London: Liberian Opposition Leader Tells Diaspora Community Corruption “Unprecedented” Back Home

London, UK January 21, 2019 – “The bottomline is that the country is struggling.”

Liberia Opposition ANC Leader Alexander B. Cummings Jr. in London

The charge, made on Saturday, January 21, 2019 by opposition leader Mr. Alexander B. Cummings Jr. of the Alternative National Congress (ANC) in London, England, is in apparent reference to the current economic challenges facing the small West African nation of Liberia.

Cummings was speaking to a group of Diaspora Liberians who gathered to hear first- hand about the current situation in the country and how they could help.

In a four-hour engagement with Liberians in which he gave a candid assessment of the political and economic conditions, Cummings recalled that when President George M. Weah was inaugurated a little over a year, he urged all Liberians to wish the new President and Government well, “because if he does well, that means that the country does well. And if it makes it harder for us to compete with him, then we should work harder because Liberia is in a difficult situation; everybody gotta work hard, if we want to change the country and take it to where it used to be,” Cummings said.

Some Liberian Diaspora Members At London Gathering With Cummings

He told the gathering that Liberia, after a year under the ruling Congress For Democratic Change (CDC) led Administration, “the early signs are not good.”

Cummings characterized the level of corruption as “unprecedented” but was quick to qualify his charge by indicating that the Weah Government is not the first corrupt Liberian Administration.

The ANC leader who is now viewed as the leading opposition voice in Liberia blamed the economic crime of corruption as the major reason for the country’s under development, describing corruption as “the bane of our country.”

The Liberian opposition leader further charged that, “the level of corruption now is just unprecedented; it’s kind of in your face. It’s almost disrespectful to the Liberian people because other Governments at-least would pretend. They would hide what they are trying to do. I think this government is so upfront and aggressive in acquiring properties, building properties…”, Cummings openly asserted.

The gathering of Liberians who traveled to engage politician Cummings heard him sharply contrast the high level of pervasive corruption against the economic struggles of ordinary Liberian. He pointed to country specific economic indicator data released by Liberia’s Ministry of Finance and the World Bank as declining.

“…Inflation is up, the Liberia Dollar is losing value, the current account deficit is expanding, revenue collections are going down…these are the facts,” Cummings, popularly known as ABC, told his compatriots.

ANC Logo

He cited the recent designation of Liberia as “the poorest country” in the world” and said all Liberians should concerned.

According to him, although he was calling out the facts of where the country is, it was also important to suggest solutions and potential alternatives, adding that, for him, “it was not just good enough to criticize.”

The opposition ANC leader who joined the local political fray over two and a half years ago from a successful corporate career at one of the world’s most successful beverage conglomerate and Fortune 500 companies Coca Cola, states that the opposition has a responsibility to hold the government in power accountable but will always offer solutions; so as not to be seen as always criticizing.

Although, he said, in his personal assessment, the “state” of the nation Liberia is not that great, President Weah is expected to deliver his constitutionally mandated “State of the Nation” report to the country ‘s National Legislature on January 28th, the opposition is planning to issue a “response”; an alternative point of view to the President’s address.

“And then we should hope that things get better,” Cummings stated. adding that, “as Liberians that should be our hope.”

The Liberian opposition leader, who was visiting London to get acquainted with the local Diaspora community, however, said he was less optimistic that things would improve but he remained hopeful.

Cummings In Middle and Some Liberians in London

The Diaspora community were told that government should create conditions for all Liberians to have equal access to opportunities and not just partisans of the ruling CDC.

Cummings, speaking at the engagement, clarified his recent statement in which he said “leaders should eat last”. He said the statement was being mis-characterized but said his view is that leaders are “servants”.

Alex continued that, “…but somehow, when some Liberians get into government, that servant- leadership characteristic goes missing.”

He emphasized that, “When you go into government, your role is to serve the people; not the other way around. And, somehow, that changes when we get into government. Eating does not mean corruption,” Cummings explained to the audience.

“And the idea of leaders eating last is that as a leader, you serve your people first. You should make sure they are taken care of; all the basic needs as necessities. Then pay yourself fairly for the work that you do. And that’s what we should be thinking about our leaders; they should be servant leaders…”, the ANC leader stated.

Map of Liberia

Cummings told Liberians gathered that as they think about change in the country, there were some fundamental questions that they needed to ask themselves about Liberia’s leadership model; why the country continues to do business the same way since independence in 1847 and expect a different result, and why those from the Diaspora…when they government, adopt corrupt behaviors.

