IMF Concludes Economic Review Mission To Sierra Leone

Freetown, Sierra Leone – May 7, 2019: The International Monetary Fund (IMF) just concluded a Review Mission to Sierra Leone in West Africa and has published a report of its findings:

Sierra Leone Finance-Minister Jacob Jusu Saffa
Sierra Leone Finance-Minister Jacob Jusu Saffa
  • The Sierra Leone authorities and IMF mission concluded discussions, ad referendum, on economic policies to pave the way for consideration by the IMF Executive Board of the first review under the ECF-supported program.
  • Continued actions to mobilize revenue and manage public finances remain key priorities to reduce public debt and create fiscal space for investing in people and infrastructure.
  • Stepping up structural reform efforts will be crucial to managing fiscal risks, ensuring greater accountability, and diversifying the economy for the benefit of all Sierra Leoneans.

 

An International Monetary Fund (IMF) mission, led by Karen Ongley, visited Freetown during April 23-May 7, 2019 to conduct the first review of the Extended Credit Facility (ECF) arrangement approved by the Executive Board on November 30, 2018.

At the end of the visit, Ms. Ongley issued the following statement:

“The economic landscape in Sierra Leone remains challenging. Yet, the authorities navigated these difficulties well in the year since taking office, helping to stabilize the economy. Real GDP looks set to pick up this year to 5.1 percent, thanks in part to the resumption of iron ore mining. After peaking above 19 percent last September, inflation moderated to 17.5 percent in March and is projected to continue tracking down over 2019.

“Faced with serious constraints on budget financing, the authorities kept the budget in check through stronger‑than‑programmed revenue performance and spending well below the budget. As a result, the overall deficit narrowed from 8.8 percent in 2017 to 5.8 percent in 2018. However, delays in donor receipts and uneven liquidity in the banking system, posed challenges for deficit financing and monetary policy, and impacted program performance.

“While program performance is broadly on track, slower than expected progress on structural reforms reflects the magnitude of policy challenges. Nine of the ten quantitative targets were met for end‑December 2018 and end‑March 2019. However, the Net Domestic Assets of the Bank of Sierra Leone (BSL) at end‑December 2018 exceeded the program target (performance criterion), partly due to BSL’s credit to government and continued foreign exchange market sales to stem depreciation of the Leone. Moreover, three of five structural benchmarks—the forensic audit of the BSL, developing a strategic plan for the two state-owned banks, and a strategy for clearing domestic arrears—have been delayed, as the underlying issues are proving to be more complex than anticipated.

“With this in mind, the Sierra Leonean authorities and the mission reached understandings, ad referendum, on economic policies aimed at enhancing accountability in managing public resources, diversifying the economy and promoting more resilient and inclusive growth. The authorities’ commitment to mobilizing domestic revenue and improving expenditure management to achieve a gradual reduction in the deficit will help ensure that public debt returns to a sustainable path. Notwithstanding pressures on the budget, the authorities will safeguard poverty-reducing spending and other priority spending under the Government’s National Development Plan. Limiting the recourse to domestic financing will also reinforce the BSL’s objective of bringing inflation down to single digits by the end of the program. Maintaining a flexible exchange rate system and increasing foreign exchange reserves will boost resilience to economic shocks.

Sierra -Leone
Sierra -Leone

“The authorities have calibrated their policies to address longstanding vulnerabilities, but this also requires maintaining policy discipline and stamina. Notwithstanding their ambitious revenue goals, the program reflects a more cautious revenue assumption as a buffer to deal with fiscal risks, such as reliance on donor financing, the large outstanding stock of domestic arrears, and high prospective debt service payments. Stepping up efforts on the structural reforms underpinning the program is crucial to the goals of managing fiscal risks and ensuring greater accountability for the benefit of all Sierra Leoneans.

“The IMF’s Executive Board is expected to consider first ECF review by end-June 2019. Completion of the review would make available SDR 15.56 million (US$ 21.5 million), bringing total disbursements under the program to about SDR 31 million (US$ 43 million).

“The mission met with Vice President Jalloh, Minister of Finance Jacob Saffa, Deputy Minister of Finance Patricia Laverley, Governor of BSL Kelfala Kallon, Finance Secretary Sahr Jusu, other senior government and BSL officials, representatives of the financial sector, civil society, and development partners. Mr. Kingsley Obiora, Alternate Executive Director representing Sierra Leone, also joined the concluding meetings.

