Liberia: Day One Of Mass Protest Ends; No Petition Presented

Day one of what appears to be several days of planned protest has ended in Monrovia with no compromise reached between the government of Liberia and Protesters under the banner, Council of Patriots (COP).  

Liberian Protesters On June 7th

The much publicized protest began Friday, June 7, 2019 with the protesters demanding that they can only deliver their petition to President George Weah or Vice President Jewel Howard Taylor.  

Earlier, President George Weah designated his Vice President Jewel Howard Taylor to be the one to receive the petition from the Council of Patriots.

Is not clear why the Vice President did not show up as expected, but multiple sources close to the office of the VP said, she was unable to show up due to illness. 

Protest Organizers Henry P. Costa (in white top) Marching With Protesters

However, the government requested the leadership of COP to hand deliver their petition to Foreign Minister Gbezongar Findley – a decision protesters vehemently rejected, saying, they cannot present their petition to an appointed official. 

Among other demands, the protesters are demanding that Finance Minister Samuel Tweh and Central Bank Governor Nathaniel Patray be dismissed and turned over to the Justice Ministry for prosecution for their roles in the mismanagement and misapplication of the US$25 million allocated for a mop up of excess Liberian dollar liquidity.

The protesters also want the government to find solution to the persistent skyrocketing of the US dollar against the Liberian dollar.

The protesters further indicated that they want an immediate end to what they described as massive corruption and bad governance, which, according to them have hampered Liberian’s image abroad. 

ECOWAS Official Addressing Protesters

The protest which has been described by many including international media outlets as the most peaceful post war protest, was by monitored by both local and international observers including Economic Community of West African State (ECOWAS). Local officials of ECOWAS in Monrovia were seen working alongside their Liberian counterparts to ensure peaceful and orderly protest. 

Liberian Security Officers

Elites forces of the Liberian joint security were also seen posted at various points to ensure that things were under control. 

Observers say this was the first time in several years in Liberia that a mass protest has been held without any scuffle between the police and protesters, even though tension heightened between the police and supporters of one of the leaders of the protest a day prior to the much publicized June 7 protest.

Liberian Protesters

Meanwhile, after several failed attempt to deliver the their protest petition, the leadership of the protest appealed to their supporters to go home and prepare themselves for the next course of action, which will be announced on Monday, June 10, 2019.  

By Paul Kanneh in Monrovia

West African Journal Magazine

 

 

Liberia: Top Judicial Security Chief Accused Of War Crimes; Peaceful March For Justice Planned For Tuesday In NY

A Liberian Rebel Fighter- File Photo

As international pressure mounts on the current Liberian Administration to undertake local and international obligations to prosecute alleged war criminals who have so far enjoyed relative protection and gone with impunity in the West African country since cessation of hostilities in 2003, a source says a team of international investigators is in Liberia and following up on alleged atrocities catalogued in the Final Report of the country’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) which completed its work and submitted recommendations to the Ellen Johnson Sirleaf Administration in 2009.

The source says some of the investigators with the newly established advocacy and research entity, the International Justice Group (IJG) include some former support staff of the TRC.

According to information obtained from actual eyewitnesses who spoke to investigators, they recounted how a former Assistant Director of Police for its Criminal Investigation Division (CID) Henry Landford and some foreign nationals were rounded up and executed by rebels of the National Patriotic Front (NPFL) on the orders of Commander Paul Tuazama and one Anthony Komahoun.

Mr Paul Tuazama , Chief of Security At Liberia’s Judiciary

Mr. Tuazama is the current head of security at the Judiciary branch of the Liberian government known as the Temple of Justice which also serves as the official seat of the Supreme Court, the country’s highest court on Capitol Hill.

Director Landford and others were murdered in the NPFL controlled area on Duport Road outside the capital and Kakata, about 34 miles outside of Monrovia.

In 1991, journalists embedded with a contingent of Ecomog peacekeepers visited the eastern Duport Road suburb area for the first time after the cessation of hostilities with the NPFL.

