GC holds education, health forum

The Governance Commission (GC) began a three - day civic education forum on electoral environment on Thursday, 14 September at the Mamba Point Hotel in Monrovia.

The education forum seeks to provide an opportunity where politicians, citizens, and experts on electoral matters can give information that ensures political education of citizens.

Addressing the audience at the formal opening of the education and health forum Thursday, Governance Commission (GC) Executive Director Mr. Stephen Manley said participants were invited to share ideas and discuss the most important aspect of nation building.

He says a healthy and educated Liberia must be taken into consideration as the participants gathered at the forum, saying their efforts to put on the table Liberia’s quest, for a healthy and educated society is focused where Liberia belongs.

Also giving the overview of the forum the, Acting Commissioner of the Governance Commission Mrs. Elizabeth Sele Mulbah said political success or development is perceived to be a question of a moral integrity of leaders, rather than skillful maneuvering in the challenging political and economic environment characterized by constraints.

According to her, these factors create incentives for candidates to make unrealistic promises and undermine the reputation of political rivals.

The GC Acting Commissioner cautions politicians here for the proper use of the word “free,” saying messages of “free education, free health care among others is being heard.

But she warns that it is known here that nothing under this sun is free, adding that somebody somewhere pays the prize.

She urges Liberian politicians to study the terrain to know what they have and what they don’t have in order to make a good promise that is sustainable, achievable, and believable.

By Lewis S. The--Edited by Winston W. Parley

Liberia to achieve 35% of rural electrification by 2030

Rural and Renewable Energy Agency (RREA) Executive Director Augustus V. Goanue says a comprehensive rural energy master plan has been developed in consultation with stakeholders and partners, aimed at achieving 35 percent rural electrification in Liberia by 2030.

Speaking at the Ministry of Information on Thursday, 14 September, Mr. Goanue said in line with the global, regional and sub-regional initiatives and Liberia’s Agenda for Transformation and Vision 2030, the RREA aims to achieve electricity access in the rural areas.

According to the RREA chief, electrification rate for the population outside of Monrovia is set at 10 percent in 2020; 20 percent in 2025 and 35 percent in 2030. By 2025, he says RREA’s aim is for all counties capitals to be electrified, including all health facilities and secondary schools.

To make the target achievable, he notes that RREA seeks to establish a credit or subsidy mechanism for connection of poor and “woman - led households” through Rural Energy Fund, and promote active participation of women in the jobs that will be created by electrifying the country.

Mr. Goanue adds that RREA is working in three phases, saying phase one runs from 2015-2020, phase two from 2020 to 2025 and phase three from 2025 to 2030.

The RREA chief discloses that phase one is the setup of the energy master plan and the implementation of ongoing and planned projects, for which he indicates that about US$262 million dollars is needed. In this phase, he says RREA has 92 projects and 21 initiatives.

Giving some historical background, he notes that the RREA started as a prototype within the Ministry of Lands, Mines and Energy following the formulation of the National Energy Policy in 2008.

He says the Agency was established by Executive order #23 in 2010, giving the RREA a semi-autonomous status. The RREA was established by legislation in July 2015, thus giving the agency full autonomy. It governed by Board of Directors.

By Ethel A. Tweh --Edited by Winston W. Parley

Independent candidate Jacob Barnes evicted

One of Montserrado County District #8 independent representative candidates Mr. Jacob Barnes has been evicted and his campaign office subsequently demolished completely by order of the Civil Law Court at the Temple of Justice in Monrovia.

Our reporter who witnessed the demolition exercise of Mr. Barnes’ campaign office on Tuesday, 12 September on 5th Street, Sinkor says Sheriff from the Court were backed by several armed officers of the Liberia National Police (LNP) in the operation.

The demolition was carried out, using yellow machine to burst structures on a parcel of land in Sinkor that the affected candidate others had earlier been ordered to vacate.

Information gathered by our reporter suggests that the independent candidate and several other occupants with mini businesses on the land were ordered to vacate the property following a ruling from the Court.

A court ruling is said to have given right of the land to a woman who has not been identified by this paper. Instead of vacating the property, Mr. Barnes and the rest of the affected occupants were said to have ignored the court’s ruling and continued to occupy the property.