“The mission wishes to thank the Sierra Leonean authorities for their warm hospitality, and the constructive and rich discussions during our visit to Freetown.”

Source: IMF Communications

Opposition ALP Withdraws From Dialogue With Liberian Government

Monrovia, Liberia – May 7, 2019: A major opposition political group in Liberia, the All People Party (ALP) says it is suspending all talks or dialogue with the ruling Congress for Democratic Change (CDC) Government.

All Liberia Party Press Statement

In a press statement issued on Monday in Monrovia, the political party said its decision to suspend dialogue is, “…until the Government fosters reasonable, fair and respectful approach towards the opposition, especially the opposition and the Office of the Chairman of the collaborating Political Parties…”

Mr. Benoni Urey heads the Coalition of Collaborating Opposition Political Parties in Liberia.

The 4-page statemment cited instances of unproven accusations made by the the Chairman of the CDC Mr. Mulbah Morlu, now suspended Deputy Information Minister Eugene Fahngon and Presidential Affairs Minister Nathaniel McGill against the ALP and others of the Coalition that they were plotting to assasinate President Weah. “The Leaders of the Collaborating Political Parties challenged President Weah and his party’s chairman to provide evidence to what the leaders described as false, malicious and baseless accusation, The CDC and President Weah failed to do so…”, the ALP said.

According to the party, President Weah, at a church Conference in Bong County, central Liberia earlier this year, confirmed the accusation.

The statement which was approved by the party’s National Chairman said, “The ALP believes in the face of rising economic challenges resulting to the growng tension in the country, the CDC led Government lacks better approach to finding remedy to the country’s current problems. As a result, the CDC and President Weah have embarked upon a campaign of scapegoating and diversionary futile political activities by engaing in slanderous attacks on the reputations of Hon. Benoni W. Urey, Cllr. Charles Brumskine, Ambassador Alexander Cummings and Ambassador Joseph. N. Boakai.”

The opposition party led by businessman Urey charged that its “…leadership therefore is of the conviction that both Chairman Morlu and President Weah’s Actions are anti-peaceful and hence a recipe for distrust and lack of confidentialty. The ALP believes what is being prematurely uttered by Chairman Mulbah Morlu, Ministers Nathaniel McGill and Eugene Fahngon is a direct reflection of President Weah’s instruction. Otherwise, we challenge President Weah to have Chairman Morlu removed and subsequently dismiss Ministers McGill and Fahngon immediately…”

All Liberia Party Logo
All Liberia Party Logo

In closing, the ALP announced its endorsement of the June 7 peaceful protests and called on ‘well-meaning Liberians” to join in. A major anti-government protest has been called for June 7th by organizers under the banner Council of Patriots to petition for redress to economic and political issues facing the poor West African Country.

The statement is the first response of the ALP to a series of attacks and accusations against its leader and his business by the CDC Chairman Morlu and allies of the Government. At a recent gathering at the CDC headquarters, Chairman Morlu gave an ultimatum to the telcommunications company Lonestar Cell MTN to distance itself from Mr. Urey or face “citizens withdrawal from the company services.”

The Weah Government is under serious political and economic pressures to provide relief for struggling citizens.

By Our Correspondent In Monrovia

West African Journal

Editorial: Mr. President, Speak To Your People

Monrovia, Liberia- April 15, 2019: The worsening economic reality in Liberia needs no amplification.

President George M. Weah of Liberia

In the local parlance, “People are sucking air”.

In a recent video shared widely on Liberian social media sites, desperate marketers openly voiced frustration with the Weah Administration and its inability to curb the economic downward spiral; especially the declining Liberian dollar. The marketers are simple and good indicators of the local strength of supply and demand which drive the economy.

No one is “buying” because of the lackluster economic environment and the diminishing purchasing ability of the ordinary Liberian.

The sentiment of economic disappointment expressed by the marketers is a reliable representation of the view held across all sectors of the Liberian society that the hard time is too much.

It is reasonable to establish that Liberians are making the effort to speak to President Weah and his Government about their concerns; whether it is through angry marketers, the position of Coalition of Opposition Parties, peaceful marches and protests, mob violence or silence.

The fundamental question is whether Government is listening and, if so, what is its response.

What is baffling to Liberian citizens, and perhaps to the international community of economic observers is the “loud silence” from President Weah to the “status quo” of frustration, hard time and hopelessness ordinary citizens are enduring under his Administration.

