Maxima Says

Geneva – June 12, 2019: In spring 2019, the French and Liberian authorities collaborated on a fact-finding mission relating to proceedings that were commenced in France following the arrest, in September 2018, of Kunti K. for acts committed during the First Civil War in Liberia between 1989 and 1996. This mission required significant logistical resources and took place in Lofa County in northwestern Liberia.

Ex Liberian Warlord Alhaji Kromah and some fighters of the disbanded ULIMO-K Militia - File Photo
Ex Liberian Warlord Alhaji Kromah and some fighters of the disbanded ULIMO-K Militia – File Photo

Civitas Maxima, in a press statement issued Wednesday in Geneva say, this was the first time since the end of the Second Civil War in 2003 that Liberian authorities have proceeded, along with foreign authorities, to undertake crime scene reconstructions relating to war-time crimes. These reconstructions took place in the presence of the French prosecuting authorities, investigating judge, defense lawyers, and the civil parties. Throughout this one-week mission, the contribution of the Liberian authorities was exemplary.

Civitas Maxima and the Global Justice and Research Project, in its statement said, it  acknowledges the quality of the work undertaken by both French and Liberian authorities and congratulate them for taking this step in fulfilling their international obligations. This, Civitas Maxima and GJRP believe, is an important development in the fight against impunity for crimes that were committed in Liberia during the two Liberian Civil Wars.

Civitas Maxima and Global Justice & Research Project
Civitas Maxima and Global Justice & Research Project

Civitas Maxima and the Global Justice and Research Project have been collaborating since 2012, and together represent hundreds of victims of the two Civil Wars which killed more than 250,000 people between 1989 and 2003.

Civitas Maxima, represented by the lawyer Simon Foreman, stands alongside Liberian victims and takes part as a civil party in the proceedings against Kunti K. in Paris, the statement concluded.

Political Map of Liberia
Political Map of Liberia

No one has faced prosecution in Liberia for human rights and atrocities committed during the country’s devastating civil wars in the 1990s.

International and local rights organizations are coordinating efforts to ensure that recommendations of Liberia’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) which include the establishment of a war crimes court are established.

West African Journal Magazine

How Liberia Lost Out As A Host Country For US Africa Command HQ

Liberia squandered a valuable opportunity in 2007 to host the headquarters of the U. S. Department of Defense (DOD) Africa Command known as AFRICOM.

AFRICOM

AFRICOM which is based in Stuggart, Germany says it maintains partnerships with African nations to strengthen security forces, counter transnational threats and respond to crisis in an effort to advance the interests of the United States.

It is one of six Geographic Combatant Commands that the U. S. maintains globally.

According to AFRICOM, “Along with regional partners, U.S. Africa command conducts military operations to disrupt, degrade and neutralize violent extremist organizations that present a transnational threat.

Operations set conditions for continued partnering to help African partner nations build the capacity they need to secure the region.”

According to the document seen by West African Journal Magazine, Liberian Legislative Committees lawmakers – Representatives and Senators, who were briefed by US Embassy officials at the time on AFRICOM “…expressed overwhelming support for the initiative and reiterated President Sirleaf’s request that Liberia be chosen as the new site of the headquarters…”

At the time, AFRICOM was actively seeking a continental base in Africa and the West African country expressed interest in being a host country.

Liberia -Some Strategic Characteristics

Geographically, Liberia is accessible through its southern coast via the Atlantic Ocean. It has a relatively young civilian population whose capacity can be trained to function in support roles. Liberia and Liberians have and maintain a “positive view” of the United States due to a very long period of mutual co-existence and collaboration in diplomacy, government, education, culture and economic matters.

Map of Liberia, West Africa

Additionally, it is in the strategic interest of the US to ensure the maintenance of a stable Liberia and the subregion.

In their enthusiasm, Liberian lawmakers at the time asked the U. S. diplomatic mission near Monrovia to assist them to, “counter arguments against AFRICOM and two legislators who also hold seats in the ECOWAS and Pan-African Parliaments agreed to lobby their African counterparts on behalf of AFRICOM.”

The US Embassy in Monrovia further briefed and educated the relevant Liberian lawmakers on the history, structure and function of AFRICOM and provided assurances to dispel the misconception that AFRICOM would “take over USAID”.

Richard Saah Gbollie

According to the documents, former Margibi County Representative Richard Saah Gbollie told U.S. Embassy officials that the Liberian Senate would ultimately be the ones to approve any agreement to host the AFRICOM headquarters and requested that some lawmakers travel to the US for further discussions on the issue with U. S. Congressional Armed Services And Foreign Relations Committees in Washington DC.

But US Embassy officials who saw the request as an attempt to get a “free trip” to the US discouraged the idea.

Senator Prince Y. Johnson

Senator Prince Y. Johnson, who is a member of the National Security Committee in the Liberian Senate told U. S. Embassy officials at the meeting that ECOWAS Parliament members, at their recent meeting, were concerned that hosting an AFRICOM Headquarters would make Liberia a terrorists target. Senator Johnson said he countered to his colleagues at the ECOWAS Parliament that “…AFRICOM’s fundamental role is to bring stability to the continent and ultimately help Africa fight global threats itself. The security brought by AFRICOM would help foster development… (C) Senator Johnson said the Liberian Special Security Services had been advising President Sirleaf not to offer to host AFRICOM because of an increased terrorist threat, but that they were the only GOL agency that felt that way.

Johnson said he would be willing to introduce a bill in the Senate to support AFRICOM because of the stability it could bring to all of Africa. He and the other Senators present agreed that they would introduce a formal resolution echoing

President Sirleaf’s offer for Liberia to host AFRICOM when the legislature reopens in January.”

Another former Liberian lawmaker and Pan African Parliament member Representative Eugene F. Kparkar of Lofa County in the briefing disclosed thatat their last Pan-African meeting, a colleague from Botswana called AFRICOM “anti-African Union measure” and “U.S. neo-colonialism.”

Representative Kparkar reportedly said he rebutted the position of the Botswana Representative and instead advocated for hosting AFRICOM on the African continent but asked that the U.S. undertake advocacy with other African countries.