Peacekeepers and journalists were directed by local residents to an area described as the “killing field” where human skeletons and personal effects of victims were scattered and covered by overgrown brush.

Liberian career Government officials, law enforcement officers and ordinary civilians were also allegedly murdered by rebel fighters and death squads allied with some rogue commanders of the Armed Forces of Liberia (AFL) loyal to late President Samuel K. Doe.

Rebel NPFL Small Boy Unit Fighter – File Photo

Victims include Cephus Junius, Chief of Intelligence Unit of the Liberia National (LNP), Williette Scott, Chief of Communications of the LNP.

Williette Scott was a well trained and professional Police officer who was reportedly taken off a line of fleeing residents and executed in NPFL controlled territory by a rebel fighter identified as Joe Mantee.

Still others include a popular Mighty Barrolle soccer team sports enthusiast David Quayle Langston who was allegedly executed in the Paynesville suburbs and prominent and well liked national radio broadcast journalists Tommy Raynes and G. Moses K. Washington.

They were reportedly executed somewhere between 15th Gate and Careysburg area by NPFL rebels.

Others allegedly murdered during this period, according to investigators, include the Deputy Chief of Command of the Bong Mines Police Department Lt.Joe McGill, Lt.Joseph Balls, Detective Thomas Morris and Foday Boikai.

The entire Bong Mines Police Detachment was summarily executed in Kakata by NPFL rebels.

ECOMOG Peacekeeping Troops

Ghanaian ,Sierra Leonean, Guinean, Nigerian And Gambian, Nationals were targeted and ordered executed in the rebel NPFL controller territories simply because their individual countries had seconded peacekeepers to re regional ECOWAS Peace Monitoring Group in Liberia known as ECOMOG.

Lt. Bobby Kpoto

One Lt. Bobby Kpoto now believed to be residing in the United Kingdom murdered Archie Greene who was a graduate of the Cuttington University College(CUC) in Bong County, which is situated central Liberia.

TRC Final Report – Liberia

Investigators say information which they are following up on about summary executions of individuals named were obtained from actual accounts collected during hearings of the TRC held in and out of Liberia.

More information is being gathered by investigators .

Meantime the IJG says it is warning anyone or groups who may want to discredit the integrity of the Liberia’s TRC members and Final Report in an attempt to justify solicitation of international donor funding.

Liberian Rights Activist Vandalark Patricks

In support of international efforts to bring to justice those accused of major atrocities, Liberian Organizers of a March For Peace in Justice say they will hold a peaceful protest on Tuesday, September 18, 2018 in New York near the United Nations headquarters to call on President George M. Weah to prosecute alleged war criminals in Liberia.

In an exclusive interview, with on Sunday, the Chairman of the organizing of the Peace and Justice March Mr. Vandalark Patricks said, ” people are listening and are now aware that the only way Liberia can move forward is when alleged war crimes perpetrators are brought to book for atrocities committed during the war. Weah wants to jeopardize justice for over 250,000 victims. Weah must understand that Article 2 of the Liberian Constitution so that the will of the people prevail.”

Organizers say their peaceful protest is timed to coincide prior to the arrival of President Weah to the UN in New York in order to allow him time to appreciate the seriousness of their call.

Liberian President George M. Weah

President Weah is expected to attend and address the UN General Assembly later in September.

The Weah Administration has not committed to prosecuting war crimes perpetrators in-spite of local and international calls to prioritize the issue.

No one in Liberia has been prosecuted for atrocities committed during the country’s civil war between 1989 – 2003.

An estimated 250,000 people were killed in the bloodletting which almost completely destroyed the country infrastructure and institutions.

Vandalark Patricks, a Liberia rights activist condemned Senator Prince Johnson, a sitting lawmaker from northeastern Nimba County in Liberia, who is also a former war lord and major actor in the war and who was named in the country’s Truth a and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) Final Report as a responsible  for some heinous atrocities.

