UNDP seeks concerted approach in illicit arms collection

The United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) has called for the involvement of civil society and civil society organizations, women and youth groupings, the communities, media and all well-meaning Liberians in ridding the country and the sub-region of illicit small arms and light weapons (SALW).

UNDP Country Director Dr. Pa Lamin Beyai said ensuring that guns are taken from the hands of unauthorized users requires the collective effort of citizens, residents and partners of Liberia.

“I reaffirm UNDP’s commitment to work with ECOWAS, EU and other development partners, to provide support to SALW with the goal of building secure and conflict free societies in Liberia and in the region….” Dr. Beyai said recently at the opening of a two-day stakeholder’s engagement and lesson learned session.

Superintendents of Maryland, River Gee, Grand Gedeh, Grand Cape Mount, Lofa, Nimba, Bong, and Gbarpolu Counties formed part of the event held in Ganta, Nimba County.
The UNDP Country Director noted that his agency will spare no effort to coordinate its work efficiently with other international partners to better support the Liberia National Commission on Small Arms (LiNCSA) and the project beneficiaries in their aspiration for peace, security and development in Liberia.

Dr. Beyai stressed that ensuring sustainability of outcomes and increasing the impact of the project requires the active participation of stakeholders at all levels.“The intrinsic linkage between disarmament, security, and development has been reflected in the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) which call for a significant reduction by 2030 of illicit arms flow (target 16.4) and strengthening of relevant national institutions, in developing countries, by building their capacity to prevent violence, combat terrorism (target 16.a) …..” Dr. Beyai said.

The project is an integral component of the programme "European Union Support to the ECOWAS Peace, Security and Stability mandate (EU-ECOWAS PSS)", implemented 2013-2019.

It seeks to support ECOWAS in its capacity to effectively address factors of instability and reinforce a proactive approach to peace-building, conflict prevention and resolution in West Africa.

Specifically, the ECOWAS-EU Small Arms Project seeks to advance the implementation of the component "Practical Disarmament" of the ECOWAS Conflict Prevention Framework (ECPF) in Member-States.

Ambassador Babatunde Olanreweju Ajisomo, the Special Representative of the President of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) Commission to Liberia also spoke at the program.

Ambassador Ajisomo said he was glad that the project was now moving in the right direction with the inclusion of additional counties that equally share borders with Guinea and Sierra Leone.

He thanked the organizers for their farsightedness in the inclusion of the five additional counties, Grand Cape Mount, Lofa, Nimba, Bong, and Gbarpolu and lauded the county authorities for accepting the project.

“Fighting or addressing the dangers of small arms and light weapons is a herculean task. It requires the collective effort of everybody…. And because they do not have a defined boundary, they move about and look for a safe haven; so incorporating additional counties, particularly counties that share borders is important for us to acknowledge this fact….” Amb. Ajisomo said.

The ECOWAS Special Envoy said a mandate has been given to the Liberia National Commission on Small Arms (LiNCSA) through this project to ensure that illegal arms in the possession of people across Liberia must be identified, collected and destroyed in accordance with ECOWAS Protocols.

For his part, LiNCSA Chairman, James Fromayan said the meeting was intended to share experience on what has worked, lessons learned and strategize the implementation of the project in both the pilot Counties and the additional 5 counties.

Chairman Fromayan told the stakeholders to be frank and open minded in pointing out those issues that could have hindered the successful implementation of the project in the pilot counties and advance best suggestions in curbing those situations.

He thanked the Small Arms Commissions of Guinea and Cote d’Ivoire for graciously accepting to come and share with their Liberian counterparts methods and strategies used in the implementation of the project in these countries.

Saikou Sow and Ali Fofana, Project Coordinators of Guinea and Cote d’Ivoire made separate presentations on the achievements and challenges of the project in the neighboring countries.

At the meeting, it was agreed that any success in illicit arms collection at the local level would need the involvement of local authorities. As a result, the 8 Superintendents promised that they will fully support the implementation of the project at the level of their respective Counties.

