The Liberian Dialogue http://theliberiandialogue.org Serving you since 2002. Credible. Compelling. Consistent. Provocative. Fri, 23 Jun 2017 14:30:55 +0000 en-US hourly 1 https://wordpress.org/?v=4.8 The Last Thing Lawmakers Must Do – The Masses Are Watching Ahead of 2017 Election http://theliberiandialogue.org/2017/06/23/the-last-thing-lawmakers-must-do-the-masses-are-watching-ahead-of-2017-election/ http://theliberiandialogue.org/2017/06/23/the-last-thing-lawmakers-must-do-the-masses-are-watching-ahead-of-2017-election/#respond Fri, 23 Jun 2017 14:30:25 +0000 http://theliberiandialogue.org/?p=4737 By Martin K. N. Kollie         

 

Why give a 30-year tax holiday or tax break to a Lebanese hotel – the Farmington Hotel owned by Lebanese businessman George E. Abijaoudi when no Liberian-owned hotel has even received a tax holiday for 1 year or even 6 months?

Why go into a US$59.5 million Pre-Financing Loan Agreement with a bogus foreign company and at the same time serve as a guarantor with just 6 months to go? With few months to go, there is a huge rush to bag millions without any respect for established laws/rules and the sense of patriotism. The LAST THING lawmakers must do is to reject these shady deals, 4G agreements and glaring economic conspiracy against the people’s interest.

When Liberians trooped en masse to the polls in 2005 and 2011 subsequently to chart a new political course, they did so with the conviction that this nation once torn apart by civil conflict and bloodletting would rise again and offer a fresh hope for every citizen regardless of ethnicity, religion, status and affiliation.

Yes, this was the confidence and optimism all of us (eligible voters) took to the polls.

No natural phenomenon (rain or sun) prevented us from exercising this inalienable right – a right we discharged so conspicuously in the best interest of our country. We used our ballots to form a new government. We used our ballots to employ a new President and a new Vice President. We also used our ballots to give power to 73 lawmakers at the National Legislature. Our collective purpose was for all of you (Legislators) to work in our best interest through three basic functions: Lawmaking, Representation and Oversight.

After almost 12 years, are we reaping the dividends of the decision we made as a people and a nation? This question seems painful to answer especially when our nation is shamefully sitting at the 4th position on the Global Poverty Chart. This question seems difficult to answer especially when our young sisters and mothers have no option, but to prostitute themselves and invade the pride that comes with womanhood.

How can we joyously answer this question when the rate of poverty in our country is 81.86%; and teenage pregnancy is 38% with youth unemployment skyrocketing at 80%. What is even more disgusting is that foreign companies and businesses are being unjustifiably prioritized and clandestinely preferred over Liberian-owned companies and businesses.

Is this how we intend to make Liberia better and take ownership of our economy by sidelining our own people and making foreigners richer? It is time to go beyond this unpatriotic pedestal and begin to seek Liberia’s interest. Liberia must be first in all that you do if you must be gowned as NATIONAL PATRIOTS by the next generation.

How long must you treat our nation like this? Was it a bad thing to have elected you to represent our interest at the Legislature? Or is this what we get for spending hours at the various polling precincts casting our ballots in your behalf? I hope you (lawmakers) have not forgotten that you are our servants and employees, and not our lords and employers.

With less than 108 days to election, the choice is yours to do “The Last Thing In Our Interest”. And this last thing is to reject a US$59.5 million bogus and selective Pre-Financing Loan Agreement in favor of an International Company – East International Group Incorporated. If you fail the people now, they will also fail you at the ballot boxes, because all power is inherent in them according to Article 1 of our Constitution.

In the midst of mounting challenges, ranging from unimaginable corruption to acute poverty, silence can never be an option. Our shared demonstration of love and loyalty to this country remains undiluted. While Liberian-owned businesses and companies are denied tax-break or tax holiday for even one (1) year, our government, especially the Executive Branch, is giving a 30-year tax-break to a Lebanese-owned hotel – The Farmington Hotel owned by Lebanese businessman George E. Abijaoudi.

Is this how we intend to power on the engine of our economy by making Lebanese multi-millionaires while Liberians decay in extreme poverty?

It is with this unquenched and patriotic desire to always seek a NEW LIBERIA through genuine advocacy, we have stood up and standing up even now to confront visible odds that continue to threaten our sovereignty, survivability and commonality as a nation and a people. We dare not economize with prevailing facts as voices of truth. Therefore, we make this case in good faith.

I read a headline story published in The In Profile Daily Newspaper on May 29, 2017 titled “Questionable Contracts”. This publication is implicating Ministry of Public Works into a web of Conflict of Interest with a foreign Chinese-owned company – East International Group Incorporated. As an advocate, I chose not to anchor my thoughts only on what was published in The In Profile Daily, but to go beyond by digging out some fundamental facts.

In my possession, I have a copy of an official loan agreement and a communication from the desk of President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf requesting you (lawmakers) to ratify a Pre-Financing Loan Agreement costing US$59.5 million between GoL and East International Group Incorporated. In her 2-page letter to you, she said that this loan agreement is meant to pave a 24.5km road from Clay to DC Clark in Bomi County and a 51km neighborhood road in Monrovia and its environs.

I want to applaud her government for its farsightedness to have 30 roads paved even though she has only 6 months in power. I wonder why all this rush. Without any intention to oppose our nation’s developmental drive in whatever manner, I have some basic inquiries, which reflect the basis of my thoughts and those evolving concerns I have since harbored about this US$59.5 million pre-financial deal:

1. Why go into a loan agreement of US$59.5 with a foreign company that has no proven international record in construction and engineering? I Google this company and found no record of performance beyond Liberia.

2. What is the rationale of preferring East International Group exclusively for such huge DEAL (US$59.5 million for 30 roads) when we have Liberian-owned companies that are even more qualified and capable?

3. Who does this US$59.5 million agreement really benefit and what gain does it bring to Liberia? Does it benefit Liberians or Chinese?

4. Why wasn’t there any competitive bidding process for such contract in line with proviso of our PPCC Law? Why was East International Group given such a preference, which contravenes Part V Section 46 of our PPCC Law?

5. If East International Group defects on its obligation(s) according to this agreement, who pays back this astronomical loan or offset this huge liability in 7 years? How can we even trust East International Group when it was recently shut down by LRA for evading taxes even though it was served a 30-day assessment notice (warning) in line with section 1042(d) and section 70 of Liberia Revenue Code and LRA regulations (Ref: http://www.frontpageafricaonline.com/index.php/business/4162-liberia-revenue-authority-shuts-businesses-suspected-of-evading-tax).

6. Why is GoL serving as a guarantor of this US$59.5 million loan in favor of a foreign company, and not a Liberian company? Why even give this contract of 30 roads to East International alone and place Liberian companies in a subservient position?

Having carefully read and analyzed this 15-page Pre-Financing Agreement and the communication from the President which seeks to garner legislative endorsement, my questions above have prudently led me to these systematic conclusions judging from available facts and incontestable realities:

1. This US$59.5 million Loan Agreement is a BAD DEAL due to its selective and skeptical nature.

2. It unravels high risk of losses for Liberia and puts East International Group in a gainful and profiteering parameter.

3. It discourages local dominance of our economy and promotes foreign control, which has a downward impact on growth and development. Additionally, this deal is an unpatriotic attempt to sideline Liberian-owned companies and render them vulnerably inactive and worthless.

4. This deal disfigures the true essence of the Liberianization Policy and contradicts Section 45.1 of our PPCC Law, which even highlights Margin of Preference:

“A Procuring Entity may grant a Margin of Preference to Domestic Businesses, or Liberian Businesses, or Solely-Liberian Owned Businesses, as defined under this Act, in accordance with regulations adopted by the Commissioners.”

