Mass Citizens Protest Underway In Liberia

Monrovia, Liberia – June 7, 2019: The day is finally here.

Hundreds of  thousands of dissatisfied citizens in the small and poor West African country of Liberia have invoked their constitutional right to “petition” their Government over several grievances and the economic malaise the country is enduring under the Weah Administration.

Early Friday, West African Journal Magazine observed protesters assembling at various agreed designated points to begin their peaceful march to Capitol Hill, the seat of the national government, where, they say, they will submit their 19 count list of “grievances” to the Weah Government for a commitment to redress. President George M. Weah is not expected to receive the petition but has designated a proxy instead.

Shadowed by armed Liberian security forces in riot gear and vehicles, the protesters converged from points in the east and west of the city Monrovia. They chanted anti-government slogans. “We are tired, We are the masses but we can get tired, We want change”. One banner with the photo of President Weah and  carried by protesters read, “Generational Traitor”.

Supporters of the ruling Congress for Democratic Change (CDC) and the Liberian President have criticized the protests as an attempt to unseat the Government.

Monitors from ECOWAS and the international community are also keeping an eye on the march. The organizers Council of Patriots (COP) are leading the march and have assured that the exercise will be peaceful.

On Thursday, the eve of the protest, Liberian security forces mounted a “show of force” of vehicles, weapons and riots gear. Some observers have termed the “show of force” as unnecessary and an attempt at intimidating the protesters while others say Government is leaving nothing to chance given the history of violent protests in Liberia.

Masses of peaceful protesters have been pouring into the city center and heading to the Capitol Hill area, the seat of National Government which houses the National Legislature, the Presidency and the Supreme Court. Protest organizers including Mo Ali, talk show Henry P. Costa and Abraham Darius Dillon are also marching with the protesters.

The demonstration has been peaceful so far.

Protesters are heard chanting anti-government slogans and accusing President George M Weah of massive corruption and ineptitude. Scores of protesters who are appearing in live video feed are narrating their displeasure with the Government and the harsh economic climate.

West African Journal Magazine is receiving reports that the internet in Liberia has been spotty  and off in some instances. Supporters and organizers of the mass protest are accusing the Government of Liberia of blocking internet access. Meantime, Virtual Private Network links are being shared and forwarded by internet and social media watchers to families and friends to allow them to broadcast scenes from the protest.

No arrests or major incidents have been reported. Security was augmented  by the Government on Thursday.

The Movement Justice in Liberia, an advocacy group in the United States is gathering in front of the Liberian Embassy in Washington DC in support of the mass protests back in Liberia. Organizers say they will also present a position statement to the Liberian diplomatic mission calling for reforms in the country.

The protest in Liberia is a major blow to the image of President George M. Weah whose popularity is fading quickly over his inability to address grinding poverty and economic issues since coming to power nearly one and half years ago. President Weah recently announced a series of economic policy initiatives to address concerns of citizens but they appear not to regain the confidence of citizens who are demanding immediate relief.

The protest is an embarrassment to the Administration, which, in the past, has boasted of massive support especially from the poor.

In anticipation of Friday’s protest, western embassies in the Liberian capital have advised their nationals to adopt a low profile and be alert.

Speeches are being made by protest organizers on Capitol Hill as thousands of citizens watch and listen.

By Our Correspondent in Monrovia

West African Journal Magazine

 

OSAC Assessment – “Liberia Demonstrations Underscored Grievances & Limited Government Capacity”

Monrovia, Liberia – June 6, 2019: The United States Department of State Bureau of Diplomatic Security (OSAC) on Wednesday, June 5, 2019 issued an assessment on Liberia entitled Liberia Demonstrations Underscored Grievances & Limited Government Capacity

Executive Summary

“The Council of Patriots,” a coalition of five major Liberian opposition parties has called for large-scale “Save the State” demonstrations on June 7 to demand government reforms to improve living conditions and good governance as the country grapples with economic stagnation and widespread corruption. Although protest organizers have stated their non-violent intent and clarified that they are not calling for President George Weah’s resignation, many who oppose the demonstrations claim that they could serve as a ploy to force the President to step down just a year into his term. A number of civil society organizations have discouraged participation in the demonstrations, including Yana Boys and Girls clubs (panhandlers associations) and some religious leaders.

As routine, the government has augmented security in Monrovia. Pro-government actors might call on supporters to stage counter-rallies, which could increase the potential for clashes with security forces and rival protest groups. Local security force and emergency response to large-scale and widespread demonstrations remains largely un-tested in Liberia’s post-conflict era, and local capabilities are already limited. Reports indicate that the government and opposition leaders are engaged in negotiations, but it appears they have yet to reach an agreement.

