Former Liberian Rebel NPFL Spokesman Tom Woewiyu Facing Prosecution In Philadelphia

A one time close associate of former Liberian rebel leader turned President Charles Taylor is facing federal prosecutors in a court room in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania USA beginning Monday, July 11th.

Jucontee Thomas Woewiyu

Jucontee Thomas Woewiyu, a former Defense Minster of the now disbanded rebel National Patriotic Front of Liberia (NPFL) goes on trial on immigration fraud charges and for failing to disclose his involvement in one of the most brutal civil conflagration in Liberia, West Africa in the 1990s.

Woewiyu allegedly hid critical information from U.S. Immigration authorities when he applied for citizenship in 2006. He traveled regularly to Liberia from the U.S.

Court documents quote federal prosecutors as saying, ““Perhaps no other member of the NPFL save for Charles Taylor was more prominent in the public sphere…”

Woewiyu, a resident of Collingdale since the 1970’s, was a major actor in the rebel invasion which was launched on Christmas eve 1989 in northern Liberia. He is remembered to prosecuting the advance of the war towards the Liberian capital as spokesperson for the NPFL in daily interviews he gave to the BBC Focus on Africa program with Robin White.

Terrified residents across Liberia cowering in fear during curfew hours listened to the BBC for accounts of the rebel advance. Major human rights organizations have recounted thousands of rebel and government troops atrocities in areas under their control.

Former Rebel NPFL Leader Charles Taylor

Five American Catholic missionaries were killed by rebel forces during the rebel invasion in Gardnersville on the outskirts of the capital Monrovia. An estimated 250,000 people were killed and another 1 million others displaced internally and externally, making the conflict one of the worst in human history. Thousands of Liberians and Sierra Leonens were maimed by marauding rebels.

On October 15, 1992, Taylor’s NPFL launched a vicious attack on the Liberian capital and West African peacekeepers with the aim of capturing it and installing himself as President. The sustained attack was beaten back by the peacekeepers with assistance from the a small but highly trained militia group known as the Black Berets who were loyal to the then Interim Government of National Unuty (IGNU) led by Professor Dr. Amos Sawyer.

In their retreat, NPFL forces kidnapped civilians who were taken to their bases in Kakata and Gbarnga. Casualties of the Octopus assault are still unknown.

Map of Liberia

West African countries whose citizens were targeted by the NPFL intervened with the insertion of peacekeeping forces in Liberia to stem the bloodletting and humanitarian disaster in 1990. A number of peace conferences involving the various warring factions ultimately led to a Comprehensive Peace Agreement and the establishment of an interim mechanism to lead the country to national elections which Charles Taylor won in 1997.

However, more instability ensued and Taylor was forced out of power in August, 2003 under pressure from advancing rebels and the international community. Taylor was indicted by the Special Court for Sierra Leone (SCSL).

In 2006 the Sirleaf administration formally requested Taylor’s extradition from Nigeria.

Taylor was arrested as he fled Nigeria, transferred to the Hague and prosecuted by the Special Court for Sierra Leone (SCSL). He was found guilty on 11 charges including terror, rape, war crimes and crimes against humanity in April, 2012 and sentenced to fifty years in jail. He is currently serving his sentence in a UK jail.

Liberia underwent 14 years of bloody back-to-back conflicts between 1989 – 2003, with spill over of the conflict over into neighboring Sierra Leone.

A UN Mission took over security and provided humanitarian support for Liberia beginning 2003 and successfully completed its mission on March 30, 2018 following the democratic elections.

Another war actor who was residing in the suburb of Philadelphia Mohammed Jabbateh known by the non-de-guerre “Jungle Jabbah” was picked by US Immigration and prosecuted by federal authorities also for immigration fraud charges.

He was convicted and is serving a 30 year jail sentence after which he will be deported to Liberia.

Flag of Liberia

Meantime, the new Weah Administration in Liberia is facing growing calls for fully implementing recommendations of the country’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) including the establishment of a local war crimes court to prosecute individuals named as bearing the most responsibility for atrocities committed during the civil wars.

At a program on March 30th marking the closing of the UN Mission in Liberia, the Deputy UN Secretary General told the Liberian government to handle “unfinished business” of national reconciliation and the constitution including the establishment of a war crimes court.

