Liberia's economy is stagnating under the impact of Covid-19. A contraction in growth and a banknote shortage have combined to undermine President George Weah's "pro-poor" agenda as he marks his third year in office.
"The government is frustrating us day-by-day," says Victoria Kamara, a customer of SIB Liberia bank on Broad Street in Monrovia, waiting for a fifth day in a row to try to withdraw money from her account. "We're tired in Liberia, people are tired, maybe they want us to go and steal," she adds.
Queues outside banks in the capital are commonplace as a banknote shortage forces commercial banks to restrict cash withdrawals.
Kamara, waiting patiently under an awning in a line snaking towards the bank's locked doors, describes how tellers refuse the withdrawal requested, suggesting a lower amount.
"We've come to get our salary," says Ambroise Jahwley, another customer. "Each time we come they say no US [dollars], no LD [Liberian dollars]. Sometimes they give you half of your money, sometimes 50 dollars, sometimes 40 dollars.
"I'm very disappointed in the government and the bank because we're not getting what we're supposed to."
Weah presides over a country of 4.8 million people with a predominantly cash-based economy. Banknote shortages hit consumers' pockets.
Banks in Liberia commonly manage the supplies of cash in their vaults, especially ahead of heightened demand from customers at holiday periods.
Most banks will start to taper withdrawals and hold more deposits during summer to meet those demands, an executive from a pan-African bank told RFI in a briefing, without wanting to be named.
But this year is more severe and shortages of cash have continued. The banks are reliant on their supply from the central bank. For cash held in their vaults, they must slow loan-making activity to maintain some withdrawals for customers.
"Two seasons of the year - our independence (26 July) and Christmas - cause a big rush on banks," says Dixon Seboe, a representative for Weah's ruling Coalition for Democratic Change (CDC) party.
"But this situation shows that it has become more profound," says Seboe, who chairs the house committee on banking and currency. "It did not just happen at Christmas, it started about three or four months ago."
The US embassy in Monrovia put out an alert in December, warning travellers not to rely on getting cash from banks in Liberia, but to bring sufficient money when coming to the country.
Traders at Monrovia's markets report lower sales and customers with no cash to spend, affecting demand for their products.
Isaac Doe, a clothes seller, does not directly blame Weah's administration. "We are experiencing challenges in business, but I don't want to say it could have some political or socio-economic motives," the 28-year-old says.
Few customers mingle amongst the aisles of mannequins displaying outfits at the China market building where Doe works.
Vendors sell dresses and skirts in stalls, and seamstresses sit at sewing machines whirring away on the ground floor, altering clothes.
"We have mutilated money cycling in the entire economy right now," says Doe, describing damaged and dirty banknotes, and problems trying to give customers change. "When you get to the bank, the bank is telling you, 'We don't have money.'"
Cynthia Lloyd, a trader in provisions, complains that part of the problem is that foreign aid organisations left the country, reducing overall demand.
Are the banknotes really missing?
The banknote shortage traces its roots back to the apparent scandal emerging after Weah took office, with about $100m of new Liberian banknotes allegedly going missing.
Banknotes were printed by a Swedish company with the approval of former President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf's administration. After Weah assumed office, reports emerged claiming large amounts of banknotes had gone missing after being shipped to Monrovia.
The government ordered an investigation by US consultancy firm Kroll Associates who carried out a forensic audit, concluding no banknotes were missing, but highlighting a series of inadequate controls at the central bank.
President Weah set up a special taskforce to handle the matter and the Liberian prosecutor charged Charles Sirleaf, Ellen Johnson Sirleaf's son, a former central bank official, as well as four others, with money laundering.
Sirleaf was freed, but former Central Bank Governor Milton Weeks was found guilty of being unauthorised to print the banknotes. The questions centred around whether authorisation for printing money had been granted by the legislature.
The Government of Liberia will no longer pursue criminal charges against Crane Currency and has, in fact, said the company was honest in its dealings with the Central Bank of Liberia (CBL), and acted within the laws governing the CBL.
FrontPageAfrica has been able to obtain a letter written by the Justice Minister/Attorney General, Cllr. Frank Musah Dean, acknowledging that the company did no wrong in the execution of the two printing contracts awarded by the CBL.
“Having reviewed information additional to that contained in the Kroll and Presidential Investigation Term (PIT) reports, including the detail of packing lists, air cargo manifests and airway bills, the Government of Liberia accepts Crane Currency entered into contracts with the Central Bank of Liberia in good faith, in reasonable reliance on the Bank’s lawful authority. The Government of Liberia further accepts that Crane Currency acted in good faith throughout the execution of two (2) banknote printing orders of the Central Bank of Liberia in 2016 and 2017,” Cllr. Dean stated in the letter.
The letter which is dated January 10, 2020 was addressed to Mr. Peter Brown, Crane Currency’s Acting Commercial Director for Africa and the Middle East.
