VP Jewel Howard Taylor Tried To Get US Help To Release Charles Taylor From Jail

Philadelphia, PA October 29, 2018

“He’s in jail for the long term. We have not made any effort to seek any change or adjustment to the due process and what was adjudicated by the court systems.”

Charles Taylor At Funeral of His Mother Comforted By Ex Wife Jewel Howard Taylor - File
Charles Taylor At Funeral of His Mother Comforted By Ex Wife Jewel Howard Taylor – File

The statement, an apparent reference to former Liberian President Charles Taylor,was made by then Ambassador Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs Donald Yamamoto U.S. State Department official during a Congressional committee hearing in September, 2017 and in response to questioning about the effort by Madam Jewel Howard Taylor, the current Liberian Vice President and ex-wife of former rebel leader turned former President Charles Taylor to get Taylor released.

Apparently and prior to the Presidential and General Elections in Liberia, the then Vice-Presidential candidate of the ruling Congress for Democratic Change (CDC) Ms. Jewel Howard Taylor and a delegation of the CDC visited the U.S. in early 2017 and pressed State Department officials to assist with the release of her ex-husband Charles Taylor who was convicted and sentenced in May, 2012 to fifty years in prison for atrocities committed in Sierra Leone’s war.

Nathaniel F. McGill

Also on that US trip was a former ruling National Patriotic Party (NPP) stalwart turned Former CDC Chairman and now Minister of State for Presidential Affairs in the office of the Liberian Presidency Mr. Nathaniel F. McGill. The CDC delegation also visited their party stronghold in Minnesota and Philadelphia, Pennsylvania during their US visit last year.

Taylor is serving his sentence in a jail in the UK.

Ambassador Donald Yamamoto
Ambassador Donald Yamamoto

At a sub-committee meeting before the U.S. House of Representatives Committee on Foreign Affairs hearing held on September 13, 2017 in Washington DC, New York Republican Dan Donovan Jr. who, on September, 8, 2018, introduced a resolution which calls for the establishment of a war crimes tribunal is Liberia, wanted to know if Madam Howard Taylor held discussions with the State Department. Ambassador Yamamoto demurred about the substance of the discussion but confirmed that State Department did meet with Ms. Howard-Taylor and “messages were passed.”

“Yes, we did meet with Jewel Howard Taylor and those conversations, I think, are between us,” the former State Department said at the time.

The U.S. which had expended over $2 billion dollars in assistance to the Liberia since 2003 worked to dissuade the CDC from placing Ms. Taylor on the Weah warned prior to the election that it would not tolerate interference by Charles Taylor in the election which subsequently elected President Mr. George M. Weah.

Murdered American Nuns
Murdered American Nuns

The Weah Administration remains defiant in the face of international calls to establish war and economic crimes to address human rights abuses and killings by warlords and militias. The UN, 76 international non-governmental organizations and the International Justice Group (IJG) have called on the Weah Administration to prosecute economic and war crimes. International support is growing for accountability in Liberia and include the U.S. Congressional resolution which supports the establishment of the war crimes court.

The opposition Alternative National Congress (ANC) political party in Liberia has called on President Weah to take the lead in disclosing his position on the establishment of a war crimes court.

Former Warlord Turned Senator Prince Y. Johnson
Former Warlord Turned Senator Prince Y. Johnson

Recently and following the visit to the Federal Republic of Germany, by the Executive Director of the IJG Counselor Jerome J. Verdier to seek international support for their advocacy to pressure the Weah Administration to address war crimes and impunity in the West African nation, the German envoy accredited to Liberia Hubert Jager two weeks ago, at the launch of the Alliance for Transitional Justice in Monrovia remarked that, “Providing justice for the victims of the conflict is a key aspect.”

““Providing justice for the victims of the conflict is a key aspect,” the German Ambassador said.

HHRG-115-FA16-Transcript-20170913

Other that humanitarian assistance, the Weah government is finding it difficult to access international loans to relieve mounting economic pressures and has been told by western countries that further pressure including travel ban and sanctions may be forthcoming if the government refuses to implement measures to address war and economic crimes by alleged perpetrators.

Staff Report

West African Journal Magazine

Liberia’s UN Ambassador Lewis G. Brown Recalled From Post By His Government

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The Liberian Ambassador accredited to the United Nations (UN) has been recalled by his government. A letter issued to Ambassador Lewis G. Brown on Monday under the signature of the country’s Foreign Minister Gbenzhongar M. Findley says, ” I present my compliments and have been directed by the President of Liberia H.E. George Manneh Weah , to have you recalled from post with immediate effect…”

The letter requested Ambassador Browne to provide the names of family members to facilitate arrangements for his return home and “…to officially take leave of the Secretary General of the United Nations immediately…”

Ambassador Brown, once a fierce critic of former Liberian President Ellen Johnson- Sirleaf made an about face to support her following the breakdown of an opposition coalition known as the National Democratic Alliance (NDC).

He was shortly thereafter appointed as his country’s UN Ambassador Liberia’s Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary to the Republic of Cuba by President Johnson-Sirleaf.

