26 June 2013

Liberia: National Security Wrangle in Liberia - Ministry, NSA At Odds Over Grand Gedeh Case

There seems to be some level of tussle between the executive and the Legislative branches regarding whether to keep the Ministry of National Security opened or lock its doors and throw away the keys for good.

FrontPageAfrica has learned that the National Security Agency(NSA) has been at loggerheads with the Ministry of National Security for quite some time with some suggestions among security circles that the NSA has been feeling jittery and suggesting to the presidency that the two agencies were duplicating functions.

One source however informed FPA recently that the NSA's main beef with the MNS lies on the agency's unwillingness to have another security agency watch over its back and serve as a check and balance, ensuring that one agency is not always making up threats and collecting government funds to put out the fire.

Sources are pointing to the recent case involving 19 Grand Gedeans who are on trial facing charges of mercenarism and a plot to cause disturbance at the Liberian border with the Ivory Coast.

State Lawyers prosecuting the 19 Grand Gedeans have so far been unable to prove their case, bolstering speculations that the charges were made up to solicit funds from government to put out an artificial conflict.

On Monday, state lawyers were fined US$200.00 for failure to produce evidence in court.

The 19 were arrested and charged in connection with the cross border attacks at the Liberia-Ivorian border in Liberia's Southeastern region and been in detention at the Monrovia Central Prison. On Monday, the case which was expected to resume at 10 am was delayed for some hours with no justifiable reason from the court as it resumed session in the afternoon with the state being unable to adduce evidence which they claimed to have had.

The request and delay by state lawyers, led by Montserrado County Attorney Daku Mulbah was frowned upon by Presiding Judge Yussif Kaba who saw their action as an affront to the court and ordered them to pay US$200.00 with a deadline of 4 pm Monday to produce their evidence to the court while the new date for the hearing of the case has been set for Wednesday at 10 o'clock in the morning.

Gedeans trial looking bad for GOL

Legal experts say should the government fail once again to prove its case, it will mark the second time a case will be dropped against citizens of Grand Gedeh due to a lack of evidence.

In 2007, late General Charles Julu and Andrew Dorbor-both former associates of the defunct Armed Forces of Liberia (AFL) were accused of an alleged plan in the Ivory Coast to topple the government of Madam Ellen Johnson Sirleaf; but their trial ended with the acquittal of both men due to a lack of evidence.

The nineteen on trial are Nyezee Barway, alias Joseph Dweh, Morris K. Cole, alias General girl, Isaac Taryon, alias Wolie Taryon, Stephen Gloto, alias Rambo/ninja. Others are Nemin Tere Antione, Prince Youty, James Lee Cooper, Emmanuel Saymah, alias trainer, Komande Mohegar Alerie, Frank Oliver Ninule, Edward D. Nioule, Julien Badison Toue, Moses Baryee, alias Moses Sarpee, Djikizion Guel Martin, Blao Nocaise, Sam Tarley, alias bull dog, Ophoree Diah and Alfred Bobby James, Jr., alias Bobby Sarpee.

On Tuesday, Representative Alfred Koiwood (CDC-District#1 Gbapolu County), one of several lawmakers fighting to keep the MNS alive has described as a disservice to the Liberian people, a request by President Sirleaf mandating the closure of the Ministry of National security.

Reacting to the President's mandate to have the act establishing the ministry repealed, the lawmaker said the move by the President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf was not in the interest of Liberia's fragile security situation.

"Well, the president's quest to shutdown the Ministry of National security and the National Bureau of Investigation is a complete disservice to the Liberian," he said.

"We are informed that UN came to keep peace and they are not here perpetually which means we should have a security that will take over and that security should be in the hands of the Liberian people."

Representative Koiwood said Plenary of the House of Representatives has passed the bill calling for the existence of the two entities of government (the National Bureau of Investigation and the Ministry of National Security). "We decided to maintain the Ministry of National security and National Bureau of Investigation because in our mind there is a need for more than two security intelligence institutions that will help and coordinate with each in instituting the needed security measures," he said.