Monrovia’s Capitol area will likely be the main gathering point for June 7 demonstrations, but protests could occur elsewhere in the city or the country. According to some estimates, participants could number in the thousands in Monrovia – a size which is unprecedented in Liberia’s post-conflict era. Sources suggest that protest leaders may have traveled throughout Liberia to promote support for demonstrations in other parts of the country as well. Large gatherings can materialize with little notice and escalate to violence in Liberia, and vigilantism and mob justice is common in Liberia particularly in rural areas. Members of the Liberian diaspora are reportedly organizing a June 7 protest in Washington, DC in solidarity, which could raise the profile of these protests and sustain their momentum.

Security managers should review their security measures and ensure they account for potential for protests to turn confrontational, be prolonged, and increase future tensions. The government’s reaction and demonstrators’ orderliness will play a major role in determining scale, duration, and escalation to violence of these protests. There are some private-sector concerns about the potential for June 7 to prompt sustained or recurring unrest, given their potential to tap into a confluence of economic and political trends that could cause potential regional spillover or prompt ghosts from Liberia’s conflicted past to reemerge.

Could Protests Transform a Political Turning Point into a Tipping Point?

Joint calls for demonstrations could mark the opposition’s attempt to galvanize rising and increasingly widespread popular grievances against the President and his party. So far, the central government has largely avoided addressing the looming protests publicly. The government has barred the media from reporting on the progress of government negotiations with the opposition. Open sources indicate that the government’s silence has augmented public anxiety.

The current president, George Weah, was elected in Liberia’s 2017 Presidential election, beating then-incumbent Vice President Joseph Boakai, in a run-off. Weah ran as an outsider and championed a platform of poverty reduction, economic growth, infrastructure development, and anticorruption. As a result, protests could serve as a one-year review of Weah’s performance in office and ability to meet his campaign promises. In addition, former VP Boakai is one of the leaders of “Save the State” protests; his active role in organizing the demonstrations could indicate his intention to establish himself as the opposition frontrunner for 2022 Presidential elections, as well as the opposition’s desire to continue sparring with Weah over the course of his first term. The 2017 election also marked the country’s first postwar peaceful transition of power, which could mean that sustained unrest against Weah could escalate into a referendum on the success of Liberia’s post-conflict democratic progress.

How unified the opposition becomes, and whether the coalition is able to galvanize widespread and sustained support remain to be seen. Unarticulated grievance-based and/or antigovernment movements can be prone to volatility and devolution; opposition leaders have provided participants with an outlet to express their grievances, but limited guidance on how to direct this expression. In such cases, score settling, scapegoating, predation, mistargeting, and/or indiscriminate violence could occur – all of which have implications for private-sector security, as they could lead to organized or ad hoc targeting as well as indiscriminate violence. In addition, there is concern that political elites could tap into criminal elements, youth gangs, vigilantes, and/or armed groups resurrected from Liberia’s past conflicts – any of which could morph into an armed political opposition.

Rising Economic Desperation Mixes With Unmet Expectations and High Crime

Liberia’s economic situation is the worst it has been in the past decade, as the country struggles with high unemployment, price inflation, and fuel price hikes which have caused commodities to skyrocket. The exchange rate has been the highest and most volatile it has been during peacetime. One of the largest foreign direct investors and employers in Liberia has announced layoffs due to lackluster profitability. The layoffs could result in backlash, and could hurt the nation’s economy even more. All of these developments exacerbate economic instability and desperation as Weah pushes economic growth and poverty-reduction agendas, which were major pillars of his 2017 presidential platform.

On May 28, Weah announced a massive reshuffle of the central bank – a move that could be an attempt to mollify the public in advance of June 7. Systemic corruption in government (including the central bank) has become a growing source of discontent under both the previous and current administration. In September, Liberians staged “Bring Back Our Money” protests after more than $100 million in newly printed bills vanished; and the suspicious incident undermined anticorruption efforts. Austerity may also be on the horizon for Liberia, which would impact Weah’s ability to meet his campaign promises and constrain public services further, likely resulting in public outcry.

Worsening poverty and a lack of any social safety net has led to upticks in crime and the proliferation of gangs, as people turn to illicit activities for sources of income. Opportunistic criminal actors may exploit periods of heightened uncertainty, particularly outbreaks of unrest and changes in security force posture, to expand their activities. The myriad of criminal elements also provides political leaders with potential armed wings to tap into for support, some may have access to weapons – albeit typically homemade ones. Crime generally increases during the rainy season (May-September) and has the potential to become more prevalent during periods of unrest. (For more information on crime trends, see Liberia’s OSAC 2019 Crime and Safety Report.)

Upcoming protest activity notwithstanding, the U.S. Department of State currently assigns Liberia a Level 1 Travel Advisory, indicating travelers should exercise normal precautions in the country; however, there is a serious risk from criminality in Monrovia, and travelers should exercise increased caution in urban areas due to crime.