Outgoing Liberian UN Ambassador Lewis G. Brown
Outgoing Liberian UN Ambassador Lewis G. Brown

Prior to his UN appointment, Mr. Brown served as Liberia’s Minister for Information between 2012 and 2016.  In 2003, he served as Minister for Foreign Affairs and Chief Negotiator at the Accra Peace Talks in the Charles Taylor government, having served as Minister of State for Presidential Affairs in 2002. He is a former Security adviser to former rebel leader turned former President Taylor at the height of the civil conflict between 1999 – 2002.

In June 16, 2016, Ambassador Brown officially took up assignment when he presented his letters of credence to then UN Secretary General Ban Ki Moon in New York.

TRC Head Cllr Jerome Verdier

Liberia’s TRC Head Counselor Jerome Verdier

The top Liberian diplomat is not without controversy as he was named in the Final Report of the country’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) as one of 21 individuals named as responsible for committing economic crimes. No one has been held to account for economic and serious human rights violations since the cessation of hostilities, completion and submission of the TRC’s Final Report to the government of Liberia in 2009. Outgoing UN Ambassador Brown once served the head of the government owned Liberia Petroleum Corporation (LPRC) in the Taylor government between 1997 – 1997. LPRC’S main function which generates revenue for government include providing supervision of the importation, distribution and retailing of petroleum products to government ministries and agencies

International Non-Governmental Organizations, the United Nations, the United States and the international community are pressuring the Weah Administration to implement the recommendations of the TRC Report as a step forward in addressing issues which led to back-to-back wars in Liberia in between 1990 – 2003.

The Weah Administration has yet to committ to implementing the TRC Report inspite of local and international outcry.

Meantime, the Executive Mansion disclosed late Wednesday that Mr. Dee-Maxwell Saah Kemayah Sr. has been appointed by the Liberian President George M. Weah as UN Ambassador and Plenipotentiary envoy to Cuba pending confirmation by the Liberian Senate.

By Emmanuel Abalo

West African Journal Magazine

Feature: Liberia Must End Impunity and Side With Justice Now

Liberia President George M. Weah
Liberia President George M. Weah

Liberia is facing increased pressure to bring to book individuals who have been accused of committing serious human rights abuses and economic crimes during the country’s civil war between 1989 – 2003 in which an estimated 250,000 people were killed and another 1 million others internally and externally dislocated.

Governing administrations including that of former President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf and incumbent President George M. Weah have literally brought the intense spotlight on themselves  and the pressure to implement recommendations of the country’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s (TRC) Final Report which was submitted to the Johnson-Sirleaf’s Administration since 2009.

More disappointing is the fact that no one in Liberia has been prosecuted for their alleged criminal actions during the war.

Some supporters of the past President and now President Weah, including some of the accused, are justifying the refusal of government to do the right thing and address the “elephant in  the room” – the outstanding issue of the implementation of the TRC recommendations and accountability for violations of the human rights of civilians and non-combatants.

Former TRC Head Counselor Jerome Verdier
Former TRC Head Counselor Jerome Verdier

In the eyes of the international community and those who stand on the side of justice, the culture of impunity in Liberia is pervasive and contributes to the cycle of violent depravity and criminal activity which sap the moral standing of Liberia and its people.

Also, the public face of  national governance in Liberia is dominated by the same human rights violators and system of impunity. This ridiculous dispensation tells the international community and allied forces of justice, equal rights and morality that Liberia is not yet prepared to be a part of the civilized comity of nations where the country’s past barbarity and bloodletting  are considered hindrances to full participation and respect.

Human Rights

The Webster-Merriam dictionary defines human rights as ” rights (such as freedom from unlawful imprisonment, torture, and execution) regarded as belonging fundamentally to all persons”.

DSG Amina Mohammed
UN Deputy Sec Gen Amina Mohammed Meets President George Weah

The UN Human Rights Commission defines human rights as  “…rights inherent to all human beings, whatever our nationality, place of residence, sex, national or ethnic origin, colour, religion, language, or any other status.”

The undeniable expectation is that we, as human kind, are all equally entitled to our human rights without any discrimination; whether you live in Sweden, Argentina, North Korea or Liberia. These rights are all interrelated, interdependent, indivisible and God-given.

The Liberian civil war was a clear choice by some to exact and justify their brand of political, social or tribal domination on defenseless citizens through the use of arms, psychological and physical terror and violence. Some argue that the war was a justifiable armed response to threats against their survival by opposing warring elements.

But how does one justify the use of heavy combat and munitions in civilian areas or the targeting of innocent civilians who are fleeing conflict?

Why was it acceptable to attack peacekeepers for the sole purpose of driving them away because a military victory was imminent?

How does the intentional recruitment of vulnerable children through terror for combat and disposal stand up to scrutiny? When is it ok to plunder the common national resources of for personal wealth at the expense of devastatingly poor citizens?

The shameful reluctance of the Sirleaf government and delay by the new Weah Administration to stand on the side of addressing war and economic crimes in order to bring closure to the bloody chapter in national life is a reflection of the non-existence of a moral compass that is so critical to national unity and human decency.