During the Question and Answer period, attendees and Cummings exchanged views and discussed issues around Liberian youth empowerment, Technical, Vocational Education And Training (TVET), building and promoting political alliances and processes, Constitutional Amendments and term limits.

Some Liberians in London and Alex B. Cummings Jr. seated in Middle

They also discussed issues around resolution of war and economic crimes and electoral reforms.

Sound Cloud link – https://m.soundcloud.com/douglas-farngalo/town-hall-meeting-with-leader-of-alternative-national-congress-alexander-b-cummings-london-uk/s-9CjXo

By Our Staff Reporters and Contributing Writer Douglas Farngalo in London

Photos: Courtesy of Douglas Farngalo

Liberia: Opposition ANC Leader Alex Cummings Cites “Ineptitude and Incompetence” For Deteriorating Governance

Monrovia, Liberia – November 23, 2018: The leader of Liberia’s opposition Alternative National Congress (ANC) Political Party says he takes full responsibility for the performance of the party in the last Presidential and General Elections in the West African country. 

ANC Political Leader Alexander B. Cummings of Liberia
In a rather honest and harsh introspection and response to charges of the dismal national performance of his party,  Mr. Alexander B. Cummings told a local radio interview in the capital Monrovia on Thursday, “…there are a few things we learned; looking at the post mortem in no particular order…we were not very effective, I believe, in communicating with the youths, the young people. Our candidate selection process was not as robust as it could have been, in terms of the kind of choices who were on the ANC ticket. Our organization, you have to remember that this is the first time the ANC ran in any elections. And so our experience around the organization of the campaign  was not up to par. And so those are just the facts. And I think that just impacted our performance…” the ANC leader said.

The ANC did not win the Presidency or any Parliamentary seat.
In the radio interview which covered several topics, Cummings cited some of his own challenges in the Liberian political theater which led to the party electoral losses such as being viewed as “new” to the scene, the perception that some Liberians held that he was un-electable because there were “others who were in line for this job” to become President because they have been contesting for some time and that he didn’t “connect” well. He promised to continue to work to address those perceived challenges.
As part of re-positioning his political party for the future in Liberia, sources disclose that Cummings is reaching out to all Liberians in the country and the Diaspora to solicit their ideas and support to change the deteriorating trajectory of governance,  a major meeting is planned for the weekend of December 7-8 in Maryland, the United States between Cummings and Liberians residing across the US.
Organizers have confirmed attendance from Liberians in US Midwest, the northeast, Minnesota and the southeast.
The ANC Leader, in his radio interview,  said after nearly a year, governance of the country,  under the Weah Administration, was rapidly deteriorating, citing “incompetence” and “ineptitude”.
Cummings expressed anxiety about the early direction of the country but said Liberians should hope that something may change.
Local Money Changer
Asked what he would have done if he had become President, Cummings said he would have focused on the economy, “…because at the end of the day, it’s all about the economy, it’s all about jobs, it’s all about the currency…”
According to him, he would have focused on having the best economic team at the Finance and Commerce Ministries, finding waste in Government in order to reinvest in the Liberian people. Cummings said he would have lobbied the various branches of government for salary reduction in order to use that money to offer better pay to teachers, police officers and health workers.
The Liberian opposition leader said his Administration would have focused on the area of Agriculture to create jobs and food security, support the growth of Liberian businesses through local availability of credit and loan facilities, relaxation of government’s taxation regime to easily facilitate business growth and investment and improving the reputation of Liberia to attract much needed investments.
On the current effort to impeach Supreme Court Associate Justice Kabineh Janet,  Cummings characterized it as “misplaced”, adding, “I think there’s no basis for the judge’s impeachment. I think it’s an attempt by the Executive branch to try to control a separate branch of government; the Judiciary branch and its a violation of the separation of powers. I fundamentally disagree with the case that is being propounded to impeach Judge Janeh.”
Several lawmakers led by ruling party legislators are pursuing impeachment articles against the high court justice.
Commenting on the ongoing saga of the mission billions in Liberian dollars from the National Bank ANC Leader Cummings called for inclusion of discussion of the 25 million US dollar the Weah Administration claimed it infused in the economy to mop up deteriorating local currency.
Liberia Finance and Planning Minister Samuel Tweah
The country’s Finance and Planning Minister Samuel Tweah recently disclosed at a Parliamentary hearing that unnamed local money changers were used by government to undertake the “mopping up” of Liberian dollars on the market instead of commercial banks.
A forensic investigation is underway into the missing money.
“…I think that’s perhaps what most Liberians should be angry about is the fact that you have a  government where the Justice Minister said one thing about the mIssing money, you have the Information Ministry saying something else, you have the Minister of  Finance say something else and subsequently change on what he said and you have the Governor saying something else. You wonder why we are not getting investors in this country…that’s one of the primary reasons because business people and investors are confused, they are alarmed…”, Cummings explained.
In a separate development, Liberia’s National Security Council (NSC) has identified the lack of citizens access to electric power as “…a national security emergency and, as such, MUST be treated with the outmost sense of urgency…”
According to a Press Statement issued on Friday, “….the NSC has instructed the Liberia Electricity Corporation (LEC) and it’s partners to take advantage of the relevant provision(s) of the PPC Law dealing with National Security matters by single sourcing ALL electricity procurement processes.”
Liberia has struggled for nearly 20 years with the inability to generate reliable power since major infrastructures were destroyed, damaged or looted during the country’s devastating civil wars in the 1990s.
The Liberian NSC decision comes at the same time a Report was made to President George M. Weah on a scary standoff and shooting incident on last Sunday.
Some Members of Liberia Presidential Guard – File Photo
A soldier of the Armed Forces of Liberia (AFL) was shot and wounded by a member of the elite Presidential guard just prior to a scheduled international soccer match between Liberia and Zimbabwe at the national sports stadium outside of the capital Monrovia.
Recommendations of the investigation report,  which has been approved by President Weah, called for the dismissal of the Chief of Operations of the Presidential Guard Shadrick Nyantee, and the dismissal and prosecution of Special Agent Abu Thompson for unlawful discharge of a fire arm.
Five other Special Agents involved in the incident were suspended, according to the NSC Press Statement.
By Emmanuel Abalo
West African Journal Magazine

