Liberia, Ghana, EU-NSA Project Share Perspectives

he European Union Non-State Actors (EU-NSA) Project teams in Ghana and Liberia on June 3, 2019 met and shared perspectives on project implementation with emphasis on progress, lessons learned and way forward in the two countries.

Meeting with the EU Delegation to Liberia
Meeting with the EU Delegation to Liberia

According to our correspondent, the meeting was held in Monrovia when the Ghanaian team comprising of representatives from Nature and Development Foundation (NDF) and Tropenbos International Ghana paid a week working visit to its Liberian counterpart, Volunteers To Support International Efforts In Developing Africa (VOSIEDA).

The EU-NSA project, “Strengthening the capacity of non-state actors (NSA) to improve FLEGT-VPA and REDD+ processes in Western Africa”, is being implemented since 2016 in Liberia, Ghana and Cote d’Ivoire, with funding support from the European Union.

The overarching goal of the Ghanaian team visit, according the head of team, was to share with their Liberian counterparts the establishment of an independent forest monitoring framework in Ghana using a “real time” online portal that tracks issues from the forest with their Liberian counterparts, and as well as take notes on the establishment of “Forest Hour”, a radio advocacy program launched by the Liberian EU NSA team for use by the Liberian CSOs.  The Ghanaian team also wanted to have knowledge on progress made by Liberia in the establishment and management of community forests.

During the meeting, the Liberian team hailed their Ghanaian counterparts for developing a proactive internet platform use in forest monitoring, and promised to replicate same for Liberia’s forest sector monitoring. The team was also acknowledged to have taken lead on national level engagements ahead of Liberia.

The Ghanaian team praised their Liberian counterparts for taking the lead on advocacy and community level engagements, and also promised to replicate same in Ghana, especially the ‘forest hour’.

While in Monrovia, the team met and interacted with members of the NGO Coalition, Civil Society Independent Forest Monitor (CS-IFM), the National Union of Community Forestry Development Committee (NUCFDC), and National Union of Community Forest Management Body (NUCFMB) as well as the Liberia Timber Association (LibTA).

As part of their visit, the Ghanaian team appeared on the Forest Hour, a radio advocacy platform to share their perspectives on forest governance as it relates to process leading to acquiring forest contract, compliance to legal agreements by contract holders, performance of forest contract and benefit sharing mechanisms, penalty for violations of forest laws and other legal agreements, level of community involvement in managing forest contracts and IFM to ensure accountability and transparency in forest contract management, etc.

The team also met and briefed the EU Delegation to Liberia on progress made thus far in Ghana, and also shared differences and similarities between the two countries.

In response, the EU-Delegation focal person on natural resource governance, David Palacios urged the two teams to see collaboration as a major vehicle for success on the EU-NSA project.

Paul Kanneh Reporting From Monrovia

West African Journal Magazine

US Lawmakers Signal Major Support For War Crimes Court In Liberia

Washington DC – November 14, 2018:  In a strong signal against the perpetuation of a  pervasive culture of impunity in Liberia since the end of the brutal back-to-back civil war that brought the West African nation of Liberia to its knees, the U.S. House of Representatives on Tuesday, November 13, 2018 passed Resolution 1055 “to reaffirm strong U.S.-Liberia ties and call for full implementation of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s Recommendations.

Flag of Liberia
Flag of Liberia

As part of the Accra Comprehensive Peace Agreement signed in 2003, all belligerents in the Liberia conflict agreed to the establishment of a  Truth or Reconciliation mechanism to investigate “perpetrators of massacres, sexual offences, murder, economic crimes, extra-judicial killings, and all incidents of gross human rights abuses and violations from January, 1979 – October 13, 2004. The aim of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC), which began work in earnest 2006, was to “promote national peace, security, unity and reconciliation”.