Their stay on the property is said to have resulted to a court action in which an eviction order was released finally during which structures on the land were demolished.

The situation is said to have displaced Mr. Barnes, compelling him to immediately secure his office materials that were removed from the building during the demolition.

In his displacement, Mr. Barnes is said to have sought refuge at the house of a female contender who preferred not to be named, to help him store his campaign office items including computers, chairs and desks, among others.

Our source adds that Mr. Barnes was on one of his campaign tours of the district when the demolition started at his office. He is said to have been assisted by some of his neighbors in securing some of his items from the demolished office prior to his arrival on the scene.

Some of Mr. Barnes’ opponents, who did not want to be named, say it is shocking news when they learn that the evicted candidate’s campaign office was demolished for his refusal to vacate the land along with the other people.

They also allege that all those on the property in question were provided sufficient time that would have allowed them to find new places to avoid such an embarrassing situation that they have encountered.

The independent candidate who is politically displaced could not be seen for comment despite several attempts made from the day of the incident up Thursday, 14 September at the demolition site.

By Emmanuel Mondaye--Edited by Winston W. Parley

EU deploys 20 observers

The European Union (EU) has deployed an Election Observation Mission (EU EOM) to Liberia to observe the presidential and representatives elections scheduled for this October.

The EU announced the deployment of a 20 long-term observers team here on Thursday, 14 September, adding that these elections are a historical moment for Liberia. The EU EOM will monitor the process without interfering or supervising, according to the EU.

EU EOM Deputy Chief Observer Alessandro Parziale told a press conference in Monrovia Thursday that he hopes that team of analysts and observers will contribute with impartial and objective assessments to a democratic transition in Liberia.

The group of experts consists of election, political, legal, human rights and gender, finance, media and data analysts.

The EU says the group of 20 long-term observers which joined the EU EOM on 10 September, was due to be deployed Thursday to different parts of Liberia to follow the electoral preparations and campaigns.

The EU Election Observers come from 20 different Member States of the European Union. Additional 34 short-term observers will be deployed throughout the country together with locally recruited short-term observers.

“The EU EOM will assess the elections according to Liberia’s national law and the international commitments it has made regarding elections,” Deputy Chief Observer Parziale says.

He explains that the Mission will focus on the entire electoral process, including the legal framework, electoral administration, voter registration, nominations, campaigning, the conduct of the media, voting and counting, the tally of results and dispute resolution mechanisms.

Mr. Parziale notes that on 4 September, the team met with National Elections Commission (NEC’s) Chairman Cllr. Jerome George Korkoya and his deputies and launched the Mission officially here.

According to him, the EU EOM has since then had several meetings with Liberian authorities and groups including journalists and civil society organizations as well as the Delegation of the European Union to Liberia.

He says all EU EOM observers are bound by a code of conduct, which requires strict neutrality and non-interference.

The EU EOM says it undertakes its work in accordance with the Declaration of Principles for International Election Observation, adding that it will publish its initial findings in a preliminary statement which will be presented in a press conference shortly after Election Day.

A Final Report with recommendations to the public will be presented at a later stage.

By E. J. Nathaniel Daygbor--Edited by Winston W. Parley.

Five Liberian kids go to Nigeria for studies

Five Liberian kids are due to be flown to Lagos, Nigeria this weekend to be schooled on Imo State Governor Owelle Rochas Okorocha’s scholarship scheme that is expected to take them through their current academic status up to college level.

Receiving the kids prior to their departure this weekend, President Ellen Johnson - Sirleaf encouraged them on Thursday, 14 September to keep it better by studying hard when they go to Nigeria.

President Sirleaf recalls that Governor Okorocha came here couple of days ago for the purpose of meeting the kids and to tell her about his Rochas Foundation and what he would do for the beneficiaries.

Mrs. Sirleaf notes that the kids are going to be supported free through high school and maybe even finish college by the Rochas Foundation, adding that in their early ages, there will be a lady who goes with them to monitor them.

According to President Sirleaf, Gov. Okorocha is awarding five scholarship slots each to all the African countries, of which Liberia is a beneficiary. She commends the kids for the grade points they have acquired in school here, asking them to keep it better by studying hard in Nigeria.

