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Taylor aide seeks presidency

By Ralph Geeplay  Benoni Urey - Liberia

EDMONTON----Benoni Urey, a former chief aide to indicted Liberian warlord
President Charles Ghankay Taylor, who served as the head of the lucrative
Bureau of Maritime Affairs during the Taylor era, and was recently removed
from the United Nations travel ban, has thrown his hat in the running for
the Liberian presidency with three years to go, according to reports.

Say observers, as soon as the reigns of power left Taylor hands and his
National Patriotic Party [NPP], Mr. Urey and many of his associates also
deserted the party, as they sought to re-brand their images and
re-position their political careers, “effectively distancing themselves 
from the atrocities committed under the Taylor regime,” said a political 
science professor at the University of Liberia. 

The former maritime boss also accused of being Taylor chief arms buyer, now
 plans to run on the ticket of the Congress for Democratic Change [CDC]. 
But party faithful reports say are pushing back, they still remember Urey 
and his connections to Charles Taylor.

These days, Mr. Urey can be seen at speaking engagements and tours with the
football legend, George Weah, who himself still harbors presidential
ambitions in the impoverished West African country currently led by Ellen
Johnson Sirleaf. 

One of those resisting Urey’s bid is Mr. Samuel D. Tweah Jr. In an 
interview he granted a Liberian radio station few days ago, he called Urey a
 "Charles Taylor crony responsible for looting Liberia's
resources; and because of that the congress party will not allow him to
lead the CDC into any presidential election."

Tweah, regarded as one of the catalysts behind the party founding warned of severe 
revolt and cracks within the party should that happen. 
Ventures Africa reported last year when the United Nations refused to 
removed Mr. Urey from its travel ban list that “Urey, an MTN Liberia 
official, has long been connected to Taylor, and allegations has been made that
 MTN Liberia might be a financial vehicle for the convicted warlord.”

Also “A 2005 report by the Coalition for International Justice claimed Urey
helped Taylor "siphon off" money from a shipping entity to buy arms.
Further, the report said he was a "primary liaison for the illegal purchase
of weapons" in Liberia from infamous international arms dealer Viktor

Sidiki Fofana, the Congress for Democratic Change National Vice-Chairman
for Political Affairs, alarmed at Mr. Urey’s pronouncement told
FrontPageAfrica in Monrovia this week that the former Charles Taylor
aide's quest for the Liberian Presidency on the ticket of the CDC would
“cause serious distraction from the party’s 2014 objectives, but [that] it
also has the potential to undermine the united front the party seeks to
build as it goes into these hotly contested mid- term elections.” 

Press reports say less than 48 hours after the UN delisted the former 
maritime boss from the travel ban, he wasted no time in calling a press 
conference to announce his candidacy for the Liberian presidency.

Critics say Urey has no democratic credentials, and have no record of 
advocacy in a country that experienced succeeding decades of a one-party 
hegemony, a military dictatorship and the draconian rule of 
Charles Taylor, whom he supported when he served as commissioner of the 
powerful Liberian maritime agency.

Representative Acarous Gray said the CDC would not accept a Urey
candidacy. "Just walking into the party and claiming power" he said, "was

Benoni Urey, unconfirmed reports say is worth about US$12 million, although 
his net worth is not known. Liberians are not known for reporting their 
wealth. Urey currently serves as the Chair of Lonestar Communications 
Corporation, reported to be nation’s biggest cell phone company.

Urey, it is said also invested in residential housing, hotels, 
car rental company, radio and television stations and a newspaper. 
In addition, he operates Wulki farm, which produces poultry
and other farm products.

“The time has come for us to move our country forward. It is about time 
that Liberia be given back to Liberians; and if they want me to deliver,
 I will be happy to answer the call.” He said recently in Liberia’s capital of

 “Fingers are not only being pointed at Urey as a former Charles Taylor 
aide who has reinvented himself as Taylor sits behind bars in the 
United Kingdom,” said a Congress for Democratic Change executive who 
wasn't authorized to speak to the media on the Urey issue.  

“Look at Lewis Browne,” he said. “This is the man who was Charles Taylor’s
 National Security Advisor and Foreign Minister, when limps of babies were 
being hacked off in the Sierra Leone, and pregnant women bowels were being 
ghastly opened just for the fun of it. Today, he is Ellen Johnson Sirleaf’s
Minister of information speaking on behalf of our government. 
What a shame.”
Samuel D. Tweah Jr. said if men like Urey should lead what has been aptly
called Liberia’s 'grass root party,' it would make sense then that the CDC
kept quiet as it denied itself any right to speak against societal
wrongdoings. He also called rubbished Taylor’s former aide attempt to 
campaign on the party’s ticket because the party was founded to bring 
change in the aftermath of Taylor and his associates’ misrule.

Mr. Tweah said Benoni Urey represented in total the Taylor regime and its 
crimes against the Liberian people. Representative Acarous Gray, regarded 
as a fire brand within the party also referred to Urey's aspiration as 
“Charles Taylor and his fans and associates are still not happy that he was
 convicted and jailed for war crimes. If we want to see the Taylor people in power 
again, let’s elect this Urey man,” said Famatta Toe.

Mr. Urey told the Heritage Newspaper that he wanted the Liberian
presidency because the time had come for the "indigenous Liberians" to rule
the country because “Americo-Liberians” wanted to “to take away the
country's resources without investing in the country.” 

The CDC official said it was unfortunate that Mr. Urey was speaking “pure 
nonsense. He hails from Careysburg, an Americao Liberian settlement. 
Besides, that kind of divisive politics is not good for our country. Why 
would he bash his own people just because he wants to be president? These 
men think we are stupid!”

It has been rumored that Urey paid two to five million dollars to lead the
CDC ticket come 2017. But Urey denied he paid money to lead the party into
general elections “I have been with [the] CDC for over eight years, I am a
part of the CDC in fact, my support for CDC was part of the reason why I
was kept on the travel and assets freeze ban. Many parties have been bought
by money, but CDC can never be bought. CDC is worth far more than 
US$2 million.”
In it all, party head, legend George Weah, who is Johnson Sirleaf’s peace
ambassador has confirmed he is contesting a senatorial post this year; but
has yet to break his silence that he has sold the party to the former 
Charles Taylor aide. 

“For Urey to say he was on the travel ban list because of the CDC is 
stupendous and totally ridiculous. That is an insult to our party.
He was on the United Nations ban list because of his activities and
connections with Charles Taylor and the criminal enterprise they ran; and
not because of the CDC, said the congress party executive, in reaction to
Mr. Urey’s comments.

Ralph Geeplay is editor of the Liberian Listener.

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