Special Feature

Pres. Sirleaf lectures on democracy

“Democracy Is The System of Government That Surpasses all Others”
President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf says democracy is the system of government that surpasses all others; grounded in rule-of-law, respect for individual and human rights, and for institutions, which can arbitrate between competing political interests on behalf of the people.


According to a dispatch from the U.S. the Liberian leader was speaking on Wednesday, December 6, 2017 at Georgetown University during a forum on the theme: “Women’s Political Leadership in Africa: The Next Generation”.

Addressing the gathering, President Sirleaf said: “I accepted this invitation months ago, believing that Liberia’s historic 2017 elections, an event marking the first time since 1944 that presidential authority would be transferred democratically from one elected leader to another, would have been completed. It has not. In fact, it has become more complicated, but that is the nature of a post conflict democracy.”

She recalled that in the past, close to twelve years of her Presidency, she promoted democracy, protected fundamental freedom and encouraged an open society. President Sirleaf said there were many times when she wondered if she had it right; if under the circumstances of a war-torn country like Liberia, there were alternatives that would lead to more civic responsibility and accelerated development.

President Sirleaf averred that “Yet democracy, as we all know, can be messy. It can be unpredictable. Recent cases in point are Liberia, Kenya, Zimbabwe and even the United States. As many of you may know, no one candidate running in Liberia’s October 10thpresidential election was able to meet the threshold required by our constitution to secure a victory. As such, a run-off election was required.

The Liberian Chief Executive informed her audience that the first-round election results were challenged by three contesting political parties through formal procedures as defined under Liberia’s electoral law. As a result, the Supreme Court placed a stay order on the presidential run-off.”

She said since that time, the National Elections Commission (NEC) conducted hearings and finally ruled that there was no systematic fraud in the first-round election, and that the run-off election should proceed. The Supreme Court is now deliberating an appeal of the challenging parties to this decision - although in the meanwhile anxiety amounts as Liberians await a decision.

“So today, we find ourselves still in the electoral period. Liberia has yet to decide who its next leader will be, but this is a decision that belongs to the people and the people alone. And I maintain full confidence that our institutions are working to ensure the integrity of the process. A technical team from the Economic Community of West Africa States is now in country to assess the results of the first round and provide technical assistance to NEC to strengthen their capacity for the run-off,” she pointed out.

President Sirleaf noted that Liberians are watching democracy play out in a compelling demonstration that the institutions we have built following 30 years of conflict are strong and resilient. These institutions – she assured, are laying the foundation for our next generation of democratically elected leaders. President Sirleaf said: “It is worth noting, and applauding, that during this time of uncertainty, almost two months now, there has not been a single act of violence. While partisan rhetoric has been heated, the Liberian people have remained patient and calm.”

She indicated: “It is clear that the ballot box has replaced bullets and electoral disputes are settled through the courts. I take pride as a woman in the fact that this transformation has taken place under my leadership. I wish that I could say more about this ongoing experience but as the matter is before the Court, I will focus the remainder of my remarks on women’s political participation in Africa: the progress we have made, and the challenges that remain.”

Focusing on the theme, President Sirleaf said African women have made great strides - expanding their roles in political participation at virtually all levels of government. This, she noted is certainly worth noting and worth celebrating. “Over the course of the last 20 years, sub-Saharan Africa has boasted some of the most dramatic breakthroughs in women’s political representation in national legislative bodies. According to the Brookings Institution, the number of female legislators on the continent grew from 9.8 percent in 1995 to 23.2 percent in 2016. In comparison, Europe, excluding the Nordic nations, comes in at 24.3 percent and the Americas at 27.7 percent,” she underscored.

She reminded the forum that - at the national level, five of the world’s top 15 countries for the number of women serving in parliament are found in Africa. “Rwanda, under the leadership of President Paul Kagame, stands out with the highest ratio at 61 percent, followed by South Africa, Senegal, Namibia and Mozambique. Eight African countries have parliaments with more than 30% female membership,” she historicized.

These numbers, President Sirleaf observed - taken at face value, show 22 African countries outperforming more developed countries across the globe, including the United States, where the current Congress is composed of less than 20 percent women. She said in Liberia’s October 10th elections, an unprecedented number of women ran for political office, including one presidential candidate and six vice presidential candidates. “This is significant progress for women’s leadership in Liberia but, admittedly, much more remains to be done both in my country and across Africa,” she highlighted.

According to President Sirleaf, the growing number of women in political leadership roles across the continent is, partially, a result of deliberate policy decisions supported and sometimes demanded by civil society. In response, at least 16 countries have parity legislation and quota systems in place. But, it is becoming increasingly evident that top-down legal and constitutional changes will be insufficient on their own in the long run to bring the equality that women seek.

On a number of questions for all of us to consider; she reckoned: “Do these increased strides represent a true rise in the power of women in national decision making? Is such progress, fundamental and sustainable, or superficial and temporary”?

Interestingly, President Sirleaf alluded to a 2016 McKinsey and Company report: “Women Matter Africa, found an increased number of women in legislative bodies and cabinet positions do not necessarily translate to greater political influence. Approximately half of female cabinet ministers hold social welfare portfolios, with arguably limited political influence and no direct path towards top leadership roles. African women ministers are half as likely as their male peers to be appointed to influential portfolios. This limits the redistribution of real political power.”

Said President Sirleaf: “I, as Head of State, have had my own limitations. As of 6th December, 2017, we have not passed the Domestic Violence Laws due to the battle with the Legislature who continue to view the practice of Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) as a valid cultural practice. Admittedly, I am running out of time, but will continue to work with the many progressive men of the Legislature to pass this law before the end of my Administration. That is my promise.”

Regarding why do we continue to face limitations; President Sirleaf said there are many reasons, but for her, there are two, which stand out. First, women, by definition, are generally political outsiders in Africa. They represent change, greater democracy and transparency. She intimated that although women at all levels continue to find their voices, we are still regarded as a threat to the status quo.

