Int’l Justice Group Warns That Liberia Is Risking Sanctions

Washington DC, USA – August 8, 2019:

“That Liberia is a kleptocracy, this we know, but overwhelming tendencies of criminality, impunity, autocracy, banal disregard for human rights, and the elementary principles of good governance are worrying signs that, if corrective measures are not taken to reverse this trend, Liberia may slide back to the pariah state status it once was…”  – Cllr Jerome J. Verdier, Sr.

IJG Executive Director and Former Liberia TRC Head Cllr Jerome Verdier Sr.
IJG Executive Director and Former Liberia TRC Head Cllr Jerome Verdier Sr.

Perversion of Justice

Speaking with journalists Thursday from Washington DC, Capital of the United States of America, a press statement of the IJG quoted the learned Counselor at Law as condemning the acts of criminal elements within government to pervert the ends of justice which got Cllr Varney Sherman off the hook in the Sable Mining bribery scandal case in Liberia.

 Criminal Conspiracy

The IJG statement said the Justice advocacy group has reliably unearthed that the presiding Judge in the Sable Mining case, His Honor Judge Peter Gbenewelee, the prosecution team headed by the Honorable Justice Minister, Cllr F. Musah Dean, Solicitor General, Cllr Cyrenius Cephas, County Attorney, Cllr Edward Martin and the Minister of State for Presidential Affairs, Honorable Nathaniel McGill constituted themselves into a criminal syndicate to pervert justice in order that Cllr Varney Sherman be let of the hook and set free by minimizing evidence, executive coercion, diminution of records and other artifices to guarantee the acquittal of Cllr Varney Sherman on all charges. To ensure this, without let, His Honor Justice Nagbe posited himself in court at the acquittal verdict to demonstrate solidarity with the scheme in pledge of loyalty to the Chief Executive.

 “Tit for Tat”

According to the international Justice advocacy group statement, copied to West African Journal Magazine, it noted that the Varney Sherman/Sable Mining conspiracy to subvert the justice process was cooked up by the Executive Branch of Government led by Honorable Nathaniel McGill, who criminally solicited and enlisted the help of Cllr Varney Sherman, Senator Grand Cape Mount County, to overtly violate Article 73 of the Constitution of Liberia in order to facilitate the  unsavory impeachment of  Justice Kabineh Ja’neh through a kangaroo trial, in return for a promise by Honorable Nathaniel McGill, guaranteed by his boss, to get him acquitted of all charges in the Sable Mining Bribery Case, thus making way for Justice Joseph Nagbe’s enrollment.

Justice Kabineh Ja’neh was impeached for judgment he rendered in his judicial and official capacity as “Justice in Chambers Presiding” contrary to the expressed provisions of Article 73 of the 1986 Liberian Constitution, providing:

“Article 73 No judicial official shall be summoned, arrested, detained, prosecuted or tried civilly or criminally by or at 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 a judicial proceeding shall be privileged, and, subject to the above qualification, no such statements made, or acts done shall be admissible into evidence against them at any trial or proceeding.”

Justice Ja’neh, having been impeached, however illegal and unconstitutional it was, Cllr Varney Sherman has performed his part of the deal and was accordingly acquitted, as promised, following the visit of Justice Joseph Nagbe, at court under the gavel of His Honor Judge Peter Gbenewelee, said to be the stepson of Cllr Varney Sherman. The Honorable Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Liberia, Cllr Frank Musa Dean, was one of Cllr Sherman’s Defense Counsels initially when the case was docketed in court.

Important also, is that the Honorable Minister of Justice, Cllr. Dean began, in earnest, his legal career at the Sherman & Sherman Law Office, and for many years was a member of Cllr Varney Sherman’s Law Office corps of lawyers and were for a long time publicly known to be buddies and inseparable craft masters.

Spiraling Violence

The IJG asserted that the introduction of violence and thuggery into the political space is abhorrent and ridiculously reminiscent of the ruthless era of the National Democratic Party of Liberia (NDPL) Youth Wing Task Force of the late President Samuel K. Doe.

“As ruthless as the NDPL era was, what is obtaining in George Weah’s Liberia is the euphoric escalation of violence, thuggery and lawlessness, threatening the democratic space and thereby constituting a major threat to our democratic aspirations for a free, open and competitive society without fear or intimidation but with security, protection and equal opportunity for all.”

