Liberian Student Activist Martin K.N. Kollie Writes Opposition Bloc

Monrovia, Liberia-July 3, 2019:

Dear Political Leaders: 

With optimism for a new era of an egalitarian Republic and in pressing pursuit of a fresh beginning which offers genuine hope for millions of peasants who remain very vulnerable to peril and despair, I bring you patriotic greetings during such a difficult time as this when our nation is fast descending into an abyss of economic paralysis, creeping dictatorship and mass looting of public resources. 

Leaders of Liberia’s Opposition Bloc (l-r) Cllr Walter Brumskine (LP), Alexander B. Cummings Jr (ANC), Joseph Boakai (UP), Senator Nyonblee Karnga-Lawrence (LP) and Benoni Urey (ALP)

The future seems scaring and cloudy under footballing President George M. Weah as a result of massive leadership bankruptcy and increasing hardship. Vision is lacking – no concrete agenda – no realistic strategy – and an unquenched greed to amass illicit wealth are new normal under this ruling CDC clique. The “Change for Hope” mantra is yet to offer any real hope firmly built upon those cherisheddemocratic values of justice, equality, civil liberty and prosperity for all. 

Such failed slogan especially under a domineering presidency is a reflection of a PROMISE BETRAYED. Liberians are left alone in a state of obscurity and beggary after 16 months of participating in a historic democratic transition. The CHOICE made in 2017 has proven futile so far. Such barren decision has made them even more vulnerable, miserable and hopeless. 

Amidst these harsh realities virulently crushing Liberia and Liberians, there are two (2) fundamental questions to ponder over: 

1. Do Liberians still have hope? If yes, where can they turn for relief/reprieve? 
2. Can 2019 Montserrado Senatorial and Representative By-elections offer any real hope or change for Liberians especially ahead of 2020 and 2023? 

Of course, all is not lost – there is still hope far beyond prevailing odds. The Republic can be rescued from this national tragedy or nightmare only if revered patriots begin to unite in words and deeds. This rescue mission MUST begin with these 2019 senatorial and representative elections in Montserrado County – The hotbed or powerhouse of politics in Liberia. 2019 is a defining moment. In fact, it is a litmus test for 2020 and 2023. 

Beyond this end, I thought to pen this open letter to you as key opposition leaders in Liberia who command huge following and influence/affluence in our body politics.  This is a form of caution and a call to action. The nation needs you most to rekindle a unifying spirit of solidarity during these challenging times especially in these impending 2019 senatorial and representative elections. 

It is not enough to channel such deep sense of resilience, patriotism and urge for CHANGE through audio and video recordings. Though endorsed as senatorial and representative candidates by UP, LP, ANC and ALP, but it appears like candidate Abraham Darius Dillion and candidate Telia Urey are left alone to woo voters and canvass for opposition victory in vote-rich Montserrado, which in my opinion seems unpredictable and unfair.  

Ruling CDC Logo

Like Weah as president of Liberia and political leader of CDC is frantically campaigning almost everywhere for candidate Paulita Wie and candidate Abu Kamara, how I hope Boakai, Brumskine, Cummings and Urey as prominent figures of The Opposition could go all out to campaign for Dillon and Telia. This could seal THE DEAL and send a resounding caveat to President Weah and CDC ahead of 2020 and 2023. Lest you forget that vote-rich Montserrado holds the key to the presidency, and any elected seat won in Montserrado is a plus or political boost. 

These elections are about Weah as President/CDC/NPP/LPDP and MDR on one hand versus UP, LP, ANC and ALP on another. These elections are not about Dillion and Telia. Mr. Weah is taking these elections very personal evident by his outburst against the opposition during his party’s campaign rally on June 22, 2019. It was good to have endorsed Dillion and Telia but it would be far better to roll up your sleeves and begin to canvass for them in trenches and hamlets. A lot of your supporters who are eligible voters would be far more inspired to vote for Dillon and Telia just by seeing you (Boakai, Brumskine, Cummings and Urey). 