Liberia’s two civil wars between 1986 and 2003 destroyed 90% of its economy and damaged a large portion of its infrastructure, while the 2014-2016 Ebola outbreak overburdened what infrastructure remained – particularly the country’s health system – and sapped revenue that could have driven development and furthered post-conflict recovery. Although increased international attention during the Ebola crisis brought a momentary uptick in private-sector presence and investment, this was primarily health- and emergency response-focused and largely disappeared with the end of the epidemic. International aid initially resuscitated Liberia’s economy, but systemic improvements have been lacking due to institutional weakness and corruption. The Liberian government continues to rely on international assistance for two-thirds of its expenditures; commercial investors driven off by the outbreak remain leery of re-entering the market, inhibiting economic diversification and capacity building.

Reemerging Ghosts from Liberia’s Conflicted Past Could Contest for Its Future

The legacy of Liberia’s civil wars continues to loom large in politics. Anti-government unrest could rekindle unresolved ethno-political tensions that may be exploited by political opportunists. There are concerns that Charles Taylor, Liberia’s president during both civil wars, maintains significant influence in Liberian politics, despite his conviction for war crimes and incarceration in the United Kingdom. Well-known associates of Taylor, including those who held key positions during his administration and were implicated in abuses, continue to hold prominent positions in Liberian politics. Such figures include Taylor’s ex-wife, who was Weah’s running mate and is now the Vice President; and Prince Johnson, an on-again off-again Taylor ally who won third-place in the 2017 presidential election, despite calls for him to be prosecuted for crimes against humanity. Prince later endorsed Weah in the run-off and continues to give him support. Johnson urged his followers not to join the opposition in protest, but they could participate in counter-rallies; however, this relationship may fray if Weah heeds more vocal calls for Johnson’s prosecution.

Large-scale, sustained unrest could present heavyweights from Liberia’s conflicted past with opportunities for intervention and posturing to exact concessions and expand of their influence. Liberia’s main political figures and parties – including Boakai, Taylor, and Johnson — maintain strong support bases often along ethno-political and geographic lines. What made Weah’s campaign successful was its broader appeal– which is now under pressure. As a result, there are concerns that “Save the State” could prompt power shifts and realignments that could disrupt current alliances and potentially undermine Liberia’s post-conflict trajectory, which has remained politically stable despite lingering tensions.

Sisters in Struggle: Liberia’s Woes Could Spill into Sierra Leone

OSAC has received a number of inquiries from private-sector organizations operating in Liberia as well as Sierra Leone due to constituent concerns about implications of June 7 protests on Liberia’s stability and potential for spillover into Sierra Leone. The two countries possess similar risk factors (e.g. lackluster economic performance, endemic corruption, and institutional weakness) and shared histories (e.g. interrelated civil wars and the Ebola outbreak).

In addition, President Julius Bio in Sierra Leone took office in 2018 as a successful opposition candidate by running on a poverty reduction and anticorruption platform but is facing economic challenges, similar to Weah.

On June 3, the UK government updated its advice for Sierra Leone warning of a general increase in demonstrations; such activities are probably not directly related to the June 7 protests in Liberia, but are likely fueled by antigovernment grievances over similar issues such as prolonged economic declines.

Successful demonstrations in Liberia could lead to copycat demonstrations in its neighbor. Ethnic and kinship ties also extend across Liberia and Sierra Leone’s shared frontier, which experiences high volumes of daily cross-border transit and commercial activity, rendering borders extremely porous. Such factors played major roles in the spread of Liberia’s second civil war into its neighbor. French guidance currently advises against non-essential travel along the border with Sierra Leone since March 2018 due to potential instability, despite improvements in the security environment.

Local Security Force Response

June 7 demonstrations could overwhelm host nation capacity including local security force response, emergency services, and medical infrastructure which are already limited – even in Monrovia where they are concentrated — due to years of under development and repeated crisis. Response in Monrovia and particularly outside the capital could become even more attenuated or delayed during June 7 protests. Security forces face chronic shortages in manpower, equipment, and training – particularly within the Liberian National Police (LNP).

This lack of resources stems from Liberia’s civil wars, after which its entire formal security sector — including military, police, and intelligence — was dismantled and reconstituted from scratch due to the prevalence of human rights abuses committed during the conflict. The UN Mission in Liberia (UNMIL) oversaw the reform of Liberia’s security and justice sectors, but fully withdrew from the country in 2018. Further government-driven capacity building in the security sector has been slow.

In response to possible unrest, security forces have set up frequent checkpoints in the city–particularly in upscale neighborhoods such as Sinkor while constituents have reported that shakedowns have become more common and aggressive. Checkpoints could proliferate around June 7, which could increase the prevalence of extortion. Public confidence and trust in Liberia’s security forces is extremely low, largely due to perceived corruption and ineffectiveness. Additionally, the government could implement movement restrictions and curfews if it perceives a threat to law and order.