As the community benefit continues to be a challenge, it was agreed that the project will consider as much as possible focus group (Women, youth, elders, hunters etc.) initiatives if they turn over illegal arms. It was also agreed that the project will as much as possible work with the Counties’ security Councils.

This pilot project is focused on two clusters covering six (6) countries, namely Northern Niger - Mali; (Sahel) and (Mano River Union) - (West of Cote d’Ivoire; Guinée Forestière; East of Liberia; North-East of Sierra Leone).

Drawing on UNDP’s capacity in the area of SALW, the ECOWAS and the EU identified UNDP as a partner to provide project implementation support. Presentation of the ECOWAS-EU Small Arms Pilot Project was done by Lacina Barro, Liberia Project and MRU Cluster Coordinator.

Browne wants sub-regional cohesion at UN

Liberia's Permanent Representative to the United Nations, His Excellency Lewis Garseedah Brown, II has called on the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) Group to continue to work together to remain a significant bloc at the United Nations.

The ECOWAS Group consists of Permanent Missions of West African States to the United Nations with the aim of collaborating to ensure collective actions and solidarity on issues of common interests.

Speaking over the weekend when he turned over the chairmanship of the ECOWAS Group to the Permanent Representative of Togo, Ambassador Brown said as a concerted effort, ECOWAS has a lot to offer the African Union and the United Nations.

According to a dispatch from Liberia’s Permanent Mission to the United Nations, Liberia’s chief diplomat to the United Nations described his tenure as chairman of the ECOWAS Group as an honor and pledged the Liberian Mission’s support to the new leadership and the agenda of ECOWAS.

The chairmanship of the ECOWAS Group is rotational as the chairmanship of the sub-regional organization, ECOWAS. Ambassador Brown assumed the group’s chairmanship when President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf was elected as chairperson of ECOWAS in June 2016.

In response, the new ECOWAS Group chairman, His Excellency Ambassador Kokou Kpayedo of the Permanent Mission of Togo thanked Ambassador Brown for his leadership and outstanding work that gave more visibility to the ECOWAS Group.

Ambassador Kpayedo made special mention of the group’s collective action on the political situation in Guinea Bissau and the transversal threats of terrorism, maritime piracy, organized crimes, climate change and food security.

He encouraged his colleagues to do more to address the numerous and complex challenges facing the sub-region. “The numerous and complex challenges facing the sub-region call for collective action and solidarity on the part of our group to defend ECOWAS’ initiatives aimed at stabilizing the sub-region through the promotion of peace, security, social cohesion and an inclusive sustainable development,” he emphasized.

The Togolese Permanent Representative to the United Nations pledged to develop the necessary synergies to carry out various tasks of common interests and make the group more visible through the development of appropriate framework for the harmonization of the positions of ECOWAS States on issues of peace, security and sustainable development.

Ambassador Kpayedo named making the ECOWAS Permanent Observer Mission to the United Nations more operational as a first priority for his leadership.The turning over ceremony was graced by Ambassadors Kone Tanou Leon and Dr. Tete Antonio of the ECOWAS Permanent Observer Mission and African Union Permanent Observer Mission to the United Nations respectively.

UP breaks up?


Just at the time Vice President Joseph N. Boakai appears to be enjoying the endorsement of popular support for his candidacy among a cross section of the Liberian population, the ruling establishment is beginning to show cracks in bits, as party officials resign their posts.

The latest Unity Party or UP official to tender in his resignation is Information Minister Hne Eugene Nagbe. Nagbe resigned his post as Secretary General of the party on Thursday August 3.

In his Letter of Resignation addressed to party Chairman Wilmot J. M. Paye, Nagbe hopes that with the supervision of the National Executive Committee under Paye’s leadership, he is of the conviction that the UP National Campaign Management Team can stir the party to victory, while he and others remain in the administration to hold the fort in supporting President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf as she climaxes her historic and exemplary leadership with a peaceful, fair, free and transparent democratic transition.