ANC Leader Alex B. Cummings To Engage Liberians In The US In December

Silver Spring, Maryland November 9, 2018: The leader of the Alternative National Congress (ANC), a political party in Liberia, is launching a major effort to reach Liberians at home and in the diaspora about the future of the West African nation.

ANC Political Leader Alexander B. Cummings
ANC Political Leader Alexander B. Cummings

Mr. Alexander B. Cummings whose stature and favorability ratings have skyrocketed in national politics as a formidable alternative to the current leadership in Liberia, is celebrating “the establishment of the ANC as a viable and progressive political party” since his appearance on the political stage as leader of the ANC.

According to sources, Mr. Cummings is encouraged and responding to the huge enthusiasm  of party members and ordinary Liberians who are signaling their confidence in his leadership ability.

ANC - Liberia
ANC – Liberia

As part of outreach efforts, the ANC says a major retreat is scheduled to be held in Maryland, the United States in early December, at which time Mr. Cummings is expected to articulate his vision for the future of Liberia and Liberians. The  occasion billed as a “critical event” to engage Liberians from all political persuasions to dialogue and develop a roadmap for the attainment of a future of prosperity for the country, which is currently paralyzed by ineffective governance, will develop actionable strategies and plans to inform all Liberians in and out of the country about short, medium and long-term initiatives.

Mr. Cummings is focused on a new paradigm of broadening the political participation of all Liberians in governance and people-oriented public policies for the wellbeing of every citizen, irrespective of political leaning. A source close to the Cummings’ camp says, since March 2018, thousands of Liberians across the homeland, Europe and U.S. have contacted his office to express their desire to build local and international networks and relationships to tackle national issues facing the country and identify opportunities, strategies and financial resources  which are essential for sustaining his vision and programs to correct the current trajectory of the country.

There remains a sizeable number of Liberians at home and abroad who support Mr. Cummings.

ANC Leader Alexander B. Cummings Addressing Liberians During Campaign - File Photo
ANC Leader Alexander B. Cummings Addressing Liberians During Campaign – File Photo

The event featuring Mr. Cummings in December is the first of many citizenry engagements following  Presidential and General Elections in Liberia in November 2017. Plans are underway to have Mr. Cummings undertake social media engagements and personal visits with Liberians in and out of the country to promote a “Liberia First” agenda.

Meantime, in the lead up to the December event, reports say hundreds of ordinary Liberians from various parts of the U.S. have announced plans to travel to Maryland, USA for the engagement with the ANC leader.

Organizers say the special retreat will be held on December 7-8 in Silver Spring, Maryland, the United States and all Liberians are invited to attend.