Liberian Former Rebel Warlord and Current Senator Prince Y. Johnson

Mr. Patricks said it was totally unacceptable that Senator Johnson would threaten the country with another war, if attempts were made to hold him accountable for his alleged war crimes.

Those named as perpetrators have not faced prosecution nor have they been found guilty of any crime in Liberia.

Political observers and diplomatic sources say unless President Weah commits to prosecuting alleged war criminals, he will lose international support which he desperately needs to sustain his country’s struggling economy.

The IJG says it is prepared to network with other partners to secure international sanctions and travel ban against government officials if no action is taken.

Already, a US Republican lawmaker Representative Daniel M. Donovan Jr. has introduced a congressional bill which calls for the establishment of a war crimes court in Liberia.

US President Donald Trump

Future US economic and military assistance to the West African nation may hinge on the Weah Administration’s commitment to bow to congressional pressure for an improved human rights regime and fiscal accountability in Liberia.

The Weah government is already lobbying to open a corridor to Congressional leaders and the White House.

Liberia relies heavily on US economic, diplomatic and military assistance.

Flag of Liberia

In its Fact Sheet on Liberia, the African Affairs Bureau of the U. s State Department in July, 2018 stated that, “…U.S. assistance is focused on consolidating democratic progress; improving capacity, transparency, and accountability of governance institutions; promoting broad-based, market-driven economic growth; improving access to high-quality educational and health services; and professionalizing Liberia’s military and civilian security forces, while helping Liberia build capacity to plan, implement, and sustain its own development efforts in each sector….”

Of the $27 billion in world wide Foreign Assistance planned for 2019 Fiscal Year by the US Government. Liberia stands to gain over $29.3 million for peace and security, democracy, human rights and governance, health and economic development.

By Emmanuel Abalo

West African Journal Magazine

FEATURE: Liberia President George M. Weah Must Produce “Tangible Results” Or…

President George Weah of Liberia
President George Weah of Liberia

Liberia, the small West African country riven by back-to-back wars in the 1990s and a devastating Ebola pandemic in mid 2104 – 2016 is facing serious challenges in governance and the economy.

A new administration headed by footballer-turned politician George M. Weah is floundering under massive economic woes, very high unemployment and lack of technical capacity as evident from the growing discontent among the populace who are now regretting their choice of national leadership when they voted in democratic elections last December.

At a US Independence Day reception held on July 4th at the American Embassy in Monrovia, which was attended by President Weah, the local Daily Observer newspaper reports that the message from Washington DC to the Liberian administration was direct and clear; “…introduce broad reforms and take bold steps to inhibit (restrain) corruption in order to transform the business climate to attract domestic, regional and foreign investment, to grow the economy and seek fiscal and monetary stability…”

This is a stunning indictment of the poor governance style and incompetence of the Weah Administration which has demonstrated a poor understanding of national challenges, expectations and the consequences of unpreparedness at national governance.

In recent days, the visual of President Weah and some of his officials chanting sports songs at a soccer game and playing board games at his party headquarters during a “Pro-Poor Day” celebration of the ruling Congress for Democratic Change (CDC) shocked citizens and some in the diplomatic corp as “insensitive” to the growing calls for solutions to the deteriorating economy and increased suffering of the ordinary Liberian. Social media is replete with stinging criticisms of President Weah and his administration for the inability to respond to the economic challenges and utter silence.

                                       Liberian Voters in Last Election

Tension is rising among the ordinary citizenry and this is reminiscent of prior situations where a highly disaffected Liberian population who felt powerless to effect any meaningful change in their condition resorted to calls for the resignation of their President including Samuel William R. Tolbert, Samuel K. Doe and Charles Taylor.

There are already some rumblings and a small peaceful protest led by University student activist Martin Kollie, who along with some members of the Student Unification Party (SUP) at the state runned University of Liberia, staged a pop-up demonstration in the eastern suburb of Redlight, District, Paynesville as the motorcade of the President headed back to the capital Monrovia from central Liberia; the same day the President received an honorary Doctoral degree from a private University.