Nagbe’s resignation comes barely a week after former Senate Pro-tempore Gbezohngar Findley, announced his resignation from the party. Findley was among those short-listed to be vice presidential running mate to Vice President Boakai-that was after he organized Boakai’s  Though it is not clear whether his (Findley) resignation could be tied to his vice –presidential candidacy hopes being dashed, but Findley resigned weeks after Mr. Boakai announced House Speaker Emmanuel Nuguay as his vice running mate.

Information available to this paper indicates that there are several other UP officials who are considering resigning their posts to play a low profile in the Boakai Campaign team.
The latest resignations exposes the deep divide within the ruling party with unconfirmed reports suggesting that party officials believed to be closed to President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf are be shunned by those closed to former Chairman Varney Sherman.

If this speculation is anything to go by, then the divide between the President and Sherman’s factions is a revisit of the bad blood between the two senior party officials in 2005 when Cllr. Sherman then Presidential candidate of the Liberia’s Action Party or LAP threw several barbs at then candidate Sirleaf.

he current internal bickering within the UP also appears to confirm speculations that the last minute marriage of convenient between the parties in 2010, is seriously shaking and this feud could affect Boakai’s presidential ambition if not address with all urgency.

By Othello B. Garblah

CDC braces for August 19

Senator George Weah’s Coalition for Democratic Change or CDC declares Saturday, August 19, as “Blue Day” in Liberia as Weah, the Presidential candidate will formally launch his political campaign for the Executive Mansion, home of the Liberian presidency.

The Coalition brags that about two million people will come in the streets, from all walks of life to tell the world and other political parties here that CDC is ready to elect the Montserrado County Senator as the next President of Liberia come October 10th.

The Coalition is a marriage involving the ex-ruling National Patriotic Party (NPP) of former President Charles Taylor, who is serving 50 years jail sentence in London for aiding and abetting RUF rebels in Sierra Leone, the Liberian People Democratic Party (LPDP) of criminally indicted ex-Speaker Alex Tyler, and Weah’s Congress for Democratic Change.

Sen. Weah has picked Mr. Taylor’s estranged wife, Senator Jewel Howard Taylor, as his running mate for the Presidency, which he is vying for the third time. ddressing a news conference on Friday, 4 August at the CDC headquarters in Monrovia, Vice Chairman for Operations and Mobilization, Mulbah Morlu, says the event is intended to send a strong signal to the ruling Unity Party of Vice President Joseph Boakai that, gone are their days to hold national powers and it is time for the Liberian people to change their leaders democratically.

Mr. Morlu, who is contesting for Montserrado County Electoral District #10 seat, says if Weah didi not win the October 10, 2017 elections, he (Mulbah Morlu) should be stoned to death by the Liberian people.

“We’re over confident that these elections are for us. Ambassador Weah will win the presidency on a one round victory. The indicators are cleared. Let me be on record for this, if Weah did not win, I shall be crucified, or stoned to death by Liberians,” he vows.

In 2005, Sinoe County Senator Milton Teahjay, then a member of the Congress foro Democratic Change, vowed that if the CDC did not win the presidency, hair should have grown in his palm, but the CDC did not win and hair did not grow in his palm.

Morlu continues that it’s time for the Liberian people to choose their heart desire leader, Senator Weah, whom he says has been destined by God Almighty to lead the Liberia to a higher height where every citizen would live a middle class life.

He notes that many hold the perception both in the opposition and the governing Unity Party that the CDC is only popular in Montserrado County, but says on the contrary, the party is far grown in the leeward counties.

Liberians in those counties are yearning to see Weah and to hear from him about his dream of transforming Liberia for the better, he adds. Recently, Sen. Weah brought in a chopper to boost his campaign, particularly in the counties where there are bad roads exacerbated by heavy downpour.

By E. J. Nathaniel Daygbor -Editing by Jonathan Browne

Ellen warns Cuttington graduates

President Ellen Johnson - Sirleaf has told Cuttington University graduates that they will be challenged to find their place in contributing to a nation that faces the realities of too many years of dependency.