In challenging times, citizens expect leaders to step up and inspire, motivate and lead. The President is not speaking nor is he motivating or leading.

This business of the Administration’s silence is clashing with confidence in Government. That confidence was the “Hope For Change” and blank check that some desperate Liberians, who, against their better judgment, as it is becoming evident, gave to the ruling Congress for Democratic Change (CDC) and President Weah when they elected him in December, 2017.

The blank check of “political capital” that the CDC led Government obtained from the people of Liberia, was, in the real sense, a “credit” which needed to translate to tangibles that will put food on the table, a job and escape from poverty.

The crises of confidence in Government are not just localized to the home theater. International business analysts and observers see a direct correlation between poor governance and Government’s inability to attract investments and infrastructures which are critical drivers of any economy; Liberia being no exception.

Liberia is identified by the International Monetary Fund (IMF) as one of several sub Saharan countries with slower growing countries and where “there is a need to pursue reforms to facilitate economic diversification, and address remaining economic imbalances, many of these cases, private investments remain weak, and a strong focus is needed to address the constraints that are holding such investments back…”

A successful Liberian international business executive Mr. Sage Thomson, in an analysis of the Liberian situation, says, “…with our current inflation rate north of 30%, my goodness… why would any investor or bank want to do business with us? We don’t have a great story to tell the world. The President is jetting off without a serious business pitch. And that pitch starts with stability in your country. But guess what…food inflation is at 31% as of December 2018 and it is fair to say that it is very much higher currently in Q2 19.

Basically, government officials consume our GDP without understanding that you cannot run a nation or have any serious currency without productivity! Growth is driven by capital, labor and productivity… and productivity is 60% of what determines if a country is going to succeed or not.“

Thomson also cites the contributory challenge of uncontrollable “urbanization”. According to him, “another area of massive concern is urbanization.. Monrovia is tremendously overcrowded without any plans, for a secondary city for people to migrate to, for example, Ganta, Nimba County, Gbarnga, Bong County, Zorzor, Lofa County, etc…”

He attributes this uncontrollable factor to the frantic free -fall situation that Liberia is experiencing.

The series of anti-government protests in the last two years are indications that non- Administration supporters are effectively controlling the narrative to the disadvantage of Government. Control of the narrative that the Administration is corrupt and ineffective is winning over independents and some supporters of the Government who see confirmation everyday of some of the questionable actions or inaction by Government.

The once popular CDC is being openly challenged in debates in the public square and electoral contests for public office. Some Liberians are even accusing the Weah Administration of choosing to violate the Constitution rather than face the public embarrassment of losing by-elections due to its declining popularity; case in point being the delay in formally informing the National Elections Commission (NEC) about the vacancy in the Senatorial seat in Montserrado County in order to trigger preparation for and holding of a by election.

While it may be true that the Weah Administration may have simply forgotten to inform the NEC of the vacancy, equally, so, they’ve created room for opposition and independents to point to ineffective governance. This lapse contributes to sustained erosion of confidence and the desire to find an alternative leadership to the present Government.

It is no secret that political and social tensions and divisions are rising due to the economic malaise. And the creeping realization is that Liberians are slowly but surely reaching the point of no return when they would rightfully and peacefully call for a change in Government by invoking Articles 1 and 7 of the Constitution.

Article 1 says,  

“All power is inherent in the people. All free governments are instituted by their authority and for their benefit and they have the right to alter and reform the same when their safety and happiness so require. In order to ensure democratic government which responds to the wishes of the governed, the people shall have the right at such period, and in such manner as provided for under this Constitution, to cause their public servants to leave office and to fill vacancies by regular elections and appointments…”

Article 7 maintains that, “…freedom and social justice enshrined in this Constitution, manage the national economy and the natural resources of Liberia in such manner as shall ensure the maximum feasible participation of Liberian citizens under conditions of equality as to advance the general welfare of the Liberian people and the economic development of Liberia…”

The Weah Administration must “speak” credibly to citizens and begin to lead in all areas. It will require making some difficult choices which would include discarding some entrenched economic and political positions, realization that government critics are not “enemies of the state” but patriots; and even adopting some solutions offered by the opposition bloc.

If Liberia wins in the end, regardless of who is in the Executive Mansion, it will validate that Liberia is greater than any one person or political party.

Mr. President, citizens are trying to get your attention. They are suffering! Speak to them!

