Editorial: Mr. President, Speak To Your People

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

President George M. Weah of Liberia

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Article 1 says,  

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

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

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

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

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

West African Journal Magazine

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

 

Togo: More Protests Planned Against President Gnassingbe

More political turmoil is forecasted for the small West African nation of Togo in the coming days.

Administrative Map of Togo
Administrative Map of Togo

Reports say, a series of nationwide strikes are expected to be held in in the country beginning Tuesday Tuesday, January 30 through the following week into Thursday, February 8.

In its country security risk report issued on Monday, the world’s largest privately owned security firm Garda says, the first series will be a teachers unions strike which will launch and last for  72-hours beginning on January 30.

Next will be the Togolese health care workers who are expected to launch their strike on January 31 and February 1.

Garda says it is still unclear to what extent the healthcare workers’ strike will affect available medical services across the country. Public sector workers, the firm said, also plan to strike from Monday, February 4, through Thursday, February 8.  Large demonstrations and public gatherings are expected in the capital Lomé and in other areas during the strikes.

Togolese President Faure Gnassingbe’s government has been dogged by sometimes violent protests organized by the opposition who have called form him to go. The President has resisted calls and has instead called for dialogue with the opposition aimed at political reforms.

Women in Togo have also marched to protest the administration of President Gnassingbe. The main opposition leader Jean Pierre Fabre, who said he supports the women told the AFP that, “Faced with the refusal of the power to move forward, women have decided to enter the game.”

Togolese Anti Government Protesters
Togolese Anti Government Protesters

The opposition is demanding  the return of the original Togolese 1992 Constitution which limits the President to a two five-year term and a two-round voting system. The opposition also wants the introduction of diaspora voting, an independent investigation into killing of protesters, the release of all political detainees and an end to arrests, torture and persecution of members of the opposition.

President Gnassingbe, who was installed in 2005 with the support of the Togolese military following the death of his father General Gnassingbe Eyadema who ruled the country for 38 years, is the current chair of the sub-regional economic grouping ECOWAS.

By Emmanuel Abalo

West African Journal Magazine

The opposition in Equatorial Guinea is accusing the dictatorial government of what it calls the “cruel and inhumane” treatment of detainees following the death of an opposition activist who was being held in government custody.

Map of Equatorial Guinea
Map of Equatorial Guinea

According to the opposition, activist Santiago Ebee Ela died at the main police station over the weekend  as a result of what the Citizens for Innovation (CI)opposition group called “cruel torture.”

 

The opposition activist was picked up on January 2 from his home, according to the opposition group which says it believes that there are over 200 of its activists in government detention, adding that, “The death of Santiago Ebee Ela is a consequence of the cruel and inhumane treatment shown to CI detainees by security forces of the PDGE regime,” an apparent reference to the ruling Democratic Party of Equatorial Guinea headed by President Teodoro Obiang.

The Equatorial Guinean government has not responded to the news of the death of activist Ela.

 

President Teodoro Obiang Nguema who became President in 1979 is now Africa’s longest serving leader which has violently crushed dissent and opposition to his dictatorial rule.

West African Journal Magazine