Second, political party structures continue to be hierarchical, and based upon patronage and patriarchy. This must change. There must be a global effort to ensure that women have access to resources and networks required to propel them to positions of power in government. A 2011 United Nations General Assembly resolution aptly reads, “Women in every part of the world continue to be largely marginalized from the political sphere, often as a result of discriminatory laws, practices, attitudes and gender stereotypes, low levels of education, lack of access to health care and the disproportionate effect of poverty on women.”

“Statistics can paint an incomplete picture, leading us to believe that we should conceptualize political leadership in vertical manner –as a ladder that men and women ascend. Today, I would like to invite you to challenge that image. We must reach beyond counting and analyzing the few women at the highest levels of politics and transition into building and sustaining a strong and well-resourced horizontal bench for the next generation of leaders,” she stressed.

President Sirleaf said “This horizontal bench should exist across a wider cross-section of society and address the multifaceted challenges and social norms which marginalize women, stifling both their voices and their potential. This should start at the grassroots level with reinforced regulations and institutions, which codify and uphold the rights of women and girls.”

She argued that the stage to empower women’s political participation begins when households and communities denounce the subordination of women, when the girl child is entitled to the same educational opportunities as her brother. She maintained that there is much to be done in Liberia in this regard, but added she was glad that today, in even the remotest village a woman will stand up in a Town Hall Meeting and say “Thank you, Madam President, I now have a voice in decision making. I am glad that a little girl can challenge her marginalization on the basis that a woman is President.”

President Sirleaf concluded as saying: “In a few weeks, in compliance with the constitution, I will hand over leadership to another democratically elected president, which for Liberia, will be first time in 74 years. It is an example I hope my African contemporaries will follow. I will leave behind a nation transformed from despair to hope; from a destroyed nation, to one with a functional government and an open democratic society from a pariah state to a post conflict success story. Many of you in this room played a part in this transformation and I thank you.”

The occasion was graced by former U.S. Ambassador to Liberia - Linda Thomas-Greenfield, former Minister of Finance, Ms. Antoinette Monsio Sayeh, longtime colleague - Steve Radelet, Georgetown University family, members of Liberia’s Mission in Washington, among others.

LIBERIA’S LOOMING CONSTITUTIONAL CRISIS: A SEETHING INFERNO

Liberia’s recent history is characterized by political disputes, and a cataclysmic civil war which reports say led to the death of more than 2000 thousand people. The country’s recent history also recalls the election of the first woman president in Africa in 2005. Twelve years later, the president is struggling to deliver a smooth transition to the Liberian people.


In the build up to the October 10, 2017 elections, the President came under a fusillade of criticisms, in some cases, she was insulted by members of her political party. Her main wrongdoing has been her refusal to support her own political party, which ushered her to the presidency, and her negation of the man who stood with her for twelve years as her vice president. By losing the support of the president, Vice President, Mr. Joseph Boakai has lost the moral and political support he craves as the chosen successor. He also lost the financial resources he would have received from government to lunch a credible campaign.

Meanwhile, Madam President has been accused of delivering this critical support to the opposition, first to the Liberty Party of Charles Brumskine, and later the Congress for Democratic Change (CDC) of the internationally acclaimed footballer George Weah.  The October 10, 2017 elections were conducted peacefully as everyone had hoped. No sooner the results were announced that George Weah and Joseph Boakai would face each other in a run-off, Charles Brumskine of the Liberty Party refused to accept the results, alleging fraud and irregularities and filed a complaint with the National Elections Commission (NEC). The NEC, conscious of its rules and mandate, set a date for the run-off, but Charles Brumskine took exception and filed a complaint to the Supreme Court, seeking prohibition against holding of the run-off before he is accorded due process by NEC.

The High Court agreed with him and ordered the National Elections Commission (NEC) not to conduct the run-off election…… “until the complaint filed by the petitioner is investigated by NEC, and, if need be, the appropriate appeal process to the Supreme Court of Liberia is availed and the matter is decided by the Supreme Court.”

The High Court further said “Given the critical nature of the complaint, subject of these prohibition proceedings, and its implication on governance of the nation, the NEC is directed to give urgent attention to the expeditious hearing and determination thereof…”

By the time the Supreme Court handed down its ruling, it was clear that no matter what the NEC did, Charles Brumskine would return to the Court with an appeal. This is the game plan to stall the run-off and ensure that by 15 January 2018, the current government becomes illegal, paving the way for all to now begin the scramble for positions in an interim government.. Reports of delays are therefore not surprising because that is precisely what the Liberty Party and the Unity Party desire in the hope that this matter drags on beyond the mandate of the current government.

Running down the mandate of the current government and creating a leadership vacuum in the country is fraught with challenges. Firstly, the question of succession will arise. Secondly, arguments will be made about the formation of an interim government, which could exacerbate the prevailing polarization among political parties and other stakeholders in the country.

Not unexpectedly, I have read from the FrontpageAfrica Publication, that Liberty Party and Unity Party issued a joint statement on November 16, 2017, in which they alluded to succession provisions of the Liberian Constitution in the event that the mandate of the current government expires. In my view, Liberia needs to be careful here, and this is why.

Legal ramifications associated with succession in this case should not be taken lightly. Under Article 63(b) of the Liberian Constitution, “Whenever the office of the President shall become vacant by reason of death, resignation, impeachment, or the President shall be declared incapable of carrying out the duties and functions of his office, the Vice President shall succeed to the office of President to complete the unexpired term.” This implies, in my view, and legally appropriate, a government in office, or a CONTINUING GOVERNMENT whose chief executive cannot perform his functions for obvious reasons. Emphasis in this provision should be placed on UNEXPIRED TERM. In other words, this provision does not speak to a situation where the mandate of the government has expired. Simply put, after January 15, 2018, there would have been no government. The framers of the Constitution did not foresee what could become a conundrum.