By Emmanuel Abalo

West African Journal Magazine

 

Liberia: ANC Leader Alexander B. Cummings Keynote Address To ALJA Convention In Minnesota

Mr. President and officials of the Association of Liberian Journalists in the United States, my fellow Liberians, distinguished ladies and gentlemen.

ANC Leader Alexander B. Cummings Jr
ANC Leader Alexander B. Cummings Jr.

I am deeply honored by your invitation to speak to you today.

Given the current state of affairs in our country and the unique role that journalists play in a democratic society, I thought to speak to you today about how we can use journalism as a tool for promoting accountable governance and development in our beloved Mama Liberia.

As I gave thought to my speech, it dawned on me that exactly 73 years ago this month—on October 24, 1945—Liberia was among the countries that led the world in founding an organization that, despite its many flaws, has been in the vanguard of the fight for democracy and development across the world:  The United Nations.

In 1948, just three years after its founding with our country Liberia as a founding member, the United Nations held its Conference on Freedom of Information that declared access to information an essential freedom.

Let’s ponder this for a moment.  In 1948, the United Nations had been in existence for barley three years.  It was still faced with the daunting tasks of pulling the world out of the rubble of the Second World War and providing basic services–food, housing, health care and education—to tens of thousands of war survivors.

Yet, the United Nations found the time to focus on the importance of the right to information—the right to know.  Why?

The answer perhaps lies in the fact that freedom of information is a freedom that underpins all of the other freedoms we hold dear.

Access to information promotes transparent and accountable governance.

When there is transparency, when people know what is going on, they can monitor and assess the performance of government; they can hold public officials accountable.

When there is accountability, government is more responsive to the needs of the people; it is more attuned to protecting their rights and providing them with basic social services.

Information Minister Eugene Nagbe and ALJA President Moses Sandy
Information Minister Eugene Nagbe and ALJA President Moses Sandy

So how do you as journalists fit in here?  Well, the journalist is the vital link between policy makers and the people.   When you perform your jobs well, you are the conduit through which the people communicate with the government and the government communicates with the people.

And what a crucially important role you have to play here.  An independent media that represents plural points of view plays an essential role in delivering the information people need to participate in the debates and influence the decisions that shape their lives.

A media sector that reaches and gives voice to the broad populace can create informed citizens who can better monitor the performance of their leaders.

In short, by helping provide the public access to information about the workings of public institutions, the media vests the people with the power to demand quality performance and accountability from their government.

A strong, free, and independent media that monitors those in power and provides accurate information to citizens can also serve as an effective check on corruption—by exposing private and public sector corruption, a free media allows voters to hold corrupt politicians to account.

And we can point to very recent examples of how the media can play a very effective role in exposing corruption.   Take the case of the missing containers of money.   It took intrepid reporting by independent journalists to expose the fact that somehow our government printed millions of dollars that suddenly went “missing” and cannot be accounted for.

We will depend on you, journalists, to follow up on this story so that the government provides answers to questions that demand answers:  who ordered the printing of the missing money?  How much exactly was printed? Where was it printed?  Who took charge of the money once it entered the country? Did it go through the proper channels and processes at the Central Bank before being injected into the official money supply?  How is it that at one point the government can tell us that millions of dollars is missing and identify individuals who are under investigation  for the missing money, but yet at another point the government through its Finance Minister and the Central Bank Governor can announce that there is no money missing?  Which version is true?  Does this suggest a cover-up at the very highest levels of government?  Is the missing money the result of incompetence or outright thievery or both by government officials?

These are crucial questions you can help the Liberian people answer by shining the bright sunrays of fair and objective reporting as a disinfectant on the processes of government.  And it is important that we get answers to these questions because as much as we have heard about corruption in previous government, we have never seen anything on this scale:  the literal disappearance of tens of millions, if not hundreds of millions, of dollars that belong to the Liberian people.  If there is anything that defines corruption, this is it

ALJA Members
ALJA Members

In addition to taking on corruption, your focus should be on providing the kind of information that helps the public evaluate government programs and policies.

Above all, you want to provide information that allows the public to reach sound conclusions about whether public pronouncements actually become sound public policies.

This may require a sea change in the way you operate.  You must move beyond a fixation on the sensational.  You must resist the temptation to politicize your stories, or to make them just about personalities.

Instead, your stories must focus on issues—issues that matter in the lives of  your audience and help them to both understand and affect the policy choices their government makes.

You must also follow up on your stories to see whether the policies announced today are producing the desired effect tomorrow.