Notwithstanding, President Sirleaf remarked that the program being managed by the Social Welfare arm of the Gender Ministry here sometimes does not get known by people because government doesn’t tell its story “well enough,” particularly for children and women.

She seizes the occasion to disclose how government has taken girls from the streets and put them in places of learning like Ricks Institute, Bromley, and other institutions and is taking care of them.

Presenting the kids to President Sirleaf, Acting Gender Minister Sieane Abdul - Baki says the scholarship awarded the kids is in recognition of the many efforts made by President Sirleaf that sees Imo State Gov. Okorocha of Nigeria presenting Liberia the scholarship slots last month.

She says the criteria set in awarding the scholarship targeted the “poorest of the poor,” revealing to the President that the beneficiaries include Ebola survivors, Ebola orphans and poorest of the poor.

Madam Baki indicates that the kids will depart Liberia on Friday, 15 September and will arrive in Lagos by 12 noon to be met by liaison officer from Liberia’s Embassy in Nigeria.

She notes that the Rochas Foundation in Nigeria was established to give kids access to education in Africa from high school level and supported at university level.

“These kids, most of them are orphans - Ebola orphans. And then two of them are also from West Point, the slum area in Liberia,” Madam Baki says.

She notes that their selections were based on academic excellence, with averages ranging from 80 to 87 percent, while economic situations were also being considered in the process.

By Winston W. Parley

Sirleaf reaffirms one China policy

President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf has reaffirmed government’s commitment to the One China Policy. Mrs. Sirleaf on Wednesday, September 12, 2017, joined Chinese Ambassador, Zhang Yue, officials of government, members of the Diplomatic Corps, Embassy staff and the Chinese community in Liberia to celebrate the 68th Independence Anniversary of the founding of the People’s Republic of China (PRC).

She said Liberia remains firm on the One China Policy, which has been endorsed and ratified by our National Legislature and expressed the conviction that any successive government will realize that this is the proper international position to take and respect and will encourage the quality of cooperation that exists between China and Liberia.

An Executive Mansion release said, President Sirleaf made the statement at the Chinese Embassy in Congo Town, Monrovia at a reception ceremony marking the celebration of the 68th Independence Anniversary of the founding of the People’s Republic of China.

President Sirleaf commended Ambassador Zhang Yue for the immense contributions made to the government and people of Liberia. She stressed the need that China remains a true partner and friend. President Sirleaf also praised the Chinese Government for the bilateral cooperation.

She noted China has been active in its assistance to the Liberian government and people in their endeavor to rebuild the country. She used the occasion to thank the Government of the Peoples’ Republic of China for being a major partner in the training of the new Liberian army, providing technical, logistical and other forms of support including the fight against Ebola.

For his part, Chinese Ambassador, Zhang Yue, said the China-Liberia relationship has enjoyed rapid development over the past 14 years since the resumption of diplomatic ties, especially after this administration took office adding: “I would like to take this opportunity to thank Madam Sirleaf for her continued trust established with the leaders of China to give China-Liberia relations brilliant leadership and guidance,” he said.

He noted that the stock of Chinese investments in Liberia has reached US$300 million, making China one of the major investors in Liberia. He stressed that the smooth construction of the Ministerial Complex, the New Airport Terminal, the Annexes to the National Legislature, Renovation of the SKD Sports Stadium and the Runway rehabilitation - are indicative of China’s speed and quality.” He noted the Agricultural Demonstration Center Project, Bamboo and Rattan Weaving and Vegetable Planting Technical Cooperation Projects including the borehole project and technical assistance project to the Liberia Broadcasting System that are progressing steadily. The Chinese Envoy emphasized that China and Liberia have conducted productive cooperation in security, education, health and other sectors.

Speaking further, Ambassador Zhang Yue pointed out that Liberia has enjoyed peaceful development including consolidated peace and stability under the leadership of President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf. “We are pleased and appreciative of unremitting efforts the Liberian Government and people have made for the economic revaluation, national reconciliation, human capacity building under the guidance of the Agenda for Transformation and Vision 2030,” he highlighted.-Press release

LRA signs agreement for Mobile Money Tax Payment

The Liberia Revenue Authority (LRA) has signed a partnership agreement with LoneStar Cell MTN, Orange Liberia and the United Bank of Africa (UBA) for the introduction of the payment of tax, using mobile money, for the first time ever in the country. The official exercise starts in November this year, according to a press release.