By January 15, 2018, without a new government being inaugurated, the Executive Branch of Liberian Government would have suffered a leadership deficit. And since the Vice President who is a contender in the election saga cannot succeed to the office of the President, also because there would have been no UNEXPIRED TERM to complete, any succession arrangement under Article 63 (b) of the Constitution would have no legal basis. In a CONTINUING ADMINISTRATION, the Speaker would be in direct line of succession under Article 64 of the Constitution. However, the Speaker is also a contender and the government by January 15, 2018, would have had no mandate for him to succeed to.

The National Legislature has to convene in its 54th session to elect a new leadership but this is further complicated by the fact that a large number of members of the lower house were only recently elected during the October 10, 2017 elections. Will NEC be allowed to certificate them under an election whose results are being challenged? Failing their induction the House of Representatives will not be able to elect a new Speaker and could further lack quorum to carry out any business. There will be no legal basis for the Deputy Speaker to ascend to the office of President under Article 64 for the same reason that there will be no governing administration. Under the same article 64, “Members of the Cabinet in the order of precedence should succeed to the office of President when the Deputy Speaker is barred. Here again, cabinet ministers would not have legal basis to continue to function in their respective duties under an executive branch without a head and a mandate.

There have been assertions that the President Pro Tempore of the Senate would succeed to the office of President. This too doesn’t seem to have any constitutional basis and may not be constructive.

In the event the succession provisions cannot resolve the impasse, there will be calls for formation of an interim government. The age old division in Liberia will emerge again and political parties and stakeholders will queue to go to another Akosombo or Abuja conference to form an interim government. There will be crisis. This internal problem of Liberia will again threaten the peace, security and stability of the sub-region, especially neighboring states.

The international community has invested a lot to safe Liberia and keep it peaceful. There should be no going back to anarchy and brutality. Liberty Party and Unity party should see reason to withdraw their complaints. They have made the point, and NEC will learn from its mistakes. Liberia now needs to move on. LIBERIA SHOULD NOT BECOME PARIAH AND A DISTABILIZER AGAIN.

KOTONO GBEZE
BBA, LL.B, MA
Texas, USA
Email: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

“BEWARE OF WOLVES IN SHEEPS’ CLOTHING”:SOME REFLECTIONS

Developing political events/issues of national/international significance concerned with Mr. George Weah, motivated this write-up. Although I have not met nor did I know young George Weah before or played any role, personally, in the “discovery, aiding and promoting” the young man to his world soccer fame, but as the senior “Pappy” of the Clan credited with Mr. George Weah’s rise, also, to national/international political fame, I am honored and pleased to be his natural, reasonable support.


Weah’s Political Problems Like, almost, all young (and old) and rising politicians, the issues of training, money and related problems are inherent in the political process and that the issues are not unexpected, especially, for the young, given the usual peer pressure, cultural flux and all other critical issues of today’s modern, political world.

To many observers, King George Weah’s problem is “Weah na no book” or that Weah lacks “book or academic knowledge”, while others (we fall in this group) hold that Weah’s major problem is not so much the absence of book knowledge, as such, but:

Firstly, it is the absence of the requisite political training/experience, the required executive management concerned with the problems of the people or group dynamics; and

Secondly, the lack of on-ground, in Liberia involvement, experience and knowledge of socio-cultural, economic and political dynamics of who says and does what to whom, why, where, when, where and how, and the context of these dynamics.

In these days of vicious, intensive “dog-eat-dog” world of political competition, it is necessary, indeed mandatory, to gain in-depth knowledge and experience of the political dynamics from bottom to top, not from top to bottom. Specifically, King George Weah:

1. Sold his “Political Soul” to the political Devil-in-Chief, Mr. Charles Taylor, who is now in prison for 50 years for Political Crimes Against Humanity. Apparently, King George Weah does not know Mr. Taylor, the anti-social revolutionary, but flamboyant center-stage seeker and “play-boy” political actor whose inordinate greed for power and money took him from here, Liberia, to Sierra Leone for the diamonds, to the International Criminal Court and you know the rest - to prison.

2. Surrounds himself by graduates of the civil war - child soldiers, and elements that looted, destroyed, killed indiscriminately and some human rights violators, now the major source of high crimes and disobedience of law. King George Weah has already announced that there will be no human right court in Liberia during CDC administration.

3. One of Mr. Weah’s major problems is that he knows not those who are his friends or enemies. Although he lost twice to EJS, but he is now playing ball with her, and the sly-fox manipulator is now bank-rolling him in return for protection from prosecution for alleged war crimes. Meanwhile, Mr. Charles Taylor’s ex-wife snoozed him to become his Vice Standard Bearer while, also, she is in touch with US officials for release of Mr. Taylor. George Weah may not be around, politically, when Taylor comes home, takes command and becomes the Vice’s husband, again!!

4. Weah is now Prince Johnson’s endorsed candidate for President of Liberia. He (PYJ) took Weah to the politically-famous Nigerian Pastor in Lagos a few days ago for Devine endorsement/intervention. But PYJ is pictured below brandishing an AK-47 surrounded by heavily-armed fighters with the statement that “Liberia will back to war if Weah becomes President”.

5. Then there are thousands of the usual sycophants who are or want to cash in on Weah’ popularity. Some know about Mr. Weah’s political short-comings, that “he does not have it”, but are willing to go along for the ride, and benefits.

And finally, King George Weah’s soccer popularity is not transferrable to political popularity without the required executive political management training and experience, which he does not possess, nor any of his Rebel Aides.

Chairman, National Elections Commission Regular press conference

1. Welcome to this press conference and update on the presidential runoff elections.


2. I want to highlight and respond to arising issues including:

a. Complaints and appeals process;
b. Status update;
c. Claims being made by political parties.

Complaints and appeals process

1. On the request of the Liberty Party, the Supreme Court has issued a Writ of Prohibition ordering the National Elections Commission to stop preparations for the organisation of the 7 November 2017 runoff election until the complaint and petition of this political party is concluded. The National Elections Commission, in line with this order, will follow the court’s instructions. This means all activities in preparation for the presidential runoff election are suspended and will not be resumed until the court orders otherwise.