West African Journal Magazine

Arcelor Mittal Bats Down Claim of 1000 Job Creation In Liberia

Monrovia, Liberia – April, 12, 2019: The international iron ore conglomerate Arcelor Mittal, which is operating in Liberia, has denied that it is creating 1,000 new jobs in the sub-political divisions of Nimba and Grand Bassa Counties.

Assistant Information Minister David B. Kolleh

The claim was pushed on social media a few days ago by an Assistant Minister for Technical Services at the Ministry of Information in the Congress For Democratic Change(CDC) led- Government David B. Kolleh and a Deputy Director General for Rural Services at the state run national broadcaster – a ruling party operative Boimah J.V. Boimah whose profile identified himself in January , 2018 as a  CDC Chief of Social Media & Communications Strategies.

Deputy LBS Director General Boima J. V. Boima

The social media post listed the job creation as part of Government’s achievements for the people of Liberia. Mr. Kolleh was appointed in February, 2018 shortly after the inauguration of President George M. Weah.

West African Journal Magazine conducted a scan of various social media sites and found the claim on Facebook which credited Mr. Kolleh. He has been promoting the  Weah Administration on various social media platforms. Kolleh joined Twitter in July, 2011.  His last post was on September 9, 2018 in which he was promoting the Government run New Liberian newspaper which featured articles on the Liberian President.

In response to an inquiry into the job creation claim by Assistant Minister Kolleh, a media representative of Arcelor Mittal told the West African Journal Magazine ion Thursday in an email that, “This information is untrue. Arcelor Mittal Liberia has not opened new employments. We will continue operating as normal.”

This is the most recent account of Government operatives attempting to lie about actual events in the country. In March, an aide to President Weah Sekou Damaro Kalasco was caught red-handed posting a fraudulent photo  to show Government of Liberia road construction development in Lofa County, northeastern Liberia.

The photo was stolen from an African Development Bank (ADB) project in Kivu, Democratic Republic of Congo. Mr. Kalasco later apologized for the mistake.

Liberian Presidential Aide Sekou Damaro Kalasco

In another social media post discovered from February, 2017, one Alieu A. Swaray challenged a prior post by Kalasco in which he erroneously charged that the annual budget of former Liberian Vice President Joseph Boakai was more than that of the U.S. President.

The claim by Kalasco was untrue.

Social Media Posts from Feb. 2017

The Government is under pressure to produce tangible results to change the current dire economic situation and operatives have been trying to paint a positive outlook of Government to citizens; sometimes by embellishment or non-factual information.

By Our Correspondent In Monrovia

West African Journal Magazine

GOL Spending Millions To Lobby In US; No Deliverables Yet

 

Washington DC – April 11, 2019: The Government of Liberia spent $4.5 million USD in 2018 on foreign lobbying fees in the U.S.

National Coat of Arms of Liberia
National Coat of Arms of Liberia

According to documents seen and in possession of  the West African Journal Magazine, the Liberian International Ship and Corporate Registry (LISCR LLC) based in Virginia, the U.S., acting as a foreign agent on behalf of a foreign principal – the Government of Liberia (GOL), reported income of $4,545,648 (Four Million, Five Hundred and Forty Five Thousand Six Hundred and Forty Eight dollars) for lobbying and influence in Washington DC  with the Government of the U.S. on behalf of the West African nation. The Liberian Registry is managed by the Liberian International Ship & Corporate Registry (LISCR, LLC), a privately owned U.S. company operates globally.

A second lobbying firm that represented the interest of the GOL was the Friedlander Group which was paid $40,000 (Forty Thousand dollars) upfront and whose contract was canceled unilaterally by Government shortly after it was consummated in early 2018. The firm says no reason was given by the Liberian Government and monies are still owed by the Government to Friedlander Group.

KRL International LLC 5788-Exhibit-AB-20180822-24

In August, 2018, Liberia’s Foreign Minister Gbehzohngar Milton Findley signed for the Government of Liberia to secure the services of another lobbying firm known as KRL International LLC on K Street in Washington DC. Activities of that agreement were “to set a strategic framework for a visit of the Government of Liberia to the U.S. and “to reach key public and private sector stakeholders to support the Liberian Government’s strategy for economic growth”.

KRL in its filing with the U.S. Department of Justice, said it is assisting the Liberian Government of Liberia in ensuring continuing bilateral support from the U.S. Government.