Representative Rufus Gbeoir, a lawmaker from the Administrative District of Grand Gedeh County, who was the Chairman of the House Committee on Defense at the time, suggested a visit to AFRICOM’s headquarter in Stuggart, Germany “…to personally vouch for what AFRICOM is and is not and would have a better understanding of its mission.”

Former Liberian President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf

The confidential US document seen by West African Journal Magazine, and which is now in the public domain, revealed that although there was huge support, especially among lawmakers at the time, for hosting AFRICOM’s headquarters in Liberia at the time, they had to table the effort because of a tug-of-war between the Executive and Legislative branches of the Liberian government.

The U.S. Embassy, through its Ambassador in Monrovia at the time, sent a cable to the State Department in Washington DC and summarized that, “While we cannot get in the middle of this tug-of-war with the two branches, we need to recognize the complicated nature of the relationship of all these actors with checkered and sometimes violent pasts, and do our best to ensure that all parties feel part of the process. Whether or not an AFRICOM presence comes to Liberia, the legislators remain an excellent resource for us in the public relations effort on AFRICOM, both in Liberia and all over the African continent through the Pan-African Parliament and ECOWAS. They are eager and willing to help. It is in our interest to keep them involved.”

The U. S. Embassy cable which included a mention of Liberian lawmakers with violent past include former warlord turned Senator Prince Johnson of the former rebel Independent National Patriotic Front of Liberia (INPFL), former lawmaker Richard Saah Gbollie, a military police commander of the Taylor led rebel National Patriotic Front (NPFL).

Capitol Building in Monrovia

It is unclear if the Government of Liberia made further serious overtures to the U. S. Administration afterwards, given the enormous benefits of hosting a strategic ally.

AFRICOM’s Headquarters did not make it to Liberia nor Africa and remains in Stuggart, Germany where it coordinates Education and Training, Threat Assessments, Pandemic Response, Deployment Assistance, Military Partnership and Foreign Military Sales, etc. for the 53 countries in Africa.

By Emmanuel Abalo

West African Journal Magazine

Liberia’s Offshore Accounts May Be At Risk Of Potential Compromise

The West African Journal Magazine is in possession of a document entitled Central Bank of Liberia (CBL) Offshore Accounts Funds Transfer Details which was easily found on a Miinistry of Finance  Revenue page.

Seal of Liberia
Seal of Liberia

The highly sensitive document details the Government of Liberia account information for the Federal Reserve Bank of New York and account details for Credit Suisse Bank in Zurich Switzerland. Details include routing numbers from each account and Swift Codes.

A Swift Code is an international bank code that identifies particular banks all over the work and it is also known as a Bank Identifier Code (BIC).Usually a Swift Code has 8 or 11 characters. West African Journal can confirm the following:

The GOL Swift Code for its Federal Reserve Bank of New York Account consists of 8 characters while that of its account at Credit Suisse consist of 11.

Federal Reserve Bank of New York
Federal Reserve Bank of New York

The Federal Reserve Bank of New York which, according to its website says, “As part of our core mission, we supervise and regulate financial institutions in the Second District. Our primary objective is to maintain a safe and competitive U.S. and global banking system…”

Building of Credit Suisse Bank
Building of Credit Suisse Bank

Credit Suisse based in Zurich, notes on its website that, “Our strategy is to be a leading wealth manager, with strong investment banking capabilities. We seek to follow a balanced approach to wealth management, aiming to capitalize on both the large pool of wealth within mature markets as well as the significant growth in wealth in Asia Pacific and other emerging markets. Founded in 1856, we today have a global reach with operations in about 50 countries and 46,840 employees from over 170 different nations.”

GOL Offshore Accounts
GOL Offshore Accounts

West African Journal Magazine cannot independently verify the offshore accounts document in its possession and has redacted identifiable information as a precaution and to protect the accounts of the Government of Liberia.

But a U.S. based Liberian financial expert with background and knowledge in and of the U.S. Banking and Financial sectors, who reviewed the off shore accounts document, termed them as “legitimate”.

It is unclear if the Government of Liberia through the Central Bank is aware of the exposure of this sensitive information and whether the information contained in its accounts are still valid.

POTENTIAL RISKS TO LIBERIA

Hacking: The exposure and access of the GOL Offshore accounts information are at risk of hacking by shady individuals and institutions who can then drain the entire account of the Government.

Default: The Government of Liberia is at risk of defaulting on payments  its local and international obligations, if its accounts are compromised.

Terrorism: Terrorists seeking access to funds for facilitate their operations could utilize Government of Liberia compromised accounts to wreak death and destruction against Liberians and allies,  including the United States and European countries.

Credit Risk: Liberia could face years of international credit denial and access to conventional loan facilities due to its poor banking systems and management.

Reputational Damage: Liberia’s image could be further tainted as a risk to the international banking and financial management systems to which Liberia’s banking systems are connected.

Mega Financial Loss: Liberia may lose its entire critical offshore revenue from its compromised accounts.

According to another financial expert whom West African Journal Magazine contacted to review the document, the GOL through the Central Bank is now under obligation to adopt sound practices to address the following areas which pose significant risks to the country’s financial systems and management regime.

  1. Establishment of an internationally acceptable an appropriate credit risk environment;
  2. CBL operating under an internationally acceptable sound credit granting regime;
  3. Installation of a new, credible and untainted Finance and Bank Management administration to begin develop international confidence and good will for Liberia and d
  4. Maintenance of the requisite credit administration, evaluation and strict monitoring process to ensure adequate controls at the Central Bank
Finance and Planning Minister Samuel Tweah
Finance and Planning Minister Samuel Tweah

It can be recalled that last December, a fraudster from Sierra Leone attempted to transfer millions of dollars out of the account of the Government of Liberia because he was able to trick the country’s Finance Minister Samuel Tweah into disclosing Government’s swift code and account information.

It is unclear how many senior government officials have system access, security, authority and clearance to Government’s Swift Code and Account information to avoid the potential for theft of Government’s offshore accounts.