2. The loss of today due to the Order already means the 7 November 2017 date that was set for the runoff presidential elections does not look possible to meet.

Status update

3. Prior to the Supreme Court Stay Order election preparations were on track. Ballot papers arrived as scheduled on 28 September 2017. Packing has been on-going and ballot papers and other sensitive material were being prepared and despatched to centres across the country.

4. Parts of the shipments of material had already arrived in Maryland, Grand Kru, River Gee and Grand Gedeh at the time of the Order. Today shipments were scheduled for the remaining material to Maryland and River Gee as well as Upper and Lower Nimba, Margibi and Upper and Lower Bong. These are suspended, and in some cases, they were recalled back to the warehouses as they were en route. Tomorrow deliveries were scheduled for Bomi, Grand Bassa, Cape Mount, Grand Gedeh and Sinoe as well as parts of Montserrado. These are suspended.

5. Training of National Elections Commission staff is suspended. Magistrate and Election Supervisor training was completed before the Stay Order was issued. Training that was scheduled to commence today for presiding officers has been suspended in line with the Order. Presiding Officers from across the country had arrived at training centres at the time of the Order. Training for the polling staff scheduled for the 3 and 4 November 2017 is suspended. The training of all staff was supposed to be completed on 5 November 2017 to allow staff members to reach their polling places.

6. The National Elections Commission has requested its partners carrying out civic and voter education to suspend activities.

Claims being made by political parties

7. There are a number of claims regarding the integrity of the 10 October 2017 elections being made by political parties. It is essential these claims be submitted in the form of complaints and evidence produced in support. The legal framework clearly outlines a legal process for complaints and the National Elections Commission follows this framework. And there is a right of appeal to the Supreme Court.

8. The Commission appeals to all political parties to use the appropriate channels to air grievances and complaints. The National Elections Commission recognises their right to freedom of speech, but announcing unsupported claims in the media risks inflaming the situation and dividing people.

9. On one point raised in a joint statement this weekend from the three political parties the National Elections Commission reassures all stakeholders the President of Liberia has met the magistrates on the request of the National Elections Commission on 17 September 2017. As head of state the president has supported the National Elections Commission strongly in its mandate to hold free and fair elections. The Government as well as other branches of the state are a stakeholder and the National Elections Commission has a duty to engage all stakeholders in its work.

10. At no point has the National Elections Commission’s independence been questioned by the president. The meeting was simply to highlight the importance of these elections to the citizens of Liberia. And to encourage the magistrates to do a professional job and be independent. The National Elections Commission is independent and will fiercely defend that independence at all times.

11. The National Elections Commission wants to stress that these elections were free, fair and credible. It stands by the election results published.

12. All of the international and national election observers have concluded that so far the election process has been well conducted, transparent and credible. None of them have identified any fraud in the election process. There were some lapses in places, but in nowhere did this impact on the results of the elections.

13. The claim that ballot papers were found dumped in Grand Gedeh County has been investigated and we have the material that was allegedly discovered for inspection. These are not ballot papers at all but parts of the ‘know your candidate’ civic education that was distributed by the National Elections Commission. There is no way at all anybody can vote with these since they do not have the security feature and are different sizes to ballot papers.

14. At every stage of the elections the process is transparent and open to scrutiny. The steps the National Elections Commission takes are fully in line with international best practice.

 

15. The National Elections Commission calls on all political parties to be responsible in the claims they are making.

Closing

16. More updates will be issued throughout the next days. And the National Elections Commission awaits legal clarity on its preparations.

Cllr. Jerome G. Korkoya

How African Governments Manage Extractive Resources

A new study jointly released by the African Development Band and OpenOil, a Berlin-based financial analysis firm has revealed how African Governments use financial models to manage the oil and gas sectors and mining projects.
“This report is the first of its kind in Africa and we hope that it will stir debate within the continent’s mining sector and contribute to countries getting more out of their mining projects,” they told the participants.


The report was launched at the 13th Annual General Meeting of the Intergovernmental Forum on Mining, Minerals, Metals and Sustainable Development (IGF) in Geneva, Switzerland. Over 150 experts and representatives of international development institutions, governments, civil society and extractives companies attended the launch. These included the World Bank, United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD), Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD). Mining companies and miners’ associations such as Newmont Mining Corporation, AngloGold Ashanti, Anglo American and International Council on Mining and Metals (ICMM) also attended. The joint report was presented by Pietro Toigo of the AfDB’s African Natural Resources Center and Olumide Abimbola from OpenOil.

The report, Running the Numbers: How African Governments Model Extractive Projects, analyses the capacity of 19 African resource-rich countries to use financial models, which simulate a simplified version of a real-world project in order to determine their financial benefits to the countries. AfDB and OpenOil conducted a survey of nearly 50 government officials to illustrate not only how widespread use of financial models is, but also how their results are utilised to inform policy.

“Financial models are essential throughout the life-cycle of extractive projects,” said Johnny West, Director of OpenOil. “They are not just important during the development of the fiscal regime, but also for the negotiation of fiscal terms with companies, for revenue forecasting, and for auditing and tax-gap analysis.” “This report not only stresses the need for African Governments to make efforts to close the information gap with extractive companies, but also shows where there are capacity gaps and how those gaps could be addressed,” Traore said, urging development partners to invest more in capacity building.

Also, there is a substantial gap in access to data that are key inputs for financial models in African countries, with the largest gaps in assessing information on capital costs and operating costs of projects. In addition to the need to build in-house financial modelling capacity, the report suggests that governments need to improve internal business processes and address the large gap that the report shows exist between information available to different agencies, departments and ministries.

“This study forms a crucial part of the Center’s support to African countries in realising the full potential of their natural resources”, Traore said. “How are countries supposed to enter into negotiations with extraction companies that use financial models if the governments of such countries are not in possession of the latest and best models to calculate what a potential project is worth?” Toigo asked.