Accra Comprehensive Peace Agreement ARTICLE XIII: TRUTH AND RECONCILIATION COMMISSION

  1. A Truth and Reconciliation Commission shall be established to provide a forum that will address issues of impunity, as well as an opportunity for both the victims and perpetrators of human rights violations to share their experiences, in order to get a clear picture of the past to facilitate genuine healing and reconciliation.
  1. In the spirit of national reconciliation, the Commission shall deal with the root causes of the crises in Liberia, including human rights violations.
  1. This Commission shall, among other things, recommend measures to be taken for the rehabilitation of victims of human rights violations.
  1. Membership of the Commission shall be drawn from a cross-section of Liberian society. The Parties request that the International Community provide the necessary financial and technical support for the operations of the Commission.
Former Fighters In Libera - File Photo
Former Fighters In Libera – File Photo

The TRC completed its work and submitted a Final Report to the Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf Administration in 2009. However, the Government of Liberia has failed to take the necessary steps for implementation in spite of local and international urgings to address gross human rights abuses and economic crimes committed by major actors; some of whom serve in high positions in the current Liberian government.

The UN, Germany, the United States, European Union and local non-governmental organizations have made private and public representations to the George M. Weah Administration on the matter but without success so far.

Liberian diaspora civic groups and individuals and international human rights organizations including the International Justice Group (IJG) have been vigorously  lobbying the U.S. and European governments for support for the establishment of an accountability mechanism like the War Crimes Court. International war crimes investigators who traveled to Liberia over the years to collect first-hand evidence from victims and eyewitnesses have presented their findings to the U.S. government including lawmakers to make the case for passage of the resolution which supports the establishment of a war crimes tribunal in Liberia.

IJG Principal Deputy Executive Director Luigi Spera
IJG Principal Deputy Executive Director Luigi Spera

The Chief Investigator of the International Justice Group (IJG) Mr. Garretson Al Smith who played a key investigatory role which helped with the passage of U.S. House of Representatives Resolution 1055 said, “this is a major step in the accountability process for those who are accused of committing war crimes in the West African nation.”

Prior to the vote on the Resolution, the Chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Subcommittee Ed Royce stated that, “ …The Africa Subcommittee worked across party lines and alongside the international community and the people of Liberia to apprehend the notorious warlord Charles Taylor. Today, he remains behind bars. In 2003, the Government of Liberia, rebel groups and political parties signed a comprehensive peace agreement.

A Truth and Reconciliation Commission was created, which recommended the establishment of a war crimes tribunal to ensure justice for the people of Liberia. Unfortunately, however, this war crimes tribunal has never been established, although Liberian government figures and activists alike have continued to call for one. This resolution repeats this important call.”

According to the U.S. lawmaker Representative Royce, “…We have turned the page on this horrific chapter in Liberia’s history. In March, the U.N. peacekeeping mission there officially ended. It is not often we get to celebrate the successful end of a mission, and we remember the 202 peacekeepers that lost their lives to bring peace and stability in the region…”

Former Warlord Prince Y. Johnson

In a recent interview on a local radio station in his home county of Nimba in northeastern Liberia, a former militia leader turned Senator Mr. Prince Y. Johnson threatened those calling for his arrest. “If you were to come to arrest me, I will fight you. You know why? The same crime you want to arrest me for is the same crime Taylor committed. When you said you killed my ma, you then compensated Taylor with the Presidency. You paid Taylor to be President of Liberia…,” Johnson angrily said in the interview.

Sen Prince Y. Johnson Photo Courtesy News Dawn Newspaper
Sen Prince Y. Johnson Photo Courtesy News Dawn Newspaper

He cited calls to arrest and prosecute him for alleged war crimes as “selective justice” and defended his role as a fight to save his kinsmen who, he said, were being massacred by the Samuel K. Doe regime. Johnson and his militia were responsible for snatching former President Doe from the base of the Peacekeeping Force on September 9, 1990, after killing nearly 70 members of his entourage during the late President’s visit there. Doe was later tortured, killed and his body mutilated by rebel fighters loyal to Johnson.