Central Bank of Liberia Governor Nathaniel Patray
Central Bank of Liberia Governor Nathaniel Patray

The reputation of the CBL is in tatters following a series of damning scandals including the “missing billions”, the publication of incorrect financial information on its website and the arrest, detention and pending prosecution of some former and current officials for the roles in the “overprinting of banknotes” and the inability of the bank to account for missing monies.

The Kroll forensic audit indicted the CBL for having poor financial and record keeping systems.

Widespread corruption and lack of proper financial defense mechanisms have plagued the impoverished country Liberia for decades.

A second investigation has been ordered by the Liberian President into the “mop-up” exercise during which the country’s Finance Minister Samuel Tweah admitted that about $25 million USD was infused in the Liberian economy using untraceable and un-registered local money changers.

 

By Our Economic Correspondent in Monrovia

West African Journal Magazine

Liberia Blacklisted As An “Offshore Tax Haven”

Monrovia, Liberia – February 19, 2019: The West African nation of Liberia has been named as one of thirty countries worldwide on the European Commission (EU) Offshore Blacklist.

Political Map of Liberia
Political Map of Liberia

West African Journal Magazine can report that according to the Crystal Worldwide Group, the list created by the EU Commission and recently released is composed of countries that have refused to cooperate with tax matters.

“…To be registered on the list, a country must had been reported by at least ten EU member countries….” Crystal Worldwide said.

The only other African country blacklisted in the report is the Indian Island Ocean country of Mauritius. It has been disclosed that Liberia is among other countries that have asked to be removed from the list.

Crystal Worldwide Group says it is an international business consulting firm which specializes in tax planning and asset protection for its clients.

Liberia has long been named for inclusion on the EU list of countries whose weak laws allow for the setting up of secret offshore companies. The small West African country  appeared in the “Panama Papers” a few years ago when it was revealed that a secret Liberian company connected to the family of former Pakistan Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif was used to move funds. The Africa Report published by Jeune Afrique reported in 2016 that in the particular case, “… there was no evidence of any wrongdoing on the part of Sharif’s family.”

Offshore-Bank-Account
Offshore-Bank-Account

The “Panama Papers” is a report by global investigative reporters on the offshore links of some of the world’s most prominent figures which include leaders and celebrities and their “wealth” which are stashed away in secret tax havens abroad to avoid legal taxation and law enforcement scrutiny.

The African Report publication wrote in 2016 that, “ For a few hundred dollars, and in a matter of hours online, anyone in the world can set up a tax free Liberian company that offers total anonymity to its owner. Such anonymity allows individuals to hide their assets from tax and law enforcement agencies…”

A former Liberian Maritime head Mr. Binyah Kesselly, in February, 2013 said he expected Liberia to be removed from such black lists of international “tax havens” because of active measures the Government was taking.

The measures included passage of Amendments in the national Legislature to provide transparency in the ownership information and full compliance with peer review recommendations for accounting records of offshore companies which use Liberian laws to skirt international oversight.

It is unknown if Liberia is now in compliance since the latest EU Commission Report lists the country as one of many countries which can be used to set up secret offshore companies.

A Global Witness campaigner Jonathan Gant notes that “Secret companies have been used to hide ill-gotten money from drugs, corruption, and terrorism.”

By Our Economic Staff Editor

West African News Journal

 

 

 

 

 

 

London: Liberian Opposition Leader Tells Diaspora Community Corruption “Unprecedented” Back Home

London, UK January 21, 2019 – “The bottomline is that the country is struggling.”

Liberia Opposition ANC Leader Alexander B. Cummings Jr. in London

The charge, made on Saturday, January 21, 2019 by opposition leader Mr. Alexander B. Cummings Jr. of the Alternative National Congress (ANC) in London, England, is in apparent reference to the current economic challenges facing the small West African nation of Liberia.

Cummings was speaking to a group of Diaspora Liberians who gathered to hear first- hand about the current situation in the country and how they could help.

In a four-hour engagement with Liberians in which he gave a candid assessment of the political and economic conditions, Cummings recalled that when President George M. Weah was inaugurated a little over a year, he urged all Liberians to wish the new President and Government well, “because if he does well, that means that the country does well. And if it makes it harder for us to compete with him, then we should work harder because Liberia is in a difficult situation; everybody gotta work hard, if we want to change the country and take it to where it used to be,” Cummings said.

Some Liberian Diaspora Members At London Gathering With Cummings

He told the gathering that Liberia, after a year under the ruling Congress For Democratic Change (CDC) led Administration, “the early signs are not good.”

Cummings characterized the level of corruption as “unprecedented” but was quick to qualify his charge by indicating that the Weah Government is not the first corrupt Liberian Administration.

The ANC leader who is now viewed as the leading opposition voice in Liberia blamed the economic crime of corruption as the major reason for the country’s under development, describing corruption as “the bane of our country.”

The Liberian opposition leader further charged that, “the level of corruption now is just unprecedented; it’s kind of in your face. It’s almost disrespectful to the Liberian people because other Governments at-least would pretend. They would hide what they are trying to do. I think this government is so upfront and aggressive in acquiring properties, building properties…”, Cummings openly asserted.

The gathering of Liberians who traveled to engage politician Cummings heard him sharply contrast the high level of pervasive corruption against the economic struggles of ordinary Liberian. He pointed to country specific economic indicator data released by Liberia’s Ministry of Finance and the World Bank as declining.

“…Inflation is up, the Liberia Dollar is losing value, the current account deficit is expanding, revenue collections are going down…these are the facts,” Cummings, popularly known as ABC, told his compatriots.

ANC Logo

He cited the recent designation of Liberia as “the poorest country” in the world” and said all Liberians should concerned.

According to him, although he was calling out the facts of where the country is, it was also important to suggest solutions and potential alternatives, adding that, for him, “it was not just good enough to criticize.”

The opposition ANC leader who joined the local political fray over two and a half years ago from a successful corporate career at one of the world’s most successful beverage conglomerate and Fortune 500 companies Coca Cola, states that the opposition has a responsibility to hold the government in power accountable but will always offer solutions; so as not to be seen as always criticizing.