The report also encourages development partners to make capacity building in financial modeling a more significant part of their support to the management of extractive resources. Partners doing so already were encouraged to not just supply financial models as part of isolated technical assistance, but to also invest in equipping government officials with skills to create and use models.-Press release

 

AfDB urges global support for young African farmers

The African Development Bank has called for global support for Africa’s young farmers and “agripreneurs”, highlighting how agribusiness is the answer to the continent’s youth employment.


In collaboration with the Initiative for Global Development, the Association of African Agricultural Professionals in the Diaspora (AAAPD), Michigan State University, Iowa State University, and the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture, the AfDB brought together stakeholders to discuss how to expand economic opportunities for Africa’s youth throughout the agricultural value chain, from lab to farm to fork.

The session titled “Making Farming Cool: Investing in future African farmers and Agripreneurs” was held on the sideline of the ongoing 2017 World Food Prize Symposium-Borlaug Dialogue in Des Moines, Iowa, and had in attendance young entrepreneurs from Africa, private sector representatives, policymakers and thought leaders.

Africa has the world’s youngest population with 60% being under 35 years old. There are 420 million youth aged 15-35 and this segment of the population is expected to double to 840 million by 2040.

Working with the International Institute for Tropical Agriculture (IITA), the African Development Bank is empowering young farmers under the Empowering Novel Agri-Business-Led Employment (ENABLE) Youth program.

“Africa’s next billionaires are not going to come from oil, gas, or the extractives. ENABLE Youth is about investing in small agribusinesses today so that they can grow into large enterprises tomorrow,” President Adesina said.
“By empowering youth at each stage of the agribusiness value chain, we enable them to establish viable and profitable agribusinesses, jobs and better incomes for themselves and their communities.”

He explained how attracting a new cadre of young, energetic and talented agripreneurs – who will drive the adoption of new technologies throughout the value chain, raise productivity and meet rising food demands – is an urgent priority.
Recent studies indicate that as African economies transform, there are expanding opportunities for youth employment and entrepreneurship throughout high-potential value chains – literally from lab to fork – where consumer demand is increasing, including horticulture, dairy, oilseeds, poultry and aquaculture.

In addition, there are huge opportunities for engaging African youth in services and logistical sectors in key off-farm activities such as transportation, packaging, ICT and other technology development and light infrastructure – that add value to on-farm productivity and efficiency, in ways that could not envisioned before.
The whole idea of connecting farms to markets, particularly rising urban and regional markets, is where Africa needs to plug in this bulging youth population, Adesina said.

The Bank President highlighted major efforts needed to provide young Africans with new business opportunities, modern and practical skills, access to new technologies, land, equipment and finance that will allow them to transition from subsistence livelihood into higher-paying work, whether these are on or off the farm.

In his words, “This is how we intend to make farming cool!” Through the ENABLE Youth program, the AfDB and its partners are empowering youth at each stage of the agribusiness value chain with plans to train 10,000 agriculture entrepreneurs, or “agripreneurs”, in African countries, launching at least 300,000 enterprises and creating 1.5 million jobs over the next 5 years.

Africa already has shining examples of successful youth agripreneurs, nine of whom were in the room as Adesina spoke. He cited three examples of the thousands of young agripreneurs whose fascinating stories fill him with a sense of hope and urgency.
“We need to effectively utilize this African diaspora in the same way done by the Asian countries by leveraging on their expertise to fast-track Africa’s development agenda and allow all Africans to contribute, regardless of whether they are based locally within the African continent, or outside,” Adesina noted.

On agribusiness as a solution to Africa’s youth unemployment, Jennifer Blanke, AfDB’s Vice-President, Agriculture, Human and Social Development, called for access to finance for the youth agripreneurs by re-aligning incentives for commercial banks and other financial institutions to reduce lending risks.

“There are over 15 job groups along the whole agricultural value chain – from farm to fork,” she said.
Noel Mulinganya, a young agripreneur and leader of the Kalambo Youth Agripreneurs (a group of 20 young graduates aged between 25-35 years old from different academic backgrounds engaged in collective agribusiness enterprises), spoke of the need for funding opportunities for young African farmers.

“My aspiration and those of my colleagues is to become business builders,” he said. “We would like this program to be a platform for sharing our knowledge and experiences in order to touch and engage youths as much as we can in agribusinesses.” Lilian Uwintwali, whose firm provides ICT platforms that serve over 10,000 farmers in Rwanda − linking farmers to markets, banks, insurance companies and extension services, said, “I aspire to get partnerships and investment opportunities here in the USA and I believe the discussions here at conference will help me shape a better business model for my project, m-lima, in Rwanda.”

She speaks of how farming could generate income for African youth. “I am talking from experience because it has sustained me for the past 5 years,” she said.-Press release

African integration through open borders

Renowned African historian, Joseph Achille Mbembe, has made a solid case for Africa’s integration through open borders that allow free movement of people on the continent.


“History tells us that the first thing you do to incapacitate people is to restrict their ability to move. Mobility allowed the stretching of societies; was determinant to trade and to building African civilizations,” Mbembe said. The erudite scholar made these arguments at the 21st edition of the African Development Bank’s Eminent Speakers series cat the Bank’s headquarters in Abidjan on the theme, “The Cost of Borders.”

The AfDB is investing heavily in transport infrastructure as part of its High 5 priority programme to fast-track Africa’s integration. Mbembe argues that a big bank like AfDB should do more by creating ideas to impact the world’s view on the positive aspects of mobility.
He cited a study that found that the cost of transportation in Africa is 136% higher than in most other countries, largely due to inadequate infrastructure and restriction of movements.

Mbembe also cited AfDB’s statistics which indicate that investing US$32 billion in transport infrastructure every year for 15 years in Africa would enhance trade by US $250 billion.He said restricted mobility and limited open borders is a serious cost prohibitive issue in a continent saddled with hundreds of internal borders and is highly cost prohibitive.

The biggest challenge facing Africa in the 21st century is for the continent to become a vast area of freedom of movement. The future of Africa does not depend on restrictive immigration policies and the militarisation of borders, he says. He further explained how barriers and political issues constrain continental efforts to integrate Africa through investments, trade, finance and free movement of people and skills.

