Weah: “What was damaged during the 14 years of civil war,” he said, “cannot be fixed in a day’s time. This government is focused on rehabilitating Liberians whose lives were damaged. I want you not to join those who are undermining the country through protests. Join me to rebuild the country.” As part of his development plans, President Weah said the government was exerting efforts to change the lives of Liberians, by building concrete homes in place of the huts they have been living in over so many decades.Public Policy 

Journalist leaders write U.S Congress: Corruption & mysterious deaths in Weah’s CDC govt

 

 

By Socrates Smythe Saywon, Sr.

 

Monrovia – The Congress for Democratic Change (DCD) government under the leadership of President, George Manneh Weah, is facing serious allegations of widespread corruption. The systematic corruption has claimed the attention of Liberians both at home and in the diaspora. Political pundits are also disenchanted with the CDC-led administration and are calling on Liberia’s international partners, most especially the United States government to investigate the Weah administration systematic corruption allegation.

Owing to the wide-speared of corruption, three former leaders of the Press Union of Liberia (PUL) have written a letter to the U.S. Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken, calling for stronger U.S. engagement with Liberia to prevent economic collapse and unrest.

The letter dated April 22, 2021, was also copied to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, Ranking House Member Chris Smith, among others. Isaac D.E. Bantu, Emmanuel D. Abalo, and Gabriel I.H. Williams said in their letter that they drawing the attention of the United States to an alarming state of bad governance or misrule in Liberia under President George M. Weah.  They are urging the Biden administration to institute actions in Liberia in order to protect democracy and promote good governance in the West African country.

According to their communication, the former PUL leaders said since the Weah administration took office in 2018, President Weah’s government has been engaged in widespread corruption and serious inefficiency in the management of the Liberian economy, citing that the audit findings and other reports which generated controversies around the L$4 billion new banknotes printed by the government for which there has been no accountability, as well as USD $25 million for a mop-up exercise. The former Press Union leaders pointed out that the US $25 million that was intended to mop up excess Liberian dollars on the market could not be accounted for, according to a General Auditing Commission (GAC) audit report.

The letter continued: “It is in view of the Weah government’s failure to be transparent and forthright in handling the financial affairs of the country that we are alarmed by reports that the National Legislature of Liberia recently issued a joint resolution giving approval for the printing of L$48 billion banknotes,” the former PUL executives said in their letter to the U.S. government. The letter also states that Liberian lawmakers gave the approval to print the new banknotes despite public outcry against said action, for which the lawmakers have been accused of receiving bribes.  

“We are also concerned about reports that the government is proceeding with the printing of the L$48 billion banknotes in order to use said money to fund President Weah’s re-election campaign in 2023,” the former PUL leaders revealed. “Given the experience of the December 2020 Senatorial election when officials of the government and the ruling party doled out newly printed banknotes while the economy was saturated with mutilated banknotes, we have reasons to be seriously concerned that the interest of the country will be subordinated to the political interest of President Weah and his ruling party.”  

“It is in view of the Weah government’s failure to be transparent and forthright in handling the financial affairs of the country that we are alarmed by reports that the National Legislature of Liberia recently issued a joint resolution giving approval for the printing of L$48 billion banknotes,” the former PUL executives said in their letter to the U.S. government. The letter also states that Liberian lawmakers gave the approval to print the new banknotes despite public outcry against said action, for which the lawmakers have been accused of receiving bribes.  

“We are also concerned about reports that the government is proceeding with the printing of the L$48 billion banknotes in order to use said money to fund President Weah’s re-election campaign in 2023,” the former PUL leaders revealed. “Given the experience of the December 2020 Senatorial election when officials of the government and the ruling party doled out newly printed banknotes while the economy was saturated with mutilated banknotes, we have reasons to be seriously concerned that the interest of the country will be subordinated to the political interest of President Weah and his ruling party,” the communication expressed.

It can be recalled, Jonathan Paye-Layleh, a Liberian journalist encouraged the media community, through the leadership of the Union, to take a serious interest in ongoing discussions about the additional banknotes recently approved, at the same time, the nation still does not have a clear understanding what has happened to the first twenty billion Liberian dollars (LD20b) banknotes brought into the country between 2018 and 2020.

In his letter addressed to the PUL Paye-Layleh said: “It is our work, as the conscience and mirror of the society, to take interest in these discussions.  And after hearing from a lot of commoners, sharing similar concerns, I have no regrets for flagging the issue. Mr. President and members of the media community, as I have done with other issues in recent times, my communication stems from concerns and suspicions I have heard and keep hearing from people, including those with no formal education, about the real intent to print additional banknotes again. From my conversations with concerned people, there are several schools of thought regarding this new move.”

However, the three former PUL leaders noted in their letter that years of financial mismanagement and misrule have trapped Liberia in a chronic cycle of economic dependency and international aid, while most Liberians endure extreme poverty due to rampant corruption and poor governance, which are factors for instability.

The former Press Union leaders said they are also becoming alarmed by the growing insecurity in Liberia, while mysterious deaths and disappearances are becoming commonplace. For example, they pointed to the mysterious death of four government auditors and the disappearance of three young men, for which there have been no conclusive investigations.

The former PUL executives indicated that they are becoming equally alarmed by the increased attacks on freedom of speech and of the press in Liberia. They mentioned a PUL petition to President Weah in 2020 in which the union cited widespread attacks, detention, and brutality meted against media practitioners in Liberia.

They added while recognizing the U.S. as Liberia’s most important bilateral partner and donor, the former PUL leaders proffered six (6) recommendations to the Biden Administration for consideration in an effort to promote good governance, adherence to accountability and transparency, as well as respect for free speech and the rule of law in Liberia.

The six (6) recommendations

-That the U.S. Government, in partnership with other donor countries, offers to provide direct technical oversight of financial institutions in Liberia for an initial period of no less than five years. We herewith call for an international intervention, similar to that of the Governance Economic Management Assistance Program (GEMAP), under which the international community assisted in the management of Liberia’s resources following the end of the civil crises. While there were some shortcomings with the GEMAP, as some critics have noted, the agreement led to the institution of financial policies and programs that contributed to the rapid revival of Liberia’s economy, which had collapsed during the civil war.

-We applaud the U.S. Government for the recent sanctions imposed on a prominent Liberian senator and lawyer for the said official’s alleged involvement in corruption in Liberia. Additionally, we appeal to Washington to investigate instances of alleged corruption and abuse of power involving any of its citizens and others in the employ of the Liberian Government for appropriate action under U.S. laws.

 –That the U.S. denies visa access to corrupt individuals and their families.

-That new U.S. aid to Liberia be channeled directly to citizens and democratic institutions through private partnership and other initiatives

-That the U.S. condition new economic assistance on full implementation of recommendations contained in the Final Report of Liberia’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) and,

That U.S. officials decline invitations/meetings with Liberian Government officials who are designated as corrupt and “roadblocks” to fostering a democratic environment. The three former PUL Executives have consistently spoken out in support of democratic values, respect for the rule of law and human rights, and good governance in Liberia.

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