Liberia is signatory to a host of international treaties, conventions and statutes which obligates it to comply with international law.  In fact, Liberia was a signatory to the founding of the United Nations.

Liberia Civil War Injured Victims
Liberia Civil War Injured Victims

The United Nations Conference on International Organization (UNCIO), commonly known as the San Francisco Conference, was a convention of delegates from  about 50 Allied nation countries which took place from 25 April 1945 to 26 June 1945 in San Francisco, California, the United States.

In 1963/1965, Liberia joined the UN Human Rights Council which is the successor to the original UN Commission on Human Rights.

Liberia has obligations under international law as a signatory who has ratified the Rome Statute which established the International Criminal Court (ICC) . The Court is an intergovernmental organization and international tribunal that officially sits in The Hague in the Netherlands and has the jurisdiction to prosecute individuals for the international crimes of genocide, crimes against humanity, and war crimes.

The basis for the establishment of a war crimes court and the prosecution of accused individuals are firmly rooted in the Final Report of the TRC. All Liberian fighting factions, as part of the Accra Comprehensive Peace agreement, subscribed to the establishment of the TRC mechanism.

Liberia, by becoming a party to international treaties, assumes obligations and duties under international law to respect, to protect and to fulfil human rights.

That obligation to respect means that Liberia must refrain from blocking, interfering with or curtailing the enjoyment of human rights by its citizens and others within its borders.

Liberia must be reminded that it is failing miserably in upholding its obligations to comply with international law by its refusal to hold accountable those named in the country’s TRC Report as being responsible for serious human rights violations.

The international community and Liberians at home remain resolute in the march to justice.

Liberia TRC
TRC Liberia – Logo

The intentional delay by the Liberian government to stand on the side of justice must have consequences including the realization that their unacceptable action is tantamount to obstruction of justice.

The expectation is that moral men and women with clarity of conviction in Liberia will stand for the voiceless, the dead and their families and the physically and psychologically scarred and  follow the law and international obligations so that history will be kind to their legacies.

Liberia must act boldly to end impunity and exact justice and accountability now. It can be done!

By Emmanuel Abalo

West African Journal Magazine

 

Liberia Pressed At UN To Announce Decision On War Crimes Prosecution

Flag of Liberia

The Liberian delegation appearing before the UN Human Rights Committee says the Government of Liberia will shortly issue a public statement on how it proposes to address accountability for serious crimes and human rights violations committed during the Liberian civil wars.

HRW Elise Keppler

According to Ms Elise Keppler, the Associate Director of the International Justice Program of Human Rights Watch (HRW), the pledge of the Liberia government “… falls short of what is needed , but it’s a move in the right direction”. In a statement issued on Tuesday, HRW official noted that, ” Liberians have been waiting for many years to see justice for the atrocities suffered during the country’s civil wars – including massacres, summary executions. rapes, torture, and mutilation. Nine years, since Liberia’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission issues its report, which called for a special war crimes court tot be set up, not a single person has been tried for war crimes. A handful of cases involving civil war era crimes have been pursued abroad…”

HRW disclosed that when the Liberia delegation which appeared on Monday before the UN body was pressed to say how the Government is responding to the many calls for justice, it responded that, “…Liberia has thus far focused on reconciliation, and argued that President George Weah’s administration is still relatively new. But it conceded that more more Liberians are coming forward to press for justice and indicated it would ‘soon’ issue a public statement on accountability for past crimes.”

Liberian President George M. Weah

Recently 76 international and local groups and non-governmental bodies urged the Liberian government to hold human rights violators responsible for alleged crimes committed during the civil wars. The new Weah Administration has been dragging its feet in issuing a firm commitment to implementation of the Final Report of the country’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC).

It is unclear how soon the Liberian government will issue its public statement and if it will once and for all commit to responding to cries for Justice.

‘It may only be the smallest of steps, but for a country that lived through 14 years of war and for victims whio suffered the worst crimes imaginable, the promised statement offers a glimmer of hope that one day justice will be served,” HRW official said.

Map of Liberia

Meantime, international investigators say with the conviction of former CharlesTaylor association and rebel spokesman Jucontee Thomas Woewiyu in the U.S. on federal immigration fraud, they are presently pursuing other human rights violators in and out of Liberia.

Investigators are reportedly making regular visits to Liberia to identify victims and survivors and collect evidence for future prosecutions.

http://webtv.un.org/watch/consideration-of-liberia-contd-3501st-meeting-123rd-session-of-human-rights-committee/5807531493001/

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.

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                                             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

UN Condemns Hospital Raids In CAR

The UN has condemned intimidation of staff and patients by armed groups in the Central African Republic (CAR).

Map of Central African Republic
Map of Central African Republic

The BBC quoting the UN reports that men armed with machetes, knives and other crude weapons entered hospitals in the past few months most recently in the town of Bambari.

Terrified relatives had moved patients from Bambari hospital even though they still needed treatment.

The UN said it was unclear who was carrying out the attacks, suspected of being ethnically motivated.

The conflict has led to a 70% increase in the number of internally displaced people since January 2017, the UN says.

BBC