The message from the small demonstration which snarled the Presidential motorcade and was joined by some citizens was that President Weah needs to address the deteriorating economic situation now!

Supporters and some Liberians at home and in the Diaspora were shocked at the bold protest attempt at challenging the popularity of President Weah who clinched the Presidency with 61.5 percent of the vote.

img_0748

                                             University Student Protesters

This also signaled the first crack in the ruling CDC’s armor at the level of the Presidency. The natural response by supporters was denial of the student led demonstration and the branding of students as “troublemakers” who are being influenced by some hidden politicians and enemies of the administration.

The threat of another anti-government demonstration by some students receded late last week with the intervention of the local ECOWAS Civil Society Group which pleaded with them to, instead, pursue “dialogue” with the Liberian government.

The U. S, neighbors and international community are watching developments with concern since they had to contain the conflagration and combustion which engulfed Liberia in the 1990s because of political instability and the introduction of armed responses by various factions.

Practically, the international community and the United Nations will not allow another episode of poor governance and then have to expend treasury, blood and resources to repair Liberia again as was done between 1990 — 2018 through ECOWAS, ECOMOG, EU, AU, MRU and UMIL.

International intelligence agencies profile Weah as “weak” and without political savvy and national vision in a recovering nation as Liberia. His popularity among the poor and uneducated is his greatest strength which propelled him to the Presidency because they identify with his poor upbringing and determination to succeed. Weah’s story is the story of many young and underprivileged Liberians.

However, the reality is that when the popularity of President Weah meets the expectations of his followers, his shortcomings as non-knowledgeable of complex national and fiscal issues and actual delivery of the “goods” he promised to lift his people out of years of economic and political misery are in very short supply. The needle on national progress is not moving in a meaningful way and ordinary Liberians are finding it very hard to afford their basic needs daily.

Flag of Liberia
Flag of Liberia

The U.S, through its Ambassador in Monrovia has set the clock for results and Weah needs to pay attention. He has to take some unpopular decisions against some of his political allies and friends in order to begin to appear as in charge.

The issues of corruption, questionable and incompetent individuals in his orbit, a less than credible judicial system, lack of a clear economic roadmap and timetable will contribute to a vote of no confidence in Weah by his own people and the international community sooner than later.

Liberia-Guinea Map
Liberia-Guinea Map

It is no secret that the US and other partners have begun to draw up a list of credible, professional and capable Liberians with whom they can develop governance and other relationships with, if this administration doesn’t pan out.

President Weah must search deeply within himself and find those strategies and traits that propelled him to international fame in his professional football days, couple those with political deal making involving the opposition, develop an effective team of technical, credible managers and tell his people what the plan is and how they will get there, and by when, if he is to turn this ship around, like he has been challenged by the U.S. to do.

By Emmanuel Abalo

West African Journal Magazine

Former Liberian Rebel NPFL Spokesman Tom Woewiyu Facing Prosecution In Philadelphia

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

Jucontee Thomas Woewiyu

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

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

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

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

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

Former Rebel NPFL Leader Charles Taylor

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

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

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

Map of Liberia

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Flag of Liberia

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

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

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

Woewiyu has denied the US government allegations against him.

By Emmanuel Abalo

West African Journal

ECOWAS To Sanction Guinea-Bissau Unless Crisis Is Resolved

Abuja, Nigeria – Leaders of the West African economic grouping known as ECOWAS say they will impose sanctions on Guinea-Bissau unless the country’s grinding political crisis was resolved within two months.

ECOWAS
ECOWAS

At a meeting in the Nigeria, capital Abuja over the weekend, the leaders said they were “disappointed with the absence of progress in the peace process” . Guinea Bissau has had a intractable political stalemate since 2015 since the sacking of President of former Prime Minister Domingos Simoes Pereira by the President.