She said realities have come as the nation searches for courage to scale the walls of familiarity and vested interest that have prohibited structural change. Delivering a keynote address on Saturday, 5 August at the graduation of some 288 students from Cuttington University’s master’s program in Suakoko, Bong County, Mrs. Sirleaf cautioned the graduates that they will be entering an environment of a country burdened by the excesses of the past, but lifted by the hope and promise of the future.

She reminds the graduates that they will be joining the thousands of youths across Liberia who will be looking forward to the future, and facing the challenges of unemployment and choice in selecting their next leadership of the country that will respond to the people’s needs and demands.

“I’m sure that as you ponder the future, you will focus on the economy, on the potential for generating the growth to meet the needs of young population 60 per cent under the age of 35,” she urges.

Over the period of the nation’s history, Mrs. Sirleaf says “we have remained constrained, historically vulnerable to external factors due to a heavy dependence on primary products sold in international markets.”

These historical constraints, she says have continued to this day, and exacerbated by the social imperatives of carrying the cost of large public sector employment that [cross] out what is required of public sector investment.

Additionally, Mrs. Sirleaf tells the graduates that Liberia faces limitation in monetary policy imposed by a dual currency regime. While acknowledging that Liberia is a small country endowed with natural resources including plentiful rainfall and a sparse population, Mrs. Sirleaf cautions the graduates to question if truly “we” can meet the requirement of an expanding and rising nation as they ponder the future.

In a commendation to the class, Mrs. Sirleaf says they can be proud of having received quality education with strong basic values, adding that what the class has learned at Cuttington over the past years will be with them for the rest of their lives.

“You must be proud to be recipient of knowledge from one of the best institutions of our nation,” President Sirleaf tells the Cuttington graduates amidst hands applauds.

She emphasizes that the knowledge they have acquired, the value of integrity and hard work that were instilled in them will forever be with them. “It will be up to you to put that knowledge to the service of your country and humanity and for yourself,” says President Sirleaf.

She reminds the graduates that at the end of this year, the government, like the graduates, will mark a concluding chapter of its political life, though she says she considers it as only a prologue to a continuing agenda of a rising Liberia.

In closing, Mrs. Sirleaf commends the parents, guardians, instructors, professors and teachers, school leadership and all the educators that have made the invaluable contribution in getting the graduates prepared.

UN to open new Human Rights Office here in early 2018

He made the comment following the conclusion of a three-day visit to Liberia Friday. The main purpose of the visit was to establish a UN Human Rights Office in the country, and an agreement was signed with the Government for the new office to open in early 2018.

“Liberia has progressed dramatically since my last visit just after the brutal civil war," Gilmour said at the end of his visit. "That is a tribute to the Liberian people and Government, and to the great efforts of the United Nations Mission in Liberia." He added, however, that the human rights gains are “still precarious, hence the vital need for the UN to continue our support.”

Gilmour expressed his appreciation to Foreign Minister Marjon V. Kamara, with whom he signed a Memorandum of Understanding for the new office that will open early next year. This Office will conduct human rights monitoring and reporting, as well as providing technical assistance to State institutions, the Independent National Commission for Human Rights, civil society and other partners. Gilmour highlighted the primary role of the Government in promoting and protecting human rights in Liberia.

“What we have learned in country after country is that neither peace nor development can be properly sustainable unless they are firmly grounded in human rights,” he said.

The Assistant Secretary-General met with President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, cabinet ministers, several leaders of civil society organizations, and foreign ambassadors during his visit.

He expressed serious concern about the continued prevalence of female genital mutilation (FGM) in the country, and urged the Government to do far more within its power to discourage this and other harmful traditional practices, such as trial by ordeal, accusations of witchcraft and ritualistic killings. He underlined Liberia’s international human rights obligations in this regard.

Gilmour also raised the plight of lesbian, gay and transgender people who are subjected to unbearable discrimination and abuse, which must be confronted. He also raised concerns about the rights of people with disabilities.

He acknowledged efforts by the Government to address sexual violence, but stressed that the appalling frequency of rape in Liberia, including of young girls, is partly due to widespread impunity for this crime.