The Proof of Concept Agreement (PCA) for Mobile Payments, was signed on Thursday, September 7, 2017 in Monrovia and will pave the way for taxpayers to make payment by means of mobile money services. Under the pilot arrangement, the two GSM companies will design accessible payment platforms to facilitate tax payment, using mobile money service.
The agreement will cover all tax and non-tax collections, including Cooperate Income Tax, Personal Income Tax, Excise Tax, Goods and Service Tax as well as fees for various licenses and certificates and will eventually cover import duty.
The first phase of the project will cover small tax payments and will more generally benefit small tax payers thereby, facilitating their compliance. The second phase will cover larger payments.
Commissioner General Elfrieda Stewart Tamba describes the partnership as a “major milestone” under LRA’s Transformation and Modernization Agenda. “Today, we are happy to sign a Proof of Payment Pilot Agreement with Orange and LoneStar to introduce tax payment, i.e. the first P to G (Private to Government) payments in Liberia,” CG Tamba says.
She reaffirms the commitment of the LRA in transforming tax administration in Liberia through the application of aggressive and sustainable technologies, good and efficient service delivery and the facilitation of lawful trade aimed facilitating voluntary tax compliance and strengthening domestic revenue mobilization.
CG Tamba, among others, lauds the telecom partners and the UBA for the partnership and also commends taxpayers of the United States for their support to the LRA through the USAID RG3 Project.
Speaking during the signing ceremony, LoneStar Cell MTN Deputy Chief Executive Officer, Louis Roberts, Orange Chief Executive Officer Mamadou Coulibaly and UBA’s Managing Director Olalekan Balogun respectively pledge their commitments to fully implement the agreement.
They express willingness in supporting the LRA to achieve its tax payment transformation programs.
Representative of USAID-Liberia Democracy and Governance Office, Mr. Jeremy Meadows, praises agency’s commitment to LRA and the Revenue Generation for Governance and Growth (RG3) Project, which supports LRA in its various tax and revenue implementation mechanisms.
The Director notes that the collaboration provides a vital step towards achieving the much-needed government-private partnership. “The RG3 Project while intended to mobilize domestic resources, is also intended to reinforce the social contract trying to increase the ways in which Liberians are connected to their government. They way that Liberians own their government, invest in their government, and contribute to their government. This is going to be one of the most significant ways to broaden that capacity and enhance that language.” Press Release

Miss Liberia cries for support

Miss Wokie Dolo who represented Liberia at the recent Miss Africa Beauty Pageant and came first rounder up, is poised to contest for the Miss World title, which she says runs from October 15 – November 18, 2017.

Speaking at the Ministry of Information on Thursday, September 14, 2017, Miss Dolo notes that said since she was crowned “Miss Liberia”, she has been involved with many activities with the help of her boss and her manager, but laments that her office lacks budgetary allotment and there has been no financing by the Government of Liberia for any work she does.

“I represented Liberia at Miss Africa on my own, there was no help from the Government, except some individuals, whom I begged for help. Winning is togetherness, whatever crown I win out there is for the country, I’m just an individual but when I win a crown, Liberia as a country carries the glory”, Miss Dolo expresses.

He says that she needs US$35,000 to participate in the upcoming Miss World competition, noting that Liberia has not been represented in international pageant for about five years, and she just participated in one and is about to participate in the biggest one in October.

She calls on the Government of Liberia, citizens of Liberia and other stakeholders for support as she contests in the upcoming Miss World. Dolo reiterates that the Government of Liberia has never been supportive since she won the crown, saying that she visited six countries as an Ambassador for young people and has been working since the beginning of this year.

According to her, she believes in youth empowerment and being an Ambassador for young people in Liberia, she needs empowerment to carry on her work in the interest of young people.

By Ethel A. Tweh-Editing by Jonathan Browne

ALP ready for showdown

Partisans, supporters and sympathizers of the All Liberian Party or ALP are gearing up for the official launch of the party’s campaign in Montserrado County this Friday, 15 September, less than 30 days to presidential and representative elections in Liberia.