Two emails to KRL International LLC to disclose the status of and the amount of its lobbying contract with the Liberian Government went unanswered.

The Weah Administration has been approaching various individuals and lobbying firms in the U.S. Government through lobbying firms to get to powerful and influential bi-partisan stakeholders for face time and continued international financial aid and support.

Greenberg Traurig-GOL Agreement Letter

The latest consulting firm whose services has been secured is Greeberg and Traurig, LLP to provide,  “ advice and counsel related to foreign relations issues, as well as educating the government and opinion leaders regarding same.” Signed by Liberia’s Finance and Planning Minister Samuel Tweah on September 30, 2018, the agreement with Greenberg Traurig for representation before Congressional leaders in the U.S. is for $300,000 (Three Hundred Thousand Dollars) for a 12 month period beginning October 1, 2018.

Greenberg Traurig US Government Reporting Form

The Liberian Government, according to the agreement, is paying Greenberg Traurig, LLP $25,000 (Twenty Five Thousand dollars) monthly. Per the agreement, as of April, 2019, the Liberian Government would have paid $175,000 (One Hundred and Seventy Five Thousand dollars) with another $125,000  (One Hundred and Twenty Five Thousand dollars) remaining to be paid by September, 2019. The firm also operates a Political Action Committee (PAC), which donates to candidates from both Republican and Democratic political parties in the U.S.

A source who is knowledgeable of the efforts of U.S. based advocates and individuals who successfully appealed to the Trump Administration for an extension to the Deferred Enforced Departure (DED) for thousands of Liberians dismissed any talk that the Liberian Government lobbying efforts were responsible for the approval of the one year extension.

It is still unclear what “deliverables” the latest lobbying effort is producing since the Liberian President is yet to be invited to the White House for a meeting with President Donald Trump and U.S. aid and support remain basic, with just five months to go before expiration of the current contract with Greenberg Traurig, LLP.

US Congressional Seal
US Congressional Seal

According to an “Outlook” Report from May, 2018 prepared by the U.S. Congressional Research Service (CRS), a nonpartisan shared staff to congressional committees and Members of Congress which works under the direction of Congress, “…Weah appears to be enjoying a political honeymoon, but its duration may be limited, given the pressing nature of the challenges the country faces. His success is likely to depend on his ability to prove—both to Liberia’s citizens and to the international community—that he can govern competently, transparently, and accountably. Still, while he inherits many problems from the Sirleaf administration, he is also the beneficiary of extensive and ongoing donor-backed development and capacity-building assistance, including from the United States, initiated under Sirleaf. The prior government also proposed a range of reform legislation and policies that were not enacted or implemented that the new government may be able to adapt and pursue. For the time being, the United States appears set to continue to support Liberia’s current development trajectory, albeit with assistance allocations lower than those provided during recent past years…”

By Our International Affairs Correspondent, Washington DC

West African Journal Magazine

U. S. Sanctions Liberian Flagged Shipping Company

A shipping entity connected to the South American Government of Venezuela and with offices in Liberia has been sanctioned by the Government of the United States.

U. S. Pres. Donald J. Trump

The U.S. is locked in a bitter diplomatic spat with the Nicolas Maduro government in Venezuela which it describes as “illegitimate” and has, instead, recognized, the leader of the opposition-controlled National Assembly, Mr. Juan Guaido who has declared himself interim President.

Pres. Nicolas Maduro of Venezuela

As part of pressuring the Maduro Government, the Trump Administration, through the Treasury Department, slapped Specially Designated Nationals And Blocked Persons (SDN) economic sanctions on the state owned oil company and two international companies that are engaged in the transport of Venezuelan oil.

Petroleos de Venezuela is the country’s state-run oil company.

Venezuela National Oil Company

The Maduro Government is kept afloat by the proceeds of the country’s oil shipment and sale and Washington is working to strangulate the Government.

The Venezuelan Company operating out of Liberia is Ballito Bay Shipping Incorporated with an address at 80 Broad Street in Monrovia.

The address listed for Ballito Bay Shipping is tied to the Liberia International Ship And Corporate Registry (LISCR, LLC), a private U.S. owned and globally operated company that manages Liberia’s lucrative ship registry.

LISCR Offices

LISCR,

The LISCR Trust Company (“the Registered Agent”) on its website says, “ it has been appointed by the Government of the Republic of Liberia to serve as a sole registered agent for all Liberian non-resident corporate entities. The principal role of the Registered Agent is to receive filing instructions, issue annual invoices, notices, etc. and to provide a registered office address for receiving service of process, or legal notices, on the entity’s behalf. The Registered Agent can also serve as the official depository for any document that a Liberian entity voluntarily records outside the public register.

