16 May 2016

Liberia: Tighten Screws On GW Report Culprits


Monrovia — The Government of Liberia has apparently gladly acknowledged the kleptocrats-shaming report by the Global Witness with the setting up a special taskforce to conduct an "independent" inquiry into the roles those cited as culprits played and as to the veracity of said report. But pundits familiar with the character of the Sirleaf regime are not impressed at all by the government's move, citing the characteristic pointless outcomes of a horde of previous investigative reports by various panels set up by the President and by statutory organs of Government. One person who is highly suspicious of the government's latest move is Liberian politician and social critic TQ Harris. In an opinion piece below, Mr. Harris juxtapose the Liberian Bribery Scandal and corruption sagas in other nations, concluding that the grave allegations by Global Witness could end up in the dustbin yet again if the motive for state intervention is merely for pampering culprits and not for penalization.


Ms Dilma Rousseff, Brazil's first female President, has been forced to step down temporarily to defend herself against allegations of corruption in her government. By law, she has 180 days to prove her innocence or vacate the Presidency. Tensions in the country are high as tens of thousands Brazilians have taken to the streets. However, this has had no effect on the impeachment process, as members of the Senate are bent on ensuring that justice is served.

In Liberia, many have expressed shock and bewilderment after learning about the recent Global Witness report (entitled The Deceiver) that exposed high level corruption involving the Chairman of President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf's Party and at least a dozen high ranking government officials. They are accused of receiving $950,000 in bribe from Sable Mining Africa - a shady UK Company owned by Mr Phil Edmonds and Mr Andrew Groves - to take over the Wologizi Mountain for little of nothing.

According to the report, in the months leading up to Liberia's last election in 2011, Sable Mining distributed more than $950,000 to Cllr. Varney Sherman - the Party's Chair. and Mr. Alex Tyler - Speaker of the House of Representatives and a current Presidential candidate. Also receiving bribes were Senator Cletus Wortorson, Mr Fombah Sirleaf - son of President Sirleaf and head of the country's top security agency, as well as Mr Richard Tolbert - Head of the National Investment Commission and son of a former Senate President who in 1980 was executed by the Military regime for alleged acts of corruption.

In total, bribes were given to 13 persons, including two mysterious figures referred to in the report as "Bigboy 1" and "Bigboy 2" that received $250,000 each. Considering the magnitude of the deal and the individuals' proximity to the Presidency, it is widely believed that Bigboy 1 and Bigboy 2 are coded references to the President herself and the Vice President. This has yet to be verified.

Clearly, there are a number of similarities between the happenings in Brazil and that of Liberia. 1. Ms Rousseff and Ms Sirleaf are both first female Presidents of their respective country; 2. The issues in both countries are related to corruption believed to be connected with the Presidency; and 3. The wider corruption schemes involve top officials from at least two branches of government. That's where the similarities end.

Unlike Brazil, demonstrations in Liberia are practically forbidden under President Sirleaf's government. And there aren't institutions or agencies capable of conducting impartial investigations, nor is there one equipped to implement recommendations not favorable to the President. Also the legal system is extremely weak and ineffective making it highly unlikely that President Sirleaf could be removed without violence. Because of this, she has, within the past ten years, elevated the corruption rhetoric from enemy number-one to a blood-sucking vampire without doing anything to address the problem. Instead, it appears she herself has become a "vampire" attempting to deplete the country's resources before leaving office. What then must Liberians do, short of engaging in violence, to save our homeland?

WE THE PEOPLE must take the lead in enforcing accountability by applying maximum collective pressure, beginning with the thirteen persons named in the Global Witness report. They must be penalized to the fullest for accepting bribes and attempting to illegally and secretly sell a National asset.

And if it is established that "Bigboy #1" and "Bigboy #2"are President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf and Vice President Joseph Bokai respectively, both of them must resign with immediate effect for accepting bribes from a foreign entity and attempting to illegally sell resources of the Wologizi Mountain without approval from the Liberian people. They also must pay into the National Treasury $250,000 each - the amount alleged to have been received from the Sable Company.

For accepting a bribe to illegally sell resources of the Wologizi Mountain to a foreign entity without approval from the Liberian people, Speaker Alex Tyler also must resign with immediate effect and pay into the National Treasury the full amount received from the Sable scam.

Also for accepting bribes from a foreign entity and attempting to sell resources of the Wologizi Mountain without approval from the Liberian people, Mr Varney Sherman, Mr Richard Tolbert, Mr Morris Saytumah, Mr Willie Belleh, Mr Fomba Sirleaf, Mr Sumo Kupee, Mr Cletus Wotorson, Mr Ernest C. B. Jones, and Mr Henry Fahnbulleh must pay into the National Treasury the full amount received from the Sable Mining Company.

Furthermore, these individuals must be barred with immediate effect from holding a position in government for a period of not less than ten (10) consecutive years.

There is no doubt corruption has destroyed Liberia and must be brought under control. Among others, the recent revelation by Global Witness has raised doubt as to the legitimacy of the Sirleaf government, given the fact that money used to win the 2011 election might have been obtained illegally. These wanton acts of corruption threaten the stability of the nation and rip at its very soul. Therefore we must use this occasion to send a strong message to everyone that, going forward, corruption will not be tolerated under any circumstance. And whoever engages in any form of corruption, regardless of his or her status, will pay a heavy price.

As we prepare for the 2017 election, let us commit to ending the scourge of corruption here and now! The13 individuals that have been caught red handed in the scam to exchange a major National asset for a $950,000 bribe must be penalized to set an example. And WE THE PEOPLE must spearhead the fight against corruption in Liberia. Let's Go!


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