The ALP is headed by businessman-turned politician Benoni Urey, who is vying on October 10th to become Liberia’s next president. Organized and subsequently certificated by the National Elections Commission in 2015, it has become one of the fast growing registered political parties in the country with established chapters in all 15 political subdivisions.

An accomplished businessman, ALP Standard bearer Benoni Urey is also Ex-commissioner of formerly Liberia Maritime Commission, now the Liberia Maritime Authority. He stresses adequate national policy planning and wants the Ministry of Planning and Economic Affairs, now merged with the Ministry of Finance, recreated to properly plan the country’s development agenda.

Urey and the ALP are campaigning on the promise to fix Liberia, calling on electorate to elect the Liberian entrepreneur to the Executive Mansion In the first national debate held on 17 August among the top six candidates in the race, including the ALP presidential hopeful, Urey continues that budget deficit persists because the government appears to be business unfriendly, saying, “We will continue to have deficit unless we plan properly.” He points out that 80 percent of the budget is being spent on recurrent expenditure, particularly salaries and other benefits, while the remaining 20 percent which is very insufficient, is directed at development.

The first major face to face interaction among candidates vying for the Liberian presidency, the debate brought together four of the top six candidates, including Cllr. Brumskine of the Liberty Party, Vice President Joseph Nyumah Boakai of the governing Unity Party, All Liberian People Party (ALP) standard bearer, businessman Benoni Urey, and coca cola executive Alexander B. Cummings of the Alternative National Congress.

Coalition for Democratic Change standard bearer Senator George Weah and the standard bearer of the Movement for Economic Empowerment Dr. Joseph Mills Jones, who were also invited to the debate, did not attend.

It was organized by Deepening Democracy Coalition or DDC, a media conglomerate under the auspices of the Open Society Initiative of West Africa or OSIWA.

-Story by Jonathan Browne

Bassa steadfast for Brumskine

Deputy Speaker Hans Barchue stresses here that the people of Grand Bassa County are ‘very steadfast’ to elect presidential hopeful Cllr. Charles Walker Brumskine of the Liberty Party as the next president of Liberia in the ensuing October 10, 2017 Representatives and Presidential elections.

Speaking to this paper in Edina, Upper Grand Bassa County, on Tuesday, 12 September while on a campaign tour for reelection to the Lower House, and the election of Cllr. Brumskine, he says several counties, including Sinoe, Nimba, Lofa, Bomi and Montserrado have produced presidents and vice presidents, respectively for the country unlike Grand Bassa, one of the founding counties of the Republic.

“Lofa produced two vice presidents, Harris Moniba and Joseph Nyumah Boakai, Bomi produced President, Madam Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, Nimba produced President, Mr. Moses Z. Blah and Vice President Enoch Dogoleah and Sinoe County produced Charles Greene as vice president. But Grand Bassa County being part of the three counties that founded Liberia has failed to produce president. This is the time for Grand Bassa to make president,” the Grand Bassa County Electoral District #1 Representative notes.

The LP standard bearer, Cllr. Brumskine campaigned on similar tribal sentiment in 2005, but did not succeed. Instead, he subsequently received public tongue-lashing for preaching tribal politics.

However, Deputy Speaker Barchue concedes that neither defeat nor victory for the Liberty Party strongman solely rest in the hands of Bassa citizens, but it would be a good thing for Bassa people to follow their kind.

He further stresses that if Grand Bassa and Rivercess Counties were to produce more votes in favor of Cllr. Brumskine, the Liberty Party will make it to the runoff election.

According to him, now is the time to elect a Bassa man to lead the country, explaining that Cllr. Brumskine is a kind-hearted leader and is development-oriented, so if elected, he would move the country forward.

Commenting on his quest for reelection, Barchue, reflecting on his achievements in the last five years, asks the people of Electoral District #1 to give him another chance in order to complete what he had started.

He says the Capitol Building, which is the official home of the Liberian Legislature, is not for unprepared and uneducated people, drug users or people who lack credibility, adding that that the first branch of government is instead, for individuals who have dedicated their time and resources to serving the people and providing service to Liberia. Editing by Jonathan Browne

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