Although, he said, in his personal assessment, the “state” of the nation Liberia is not that great, President Weah is expected to deliver his constitutionally mandated “State of the Nation” report to the country ‘s National Legislature on January 28th, the opposition is planning to issue a “response”; an alternative point of view to the President’s address.

“And then we should hope that things get better,” Cummings stated. adding that, “as Liberians that should be our hope.”

The Liberian opposition leader, who was visiting London to get acquainted with the local Diaspora community, however, said he was less optimistic that things would improve but he remained hopeful.

Cummings In Middle and Some Liberians in London

The Diaspora community were told that government should create conditions for all Liberians to have equal access to opportunities and not just partisans of the ruling CDC.

Cummings, speaking at the engagement, clarified his recent statement in which he said “leaders should eat last”. He said the statement was being mis-characterized but said his view is that leaders are “servants”.

Alex continued that, “…but somehow, when some Liberians get into government, that servant- leadership characteristic goes missing.”

He emphasized that, “When you go into government, your role is to serve the people; not the other way around. And, somehow, that changes when we get into government. Eating does not mean corruption,” Cummings explained to the audience.

“And the idea of leaders eating last is that as a leader, you serve your people first. You should make sure they are taken care of; all the basic needs as necessities. Then pay yourself fairly for the work that you do. And that’s what we should be thinking about our leaders; they should be servant leaders…”, the ANC leader stated.

Map of Liberia

Cummings told Liberians gathered that as they think about change in the country, there were some fundamental questions that they needed to ask themselves about Liberia’s leadership model; why the country continues to do business the same way since independence in 1847 and expect a different result, and why those from the Diaspora…when they government, adopt corrupt behaviors.

During the Question and Answer period, attendees and Cummings exchanged views and discussed issues around Liberian youth empowerment, Technical, Vocational Education And Training (TVET), building and promoting political alliances and processes, Constitutional Amendments and term limits.

Some Liberians in London and Alex B. Cummings Jr. seated in Middle

They also discussed issues around resolution of war and economic crimes and electoral reforms.

Sound Cloud link – https://m.soundcloud.com/douglas-farngalo/town-hall-meeting-with-leader-of-alternative-national-congress-alexander-b-cummings-london-uk/s-9CjXo

By Our Staff Reporters and Contributing Writer Douglas Farngalo in London

Photos: Courtesy of Douglas Farngalo

Dutch Supreme Court Upholds Gus Kouwenhoven’s Conviction; Extradition Pending

The Hague, Netherlands December 18, 2018 – The AP is reporting that the Supreme Court in the Netherlands has upheld the conviction of the notorious Dutch arms smuggler Gus Kouwenhoven – a long-time associate of former rebel turned ex-President of Liberia Charles Taylor.

Former Liberian Warlord Charles Taylor
Former Liberian Warlord Charles Taylor

Kouwenhoven who operated the Oriental Timber Company (OTC) in Liberia was convicted in 2006 of international arms and timber smuggling including supply of cars, weapons,  and ammunitions to the main rebel group National Patriotic Front of Liberia (NPFL) in exchange for access to timber, diamond and natural resources of the poor West African country during its devastating civil war in 1990s. He appealed that conviction and was cleared.

However, new evidence surfaced on which the Dutch national was convicted again early 2017 and sentenced to 19 years  in prison.

In his 2016 book on conflict diamonds entitled, “ The Lion That Didn’t Roar: Can The Kimberly Process Stop the Blood Diamonds Trade?”, author Nigel Davidson wrote that, “…The Netherlands utilised its national war crimes legislation to initiate a prosecution about the related issue of so-called ‘conflict timber’. Although not a conflict diamonds prosecution as such, the war crimes legislation was used to prosecute timber trader and Dutch national Gus Kouwehoven. Reminiscent of the conflict diamonds problem, Kouwehoven allegedly provided financial assistance through is logging activities to human rights violators. Kouwenhoven was charged with war crimes for his role in the conflict in Liberia, as well as breaching United Nations sanctions. The indictment alleged that in at least four locations, Kouwenhoven committed, directly or indirectly, the killing, inhuman treatment, looting, rape, severe bodily harm, and offences against dead, sick or wounded persons. Machine guns and rocket-propelled grenades were used in an attack that made no distinction between active combatants and civilians…”

A Dutch Magisterial Court in 2006, however, did not find Kouwenhoven criminally liable for the alleged crimes. An Appeals court in 2008 overturned the decision and ordered him re-tried and he was subsequently convicted.

Charles Taylor Fighters
Charles Taylor Fighters

At the time of Mr. Kouwenhoven’s arrest last December in South Africa, the Executive Director of Global Witness, in a press statement said, “The arrest of Gus Kouwenhoven marks a banner day for the people of Liberia and those around the world who suffer at the hands of companies that trade in conflict timber and minerals. The message to those that trade guns for resources and profit from international crimes is that the rules of the game are changing. You will be found and you will go to jail…”

“Gus” as he was known in Liberia, was a business fixture at the once famed Hotel Africa Hotel in the northern western Liberian suburb of Virginia.

“Years of dogged work by the Dutch government, and now the South African authorities, are paying off and are finally bringing an infamous criminal to justice. Global Witness applauds their efforts. Charles Taylor has already been sentenced and imprisoned. Kouwenhoven now faces a similar fate,” the Global Witness official said last December.

Mr. Kouwenhoven, now residing in South Africa who was appealing his second conviction but with the Dutch Supreme Court’s decision, he is now awaiting extradition to the Netherlands.

Political Map of Liberia
Political Map of Liberia

His lawyers argued before the Dutch Supreme Court that the Kouwenhoven could not be prosecuted because of am amnesty granted to him by former President Taylor in 2003. That argument was rejected by the Court and his conviction upheld.

Over 250,000 Liberians were killed in the country’s civil war and another 1 million others were displaced internally and externally by the bloody conflict. Charles Taylor himself was convicted of charges by the Special Court for Sierra Leone sitting in the Hague in May, 2012. He is currently serving a 50 year prison sentence in the UK.