‘Honest In Its Deals’
Crane was drawn in the L$16 billion fray when the Presidential Investigation Team (PIT) in their investigative report stated that CRANE which was contracted by the CBL in two separate contracts to print banknotes totaling L$15 billion at the cost of US$15,331,689.20 conspired with officials of the CBL to defraud the Government of Liberia by ignoring the terms and conditions of the contract and went ahead to print L$18,151,000,000 in breach of the contract. The Government of Liberia incurred an extra printing cost of US$835,367.78.
The company was then indicted by the government for criminal conspiracy, money laundering and economic sabotage.
But, in a somersaulting move, the Justice Minister said after a careful review of both the PIT and Kroll Reports, it has been able to establish that Crane Currency honestly accounted for amounts printed as per its contract.
Pointing to what was once a vibrant and lucrative Mesurado fishing Pier, near the Coast Guard Base at the Freeport of Monrovia Wednesday, Yevewuo Subah, the coordinator of the World Bank project looking to revamp the fisheries sector in Liberia, foresees a rebirth for fishing where Liberia could become a beehive for fishing activities, not just domestic but for the West African sub-region.
In a post-war, transitioning democratic nation short on cash and an economy in a freefall with prices of traditional resources like iron ore, rubber, gold and diamond, this could mean good news in the long term.
The industry has always been around.
As far back as 1848 when Liberia made its first attempt at commercial fishing, then President Joseph Jenkins Roberts, converted his yacht into a fishing boat.
The first fishing trawler to operate in Liberian coastal waters belonged to Woerman, a German company that operated in the country between 1938 and 1939.
During those days, fishing was a daily activity with the trawlers returning to port at the end of each fishing day and catches were sold immediately to avoid post-harvest losses because of lack of means for preservation of fresh fish. Considering the success of the Woerman Company and the realization of the potential important role of fisheries in national socio-economic development, the Government of Liberia, in 1952, requested the assistance of FAO and the United States Government to help develop its fisheries subsector.
Experts were sent from FAO and the United States of America to assess the fisheries potential of the country. As a result of months of exploratory fishing, it was established that a medium striving fishing industry could be established in the country.
World Bank EU Keen on Resurrection Play
Mrs. Emma Metieh Glassco, Director of the National Fisheries & Aquaculture Authority(NaFAA) explains that a US$40 million World Bank project should address a number of issues holding the sector from taking off in Liberia. “The World Bank is allotting at least 40M towards revamping the Fisheries sector which seems to be a short-, medium and long-term domestic revenue source for a contribution towards the national budget. It tends to focus on the expansion and rehabilitation of Mesurado fishing pier into a modern fishing port and the establishment of landing jetties in fishing communities. The Mesurado fishing port/pier when industrialized could be the engine for national growth.”
Many years later, NaFAA is hoping for a return to the days when the sector was at its peak.
Through the World Bank and the European Union, Subah says efforts are being made to restore the pier so that industrial and semi industrial vessel can resume landing to what we foresee to be an industrial fishing market. “It will provide an opportunity for those who want to go into processing a and give fishermen access to good quality fish and encourage local fishermen to process fish for market. As you know, fresh fish is more valuable than frozen fish.”
For months now, the National Fisheries & Aquaculture Authority(NaFAA) has been in discussions with the World Bank for a fisheries project valued at US$21 million. Phase two of that project dubbed, the West Africa Regional Fisheries Project (WARFP) came to an end as a result of the pause on regional project by the bank in December 2018. It has now been increased to US$40 million subsequent to the agreement in July 2019 to continue with as a National Project.
The project titled Sustainable Management of the Fisheries Project aims to sustain the gains of the WARFP in Liberia and develop National capacity to improve the value added and increase the economic contribution to the fisheries sectors and the restoration of key infrastructure to enhance the sector contribution to the economy.
The new World Bank National Fisheries Project will focus on the rehabilitation and expansion of the Mesurado Fishing Pier to a state-of-the-art Modern Fishing port with onshore processing facilities for value addition, it will also prioritize the establishment of landing jetties targeted in five coastal counties with densely populated fishing communities such as Montserrado, Grand Bassa County etc, in an effort to reduce to huge Post Harvest loss and supply the domestic market with high quality of fish products which has a fish demand deficit of 33, 000metric tons
Liberia has the longest coastline in West Africa and the government is hoping to improve food security and ensure the livelihoods of the country’s 33,000 fisherfolk.
With infrastructure development in the fisheries sector, Liberia will be in a strong position to compete with its next-door neighbor, and gravitate from a regime of only issuance of License for wild marine fisheries to a fully industrialize and commercialized fishing industry which includes huge exports proceeds, signing of fish access agreement through bilateral arrangements such as EU-Liberia or Senegal-Liberia as well as with Private Tuna fishing industry.
To date, Liberia has no site for industrial fishing vessels to unload. This is where the proposed rehabilitation and reclamation of parts of the pier will provide, a jetty for industrial fishing vessels to land and offload and/or transship fish, and (ii) product storage and transport facilities. Mesurado Pier was the site of one of the largest fish export operations in Africa during the 1960s and 1970s, but has fallen into disrepair since the conflict. This rehabilitation would provide the country with a key entry point for fish processing and products.