According to Mbembe, borders have become a geopolitical question, with the proliferation of new forms of violence. Issues of safety and security have resulted in a global expansion of security infrastructure to monitor insecure places. Massive investments are made on new technologies such as drones, to the point that securing borders has become a big industry.

At the same time, refugee issues and the migrant crisis in the Northern and Southern parts of Africa will spur a demographic revolution that in turn will reshape the face of the world. “For years now, many have died attempting to cross borders in search of better living conditions. “This, he said, is an issue Africa must address.

Building on experiences in other regions, and specific African countries, the Speaker addressed the need to think deep about managing African borders and the possibility of privatizing boarder management.
Concerning language barriers, Mbembe said English and French are now seen as African languages that are no longer a prerogative of French and English people.

“Our relationship with these languages obliges us to consider them to be part of our heritage. We have to move our borders and adapt them to the environment in which we find ourselves,” he explained.

“We must open the continent to itself and turn it into a power house. It must be turned into a vast space of circulation. This is the only way for it to become its own center in a multipolar world.” For mobility to become the cornerstone of a new pan-African agenda, we need to leave behind migratory models based on anti-humanist concepts such as “national interest” and embrace our own long tradition of flexible, networked sovereignty and collective security, he says.

Introducing the speaker, the Bank’s Chief Economist and Vice-President, Celestin Monga, emphasized the relevance of the theme under discussion, saying that regional integration is one of the institution’s five operational pillars. He also highlighted Africa’s size and the diversity of its economic structure as issues to contend with in efforts to promote integration.

Mbembe is an eminent professor at the Institute of Social and Economic Research of Witwatersrand University, Johannesburg, South Africa. He served as Executive Director of the Council for the Development of Social Science Research in Africa (CODESRIA) in Dakar, Senegal. He was a visiting professor at the universities of Harvard, Duke and California in Berkeley in the United States.

African integration through open borders

Renowned African historian, Joseph Achille Mbembe, has made a solid case for Africa’s integration through open borders that allow free movement of people on the continent.


“History tells us that the first thing you do to incapacitate people is to restrict their ability to move. Mobility allowed the stretching of societies; was determinant to trade and to building African civilizations,” Mbembe said. The erudite scholar made these arguments at the 21st edition of the African Development Bank’s Eminent Speakers series cat the Bank’s headquarters in Abidjan on the theme, “The Cost of Borders.”

The AfDB is investing heavily in transport infrastructure as part of its High 5 priority programme to fast-track Africa’s integration. Mbembe argues that a big bank like AfDB should do more by creating ideas to impact the world’s view on the positive aspects of mobility.
He cited a study that found that the cost of transportation in Africa is 136% higher than in most other countries, largely due to inadequate infrastructure and restriction of movements.

Mbembe also cited AfDB’s statistics which indicate that investing US$32 billion in transport infrastructure every year for 15 years in Africa would enhance trade by US $250 billion.He said restricted mobility and limited open borders is a serious cost prohibitive issue in a continent saddled with hundreds of internal borders and is highly cost prohibitive.

The biggest challenge facing Africa in the 21st century is for the continent to become a vast area of freedom of movement. The future of Africa does not depend on restrictive immigration policies and the militarisation of borders, he says. He further explained how barriers and political issues constrain continental efforts to integrate Africa through investments, trade, finance and free movement of people and skills.

According to Mbembe, borders have become a geopolitical question, with the proliferation of new forms of violence. Issues of safety and security have resulted in a global expansion of security infrastructure to monitor insecure places. Massive investments are made on new technologies such as drones, to the point that securing borders has become a big industry.

At the same time, refugee issues and the migrant crisis in the Northern and Southern parts of Africa will spur a demographic revolution that in turn will reshape the face of the world. “For years now, many have died attempting to cross borders in search of better living conditions. “This, he said, is an issue Africa must address.

Building on experiences in other regions, and specific African countries, the Speaker addressed the need to think deep about managing African borders and the possibility of privatizing boarder management.
Concerning language barriers, Mbembe said English and French are now seen as African languages that are no longer a prerogative of French and English people.

“Our relationship with these languages obliges us to consider them to be part of our heritage. We have to move our borders and adapt them to the environment in which we find ourselves,” he explained.

“We must open the continent to itself and turn it into a power house. It must be turned into a vast space of circulation. This is the only way for it to become its own center in a multipolar world.” For mobility to become the cornerstone of a new pan-African agenda, we need to leave behind migratory models based on anti-humanist concepts such as “national interest” and embrace our own long tradition of flexible, networked sovereignty and collective security, he says.

Introducing the speaker, the Bank’s Chief Economist and Vice-President, Celestin Monga, emphasized the relevance of the theme under discussion, saying that regional integration is one of the institution’s five operational pillars. He also highlighted Africa’s size and the diversity of its economic structure as issues to contend with in efforts to promote integration.

Mbembe is an eminent professor at the Institute of Social and Economic Research of Witwatersrand University, Johannesburg, South Africa. He served as Executive Director of the Council for the Development of Social Science Research in Africa (CODESRIA) in Dakar, Senegal. He was a visiting professor at the universities of Harvard, Duke and California in Berkeley in the United States.

VP Boakai, Your Apology to the People of Lofa County Is Twelve Years Too Late

VANCOUVER, CANADA, SEPTEMBER 20, 2017: From the looks of things, Lady Momentum is rapidly kissing your campaign good bye and shifting to a footballer. Your party is in complete disarray -- split right in the middle between those who support you, Party Chairman Wilmot Paye and Cllr. Varney Sherman who is having an acrimonious relationship with Madam Sirleaf in one corner and those who support the President in the other. You are finding it harder and harder to persuade and convince Liberians why they should give you another six years given the twelve years of hardship and suffering your administration has brought to bear on the people.