Opposition Candidates In Bye Elections Abraham Darius Dillon and Telia Urey

This is why ‘physical presence’ counts more than audio and video recordings in a process such as this. 

If Weah along with collaborating parties wins (Worst-case Scenario): 

1. The opposition (UP, LP, ANC and ALP) would be rendered ‘impotent and weak’
2. Weah would have his way and even break more laws andamass more wealth (domineering presidency)
3. Weah’s claim of having exclusive ownership of Montserrado would be justified/proven
4. It would appear like Weah is doing well. This could validate his performance rating
5. It would place CDC in a better and stronger position for 2020 senatorial elections and 2023 presidential elections.

If Opposition Collaborating Parties (UP, LP, ANC and ALP) claim victory:

1. This will send a clarion message against misrule and bad governance (especially corruption, dictatorship, and increasing hardship) under ex-Soccer Star George Weah and CDC
2. It would render CDC as a ‘frail and unpopular’ ruling clique in vote-rich Montserrado after a period of just 16 months
3. Weah’s popularity in his ‘political stronghold’ would be deflated/diminished. This would further disprove Weah’s wild claim of having absolute control/ownership of Montserrado
4. It will strengthen opposition parties and solidarity forces to unite even more ahead of 2020 and 2023 elections in order to SAVE Liberia
5. The people’s hope and aspiration for a new future would be reawakened through an alternative and opposition victory. 

Boakai, Brumskine, Cummings and Urey, I admonish you as key opposition political leaders to consider “The Montserrado Factor” as an indispensable political capital you could leech and/or lane on for future elections. With just 5 more days to these upcoming by-elections, I encourage all ofyou to leave your comfort zones and move across Montserrado to canvass for your candidates (Dillon and Telia). Yet another opportunity has been made available for you to resist Weah’s overly ambitious plan of consolidatingexcessive power ahead of 2023. You must prevent this moribund semblance of fascism and authoritarianism. 

Ruling CDC candidates Abu Kamara and Paulita Wie

You have all it takes to WIN in 2023 as opposition collaborating parties (UP, LP, ANC and ALP). But such victory begins now in 2019 and beyond! Yes, you can win Weah and his Coalition of Desperate Crooks (CDC, NPP, LPDP and MDR). Let me dig out some NUMBERS quickly: 

2017 Elections: 

1. Weah and his Coalition:
a. CDC, NPP, and LPDP – 596,037 votes (38.4%)
b. MDR – 127,666 votes (8.2%)
c. Total – 723,703 votes (46.5%)

 

2. Opposition Collaborating Parties:
a. UP – 446,716 (28.8%)
b. LP – 149,495 (9.6%)
c. ANC – 112,067 (7.2%)
d. ALP – 24,246 (1.6%)
e. Total – 732,524 (47.2%) 

So this means that the four (4) opposition collaborating parties stand a better chance to win in 2023 if they remain on this plinth of unhindered unity, honesty and loyalty. But victory in 2023 is largely dependent on 2020 and 2019 elections. This is why all four political leaders MUST consider these senatorial and representative by-elections very crucial. Getting fully involved with this process could even avert or discourage any form of electoral fraud/malfeasance (November 2018 Sinoe County Senatorial By-election is a case to reference and a lesson learned). 

Out of two (2) senatorial seats in Montserrado, CDC is already occupying one. You must not allow CDC to win this other seat. Even the late Senator Geraldine Doe-Sheriff who later became a prominent political figure in the oppositionbloc and vigorously campaigned against CDC in 2017 won’t be happy if this happens. The Late Senator didn’t campaign or canvass through audio and video recordings. She wore her boots and moved into the trenches. Amidst a declining economy coupled with high unemployment, inflation,corruption, rape and mysterious deaths, this could be an easy victory for opposition political parties. Such victory is only possible if your physical presence (full involvement both in words and deeds) is with Dillon and Telia. The people are looking up to you for guidance and direction. 