5. This deal, which indicates that East International Group has exclusive authority to subcontract Liberian-owned companies and engineers at will, gives this foreign company unparalleled leverage and monopoly to control this sector. How can you award a contract of 30 roads to East International Group alone? This means that Liberian contractors and companies will turn into mere beggars to East International Group before getting contracts. Furthermore, are our engineers and companies only good enough to be subcontracted?

I thought our economy is based on those fundamental principles of a free market system, where competition is permissible? Why then is our government preferring a foreign firm over local Liberian companies especially without a bidding process? Even community/feeder roads too? Whose interest is East International Group, if I may ask? Madam President, I have reliably learned from an authoritative source that East International Group Incorporated, a former supplier of building materials that came to Liberia in 2010, is the interest of Public Works Minister Guyde Moore.

In pursuit of this egoistic interest shockingly engineered by Minister Moore and his accomplices, East International Group was recently transformed into a construction company. Again I ask, what record does East International have for GoL to comfortably enter into an extravagant US$59.5 million agreement with it? It is important that a special committee be set-up to thoroughly investigate this shady deal.

With just 6 months to a very crucial democratic transition, I am aware that our nation will be faced with these glaring complexities of interest-struggle, but for once, can we protect Liberian-owned businesses especially during these last moments? I am wondering why is GoL in hurry to pave these 30 roads now with just 6 months to go. This means that the burden to pay this US$59.5 million loan in a period of 7 years will be transferred to the next government.

In paragraph 1 and 2 under Economic Renewal in President Sirleaf’s January 16, 2006 inaugural address, she said “The task of reconstructing our devastated economy is awesome…..Yet, we have the potential to promote a healthy economy in which Liberians can prosper. We can create an investment climate that gives confidence to Liberians.”

In all of her lines, Liberians were mentioned first, but I am constrained to ask “Are they first now after almost 12 years”? Are Liberian companies and businesses prioritized now? Are Liberian engineers, farmers and entrepreneurs first under your leadership? Are Liberian-owned companies first over East International Group Incorporated in this Pre-Financing Agreement? Though I recognize some gains made under your presidency, but most Liberian firms and enterprises remain vulnerable due to foreign dominance in almost every sector of our economy.

Are our engineers only good enough to build plank bridges, lay blocks, transport cement, sell crush rocks, bend steel, draw house plan and serve as casual laborers to foreigners? What are we waiting for to take control of our economy? Taking control would mean prioritizing and empowering local companies over foreign ones like Ghana, Kenya, Ivory Coast, Guinea Senegal, Zimbabwe, Rwanda, Tanzania and other nations are doing.

Having said all of these, I therefore plea with your consciences in the spirit of openness and patriotism to reject such bogus agreement and henceforth prioritize Liberian-owned companies. You must trash this sinister Pre-Financing Loan Agreement, because it is far from seeking Liberia’s ultimate interest. This unpatriotic approach of awarding big contracts to foreigners as a result of GREED is inapplicable in most countries and undermines the nationalistic standard for protecting citizens’ interests – THE ONES WHO PAY TAXES TO KEEP YOUR GOVERNMENT MOVING AND NOT THOSE WHO WIRE MILLIONS TO THEIR COUNTRIES THROUGH SHADY DEALS.

 Martin K. N. Kollie is a Liberian youth and student activist, a columnist and an emerging economist who hails from Bong County. He currently studies Economics at the University of Liberia, and is a Lux-in-Tenebris Scholar. Martin is a loyal stalwart of the Vanguard Student Unification Party (SUP). He can be reached at: martinkerkula1989@yahoo.com

 

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For Free, Fair and Transparent Elections, Do not Compromise the Integrity of the Voters Roll http://theliberiandialogue.org/2017/06/20/for-free-fair-and-transparent-elections-do-not-compromise-the-integrity-of-the-voters-roll/ Tue, 20 Jun 2017 15:53:58 +0000 http://theliberiandialogue.org/?p=4735 By Josiah Flomo Joekai, Jr.,

 

Chairman Jerome G. Korkoya of the National Elections Commission on June 14, 2017 informed the nation through an elaborate press conference that citizens with valid voter registration cards will vote during the ensuing October 10, 2017 elections, whether or not they are captured on the Final Registration Roll.

Chairman Korkoya’s statement was in response to the growing reported problems linked to the exhibition exercise particularly, the alarming omission of names and particulars of registered voters on the exhibited Provisional Registration Roll (PRR).

These reports came from credible sources such as media correspondents, government officials and private citizens from across the country. Many of them reported that from their own assessments especially visits to Voter Registration Centers and interactions with their fellow compatriots, the names and particulars of hundreds and thousands of registrants were omitted from the Provisional Registration Roll.

Indisputably, this is a critical national issue which has attracted tremendous attention. That is exactly why in no uncertain terms any Liberian should be allowed to vote without being accounted for by the voters roll. The reported omissions are not just in the fives, tens but hundreds and thousands. If this is anything to go by, it cannot in anyway be taken lightly since many Liberians stand to be disenfranchised as a result of these reports. What is even worrying is the number of reported cases of illegal voter registration activities that took place using NEC registration materials in some instances during the exercise from February 1-March 14, 2017.

Even though some of the culprits were apprehended, the public is yet to know the outcome of those illegal activities in terms of the number of cards recovered, in whose custody they (Voter Registration Cards) are, and what has happened to those involved. Besides, forgery is one thing that remains prevalent in our society today. Thus, no one doubts the possibility of the use of hundreds or thousands of forged Voter Registration Cards in October given the capacity issue that remains a challenge for the Commission.

This matter is grave and one that requires prompt and practical solution. As such, the Commission has to come out clearly to firstly confirm whether or not these reports are true. With my limited experience in electioneering, I would want to believe that there were difficulties in getting many of the optical Mark Recognition (OMR) forms containing the information of applicants scanned appropriately thereby failing to capture their photos and particulars.

Another reason that may account for this could be the inexperience of registration staff who failed to meticulously arrange the OMR forms according to serial numbers thus accounting for the disorderly manner in which names and particulars are captured on the Provisional Registration Roll. If these reasons are amongst causes of the problem, the Commission needs not ignore the facts but rather inform the public in a manner and form that will be vividly understood. The reason is simple. Fears have to be allayed, trust and confidence assured.

In a credible electioneering process, deception is not possible because numbers don’t lie and the facts are always unraveled no matter what. Thus, it is better to divulge the reality now with respect to the current state of the voters roll rather than present a roll that does not reflect the actual number of voters in possession of Voter Registration Cards at the polls in October. Absolutely, that will run inimical to the gains that have been made and sustenance of our bourgeoning democracy.

I find it incomprehensible to believe by any measure that the statement made by the NEC Chairman came as a result of the decision of the Board of Commissioners given its incoherence to the standard of maintaining a credible roll. Although I may be wrong but under no circumstance should an Electoral Management Body (EMB) like as ours make such policy statement that has serious implications for the conduct of the October polls.

The statement is one that has the propensity to manipulate the voters roll, create a floodgate for illegal voting and undermine the very core democratic values and principles of fairness, transparency, accountability and integrity that we seek to uphold.

For the sake of the records, the exhibition of the Provisional Registration Roll which is part of the overall voter registration exercise is a regular activity of our electoral process intended to correct the particulars of registered voters and remove the names of those who are ineligible in keeping with established guidelines and regulations of the Commission. This vetting exercise is fundamentally required for the finalization of the Provisional Registration Roll into a credible Final Registration Roll.

The voters roll or electoral roll is a list of persons who are eligible to vote in a particular election as required by our electoral jurisdiction. The voters roll is a fundamental requirement that enables stakeholders to gauge the credibility of a given election. This is so because the roll serves to prevent illegal voting or electoral fraud in general by verifying a voter’s identity and entitlement to a vote and ensures that a person does not vote multiple times.

Although the nomenclature may vary from one jurisdiction to another, it however remains an undisputed international acceptable standard for the conduct of elections particularly in countries that subscribe to and practice participatory democracy such as the United States, United Kingdom, Australia, New Zealand, etc. In essence, without a roll, there will be no election. This goes without saying that the credibility of a given election is contingent on the integrity of the voters roll.