The bill which is currently at the Senate awaiting concurrence from that august body seems to be in sharp contradiction with request made by the executive to have the law establishing the ministry repealed.

GOL wants dissolution

Speaking to FrontPageAfrica via mobile phone, Presidential Press Secretary Jerolinmek Piah responding to the decision by lawmakers to keep the MNS standing said it is the government's aspirations to see the dissolution of some of the security agencies including the MNS and the NSA.

"It is not a secret it was announced since the inception of this government; the legislature is supposed to repeal the law creating the ministry of national security and the law establishing the NSA and this is a process that has been going on," said Mr. Piah.

The press secretary said the government goes through a lot of challenges keeping multiple security agencies with almost the same functions and that it is the President's anticipation that the lawmakers will do the right thing to have the act repealed as the government has mandated it to do.

"This is what the government wants to see; too much multiplicity of security agencies; sometimes we have overlapping of functions. So all we're trying to do is to have the Ministry of National Security can be a part of other existing security agencies. They make the law; they have the power to repeal laws."

Liberia needs these agencies

In contrast, legislators are advocating that the country needs the MNS and other security agencies to fill in the gap that would be created when the United Nations finally pulls the last troop out of Liberia by 2015. "You cannot just have one security institution to operate, though I wasn't a member of the 52nd legislature but some members who are still in the 53rd said, their decision was a mistake and asked that a legislation be passed that will maintain the two entities," said Koiwood.

The Gbapolu lawmaker said the gradual drawdown of UNMIL is one of the major factors that led to the decision of the lawmakers to maintain the two entities.

"As you are aware the United Nations Mission in Liberia is drawing down it operations in the country and we saw the need to put in place our own security institution that will take off after the departure of UNMIL," he added.

Continued Koiwood: "If you can recall, after the bombing of the Twin Towers in the United States of America the American, the U.S. government established a Homeland Security whose job is almost similar to the Immigration of that country and they are assigned at the borders. So these are some of the areas we took our clue from."

In August 2012 Nimba County Representative Samuel G. Kogar urged members of the House of Representatives to reactivate the two disbanded security agencies - the MNS and the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) which were dissolved by a "National Security and Intelligence Act of 2010" passed by the 52nd Liberian Legislature.

Representative Kogar during the time stressed that the amendment of the National Security Reform and Intelligent Act of 2011 would restore the two agencies which he said are vital to the maintenance of sustainable peace in Liberia after UNMIL departs.

Kogar argued that the NBI was given the power to ensure the implementation of political investigation as well as ensuring the execution of transnational investigation, both internally and externally, while the Ministry of National Security took on the authority to collect or gather information in collaboration with other security institutions and subsequently brief the President on a daily basis.

The MNS also provides covert protection for the President wherever he/she goes and the MNS agents are supposed to be assigned within Liberia's diplomatic missions' home and abroad.

The MNS established on September 6, 1979, also has a special responsibility for intelligence, together with a role in coordinating the entire breadth of security services.

The MNS is tasked to "prepare intelligence and security briefs for the President, monitor and give guidance to the operational activities of the various security services, primarily Presidential security operations and counterintelligence and counterespionage operations of the security services."

The Ministry is also mandated to "coordinate the activities of all security services and prepare and implement rules and regulations pertaining to personnel, finance, logistics, training, operations, and organizations necessary for the efficient operation 14 of the security services subject to approval by the President according to the act establishing it.

There exist conflicts in the legislative acts establishing these security agencies leading to uncertainty regarding the duties and responsibilities of the agencies in the sector. But presidential spokesman, Piah said: the acts were enacted at different times and under different governments without reference to preexisting acts still on the books and such multiplicity carries with it a cost factor.

As this story went to press, FrontPageAfrica was informed that President Sirleaf remains adamant that the ministry be resolved, going as far as to instruct Finance Minister Amara Konneh not to include the ministry in the national budget, a charge Konneh says is untrue. "I have not received such instructions from the President," Konneh told FrontPageAfrica in a text message responding to an FPA inquiry.

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