After visiting Monrovia Central Prison, Gilmour praised the work of the wardens but remarked on the very serious overcrowding and insufficient food. A large part of the problem, it was made clear to him, is the high number of people held in pre-trial detention owing to the slowness of judicial procedures.
At the end of his visit, Gilmour visited the Palava Hut Memorial for victims of the civil war. He expressed the importance of transitional justice for national reconciliation and called for it to be a paramount concern for the new Government following the October elections.

“True peace is never possible if people feel that their desire for justice has not been met. Abominable war crimes were committed in this country, and the perpetrators of the worst crimes should now understand that justice will catch up with them,” Gilmour said. Gilmour also warned against what some are terming a worrying rise in hate speech as the election season approaches.-Press release

Scholarship beneficiaries honor Ellen

Hundreds of students from various high schools and universities here held an appreciation program on Friday, 4 August in honor of President Ellen Johnson - Sirleaf for shouldering the responsibility in funding their education.

In various testimonials given during the event at the Monrovia City Hall, some beneficiaries of the Ellen Johnson - Sirleaf Scholarship Initiative narrated how the President took them from poor families, some from remote parts of Liberia and sent them to different learning institutions like Ricks Institute to acquire high school certificate before continuing on the scholarship to different universities.

Some of the president’s scholarship beneficiaries hailed from the African Methodist Episcopal University, United Methodist University, Cuttington University, Stella Maris Polytechnic, among others, One of the beneficiaries, Fate Bobby Tapson recalls how President Sirleaf vowed and committed to taking his responsibility following his father’s death while he still at a very young age.

He says after completing high school education at Ricks Institute, he enrolled at the United Methodist University where he currently undergoes his undergraduate studies. Another beneficiary, now an Assistant Information Minister for Cultural Affairs Ms. Joyce Kenkpen says for the past 11 years, the president has transformed the lives of many young people in Liberia by providing them the opportunities for capacity building, technical and vocational training and education, among others.

She says the President “did not just gave us the opportunity, but she also prepared us” to contribute to the kind of Liberia “we want”.Accounts were given by the president’s cultural troupe that says its members have attended various technical and vocational schools, as well as some visually impaired students that testified that they were six that graduated from Cuttington University on the president’s scholarship.

Mrs. Sirleaf thanked the scholarship beneficiaries for the appreciation, saying the level of appreciation given by the students brought tears to her eyes. “But more than that this tear is tear of joy,” she says, adding all of the students have excelled and have exceeded and come so far in their pursuit of education. “This cry I cry is a cry of joy for you, because I know what you went through, I know what some of your parents went through. I know there were days when you went to school and you didn’t have anything to eat,” she says.

Muslim women rally for Brumskine

The National Chairlady of Muslims in Liberia Madam Aicha Koroma has called on women of her faith to do justice to their conscience in voting for opposition Liberty Party (LP) in the October presidential and representatives’ elections.

Madam Koroma was responding to a special statement from the wife of LP presidential candidate Cllr. Charles Brumskine on Friday, 4 August at the Marvii Sonii school auditorium [in Clara Town].Madam Aicha Koroma claims to have sensed sincerity in the delivery of Madam Estella Brumskine and feels morally obligated to appeal to all women of Liberia regardless of religious and tribal affinity to join a winning team with proven commitment to liberate the impoverished masses.

She reminds women about their pitiable circumstance and must not be fooled this time around by those who had been entrusted with power but could not deliver.Earlier, Madam Estella Brumskine was introduced by the Chief of Protocol Daniel Sando as a model of housewife that has sustained a wedlock for forty one years, raising three children all of whom are lawyers.

Madam Brumskine to whom the audience ascribed the status of incoming First Lady, says she knows her husband as a man that must be trusted with power.“I assure you, you will not be disappointed,” she says to an animated audience that constitute all voting ages, men and women.

The audience bursts out in between with chants of: “Our ma speak, our ma speak…”, while Mrs. Brumskine assures women and men of opposition LP’s package in revamping of small businesses with an institutionalized loan giving scheme.

