Liberia: Drawing Lessons From the Henry Costa Fiasco


This newspaper, the Daily Observer, has consistently cautioned this government against official behavior of a kind which drags the country's reputation as well as its leadership into disrepute. There is perhaps no better example of such behavior than the recent fiasco and humiliation if this government stemming from its handling of the Henry Costa request for asylum in the neighboring Republic of Sierra Leone. From all indications, the fiasco appears analogous to a failure of intelligence aggravated by incoherent pronouncements by top government officials on the situation as it unfolded.

In the first place, Henry Costa, according to various legal experts, had committed no criminal offense and those charges announced on national radio were at best laughable and bogus. Why, for example, did the Government of Liberia not much earlier proffer criminal charges against said individual since it claimed to have had incontrovertible evidence of his alleged criminal acts?

This newspaper is aware of reports suggesting that the fiasco was a botched operation intended to seize Henry Costa and whisk him off to Liberia before word of his arrest could get out. Further, just why would Government officials inform the public that Costa's extradition to Liberia was imminent when it had not in fact filed an official extradition request before the Government of Sierra Leone. Additionally, were government officials not cognizant of provision of international laws in this regard prohibiting the repatriation of individuals fleeing persecution to countries

That individuals around the President could not provide, or failed to provide him such advice that would have steered him away from the path of official embarrassment such as the one experienced recently, is not only disappointing but completely unacceptable. Those so-called intelligence experts, especially those of his kith and kin, are misleading him down the path to self-destruction and, at the end of the day, he will be left alone to meet his fate.

President Weah has to realize that he has to step up to the plate and provide effective governance and good leadership to this nation. To do so he will have to part company with some of his 'trusted advisors' whose advice have wrought him so much public disfavor and mistrust. He has since promised that during his State of the Nation address, on the fourth working Monday of January, he will lay to rest many of the vexing problems on the minds of the public.

Currently, speculations are rife that the appointment of a new Agriculture Minister is but an indication of changes to come with new changes expected to be announced. The speculated changes, according to sources, are due to pressure from traditional friends who have called for a change of guards including its ethnic make-up as a precondition for providing the much-needed assistance to resuscitate the nation's dying economy.

The new Agriculture Minister has solid credentials and vast experience in international humanitarian affairs and it is by no means surprising that she, prior to her appointment had focused her attention to the growing of the nation's staple, rice. She could certainly bring much of her expertise to bear on her new assignment. But with Agriculture accounting for less than three percent of the national budget, it remains to be seen just how effective she would be. It also remains to be seen just how she is going to respond to such challenges.

Her longevity in government, amidst such challenges, will to be a litmus test of President Weah's commitment to turning things around for the better by his selection of competent individuals of proven integrity to serve. This newspaper is certainly aware that decisions President Weah needs to take in order to turn things around will certainly be painful; yet he must, because time will not wait for him. He should remain unmindful of the damage caused to his image by the Henry Costa fiasco in which he has been negatively portrayed in the international media.

He will have to come to grips with the imperatives of justice including the exigency of establishing an international criminal tribunal for Liberia in order to combat and address issues of impunity. President should draw lessons from this going forward.

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