But the current Liberian government and its supporters have signaled that the establishment of a war crimes court is not a priority, citing risk to the fragile “peace” in the country.

Woewiyu has denied the US government allegations against him.

By Emmanuel Abalo

West African Journal

Liberian “Economic Migrants” Return From Niger

Monrovia, Liberia: About 166 Liberian migrants who had been stranded in Niger for months arrived home Thursday after their repatriation was facilitated by Niamey and supervised by the UN migration agency, IOM.

ECOWAS radio in the Liberian capital reported that the

Liberians arrived at the Roberts International Airport ((RIA) onboard a flight chartered by the government in Niamey.

They were screened jointly by officials of the Liberia immigration service and the Liberia refugee agency, LRRRC, before being taken to a safe location for re- unification with their families and relatives.

Most of the returnees appeared to be economic migrants in search of “greener pastures” like other African migrants who journeyed via North Africa, but their hopes more often were dashed.

In a separate development, police authorities this week reported hauling some 700 kilos of illicit drugs in a swoop on the Monrovia Central prison and others here.

Inmates claimed the drugs entered; thanks to visitors frequenting the over crowded prison daily.

Our Monrovia correspondent quoting Police said one senior prison warden was arrested in connection with illegal

Infiltration at South beach prison, built in the 60s to accommodate 300 inmates, but now holds more than one thousand pretrial detainees and convicts.

Hard core drugs consumption is pervasive throughout Liberia with communities in Monrovia competing for first place in proliferation of ghettos for substance users.

Smoking in public places is banned in Liberia, but distraught youngsters provokingly roam streets including Broad street puffing fumes of illicit drugs, which police say, embolden them to prey on unsuspecting persons.

By Tepitapia Sannah In Monrovia

West African Journal

Feature: Observing Integrity Obligations Is Cardinal For The Pro Poor Agenda

Map of Liberia

Monrovia — Apparent  failure by the five-month-old government in Liberia to keenly observe existing transparency, integrity and legal obligations risks creating  hurdles in the path of its pronounced eagerness to fast track its pro poor development agenda in the  country.

A code of conduct to ensure transparency extracted from the

constitution requires all officials in the three branches of government to declare their assets upon taking up  assignments as well as quitting office.

When former president Ellen Johnson Sirleaf tried to enforce this integrity and transparently law enshrined in the constitution, legislators and judicial officials went up in arms saying they would rather declare assets to bodies established in their institutions.

Legislators even exempted themselves from  a cardinal clause which required government officials first to resign before contesting for elected positions. 

They resisted that clause, whose wisdom was to stem misuse of government resources for political aggrandizement, to appointed officials.

Sirleaf and most of her officials then declared their assets to the  LACC (Liberia Anti Corruption Commission).

Flag of Liberia

But five months on in government, President George M. Weah and his officials are yet to declare their assets while he implements quick impact community projects like the Doe community road without expressed budgetary allocation.

After breaking grounds for his flagship 14 military hospital, the President cut sod  for a multimillion dollar Mahatma Gandhi complex center on Bali Island saying Delhi offered to build it. The project will require a flyover to connect Crown Hill with Bushrod Island, but total cost and timeline of these projects remain undisclosed.

Ratification  for a USD 530 million loan agreement with a private company in Malaysia is pending at the Legislature. The money is earmarked for construction of road networks in southeastern counties.

But critics question the company’s creditworthiness saying its repayment term will impose hefty financial burden on Liberia.

“I know one day Liberians will get tired of me, so I want to leave a big mark before that time,” Weah often tell youthful partisans of his coalition for Democratic change. 

Because he wants to say and see it done quickly, Weah believes feasibility studies and competitive bidding at the PPCC impede the fast tracking of his pro poor agenda for a population having very high expectations from their populist President.

Strict adherence to these integrity regulations cannot be overemphasized because they determine a benchmark for international best practice.

After President William Tolbert accused Liberians of having no time for time, he created the Action for Development Ministry under his direct supervision to do quick impact projects.

By Tepitapia Sannah

Contributing Writer

Monrovia, Liberia

Liberia: Winner-Takes-All Mentality Resurfacing?

Gbarnga, Bong County- Liberia:
Citizens  of Bong County in central Liberia have awaken to a rude warning that the ruling Coalition for Democratic Change (CDC) government, comprising three political parties, will not work with persons including even elected representatives of the political sub-division who belong to parties other than the ruling coalition.

