U.S. House Bill Amendment Will Provide Reward For Arrest-Conviction for War Crimes

Washington DC USA – April 1, 2019: A Bill has been introduced in the U.S. House of Representatives to, “Amend the State Department Basic Authorities Act of 1956 to provide for rewards for the arrest and conviction of certain foreign nationals who have committed genocide or war crimes.”

Former Liberian Militia Leaders
Former Liberian Militia Leaders

Known as H.R. 1819, North Carolina’s 5th Congressional District Republican Virginia Foxx introduced the bill on March 18, 2019 in the U.S. House of Representatives.

There are direct implications for Liberian warlords, if the proposed Bill, becomes law in the United States.

Several major war actors named in Liberia’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) are yet to face prosecution for their roles in gross human rights abuses during the wars in the West African country in the 1990’s. A TRC Final Report was submitted to the Government of Liberia in June 2012 but recommendations contained therein have since been ignored.

The TRC, in its Final Report catalogued location, victims and types of violations committed by the various militias in Liberia’s civil war as follows:

County Victims Violations
Montserrado 14,980 22,094
Bong 12,546 22,175
Lofa 11,296 18,863
Nimba 7,784 12,794
Bomi 5,970 9,840
Gbarpolu 7,285 13,574
Grand Bassa 6,227 10,739
Margibi 3,394 5,154  
Sinoe 5,706 9,266  
Maryland 3,934 6,162  
Grand Kru 3,296 5,568  
Grand Gedeh 4,010 6,569  
River Gee 4,030 6,839  
Rivercess 2,315 3,566  
Grand Cape Mount 5,768 ,9354  
Unknown 781 1,058  
TOTAL 93,322 163,615  

Of the various violations cited by the TRC Final Report, the top five included Displacement, Killings, Assault, Abduction and Looting by militias.

88 % of Violations were committed by the NPFL, LURD, Liberia Peace Council, Militia, ULIMO, MODEL and the Armed Forces of Liberia during the wars in the 1990s; the NPFL and LURD being the top two, according to the TRC. 19 Perpetrators were named  for cooperating with the TRC process and not recommended for Prosecution.

The Leaders of the 8 major warring factions recommended for Prosecution included:

Charles G. Taylor – NPFL

Prince Y. Johnson – INPFL

Roosevelt Johnson (Deceased) – ULIMO & ULIMO-J

Alhaji G.V. Kromah – ULIMO & ULIMO-K

George Boley – Liberia Peace Council

Thomas Yayah Nimely – MODELl

Sekou Damate Konneh – LURD and

Francois Massaquoi (Deceased) – Lofa Defense Force

TRC Head Cllr Jerome Verdier
TRC Head Cllr Jerome Verdier

Those named as bearing the greatest responsibility for extra judicial excesses included leaders of the various militias, some of whom presently serve in the Liberian Government.

Former rebel leader turned former President Charles G. Taylor is serving a 50 years jail term in the UK following his conviction for his role in the war in the war in neighboring Sierra Leone. Prince Y. Johnson is a Senator from Nimba County in Liberia’s National Legislature. No one has been prosecuted in Liberia for their role in war and economic crimes.

Other war actors who fled Liberia are being being identified, arrested and prosecuted in the United States and Europe.

U.S. Foreign Affairs Committee
U.S. Foreign Affairs Committee

The latest Bill is an attempt by the U.S. Congress to hold accountable perpetrators in Liberia and others elsewhere around the world for their roles in genocide and war crimes.

The major perpetrators have been identified in Liberia and their arrests will facilitate prosecution in a court whose location is to be determined, once it is up an running. The TRC Final Report recommended the mechanism for the establishment of a War Crimes Court.

Additional Congressional Bills are also making their way through Committees in the U.S. for the setting up of a War Crime Tribunal in Liberia. Once the H.R. 1819 becomes law in the U.S. the State Department will work with various U.S. agencies to implement the  provision of the reward for the arrest abnd conviction of those foreign nationals who have committed genocide or war crimes.

Recently, two Liberian rights groups – the Movement for Justice in Liberia (MOJL) and the International Justice Group (IJG) visited the office the U.S. Speaker Nancy Pelosi in Washington DC to offer support for, “House Resolution 1055 among other things seeks to affirm strong United States- Liberia ties and support for democratic principles. The Resolution also calls for the full implementat ion of the Truth and Reconci l iat ion Commission recommendations, including the establishment of an extraordinary Criminal Tribunal for Liberia…”

The Weah Government in Liberia is refusing to committ to implementation of the TRC Report, inspite of urgings of local and international rights organizations, the United Nations, European Union and the U.S. Government.