What started as an isolated event with Honorable Yongblee Karngar Lawrence and the opposition Liberty Party (LP), spilled over to Honorable Yeke Kolubah who complained on diverse occasions of attempts by government operatives to kill him and some children within his electoral district.

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

Now, violence and gangster-style killings have taken on a national fervor, law and order is rapidly breaking down and a state of anarchy and lawlessness is brewing in Liberia and the Weah Government as yet remains silent spurring widespread suspicions that the President, is without doubt, behind the violence by his CDC’s goons to intimidate and coerce the opposition into submission and clamp down dissent as part of his political ambition to become a dictator in power for 27 years or more, surpassing President William V.S. Tubman.

Weah to be blamed?

  1. While it is true that all the problems of Liberia are not attributable to Mr. Weah, his non-chalant disposition on corruption and human rights and his seeming condonement of the violence is a flaw of his presidency, pointing to a leadership deficit demanding attention.
  2. The President is indecisive, demonstrating a lack of authority and capacity over his men and cannot rein them in to follow the law or operate within the confines of the law. Asset declaration is a case in point.
  3. The social life of the president is more of a priority to him than the welfare of the poor people who voted him to office.
  4. The President, wanting in knowledge and sophistication has surrounded himself with low life figures who have no vision or love for the country.
  5. The President and his team have failed to adopt any appreciable policy approach to address the issues confronting the country. They have no plan for redressing the economy, stimulating national development or national reconciliation.
  6. To date, the President and his team have failed to embrace or appreciate the mammoth demands for the establishment of the War Crimes Court in full implementation of the TRC Report and in furtherance of US House Resolution HR 1055.
  7. The President is giving lip service to accountability and corruption issues. Neither Mr. President nor his officials have been audited or complied with the assets declaration requirements of law. Just as the both the National Legislature and the Honorable Supreme Court have never been audited, Continuing the policies of Former President Sirleaf, rendering these venerable branches of government as now national institutions of corruption and disgrace.
  8. The President granted a construction contract to his friend he claimed offered him a plane as gift without making full disclosure to the national legislature or the people of Liberia directly as to the nature of the gift as is customarily the case. Bribery is an impeachable offense against the integrity of the state.
  9. The President presided over the criminal misapplication of US25m intended for a mapping exercise to remove excess liquidity from the Liberian market. With the explicit consent of the President the money was diverted for private, instead of public use, and a parallel market in foreign exchange was created to exchange missing Liberian banknotes with the US banknotes, bordering on exchange rate manipulation, insider dealing, money laundering, embezzlement, misappropriation of entrusted property, theft of property and fraud.
  10. The President and the Chief Justice presided over a bribery scheme to illegally and unconstitutionally remove a sitting Justice of The Honorable Supreme Court of Liberia, Associate Justice Kabineh Ja’neh, in express violation of the Constitution of Liberia, which OATH all elected and commission officers swore to defend and protect, the expressed violation of which renders the House of Representatives, The Chief Justice and President of Liberia unfit to hold office, hence, an impeachable offense.
  11. The President has directly supervised the stealing of public money for personal causes but without accountability. The President withdrew US$80m out of the Liberian International Reserves in New York. Out of this amount only US$55 could be accounted for at the Central Bank. The difference of US$25m was commandeered from the airport to the Rehab Residence of the President. This deliberate, blatant act of thievery by the President is a felonious transgression that renders him unfit for the public trust and office he occupies.
  12. The President, for repressive and dictatorial purposes, embarked upon rearming ex-rebel chiefs of staff that the International Community spent millions of US Dollars to disarm in furtherance of the Comprehensive Accra Peace Accord. This singular act by the President undermines the peace and security of the nation and is against the spirit of Security Sector Reform, and the Demobilization and Demobilization Rehabilitation (DDR) and also against the drive of the nation to move beyond the war experience in pursuit of National Reconciliation:
  1. General Ofari Diah – Asst. NSA Director for leeward Counties, former Chief of Staff, LURD;
  2. General Augustine Nagbe, INPFL
  3. General Daniel K. Bracewell, NPFL
  4. General Ciapha Norman, NPFL
  5. General Charles Bright, NPFL
  6. Other Generals and fighters, remobilize by the President includes Prince Toe, Sam Saryon, Sampson Nieger, Benjamin Taylor, etc

Risking Sanctions and International Isolation

The justice advocacy group is advising the Government of President Weah to be mindful of the precarious situation the country is in now and urgently adopt realistic proactive policies on human rights and justice; corruption and impunity; and good governance to project Liberia as a burgeoning democracy and a success story post UN intervention.