Abandoned Vessels vs. Illegal Fishing
Abandoned vessels like the CUQE is one of many docked for Illegal fishing which has been a huge problem in West Africa with some seven million people living along the coast and the sea is their livelihood. Industrial fishing fleets from Europe and China and are ravaging coastal fish stocks. The Liberian government has been working with Sea Shepherd for two years to try and stop illegal fishing
Director General Emma Metieh Glassco explains that the World Bank project should address a number of issues holding the sector from taking off in Liberia.
“The World Bank is allotting at least 40M towards revamping the Fisheries sector which is seems to be a short-, medium and long-term domestic revenue source for contribution towards the national budget. It tends to focus on the expansion and rehabilitation of Mesurado fishing pier into a modern fishing port and the establishment of landing jetties in fishing communities. The Mesurado fishing port/pier when industrialized could be the engine for national growth.”
In early, February,2019 Liberia signed a partnership agreement with the Icelandic government for the purpose of establishing and equipping national fisheries competent laboratory to meet up with international standards for the certification and testing of fish product both for imports and exports. It will also include smoke ovens in local fishing communities. Through the setting of the Competent Laboratory, Liberia is expected to gain accreditation from the EU, USA, Japan and other international markets for direct export of fish. Presently, Glassco says, all fish products are tested and certified through second-member states within the sub-region, for example, Ghana.
Portions of the Mesurado Pier is still rundown but not for long. In a few days, the World Bank is expected to put pen to paper on the deal that should get the revamp project underway.
But even amid the expectations, the National Fisheries and Aquaculture Authority is struggling to rid the area of abandoned vessels still docking at the pier, many of them yet to pay fines for illegal fishing.
Glassco says efforts are underway to remove abandoned vessels from the Mesurado Pier. The process which started mid last year is forcing all vessels owners and agents to apply efforts to remove the vessels including those that went through court proceeding including F/V Nine Star which is being scrapped. The F/V Eros, another abandoned vessel has committed itself to the final payment of financial obligation while agents for the F/V Seiro-1 vessel have promised to get it removed on or before January 31, 2020. F/V Global 8, another vessel has been refurbished for fishing operations as well as F/V Benty-1 which is to be turned over to the Agent for possession.
Besides these five vessels, Glassco says, all others are submerged wrecks which can only be removed under different arrangements.
Illegal fishing has been a huge problem in West Africa with some seven million people living along the coast and the sea is their livelihood. Industrial fishing fleets from Europe and China and are ravaging coastal fish stocks. The Liberian government has been working with Sea Shepherd for two years to try and stop illegal fishing.
Partnering with Sea Shepherd, Liberian Coast Guard sailors and Marine Fisheries inspectors have been working to stop illegal, unreported, and unregulated fishing in their territorial waters.
This has enhanced Liberia’s reputation as a regional leader in the fight against illegal fishing. Since the start of this co-operation between Sea Shepherd and the Coast Guard, fifteen fishing vessels have been held for illegal fishing and other fisheries crimes; only three arrests were made in the seven years prior to this partnership.
“The World Bank is allotting at least 40M towards revamping the Fisheries sector which is seems to be a short-, medium and long-term domestic revenue source for contribution towards the national budget. It tends to focus on the expansion and rehabilitation of Mesurado fishing pier into a modern fishing port and the establishment of landing jetties in fishing communities. The Mesurado fishing port/pier when industrialized could be the engine for national growth.”– Emma Metieh Glassco, Director-General, National Fisheries and Aquaculutre Authority
United Bank for Africa (UBA) Liberia on Wednesday, October 16, 2019, launched its Chat Banking Product dubbed LEO.
The online banking product which can be accessed on Facebook Messenger and WhatsApp will allow customers to make use of their social media accounts, to open account, transfer money from one account to another, get account statement, buy airtime, get customer service assistance, load their UBA Pre-paid Card and whole lot more.
UBA’s Leo platform is a highly advanced development for a financial institution in Africa, particularly in Liberia, which aims to simplify the way customers transact. The bank says it is something that has become necessary in today’s fast-paced world with demands for quick-time transactions and responses.
UBA Liberia Managing Director and Chief Executive Officer, Olalekan Balogun, who introduced the online banking platform said, the aim of the product is to create an easy convenient and easy kind of banking in the 21st century thereby, making banking easier for those who do not have the time to stand in the banking hall and always on the go.
Balogun expressed thanks and appreciation to the students and the rest of the audience who turned out for the launch of the product on the campus of the African Methodist Episcopal University. He further encouraged them to be a part of the digital age in banking that is being introduced by UBA.
Earlier, Melody Mezay Ketter, Head of Marketing and Corporate Communications at UBA Liberia, spoke on the importance of banking, informing the students of the many digital products UBA offers.