Map of Bong County Liberia
Map of Bong County, Liberia

Vice president Jewel Howard Taylor, now leader of the opposition of the Nation Patriotic Party (NPP) which was founded by her ex-husband and former President of Liberia Charles Taylor now in jail in The UK, and potent partner in the ruling coalition, vowed to only work with NPP Representative  Melvin Cole and the County Superintendent who are NPP members.

According to our Monrovia correspondent, Vice President Taylor dismissed all county officials who were not bona fide members of parties making up the the ruling CDC and advised those aggrieved personsto resign from their parties and join the ruling coalition if they want to be part of the national development process “in this pro poor government.”

“This is my time. We cannot work with people who do not understand our “pro poor agenda”, she insisted in Gbarnga last weekend before an official trip to Israel.

About the running of Bong County, VP Taylor insisted she would henceforth listen only to NPP Representative Melvin Cole and Superintendent. Madam Walker, and not officials and chiefs who were not members of the three-party governing coalition. “They don’t understand our pro poor agenda, ” she suggested and quoted Amos 3:3 in the Bible as justification for her outburst.

Aside from Melvin Cole, Bong County has six elected representatives from other parties plus one elected senator Henry Yallah after his colleague Jewel Taylor was elected Vice President last October.

Flag of Bong County Liberia
Flag of Bong County, Liberia

Mrs. Taylor’s controversial statement appears to be out of tune with President George Weah ‘s earlier advice to his partisans “not to alienate Liberians from other parties. Elections are over.  The government is for all, ” Weah often counsels. But his VP is deciding to be different when it comes to Bong county that catapulted her into politics.

Bong is the third most populated county with seven electoral districts after Nimba’s nine.

As all Liberians with bona-fide employment were considered members of the single True Whig party that governed the West African nation for nearly a century, they were coerced to contribute one month salary annually to support it.
Meantime, social media has erupted over the position taken by the incumbent Vice President to marginalize other political voices of Bong County. Postings have criticized her and intolerant with some vowing to resist her attempt at coercing non ruling party politicians to join the governing party.
Reporting by Tepitapia Sannah
West African Journal Magazine
Photos – Courtesy of Frontpage Africa

Guinea President Alpha Conde Announces Govt Reshuffle

Map of GuineaFacing civil unrest and strikes in the crucial mining sector, Guinea’s President Alpha Conde reshuffled his government overnight, appointing new finance and security ministers among others.

State Television quoted by the website Africanews website on Sunday announced the changes. No official reason was given for the sweeping changes which followed the appointment of a new prime minister, Ibrahima Kassory Fofana.

The changes came amid heightened political tensions and speculation that Conde may be seeking to modify the constitution ahead of a 2020 election.

Guinea is Africa’s top producer of bauxite, the ore of aluminium, and Conde’s government has faced repeated strikes by mineworkers, as well as teachers and has seen civil unrest over local elections.

It has also suffered embarrassment over allegations by French authorities that billionaire tycoon Vincent Bollore’s conglomerate backed Conde’s election campaign in exchange for a port concession. Both Bollore and Conde deny any wrongdoing.

In his reshuffle Conde replaced 13 out of 33 ministers in his government. Finance Minister Maladho Kaba was sacked and replaced by Mamady Camara, Guinea’s former ambassador to South Africa. Her deputy, Budget Minister Mohamed Lamine Doumbouya, was replaced by former central bank official Ismael Dioubate.

Violent Protests in Guinea - VOA
Violent Protests in Guinea – VOA

Security Minister Abdoul Kabele Camara, in place since Conde’s election victory in 2010, was replaced by Alpha Ibrahima Keira, a loyalist from the regime of dictator Lansana Conte, who died in 2008.

As well as bauxite, Guinea has some of the world’s largest deposits of iron ore, but decades of mining have failed to lift most Guineans out of poverty.

About 10 people were killed in February and March when riots erupted in the capital Conakry and other cities following local elections, which the opposition said were marred by fraud.

Conde’s opponents also fear he seeks to modify the constitution to stand for a third term in 2020. Conde has not yet commented on his intentions, but speculation over them has had a destabilising effect.

Africanews