The Registered Agent’s address for all non-resident Liberian entities is 80 Broad Street, Monrovia, Liberia…”

The Liberian Government receives fees collected by LISCR which are deposited in its account at the Federal Reserve in New York.

The identification number of Ballito Bay Shipping with the International Maritime Organization (IMO) is 5804961.

Crude Tanker Despina Andrianna

The Despina Andrianna vessel owned by Ballito Bay Shipping Incorporated is part of the Liberian registry and is engaged in transporting Venezuelan oil to Cuba.

West African Journal Magazine tracked the Despina Andrianna crude tanker and the vessel’s global position currently has it sailing in the Caribbean to an unknown destination.

The sanctions prohibit any citizen of the U.S. or entity from transactions involving Ballito Bay.

The LISCR will now be restricted from further business with the named company in the Liberian registry which it manages , according to the terms of the U.S. sanctions.

Liberia Business Registry Application Form

On its website, the LISCR notes, “…A non-Liberian corporation can re-domicile into Liberia and will become a Liberian Corporation upon filing the application with required attachments, including the Articles of Incorporation of the corporation as a Liberian corporation. The corporation will continue its existence as a Liberian corporation; the existence date of the re-domiciled corporation is the date of incorporation of the corporation in the jurisdiction of its origin.

Liberian nonresident domestic corporations are governed by provisions of the Business Corporation Act, The Associations Law, Title 5, as Amended, of the Liberian Code of Laws Revised, (the “BCA”).

Under Liberia’s Business Corporation Act, Ballito Bay Shipping would be considered a “Foreign Corporation” which is

(o) “Re-domiciled” doing business for profit in Liberia.

It is unclear if Ballito Bay Shipping Incorporated which is registered with the Liberian Business Registry (LBR) at the Ministry of Commerce or Liberia National Investment Commission

There are eight (8) other shipping companies with Liberian flagged ships tied to Iran and Hizballah that are sanctioned by the US Government and listed on the Treasury Department’s SDN, according to the Office of Asset Control (OFAC).

West African Journal Magazine has reached out to LISCR Trust for comment on its future relationship with Ballito Bay Shipping Incorporated.

By Our International Affairs Correspondent

West African Journal

Liberia: Central Bank and Govt Locked In “War of Words”

Philadelphia, Pennsylvania – March 5, 2019: The Swedish based currency manufacturing company involved in the biggest financial scandal in the West African country of Liberia is pushing back strongly against Economic Sabotage charges by the Liberian Government.

Crane Currency
Crane Currency

In a 13 – page consolidated response to the charges, a copy of which is in the possession of the West African Journal Magazine, Crane Currency explained that it negotiated and entered into two currency printing contracts on May 6, 2016 and July 28, 2017 with the Government of Liberia through representatives of the Central Bank of Liberia (CBL).

According to the company, “Crane entered into both contracts in reasonable reliance on the CBL’s apparent authority to lawfully award and enter into the subject contracts. At all points, Crane worked with officials from the CBL to enter into and perform under the contracts and to agree all changes in writing. Each contract was subsequently amended by mutual agreement in writing between the aCBL and Crane to include the delivery of additional over-produced banknotes and to reflect changes in CBLs shipping requirements9e.g.) by overnight rather than by sea, to accommodate the CBL’s accelerated schedule.) All changes were memorialized in exchanges of letters, emails and invoice statements…,” the company said.

On April 1, 2019, the Government of Liberia, through its Department of Justice, issued a statement in which it said that it “… categorically rejects claims made by Crane Currency in a statement issued on March 21, 2019, that it has not been charged with any crime in Liberia. To the contrary, Crane Currency and officials of the Central Bank of Liberia (CBL), both current and past, were charged and indicted on March 4, 2019 for Economic Sabotage, Criminal Conspiracy and Criminal Facilitation, in the printing of excess Liberia Dollar Banknotes…”

Crane Currency said it fulfilled contractual agreement to the CBL as set out in the two contractual delivery agreements and in documented proof for the printing of additional banknotes which the Liberian Government is alleging in its indictment. The total contractual payment to Crane for the printing for the banknotes was $15,867,270.43 (Fifteen Million, Eight Hundred and Sixty Seven Thousand, Two Hundred and Seventy Dollars and Forty Three cents). In denying any impropriety in the fulfillment of its contractual obligation to the CBL, the currency printer disclosed that the 2016 Contract contained the following:

Denomination Quantity (pieces)
L $5 15,000,000
L$10 10,000,000
L$20 10,000,000
L$50 20,000,000
L$10 26,250,000
L$500 2,000,000
Total $83,250,000

Crane further disclosed in its statement that the original 2017 Contract contained:

 

Denomination Quantity (pieces)
L$5 6,000,000
L$10 35,000,000
L$20 50,000,000
L$50 15,000,000
L$100 50,000,000
L$500 5,740,000
Total 161,740,000

Crane is insisting that, “The agreements in writing for additional ‘good banknotes’ increased these originally contracted quantities to the totals actually delivered, as set out in the consolidated response…” and provided copies of signature pages for the two contracts with the CBL.

Liberia Justice Minister Counselor Frank Musa Dean
Liberia Justice Minister Counselor Frank Musa Dean

But the Liberian Government, in its statement, held that, “During the investigation by the Presidential Investigation Team (PIT), the airway and seaway bills, along with the packing lists clearly established that Crane printed 18.6 billion Liberian dollars banknotes, over the 15 billion Liberia dollar banknotes it was contracted to print…” At issue in the biggest financial scandal is the question of who authorized senior bank officials to amend the contract for the printing of additional banknotes totaling $18.6 billion LD.

“The Ministry of Justice also states that Crane Currency’s claims that it did not print and deliver excess Liberian Dollar Banknotes to the CBL is not supported by the facts, as contained in the Reports of The Presidential Investigation Team (PIT) and Kroll Associates, In (Kroll). These claims by Crane are totally without merit, not made in good faith, not supported by the records at the CBL and Crane Currency’s own records, submitted to the PIT and Kroll, ” the Government of Liberia said.

But Crane Currency rejects the PIT REPORT SECTION 5.2.2d and says after conducting its own forensic examination, it was able to identify areas where shipping records do not support the conclusions made in the PIT report. “Crane has conducted a forensic examination of Packing Lists (produced by Crane to notify the customer of what is in the shipment leaving the prints works), Air Way Bills (produced by the Airline to record what should be transported) and Air Cargo Manifests (produced by the Aircraft crew to record what has actually been transported on a particular aircraft)…”

In its attempt to explain the discrepancy in the shipping data, Crane said, “…for the 2017 Contract, the PIT report counts deliveries by two Brussels Airlines flights that were in fact canceled. As a result, the report double counts deliveries (the flights that were canceled and the flights that actually happened) and overstates the total number of banknotes delivered to Liberia by 2,645 (Two Million, Six Hundred and Forty Five Thousand) Liberian Dollars. Records of Air way and sea way bills were included in Crane Currency response to buttress its assertion that it undertook the two contracts as agreed.

Between 2016 – 2018, a total of twenty shipments which included the physical movements of Liberian banknotes to the CBL were conducted. There were six shipments for the 2016 Contract; 2 by air and 4 by sea and 14 shipments for 2017 Contract: 7 by air and 7 by sea. On the question of whether the CBL received the twenty shipments of banknotes, Crane Currency explained that freight company would be the entity to confirm delivery to the destination in Liberia.

Accused and Indicted Liberia Central Bank Officials
Accused and Indicted Liberia Central Bank Officials

A former Executive Governor of the Bank Milton Weeks and a current Deputy Charles Sirleaf along with another CBL official Dorbor Hagba were arrested and jailed shortly after the release of the Kroll and PIT forensic reports and implicated in the overprinting. They are free on bail pending trial.

“The Ministry of Justice wishes to emphasize that after receiving Crane Currency’s reaction to their Reports, both Kroll and PIT have stated that they stand by their Findings regarding the printing of excess Liberian dollar Banknotes by Crane Currency,” the Government of Liberia said.

The big financial scandal has damaged confidence and reputation of the Government of Liberia and Central Bank. The case goes to trial in May at the Criminal Court C in Monrovia.

It is unknown if Crane Currency will appear to answer the charges laid by the Government of Liberia.

By Emmanuel Abalo

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

 

 

 

Liberia Cancels $80K Lobbying Contract With US Based Firm; Owes Firm Owner

New York, New York USA – March 14, 2019: A lobbying and public relations agreement with a New York based government and public relations firm in the United States has been unilaterally cancelled by the Government of Liberia.