Using White-collar approach (speaking to voters through audio and video recordings) in order to woo voters may yield less impact. Had these voters and stalwarts of your parties used similar approach in 2017, you wouldn’t had accumulated thousands of votes. If they do in 2023presidential election, your support-base would dwindle. The nation is in dire need of transformation and visionaryleadership. Paulita and Abu are far from possessing such quality or trait. But they could be imposed through whatever means if you keep a distance from this crucial process. 

The country is in a state of trance (subconscious state) and its image is being ruined. The democratic gains made so farare fast diminishing while corruption is being institutionalized under Mr. Weah and his cabal of kleptocrats. No foreign appointment or interest is greater than Liberia’s interest right now. Acting too busy to campaign and abandoning this 2019 senatorial and representative elections could cause you a lot. So far, I have only seen ALP Political Leader Benoni Urey in mass rallies campaigning and directly interacting with voters. All of you must muster this courage to do same if an opposition victory is to be secured in 2019, 2020 and 2023. You cannot be too busy or overly tight with personal matters during these very critical times. 

Remember, any form of defeat for Dillion and Telia is a defeat for you (Boakai, Brumskine, Cummings and Urey). And this could likely spill over or become a big blow in future elections. It now appears in some quarters that if it is not about you, it can’t be about anyone, which I still do not want to believe. Therefore, I caution you to disprove this public notion and move into action with urgency for an opposition victory in these elections. Stand up and act now for our nation needs you more than ever before. You cannot spectate or play a laissez-faire role during these very criticaltimes. Doing so would certainly make Weah overly powerful and ambitious to further ruin our Republic. 

Out of love for Country, this is a caution and a call to action from a young patriot. 

Yours in pursuit of a New Liberia, 

Martin K. N. Kollie 

Youth and Student Activist 

 

Cc: Mr. Wilmot Paye, Chairman, Unity Party (UP)

Sen. Steve Zargo, Chairman, Liberty Party (LP)

 Sen. Daniel Naatehn, Chairman, Alternational National Congress (ANC)

 Mr. J. S. Theodore Momo, Jr., Chairman, All Liberian Party (ALP)

Candidate Abraham Darius Dillon and Candidate Telia Urey 

West African Journal Magazine

 

IJG Says Dispatching Investigators To Liberia To Monitor & Collect Data On Threats To Activists

Washington DC, USA and Monrovia, Liberia- February 11, 2019: The International Justice Group (IJG) says it has dispatched a team of Investigators to Liberia as a result of increased security threats to several civic and human rights organizations and activists.

International Justice Group (IJG)

According to a representative of the IJG, it says it has received credible information through its contacts in the West African country and social media monitor. and is concerned that senior operatives of the ruling party and auxiliaries, some of whom are disguised, are intimidating, issuing threats of death and bodily harm to others who freely express critical views of the Government.

Liberia’s Finance and Planning Minister Samuel Tweah last year lashed out at the media over its reportage against the Government and openly threatened to “weaponize” supporters against the media.

Ruling CDC Party Mulbah Morlu

Two weeks ago, the Chairman of the ruling Congress for Democratic Change (CDC) Mulbah Morlu, at a hastily arranged partisans meeting at his party’s headquarters in Monrovia, accused the opposition bloc and supporters of supporting the assassination of President George M. Weah.

“There are a few supporters of the three political parties, that we’ve documented, that post on social media calling in people to take up arms against the President. And one of them came out to say that the President should be assassinated…” Morlu quoting social media charged.

He, however, presented no evidence to substantiate his accusation that the posters were opposition supporters.

Dolakeh Jonathan Saye Taryor

A member of the opposition Alternative National Congress (ANC) Dolakeh Jonathan Saye Taryor, in a strong reaction to Morlu’s accusations, called them “reckless and irresponsible” and an attempt to instill fear among citizens.

He told the West African Journal Magazine, in a telephone interview on Sunday night, that the ANC and coalition of opposition political parties are committed to maintaining the peace in Liberia.

Mr. Taryor scoffed at Morlu’s “assassination” accusation, adding that, “…the assassination of President Weah, will not, in anyway, install the opposition in power..”, and called Morlu’s Statement simply false.