The former warlord said Parliament in Liberia passed an Amnesty law for all acts committed between 1990 – 2003 and defiantly added, “ If you want, come catch me. The resistance you will find from young guys…it will be maximum, uncontrollable and ungovernable…”

Liberia’s TRC Final Report

Liberia’s TRC Final Report recommended the prosecution leaders of warring factions for “…human rights violations, including violations of international humanitarian law, international human rights law, war crimes and egregious domestic laws of Liberia and economic crimes…”

Liberia - TRC
Liberia – TRC

Those recommended for prosecution include now jailed former rebel leader turned former President Charles G. Taylor of the National Patriotic Front, (NPFL), Prince Y. Johnson of the Independent National Patriotic Front (INPFL), Alhaji G.V. Kromah of United Liberation Movement of Liberia (ULIMO-K) and Dr. George S. Boley of the Liberia Peace Council (LPC).

Other former warlords named for prosecution in the TRC Final Report were Thomas Yahya Nimley of the Movement for Democracy in Liberia (MODEL) and Sekou Damate Konneh of Liberians United for Reconciliation and Democracy (LURD).

Rebel Leaders Roosevelt Johnson of ULIMO -J faction and Francois Massaquoi of the Lofa Defense Force (LDF) pre-deceased the TRC Final Report.

US – Liberia Relations

US Representative Ed Royce
US Representative Ed Royce

The U.S. wields significant economic power and influence in Liberian matters and the House Resolution is expected to force the hand of the Weah government to implement the TRC Final Report or it will face further international isolation and sanctions. The Liberian Administration is already facing a crushing economic deterioration and has been unable to access international loan facilities.

The Weah government is said to be frantically seeking unconventional avenues to solicit loans and lines of credit to keep it afloat amidst rising local economic discontent and pressure to deliver much needed relief.

In his prepared remarks before passage of the House Resolution on Liberia, Chairman Royce noted that, “Much more needs to be done to crack down on corruption and create a more conducive environment for trade and economic investment. The government must ensure policies are in place to encourage businesses to invest, grow and create jobs. But this resolution affirms the U.S. commitment to continue to partner with Liberia to support civil society, rule of law and good governance. We stand by the Liberian people in their continued efforts for a more prosperous and democratic Liberia…”

Liberia Campaigners for War Crimes
Liberia Campaigners for War Crimes

On last Monday, hundreds of Liberians marched in the capital Monrovia in support of victims and survivors of the war and presented a petition to the Government of Liberia, the United States and international partners in which they called for the setting up of a war crimes court.

The Weah Administration Liberia has not officially responded to the U.S. House Resolution.

By Emmanuel Abalo

West African Journal

Liberia: Text Of Statement Delivered By Protesters Delivered To Int’l Community

PETITION STATEMENT

September 24, 2018

The Coalition of Citizens United to Bring Our Money Back (COCUBOMB), a mass-based umbrella pro-democracy and pro-advocacy organization consisting of over 26 civil society organizations, youth/student groups and trade unions, have peacefully rallied and assembled conscious and patriotic Liberians from every sphere of our society to petition you in pursuit of L$16 billion (US$106 million) that mysteriously disappeared under the government of President George M. Weah.

With oneness of purpose and an unhindered allegiance to Liberia and posterity, we have come on this day to send this clarion message to our International Partners through you:

1 We call on you and all international partners of Liberia to launch an immediate independent international forensic investigation into this missing L$16 billion saga which has both economic, social and security implications. The nation remains terrified by this mystery.

1 We call on you to withhold all direct support (in terms of financial and non-financial aid) to our government until it can fully account and restitute this stolen L$16 billion. All those linked in this horrific economic plunder and mass looting against the State and its people must be prosecuted and made to fully restitute such amount.

1 We call on you to prevail upon the Weah-led government to immediately release the internal investigative report of the Central Bank of Liberia that former President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf referenced in her latest interview on BCC. This report in our opinion could unravel a lot of hidden secrets and untold realities.

1 We call on you to assist Liberia in auditing all financial transactions done so far under President George M. Weah and former President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf. We are also concerned about the recent infusion of US$25 million in the Liberian economy by the Weah-led government. We are also interested in knowing the source of this US$ 25 million and how it was infused in the economy. This we believe must be thoroughly investigated as well.