Like many jurisdictions, the voters roll of Liberia is attainable through a periodic voter registration exercise conducted by the National Elections Commission. According to Article 77(b) of the 1986 Constitution, a citizen who attain the age of 18 years or above shall be registered as a voter to vote in an election. Pursuant to this Constitutional requirement, the New Elections Law of 1986 as amended in 2003, 2004 and 2014 further strengthens the mandate of the Commission to undertake this national task. The incorporation of these vital provisions into our organic law and the electoral act of the country respectively, speaks to the importance of accounting for every voter in any given elections in our embryonic democracy.

Obviously, it is absurd for any individual or institution least to mention the Commission with the mandate to oversee elections to declare that citizens can vote without being captured by the voters roll. This statement in my candid opinion should be retracted by the Commission and genuine assurance given through an implementable strategy for the enrollment of individuals whose names or particulars were omitted from the Provisional Registration Roll.

Josiah Flomo Joekai, Jr.,  is former Director of Civic and Voter Education of the National Elections Commission, with more than 13 years of professional service in the areas of education management, democracy and governance. He has authored several published articles and books on contemporary issues.

 

 

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The Illusion of The French Elections http://theliberiandialogue.org/2017/06/11/the-illusion-of-the-french-elections/ Sun, 11 Jun 2017 17:12:21 +0000 http://theliberiandialogue.org/?p=4731 By Isodoros Karderinis           

 

The election of the Europeanist Macron, who is a real child of the banking system and of the forces of globalization, to the presidency of France has prevented, on the one hand, the automatic activation of the decomposing procedures of a European Union that is under the German control and has created, on the other hand, an incredible illusion in the bureaucratic circles of Brussels with regard to the prospects of its longevity.

However, a thorough reading of the results of the French presidential elections
leaves no doubts. An important segment – precisely the 34% of the French people, who has been affected much less than other peoples of the Eurozone and the European Union by the extreme neo-liberal policies of wild austerity, expressed its aversion to the undemocratic bureaucratic European construction in this second round.

And in fact, this happened through a far-right political structure with a
stigmatized racist past that for years was on the sidelines of the French political
system. If the left-wing anti-European Mélenchon, who does not provoke any fear to the French people, had succeeded in passing to the second round, Macron’s election would have been unsure taking into account that 50% of the French electorate voted euro-skeptically in the first round of the elections.

In any case, the European Union now looks like a woman suffering from an incurable disease whose doctors give her five more years to live, and that because the EU cannot, in any case, exist without France. It is certain, though, that the neo-liberal anti-popular policies that Macron will implement and which will be dictated by Brussels, basically by Berlin, will devalue the social and labour rights of the French people and will provoke their justified anger.
Consequently, in the French presidential elections in 2022, and if the bomb of the Italian economy will have not yet exploded – which is quite unlikely – the political forces to blow up the European Union, which will never acquire a democratic and social face, will surely reverse the current election result and will win by a large majority.

The Germans, of course, now have every right to enjoy and celebrate Macron’s
election, and will preserve, even temporarily, the Eurozone and the European Union, from which they have won the most, while most others are losing.

Specifically, the German trade surplus, which is a structural phenomenon and not just a coincidence, is certainly owed to the great competitiveness of the German economy, but it is also scandalously strengthened by the Euro’s functioning mechanism, since the common currency does not allow the Eurozone deficit countries to devalue their currency, a fact which condemns them to a vicious circle of low competitiveness and persistent
deficits.

Since the adoption of the Euro currency, Germany’s trade surplus has followed a
frantic upward trend. Thus, in 2016, it reached a historically high level of 252.9
billion Euros, according to the official information of the German statistics
office, when the trade surplus of the whole Eurozone for the same year amounted to just 273.9 billion Euros. This means that Germany produces 92.33% of the total trade surplus in the Eurozone!

During the same period of the Euro currency, and with the exception of some years, France’s trade deficit recorded generally increasing trends. Thus, in 2016,
according to a French Customs announcement, it stood at 48.1 billion Euros, and France’s market share within the Eurozone was significantly reduced – it fell from 17% in 2000 to 13.6% in 2015 and to 13.4% in 2016 – while the trade deficit in the previous year (2015) amounted to 45.0 billion Euros.

At the same time the French economy faces other serious problems. As a consequence, the public debt is constantly expanding and it now stands at close to 100% of its Gross National Product. Unemployment, which is particularly affecting young people under the age of 25 – almost one in four is unemployed – stood at 10% of the workforce at the end of 2016, reaffirming President Hollande’s failed efforts to reduce it. At the same time, Germany enjoys very high employment rates as unemployment is historically low, since it does not exceed 3.9% of the workforce.

Fifteen years ago, France and Germany had a similar living standard. But currently, the Germans are by one fifth richer, though both economies welcomed the Euro currency in 2002 with the unemployment being around 8% of the workforce.

As a consequence, even if Macron was to surprise everyone – which of course is not going to happen – and decided on the basis as well of the specific weight that France has since the country is the second economic power in the Eurozone, to strongly push for a change of attitude in the European Union and the Eurozone, would clearly improve the French economy and moreover benefit the shaky economies of the other countries of the European South. This would crash into a huge, powerful wall that is to say Germany’s rigid and steady position.

And this happens because the Germans – whoever is at the wheel of their country – will never accept the relaxation of the austerity and the “sacred” rules of budgetary discipline. The Germans have been more than obvious that they long wish to use the Eurozone for their benefit and to the detriment of everyone else, and they will never be able to return voluntarily to their national currency, the mark, because that would lead to the collapse of their exports.

The Germans want to gain more and more preserving the Eurozone as it is over a long period of time, and they actually do not care if the others are losing or even are being destroyed, as is the case with the Greeks.

Therefore, in this European Union, which is dominated and reigned by Germany, the notion of solidarity and mutual aid not only does not exist, but it has been thrown away like garbage in the waste bin. Hence, it is being proven beyond any doubt that reality is not a burdensome essay, as such ideas have been recorded in the founding treaties of the then EEC; but instead, has being cruel and inexorable. Thus, the union of powerful and powerless economies and their tight hug through the Euro currency has already proved to be a criminal error.

In conclusion, the French presidential elections will not shake the richly paid
bureaucrats in Brussels nor the political leaders in Berlin who, surrendered to
their blissfulness and conceit, will continue to impose on the countries of the
European Union extremist neo-liberal policies of wild austerity that put the people in poverty and misery.

Isidoros Karderinis is a novelist, poet and columnist. He has studied economics and has completed postgraduate studies in the tourism economy. His articles have been republished in newspapers, magazines and sites worldwide. His poems have been translated into English, French and Spanish and published in literary magazines and literary sections of newspapers. He has published seven poetry books and two novels. His novels and three of his poetry books have been published in USA and Great Britain. Email: skarderinis@hotmail.gr

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UPP’s MacDonald Wento’s “Christian Nation” Call is not Leadership; It’s called Religious Bigotry http://theliberiandialogue.org/2017/06/03/upps-macdonald-wentos-christian-nation-call-is-not-leadership-its-called-religious-bigotry/ Sat, 03 Jun 2017 15:02:01 +0000 http://theliberiandialogue.org/?p=4727 By Tewroh-Wehtoe Sungbeh    

 

If you don’t know by now, one MacDonald A. Wento is the new political leader of the United People’s Party (UPP).

Mr. Wento is also running for President of Liberia on his party’s ticket in this year’s election.

The standard operating political procedure in Liberian politics for a new member who in most cases does not share the party’s values but is believed to have some money “rich,” or influence in the community, can talk his or her way into becoming the standard bearer or presidential candidate of the new party the individual just joined.

 The United People’s Party was not Wento’s first choice of party preference. The Congress for Democratic Change (CDC) was his first choice.