Additionally, you must write or broadcast your stories so you provide your readers or listeners the background and context they need to fully understand the issues at stake.

Recent developments in our country again provide useful examples about how journalists can go about doing this.  Very recently, apparently as a result of the injection of the millions of missing dollars into the money supply, we saw a significant increase in inflation.   Indeed, the President himself told us that the Liberian dollar decreased by about 25 percent under his watch, meaning that ordinary Liberians must now pay 25 percent more for everything they consume.  The President proposed to solve this problem by announcing a series of measures, including the injection of $25 million dollars into the economy.

As journalists your duty should be to objectively examine the initiatives proposed by the President and ask critical questions to determine whether they have produced or can produce the desired results: Did the government actually inject $25 million into the economy?  How did it do so?  Have we seen an appreciable resultant decrease in inflation?   Are the policies announced by the government capable of addressing the long term structural economic challenges we face or do they represent at best only short term ephemeral gains?

As you go about asking these questions and examining the results of actions taken by the government you should also examine and educate the public about the merits of alternative proposals for getting us out of the economic morass in which we find ourselves as a nation.

For example, unlike the President, we in the opposition put forward a set of policy ideas that, if implemented, can produce some immediate positive results while simultaneously and more importantly addressing the long term structural impediments to growth and development.  It is worth quickly summarizing the key features of the policy proposals we put forward:

Maintain Sound Fiscal Discipline: First, we called on the government to ensure that we live within our means as a nation and avoid unwise debt we cannot afford. There are some indications that the sharp decline in the Liberian Dollar since the President came to office is a result of financial markets already taking into account the strain that servicing over $1 billion in new debt sought by the government will place on our meager national budget. We should thus look to smartly grow—and not borrow—ourselves out of the country’s current economic morass.

Adopt Smart Growth Inducing Tax Policies:  We also proposed that the government focus on tax policies that can spur rather than stymie growth.   It is often the case that acting out of desperation for cash to fund what amounts in many cases to unwise and ill-conceived initiatives,  the government maintains a regime of relatively high tariffs and other taxes that inhibit the risk taking so essential to wealth creation.  Moreover, tariffs on essential imported commodities are among the most regressive taxes, adversely affecting the poor whose cause the President claims to champion.  Smart tax policies, including targeted reductions in tariffs and other taxes, can stimulate growth and, in the process, add more revenues to the government’s coffers than the current regressive tax regime.

Eliminate Monopolies:  Additionally, we urged the government to do away with monopolies and exclusive licenses. The average Liberian knows that if the government gives only one person the right to import “chicken soup” or tomatoes that person, because he has no competitor, can charge supra competitive prices or bring in inferior products.   There is no net economic benefit we derive as a nation from giving only a few persons or entities exclusive licenses to import essential products like rice, chicken soup, and other consumer goods.  Opening the market to more people with a focus on Liberian business people, would result in lower prices and better product choices for consumers.

Enhance Environment for Exports/Import Substitution:  We further stressed the need for the government to adopt sensible, cost-effective regulations and policies to increase local and foreign investment in export/import substitution sectors.   Regulations and policies could include:

Creating a food safety inspection unit along with relevant regulations so that our farmers’ produce can meet standards for export to European and other markets: There are many stories of our development partners trying to help our farmers export crops such as okra, pepper or eggplant only to be stopped in their tracks because of the absence of something as basic as a national food safety inspection system or unit. Small investments in establishing such a unit could pay huge dividends.

Establishing industrial parks in coastal cities like Buchanan and Harper with built in advantages such as sea ports and easy road access to airports and Monrovia:  These advantages would serve to attract investors looking to manufacture for export or local consumption.

Improving the value chain for key agricultural products like rice:  Pilot projects funded by international donors around the country amply demonstrate that improving the rice value chain by, for example, helping Liberians entrepreneurs establish rice mills can produce huge results—enhancing  the quality of locally produced rice and creating a market for local producers.  Scaling up these projects could help us reduce the hundreds of millions of dollars we spend annually on rice imports—money that could go to build schools, hospitals and roads.

Implement Reforms that make it easy to move goods In and Out of our Ports: Moving goods in and out of our Ports is unnecessarily cumbersome, complicated and expensive. Reforms to simplify moving goods in and out of our Ports should be implemented to enhance ease of doing business and to help ordinary Liberians.