Mrs. Ketter said LEO is one of the many banking products being introduced by UBA, to encourage financial inclusion as part of the Central Bank of Liberia’s vision.
David Ojo, UBA Head of Digital Banking Sales, who made a step by step description about how to access the product, further give some statistics which according to him, birth the idea of the digital product.
He said, there are 2.2 million active users monthly on social media; Facebook, while 300,000 bots (an autonomous program on a network, especially the Internet, that can interact with computer systems or users) on Face Book.
He furthered that Facebook has 200 million subscribers in Africa, noting that 25,000 active Facebook subscribers are currently in Liberia.
“The idea of the Digital Product which started in 2017, is finally being introduced in Liberia” Ojo said, concluding his presentation.
To access the Artificial Intelligence LEO, existing and new customers should type UBA Chat Banking on Facebook Messenger, or send a WhatsApp Chat to +231777684919 and begin chatting.
The Central Bank of Liberia Assistant Director for IT and Cyber Security Regulation and Supervision Diakae Al Lewis, Sr., lauded UBA Liberia team for its innovative posture of bringing modern banking Liberia.
LIBERIANS HAVE LONG been consumed with an urge demanding their leaders to step down.
DURING THE 1980’s, many upset with the dictatorial tendencies of Samuel Kanyon Doe, who had shredded his military uniform for civilian clothes did all they could to get rid of Doe. Multiple Coup d’etats, alleged assassination attempts finally climaxed into a bloody civil war on Christmas Eve of 1989.
DOE WOULD DIE a year later at the hands of one of his nemesis, Prince Y. Johnson, head of the breakaway National Patriotic Front of Liberia, his ears chopped off, as he labored in pain, refusing to divulge the whereabouts of the millions he had supposedly stashed away in foreign banks.
THE IRONY of Doe’s death was clear for all to see. Nearly a decade prior to seizing power, he had led a coup d’etat that ended decades of Americo-Liberian rule under the age-old True Whig Party that dominated Liberian politics under a one-party system for more than a hundred years; depriving the ethnic and indigenous majority of their share of the economic spoils.
PRESIDENT WILLIAM R. TOLBERT, like Doe was slain to death on the morning of the April 12, 1980 coup while a dozen of his cabinet ministers executed like dogs. Like Doe, murmurs of his supposed millions remains entrenched in gossips and speculations. The latter stage of Tolbert’s reign was marred by mounting pressure from the progressives who finally staged a rice riots in 1979 that preceded Tolbert’s demise.
THE RIOT WAS SPURRED by a decision by then minister of agriculture, Florence Chenoweth, to propose an increase in the subsidized price of rice from $22 per 100-pound bag to $26. Chenoweth asserted that the increase would serve as an added inducement for rice farmers to stay on the land and produce rice as both a subsistence crop and a cash crop, instead of abandoning their farms for jobs in the cities or on the rubber plantations. However, political opponents criticized the proposal as self-aggrandizement, pointing out that the Tolbert family of the president operated large rice farms and would therefore realize a tidy profit from the proposed price increase.
THE PROGRESSIVE ALLIANCE of Liberia called for a peaceful demonstration in Monrovia to protest the proposed price increase. On April 14 1979 about 2,000 activists began what was planned as a peaceful march on the Executive Mansion. The protest march swelled dramatically when the protesters were joined en-route by more than 10,000 “back street boys,” causing the march to quickly degenerate into a disorderly mob of riot and destruction.
TOLBERT WAS OVERTHROWN after the progressives rightfully complained about some injustices in the system and members of the Progressive Peoples Party, formerly Progressive Alliance of Liberia (PAL) marched and sat at the executive mansion at midnight and asked Tolbert to resign. They were arrested and jailed at the then post stockage. The next even after this was the 1980. The coup ended the over 100 years of Americo-Liberian rule but became a major development set for Liberia.
CHARLES TAYLOR, head of the National Patriotic Front of Liberia preyed on the vulnerabilities of a nation that had become fatigued by Doe with a firebrand tough-talking persona that won him a cross-section of support. Former President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf even acknowledged contributing US$10,000 to help Mr. Taylor and his rebellion, albeit she testified before the Truth and Reconciliation that she gave the $10,000 for “humanitarian” purposes.
WHEN MR. TAYLOR and his rebels finally gained traction and began capturing counties and territories, it was the very people who supported his rebellion that received the short-end of the stick. What followed was a trail of endless tribal and ethnic killings, looting and unprecedented flight of Liberians from their own country, into exile and strange lands where many have become citizens and residents after escaping the carnage in their homeland.
LIBERIANS WANTED Taylor out and he was replaced by an interim government comprising of warring factions that were seeking the interest of their individual factions and not national interest.
DURING THE FORMER regime of President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf, murmurs of resignation and step-down campaigns were a dominant chorus from the opposition, including some, now in the current ruling party.
THE IRONY of the Sirleaf era is as chronic as was that of Doe’s.