Campaigning is getting increasingly difficult and so desperation is setting in for which you are calling on Liberians “not to vote for a footballer.” That call speaks to the level of frustration I am referring to. FrontPageAfrica newspaper attributed a statement to you in its August 25th edition under the heading, “’Don’t Vote for Footballer’ – Vice President Boakai Admonishes Supporters,” you warned supporters: “If you vote for a footballer you will be kick (ed) (past tense mine) like a football because that is the work of a footballer.”

Really? No, Honorable Boakai, George Weah will not kick the Liberian people around like football. He loves the people and they love and believe in him. During his illustrious football career, he combined mental and physical toughness with skills to outsmart and dribble opponents, chip goalies, outrun defenders, and score goals that were incredibly breadth-taking and spectacular by kicking the ball only and not people. That is why in 1995, he conquered Africa, Europe, and the world in football. If he did not kick opponents around in the past to win those laurels in football, he will not kick his own people around, plain and simple. In a game of football, if you kick your opponent instead of the ball, you will be shown a red card and that ultimately means automatic ejection. The funny thing about your statement is that you are berating a football icon yet here you are, going on soccer fields, taking kick-offs and asking players to vote for you. In other words, you are telling them that they are bunch of nobodies because they play football but hypocritically you want them to vote for you.

George Weah took a little over six years – from the closing stages of 1988 to 1995 – to reach the zenith of his foot-balling career. Therefore, when he takes the Presidential Oath of Office in January 2018, his first order of business within the first six years will be to give you a proper retirement package and not kick you around, that is a promise. Thereafter, he will build the Menokona Road so that when you are travelling to Monrovia to pick up your pension check, you will have a smooth ride and not get stuck in the mud as is presently happening. Remember, Sir the Menokona Road project was started by your former boss, President Samuel Doe, from Gbarnga to your home county of Lofa, but you and your present boss, Madam Sirleaf did not dare touch it for almost twelve years which prompted you to apologize to the people of Lofa as was reported in the August 28th edition of FrontPage Africa under the heading: “VP Apologizes to Lofa County For Not Addressing Critical Concerns.”

Uncle Joe, sorry Sir, but that apology came twelve years too late. For almost twelve years you have been dutifully playing second fiddle to Madam Sirleaf but abandoned your own people of Lofa County only to apologize to them and unconscionably promised them thus: “Let me simply and humbly apologize and ask that we continue to believe that the time for it to happen is at hand. God willing it will be done soon.” How can you, with straight face, look in the eyes of the people of Lofa County and ask them to vote for you after you abandoned them for twelve years? Where were you, Sir? That is a hard sell and you know it, Uncle Joe. I am not sure whether you can redeem yourself.

For almost twelve years, you and President Sirleaf have presided over a government with failing schools, endemic corruption, poor healthcare delivery system, bad roads and in some areas, no roads at all, which make the southeastern region and other parts of Liberia seem like a region in the 17th century. Pictures from Rivercess, Grand Kru, Grand Gedeh, Lofa and Sinoe Counties and parts of Nimba are horrible. And now you want the people to give you and your party another six years? What you did not do in 12 years, even though you had the opportunity but shirked that responsibility, cannot be done in six years. You had your chance but blew it.

Another thing, Uncle Joe, you keep playing the victim by stating that the President never asks you to recommend anyone for any ministerial post and also insinuating that she does not consult you on major policy issues and so you are fighting tooth and nail to distance yourself from the government’s failed policies. But you want to take credit for some of the good things that the government has done; for example, the roads constructed from Monrovia to Ganta and from Harbel to Buchanan? That does not fly. If you want to distance yourself from Madam Sirleaf for the failed government policies, you cannot and should not take credit for the good ones either. You cannot have it both ways.

Just to refresh your memory, Honorable Vice President: in 2014, during the Montserrado County senatorial election in which President Sirleaf’s favorite son, Robert Sirleaf was pitted against Amb George Weah, the Unity Party, through its then Secretary General (now Chairman) Wilmot Paye, called a press conference and made a scathing attack against Robert Sirleaf. The Party disavowed Robert Sirleaf in no uncertain terms and went as far as barring partisans from voting for him by over-emphasizing that any partisan who supported Robert Sirleaf would be doing so at their own risk. Unity Party publicly disgraced him and figuratively threw him under the bus. In that election, Robert Sirleaf went on to be embarrassingly trounced by Amb Weah. That began the watershed moment between the Sirleafs and the Party. Madam Sirleaf blames you partly for that. An aide close to President Sirleaf has said that the President will not support you and the Unity Party simply because you did not rein in Mr. Paye.

Senator George Weah will win this election because the Liberian people are behind him. He is battle-tested and has better organizational machine this time around. You have a humble beginning just as he is but what sets him apart from you is that he is younger and his message of hope is resonating with Liberians, especially the young people who make up majority of the voting population. They love him, believe in him and will vote for him. The Liberian people see you and Madam Sirleaf as one of the same – ones who they sincerely believe have failed to meet their socio-economic needs. Therefore, they will not give the Unity Party another six years.

By. Jerry Gbardy

The need to Transform LBS into a Public Service Broadcaster is Ever Present

Introduction
A bill to transform state radio – the Liberia Broadcasting System into a Public Service Broadcaster, has been tabled before the House of Representatives for the second time in nine years. The new establishment to be known as the Liberia National Broadcasting Corporation (LNBC), was introduced by Bong County Representative, George Mulbah on Tuesday, September 5, 2017 on behalf of the working group.


It was first submitted to the 51st Legislature together with a bill to establish an Independent Broadcast Regulator and the Freedom of Information Act in 2008 by the Press Union of Liberia and partners. But only the FOI got passed in 2010. The three media legal reform instruments were recommended after an assessment mission to Liberia by a group of experts under the egis of the ‘Partnership for Media and Conflict Prevention in West Africa’, just as the Liberian civil war was ending in 2003.

The partnership brought together national, regional and international media development and free expression organizations as part of global efforts to restore lasting peace, stability and democracy to the war-ravaged country. The group included: Article 19, Free Voice, International Federation f Journalists, UNESCO, UNDP, UNMIL, International Media Support, Canadian Journalist for Free Expression, Media Rights Agenda (Nigeria) and Media Foundation for West Africa among others.