In Liberia, the Administration f President George M. Weah is facing international and domestic pressure to establish a war crimes court to prosecute those accused of gross human rights abuses and economic crimes.

But the Weah government has said that the establishment of such a court is not a priority.

By Emmanuel Abalo

West African Journal

 

US Lawmakers Signal Major Support For War Crimes Court In Liberia

Washington DC – November 14, 2018:  In a strong signal against the perpetuation of a  pervasive culture of impunity in Liberia since the end of the brutal back-to-back civil war that brought the West African nation of Liberia to its knees, the U.S. House of Representatives on Tuesday, November 13, 2018 passed Resolution 1055 “to reaffirm strong U.S.-Liberia ties and call for full implementation of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s Recommendations.

Flag of Liberia
Flag of Liberia

As part of the Accra Comprehensive Peace Agreement signed in 2003, all belligerents in the Liberia conflict agreed to the establishment of a  Truth or Reconciliation mechanism to investigate “perpetrators of massacres, sexual offences, murder, economic crimes, extra-judicial killings, and all incidents of gross human rights abuses and violations from January, 1979 – October 13, 2004. The aim of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC), which began work in earnest 2006, was to “promote national peace, security, unity and reconciliation”.

Accra Comprehensive Peace Agreement ARTICLE XIII: TRUTH AND RECONCILIATION COMMISSION

  1. A Truth and Reconciliation Commission shall be established to provide a forum that will address issues of impunity, as well as an opportunity for both the victims and perpetrators of human rights violations to share their experiences, in order to get a clear picture of the past to facilitate genuine healing and reconciliation.
  1. In the spirit of national reconciliation, the Commission shall deal with the root causes of the crises in Liberia, including human rights violations.
  1. This Commission shall, among other things, recommend measures to be taken for the rehabilitation of victims of human rights violations.
  1. Membership of the Commission shall be drawn from a cross-section of Liberian society. The Parties request that the International Community provide the necessary financial and technical support for the operations of the Commission.
Former Fighters In Libera - File Photo
Former Fighters In Libera – File Photo

The TRC completed its work and submitted a Final Report to the Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf Administration in 2009. However, the Government of Liberia has failed to take the necessary steps for implementation in spite of local and international urgings to address gross human rights abuses and economic crimes committed by major actors; some of whom serve in high positions in the current Liberian government.

The UN, Germany, the United States, European Union and local non-governmental organizations have made private and public representations to the George M. Weah Administration on the matter but without success so far.

Liberian diaspora civic groups and individuals and international human rights organizations including the International Justice Group (IJG) have been vigorously  lobbying the U.S. and European governments for support for the establishment of an accountability mechanism like the War Crimes Court. International war crimes investigators who traveled to Liberia over the years to collect first-hand evidence from victims and eyewitnesses have presented their findings to the U.S. government including lawmakers to make the case for passage of the resolution which supports the establishment of a war crimes tribunal in Liberia.

IJG Principal Deputy Executive Director Luigi Spera
IJG Principal Deputy Executive Director Luigi Spera

The Chief Investigator of the International Justice Group (IJG) Mr. Garretson Al Smith who played a key investigatory role which helped with the passage of U.S. House of Representatives Resolution 1055 said, “this is a major step in the accountability process for those who are accused of committing war crimes in the West African nation.”

Prior to the vote on the Resolution, the Chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Subcommittee Ed Royce stated that, “ …The Africa Subcommittee worked across party lines and alongside the international community and the people of Liberia to apprehend the notorious warlord Charles Taylor. Today, he remains behind bars. In 2003, the Government of Liberia, rebel groups and political parties signed a comprehensive peace agreement.

A Truth and Reconciliation Commission was created, which recommended the establishment of a war crimes tribunal to ensure justice for the people of Liberia. Unfortunately, however, this war crimes tribunal has never been established, although Liberian government figures and activists alike have continued to call for one. This resolution repeats this important call.”

According to the U.S. lawmaker Representative Royce, “…We have turned the page on this horrific chapter in Liberia’s history. In March, the U.N. peacekeeping mission there officially ended. It is not often we get to celebrate the successful end of a mission, and we remember the 202 peacekeepers that lost their lives to bring peace and stability in the region…”

Former Warlord Prince Y. Johnson

In a recent interview on a local radio station in his home county of Nimba in northeastern Liberia, a former militia leader turned Senator Mr. Prince Y. Johnson threatened those calling for his arrest. “If you were to come to arrest me, I will fight you. You know why? The same crime you want to arrest me for is the same crime Taylor committed. When you said you killed my ma, you then compensated Taylor with the Presidency. You paid Taylor to be President of Liberia…,” Johnson angrily said in the interview.

Sen Prince Y. Johnson Photo Courtesy News Dawn Newspaper
Sen Prince Y. Johnson Photo Courtesy News Dawn Newspaper

He cited calls to arrest and prosecute him for alleged war crimes as “selective justice” and defended his role as a fight to save his kinsmen who, he said, were being massacred by the Samuel K. Doe regime. Johnson and his militia were responsible for snatching former President Doe from the base of the Peacekeeping Force on September 9, 1990, after killing nearly 70 members of his entourage during the late President’s visit there. Doe was later tortured, killed and his body mutilated by rebel fighters loyal to Johnson.

The former warlord said Parliament in Liberia passed an Amnesty law for all acts committed between 1990 – 2003 and defiantly added, “ If you want, come catch me. The resistance you will find from young guys…it will be maximum, uncontrollable and ungovernable…”

Liberia’s TRC Final Report

Liberia’s TRC Final Report recommended the prosecution leaders of warring factions for “…human rights violations, including violations of international humanitarian law, international human rights law, war crimes and egregious domestic laws of Liberia and economic crimes…”

Liberia - TRC
Liberia – TRC

Those recommended for prosecution include now jailed former rebel leader turned former President Charles G. Taylor of the National Patriotic Front, (NPFL), Prince Y. Johnson of the Independent National Patriotic Front (INPFL), Alhaji G.V. Kromah of United Liberation Movement of Liberia (ULIMO-K) and Dr. George S. Boley of the Liberia Peace Council (LPC).