It remains unclear how well Liberia’s security forces will be able to modulate their use of force – particularly in the face of largescale, multi-location gatherings and/or provocations (stone-throwing, barricading, rioting, and looting). To date, the Liberia National Police (LNP) has only had to manage localized demonstrations involving a few hundred, mostly-compliant participants including during the “Bring Back Our Money” demonstrations; “Save the State” participation may dwarf these earlier protests.

The UN Special Representative for West Africa expressed concerns about the capacity of Liberia’s security forces to handle longer term protests during his May 24-25 visit to support dialogue between the government and opposition leaders.

Heavy-handed response to the June 7 protests, or even the perception of such a response, may further erode confidence in security forces and enflame anti-government tensions; as a result, the margin of error for the government is narrow.

Maintaining cohesion and professionalism will be more difficult in rural areas of the country where security force densities are lower. Frequently, reinforcements from Monrovia must respond to even routine incidents. Police officers frequently end up becoming victims themselves when responding to incidents. Once reinforcements arrive, the victimized police officers may carry out reprisals. Due to limited police response, many communities have turned to vigilantism and extrajudicial measures. In the last two months, there have been at least two reported incidents outside of Monrovia in which vigilantes have targeted police, possibly signifying rising popular discontent with government responsiveness; security forces are often the most visible and accessible embodiment of the central government.

U.S. and Foreign Government Response

The U.S. Embassy has warned that while gatherings will start in the morning, protests could last into the next day. The Embassy has also advised personnel to avoid the area, including rescheduling flights in or out of Roberts International Airport on June 7 and 8, as traffic jams may affect travel to and from the airport (see June 3 security alert). The UK government updated its travel advice on May 23 to alert travelers of June 7 protests, and the Canadian government has incorporated similar changes. The U.S. Department of State currently assigns Liberia a Level 1 Travel Advisory, indicating travelers should exercise normal precautions in the country, however travelers should exercise increased caution in urban areas due to crime; this guidance remains in effect.

Private-Sector Response

Security managers should monitor local information sources and networks for developments and review organizational risk assessments, contingency plans, and mitigation measures in case of outbreaks or sustained unrest. In the wake of U.S. government advice to avoid the airport, organizations should consider the criticality of air travel around June 7; some organizations have deferred travel around this time. Large gatherings and elevated security force presence may impede airport access and traffic flow around Monrovia and other locations affected by protests.

Given limited or even reduced local security and emergency response capabilities, organizations should review their duty of care to both foreign and local staff including what organizational resources they can provide to protect their personnel and operations. Ensure sufficient supplies including food, water, and fuel in case of prolonged unrest or disruption of commercial services; reports indicate that locals are stockpiling radios and food.

Contingency plans should include accountability protocols; shelter-in-place scenarios; use of redundant communications systems; crowd avoidance techniques. Many in-country private sector organizations have bolstered physical security measures to deter crime during the rainy season and are reviewing these in light of potential unrest. Private sector personnel in Liberia should expect a visible increase in local security force posture particularly around administrative buildings, key infrastructure including the airport, and major transit arteries. However, heightened security force presence may not mean increased ability to respond to incidents and emergencies.

Travelers may encounter more frequent checkpoints; review how to avoid security issues around checkpoints and road blocks, interact with security forces, and handle shakedowns during times of heightened tensions.

US Federal Government Disclaimer: The contents of this presentation in no way represent the policies, views, or attitudes of the United States Department of State, or the United States Government, except as otherwise noted (e.g., travel advisories, public statements). The presentation was compiled from various open sources and (U) embassy reporting.  

West African Journal Magazine

Is There An Alleged “Scheme” To Violently Disrupt June 7th Protest In Liberia?

Monrovia, Liberia – May 8, 2019: The West African Journal Magazine has heard and is in possession of an audio recording of a telephone call which discloses an alleged ominous scheme to violently attack and disrupt the June 7th peaceful protest organized by some Liberians under the banner of Council of Patriots. (COP).

 

Monrovia Mayor Jefferson Koijee
Monrovia Mayor Jefferson Koijee

The undated audio recording which cannot be independently authenticated is that of an unidentified female  informing an unidentified male on the other end of the call in which she states, “ …Please take it down. Jefferson Koijee have crossed  over 200 men at Lugatuo…They crossed over 200 persons yesterday…Lugatuo. They used a guy by the name of Steven,. His real name is Kesselly Mulubah. He is the one they used to bring the men in from Cote d’Ivoire. They intend to give them uniforms to attack protesters in the form of police officers…. I’m not in town. They just called me and give me the information and so I say let me call you right away so I can’t keep it to myself…,” the female is heard concluding the call on the audio recording.

Liberian-Ivorian Border Area

Liberian-Ivorian Border Area

The town of Lugatuo is a porous immigration crossing point between, Nimba County, Liberia and neighboring Cote d’Ivoire. Nimba County was the beach-head for Charles Taylor led rebels who launched an attack on Liberian soil in December, 1989. The devastating war led to the deaths of over 250,000 and the international and external dislocation of nearly 1 million others.