Mrs. Brumskine believes that this will rescue small and medium enterprises from the shackles of onerous and high interest loan given by commercial banks. She says the LP will not only give out loans, “but there will be people to provide technical guidance and supportive follow-ups to those who receive what would be seen as a state sponsored stimulus package.

Voter cards replacement starts today

The National Elections Commission (NEC) begins the replacement of lost and damaged voter cards throughout the country today, Monday 7 August. A press release issued by the Commission on Sunday night, 6 August says the replacement will be carried out at throughout the country including all the 73 electoral districts of Liberia and at all the Commission’s 19 magisterial offices across the country.

The replacement process is one of the important dates on the 2017 elections calendar. The Commission is calling on all qualified voters, who might have lost or damaged their voting cards to turn out from Monday, 7 August to Saturday, 12 August to change the voter cards.

Section 3.5 (2) of the New Elections Law says in the event of loss or destruction of the voter registration cards, and after proof has been established, the registrar shall issue a new card for a minimum fee of five ($5.00) dollars to be paid in the Internal Revenue.

However, according to a NEC release, the Commission will replace the cards free of charge and at the centers near electorate. The Commission says during the replacement process, qualified voters who had problems with their photos during the Exhibition Exercise in June are also encouraged to turn out and have their photos retaken.
On February 1 this year, the NEC began the voter’s registration with the process gaining less publicity.

The process aimed at preparing Liberians for the October 10 Representatives and Presidential elections in which over 20 political parties and independent candidates are expected to battle for the nation’s highest seat, the presidency.-- Press release

Falling commodity prices slow growth

The Minister of State for Finance and Economic Development from neighboring Sierra Leone, Mr. Alhaji Foday B.L. Mansaray, has told delegates of the just-end Statutory Meeting of the West African Monetary Zone held in Monrovia that falling commodities prices is responsible for slow economic growth in the region.

Speaking over the weekend at the Central Bank of Liberia, Minister Mansaray notes that the recent unfavorable development in the global economy, including falling commodity prices, slow growth in advanced economies and uncertainties created by Britain’s attempt to leave the European Union.

WAMZ came about as the result of the West African Monetary Institute (WAMI) which was set up in Accra, Ghana, in January 2001 and began operations in March 2001. The Institute is to undertake technical preparations for the establishment of a common West African Central Bank and the launch of a single currency for the West African Monetary Zone (WAMZ).

In fulfillment of its mandate, the Institute currently conducts bi-annual onsite and monthly offsite multilateral surveillance missions to monitor Member States’ compliance with both quantitative and qualitative benchmarks.

The Heads of State of six countries in West Africa, as part of the fast-track approach to integration, decided in Accra, Ghana on April 20, 2000 to establish a second monetary zone to be known as the West African Monetary Zone by the year 2003. These countries, namely The Gambia, Ghana, Guinea, Liberia, Nigeria and Sierra Leone, signed the ‘Accra Declaration’ which defined the objectives of the Zone as well as, an action plan and institutional arrangements to ensure the speedy implementation of their decision.
“The adverse impact of this global development on the WAMZ reveals the fact that our economies are highly vulnerable to external shocks; this is confirmed by the study carryout by WAMI, which indicates that all members countries are highly vulnerable to the external shocks”, he adds.

Mr. Mansaray explains that the vulnerability of the region’s economies to external shocks does not only undermine the ability of member countries in attaining this convergence criteria, but sustaining the convergence over the time will be a major challenge, with attendant implication for the credibility of the monetary union.

He stresses that the need for coming together to promote economic and monetary union is now more relevant than ever before, saying that being together “We can boost the capacity of our economy to withstand any shocks. You may be aware that studies have shown that participating in an economic and monetary union minimizes the vulnerability of external shocks.”The Sierra Leonean envoy notes that coordination, and harmonization of economic policies under such arrangement will help to boost the resilience of economies in the region and the WAMZ as a whole.

By Lewis S. Teh -Editing by Jonathan Browne

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