Opposition ALP Withdraws From Dialogue With Liberian Government

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

All Liberia Party Press Statement

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

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

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

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

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

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

All Liberia Party Logo
All Liberia Party Logo

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

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

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

By Our Correspondent In Monrovia

West African Journal

Trump Administration To Limit Visas To Several African Countries

New York, U.S. – April 16, 2019: The Trump Administration is reportedly planning a crackdown on several countries whose nationals overstay their visas in the United States.

US State Department
US State Department

The Wall Street Journal newspaper citing Administration officials say as part of a toughened immigration policy, the Trump Administration is moving to limit the number of visa offered to nationals from Liberia, Nigeria, Sierra Leone, Chad and Eritrea. The Administration may also offer shorter visa stays.

The Wall Street Journal quotes an official White House spokesperson Hogan Gidley as saying the Trump Administration is considering prioritizing the plan “to reduce overstay rates for visas and the visa waiver program—and it’s well known that the administration is working to ensure faithful implementation of immigration welfare rules to protect American taxpayers.”

The countries are said to be “on notice” unless there is a change in number of their nationals who overstay their visas.

If implemented, the curb in issuance of visas to nationals to the African countries named means it will become harder to obtain such visas. Globally, countries are already seeing denial of visas from U.S. Consular offices for travel to the United States. A popular destination of nationals of the African countries named is the United States where large populations reside as permanent residents or have become U.S. citizens.

By Our Correspondent in New York

West African Journal Magazine

Editorial: Mr. President, Speak To Your People

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

President George M. Weah of Liberia

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Article 1 says,  

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

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

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

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

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

West African Journal Magazine

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Liberia TRC
Liberia TRC

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

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

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

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

Members of the Legislature
Cross Section of Liberia National Legislature

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

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

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

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

Chief Justice Francis Korkpor
Chief Justice Francis Korkpor

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

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

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

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

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

West African Journal Magazine

 

Arcelor Mittal Bats Down Claim of 1000 Job Creation In Liberia

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

Assistant Information Minister David B. Kolleh

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

Deputy LBS Director General Boima J. V. Boima

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

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

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

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

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

Liberian Presidential Aide Sekou Damaro Kalasco

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

The claim by Kalasco was untrue.

Social Media Posts from Feb. 2017

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

By Our Correspondent In Monrovia

West African Journal Magazine

GOL Spending Millions To Lobby In US; No Deliverables Yet

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Greenberg Traurig-GOL Agreement Letter

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

Greenberg Traurig US Government Reporting Form

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

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

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

US Congressional Seal
US Congressional Seal

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

By Our International Affairs Correspondent, Washington DC

West African Journal Magazine

Liberia: Top Security Official Reinstated At NSA

A senior security official at Liberia’s National Security Agency (NSA) has been reinstated. The Executive Mansion in Monrovia announced Monday that Deputy NSA Director Jones Blamo has been reinstated with immediate effect.

No reason was given for the reinstatement of Mr. Blamo who was suspended indefinitely in February.

NSA-LOGOSources indicated that the Liberian President took the decision following news of an “argument” between a Protocol Officer in the Office of the President Ms. Finda Bundoo and Mr. Blamo.

Mr. Blamo’s suspension was broadly termed as “administrative reasons”.

It remains unclear what exactly the “argument” was about and whether it was security related or personal. The Executive Mansion did not elaborate on reasons for the reinstatement.

Code named “202”, Blamo remains the number two at the NSA which is the lead intelligence agency of Liberia that reports directly to the office of the President.

By Our National Security Correspondent in Monrovia

West African Journal Magazine