It is unclear if the release of the contents of the audio recording is diversionary or real. A source told West African Journal Magazine that the alleged scheme may also have others involved in the planning of the importation of the men from Cote d’Ivoire.

Jefferson Koijee is the current Mayor of the city of Monrovia and was appointed by President Weah when the new Administration took office over a year ago. He is a former Youth leader of the now ruling Congress For Democratic Change (CDC).

Earlier on Wednesday, four opposition political parties announced their support for the peaceful protest organized by the Council of Patriots (COP) and scheduled for June 7th. There have been some threats issued against the protesters and which have not been disavowed by the Government of Liberia. Organizers of the protest say they remain resolute and will exercise their constitutional right to protest against poor governance and the deteriorating economy.

Protest organizers say their action is not designed to call for the resignation of President George M. Weah but to demand redress for the deteriorating conditions in the country.

The contents of the audio recording are being discussed on various Liberia social media fora. Neither the Government of Liberia nor Mr. Koijee have responded to this development.

By Our Security Correspondent

West African Journal Magazine

Former TRC Head And IJG Executive Director Cllr Jerome Verdier Calls For Implementation of TRC Report

Washington DC – April 12, 2019: The Executive Director of The International Justice Group (IJG) and Chairman of the erstwhile Liberia’s Truth & Reconciliation Commission of Liberia (TRC) says he is delighted and is lauding the Liberia National Bar Association (LNBA) and the Transitional Justice Working g Group (TJWG) for recognizing the need for entrenching Justice into the country’s body polity.

Executive Director of IJG and Former TRC Head Counselor Jerome Verdier
Executive Director of IJG and Former TRC Head Counselor Jerome Verdier

He is also welcoming their courageous calls for the full implementation of all the recommendations of the TRC, including the establishment of an Extraordinary Economic and War Crimes Tribunal for Liberia.

In an statement to West African Journal Magazine on Friday, Cllr Verdier reiterated that the call for the full implementation of all TRC recommendations is in keeping with law and section 46 of The TRC Act when it clearly stated that “The Independent Human Rights Commission shall be seized with the responsibility to ensure that all the recommendations contained in Report of the TRC are implemented and that and that civil society organizations and moral guarantors of The CPA shall be seized of the responsibility to monitor,  and campaign for the scrupulous implementation of all recommendations  contained in the report”.

Liberia President George M. Weah
Liberia President George M. Weah

And Section 48 which also provides that “The Head of State shall report to the National Legislature within three (3) months of receipt of the report of the TRC, and on a quarterly basis thereafter, as to the implementation of the Commission’s Recommendations. All recommendations shall be implemented. Where the implementation of any recommendations has not been complied with, the Legislature shall require the Head of State to show cause for such non-compliance.”

Chairman Verdier charged that both the Liberian National Legislature and the Liberia President George M. Weah are in open violation of the laws of Liberia and the Rule of Law principle which places the law far above individuals and institutions created by law. The former TRC Chairman said maintaining the Rule of Law is important for maintaining a stable and more peaceful society and acts as the number one incentive for attracting international trade, commerce and foreign investments to the Country.

Liberia TRC
Liberia TRC

“That the Liberia Chief Executive, President Weah, to be in open violation of the law without any plausible excuse or justification is a non-starter especially for a new Government,” Cllr Verdier said, adding that “the President and his CDC- controlled Legislature are undermining the viability of the State and setting very wrong precedence for security, stability and peace of the State because soon the citizens will realize that if these important institutions of State are lawless and disrespectful of the laws then they too as citizens have the right to refuse to obey the laws of the land, pointing to chaos, a breakdown of law and order and the eventual unraveling of our fledgling democratic process.”

The Executive Director of the IJG Cllr Verdier, in his statement, noted Liberia should recognize, as the international community has long since recognized, that the rule of law above all men is imperative because it stabilizes our environment and societies.

“It is very Central to maintaining our modern global social, political and economic order the pursuit of which we all must submit to the rule of law whether it pleases us or not or runs contrary to our intrinsic interest, he maintained,” he said

The learned international human rights advocate and outspoken campaigner for social justice and peace said that “the Rule of Law is our best hope for peace, equity, justice and a civilized society in which the rights of the people are protected and at all times guaranteed.”

Members of the Legislature
Cross Section of Liberia National Legislature

According to him, “President George Weah and the National Legislature are failing and disappointing the Liberian people too early on in their leadership and ignoring the Rule of Law. It is to their own peril because when they stand in need of the law most, the law will fail them, having undermined the law and our institutions of law.”

Verdier emphasized that the full implementation of all the recommendations of Liberia’s TRC Final Report, including the establishment of an Extraordinary Criminal Tribunal for Liberia is “sine qua non” to the attainment of sustainable national peace, national  unity, national security and national reconciliation in in a non-threatening society that offers equal opportunity to all.