And when Wento saw that his chances of becoming the standard bearer of George Weah’s party faded away, Wento (knowing that George Weah also wanted to be President of Liberia), left CDC to join UPP, a party that had been in a severe drought for a serious leader since the passing of G. Baccus Matthews in 2007.

MacDonald A. Wento left CDC and immediately became the leader/standard bearer of the United People’s Party.

Mr. Wento’s astoundingly quick rise to the party’s leadership can also be traced to his dad’s stint in the party.

According to the party’s website, his dad, Alexander G. Wento Sr., was “a founding member of the Progressive Alliance of Liberia (PAL), the Progressive People’s Party (PPP), and the United People’s Party (UPP).”

MacDonald A. Wento was elected by his peers on October 1, 2016, becoming one of few individuals ever elected to the party’s highest office to succeed the irreplaceable Gabriel Baccus Mathews, whose big shoes will be very difficult to fill.

However, as an influential voice in the United People’s Party during his days on earth, G. Baccus Matthews was the undisputed leader of the party who brought eloquence, clarity, purpose and direction to a party that needed his leadership more than ever.

Gabriel Baccus Mathews felt the pulse of the nation and was smart enough to embrace the popular public sentiments of the Liberian people for political, social and economic change that swept the nation at the time.

Mr. Matthews and other political leaders including pro-democracy advocates such as Togba Nah Tipoteh, Amos Sawyer etc., who are credited or discredited for what became the prelude to latter events, changed the face of the Liberian nation.

From my recollections, however, I never found a time when G. Baccus Matthews ever attempted to exploit any kind of religious sentiments to win votes to make his party popular.

Gabriel Baccus Matthews was about ideas and finding ways to make the Republic of Liberia democratic, and was also about finding ways to end the massive suffering of the Liberian people.

Gabriel Baccus Matthews was never about hatred and religious bigotry.

MacDonald A. Wento in 2017 wants Liberia to become a “Christian Nation,” promising that if he was ever elected president, his government will pass legislation to make Liberia a Christian nation.

“As Christians, we need to stand firm and defend our faith to the glory of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. What makes one a religious leader when such person cannot defend his/her faith? Bishops and pastors who are supposed to be telling the people or their congregation to support Liberia being a Christian State are the ones who are preaching against it,” Wento reportedly said.

Mr. Wento, do you know that Liberia is not a theocratic republic? You are preaching division and intolerance in a country with multiple faiths. So, what will become of the Islamic faith and other minority religions in the country?

Unlike other countries where religious intolerance often stirs violence and deaths, Liberia has been spared such religious violence.

So, why now?

Remember that with all their suffering and the many problems they faced daily, the Liberian people have always managed to co-exist peacefully with their brothers and sisters of the Islamic faith.

Are you going to wipe those religions off the Liberian landscape?

What will become of members of the Islamic faith and other religions who are natural-born Liberian citizens?

 Mr. Wento, I believe you want another civil war.

Do you care that the Liberian people are not interested in another civil war, but are interested in jobs, security, prosperity and food on the table for their children; and want their children to go to school every day?

Mr. Wento, do you have any plans to strengthen the nation’s weak and broken political institutions?

How about education, health care and hunger? Let’s discuss those issues and find practical solutions to solving them. How can you fight corruption and nepotism? Do you have any plan for Liberia’s impassable roads and broken streets? 

Anyway, read the 1847 Liberian Constitution, Sec. 3rd.   

All men have a natural and unalienable right to worship God, according to the dictates of their own consciences, without obstruction or molestation from others: all persons demeaning themselves peaceably, and not obstructing others in their religious worship, are entitled to the protection of law, in the free exercise of their own religion; and no sect of Christians shall have exclusive privileges or preference, over any other sect; but all shall be alike tolerated: and no religious test whatever shall be required as a qualification for civil office, or the exercise of any civil right.”

“God” is the keyword. The excerpt also speaks of religious tolerance.

Also, read this excerpt from the Preamble 1986 amended constitution

 “We the People of the Republic of Liberia: Acknowledging our devout gratitude to God for our existence as a Free, Sovereign and Independent State, and relying on His Divine Guidance for our survival as a Nation.”

Key word, again, “God,” not religious bigotry.

As a country that just came out of a deadly 14-year civil war, the Liberian people do not have the appetite for another civil war.

This is not leadership.

 

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What’s Wrong with Liberian Politics and the 2017 Presidential Candidates? http://theliberiandialogue.org/2017/05/27/whats-wrong-with-liberian-politics-and-the-2017-presidential-candidates/ Sat, 27 May 2017 14:22:08 +0000 http://theliberiandialogue.org/?p=4723    By Tewroh-Wehtoe Sungbeh     

 

 I am sick of politics – Liberian politics for that matter.

 Liberian politics is not only sickening and inferior, it is irritating and lacking substance.

Except for the tabloid-like coverage of the presidential candidates from the dominant FrontPageAfrica, there are no debates between the presidential candidates, and there are no hard-hitting, non-pandering interviews from the press that explains what these individuals will do if one of them is elected President of Liberia.

Some members of the Monrovia-based press is not helping the issue either, but made it their duty to sell the only character they have to just about anybody, any Liberian politician for pieces of silver and gold, just to survive in Liberia’s tough economy.

This is frustrating and a mockery of Liberia’s fledgling democracy.

However, to be a “serious” Liberian politician or presidential candidate, the bar has to be much lower to be a contender.

In order to be seen as a serious contender for the Liberian presidency, the individual must be a painfully reticent and slumberous septuagenarian incumbent vice president who is running on whatever record (if any) he can seriously claim.

Not all.

You also must be a painfully inept and reticent runaway former football star with no intellectual curiosity, whose only claim to politics or fame is his football exploits; or be a former president pro-temporo of the Liberian senate, who once represented the dark values of a former rebel leader-killer-turned president, who is now sitting in prison for war crime.

If you are also a boisterous former rebel leader-turned-Senator whose name generates fear in hordes of people for his disreputable legacy of being a serial killer, you can make noise and be heard and taken seriously by some as a presidential candidate.

Also, to run for President of Liberia, remain silent and be unaccountable to the electorates, and you will probably be elected on your own recognizance.

However, if any of the individuals is not your choice for president, you can choose from the extensive list of wannabe candidates whom you probably know in-person by now, or whose names you probably already know.

The presidential candidates are making the rounds in Monrovia and in some parts of the country by not answering tough questions from the press, but are trying to get the votes that will eventually take the individual to the Executive Mansion, come 2018.

After the presidential and legislative elections are over, and as is customary in Liberia, the loosing candidates will pack up and leave the country for the United States or elsewhere, as if the Liberian presidency is a seasonal lottery for those that are trying their luck to win.

Some of the presidential candidates are naturalized U.S citizens or perhaps naturalized citizens elsewhere; and their spouses, children, their Victorian homes, mortgages and other family members not in Liberia, but overseas. The individuals are running for President of Liberia in violation of the nation’s anti-dual citizenship laws.

Just recently, it was reported that the current chairman of the National Elections Commission (NEC), Jerome G. Korkoya, the guy who’s supposed to oversee the nation’s elections, is a naturalized U.S. citizen, in violation of the country’s election’s law.

During the 2011 presidential election, incumbent Ellen Johnson who was running for re-election that year, reportedly appointed members of the National Elections Commissions.

We know what happened during and after that election with the president’s appointed Chairman, James Fromoyan, who reportedly tampered with the election and tilted the results in favor of Madame Ellen Johnson Sirleaf.

Mr. Fromoyan fled the country only to return later.

How credible can the upcoming elections be?

Truth is, I am uninterested in the presidential candidates and the 2017 presidential election. I am not even interested in their circuitous and repetitious display of outright lies and unaccountability, either.  

I am interested in proven results from grown-ups who will put people and country first; a serious person who is willing to sign a 200-day agreement with the Liberian people – that in the president’s first 200 days in office, he or she will do X or Y for the Liberian people and nation.