Other former warlords named for prosecution in the TRC Final Report were Thomas Yahya Nimley of the Movement for Democracy in Liberia (MODEL) and Sekou Damate Konneh of Liberians United for Reconciliation and Democracy (LURD).

Rebel Leaders Roosevelt Johnson of ULIMO -J faction and Francois Massaquoi of the Lofa Defense Force (LDF) pre-deceased the TRC Final Report.

US – Liberia Relations

US Representative Ed Royce
US Representative Ed Royce

The U.S. wields significant economic power and influence in Liberian matters and the House Resolution is expected to force the hand of the Weah government to implement the TRC Final Report or it will face further international isolation and sanctions. The Liberian Administration is already facing a crushing economic deterioration and has been unable to access international loan facilities.

The Weah government is said to be frantically seeking unconventional avenues to solicit loans and lines of credit to keep it afloat amidst rising local economic discontent and pressure to deliver much needed relief.

In his prepared remarks before passage of the House Resolution on Liberia, Chairman Royce noted that, “Much more needs to be done to crack down on corruption and create a more conducive environment for trade and economic investment. The government must ensure policies are in place to encourage businesses to invest, grow and create jobs. But this resolution affirms the U.S. commitment to continue to partner with Liberia to support civil society, rule of law and good governance. We stand by the Liberian people in their continued efforts for a more prosperous and democratic Liberia…”

Liberia Campaigners for War Crimes
Liberia Campaigners for War Crimes

On last Monday, hundreds of Liberians marched in the capital Monrovia in support of victims and survivors of the war and presented a petition to the Government of Liberia, the United States and international partners in which they called for the setting up of a war crimes court.

The Weah Administration Liberia has not officially responded to the U.S. House Resolution.

By Emmanuel Abalo

West African Journal

Liberia: Text Of Statement Delivered By Protesters Delivered To Int’l Community

PETITION STATEMENT

September 24, 2018

The Coalition of Citizens United to Bring Our Money Back (COCUBOMB), a mass-based umbrella pro-democracy and pro-advocacy organization consisting of over 26 civil society organizations, youth/student groups and trade unions, have peacefully rallied and assembled conscious and patriotic Liberians from every sphere of our society to petition you in pursuit of L$16 billion (US$106 million) that mysteriously disappeared under the government of President George M. Weah.

With oneness of purpose and an unhindered allegiance to Liberia and posterity, we have come on this day to send this clarion message to our International Partners through you:

1 We call on you and all international partners of Liberia to launch an immediate independent international forensic investigation into this missing L$16 billion saga which has both economic, social and security implications. The nation remains terrified by this mystery.

1 We call on you to withhold all direct support (in terms of financial and non-financial aid) to our government until it can fully account and restitute this stolen L$16 billion. All those linked in this horrific economic plunder and mass looting against the State and its people must be prosecuted and made to fully restitute such amount.

1 We call on you to prevail upon the Weah-led government to immediately release the internal investigative report of the Central Bank of Liberia that former President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf referenced in her latest interview on BCC. This report in our opinion could unravel a lot of hidden secrets and untold realities.

1 We call on you to assist Liberia in auditing all financial transactions done so far under President George M. Weah and former President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf. We are also concerned about the recent infusion of US$25 million in the Liberian economy by the Weah-led government. We are also interested in knowing the source of this US$ 25 million and how it was infused in the economy. This we believe must be thoroughly investigated as well.

2 COCUBOMB craves your indulgence most respectfully to launch an investigation into the giant-sized private properties being constructed and/or purchased by President George M. Weah and some high-profile members of his government in just six (6) months of his tenure. We are confident that such investigation could also dig out some hard truths about this missing L$16 billion.

3 We call on you to prevail upon the Weah-led government to ensure full asset declaration by all public officials especially the President either before or during the course of the Independent International Forensic Investigation.

1 We call on you to expedite the establishment of a War and Economic Crimes Court in Liberia. This we believe would end the longstanding culture of impunity and guarantee justice for Liberia and Liberians especially war victims. This approach would certainly serve as a deterrence for would be war and economic criminals.

1 We submit to you the urgency to fully overhaul/upgrade Liberia’s financial management system in order to maintain fiscal discipline, accountability, transparency and public integrity at all levels. The need to reinforce and rebrand anti-graft institutions such as LACC, GAC, FIU, PPCC, LEITI and IAA cannot be overemphasized. Corruption especially in the judiciary must also be dealt with.

1 We demand that all former and present heads of these institutions (NPA, MoFDP, CBL, MICAT and RIA) that had/have direct link to this missing container immediately recuse themselves and be brought in for investigation by an independent international forensic investigative panel.

The people of Liberia through COCUBOMB remain very concerned and disturbed about those missing billion (US$106 million) that vanished without any trace up to now. It is sad that the government has been dishonest and inconsistent in releasing the facts. Accounts surrounding this missing L$16 billion from the MoJ, MoFDP, MICAT and even the Office of the President remain contradictory and are compounded with fundamental flaws.

The government cannot be the accused, the defendant, and at the same time the jurist. The Liberian people need their money back. Those who viciously siphoned our resources MUST account and account now! THE PEOPLE are resolved about this and we will not rest until this L$16 billion is fully accounted for by those we describe as ‘vicious economic scavengers and plunderers of our State’.

In all of these, we assure the Liberian people and the International Community that we shall remain peaceful, civil and matured as we pursue this irreversible and patriotic path of bringing an end to systemic corruption in Liberia.

The people deserve better – they deserve to rise above poverty, misery and inequality. It cannot be business as usual. The International Community must ACT to help rescue Liberia from perishing. The popular call of our PEOPLE is “BRING BACK OUR MONEY”.