By Our International Affairs Editor

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

 

 

 

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

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

Former Liberian Warlord Charles Taylor
Former Liberian Warlord Charles Taylor

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

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

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

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

Charles Taylor Fighters
Charles Taylor Fighters

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

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

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

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

Political Map of Liberia
Political Map of Liberia

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

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

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

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

By Emmanuel Abalo

West African Journal

 

US Lawmakers Signal Major Support For War Crimes Court In Liberia

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

Flag of Liberia
Flag of Liberia

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

Accra Comprehensive Peace Agreement ARTICLE XIII: TRUTH AND RECONCILIATION COMMISSION

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Former Warlord Prince Y. Johnson

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

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

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

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

Liberia’s TRC Final Report

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

Liberia - TRC
Liberia – TRC

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

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

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

US – Liberia Relations

US Representative Ed Royce
US Representative Ed Royce

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

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

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

Liberia Campaigners for War Crimes
Liberia Campaigners for War Crimes

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

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

By Emmanuel Abalo

West African Journal

VP Jewel Howard Taylor Tried To Get US Help To Release Charles Taylor From Jail

Philadelphia, PA October 29, 2018

“He’s in jail for the long term. We have not made any effort to seek any change or adjustment to the due process and what was adjudicated by the court systems.”

Charles Taylor At Funeral of His Mother Comforted By Ex Wife Jewel Howard Taylor - File
Charles Taylor At Funeral of His Mother Comforted By Ex Wife Jewel Howard Taylor – File

The statement, an apparent reference to former Liberian President Charles Taylor,was made by then Ambassador Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs Donald Yamamoto U.S. State Department official during a Congressional committee hearing in September, 2017 and in response to questioning about the effort by Madam Jewel Howard Taylor, the current Liberian Vice President and ex-wife of former rebel leader turned former President Charles Taylor to get Taylor released.

Apparently and prior to the Presidential and General Elections in Liberia, the then Vice-Presidential candidate of the ruling Congress for Democratic Change (CDC) Ms. Jewel Howard Taylor and a delegation of the CDC visited the U.S. in early 2017 and pressed State Department officials to assist with the release of her ex-husband Charles Taylor who was convicted and sentenced in May, 2012 to fifty years in prison for atrocities committed in Sierra Leone’s war.

Nathaniel F. McGill

Also on that US trip was a former ruling National Patriotic Party (NPP) stalwart turned Former CDC Chairman and now Minister of State for Presidential Affairs in the office of the Liberian Presidency Mr. Nathaniel F. McGill. The CDC delegation also visited their party stronghold in Minnesota and Philadelphia, Pennsylvania during their US visit last year.

Taylor is serving his sentence in a jail in the UK.

Ambassador Donald Yamamoto
Ambassador Donald Yamamoto

At a sub-committee meeting before the U.S. House of Representatives Committee on Foreign Affairs hearing held on September 13, 2017 in Washington DC, New York Republican Dan Donovan Jr. who, on September, 8, 2018, introduced a resolution which calls for the establishment of a war crimes tribunal is Liberia, wanted to know if Madam Howard Taylor held discussions with the State Department. Ambassador Yamamoto demurred about the substance of the discussion but confirmed that State Department did meet with Ms. Howard-Taylor and “messages were passed.”

“Yes, we did meet with Jewel Howard Taylor and those conversations, I think, are between us,” the former State Department said at the time.

The U.S. which had expended over $2 billion dollars in assistance to the Liberia since 2003 worked to dissuade the CDC from placing Ms. Taylor on the Weah warned prior to the election that it would not tolerate interference by Charles Taylor in the election which subsequently elected President Mr. George M. Weah.

Murdered American Nuns
Murdered American Nuns

The Weah Administration remains defiant in the face of international calls to establish war and economic crimes to address human rights abuses and killings by warlords and militias. The UN, 76 international non-governmental organizations and the International Justice Group (IJG) have called on the Weah Administration to prosecute economic and war crimes. International support is growing for accountability in Liberia and include the U.S. Congressional resolution which supports the establishment of the war crimes court.

