30 April 2019

Liberia: Weah Still Works From Home

President George Mannah Weah is still performing his official presidential duties from his private residence in the Rehab Community barely two weeks after snakes were spotted at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs has been the temporary office for the Liberian Presidency for the last 13 years since fire gutted the official presidential palace on July 26, 2006. It has since remained under renovation-changing hands from a Chinese company to an Italian one.

President Weah was forced to work from his home since April 18, 2019 after the Foreign Ministry announced a fumigation exercise following the discoveries of snakesin the building. The Foreign Ministry is one of the oldest state building in the country constructed in the 70s and appears to be infested with rats and other crawling insects.

But addressing a regular press briefing Tuesday, Presidential Spokesperson Isaac Solo Kelgbeh said the President was never forced to work outside his office by the snakes scare, rather he was advised by those who carried out the fumigation exercise that he did so for now.

"So we didn't know for whatever reasons such a story was written, but the president has never been forced by snakes to work from out of his office," Mr. Kelgbeh told a regular press briefing Tuesday, 30 April in Monrovia."Yes, he's working from home, but it's based on the advice of the team that did [the] fumigation of the building," says Kelgbeh.

Kelgbeh argues that "those snakes were seen on the ground floor" just behind the security desk, adding that President Weah's office is about five, six floors above the area where the snakes were found.

Mr. Kelgbeh's response that the President is still working from home appears to contradict that of his Deputy Mr. Smith Toby who told reporters last week that the President was returning to work from his temporary office on Thursday April 25, 2019.

In a release issued earlier on 17 April, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs announced the suspension of all working activities from Thursday, April 18 to Tuesday, April 23, 2019.

"The Ministry of Foreign Affairs wishes to inform the general public that all working activities at the Ministry including the Bureau of Passport and Visas will be suspended from Thursday, April 18, 2019 to Tuesday, April 23, 2019 due to a fumigation exercise," the Ministry said.It noted that normal working activities at the Ministry would have resumed on Wednesday, April 24, 2019.

About a week after the reported fumigation, the Executive Mansion later announced that President Weah was due to return to his temporary office on Thursday, 25 April.

But the president did not return as announced, and has instead been operating from his Rehab Community residence outside Monrovia.

However, Mr.Kelgbeh on Tuesday, 30 April announced another expected return of the president to his temporary office, which he says is now set for Wednesday, 1 May.

The snake incident brings to memory a shocking fire incident that drove former President Ellen Johnson - Sirleaf out of the Executive Mansion in 2006, occasioning prolonged renovation works that continue beyond her 12 years rule on the official presidential home.

Throughout her presidency after the fire incident, Mrs. Sirleaf operated from her temporary office at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs until she transferred power to her successor, President Weah in January 2018 after the 2017 election.

In another development, Press Secretary Kelgbeh announced that President Weah's failure to attend the funeral rites of fallen Montserrado County Rep. Adolph Lawrence, was due to "lot of breaches in the protocol" in the proceedings to the funeral.Mr. Kelgbeh indicates that President Weah tried to avoid the unnecessary distractions being created by other people.

According to the Press Secretary, the president felt that his presence at the funeral would have caused more distractions since he would have been presence with his followers.

The ruling Coalition for Democratic Change (CDC) and the opposition Liberty Party (LP) battled for supremacy at the state funeral organized for the deceased at the Capitol, eventually disrupting the solemn occasion.

Other lawmakers from the ruling CDC including House Speaker Bhofal Chambers did not also attend a Church funeral held for their fallen colleague.

It is not clear why they boycotted the event. The late Rep. Lawrence prior to his death was among the few critical voices at the House of Representatives that had dissent against the Speaker's style of handling legislative politics and other issues of national concern.By Winston W. Parley-Edited by Othello B. Garblah

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