COCUBOMB calls for the full protection of Journalists Philibert Brown of Hot Pepper Newspaper and Rodney Sieh of FrontPage Africa. We also call on you to protect the rights of campaigners who are demanding the full restitution of this L$16 billion. As we jealously protect the sovereignty and heritage of our State by standing up to those barriers (corruption, nepotism, tribalism, cronyism and religious intolerance) that kept us down as a people, we call you to join us in this pursuit to ensure that President Weah and his government account for L$16 billion that disappeared in thin air.

Done and sealed on this 24th Day of September A.D. 2018 in the City of Monrovia by through COCUBOMB, a representation of the Liberian people.

Signed: ______________________________________

                                 Jeremiah S. Swen

                     Secretary General, COCUBOMB

 

Approved: ____________________________________

                                   Martin K. N. Kollie

                               Chairman, COCUBOMB

To: US Embassy, United Nations, European Union, African Union, ECOWAS, French Embassy

Reputable Organizations that have endorsed this statement:

1 Student Unification Party (SUP)

2 People Action Network (PAN-Liberia)

3 Economic Freedom Fighters of Liberia (EFFL)

4 Movement of Justice in Africa (MOJA)

5 Liberia Labor Congress (LLC)

6 Workers’ Union of Liberia (WUL)

7 Foundation for Human Rights and Democracy (FOHRD)

8 Alliance for Transitional Justice in Liberia (ATJL)

9 Teachers in Action for Concerns (TAC-Liberia)

10 Federation of Liberian Youth (FLY)

11 Patriotic Consciousness Association of Liberia (PACAL)

12 Patriotic Entrepreneurs of Liberia (PATEL)

13 Movement of Social Democratic Alliance (MOSODA)

14 Financial Communication Sector Union (FCSU)

15 National Cosmetology Union of Liberia (NCUL)

16 Association of Opposition Political Parties Youth League in Support of Weah (AOPPYL)

17 Concerned Liberians in the Diaspora (CLD)

18 Citizen Action for the Establishment of a War and Economic Crimes Courts (CAEWECC)

19 Zorzor and Salayea Muslim Development Association (ZSMDA)

20 Forum for Democracy and Civic Education (FODCE)

21 Liberia National Student Union (LINSU)

22 TAG – Liberia

23 Concerned University and College Students (CUCS)

24 Conscious High School Students of Liberia (CHSL)

25 S. K. Doe Community Youth Association (SAKDOCYA)

26 Masses Against Poverty (MAP)

27  Federation of Sinkor Youth Association (FESYA)

28 Liberian Youth for Democracy

29 Agenda for Peace and Democracy

30 National Youth Against Violence (NYAV)

 

US Rep Daniel M. Donovan Jr. Introduces Bill To Call For War Crimes Court in Liberia

It now appears that United States Congressional pressure is being brought to bear on the George M. Weah Administration Liberia over the establishment of a war crimes tribunal in the West African nation.

Liberian President George M. Weah

An estimated 250,000 people were killed and another 1 million others were dislocated internally and externally due to one of Africa’s most brutal civil conflagration led by now jailed former rebel leader and President of Liberia Charles G. Taylor.

According to House Resolution 1055 introduced on Friday, September 7. 2018 by Representative Daniel M. Donovan Jr., a Republican from New York, the intent of the resolution is, “…To affirm strong United States-Liberia ties and support for democratic principles, and call for full implementation of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission recommendations, including the establishment of an Extraordinary Criminal Tribunal for Liberia.”

The move by a member of the US Congress is the first tangible indication that the US and the international community are prepared to decisively deal with the unserious attitude of the Weah Administration in addressing impunity in Liberia.

Liberia TRC Logo

Despite calls from the UN, through its Deputy Secretary General Madam Amina Mohamed in March of this year in Monrovia, private representations to the Weah Government by the US and some of its allies, calls by the International Justice Group (IJG), the UN Human Rights Committee and over 75 international human rights groups and non-governmental organizations, and Liberians in and out of the country who all support the establishment of the war crimes court and recommendations of Liberia’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC), the government has signaled it’s unwillingness to prioritize the matter.

Representative Donovan’s bill has been agreed to in the U. S. House of Representatives and it has been forwarded to the House’s Committee on Foreign Affairs.

Congressman Donovan has a background as a former prosecutor and attorney.

He represents the 11th congressional district which covers parts of Kings County and Richmond County southeastern in New York.

He was elected in 2015.

According to procedures in the U. S. House of Representatives, bill are generally sent to the Library of Congress from, the Government Publishing Office a day or two after there introduced. But delay in passage of bills are possible when there is a large bill to print.

United Nations Headquarters New York

President Weah is expected to travel to NY later this month to address the UN General Assembly. Some Liberians are planning to peacefully protest and call for the establishment of war crimes court.

The U.S. may impose restrictive measures against the Weah Administration in a bid to facilitate implementation of recommendations of the TRC.

No one in Liberia has been held to account for alleged human rights violations and atrocities committed during the civil war.

By Emmanuel Abalo

West African Journal

Alleged Liberian War Criminal Arrested In France

The international justice noose continues to tighten around former alleged war actors in the Liberian conflict.

France Crimes Against Humanity And Genocide Agency

Latest news from France received by West African Journal Magazine say French authorities have picked up a suspected former factional commander for investigation into his alleged atrocities committed during the West African country’s civil war in the 1990s.

French Police

According to France 24 news website, a Liberian national who now holds Dutch citizenship and identified as Kunti K, a former ULIMO commander now living in the French suburb of Bobigny, outside of Paris was arrested by authorities on Tuesday, September 4, 2018. The apprehension of the Liberian war actor was based on a complaint filed with the French government by the victims rights advocacy group Civitas Maxima which is based in Europe. The group also played a key role in raising international awareness about the prosecution case of now convicted former “Defense Minister and Chief spokesperson” of the former rebel NPFL Mr. Jucontee Thomas Woweiyu in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania USA.

File Photo – Liberian Rebel Fighters

According to the report, ” Kunti K., born in 1974, was detained in a joint operation by the elite GIGN police and officers from France’s OCLCH agency, which investigates war crimes, genocide and crimes against humanity. He arrived in France in 2016, after leaving the Netherlands and passing through Belgium, said Colonel Eric Emereaux, head of OCLCH.”