We now urge you to do these policy prescriptions of ours the same thing we urge you to do to the policy ideas announced by the government:   Subject them to rigorous and critical scrutiny.   Examine their potential upsides and downsides and report stories that educate and inform the public and policy-makers accordingly.

ALJA Convention Dignitaries
ALJA Convention Dignitaries

We are convinced you will conclude that while they do not provide a panacea or a magic wand that instantly cures all of our development challenges, the ideas we have advanced offer us a chance to successfully set ourselves on the journey to development.

Let me now talk briefly about the role of the media in promoting development itself.

The notion of development journalism rests on the premise that the media has the power to make positive change possible.

If there is one thing that characterizes development journalism, it is a singular focus on deliberately and actively pressing for change; on mobilizing the broad populace to pursue a development agenda.

So what do you need or what must you do to be an effective development journalist?

I believe that to be a development journalist, you must first appreciate the unique role the media can play in the development process.   You must then be dedicated to using your professional skills to educate, to teach, to pass on knowledge and skills that enable others to contribute to the development of your country.

But to play this role effectively, you yourselves must be thoroughly versed in the relevant development issues and challenges.  You must have the ability to evaluate the upsides and downsides of specific policy initiatives.

Much of this you can gain from reading, learning, and thinking through the critical development challenges our country faces.

To be a good development journalist also means that you must be able to target and reach the people most affected by or in need of development programs.

In our country, Liberia, those people live mostly in rural areas. To make development journalism meaningful we thus need to focus on the needs and aspirations of the rural poor.

To understand their needs and aspirations, you must spend time with them.  It is not enough to report about them from the comfort and safety of Monrovia or other urban areas.

A good development journalist will also ensure that the people who are affected by development programs will have their voices heard and their views known to policy makers.

A preference for profiling innovation and success stories that motivate people and inspire them to work for change is also a very good attribute of a development journalist.   You must further have a knack for presenting people with the various development options and letting them understand the pros and cons of these options.

There is more you can do.   You can show why development issues are important by giving them prominent placement in your newspapers or in your radio or television newscasts.

You must also put emphasis on evaluating and reporting on how specific development projects are relevant to the needs of local communities or the nation as a whole.

So development journalism does not merely mean reporting about something that happened, about a speech, or a project. It is reporting about trends, processes, policy choices and their broad implications.

Development journalism is not about championing or promoting a political party, a government, or a specific personality.

Development journalism is about telling stories, publishing articles, and providing information that foster fundamental social and economic change—that help people make the right health choices; that educate farmers about emerging market trends, and how to employ improved farming methods; it is about exposing national policies that discriminate against the vulnerable—women, girls, the poor—and what can be done to remedy societal ills.

I must admit it is a difficult task but it’s doable task.  You have your work cut out for you.

But before you give up and think it is too hard, let me remind you of how hard those that came before you had to work to bequeath us the country we have today.

Many of our founding fathers were journalists. Hillary Teage, who wrote our declaration of independence, edited the first newspaper ever founded in Liberia–The Liberia Herald, which was founded in 1826.

The Herald was the principal source of news about the new country; it provided what we will call development news today, exhorting its readers about what they could do to improve their lives.

Another of our great early fathers, Edward Wilmot Blyden, will go on to  serve as the Editor of the Herald from—using its pages to promote the causes he held dear—integration between the settlers and the indigenous tribes.

Many of those who came before us willingly sacrificed their freedom, and chose the jail cell over the comfort of their homes because they steadfastly refused to compromise their journalistic integrity.  You know them better than I do:   Tuan Wreh, Rufus Darpoh, and Albert Porte.

Then there were those who paid the ultimate price in the performance of their journalistic duties:  Moses Washington, Tommy Raynes, Klohn Hinneh, Sekou Kromah; Charles Gbenyon.

So every time you are tempted to throw in the towel and give up because you believe your working conditions are not the most optimal; or because you believe that powerful forces are out to frustrate your efforts to inform and educate your audience, think about these men; think about the powerful examples they set for you; the heroic roles they all played in making it possible for you to enjoy the freedom you enjoy to practice your craft today.

And as you do so, I have no doubt that you will resolve to carry on—to be the best possible journalist you can be; to practice your craft in service to a larger goal:  building a stable,  truly democratic  and prosperous  Liberia that serves the interest of all of its people.

ANC-Liberia Leader Alex B. Cummings Jr. Speaks On National Issues

Johannesburg, South Africa – “All politics aside, Liberians should be genuinely concerned about the direction of the country.” The statement was made recently in an exclusive interview on a number of national issues by Mr. Alexander B. Cummings Jr. of Liberia’s opposition Alternative National Congress (ANC) political party.