If the new president cannot fulfill this agreement, he or she must be held accountable by the Liberian people and be recalled from office.

Let the Liberian people decide what can and should be done to the president for breaking that promise.

The country and the Liberian people cannot afford to be played by individuals whose only contributions to the country is to run for president every election season, and leave the country immediately after the election is over.

Our country is broken. Corruption is way too high. Unemployment is way too high. There is no economic prosperity, and there is no development either.

The Liberian people are suffering too much.

My Liberian people, it just cannot be politics as usual.

For me, those days are long gone!

I am tired!

 

 

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Where are the Legislative delegation from Southeastern Liberia? Missing in Action? http://theliberiandialogue.org/2017/05/26/where-are-the-legislative-delegation-from-southeastern-liberia-missing-in-action/ Fri, 26 May 2017 02:41:57 +0000 http://theliberiandialogue.org/?p=4719 By Tewroh-Wehtoe Sungbeh    

 

Bong and Nimba counties and other neighboring counties near Monrovia are lucky to be in their geographic location. At least, they get to have presidential visits and ministerial retreats and government projects such as hospitals and colleges.

If you are southeastern counties named Sinoe, River Gee, Grand Kru, Maryland and Grand Gedeh? – that is (if Grand Gedeh County is geographically located in the southeast, which I don’t think it is but close enough), you are in a drought for those anticipated presidential and vice presidential visits and pork barrel projects.

From my recollection, I believe Ellen Johnson Sirleaf made either one or a couple of visits to those areas during her entire presidency.

Vice President Joseph N. Boakai?

Well, you make the call, because I don’t think that part of Liberia is Mr. Boakai’s traveling route.

The vice president of Liberia is quite known to visit northern or Northwestern Liberia, mid- Liberia, the United States and other western countries more than he visits the southeastern counties in the country he supposedly represents as the second in command, or the country he desperately wants to represent.

True enough, the nation’s capital, Monrovia and the counties that are not too far from Monrovia (with the exception of Grand Gedeh County), are fortunate to get community colleges, hospitals and clinics, and a correctional facility from the Sirleaf administration.

It was reported in the media recently that a community college is finally in the making for Sinoe County. Sinoe County? Are we dreaming? Too good to be true.

I have not read or heard anything being built for River Gee and Maryland counties yet?

Since community colleges – or having one in one’s backyard is now a fad in these modern Liberian times – whether they are accredited or not; I want to believe River Gee, Maryland, Grand Kru and other counties that once felt forgotten or neglected in these days of Ellen, will soon be getting their own.  

Even though I am one of those individuals who will blame the national political leadership for not paying attention to Sinoe, River Gee, Maryland, Grand Kru and other counties, I will not hesitate a bit to criticize the county’s two-by-four, bench-warming legislative delegation.

Where are the county’s legislative delegation when our people really need them?

Where is Senator Joseph Nagbe of Sinoe County? Instead of this guy genuinely representing his people in Sinoe County, he’s busy sitting in New Kru Town, Bushrod Island.

 Like Joseph Nagbe, Liberian legislators are known to sit in Monrovia and receive their fat pay checks and do nothing. These individuals would rather live in Monrovia than reside in the county and the district that elected them.

Where is Senator Conmany Wesseh? Is he really representing his people in River Gee County or a cheerleader for the Sirleaf administration and bad governance? I believe the latter.

Milton Teahjay? Another monumental disappointment!

How about Dr. Peter Coleman? The brother is missing in action.

Jefferson Karmoh? You will easily see Mr. Karmoh in a western country than in his district in Sinoe County.

The other Senators and Representatives from the southeast?

Well, I will not waste my time naming them publicly because they are like the rest of their colleagues from Sinoe, River Gee and Maryland counties. They are missing in action too.

All of them are legislators in name only for the money, the paycheck. They are not Senators and Representatives who are really interested in the business of representing their suffering people.

Folks, the stories are the same. They are sad stories about the lack of roads or paved roads to travel or take produce to the market. The story is also about sea erosion in the coastal southeastern counties; namely, Sinoe and Maryland. Don’t forget New Kru Town, Bushrod Island. D-Twe High School, the only high school in that community is nearly under water due to sea erosion.

However, as the annual torrential rainfall takes over in a brutal way, rural roads become impassable to travel or sell anything; or for even a bus, a 4-wheel drive, or a truck to get through it.

Residents in those areas are not accessible to roads to get to see a nurse, a doctor or a health practitioner in their part of the country, let along get to Monrovia for needed health care.

Some of the areas don’t even have high schools; as students have to walk miles and miles to another town to get in a classroom to learn. At times on hungry stomachs.

The Liberian people in the areas in question are the ones who are feeling the pain; and are the ones who are supposed to scream the loudest to get their legislative delegation to honestly represent them.

Had Liberia truly being a real democracy, those deadbeats would have been thrown out of office by now.

Screaming the loudest means booting the rascals out of office.

Do it for your children, your grandchildren, your family and for the Republic of Liberia.

Vote the jokers out of office now, in 2017!

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RIVER GEE COUNTY DEVELOPMENT FUND’S AUDIT REPORT AND SENATOR CONMANY WESSEH’S GRADA http://theliberiandialogue.org/2017/05/13/river-gee-county-development-funds-audit-report-and-senator-conmany-wessehs-grada/ Sat, 13 May 2017 22:38:37 +0000 http://theliberiandialogue.org/?p=4714                                River Gee Redemption Movement  
 

This memo goes to all citizens of River Gee County. The River Gee Redemption Movement which is a cross-sections of River Gee County Citizens, is pleased to inform every citizens of our county irrespective of where they live that
Senator Conmany Wesseh is being officially invited to dialogue with all citizens of River Gee Citizens on May 21, 2017; to clarify major issues of concern regarding the alleged corruption practices of our county’s development fund and his company GRADA. The official invitation packaged to Senator Conmany Wesseh, which included a formal letter of invitation, and a complete copy of the Audit Report alleging rampant corruption by Senator Conmany Wesseh’s company called GRADA, was hand delivered to Senator Conmany Wesseh at his Capital Building Office on Monday, May 8, 2017. 
As a courtesy to the sons of River Gee County currently serving in very high- profile positions in government, the River Gee Redemption Movement on behalf of River Gee Citizens in Liberia and the diaspora served copies of Senator Conmany Wesseh’s communication from the people of River Gee County to the River Gee Caucus and the Honorable Justice Minister Fred Cherue.
The citizens of River Gee County are eagerly awaiting to meet with Senator Conmany Wesseh on May 21, 2017 at 2:00pm at Bala Casa Hotel, in Monrovia. The River Gee Redemption Movement wants to assure each and every River Gee County Citizens that the Movement will not relent but to continue to work tirelessly in the supreme interest of us all until justice, accountability and transparency are realized regarding this Audit Report by the General Auditing Commission (GAC), even though we are very well aware of the difficulties ahead.
For those of you in the diaspora, please call back home and tell your families to be in attendance.
 ALL CITIZENS CONCERN MUST TURN OUT TO GET CLARTY FROM SENATOR CONMANY WESSEH’s mouth….
Signed: Gabriel Slobert  

Interim General Secretary

 Approved:                                    
 Alexander Young   

                                                

 
                                                   

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The Tragedy of Liberian Media http://theliberiandialogue.org/2017/05/06/the-tragedy-of-liberian-media/ Sat, 06 May 2017 14:05:40 +0000 http://theliberiandialogue.org/?p=4710 By Martin K. N. Kollie                        

Former U.S. Senator, Christopher Dodd once said: “When the public’s right to know is threatened, and when the rights of free speech and free press are at risk, all of the other liberties we hold dear are endangered. The media in Liberia remains an integral and indispensable embodiment of our democracy. Allowing World Press Freedom Day to pass on without honoring the legacy, courage and resilience of Liberian Journalists would be a disservice.