Coalition of Opposition Political Parties – Liberia

The opposition member challenged the credibility of the current CDC Chairman Morlu and his “ridiculous” claim a couple of years ago that, he, Morlu, met former US President Barack Obama at a summit in Ghana where he claimed, they both held “high level talks”.

There is no proof of this Obama meeting that Morlu claimed.

Taryor said the CDC Chairman was attempting to deflect from the prevailing issues of the missing “16 billion” Liberian dollars scandal, proof of the provision of 78,000 chairs to schools, as claimed by President Weah in his State of The Union Address on January 28, 2019, the deteriorating economy under the CDC-led government and other missteps.

The opposition member called for a state investigation of the CDC Chairman over the “incendiary” accusations, which, he said, have the potential to cause chaos and endanger the lives of opposition leaders and supporters.

“IJG is saying its Investigators will be fully stationed in Liberia indefinitely to monitor Human Rights Violations and has recommended several Liberians to the US and European governments for travel restrictions.”

The global research and rights organization says the IJG is currently lobbying in Washington DC, the United States Senate for full Congressional passage of House of Representatives Resolution (H.Res) 1055 which calls for the full implementation of the Final Report of Liberia’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) and the establishment of a Special tribunal for Liberia.

Seal of the US House of Representatives

The Resolution which was introduced September, 2018, and agreed to by the House of Representatives last November, “…Supports efforts by the Department of State and the U.S. Agency for International Development to advance Liberian national reconciliation…”

Map of Liberia

According to the group, it says it is collecting data on alleged crimes being committed under the current Liberian Administration and will advocate for accountability for all economic and rights abuses.

By Our Justice Reporter In Washington DC, USA and National Politics Correspondent In Monrovia

West African Journal Magazine

Liberia: “Missing Billions” Report In; Govt Allegedly Planning Against Opposition, Media

Monrovia, Liberia January 15, 2018: The Task Force constituted to investigate the missing $16 billion dollars in the West African country of Liberia has reportedly presented its findings to President George M. Weah in the capital Monrovia, according to an unimpeachable source.

Political Map of Liberia
Political Map of Liberia

The forensic report is expected to confirm that the printed Liberia dollars did come into the country and that over $2 billion Liberia dollars (LD) are actually unaccounted for and may be part of monies which came into the country after the inauguration of the Congress For Democratic Change (CDC) led government in January, 2018.

Shortly following disclosure of the “missing billion” scandal by an independent Liberian investigative journalist Philibert Browne of the local Hot Pepper newspaper last year, the Weah Administration instituted a task force to investigate the matter. The U.S. Government through USAID seconded forensic auditors to assist with the investigation.

Last September, shortly before departure to address the UN General Assembly in New York, President Weah addressed citizens on the “missing billions”.

“I asked all citizens to be patient and those involved in the investigation to be corporative. I am confident that in the end, we will come to a logical conclusion into the circumstances surrounding this money and if anyone is caught in any financial malfeasance they will be held accountable to the full extent. I can assure you, my fellow Liberians, proper accountability of the money in question is vital to my government’s ability to improve your lives. As we accelerate our investigation to which I have invited international partners to join in advising us to ensure transparency. Let’s us remain calm and have faith in the process. I believe that the mandate I received from you is a mandate to end corruption in public service and I remain fully committed to this task. I promise to deliver on this mandate and I will not let you down, the President said at the time.”

It can be recalled that on Monday September 17, 2018, the Ministry of Justice (MOJ) in Monrovia issued a press statement in which it officially confirmed that an investigation of the matter was underway by multi-sector government agencies including the Liberia National Police, the National Security Agency (NSA) and the Financial Intelligence Unit (FIU) .

liberia justice minister counselor frank musa dean
Liberia Justice Minister Frank Musa Dean

“…Initial findings indicate that the containers and bags of money allegedly arrived between November, 2017, prior to the inauguration of the current Government and on August, 2018. Evidence available to the investigative team has established that the current administration was not informed about the containers and bags of money and bags of money into the country…” the Justice Ministry press statement said at the time.