AFTER SERVING HER FIRST six-year term, the masses overwhelmingly gave Sirleaf a second term. But not long after that, in January, 2013, two years after the 2011 elections, a group of Liberians operating under the banner of the “Ellen Step Down Campaign,” emerged, calling on Africa’s first woman head of state to step down from her democratically-elected position.
THE CAMPAIGNERS, WHO had all voted in the 2011 elections, took President Sirleaf to task amid accusations that she was corrupt, nepotistic and overseeing a government that had failed to improve the lives of the Liberian people.
ORGANIZERS PENCILED in October 9, 2013 as the protest date, while allegedly distributing T-shirts to supporters of their campaign. But even as some members of the step-down drive, including Mulbah Morlu, now chair of the ruling CDC-led government, Julius Jensen, Bah-Wah Brownell and others were either arrested or under surveillance, a euphoria greeted Sirleaf as she returned home following a trip to the United Nations General Assembly.
PRAISE SINGERS gathered at the airport to welcome Sirleaf calling on her to continue to steer the state and maintain the ten years of unprecedented peace.
IN A FEW MONTHS, the current administration of President George Manneh Weah will be marking its second year in office and already, chants of step down are already in the air.
ON JUNE 7 THIS YEAR, thousands took to the streets to protest against the corruption and economic decline pointing the blame on Mr. Weah, an iconic figure, who made his name on the football pitch.
PROTESTERS TOOK aim at the stagnant economy in which most still live in deep poverty and a scandal in which the country last year allegedly lost $100 million in newly printed bank notes destined for the central bank.
IN THE WAKE of mounting challenges, some Liberians have in recent weeks questioned why the international community is not doing something about the declining economy, the failing political environment amid spurts of protests which is becoming a norm over the past few months.
MAYBE THE INTERNATIONAL community are simply tired and fed up with Liberia, and are also tired coming to their aid and maybe for once they expect Liberia and Liberians to cry their own cries.
PERHAPS SOME have become frustrated that the opposition never can seem to get its act together, often wailing and crying about the person in power but never willing to make the sacrifices to remove them from power through the ballot box with egos often colliding amongst political forces, most times to their own detriment.
RECENT RESULTS in District No. 15 and last weekend’s Senatorial By-elections in Grand Cape Mount County is just the latest in a season of discontent to expose the disunity and lack of cohesion amongst those in the opposition.
TO BE HONEST, how many times can the world come to one country’s aid? How many times should one country, as old as methuselah, the oldest on the African continent, continue to make SOS calls to the world to come to its aid.
THE WORLD WAS not a party to the 2017 elections and was never a party to the two elections held in 2005 and 2011. Going back to 1985, when Doe won, the world was not a party and neither was the world a party to the 1997 elections won by Taylor, marred by now infamous chants – He killed my ma, he killed my pa, but I will vote for him.”
THE STARK REALITY is that Liberians have always taken it upon themselves to put the leaders or rulers they desire in office, often voting on lines of friendship, populism, family – or who will be better for them to enrich themselves.
THE PAINFUL truth is that in the end, often rapidly, they regret their votes and begin complaining, suddenly turning their attention to the rest of the world to help them correct their mistake.
ALSO PAINFUL is seeing those who were in power and were defeated or overthrown quickly becoming broke and so agitated to be given employment back in Government, creating the infamous “recycled politicians”.
WELL, THE WORLD appears to be tired cleaning Liberia’s diapers and has perhaps had enough.
MR. WEAH OVERWHELMINGLY WON the 2017 presidential elections, ahead of an impressive field of candidates with more than 60% of the vote in the second round.
MR. WEAH, IMMEDIATELY TOOK to Twitter after the final results were announced, declaring: “I measure the importance and the responsibility of the immense task which I embrace today. Change is on.”
MR. WEAH won fairly and squarely, according to the National Elections and he deserves to end his six-year term, peacefully.
IF ANYONE is unhappy with the way things are, now is the time to mobilize, set egos aside and do what they feel needs to be done to defeat Mr. Weah at the ballot box.
SINCE 1847, Liberians have been clamoring for change.
THEY SEIZED the opportunity when the American Colonization Society encouraged it to proclaim independence, as it no longer wanted to support it. Although the United States declined to act on requests from the ACS to make Liberia an American colony, or to establish a formal protectorate over Liberia, but it did exercise a “moral protectorate” over Liberia, intervening only when European powers threatened its territory or sovereignty.
LIBERIA RETAINED its independence throughout the scramble for Africa by European colonial powers during the late 19th century, while remaining in the American sphere of influence.
EVEN AS AN INDEPENDENT nation, the country has for more than a century, appear unwilling to seize control of its destiny. Governments have come and gone, repeating the same mistakes – over and over again.
THIS IS WHY we strongly believe that no amount of protests can save Liberia. Protests only prolong the suffering of a people, exploit the vulnerabilities of those languishing at the bottom of the economic ladder and enrich those advocating for change, often driven by their own selfish agenda to the detriment of a nation in desperate need of redemption and social, political and economic cleansing.