“President Weah must not disappoint the Liberian people. Too many hopes were hinged to his ascendency. He must take the moral high ground in service to state and abandon petty parochial interests, recognize that he took an oath and made a sworn declaration to put Liberia first, hold Paramount national interest and uphold sacrosanct the Constitution and Laws of the Republic; otherwise, he will be an ordinary and failed leader and admiration by the people will soon diminish and will leave office soon forgotten as a son of the soil and a “man of the people” without a legacy and a champion “without a cause”, Cllr Verdier in his statement said.

Meanwhile, the IJG Executive Director has condemned the recent removal of Supreme Court Justice Kabineh Ja’neh, describing it as a “shameful cowardly act orchestrated by a band of political malcontents without any well-founded basis in law or the Constitution by an overly ambitious Executive branch aspiring to become a dictatorship, a rueful House of Representatives, an ignorant Senate and a highly compromised Chief Justice in a Kangaroo forum that flagrantly violated the Constitution of Liberia, which they neither understand nor appreciate; thus bringing shame and disgrace to our beloved patrimony.”

Chief Justice Francis Korkpor
Chief Justice Francis Korkpor

Cllr Verdier, a veteran and successful senior Liberian lawyer and member of The Honorable Supreme Court Bar, went on to say of all the reasons in law and the Constitution that the co-conspirators could use to effect their cowardly and unpatriotic act, they chose to woefully, shamefully and disgracefully violate the Constitution when in Article 73, the Constitution provides that “NO JUDICIAL OFFICIAL SHALL BE SUMMONED, ARRESTED, DETAINED, PROSECUTED OR TRIED CIVILLY, OR CRIMINALLY, BY OR BY THE INSTANCE OF ANY PERSON OR AUTHORITY ON ACCOUNT OF JUDICIAL OPINIONS RENDERED OR EXPRESSED, JUDICIAL STATEMENTS MADE  AND JUDICIAL ACTS DONE IN THE COURSE OF A TRIAL IN OPEN COURT  OR IN CHAMBERS, EXCEPT FOR TREASON OR OTHER FELONIES, MISDEMEANOR, OR BREACH OF THE PEACE. STATEMENTS MADE AND ACTS DONE BY SUCH OFFICIALS IN THE COURSE OF JUDICIAL PROCEEDINGS SHALL BE PRIVILEGED, AND SUBJECT TO THE ABOVE QUALIFICATION, NO SUCH STATEMENTS MADE OR ACTS DONE SHALL BE ADMISIBLE INTO EVIDENCE AGAINST THEM AT ANY TRIAL OR PROCEEDINGS”

In his view, Cllr Verdier held that Justice Ja’neh was under-represented, and his lawyers should be subject to disciplinary hearings and punished or sanctioned, while those lawyers for the prosecution must be disbarred and the Chief Justice deserves to be removed or similarly impeached or made to resign.

Associate Justice Kabineh Jan'eh
Associate Justice Kabineh Jan’eh

Since the case is not over yet, the international lawyer, former TRC head and Executive Director of the IJG called on the Liberian Senate to NOT move to confirm removal of The Honorable Justice Ja’neh until the full bench of the Supreme Court of Liberia disposes of the matter by appeal.

“Advocates or lawyers for Justice Ja’neh must perfect an appeal to the full bench of the Honorable Supreme Court. In which case, the Compromised Chief Justice will be compelled  to recuse himself and the remaining Justices will decide the appeal,” Verdier concluded in his statement.

West African Journal Magazine

 

Movement For Justice In Liberia To Hold “War Crimes Tribunal March” In Washington DC March 21st

In the wake of ongoing poor governance and lack of accountability and the pervasive culture of impunity in Liberia, diaspora Liberians, supporters and friends of Liberia, under the organizing umbrella of the Movement for Justice in Liberia have obtained approval for a Demonstration and March at the Capitol in Washington DC.

March Approval
March Approval

An approved copy which was sent to West African Journal Magazine shows that the application was made by the Movement for Justice In Liberia (MOJL) to the United States Capitol Police Board for the purpose of, “gathering to support House Resolution 1055 (H.R. 1055) which calls for the establishment of a war crimes Tribunal and strong diplomatic ties with Liberia for Better Governance culture in Liberia.”

Marchers and those demonstrating are authorized to carry hand held signs, placards, banners and a portable sound system during their event on Thursday, Marc 21, 2019 in Washington DC at Union Square at the foot of the Capitol Building, the seat of the US Congress.

In an interview on Thursday, a representative of the Movement for Justice in Liberia Mr. Ansony Sieh said the organization was formally launched last year following their participation in a protest march during the visit of the Liberian President George M. Weah at the UN General Assembly.

Ansony Sieh of MOJL
Ansony Sieh of MOJL

The group says it has been actively advocating for establishment of a war crimes tribunal in Liberia and promotion of good governance in the West African country and has written letters the UN, ECOWAS, AU, the US Congress and foreign diplomatic missions in Liberia.