May 3rd of every year is set aside to pay homage to journalists who have gone beyond the call of duty to unveil hidden truths and disseminate accurate, balance and credible reports on global, regional and local issues. This day renews the inspiration and strength of those who have steadfastly stood in defense of press freedom and freedom of expression. It salutes outstanding institutions and individuals that have made immense contribution to promoting a free press amidst coercion and censorship.

The media in every nation is a crucial stratum of nation-building and democratization. It drives or destroys the overall agenda of any country. The media in Liberia has been playing a very pivotal role in transforming our nation, consolidating our fragile peace, sustaining our emerging democracy and promoting genuine national development. A prosperous nation is anchored to press freedom and free speech. No one should be subjected to criminal charges for expressing his/her view on a specific issue.

Whenever state-actors and politicians gruesomely pursue journalists for independently reporting all forms of unethical practices in government, it hampers genuine progress. Even though the government of Liberia under President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf has made some gains to ensure Press Freedom, but this year’s ranking proves that Liberia is fast declining in terms of protecting press freedom and free speech. The government needs to take stronger and more proactive steps toward ensuring the freedom of journalists and critics.

Liberia has dropped in ranking from the 89th to 94th position on the 2017 World Press Freedom Index with a global score of 31.12. Countries like Sierra Leone (ranking: 85), Ivory Coast (ranking: 81), Benin (ranking: 78), Niger (ranking: 61) and Senegal (ranking: 58) are topping Liberia. I hope the government of Liberia has not forgotten that the June 2007 Table Mountain Declaration and the May 1991 Declaration of Windhoek are still in force and every provision in these international instruments must be adhered to.

Liberian Journalists have been through a lot even though JOURNALISM is not a CRIME. There are voluminous of untold stories and terrifying accounts. For more than seven (7) decades now, press freedom has been and continues to be muzzled. Journalists in Liberia have stood up as watchdogs and gatekeepers of our society. They continue to make ultimate sacrifices for the growth and development of our nation. Sometimes, they and their families even become targets of political and military repression. Surely, Liberian journalists deserve a golden space in our national Gazette.  

It is a tragedy for a Liberian journalist to be severely whipped for reporting the truth. It is a tragedy for a newspaper to be banned simply because it exposed corruption. It is a tragedy for a radio station to be shut-down for broadcasting critical news/views. It is a tragedy to detain and jail a journalist for speaking against bad governance. It is a tragedy to target the family members of investigative reporters. It is a tragedy to invade printing houses for publishing credible and balance news. It is a national tragedy for our judiciary system to be used as a conduit of manipulation to muzzle free press.

It is a tragedy for Editor Roland Worwee of the Corruption Watch Newspaper and Television Manager Joe Wandah of Truth FM to be imprisoned on charges of libel and defamation. It is a tragedy when publishers, editors, columnists, newscasters, talk-show hosts and political commentators are chased, handcuffed and sometimes beaten with gun-butts for speaking truth to power. It is a tragedy for our government to remain tightlipped on repealing the libel and defamation law in Liberia, but at the same time brags about signing the Declaration of Table Mountain. The tragedies of the Liberian media are too despicable to narrate.

These tragedies continue to weaken our democracy and threaten our overall stability. These tragedies are even visible today. If we truly desire an all-inclusive CHANGE in our country, we must consider these tragedies as common enemies. We must confront them together as a nation and a people. Too often, press freedom and freedom of expression have been restricted. It is time for all of us (ordinary and prominent citizens) to stand up in defense of press freedom. If our government fails to immediately revise laws criminalizing press freedom and free speech, our nation stands to risk a lot.

We must stand with the Press Union of Liberia (PUL) to ensure the decriminalization of antiquated and vicious laws that tend to muzzle press freedom and free speech. We must march together with Liberian journalists and lift our banners up high against those draconian policies that continue to pierce our democracy. The teeth of these outdated laws are even sharper than a two-edged sword. They are used to protect the interest of politicians and shield corruption. They are used to protect the rich and influential against the overall agenda of the country. These statutes continue to stifle Liberian journalists and strangulate press freedom.  They are completely contrary to the Table Mountain Declaration which President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf signed in July 2012. 

On this World Press Freedom Day in post-conflict Liberia, the ink of my pen cannot flow further without eulogizing a national hero like Albert Porte. Albert Porte was a journalist par excellence with uncompromising principles and ethics. While serving as Chief Editor of the Crozerville Observer, he was sent to jail several times for exposing bad governance under the hegemony of the True Whig Party. His pen was never bought by bourgeoisies; neither was his voice used to protect the parochial interest of greedy politicians and big-shots. With professionalism, patriotism and high ethical standards, Porte’s pamphlets reflected the hard truths.     

Porte’s pen was a powerful tool he used to broadcast prevailing realities amidst intimidation and harassment. The following publications are famous memories of Porte’s powerful pen: Thinking about Unthinkable Things—The Democratic Way (1967), Liberianization or Gobbling Business? (1975), Explaining Why (1976), Thoughts on Change (1977) and The Day Monrovia Stood Still (1979). As a result of Porte’s invaluable contribution to journalism, this generation of Liberian journalists now has unique space to at least practice a profession that was totally seen by despotic and dictatorial regimes as a taboo. 

The celebration of this year’s World Press Freedom Day in Liberia would have no meaning if Charles Gbenyon is not remembered. The death of this fallen Liberian broadcast journalist who worked for ELBC still remains a mystery since November 14, 1985. Gbenyon is no more simply because he chose to be a journalist, which was never a wrong path to have pursued. The blood of Gbenyon continues to cry out for justice. Those in political offices and high places need to understand that JOURNALISM is not TABOO. For decades now, the press in Liberia has been muzzled by successive regimes. 

Overtime, Liberian journalists have been severely intimidated, flogged, harassed and censored by State security for performing their reportorial duties. Yesteryear, some of them were even killed for publicizing factual information on critical issues while others were imprisoned at Belle Yalla and the Post Stockade for a crime they did not commit. The media in Liberia has endured tough times to reach this far. In 1955 under Tubman’s administration, 9 Liberian journalists were arrested and imprisoned for publishing editorials against President William V. S. Tubman and his True Whig Party.  

The attack on the media by Tubman’s administration created a gloomy cloud over press freedom in Liberia. This horrifying approach gave rise to serious media restriction and repression. Press Freedom and Freedom of Speech were no longer seen as fundamental instruments to solidify our democracy. Those in authority saw journalists as frontline impediments to their socio-economic and political interest. As a result, they did everything humanly possible to slaughter the media and exterminate free speech.

Under the presidency of William R. Tolbert, the Liberian media became a direct victim of political censorship, subjugation and machination. The brother of President Tolbert and other higher-ups in government misused public offices to castrate the media through widespread intimidation. The primary motive of Stephen A. Tolbert who served as Minister of Finance was to isolate the media and subdue free speech. The Revelation newspaper was shut down for publishing an editorial about his growing business interest and abuse of public resources. 

Even though Liberian journalists were compelled to undergo harsh and hostile treatment during the domineering era of the True Whig Party, but history could not allow terror to extinct this noble profession. All through these difficult days, the media remained unshaken in pursuing a new Liberia of equal opportunities for all. Determined as Liberian journalists were, nothing could undermine their collective sense of duty to Liberia – not even guns, flogging, imprisonment or death.

As our nation was transitioning towards a period of military rule after a bloody coup by 17 enlisted men of the armed forces on April 12, 1980, some saw this transition as an era of relief and democratic renaissance after many years of media clampdown. Notwithstanding, this was never the case as journalists were even targeted more under the regime of Master Sergeant Doe. The administration of Doe can be widely remembered for torturing and murdering journalists. During an interview in June 1986, President Doe said to Editor Rufus Darpoh of the Sun Times newspaper “God has given you long life, but you are acting careless with it.”