THOUSANDS OF LIBERIANS died in an endless civil war and scores also died in vain attempts to overthrow a sitting government, many felt was not governing right.
WHAT HAS CHANGED since 1847? What new ideas have been thought of in a bid to make a difference – or to do things differently? What has the nation learned from April 14, 1979, April 12, 1980, November 12, 1985 or December 24, 1989 – key dates that remain entrenched in Liberia’s rugged history – for all the wrong reasons.
WHAT HAVE WE LEARNED since June 7; Save the State protest this year? What needs to be done differently? What do planners have in place in case of a premature end to the Weah presidency? Another political stalemate? Uncertainty?
THE TRUTH OF THE MATTER is even those who advocated change on those dates – would not even know the answer when the stuff begins hitting the fan.
AS HISTORY HAS SHOWN, many of them were in positions of power – and still are, repeating the very same things they accused others of yesterday.
FOR THIS, Liberians need to rethink and reprogram themselves to the changing realities of what it is they really want and how they really want to go about achieving it.
THE SAD REALITY is, Liberians can protest from now until judgment day, if the mindset remains the same, if the corrupt tendencies and urging for greed, nepotism and favoritism are still entrenched in those with aspirations for power, no amount of protesting will bring about any kind of change.
IT IS IMPORTANT that all Liberians advocate for the perseverance of the country’s bourgeoning democracy and resist any attempts by anyone to revert the course of the political dispensation.
WHAT GUARANTEE IS THERE that this latest stepdown call will yield anything different? If the Weah-led government is as bad as those advocating for his early exit feel it is, the democratic route is their best chance at removing the government from power.
FORMER US ASSISTANT SECRETARY OF STATE, Herman Cohen once said: “If this war should reach Monrovia, it will take Liberia one hundred years back”. Liberians did not listen but were welcoming Taylor because we wanted President Samuel Doe out. Today, Liberia that was once considered the beacon of hope in Africa that attracted immigrants and investors from around the world is now considered as one of worst, corrupt or poorest countries in Africa.”
PHILOSOPHER AND WRITER George Santayana in his original writing or quote, wrote, “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.”
FOR THOSE advocating for Weah to stepdown or be removed, the best way is through the ballot box in the next presidential election in 2023.
THE COUNTRY’S FRAGILE history has shown that modern Liberia experienced major setbacks when our leaders were removed before their constitutional terms ended.
SEVERAL DEVELOPMENT projects that would have benefitted the nation from Tolbert last development plan produced by the Rural Development Task Force were not implemented because of the coup.
THE DEVELOPMENT PLAN called for electing county Superintendents by the residents of the counties, construction of vocational schools like those that were in Grand Gedeh and Lofa at a community college level in each county, expansion of the University of Liberia, Construction of the Atlantic Highway from Grand Bassa to the southeast by Mensah Construction Company, a Liberian Construction Company that constructed the Monrovia-Robertsfield Highway. The company was in the process of carrying out a survey of the road when the coup occurred, bringing that program to a halt. It should have been completed by 1983. Also, the pave road from Ganta would have been connected to this road through Grand Gedeh to Maryland. We lost all these because of the 1980 coup.
Under Samuel Doe, Liberia saw the first group of inexperienced and incompetent Liberians at the top of government entities during his first three to four years. After the 1985 election, Doe tried to transition himself from a Military man (Master Sergeant) to a statesman. He brought in some of the most competent Liberians and came out with his development agenda – whether some were inherited or not. He started or continued the Ganta-Harper highway that would have connected Nimba to the southeast, a road from 12th Street Sinkor to Gardnerville, called the Beyan Kessely Drive, extending the Gardnerville road to four lanes by a company called Armtel, construction for a bridge from the YMCA broad street curve to Garnerville, battery factory and the construction of the Ministry of Defense where the New Ministerial complex is located.
IT IS CLEAR THAT LIBERIA HAS lost a lot because of removing our leaders pre-maturely, often replaced by governments that were corrupt or worse.
THE MILLION-DOLLAR question is, would removing Mr. Weah pre-maturely immediately solve Liberia’s economic, social or other problems?
IT IS HIGH TIME that Liberians begin to wake up to the realities that violence is simply not the answer, it only prolongs the suffering and exploit the vulnerable masses. The experience of the players in the current government, who were in opposition yesterday is the best lesson anyone can learn about how the shoe fits when one is on the outside looking in.
A Hint to the Wise!!!
Just before President George Manneh Weah inherited the mantle of authority from former President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf, something sinister took place under the radar when no one was looking – or paying attention.
Authorities at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, in the dying days of the Sirleaf era, finalized the extension of the restated biometric passport contract, committing Liberia to the Ghanaian printers, Buck Press Limited for a whopping USD 11.5m (eleven and a half million), on or before March 2021.