Mr. Alexander B. Cummings Jr.
Mr. Alexander B. Cummings Jr.

The statement was a response to the current trajectory of the West African country under the administration of former soccer legend-turned-politician President George M. Weah since his inauguration in January.

Mr. Cummings said since its incumbency, the Weah Administration has not told Liberians where they want to take the country and how they will get there. “There are no plans for infrastructures in education, healthcare or agriculture; no milestones, goals or plans for the various sectors, except road building,” Cummings said.

The opposition leader who has been gaining strong ratings as a credible voice among citizens cited the unwillingness, inability and lack of competence in government as obstacles to moving the country forward.

Regarding the “resource swap” that the Weah Administration is pursuing with some international partners, Cummings offered that there are different ways of securing funding for the country. “But not knowing the value of our own resources hampers our negotiating ability with the international community. There has been no due diligence done by the Government.”

ANC Partisans - File Photo courtesy of FPA
ANC Partisans – File Photo courtesy of FPA

The statement is an apparent reference to a disclosure following the return of President Weah from China, that government was interested in offering major national resources to China and other countries in return for much needed loans and grants to regenerate the economy and build infrastructures.

EBOMAF AND ETON LOANS

Cummings heavily criticized the EBOMAF and ETON private loans which were being pursued by the Liberian Government, saying, they have apparently failed because “this government conducted no due diligence on the lenders or analysis on how the loans would be paid back. We need to own our destiny.”

Since disclosure of negotiations for the EBOMAF and ETON loans shortly after assuming the leadership, the Weah Administration has so far failed to explain the conditions, process and its due diligence in pursuing such loans outside of conventional lenders and why, to date, the loans have not materialized.

Cummings referenced the issue of senior Administration officials acquiring huge assets in a relatively short period of time since joining government. He observed that if this is true, it is highly questionable. Although, he said, he had no proof that some government officials had acquired huge assets so quickly, these problems and a combination of others have led to the growing frustration Liberians are experiencing with the Weah government and that led to the recent anti-government protest on Monday, September 24, 2018.

“MISSING BILLIONS”

Admitting that he did not have a lot of information on the “missing container” of billions of dollars in local currency, the ANC leader reiterated his call for an independent investigation to get the truth. In early September, local media disclosed that billions in Liberian currency which were printed by the former Ellen Johnson Sirleaf Administration were imported into the country, beginning last November through March of this year. It is alleged that the containers and bags of money have gone “missing”. The Liberian government has instituted an investigation into the matter and barred nearly 35 persons associated with the scandal from leaving the country, including the former Bank Governor Milton Weeks and Deputy Bank executive Charles Sirleaf.

“Liberians cannot trust government to investigate itself. These are legitimate concerns. Government officials are giving conflicting accounts,” Cummings said about utterances from the country’s Finance and Planning Minister Samuel Tweah that no money is missing, while the chief government’s spokesman Eugene Nagbe confirmed that President Weah had instituted an investigation team to determine the exact amount of the missing money.

The Minister of Justice of Liberia Counselor Frank Musa Dean issued a press statement on September 17, 2018 in which he disclosed that a Presidential investigating team to include the Liberia National Police (LNP), the National Security Agency (NSA), and the Financial Intelligence Unit (FIU) had been set up to investigate the matter. The Liberian Government later confirmed that it had requested international investigation assistance from the U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), Treasury Department and the International Monetary Fund (IMF), ECOWAS and the African Union (AU). The Government late last week reconfigured the investigative team and elevated the country’s anti-corruption agency as the lead entity.

Former President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf has angrily denied that anything improper was done by her administration saying she was shocked by rumors of stolen funds which she dismissed as a fabrication.

CIVIL SOCIETY PROTEST

Asked if he is funding any anti-government protest as alleged by the Chairman of the ruling Congress for Democratic Change (CDC) political party Mr. Mulbah Morlu, Cummings emphatically stated, “I am not,” adding, “although I support the right of Liberians to peacefully protest and petition their government on legitimate concerns, it is untrue.”

Cummings who has taken on the role as leader and spokesperson of the opposition bloc in the small West African country, further denied that he has met protest organizers adding, “Government is insulting the intelligence of Liberians by accusing me of supporting the protest. The protest was organic and spontaneous; and it was due to the incompetence on the part of the Government,” Cummings said.