2 COCUBOMB craves your indulgence most respectfully to launch an investigation into the giant-sized private properties being constructed and/or purchased by President George M. Weah and some high-profile members of his government in just six (6) months of his tenure. We are confident that such investigation could also dig out some hard truths about this missing L$16 billion.

3 We call on you to prevail upon the Weah-led government to ensure full asset declaration by all public officials especially the President either before or during the course of the Independent International Forensic Investigation.

1 We call on you to expedite the establishment of a War and Economic Crimes Court in Liberia. This we believe would end the longstanding culture of impunity and guarantee justice for Liberia and Liberians especially war victims. This approach would certainly serve as a deterrence for would be war and economic criminals.

1 We submit to you the urgency to fully overhaul/upgrade Liberia’s financial management system in order to maintain fiscal discipline, accountability, transparency and public integrity at all levels. The need to reinforce and rebrand anti-graft institutions such as LACC, GAC, FIU, PPCC, LEITI and IAA cannot be overemphasized. Corruption especially in the judiciary must also be dealt with.

1 We demand that all former and present heads of these institutions (NPA, MoFDP, CBL, MICAT and RIA) that had/have direct link to this missing container immediately recuse themselves and be brought in for investigation by an independent international forensic investigative panel.

The people of Liberia through COCUBOMB remain very concerned and disturbed about those missing billion (US$106 million) that vanished without any trace up to now. It is sad that the government has been dishonest and inconsistent in releasing the facts. Accounts surrounding this missing L$16 billion from the MoJ, MoFDP, MICAT and even the Office of the President remain contradictory and are compounded with fundamental flaws.

The government cannot be the accused, the defendant, and at the same time the jurist. The Liberian people need their money back. Those who viciously siphoned our resources MUST account and account now! THE PEOPLE are resolved about this and we will not rest until this L$16 billion is fully accounted for by those we describe as ‘vicious economic scavengers and plunderers of our State’.

In all of these, we assure the Liberian people and the International Community that we shall remain peaceful, civil and matured as we pursue this irreversible and patriotic path of bringing an end to systemic corruption in Liberia.

The people deserve better – they deserve to rise above poverty, misery and inequality. It cannot be business as usual. The International Community must ACT to help rescue Liberia from perishing. The popular call of our PEOPLE is “BRING BACK OUR MONEY”.

COCUBOMB calls for the full protection of Journalists Philibert Brown of Hot Pepper Newspaper and Rodney Sieh of FrontPage Africa. We also call on you to protect the rights of campaigners who are demanding the full restitution of this L$16 billion. As we jealously protect the sovereignty and heritage of our State by standing up to those barriers (corruption, nepotism, tribalism, cronyism and religious intolerance) that kept us down as a people, we call you to join us in this pursuit to ensure that President Weah and his government account for L$16 billion that disappeared in thin air.

Done and sealed on this 24th Day of September A.D. 2018 in the City of Monrovia by through COCUBOMB, a representation of the Liberian people.

Signed: ______________________________________

                                 Jeremiah S. Swen

                     Secretary General, COCUBOMB

 

Approved: ____________________________________

                                   Martin K. N. Kollie

                               Chairman, COCUBOMB

To: US Embassy, United Nations, European Union, African Union, ECOWAS, French Embassy

Reputable Organizations that have endorsed this statement:

1 Student Unification Party (SUP)

2 People Action Network (PAN-Liberia)

3 Economic Freedom Fighters of Liberia (EFFL)

4 Movement of Justice in Africa (MOJA)

5 Liberia Labor Congress (LLC)

6 Workers’ Union of Liberia (WUL)

7 Foundation for Human Rights and Democracy (FOHRD)

8 Alliance for Transitional Justice in Liberia (ATJL)

9 Teachers in Action for Concerns (TAC-Liberia)

10 Federation of Liberian Youth (FLY)

11 Patriotic Consciousness Association of Liberia (PACAL)

12 Patriotic Entrepreneurs of Liberia (PATEL)

13 Movement of Social Democratic Alliance (MOSODA)

14 Financial Communication Sector Union (FCSU)

15 National Cosmetology Union of Liberia (NCUL)

16 Association of Opposition Political Parties Youth League in Support of Weah (AOPPYL)

17 Concerned Liberians in the Diaspora (CLD)

18 Citizen Action for the Establishment of a War and Economic Crimes Courts (CAEWECC)

19 Zorzor and Salayea Muslim Development Association (ZSMDA)

20 Forum for Democracy and Civic Education (FODCE)

21 Liberia National Student Union (LINSU)

22 TAG – Liberia

23 Concerned University and College Students (CUCS)

24 Conscious High School Students of Liberia (CHSL)

25 S. K. Doe Community Youth Association (SAKDOCYA)

26 Masses Against Poverty (MAP)

27  Federation of Sinkor Youth Association (FESYA)

28 Liberian Youth for Democracy

29 Agenda for Peace and Democracy

30 National Youth Against Violence (NYAV)

 

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

Sub-Saharan African “Slave” Migrants Being Repatriated From Libya

Following revelation and an outcry against the purported  “slave auctions” of mostly black African migrants in the North African nation of Libya, several African countries have begun receiving their repatriated nationals.

Migrants
Migrants in Libya

With assistance from the International Organization for Migration (IOM) the Government of Sierra Leone  on Wednesday received 164 of its citizens.

The Journal du Cameroun website quotes IOM officials as saying the the returnees which included men, women and children were flown to Freetown in the early hours of Wednesday with the help of the IOM.

According to IOM officials,  the returnees had voluntarily asked to be flown back home after going through  what they described as “difficult experiences”.

IOM
IOM

The European Union (EU) and the Government of Libya provided tickets for the Sierra Leonen returnees while the IOM is providing financial assistance packages to facilitate reintegration in their various communities.

The returnees are being temporarily accommodated  at the National Stadium in the capital Freetown.

Meantime, the Government of Burkina Faso has recalled its Ambassador to Libya over reports of the “auction” of black African migrants in the north African nation.

About 135 Burkinabe migrants were recently repatriated with assistance from the IOM.

Gambian Migrants
Gambia Migrants

In the Gambia, about 1500 returnees who were repatriated from Libya have begun receiving packages from the IOM for resettlement.

As part of its Freedom Project, CNN recently uncovered a ” slave auction market” of black African migrants in Libya in multiple locations in the country.

The Government of National Unity (GNA) of Libya, while announcing an investigation, responded to the report saying, “We affirm again that the practical solution is to address the real reasons that drive people to leave their home countries, treat them and develop final solutions for them.”

The Chairman of the African Union and Guinean Presidnet Alpha Conde has condemned the auction of Africans as slaves.

Emmanuel Abalo

West African Journal Magazine

 

Joint Statement by the European Union Delegation to Liberia and the Embassies of EU Member States present in Liberia (France, Germany, Sweden and the United Kingdom)

As close partners of Liberia the European Union and its Member States have been and continue to follow the 2017 Presidential and House of Representative elections with high interest.

WFL_074
EU Flag

Peace and security, together with democracy, good governance and human rights, are some of the shared values at the heart of the EU-Africa partnership. We congratulate both the Liberian people and Liberian political parties for the commitment they have shown to these values through the peaceful conduct of the electoral process so far, including through the use of the appropriate legal mechanisms to address any concerns.

Map of Liberia
Map of Liberia

Over the last twelve years the European Union has worked closely with Liberia to support both post-conflict reconstruction and long term development.  We would like to stress the importance of a smooth democratic transition for Liberia’s stability and economic growth.  We therefore encourage all concerned to work constructively and in good faith to conclude the current complaints process without unnecessary delay, so that the electoral process can be completed in accordance with Constitutional timelines regarding the assumption of power by the next administration.

The European Union is looking forward to continuing our cooperation with Liberia’s new President and new government.  The Liberian people demonstrated their commitment to democracy through the high turnout of voters on 10 October who cast their ballots in a peaceful atmosphere.  It is now the responsibility of all stakeholders to ensure that the electoral process continues in a manner which respects the will of the people, thereby putting Liberia’s interests first. We trust that this will continue to be the case.

Press Statement of EU Delegation to Liberia