The Friedlander Group Logo
The Friedlander Group Logo

In an interview on Thursday with West African Journal Magazine, Mr. Ezra Friedlander, the Chief Executive Officer (CEO) and founder of the Friedlander Group, disclosed that he no longer represents the Liberian Government and that his representation ended in the first quarter of 2018.

According to Mr. Friedlander, he was informed by former Liberian U.S. Ambassador Lois Brutus that the Government of Liberia was no longer interested. An agreement between the Liberian Government and the Friedlander Group was signed on February 5, 2018.

The agreement stipulated that the “ Friedlander Group will organize the establishment of the Friends of Liberia Congressional Caucus that would act as the “voice” of the nation of Liberia in coordination with the Embassy of Liberia to provide, translate and highlight the Pro-Poor Agenda of the Government of Liberia.”

Part of the effort of the lobbying agreement stated, “ It is discussed and agreed that the Caucus Chairs will extend an invitation to by the Caucus as well as facilitate an official White House invitation to President George M. Weah to visit Washington on a State, official or working visit by mid-year 2018…”

Friedlander CEO Ezra Friedlander and Former US Presidential Candidate Hillary Clinton - File PhotoThe CEO of the Friedlander Group said his organization had begun lobbying work and even established a bi-partisan group of Congressional Caucus known as “Friends of Liberia” and that a date, hall and time of the announcement of the launch was scheduled to be made in Washington DC when he received word from the Liberian Embassy to halt everything. Mr. Friedlander said it was explained to him that the decision of the Liberian Government to halt the official launch of the Caucus was due to “technical issues” such as inability of members of the Liberian Senate to attend due to visa issues in Liberia.

Influential bi-partisan members of the U.S. Congressional Caucus would have organized meetings with their Liberian counterparts, as part of the lobbying efforts which were to be undertaken by the Friedlander Group, the agreement said.

He said he was only paid $20,000 out of the $80,000 agreed payment and the Government of Liberia has refused to pay the balance after abrogating the contract. Mr. Friedlander said he decided not to pursue legal suit against the Liberian Government because of his deep admiration for the people and country.

According to the CEO of the Friedlander Group, during negotiations for the lobbying contract, former Ambassador Brutus explained that Liberia was not an affluent country and needed help on the contract fee and the two parties settled on a fee of $80,000 for the duration of the contract which was for a year and half of lobbying work beginning in 2018.

He dismissed any assertion that the contract was worth millions of dollars.

Mr. Friedlander said his firm would have engaged the U.S. Government on the Deferred Enforced Departure (DED)expiration which thousands of Liberians are current facing come March 31, 2019. His firm was prepared to make the case to Congressional Caucus members to assist Liberia as part of its “moral obligation”, given the historical ties that both the U.S. and Liberia share.

He said it was his hope that the GOL would re-consider its decision to abrogate the public relations and lobbying contract and re-engage with his firm in-order to begin the process of helping Liberia reach out to influential members of Congress. According to Mr. Friedlander, this was a “missed” opportunity for Liberia.

Ezra Friedlander Meeting Egyptian President Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi.pngLieThe Friedlander Group represents over a dozen profit and non for profit entities in the legislative, world, city, state and federal levels. The firm recently met in Cairo with Egyptian President and current Chairman of the African Union Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi.

According to the Open Secrets.org website, The Friedlander Group in 2018 raked in $71,800 with the highest income from Liberia for $40,000. Documents in the possession of West African Journal Magazine show that the Government of Liberia spent $10.29 million in 2017 and $4.5 million in 2018 on Lobbying efforts in the U.S. but it is unclear what the tangible returns were for the poor West African country for payments of such amounts.

The lack of strategic inroad in the Trump Administration  explains why Liberians have been questioning the “delay” in President Weah’s official visit to the United States since his inauguration in January, 2018. Liberians and supporters of the CDC led government view such a visit as one visible signal of support for the Weah Administration.

The Friendlander Group Documentation
The Friendlander Group Documentation

There were several hints of pending official visit of the Liberian President to the White House last year which ultimately did not materialize and it is unclear when such a visit would occur and under what conditions.

Economic and scandalous financial challenges are now dogging the Weah Administration which is struggling to attract much needed international assistance and investors.

 By Emmanuel Abalo

West African Journal Magazine