The opposition Alternative National Congress (ANC) political party in Liberia has called on President Weah to take the lead in disclosing his position on the establishment of a war crimes court.

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

Recently and following the visit to the Federal Republic of Germany, by the Executive Director of the IJG Counselor Jerome J. Verdier to seek international support for their advocacy to pressure the Weah Administration to address war crimes and impunity in the West African nation, the German envoy accredited to Liberia Hubert Jager two weeks ago, at the launch of the Alliance for Transitional Justice in Monrovia remarked that, “Providing justice for the victims of the conflict is a key aspect.”

““Providing justice for the victims of the conflict is a key aspect,” the German Ambassador said.

HHRG-115-FA16-Transcript-20170913

Other that humanitarian assistance, the Weah government is finding it difficult to access international loans to relieve mounting economic pressures and has been told by western countries that further pressure including travel ban and sanctions may be forthcoming if the government refuses to implement measures to address war and economic crimes by alleged perpetrators.

Staff Report

West African Journal Magazine

World Bank Says Half Of Liberia’s Population Is Living in Poverty

Economic indicators cited by the World Bank confirm that the economy of the West African nation of Liberia continues to decline. 

World Bank Logo

According to its recently published overview of the the economic situation in Liberia, on October 12, 2018, the World Bank states that, “…The fiscal deficit widened to 5.2% of GDP in FY2018 compared to 4.8% of GDP in FY17, due to a significant short-fall in revenues and higher than anticipated non-discretionary expenditures. The shortfall in revenues (20% of the approved budget) is due to the slower than anticipated economic activities due to prolonged period of political uncertainty, tax waiver policies in the run up to the presidential elections, unresolved court dispute with respect to the collection of petroleum levy and lower than projected donor grants. Public sector wage bill as a percent of GDP overshot its target by one percentage point to 9.9% of GDP. Overall, the core non-discretionary expenditures such as the wage bill and interest payments constituted about 75% of domestic revenues…”

President George M. Weah

Since its inauguration in January, 2018, the George M. Weah Administration has been paralyzed by economic headwinds brought on by the global slump in commodity prices, rising global oil prices, withdrawal of the UN Mission in Liberia (UNMIL)in March, the outbreak of the Ebola pandemic between 2014 –  2016, an anemic agricultural sector, drops in donor inflow and diaspora remittances. 

The World Bank says the attending consequences of the economic malaise are, “…The resultant rise in the cost of living and limited employment opportunities continue to undermine the welfare of Liberians. According to the 2016 Household Income and Expenditure Survey (HIES), more than half of the population (50.9%) is living in poverty. Poverty is more than two times higher in rural areas (71.6%) than in urban areas (31.5%) and is overall lower in Monrovia than in the rest of the country. 

Local commodities

Transfers and remittances have a low impact on poverty in Liberia: for the poorest and most vulnerable households, transfers are neither widely prevalent nor high enough value to address the needs of the poor…”

Although the UN served notice of the eventual drawdown and exit of its mission in Liberia over a period of time, the country developed no strategic plans to sustain the economic shock of the loss of hard currency from the exit of the UN Mission. 

Since 2005, UNMIL’s expenses for operations in Liberia amounted to about $7.5 billion USD and was considered as a main source for the availability of much needed hard currency in the country. 

The Weah Administration has identified opportunities in road connectivity, energy and ports but investments have been slow to come even after nearly 10 months. 

Medium term, the World Bank paints an optimistic outlook for Liberia saying, 

“…The new Administration is expected to mitigate these risks by embarking on policy reforms that will promote economic diversification, improve the investment climate, promote domestic revenue mobilization and to ensure prudent borrowing strategy.”

Map of Liberia

In Liberia, the reality of the economic free fall is manifesting itself in increasing and unaffordable prices of basic commodities and resignation of struggling citizens to even harder times.  157 Liberian dollars are currently equivalent to 1 US dollar. 

Despite calls to the Weah Administration to show a feasible economic plan and strategy to stem the national economic challenges, Government has remained largely silent. 

The opposition Alternative National Congress (ANC) political party recently told Liberians to be truly concerned about the current direction of the country.

ANC leader Mr. Alexander B. Cummings strongly criticized the Weah Administration over its lack of organization and planning and refusal to accept recommendations to address its lack of capacity and knowledge about economic and governance matters. 