100 Percent Proceeds to Buck
The contract seen by FrontPageAfrica states that it can only be terminated when the following conditions are met:
“All 174,000 passports have been personalized; and Buck Press realizes USD 11.5m (eleven and a half million), Should Buck Press not achieve USD 11.5m the contract Period is extended for an additional term of twenty-four months until March 30, 2023 (the extended term) to allow for the personalization of additional ePassport application up to 60,000.” Buck Press shall receive one hundred percent (100%) of the proceeds from the Personalization of all additional 60,000 ePassport applications up to the unrealized portion of the contract value of USD 11.5M.
Now, FrontPageAfrica has gathered that in the wake of the recent shortage of passports at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the Weah administration has notified Buck Press of its intentions of cancelling the contract. The company’s representatives have reportedly been summoned to Monrovia for a meeting on July 29 during which notice of cancellation is expected to be finalized.
A copy of the “Notice of Cancellation” from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs to the printing press obtained by FrontPageAfrica outlined a number of contract breaches from the company which made the deal nearly impossible for Liberia to continue, signed April 7, 2017, it gave Buck Press Limited an immediate Notice of Cancellation of the Contract
Among the reasons given, the government through the Foreign Ministry said Buck had failed to establish Passport Application Centers in all Liberian Foreign Missions despite its agreement to do so at the signing of the extension in 2017.
The government was taken aback over the fact that Buck had put the government in a difficult situation of not being able to provide the means of fulfilling its commitment to provide consular services to its citizens residing outside the geographical territory of Liberia.
The government’s cancellation notice said Buck’s deliberate omission to meet these obligations under the contract, and the further instance by Buck Press by a confirmatory notice dated March 5, 2019 amounts to a material breach of the contract.
The cancellation notice added that Buck’s omission amounts to deliberate attempt to extend indefinitely the biometric passport supply contract to the detriment of the Government and people of Liberia, a fact that has been on-going since April 2004, a total of fifteen years to date.
The cancellation notice notified Buck Press that it had not kept either the International Bank(IB) nor the vaults at the Ministry, the established quantity of passport required for personalization as contracted. “The result being that Government has had to restrict and deny Ordinary Passport applications from deserving Liberian citizens.
Liberia’s economic growth will stall this year as high inflation overwhelms gains made in revenue collection in the West African nation, the International Monetary Fund staff said in a report on its website.
The economy will expand 0.2 percent in 2019 under current policies, down from an earlier estimate of 4.7 percent, the IMF said Friday. The agency said 2018 growth was 1.2 percent, lower than 2.5 percent in 2017. Inflation jumped to 28 percent in December, the Washington-based IMF said.
“Liberia’s economic situation is challenging, and strong policy actions will be required to maintain as favorable outlook as anticipated at this time last year,” IMF team leader Mika Saito said in the statement. “Stability has proved elusive despite improved revenue collection in the first half” of the 2019 fiscal year.
The IMF staff in Liberia recommended fiscal policies and improving the efficiency of government spending.
“Policies should aim at improve the monitoring, accountability, and transparency of spending,” Saito said. “Intensifying actions to improve governance and fight corruption, including through rigorous adherence to existing procurement rules, would also be effective.”
In 1973 Liberia introduced its Aliens and Nationality Law. This, and the country’s 1986 Constitution, allow only people of “Negro descent” – those who are black – to obtain Liberian citizenship by birth, ancestry or naturalisation. The 1973 law also banned dual citizenship.
Many Liberians at home and abroad have questioned the citizenship regulations. But historical and contemporary developments explain why the laws are seen by some as “protectionary”. They are viewed as guarding Liberians against any kind of foreign domination.
What has become locally known as the “Negro clause” was driven by free blacks and manumitted slaves who fled 19th century racism and economic servitude in the US and the Caribbean. They established Liberia as a haven where they would be the sole owners of capital, land and the means of production.
Other countries – among them Chad, Malawi and Mali – historically restricted citizenship to people of “African origin” or “African race”. But those laws have been scrapped over time. Liberia is one of two countries in Africa that have maintained the “Negro clause”. Sierra Leone is the other. There, however, so-called non-“Negros” can naturalise. Liberia is also one of only eight countries on the continent that ban dual citizenship.
Liberian President George Manneh Weah has suggested it’s time to amend the laws. He believes the current citizenship regulations are unnecessarily “racist” and restrictive. He also argues that upholding them would hinder Liberia’s progress and prosperity, especially after its long, devastating armed conflicts.
Ideas about citizenship
My research involved interviewing more than 200 people who identified as Liberians by birth or ancestry, regardless of their citizenship status. They were based in cities in West Africa, Europe and North America.
The findings suggest that Liberians experience citizenship differently based on their class, gender and ethnicity. These factors greatly influence whether they reject or accept dual citizenship and the “Negro clause”.
For example, I found that poor Liberian-based Liberians were more opposed to abolishing the “Negro clause” and adopting dual citizenship than their better-off diaspora counterparts. They are worried that amendments to the citizenship laws would infringe upon their own already limited rights.