Journalists who were perceived to have been critical of the government were apprehended and maltreated by security forces loyal to ex-President Doe. Some of these journalists who suffered such treatment include: Momolu Sirleaf, publisher of Footprints Today; Kenneth Best, manager director of the Daily Observer; Rufus Darpoh, editor of the Sun Times; Willis Knuckles, reporter of the Daily Observer; Charles Gbenyon, broadcaster of ELBC; James Momoh of the Inquirer newspaper; Tom Kamara, editor-in-chief of the New Liberian newspaper; Isaac D. E. Bantu, BBC-Liberia correspondent; etc.

After almost 9 years of despotic rule under Doe’s control, the nation was plunged into another crisis due to anti-democratic precedents. This ‘revolution’ led to the ascendancy of an ex-warlord Charles Taylor as President of Liberia. During the NPP led government, journalists as well as citizens were harassed by ATU and SOD for speaking freely. Journalist Hassan Bility, an editor of The Analyst newspaper, was a direct victim of Taylor’s crackdown on the media. Several other journalists received death threats through phone calls and text messages. Some of them were arbitrarily arrested and detained.  

Even in post-conflict Liberia, there are emerging challenges facing the media and free speech. After almost 14 years of uninterrupted peace, journalists are still being threatened for reporting accurate, balance and credible stories that reveal wrongdoings in public service. In 2012, Seward Korner of the Daily Observer and Edward Mortee of the National Chronicle were picked up, handcuffed and put behind bars by police officers. In 2013, the former head of security (EPS Director Othello Warrick) for President Sirleaf said “The Executive Protection Service will go after journalists because they are terrorists without facts. You have your pens, we have our guns.” On August 21, 2013, the Publisher of FrontPage Africa, Rodney Sieh was jailed for libel.

It is time to institute a more collective action in order to protect Liberian journalists and ensure their overall safety. Article 15 of the Liberian Constitution guarantees press freedom and free speech. Article 19 of the Universal Declaration also guarantees media freedom. The Declaration of Windhoek signed in Namibia on May 3, 1991 promotes a free, independent and pluralistic media in Africa and the World. We must use these laws to adequately enhance press freedom across Liberia. This generation of Liberian journalists and even the next generation must not suffer continuous persecution.

Journalism is a distinct and respectable profession. Liberian journalists must be treated with respect, pride and dignity. Liberian journalists are the least paid in Africa, and perhaps the World. The least paid journalist in America gets US$40,000 per annum. The least paid journalist in Europe gets US$29,830.77 (£23,152). The minimum wage for journalists in South Africa is US$9,158.34 (R123,512) in a period of 12 months. In Liberia, most journalists are paid just anything by owners of media houses. It is time to promote media dignity. It is time to set the standard high. It is time to set an appreciable minimum wage for Liberian journalists. It is time to stand up for Liberian Journalists and fight for them. As youth ambassador of the International Human Rights Commission, I shall continue to pursue this path. We call on UNESCO, CARTER CENTER, OSIWA, IFES, WORLD BANK, AfDB, RSF and other partners to invest more in the Liberian media.

As the carnival of this year’s World Press Freedom Day continues, I wish all media practitioners in Liberia a wonderful celebration. May you never forget this year’s 2017 theme “Critical Minds for Critical Times: Media’s role in advancing peaceful, just and inclusive societies.”

 

 Martin K. N. Kollie is a Liberian youth activist, a columnist and an emerging economist.  He currently studies Economics at the University of Liberia and is a Lux-in-Tenebris Scholar. Martin is a youth ambassador of the International Human Rights Commission and a loyal stalwart of the Student Unification Party (SUP).  He can be reached at: martinkerkula1989@yahoo.com

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Where is our moral outrage when George Weah, Prince Johnson and other Liberian politicians violate us and betray our trust? http://theliberiandialogue.org/2017/05/02/where-is-our-moral-outrage-when-george-weah-prince-johnson-and-other-liberian-politicians-violate-us-and-betray-our-trust/ Tue, 02 May 2017 00:48:02 +0000 http://theliberiandialogue.org/?p=4706 By Tewroh-Wehtoe Sungbeh      

 

George Manneh Weah, the celebrated former football star, Congress for Democratic Change (CDC) hero, Montserrado County Senator and perennial presidential candidate, made a startling revelation recently when he told the Liberian people that he spoke with the disgraced killer, con man and mastermind of the Liberian civil war, Charles Taylor, who is serving perhaps his entire life in a European prison for crimes against humanity.

“I was in a gathering and one of Mr. Taylor’s relative was in conversation with him (Taylor), and the guy walk up to me and gave me the phone saying President Taylor wants to talk to you. So, I held the phone and spoke to him,” Weah reportedly said.

Really?

Why will Mr. Taylor want to talk to Mr. Weah, and how did Mr. Taylor got to know that Weah was in that gathering on that day? Why Weah and not another person? However, according to reports, this is not the first time Weah has communicated with Mr. Taylor.

Why did Weah – this high-profile politician and sports legend put his character and everything on the line to be in contact with a man who helped to destroy his country and masterminded a war that killed thousands, and inflicted heartbreaks and irreparable damage and injuries to countless Liberians and Sierra Leoneans in his reckless, often delusional and adventurous quest to rule the region, and also be President of Liberia?

Why didn’t the Liberian legislature of which George Weah is a member, call Weah before his peers to explain his reasons for communicating with Charles Taylor, and to also explain to the nation what he and the former NPFL rebel leader talked about?

Is it a coincidence that George Weah later chose Jewel Howard Taylor, the ex-wife of Mr. Taylor as his vice-presidential running mate?

Do we trust a President George Manneh Weah at the helm of political leadership; and the ex-wife of an imprisoned leader, Jewel Howard Taylor as his second in command in a troubled and dysfunctional country where there is no rule of law and accountability – a lawless country where a powerful President Weah could singlehandedly seek the eventual release of Charles Taylor from prison?

Just as Liberians are struggling with abject poverty and the strange and scary revelation that Weah is in communication by phone with the imprisoned Charles Taylor, Weah’s running mate, Senator Jewel Howard Taylor made it clear that she needs an increase in her monthly salary of over $10,000.00 to carry out her official duties as a lawmaker.

“For me, $10,000.00 salary not enough,” Senator Jewel Howard Taylor reportedly said.

In my honest opinion, this is the height of insensitivity and tone deafness.

Can this lady not see the suffering around her, when ordinary Liberians cannot feed their kids or send them to school because of no funds?

Can Jewel Howard Taylor not see the suffering around her when her neighbors – the average ‘Joe Blow” or a “Sieh Dee” cannot afford to see a doctor to get treatment for high blood pressure, diabetes or the common cold?

What’s wrong with these people?

How can this ex-wife of a felon who held our country hostage and sent Liberians to their early graves – a lady whom as a privileged spouse who once enjoyed the amenities of the presidency from the suffering of the Liberian people, claimed in the face of mounting poverty to not be making enough money to sustain herself as a sitting senator?

Where’s our moral outrage?

How can these individuals get away with what seems to be political murder?

The other presidential candidate, Prince Y. Johnson, who honestly should be in prison right now for his deadly role in the Liberian civil war as a notorious rebel, did not disappoint when he publicly bragged about helping people during the civil war who do not appreciate him today.

“Today in Liberia a lot of people who do not appreciate the good things God has done for them call me a murderer, a killer, but let me say to these blind people, everyone in life has his or her own record,” Prince Johnson reportedly said.

Mr. Johnson also said, “Thomas Jefferson fought war and became President, George Bush fought a bitter civil war and became President, Abraham Bambageda (Ibrahim Babangida) overthrew, executed so many people and became head of state of Nigeria.”

Is this the time for Prince Johnson to make such dubious comparisons and silly pronouncements? Did George Bush fight any civil war? How about Mr. Johnson asking for genuine national forgiveness and reconciliation from the Liberian people?

I don’t see it coming from him because Prince Johnson, like other violators, wants to be President of Liberia.

Narcissistic?

Perhaps, because this grandiose view of himself (Prince Johnson) as the ‘savior’ of the Liberian people instead of the unrepentant killer he is, is terrifying.