French authorites had been investigating the accused Kunti K. The ULIMO rebel faction was named in Liberia’s TRC as committing over 11,500 various forms of abuses and atrocities including forced displacement, killing rape, property destruction and torture among aother alleged criminal actions. ULIMO was allegedly responsible for committing about 7% of overall atrocities in the TRC Final Report and its leaders recommended for prosecution for human rights and international humanitarian law violations and war crimes.

https://m.soundcloud.com/radiofranceinternationale/liberia-suspected-former-militant-commander-arrested-in-france-for-crimes-against-humanity

Radio France International Interview

No one in Liberia has been prosecuted for alleged atrocities committed during the war.

Former Rebel NPFL Commander Martina Johnson

Other Liberians who have been booked by foreign countries include a former NPFL commander, Martina Johnson. She was arrested in Belgium on September 17, 2014 and is facing investigation and prosecution for her alleged role in atrocities committed in Liberia. Agnes Reeves Taylor

She was a former personal bodyguard to former rebel leader turned former President Charles Taylor who is serving a 50 year prison sentence in the UK for his role in the Liberia civil war.

The ex-wife of former President Taylor, Agnes Reeves-Taylor, was arrested in the London on June 1, 2017 and is facing prosecution over four charges for offences she allegedly committed in Liberia.

Chuckie Taylor

The son of former President Taylor, Charles “Chuckie’ Taylor Jr., a US citizen, was prosecuted in America for his role in the war. In October, 2008, he was convicted by a U.S. Court on six charges of committing act of torture and conspiracy to commit torture in Liberia and firearms violations. He is serving a 97 year jail sentence in the U.S.

Former Warlord of the Rebel LPC Dr. George Boley

Another warlord who was residing in NY, Dr George Boley of the Liberia Peace Council (LPC) rebel faction was picked by by U.S. authorities in January 2010 on immigration violation charges and extra judicial killings in the Liberian war.

He was deported to Liberia in March 2012. A witness in Dr. Boley’s case, one Isaac Kannah of Philadelphia, who U.S. Immigration authorities say lied to federal authorities to help Dr. Boley admitted to perjury and obstruction of justice on July 26, 2018 and agreed to voluntarily leave the U.S. He was facing a 5 year jail sentence and $250,000 fine, if convicted It is unclear if Kannah, has left the U.S.

Mohammed “Jungle Jabbah”: Jabateh, a commander in the rebel ULIMO faction was prosecuted in the U.S. on immigration fraud charges, found guilty and is serving a 30 year jail sentence. He is said to have lied to U.S. immigration authorities about his past association with ULIMO rebel faction in order to gain immigration benefits.

In July, 2018, a former bodyguard to President Charles Taylor was removed from the U.S. to Liberia. The former Staten Island resident is Charles Cooper. According to U.S. Immigration authorities, “…An ICE investigation revealed that prior to coming to the United States, Cooper, while a member of the SSS and the National Patriotic Front of Liberia, was directly involved in the persecution of civilians in Liberia. Cooper was also identified as a member of the National Patriotic Front of Liberia, a rebel group founded by Charles Taylor that committed numerous human rights violations…”

Former President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf

Former Liberian President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, a Nobel laureate has been sued in a civil matter in a US. District Court Boston, Massachusetts by a Liberia national for her alleged role in the war.

A former Presidential guard commander during the early stages of the war in Liberia, one Colonel Moses Thomas, is facing a civil suit in Philadelphia for his alleged role in the Lutheran Church massacre by government troops under his command. Colonel Thomas has denied any involvement.

Local and international pressure is building on the Weah Administration to establish a war crimes court to prosecute those accused of committing human rights violations and atrocities during the war. But the Liberian President, at a recent meeting with opposition political parties purportedly stated that because Liberians are inter-related and since some of the accused are current “decision makers” in government, he could not implement recommendations to hold those individuals accountable nor could he take on a full frontal assault on “endemic” corruption in government. President Weah has been roundly criticized by Liberians in and out of the country for his unwillingness to implement recommendations of the country’s TRC.

Map of Liberia

A mass peaceful protest is planned by Liberians in the U.S. to greet President George Weah who is expected to attend the UN General Assembly in New York later in September. Organizers say their protest is to call for President Weah to establish a war crimes court and fight corruption in the small West African country.

Former Rebel Commander Turned Senator Prince Y. Johnson

A major war actor and former rebel commander now turned Senator Prince Y. Johnson who is named in TRC report as a “perpetrator” and recommended for prosecution has in recent days been threatening a return to conflict if there is an attempt to arrest him for prosecution.

Some supporters of President Weah say attempts to prosecute alleged war and economic criminals could destabilize the fragile peace while others say justice and accountability are the best remedies for reconciling Liberians.

Liberian President George M. Weah

Recently, a newly formed rights advocacy organization the International Justice Group (IJG) based in Europe and the U.S. disclosed that its investigators have uncovered individuals listed in the West African country’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s Final Report  living under different disguises and names to avoid detection and apprehension by authorities for the roles in the Liberian civil war.

“Under international justice, President Weah’s clear refusal poses serious consequences for Liberia’s prosperity in many ways. From international sanction to other activities such as travel ban of officials and others in government and the country, the pressure will be brought by the International Justice Group  as well as the 76 Group and others…” the IJG said.

The group also clearly stated that, ” …under international justice, President Weah’s clear refusal poses a serious consequences for Liberia’s prosperity in many ways. From international sanctions to other activities such as travel ban of officials and others in government and the country, the pressure will be brought to bear by the International Justice Group as well as the 76 group and others…”

Flag of Liberia

Liberia was wracked by back-to-back war starting in 1979 in which nearly and estimated 250,000 people were killed and about 1 million others were internally and externally displaced by roving bands of rebels. The conflict spilled over into neighboring Sierra Leone where rebels reportedly hacked off limbs of victims and killed thousands others.

TRC Liberia

International war crime investigators say they will pursue alleged war criminals for full prosecution in and out of Liberia.

By Emmanuel Abalo

West African Journal Magazine