The ANC leader Cummings has said although the opposition has no obligation to assist, “the government is arrogant in reaching out for assistance and the country is in trouble; yet it was the duty of all Liberians to help do what they can even if they, the government, feel that they don’t need help.”

ANC Leader Alexander B. Cummings.

He referenced an ANC economic blueprint which the party offered to the Weah government shortly after it took up governance of the country. 

Political observers  and diplomatic sources say Liberia offers no real international strategic importance and the refusal of the Weah Administration to implement much needed fiscal reforms and address issues of war and economic crimes are impacting its ability to attract sympathetic donor funding and investments from western countries and long time allies. 

The global accountability and justice advocacy group the International Justice Group (IJG), in a statement issued in August on the issue of war and economic crimes, warned that, “…Under international justice, President Weah’s clear refusal poses serious consequences for Liberia’s prosperity in many ways. 

From international sanctions to other activities such as travel ban of officials and others in government and the country, the pressure will be brought to bear by the International Justice Group as well as the 76 Group and others…”

Under heavy pressure and declining local favorability, the ruling Congress for Democratic Change Government has undertaken a full court effort to open a corridor to influential United States Congressional leaders for assistance to open the tap of US and international funding for the poor West African nation.

A congressional source on Capitol Hill says any consideration to approve loans to Liberia will have to address outstanding issues of war and economic crimes, corruption and governmental reforms. 

Currently, a congressional resolution supporting the implementation of the Final Report of Liberia’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission and supported by the IJG and some international non-governmental organizations is making its way through committee in the US House of Representatives in Washington DC. 

The resolution introduced by Republican Dan Donovan Jr.  of New York calls for the full implementation of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s (TRC) recommendations, including the establishment of an extraordinary criminal tribunal for Liberia.

Liberia’s President George Manneh Weah has so far avoided taking a position on the implementation of the TRC recommendations; although he, at one point, voiced support for the prosecution of warlords in Liberia. 

If the resolution passes US House of Representatives plenary, it will add additional pressure on the Weah Administration to directly address past war and economic crimes. 

Liberia GDP Trend

According to the Trading Economics website, “External Debt in Liberia increased to 676.40 USD Million in the second quarter of 2018 from 649 USD Million in the first quarter of 2018. External Debt in Liberia averaged 533.56 USD Million from 2009 until 2018, reaching an all time high of 1681.92 USD Million in the third quarter of 2009 and a record low of 222.80 USD Million in the fourth quarter of 2010.

 By Emmanuel Abalo

West African Journal Magazine 

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

PETITION STATEMENT

September 24, 2018

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Signed: ______________________________________

                                 Jeremiah S. Swen

                     Secretary General, COCUBOMB

 

Approved: ____________________________________

                                   Martin K. N. Kollie

                               Chairman, COCUBOMB

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

Reputable Organizations that have endorsed this statement:

1 Student Unification Party (SUP)

2 People Action Network (PAN-Liberia)

3 Economic Freedom Fighters of Liberia (EFFL)

4 Movement of Justice in Africa (MOJA)

5 Liberia Labor Congress (LLC)

6 Workers’ Union of Liberia (WUL)

7 Foundation for Human Rights and Democracy (FOHRD)

8 Alliance for Transitional Justice in Liberia (ATJL)

9 Teachers in Action for Concerns (TAC-Liberia)

10 Federation of Liberian Youth (FLY)

11 Patriotic Consciousness Association of Liberia (PACAL)

12 Patriotic Entrepreneurs of Liberia (PATEL)

13 Movement of Social Democratic Alliance (MOSODA)

14 Financial Communication Sector Union (FCSU)

15 National Cosmetology Union of Liberia (NCUL)

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

17 Concerned Liberians in the Diaspora (CLD)

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

19 Zorzor and Salayea Muslim Development Association (ZSMDA)

20 Forum for Democracy and Civic Education (FODCE)

21 Liberia National Student Union (LINSU)

22 TAG – Liberia

23 Concerned University and College Students (CUCS)

24 Conscious High School Students of Liberia (CHSL)

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

26 Masses Against Poverty (MAP)

27  Federation of Sinkor Youth Association (FESYA)

28 Liberian Youth for Democracy

29 Agenda for Peace and Democracy

30 National Youth Against Violence (NYAV)