On September 24, a coalition of over 26 civil society groups, under the banner, Coalition of Citizens United To Bring Our Money Back (COCUBOMB), spurred by disclosure of “missing billions”, equivalent to an estimated $104 million USD, staged a peaceful protest to demand accountability and return of the money. The missing money scandal has somewhat paralyzed the Weah Administration.

In a stunning disclosure, Cummings said while officials of the CDC were accusing him of funding the last protest, there was intelligence that the CDC and supporters were planning to foment violence and attack the peaceful protesters and then blame him. The protest was peaceful.

GOVERNMENT ENGAGEMENT

Asked why the ruling CDC was accusing opposition parties of not offering suggestions and advice to the current Administration, Cummings batted down the charge saying, “nowhere in the world is the opposition obligated to help government. However, given the direction of the country, circumstances are such that it will take all of us to help or Liberian will suffer.”

The former Coca Cola executive and highly successful international business mind Cummings who joined national politics in 2016 said, “since the inauguration of the new government in January, he and his political party the ANC have tried to be helpful by offering suggestions and recommendations on how to move the country forward. He pushed back strongly on suggestions that the opposition’s only aim was to paralyze the new Administration.

Liberian Opposition Bloc - ANC-LP-UP
Liberian Opposition Bloc – ANC-LP-UP

Cummings offered proof of attempts to be helpful partners as the opposition and referred to a document issued in July by a coalition of political parties including the Alternative National Congress (ANC), the former ruling Unity Party (UP) and the Liberty Party (LP).
Entitled Response of the Collaborating Parties (ANC, UP & LP) To President Weah’s Statement On The Economy, the Liberian opposition bloc listed “…several policy options that can produce immediate policy results while simultaneously and more importantly at the same time address the long term structural impediments to growth and development…”

They include, maintaining sound fiscal discipline, adopting smart growth inducing tax policies, eliminating monopolies and implementing land reform.
The opposition political parties also advanced to government the policy recommendation of enhancing environment for export/imports substitution and reforms to make it easy to move goods in and out of the ports.

The three political parties at the time said, “…Harnessing our collective strengths to advance Liberia’s development should be our focus as we work to devise and implement a detailed road map for spurring sustained, market driven, private sector led growth that creates jobs and lift living standards for all Liberians.”
While declining any formal advisory role to Government, Cummings said, “There is an ANC blueprint out there. I am happy to give advice to government. I’ve even encouraged qualified ANC supporters to take jobs in this government, if offered. But the CDC led government only wants CDcians in government as you’ve heard the Vice President say.”

It can be recalled that in May, Vice President Jewel Howard-Taylor told a CDC political gathering in Bong County, central Liberia that, “…The fact that some of you who sitting here, are not members of the Coalition, but we have nothing in our hearts against you because I would have removed everybody, replaced you with people I trust and believe would work with us, because you would have done same to me had you been in power” adding, “this is my time, because I served as opposition for 12 year…”

At that meeting, the Liberian Vice President, a former spouse of ex-President Charles G. Taylor, warned local chiefs to join the ruling CDC or be replaced by party loyalists. Her statement was met with criticisms by some Liberians.

The ANC leader criticized the “arrogance of government, lip service and know it all” attitude and charged that the August meeting between President Weah and the opposition was a “charade.”
According to him, “…They, the government, came to the meeting with no agenda, and had no plan in mind, outcome expectations or follow-up plan in mind. They were pressured to engage the opposition; but they do not want help,” Cummings observed.

WAR CRIMES COURT

On the issue of the establishment of a War and Economic Crimes Court for Liberia, Cummings theorized that the country was evenly split. “Those who are in favor of the Court are very vocal and emotional about this issue. But those against are the ones who want to avoid any potential national issues and just want to move ahead,” he said.

Pressed on his position, Cummings of the ANC said, for him there are three core issues to address war and economic crimes in Liberia. He named them as justice, ending the culture of impunity and facilitating reconciliation among Liberians.

He, however, held that economic crimes have done the most harm to Liberians over the years.

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President George M. Weah

According to Cummings, Liberians want to hear from President Weah on the issue of the establishment of a War and Economic Crimes Court. “It is very important that the President take the lead and state his position on the issue,” Cummings observed.

The Liberian leader President Weah has signaled that the prosecution of alleged war criminals in Liberia is not a priority for his government inspite of local and international pressure to bring them to book for their past actions during the war.

The ANC emerged fourth in the Presidential election with 7.2% of the total votes cast in October, 2017.

By Emmanuel Abalo
West African Journal Magazine