Curent African Union (AU) Chair and Guinean President Alpha Conde and Ecowas Chair and President of Togo Faure Gnassingbe had been working to resolve the political crisis and the naming of a prime minister and formation of a unity government.

Conde and Gnassingbe were asked by the ECOWAS leaders to “continue consultation within the next two months without which collective and individual sanctions will be handed down against all those who constitute themselves into an obstacle.”

Pres Jose Mario Vaz
Pres Jose Mario Vaz

President Vaz says he is open to talks with the opposition in an effort to resolve the crisis; something the opposition has already rejected.

 

ECOWAS Leaders Weigh Sanctions Against Guinea Bissau

The Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), said Sunday they are considering sanctions against Guinea-Bissau’s President for failure to implement the agreement to end the two-year political crisis.

ECOWAS
ECOWAS logo

According to Anadolu Agency, ECOWAS negotiators led by president of the Commission, Marcel De Souza, said that President Jose Mario Vaz and his ruling powerful PAIGC have failed to implement anything that came out of talks brokered by President Alpha Conde of Guinea Conakry in June this year.

Known in Bissau as the Conakry Accord, president Vaz has been asked, among other things, to appoint a concession candidate acceptable to him and his party as prime minister but Vaz appointed Umaro Cissoko Embalo who is outside of African Party for Independence of Guinea and Cape Verde.

ECOWAS is expected to hold a meeting and take appropriate action in Nigeria from December 12 to 16, Souza said.

Guinea Bissau Pres Jose Mario Vaz
Guinea Bissau President Jose Mario Vaz

The heads of states of ECOWAS reserve the right to apply sanctions, collective and individual, and also withdraw the regional forces who are currently keeping the peace in the country, Souza said.

Public schools are closed and hospitals are struggling for funds.

-Instability

Bissau has witnessed nine coups or attempted coups since 1980 and currently it has 600 regional forces securing the small nation.

The military has a history of interference in politics which is why the regional body has asked soldiers to stay in the barracks.

Sierra Leone Rejects Decision of ECOWAS Court on Dismissed VP Sumana

Abuja, Nigeria – Following the ruling of the ECOWAS Court on Monday in Abuja that the dismissal of Vice President Sam Sumana by President Ernest Bai Koroma, the Sierra Leonen Government has rejected the decision in its formal response.

Former Vice President Sam Sumanna and President Ernest Bai Koroma
Former Vice President Sam Sumana and President Ernest Bai Koroma

In a statement issued in Freetown by the Sierra Leone Justice Ministry said that “The Supreme Court of Sierra Leone did rule on the above matter and therefore no other court is competent to overrule it except by itself. Therefore, the Government of Sierra Leone refused to participate in the proceedings and does not accept nor recognize the ECOWAS court in respect of the said judgment.”

The ECOWAS Court of Justice ruled that the 2015 dismissal of the Sierra Leonen Vice President was done illegally and that his fundamental human rights, as guaranteed by the African Charter on Human and People’s Rights.

The Charter, set up in 1987, is an international human rights instrument that is intended to promote and protect human rights and basic freedoms in the African continent.

In dismissing the challenge to the Sierra Leonen Government that it had no jurisdiction over the matter, the Court held that it did have full jurisdiction to consider and adjudicate the case of Mr. Sumana in defense of is fundamental human rights.

In dismissing his former Vice President in 2015, President Koroma defended his decision then, saying that Mr. Sumana had taken up asylum in a foreign embassy and abandoned his duties.

Former Vice President Sam Sumana
Former Vice President Sam Sumana

In response, the former Vice President said he feared for his life and sought asylum in the U.S.

The ruling of the Ecowas Court of Justice awarded Mr. Sumana reparation for his legal fees, back salary and emoluments as of thee day of his dismissal by President Koroma.

In instances where local laws of Sierra Leone were involved or due to lapse of time, the Court said it could not offer such relief to Mr. Sumana.

42 African countries including Sierra Leone have signed and ratified the African Charter on Human and People’s Rights.

By Emmanuel Abalo

West African Journal Magazine