Overall, the mission sough “to assess the media environment in Liberia, with the intention of prioritizing and renewing the media support activities of the partnership together with the local media community within the broader perspectives of post-conflict reconciliation and democratic development.”

Renewed Effort The current bill is a modified version of the original draft, revised with technical support from the USAID funded Liberia Media Development Program (LMD), implemented by Internews and its sub-contractor, Albany Associates.

There is no question the issues that obtained long before that assessment mission was undertaken in 2003, is ever present. The Partnership observed then that, “The Government needs to demonstrate its appreciation that the LBS is a national resource which should serve the interests of all Liberian citizens, regardless of …… political affiliation, religion or other backgrounds.”

This call was somewhat a harsh reminder to successive governments beyond the transitional period, to uphold one of the tenets of democratic governance - freedom of expression. Sadly, Article 15 (d) of the Liberian Constitution has not even been strong enough to guarantee unrestricted access to the State radio. The provision warns that “Access to state owned media shall not be denied because of any disagreement with or dislike of the ideas expressed. Denial of such access may be challenged in a court of competent jurisdiction.”

I cannot remember any instance where the Station has been taken to court for denying anyone access to the Radio - thanks to the diversity of radio stations today. Even at that, the State Radio should not be the exclusive reserve of a segment of the society regardless of their power. That’s the message the Partnership was sending in 2003.
Yes, the timing of that call was appropriate - the country was in transition from a violent conflict [partly blamed on the marginalization] that left thousands of Liberians and foreign residents including peace keepers dead. Its people had been subdued and humbled into silence. But the problem of LBS being dominated by the ruling government or more appropriately, the Executive Branch, to the exclusion of other citizens, is still present. Hence the need to transform the station.

The Psychological Siege and Undue Influence In the 2011 elections, the Director General of LBS, Ambrose Nmah was suspended days after the station granted a live broadcast to an opposition figure. In 2014 senatorial elections, the same Director General was dismissed only after a live broadcast by Ruling Party officials who were opposed to the President’s son bid to contest the Montserrado County seat. As recent as September 8, 2017, the Standard Bearer of the All Liberian Party, was surprised to be on the State Radio. When asked by Director General, Ledgerhood Rennie who was hosting him on the ‘Supper Morning Show’ as to why he was surprised, Mr. Benoni Urey said because the station has always been used as a political tool for some people. Ledgerhood tried his best to disabuse the notion, but it really did not worth his time and effort because it was like trying to ‘prove or disprove the negative.’ There are countless number of instances in which members of the opposition and other citizens have complained of either been denied or censored on LBS. So the question is why lawmakers have not acted on this bill with urgency when it could answer the cry of many Liberians including themselves? Irony!

Former UN Secretary-General, Kofi Anna was on point when he said these words about the power of the media “…By giving voice and visibility to all people – including and especially the poor, the marginalized and members of minorities - the media can help remedy the inequalities, the corruption, the ethnic tension and the human rights abuses that form the root causes of so many conflict.”

Without questioning the professionalism of the Management team at the Station, one should excuse them for the apparent psychological siege and interferences they have had to endure. We are talking here about the State Radio especially in a Country where even if the President wanted to be tolerant in the minimal, sycophantic loyalists who don’t see the bigger picture, prevail.

The renewed call therefore to transform LBS into a Public Service Broadcaster is all the more timely. Incidentally, the Country is in transition again, but a different kind from the one we had 2003. Our country is going through a groundbreaking political transition when a sitting president will hand power over to a democratically elected president. This is simply a defining moment in our democratic development that should make sense to all the political players and the entire citizenry to study how to sustain this democracy. I have no doubts that once created, the Liberia National Broadcasting Corporation (LNBC) is a sustainer of our fledgling democracy - but also an enabler of our development agenda.

The Point of Departure
“The objective of the LNBC shall be to provide independent, nonpartisan, credible, professionally efficient and accountable public broadcasting service that will cater to the needs of the Liberian people and thereby promote a vibrant, open, stable and democratized society. “

In order to guarantee its independence, the Board of Director shall be nominated by the president and confirmed by the Senate. The composition of the Board shall be drawn from nine registered Liberian professional organizations and relevant Government bodies.” Four of those institutions including: The Ministry of Post & Telecommunications, the University of Liberia (Mass Comm.), The Press Union of Liberia and the Liberian Bar Association will serve as statutory members, while the National Teachers Association, The Liberia Chamber of Commerce, the Health Workers Association and the National Civil Society Council will serve two renewable two-year terms each.

The Board of Directors, and not the President, shall then recruit the top Management Team of three “including Director-General, Deputy Director-General for Broadcasting and Deputy Director-General for Technical Operations after an open and competitive recruitment process for a renewable term of four years based on performance.” Of course they will be hired with a service contract.

The LNBC shall not compete with commercial stations for advertisement. It shall be fully funded by tax payers through the National Budget. The bill proposes half of 1% of the National Budget to be appropriated for the operations of the stations each year.

With these and other safeguards in the bill including its programing structure should make it all too difficult for any government to compromise the independence and objectivity of the broadcaster. Conclusion Is this too hard for us to do as a people who are profoundly intent on developing our democracy? Honestly, there are too many stations here for the Government to worry itself holding onto LBS. We are in an era where every uncleaned propaganda is reproved. So it makes little sense for a government to manipulate a station and/or any outlet that is seen as bias.

I should therefore commend Representative George Mulbah for accepting the vision and his courage to sponsor the bill with absolutely no indecision. I believe there are other lawmakers who feel very strong about changing the status of LBS, we urge you to add your voices to this call. But this call should also claim the attention of all political leaders and Liberians keen on rewriting our democratic story – this too matters.

Peter Quaqua is President of the West African Journalists Association, Former President of the Press Union of Liberia and focal person on the media law reform pillar of the Liberia Media Development program.

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