The Movement for Justice in Liberia has also issued statements on national issues including the “billion dollar” financial scandal in Liberia and will continue its advocacy, Mr. Sieh emphasized.

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.

Liberia’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission (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 of recommendations, 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 current George M. Weah Administration on the matter but without success so far. The Weah Administration has made no formal commitment to pursue the establishment of a war crimes tribunal.

TRC Head Cllr Jerome Verdier
TRC Head Cllr Jerome Verdier

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.

Senator Prince Johnson
Former Warlord Turned Senator Prince Johnson

Those recommended for prosecution in the TRC Final Report 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).

Others include Thomas Yahya Nimley of the Movement for Democracy in Liberia (MODEL) and Sekou Damate Konneh of Liberians United for Reconciliation and Democracy (LURD).

Estimated attendees at the rally is put at 250 – 500. Mr. Sieh of the Movement for Justice in Liberia says the event expects to attract a sizeable number of Liberians, supporters of justice and friends of Liberia.

By Emmanuel Abalo

West African Journal Magazine

 

IJG Says Dispatching Investigators To Liberia To Monitor & Collect Data On Threats To Activists

Washington DC, USA and Monrovia, Liberia- February 11, 2019: The International Justice Group (IJG) says it has dispatched a team of Investigators to Liberia as a result of increased security threats to several civic and human rights organizations and activists.

International Justice Group (IJG)

According to a representative of the IJG, it says it has received credible information through its contacts in the West African country and social media monitor. and is concerned that senior operatives of the ruling party and auxiliaries, some of whom are disguised, are intimidating, issuing threats of death and bodily harm to others who freely express critical views of the Government.

Liberia’s Finance and Planning Minister Samuel Tweah last year lashed out at the media over its reportage against the Government and openly threatened to “weaponize” supporters against the media.

Ruling CDC Party Mulbah Morlu

Two weeks ago, the Chairman of the ruling Congress for Democratic Change (CDC) Mulbah Morlu, at a hastily arranged partisans meeting at his party’s headquarters in Monrovia, accused the opposition bloc and supporters of supporting the assassination of President George M. Weah.

“There are a few supporters of the three political parties, that we’ve documented, that post on social media calling in people to take up arms against the President. And one of them came out to say that the President should be assassinated…” Morlu quoting social media charged.

He, however, presented no evidence to substantiate his accusation that the posters were opposition supporters.

Dolakeh Jonathan Saye Taryor

A member of the opposition Alternative National Congress (ANC) Dolakeh Jonathan Saye Taryor, in a strong reaction to Morlu’s accusations, called them “reckless and irresponsible” and an attempt to instill fear among citizens.

He told the West African Journal Magazine, in a telephone interview on Sunday night, that the ANC and coalition of opposition political parties are committed to maintaining the peace in Liberia.

Mr. Taryor scoffed at Morlu’s “assassination” accusation, adding that, “…the assassination of President Weah, will not, in anyway, install the opposition in power..”, and called Morlu’s Statement simply false.

Coalition of Opposition Political Parties – Liberia

The opposition member challenged the credibility of the current CDC Chairman Morlu and his “ridiculous” claim a couple of years ago that, he, Morlu, met former US President Barack Obama at a summit in Ghana where he claimed, they both held “high level talks”.

There is no proof of this Obama meeting that Morlu claimed.

Taryor said the CDC Chairman was attempting to deflect from the prevailing issues of the missing “16 billion” Liberian dollars scandal, proof of the provision of 78,000 chairs to schools, as claimed by President Weah in his State of The Union Address on January 28, 2019, the deteriorating economy under the CDC-led government and other missteps.

The opposition member called for a state investigation of the CDC Chairman over the “incendiary” accusations, which, he said, have the potential to cause chaos and endanger the lives of opposition leaders and supporters.

“IJG is saying its Investigators will be fully stationed in Liberia indefinitely to monitor Human Rights Violations and has recommended several Liberians to the US and European governments for travel restrictions.”

The global research and rights organization says the IJG is currently lobbying in Washington DC, the United States Senate for full Congressional passage of House of Representatives Resolution (H.Res) 1055 which calls for the full implementation of the Final Report of Liberia’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) and the establishment of a Special tribunal for Liberia.

Seal of the US House of Representatives

The Resolution which was introduced September, 2018, and agreed to by the House of Representatives last November, “…Supports efforts by the Department of State and the U.S. Agency for International Development to advance Liberian national reconciliation…”

Map of Liberia

According to the group, it says it is collecting data on alleged crimes being committed under the current Liberian Administration and will advocate for accountability for all economic and rights abuses.

By Our Justice Reporter In Washington DC, USA and National Politics Correspondent In Monrovia

West African Journal Magazine

“Informal Employment Sector” In Africa Hampering Economic Growth

Abidjan, Cote d’Ivoire – Jan 17, 2019: “Africa’s general economic performance continues to improve, with gross domestic product growth reaching an estimated 3.5 percent in 2018, about the same as in 2017 and up 1.4 percentage points from the 2.1 percent in 2016.”

africa
Continent of Africa

The statement is contained in the foreword of the just released African Economic Outlook 2019 Report of the African Development Bank Group (ADB).