Information Minister Eugene L. Nagbe around the same time and at the height of the scandal disclosure said, “We can confirm that the money was brought through the Freeport of Monrovia and the Roberts International Airport and for now we can confirm that the amount was L$16 billion. An estimate of a little over US$60 million as far as we are concerned from ongoing investigation as of today, and it came in the two ports of entry,”

But the country’s Finance and Planning Minister Samuel Tweah quickly dismissed the Information Minister’s statement in a radio interview on Thursday, September 20, saying, the  “missing billions” had been infused into the Liberian economy.

Former President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf  later dismissed any responsibility for the scandal saying it was a ploy to impugn her reputation.

liberian protesters - file photo
“Missing Billions” Protesters In Liberia

Our source in the Executive Mansion who is familiar with the report but not authorized to discuss it due to its sensitivity, told the West African Journal Magazine Tuesday that $1 billion LD is also unaccounted for from the  about $5 billion LD printed by the former Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf Administration. About $10 million LD of $15 million LD which were allegedly infused to stabilize the Liberian economy is reported to be unaccounted for – no record, the source said, adding that the plan is to water down the report before release to say that “although the money is not accounted  it is not missing”.

Government spokespersons and controlled media have been instructed to push the narrative that “no money is missing”.

Opposition and Media

Allegedly, part of the Weah Administration plan to blunt the fall-out from the damaging report is a massive public relations onslaught to “kill public anger”, the source said. Protesters in September, outraged by the alleged “missing billions”, staged a peaceful march to demand accountability and return of the money.

free press
Free [Press In Liberia
Manifestation of the alleged plan also include discussions among CDC strategists and government functionaries to target vocal talk shows and hosts and to have critical content controlled through new restrictive media regulations, the co-opting of some “Government friendly” media personnel and financial strangulation of others, the source disclosed, adding that, “some businesses and government agencies are being called in and threatened and instructed to re-channel business to more government-friendly media houses. Some critical talk show hosts will be taken off air”.

A Liberia media executive and publisher of the of the independent Inquirer Newspaper Mr. Phillip Wesseh disclosed over the weekend that there was an attempt to “destroy” his paper with the sudden exit of about five employees who are planning to launch the “Independent Inquirer” newspaper. Accusing fingers have been pointed at the Government in the scheme to financially destroy the paper which was launched in October, 1990 during the height of the country’s civil war.

Wesseh has told the independent Daily Observer newspaper that the Inquirer will continue publication and is not worried about the exodus of some employees.

But publishers of the new Independent Inquirer newspaper have rejected claims that they were being used by the government operative to sabotage their former paper.

“Very harsh language and vocal language will be used including intimidation, family pressure and inducements against opposition operatives, if necessary, ” the source disclosed, saying that the aim is to harm their reputation and demoralize their partisans.

rep acarous gray and deputy minister samorra wolokollie
Rep Acarous Gray and Deputy Minister Samora Wolokollie

Over the weekend, a senior government official and Deputy Minister for Fiscal Affairs at the Ministry of Finance and Development Planning (MFDP) Samora Wolokollie and long-time CDC operative and Montserrado Electoral District #8 Representative Moses Acarous Gray  verbally attacked the  opposition Alternative National Congress (ANC) leader Alexander Cummings, calling him a “bare-faced” liar”.

The two officials of the CDC government who appeared on the state-runned national broadcaster took issue with stinging criticisms leveled at President George M. Weah by Cummings who warned in an interview recently that “looting and stealing” in the Government has got to stop. Cummings’ statement drew favorable reviews from several quarters in and out of Liberia including social media.

The source alleged that government surrogates Ansu Konneh and Boikai Fofanna are the lead persons designated to “control the discourse on social media” in favor of the CDC led government.

West African Journal Magazine attempted but was unsuccessful in obtaining a response from the state house the Executive Mansion in Monrovia since no one was authorized to discuss the matter.

Liberians are anxiously awaiting the release of the contents of the report. There is no indication of a release date by the Government.

By Staff Reporter and Correspondents in Monrovia

West African Journal Magazine

 

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