The Chairman of the government-run and highly manipulated and untrusted National Elections Commission (NEC), Jerome G. Korkoya, is reportedly a naturalized U.S. citizen. This shouldn’t be a problem since most Liberians working in the Sirleaf administration are U.S citizens.

 It is a problem in this election year because Liberia does not recognize dual citizenship. And Korkoya is in violation of the law because he’s technically not a citizen of Liberia. So why is Korkoya, a citizen of the United States working as the chief elections officer of the Republic of Liberia?

Alex Cummings admittedly is also a naturalized U.S. citizen who is also running for President of Liberia.

Do we need a national referendum to change the law, or do we need an ombudsman who could easily be manipulated and remote-controlled from the Executive Mansion or elsewhere to do for us what we could do for ourselves? I certainly don’t trust the latter.

As the confusion around Korkoya’s citizenship spirals out of control and sinks into our consciousness, one would think President Sirleaf will do the right thing by asking Mr. Korkoya to resign.

No, President Sirleaf did not, and Mr. Korkoya is still Chairman of the National Elections Commission.

Why are Liberians not in the streets demanding change?

Where is our moral outrage when George Weah, Prince Johnson and other Liberian politicians violate us and betray our trust?

 

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Open Letter To Inspector General Gregory Coleman of Liberia National Police http://theliberiandialogue.org/2017/04/24/open-letter-to-inspector-general-gregory-coleman-of-liberia-national-police/ Mon, 24 Apr 2017 20:31:28 +0000 http://theliberiandialogue.org/?p=4702 By Martin K. N. Kollie             

 

Dear Col. Coleman:

With a deep sense of solidarity and empathy for an enterprising young lady who fell prey to police brutality in January of this year, I am overly constrained to pen this open letter to your office.

Since your appointment and confirmation as Inspector General in line with Section 22.76 of the National Police Act 2015, this is the first communication I am directly addressing to your office though I have been highlighting other issues pertinent to police brutality, insecurity and public safety.  

Cognizant of your influence and herculean duties which are vividly enshrined in Section 22.78 of the National Police Act 2015, I thought to forward this grave matter in such manner. With optimism, your intervention would certainly guarantee a speedy redress.

Col. Coleman, on January 4, 2017 precisely, a young and industrious Liberian woman whose name is Sonah James, 26 years old, was severely brutalized by some officers of the Police Support Unit (PSU) around Buchanan Street, central Monrovia.

Sonah, a vendor of sandwich bread, had come from selling after the County Sports Meet on the Antoinette Tubman Stadium (ATS) when this unfortunate incident occurred. While enroute to her residence almost 40 feet away from Buchanan Street, she was raided, knocked down and whipped with a rattan in her right eye.

Col. Coleman, it is essential to note that L$5,800.00 along with a cell phone costing US$35.00 was clandestinely snatched away by officers of PSU during this vicious and arbitrary operation. After some days of public pressure, the police finally restituted Sonah’s L$5,800 along with a new cell phone.

Though I am not a paralegal and have no intention to prejudge, but isn’t this action a clear demonstration of guilt and admittance to wrongdoing? I am wondering why would any police officer(s) choose to stoop so low after obtaining advance knowledge in public safety, rule of law and professional ethics.

After these police officers had accomplished this vile act against a peaceful civilian and a single mother, Police Spokesman Sam Collins claimed that Sonah James was in the wrong place at the wrong time even though he was never present during the incident. According to many eye witnesses, Sonah was never selling on the street, but enroute to her residence when she was ruthlessly beaten.    

In an interview with Mae Azango of FrontPage Africa, Tete Geebro of UNMIL radio and another reporter of Heritage Newspaper, Sonah disproved the second-hand claim made by the Police Spokesman and said that she was never in the wrong place at the wrong time. This is a link to her interview with FPA (http://frontpageafricaonline.com/index.php/news/2976-i-felt-someone-knock-me-from-the-back-liberia-police-brutalizes-woman-street-vendor). 

Col. Coleman, since Sonah had this despicable encounter with police officers, she has been neglected by LNP to cater for herself.  Though L$2,000 was spent initially by the LNP for Sonah’s medication (eye drops) at SDA Cooper Hospital when she was bleeding with blood from her right eye, but since then, no genuine step has been taken by the LNP to prevent Sonah from going blind.

Since January up to date, we have been taking full responsibility for the medical expenses and sustenance of Sonah James and her family.  Sonah has been on medication for almost 3 months now at the New Eye Sight Center in Paynesville. We are particularly grateful to the former MD of NPA Matilda Parker, Florence Efua Aikins, Jerry Wion, Alvin Tonnelle, Tetee Gebro and Abdullah Swaray for contributing towards Sonah’s medical and the livelihood of her family.   

While seeking medication, Sonah was seen and treated by two professional ophthalmologists (eye doctors), namely: Dr. Catherine Bestman and Dr. Gaisie of the New Eye Sight Center. According to Sonah’s medical report which was released to us recently, she is suffering from traumatic Uveitis and poor visual acuity as a result of a hole in her macula. Uveitis is inflammation of the middle layer of the eye, called the uvea or uveal tract. It can cause severe eye pain, redness, blurred vision and lead to vision loss.

Col. Coleman, the 4-page medical report recommends that Sonah needs to see a Vitero-Retino Ophthalmologist for effective treatment otherwise she could go blind for lifetime. A copy of this report is already en route to your office for perusal. Beyond every word I have penned, Dr. Bestman told me that if immediate action is not taken to rescue Sonah’s sight, the aftermath could be grave.

When I visited Sonah yesterday, she said to me “Martin, tears continue to leak from my right eye especially during night hours. I am still feeling pain inside. I cannot see afar as a result of this. The police really hurt me and I have nobody to stand up for me, besides you and others who are doing well to keep me up. I hope to get better soon and only God will pay back those who did this to me.”

Col. Coleman, when Sonah spoke in such an aching and dejecting manner, I was broken down and provoked to have written you this letter. It is a pain that I and many others share with her. I know anyone of us could be in Sonah’s shoe. Sir, it is no secret that police brutality is increasing across Liberia. Sonah is just one of the many victims.

Col. Coleman, the action of Sonah’s accusers is a gross breach of duties and it clearly contravenes the following provisions of the 2015 National Police Act of Liberia:

  1. Section 22.72 subsection a(i) which guarantees public safety
  2. Section 22.90 subsection b(x) which points to misconduct of police officers
  3. Section 22.90 subsection b(vi) which frowns against any act of corruption
  4. Section 22.72 subsection a(iv) which guarantees the protection of a citizen’s life.

It is our hope that this communication will also claim the attention of the Liberia National Police Civilian Complaints Review Board and the Professional Standard Department in accordance with their functions which are enshrined in Section 22.85 and Section 22.91(d-e) respectively. After 15 years of civil crisis, Liberia deserves a disciplined and professional police force that is non-lethal and civilian-friendly. The Rule of Law must remain the basis for Police-Civilian engagement.   

 We are making an SOS call to the Association of Female Lawyers of Liberia (AFELL), UN Women, WHO, Female Legislative Caucus, Foundation for Women International, Samaritan Purse, US Embassy, Chinese Embassy and any organization to assist Sonah James in whatever way as she goes through this very difficult period of her life. We are particularly concern about Sonah’s health and the need for her to meet a Vitero-Retino Ophthalmologist for advanced medical treatment as recommended. These are Sonah’s contact details:

Address: Carey & Lynch Street Intersection – Central Monrovia

Phone number: (+231) 886-632-906

Col. Coleman, as I look forward to your timely response, it is my hope that God shall intervene in Sonah’s behalf through your office.

Shalom,

 

Martin K. N. Kollie is Youth Ambassador, International Human Advocate. He can be reached at E-mail: martinkerkula1989@yahoo.com. Phone #: (+231) 776-572-334

 

 

 

 

 

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