On jobs, growth and dynamism on the continent, the report which is not the official position of the ADB summarizes that:

  • Africa’s labor force is projected to be nearly 40 percent larger by 2030. If current trends continue, only half of new labor force entrants will find employment, and most of the jobs will be in the informal sector. This implies that close to 100 million young people could be without jobs.
  • The rapid growth achieved in Africa in the past two decades has not been pro-employment. Analysis of growth episodes reveals better employment outcomes when the growth episodes were led by manufacturing, suggesting that industrialization is a robust pathway to rapid job creation.
  • African economies have prematurely deindustrialized as the reallocation of labor has tilted toward services, limiting the growth potential of the manufacturing sector. To dodge the informality trap and chronic unemployment, Africa needs to industrialize.
  • Key factors impeding industrialization, particularly manufacturing growth, are limited firm dynamism. Firm growth and survival are held back by corruption, an unconducive regulatory environment, and inadequate infrastructure.
  • Estimates from Enterprise Surveys show that 1.3–3 million jobs are lost every year due to administrative hurdles, corruption, inadequate infrastructure, poor tax administration, and other red tape. This figure is close to 20 percent of the new entrants to the labor force every year.
  • Small and medium firms have had very little chance of growing into large firms. Such stunting, coupled with low firm survival rates, has stifled manufacturing activity in most African countries.
  • Reviving Africa’s industrialization requires a commitment to improve the climate that supports firm growth. Industrial policies could benefit from assessing production knowledge and identifying competitive products to inform the design of robust national and subnational industrial strategies.

 

SOUTH AFRICA INFORMAL HAIR TRADE
SOUTH AFRICA INFORMAL HAIR TRADE

The report cited the prevalence of the “informal employment sector” as a key issue in the growth of the labor force.It referenced the  International Labor Organization’s definition of the informal employment sector  as, “…non-contracted jobs that are not regulated or protected and that confer no rights to social protection.5 Informal jobs include noncontracted jobs in the formal sector, as well as all jobs in the informal sector, and account for more than half of all jobs worldwide. Typically, statistics on informal employment exclude agriculture; when agricultural jobs are included, the share of informal employment rises to almost 61 percent worldwide.”

The challenge for Africa is that if no meaningful change is adopted, jobs created will trend more towards the informal sector for nearly 100 million Africans by 2030. Factors associated with the perpetuation of the informal sector system in most places are attributed to economic recession, high unemployment, low productivity employment and lower wages.

Women are disproportiantely impacted; a higher proportion of women’s employment (79 percent) than of men’s (68 percent) except in North Africa”, the report says.

market women in africa
Market Women In Africa

In order to address the issue, African countries have to firstly understand the barriers which impact the perpetuation of the informal sector such as labor regulations, creation of stable, better and high paying jobs and a well prepared workforce; especially among the youths and women.

1999 – 2010 data disclosed in the report says that there is over 80% informality in low income African countries like Burkina Faso, Niger, Madagascar, Sierra Leone, Ethiopia, Tanzania, Cameroon, Mali. Zambia and Benin. The informal sector under 80% exit for countries like Liberia, Ghana, Uganda, Zimbabwe, Kenya and Lesotho.

South Africa and Mauritius have low unemployment and rank under 20% informal sector.

In reference to growth acceleration between 1958 – 2016, ten African countries made the list in Manufacturing, Service, Agriculture and Mining and include, Boatswana, Egypt, Kenya, Mauritius, Morocco, Namibia, Uganda, Ghana, South Africa and Burkina.

Boatswana led in all sectors of growth followed by Egypt.

“Industrial development has been called the “quintessential escalator for developing countries.”21 It has the potential to create decent jobs on a large scale, stimulate innovation, and enhance productivity across all sectors. Within industry, manufacturing exhibits unconditional labor productivity convergence and could be a powerful driver of aggregate income convergence.22 However, even though the industry sector exhibits stronger effects than other sectors on the elasticity of employment to growth during growth acceleration episodes, there are indications that Africa is experiencing premature deindustrialization.

miners in africa
Miners in Africa

That is a major concern for job creation potential in high-productivity sectors and for long-term prosperity. Despite lower initial shares of industry (manufacturing, construction, and utilities) in employment and the economy in Africa than in other regions, industry’s shares have been growing very slowly…”, the ADB Report says.

Some obstacles to doing business in Africa include the lack of finance, unreliable or lack of electric power, political instability, corruption and knowledge and high taxes and regulations.

According to the report, “…The 2019 Outlook  shows that macroeconomic and employment outcomes are better when industry leads growth…”

By Emmanuel Abalo

West African Journal Magazine