Liberia-Political Map
Liberia-Political Map

The statement further said that the posturing of an autocratic state does not portend well for the country. Manipulating the ouster of a Justice of the Supreme Court because of opinions or judgement rendered during active duty on the bench is unconstitutional and therefore illegal, unpatriotic and immoral, the IGJ statement warned.

The IJG statement further lamented that corruption in government is at an all-time high while essential social services, including hospitals, education, schools, healthcare, sanitation, hygiene and other public services are left wanting as the living standards of the Liberian people continue in rapid decline.

The IJG Statement further decried the government for turning a blind eye to massive human rights abuses, especially against women and the girl children. The alarming rate of murders from rape and other forms of sexual assaults and abuses throughout the country is a cause for condemnation underpinned by the callous indifference of the government, especially the President to condemn these brazen acts of criminal cowardice or demand swift and prompt investigations that will redress the wrongs against our precious women and help to restore their dignity.

The statement called for strong governmental actions from all branches of government against these wanton acts of human rights abuses including the recent deaths of two prison inmates in Nimba County, which sad incidences occurred unnoticed by government or its functionaries and the society at large.

“We condemn this state of affairs in the country and calls on all civil society actors and the international community to deplore government’s lack of action and indecisiveness over human rights, corruption and important national issues including the issue of justice, war crimes court and the full implementation of the TRC Report.

The absence of a well-articulated, conspicuously pro-people policies on changing or strengthening rape laws, like castration of perpetrators, public interest, transparency in government and proper stewardship of scarce resource and justice is a pro-impunity, pro-corruption and anti-people policy, a stance this Weah Government must consider moving away from. Otherwise, our government risk international sanctions and the isolation of the state to the detriment of our people and regression of gains already realized, the statement from the IJG signed by its Executive Director Counselor Jerome J. Verdier Sr. concluded.

By Our International Affairs Correspondent in Washington DC

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

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

“Appointment” At Liberian Embassy In Washington DC; Embassy Unaware

Washington DC and Monrovia – April 2, 2019: Reports are coming into West African Journal Magazine of the consideration of appointment of a non-experienced Liberian diplomat at a strategic international diplomatic  location.

Ms. Anita Jallah

According to a source at the Foreign Ministry in Monrovia, the daughter of a senior Protocol Officer in the Liberian Presidency Norah Finda Bundoo is being preferred for the position of Third Secretary at the Liberian Embassy in Washington DC.  Her name is Anita D. Jallah. The 20 year old is a recent graduate of the St Teresa’s Convent Catholic High School in Monrovia and has no professional experience in diplomacy.

Social Media Profile of Anita Jallah

On her social media page, she identifies herself Anita Ramelavanitaspendid Jallah – CEO AT Awesomely Spendid.

According to the source, Ms. Jallah left the country about a month ago to take up assignment at the Embassy in Washington. She was picked up at the airport taken to the Embassy and briefly introduced to mission staff but has not been seen since. She had also been seconded at the Liberian mission in New York prior.

The source explained that her position falls within the category of those non-career appointees who are conferred diplomatic status to facilitate their work.

If approved, Ms. Jallah will enjoy diplomatic privileges.

In keeping with the Vienna Convention, the U.S. State Department, the receiving State, has to be informed of the arrival of a member of the Liberian diplomatic mission Washington DC. It is not yet known if the Foreign Ministry in Monrovia has formally notified the U.S. State Department of Ms. Jallah taking up assignment.

The recruitment for the position of Third Secretary at the Embassy is the first step towards a more senior position.

Embassy of Liberia In Washington DC

The Liberian Diplomatic mission in Washington DC, in a statement to the West African Journal Magazine Tuesday, said it was not aware of the assignment of Ms. Jallah nor does she work there at present.

There has been no confirmation of the assignment of Ms. Jallah from the Foreign Ministry in Monrovia.

By Our Diplomatic Correspondents in Monrovia and Washington DC

West African Journal Magazine

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