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Fomba Sirleaf’s timidity offers historical insight into presidential family’s interference and manipulation of political system

By Tewroh-Wehtoe Sungbeh     Fomba Sirleaf


President Sirleaf’s Monrovia City Court jails radio personality Henry Costa for engaging in a heated on-air verbal feud with her son Fomba Sirleaf, who is also the president’s National Security Director.

A writ was later issued by Mr. Sirleaf to have Costa arrested. Talking about kangaroo justice in a government that prides itself of respecting human rights and individual liberties? A far cry!

No, the bad blood between the two men is not about a woman.

The popular radio personality was served a writ and arrested after he criticized the ruling political family about nepotism and corruption, and everything terrible Fomba’s mother has done wrong since she became President of Liberia.

Henry Costa was charged with terrorism. Can you believe it?

Do you think democracy and freedom of speech is alive and healthy in Ellen’s Liberia? I don’t think so.

However, the writ reads:

“That on the 26th day of February A.D. 2014 in the city of Monrovia, Montserrado County, Republic of Liberia, the within named defendant being there and then with malice and wicked intent, purposely did threaten the life of the said private prosecutor using against him death threats to harm and kill him, and that in the same vain the said defendant on the Costa Show on Radio Hot FM did make statement challenging the National Security Agency (NSA) Head, Fomba Sirleaf, who is the private prosecutor to engage him in a public fight wherein the defendant threaten to fight and public ridicule.” The alleged act of the defendant being unlawful, wicked and intentional is in violation of the sections 11.16 of the New Act amending section 14.24 of the New Penal Law, 14.25 and 14.27 of the New Penal Law of Liberia there and then crimes herein the defendant did do and commit.”

Within that same time period, the president’s 17-year old grandnephew Estrada Bernard III, who lives in Alaska and is still in high school, was invited by the National Oil Company of Liberia (NOCAL) to make a presentation (perhaps as an oil expert) on oil issues.

Madame Sirleaf, as usual, dismissed the public uproar over her grandnephew’s invitation to make a presentation on oil issues as “much ado about nothing.”

“You know something; it is a pity that one would make a 17-year old bigger than life, because he doesn’t deserve that kind of attention, quite frankly.”

“Let me tell you, you know, a group from – first of all his father is a neurosurgeon, who has been rendering free services here over the past 7-years. He comes here, he operates,” Sirleaf reportedly said.

Do we get no respect because the president’s grandnephew is the son of a neurosurgeon who operates freely in Liberia? Why not get an expert in the field to make a presentation that will be beneficial to all and those aspiring to be in the oil industry?

Now the Ebola pandemic, a public health crisis has once again exposed the Sirleaf administration of incompetence and lacked of leadership.

Unpreparedness in disaster management, lack of funding, lack of training, lack of staffing and lack of coordination, has hampered the nation’s readiness to deal with this particular disaster, and future disasters in the Republic of Liberia.

As the Ebola outbreak overwhelmed the nation, President Sirieaf, the (traveler in chief) she is unsurprisingly left the country to attend the 4th EU-Africa Summit in Brussels. Where’s her foreign minister? You would think the president would designate her foreign minister to attend the summit so that she can remain in the country to deal with the national emergency at hand. But no, and as usual, Ellen left the country at that crucial time for her usual travelfest.

A member of the House of Representatives or Senate should have taken the time to ask tough questions and seek genuine answers.

To his credit, however, only the president’s ally, Benoni Urey, a rich private citizen who’s reportedly contemplating running for president in 2017, criticized Madame Sirleaf about her leaving the country in the wake of the Ebola outbreak.

These are some the violations Liberians have to live with constantly in a country where the nation’s president, her family, her cronies and elected officials are not accountable to the people.

That is because Liberia’s political system is set up in a corrupt, selfish, monopolized and centralized way that gives more power to the president and elected officials, and zero or token power to the people.

Had Liberia been a genuine democracy with accountability and transparency constantly highlighted as the central themes of governance in the Sirleaf administration, tough questions would have been asked, and heads would roll for these violations.

So far, from what I have seen, there is no legislative oversight in the Republic of Liberia; and the president, her family, friends and cronies and appointed and elected officials can do whatever they want to do – violate the laws of the land without ever being held accountable for their actions.

However, I am sure Madame Sirleaf will claim not to have any knowledge as usual about the two events that occurred on her watch that (1) sent a Liberian to jail because he got into an on-air verbal dispute with her grown son (2) for inviting an unqualified ‘expert,’ a family member and a minor for that matter to lecture qualified grownups on energy issues.

Seriously, Liberian democracy needs a reality check.

Also, Liberians in general needs to reevaluate where we (they) stand in the intellectual, cultural and political defense of our country.

Our values, our self-esteems and everything we stand for including our pride have been attacked by this administration and previous administrations, as if we are non-humans. Even some non-humans – like the four-legged animals have been treated far better than the way we have been treated by our government.

For too long, we as a people have stood by supinely and witnessed in fear to the detriment of our country and families the lies, the disrespect, the political neglect, poverty and the flagrant abuse of power, which helped to take some of our loved ones away from us way too soon.

So, is it right and normal for a lady who supposed to be president of all Liberians to protect her grown son, a grown man from another man because of an on-air feud, which both gentlemen could have solved with a handshake?

I can certainly understand those parental feelings and instinct of trying to protect one’s offspring from a would-be predator.

In this case, however, Henry Costa is not a predator; and Fomba Sirleaf is a public official – a grown man who is capable of defending himself in a polarized political climate such as Liberia where he, as (National Security Director) does not need mommy and her court system to defend and protect him.

What this one-sided presidential-judicial intervention did once again is make a darn mockery of the judicial system.

It also put Liberians on notice to leave President Sirleaf’s children and family alone, else, those Liberians will be sued and be served a writ of arrest, as the president has done several times in the past when she sued Liberians who challenged her and her corrupt administration.

With President Sirleaf’s $200 million paid foreign public relations people watching and working to make her look good abroad, she will soon receive another foreign award, even though her leadership at home is less than stellar.



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