My findings echo the stance of Liberian delegates at a 2015 conference held in the country. They were invited by a committee set up in 2012 to review and make recommendations for amending the 1986 Constitution based on a series of national consultations with citizens. They vetoed the enactment of dual citizenship and removal of the “Negro clause”. Survey data from 2018 generated by Afrobarometer also shows that two-thirds of Liberians are pro-“Negro clause” and anti-dual citizenship.
Why is this the case?
My previous and ongoing research offer four key reasons. These are:
the fact that displacement and dispossession define the country’s past and its present;
land in Liberia, and by extension land ownership, is violently contested;
the country is extremely unequal; and,
current laws on citizenship are not properly enforced.
I will focus here on displacement and dispossession as well as the lack of enforcement of citizenship laws.
Scholars like human rights law expert Bronwen Manby have illustrated how struggles over citizenship and belonging are most apparent in African countries that experienced widespread colonial-era migration of people. These migrants came from within the continent, as well as from countries in Asia and Europe.
Liberia was never formally colonised by Europe. However, during the 19th and 20th centuries, black migrants created citizenship tiers that barred some indigenous men and women from obtaining citizenship for almost a century. This has resulted in Liberians feeling very protective of their privileges as citizens in the 21st century.
I have argued previously that a divide between settlers and indigenes in the 19th century has been replaced by a rift in the 21st century between returnees and non-returnees. These differences pit those who fled the country’s protracted wars – and are now returning to demand citizenship rights – against those who never left and feel that they haven’t benefited sufficiently from the institution of citizenship.
Another factor contributing to the tension around citizenship is that regulations intended to protect Liberian citizens are unenforced and flagrantly disregarded, especially by political and economic elites. These regulations include the ban on dual citizenship and the prohibition on land ownership by non-citizens.
For instance, despite the current gridlock on dual citizenship, some Liberians – among them the country’s ambassador to the UK– allegedly break the law by carrying two passports.
Such stories leave many Liberians wondering if changes to the constitution would give the rich and powerful the licence to infringe on their already limited citizenship privileges through land grabs, voting in national elections or holding high public office.
There are a few things President Weah can do if he wants to tackle people’s resistance to adopting dual citizenship and abolishing the “Negro clause”. For one, he should make the rhetoric of his “pro-poor” agenda a reality. If he improves the material and living conditions of Liberians at home, people may stop viewing those abroad as a threat.
This article is based on one which originally appeared on Al-Jazeera English.
The Government of Liberia through the Ministry of Commerce and Industry has disclosed that testing conducted on pig meats brought in the country by Cheaitou Brothers Incorporated showed signs of Salmonella poison.
According to the electronic encyclopedia, Wikipedia.com, Salmonellosis is a symptomatic infection caused by bacteria of the Salmonella type. The most common symptoms are diarrhea, fever, abdominal cramps, and vomiting. This typically occurs between 12 hours and 36 hours after exposure with symptoms lasting from two to seven days.
Cheaitou Brothers Incorporated is one of the major importers of frozen food in the country.
On January 16, 2019, the government of Liberia through the Ministries of Health and Commerce confiscated 2,754 barrels of pig meats contaminated with Salmonella that was brought in the country by Cheaituo Brothers Incorporated.
The decision to confiscate and quarantine the unwholesome pig meats came as result of an alert by the European Union (EU) to the Liberian government.
The EU issued an alert to the Health Ministry that a business house in the country was bringing in a consignment of contaminated pig-feet from a slaughter house located in Europe.
After confiscating and quarantining, the Ministry of Commerce then conducted a full testing at the National Standard Laboratory in the compound of the Ministry of Public Works.
Addressing journalists Wednesday, January 30, the Minister of Commerce and Industry Wilson Tarpeh, said the health of every Liberian will be protected under the George Weah-led government.
“The outcome of the testing that was conducted by our technical team at the National Standard Laboratory shows that majority of the samples of the pig meats submitted for testing was contaminated with salmonella,” Minister Tarpeh said.
The Ministry of Commerce and Industry head added: “Inasmuch as government welcomes an open and participatory market, it will not equally condone harmful business practices in the country.
“Let the message go forth that the Ministry of Commerce and Industry remains committed to ensuring that anyone found in any business practice that endangers the health of the Liberian people will be made to account for their actions in accordance with law,” Minister Tarpeh said.
According to the Commerce Minister, investigation is ongoing to identify whether the frozen food company intentionally brought the contaminated pig meats into the country.
He added that if it is established that Cheaitou Brothers Incorporated knowingly brought the unwholesome meats in the country, penalty will be taken against the company.
Credit: Front Page Africa
A Liberian court has issued arrest warrants for more than 30 former Central Bank officials in connection with 104 million dollars that went missing on the way to the bank, according to a court document released on Friday.
Former bank Governor Milton Weeks and Charles Sirleaf, the son of the west African nation’s former President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, were among those ordered arrested.
Weeks has said he had nothing to do with the missing cash and was cooperating with investigators. The media has not been able to reach Sirleaf for comment.